Sunday, May 20, 2012

What My Bishop Said

I met with my bishop at noon today. I'll try to remember how it went but suffice it to say I was saddened to the core.

Bishop:  First of all, I'd like to ask how we can have a conversation about something we will completely disagree on and still be nice to each other (or something to that effect).
Me:  Well, I guess we just try.
Bishop:  Do you have a girlfriend?
Me: Yes.
Bishop:  Are you having a sexual relationship with her?
Me:  I don't believe that's any of your concern.
Bishop:  Do you plan to change your behavior?
Me:  She will continue to be my girlfriend.
Bishop:  Is she a member of the church?
Me:  No.
Bishop:  Are you still married to [exHubby]?
Me:  I don't know why that's important. I feel that all of this is between me and Lord. I feel good about my relationship with Him and will continue to do the things that bring me closer to Him. I'm in a good place with Heavenly Father.

He went on to remind me that I've been through the process of a disciplinary council before and I know how it all works. He then read to me from the Church Handbook about the repentance process. He said the councils are meant to bring one closer to the Savior and to encourage them to forsake their sins, but if that weren't possible then the councils are to protect the name of the church. He asked what my thoughts were about all of that.

I told him that regardless of what happens I will continue to go to church each week. I love the gospel with all of my heart. I also mentioned that I'm a different type of member now and I have no interest in being controlled by the church.

Bishop:  Then why did you meet with me today?
Me:  Because you asked me to.
Bishop:  If you're not going to answer my questions then I don't understand why you came in.
Me:  I don't know which questions I'll answer until you ask them.
Bishop:  Do you still want to be a member of the church?
Me:  I have mixed feelings about that.

At this point he reminded me that if I was unwilling to answer his questions he would have to go on what he "felt." I told him that was correct. He said he'd have his two counselors bring a letter to my house, inviting me to a disciplinary council. I told him if that's what has to happen then that's what has to happen.

Bishop:  Why do you want to still go to church if you don't agree with church policy and the fact that I'm your Judge in Israel?
Me:  I love the gospel. I love most of what the church teaches. I only have a couple of issues with the church. I want my kids to continue to go and I'd love to still go as a family. I'm at a place where I feel that I can take the good and leave the bad.
Bishop:  I've heard that from a lot of non-members, how they still want their kids to go.

At one point I explained to him that IF I was having a sexual relationship with my girlfriend while I was still married to my husband, then of course I would feel that it was against the rules of the church. I believe that's a separate issue than homosexuality. And then I reminded him that he doesn't know anything because I haven't confirmed nor denied sexual involvement with my girlfriend.

Bishop:  I will have to go with what I feel and what I know.
Me:  May I ask what you know?
Bishop:  (in a very passive aggressive sort of way) I don't think I'm willing to share that with you at this time.
Me:  I find it interesting that you're unhappy with me for not answering your questions but now you won't answer mine.
Bishop:  That's because this is about YOU.
Me:  Exactly. And that has to do with me as well.
Bishop:  Well, I will tell you this. I had a very long conversation with you daughter.
Me:  I know.
Bishop:  And she had a nice, long cry. And I'm sure she's going to have many more.
Me:  I know that as well. Are you suggesting that she told you I was having a sexual relationship with my girlfriend? Because that hasn't been confirmed to her either way. She has no idea. It would be pure speculation.

He wouldn't answer my question.

Bishop:  It seems to be that if you weren't having a sexual relationship with her then you'd be upfront about that. So that tells me that you are.
Me:  That is complete speculation on your part.
Bishop:  I'll ask you again, are you still married?
Me:  Why is that important?
Bishop:  Because it will be much worse if you're committing adultery than if it's fornication.
Me:  I'm no longer married. We're divorced.
Bishop:  Okay. Well, thanks for coming in.

I left there and called Kim. I wasn't feeling angry, but my heart was beating out of control. I told her about the meeting and we had a good conversation about it. Later on I called the ex and told him about it, then picked my boys up and headed to church. I felt icky being there, but just for a little bit. During sacrament I sent a text to my daughter and asked if the bishop had ever asked her about the nature of my relationship with Kim, and if he had asked any details. I also told her I wouldn't be upset with her about anything she talked to him about, but this was so that I could figure out if the things he had said to me in our meeting were adding up. She responded that she said she was my girlfriend, if she had said anything at all, and that was it. I became angry at this point because it was confirmed that he was being crafty in his words to me. He tried to make me think he had knowledge from my daughter of my relationship with Kim.

The thing that strikes me the most about this bishop is his lack of compassion. I've had many bishops who I have dealt with on this issue, and he is the first who has seemed ornery about it. My last bishop left no room for me to think that he approved of my behavior, and I was 100% confident that he was against what I had done... yet not ONE time did I ever feel unloved or unaccepted. His heart was full of compassion and he even cried with me on many occasions, even when my heart was hardened. I've experienced that with other bishops as well. The fact that this new bishop (who is married to who used to be my best female friend) lacks sympathy, makes the atmosphere for coming back a bit less than comforting.

The fact remains that he does not have firsthand knowledge of my relationship with Kim. He even said he'd have to base the process all on assumptions, until a bit later he mentioned that he "knows" something (that he wouldn't share with me). There are obviously clues out there. Even on this blog I talk about my relationship with her, but unless there are people doing their research and trying to dig things up, which is pathetic, then no one knows anything. Yes, people are digging and finding, which doesn't surprise me in the least. I guess that's more enjoyable than actually having a conversation with me?! I don't know. What I do know is that I'm getting a little angry with my bishop and I don't like that feeling. He brought me into his office and asked me questions while he supposedly already knew the answers. Why? What was his point in that? To urge me to confess? I'm not interested in confessing anything any longer. He also tried to get me to believe that my daughter told him specifics. I have no patience for crafty comments, created only to confuse me and put the fear in me. How ridiculous!

I want to quickly rid myself of the anger so that I can continue to enjoy my meetings each week, without the burden of thinking unkind thoughts toward my leaders.

I guess I'll be getting a letter sometime soon. A part of me thinks "Big deal. Whatever." But another part of me is really hurting because of it. I'll keep you posted.


yeti said...

wow, sounds like a difficult meeting, and time of transitioning.
I really apreciate that you did not feel the need to answer all of the Bishops questions.

Wishing you all the best.

FindingMyWay said...

Thank you so much, Yeti!

FindingMyWay said...

This blog post was the most accurate account I could give. Of course it isn't word for word, and I'm sure I left some things out, but this was the closest I could get. The thing that struck me the most was the lack of compassion. It definitely felt as though I was being interrogated and not lovingly interviewed for the sake of bringing me back into the fold. The very idea that he had to preface it by worrying that we wouldn't be able to be civil was absurd. At one point he even told me that he had been praying fervently to know how to be able to show me love as we talked. It's apparent he never received the answer to those prayers!! I had no idea how hard it was to love me.

One thing I should have mentioned is that I had a discussion with my best friend a couple of months ago. She asked me questions about my impending divorce and my relationship with Kim, since I had confided in her sometime before. I told her that Kim was my girlfriend but I never shared intimate details with her, or anyone for that matter. Once our discussion was over she told me that she felt an obligation to tell her husband (my bishop). When I later told her that I would rather she kept it to herself, and that she had no such obligation, she didn't back down. I expressed to her my fears of another disciplinary council and she said, "Well, sometimes they are held for the purpose of bringing the sinner back into the fold and closer to Christ, but other times they are to keep the sinner out." Of course I felt like a pariah at that point. I am left to assume that she told him what I talked to her about. Needless to say, I haven't talked to her since.

FindingMyWay said...

I thought I'd explain why I didn't want to answer my bishop's questions. It may sound silly, but I've gotten to a place where I'm simply no longer interested in being controlled by the church. As I stated in my blog, I want to remain a part of the church and continue to go, but it will look differently now than it ever has in my life. If I need to repent, I will work that out with the Lord... not confess it to my bishop and allow him to punish me for my sins. I honestly feel that I'm in a good place with the Lord and I will continue to check in with Him on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, to make sure I nurture my relationship with Him. I knew that whether or not I answered that question he would call a disciplinary council on my behalf. Why would I give him such intimate knowledge? I believe my bishop had his mind made up a long time ago and nothing I say will matter.

FindingMyWay said...

I don't believe I would have answered my bishop's questions even if he showed kindness, simply because I no longer feel it necessary to confess anything to a bishop. If it was something I had desired for myself, OF COURSE I would have felt good in sharing everything, and yes it would have been easier if he had been compassionate. I have done it before and have most always been the one to approach the bishop with my "sins." I believe the repentance process needs to happen when the individual desires it for themselves... when they actually feel remorse and when they want to gain a closer relationship with God. I am currently going through that personally. The difference is that I do not want to involve the church in that process. I don't feel it's necessary for me. I understand that people who are members and who abide by church policies feel that a confession to their bishop is warranted. Since I don't want the church to dictate my life any longer, I will not involve them in my repentance process. What they have to do is up to them.

Matt said...

Given your feelings about church authority, I don't understand why you're not just getting excommunication over with, or even having your name removed.

Because, to me, letting your name remain on the church's list of members sends the message that you do respect their authority, at least a little.

Pattie said...

Is the bishop afraid of your relationship with his wife?

Blythe Wooten McCuistion said...

I completely agree with not feeling like you must confess to a bishop. I confessed once to a bishop and it was awful. Not because of him, not because of me, but because there was no reason for me to giving my most secret moments (sometimes dark, sometimes sacred) away to some man to judge whether I am worthy of God or not. I love your comfort of not needing another person to decide what your religious path is for you.
How do you handle your children attending church and being taught lessons that you feel are wrong? That is a major concern of mine for my children.

Jessica said...

Matt makes a good point. Maybe have your name removed? You can still go to church and listen but not be involved much. You'd be a cultural Mormon.

Wendy said...

I'm so sorry this was such a hurtful meeting with your Bishop. From what you shared, it sounded a little like authority pride on his part, and that is very sad.

FindingMyWay said...

I've seriously considered having my name removed from the records of the church, even before now. The fact is that at this point it would take too long. While waiting to have the process completed, I'm sure I would receive a letter of invitation to my disciplinary council. And if I didn't show up they would surely excommunicate me for assumptions and non-compliance. So at this point I don't believe I have that as a valid option. Now I just decide how to proceed with my inevitable DC.

I do not believe the bishop is worried about my relationship with his wife. She has been my dearest friend, helping me through many tough years, for a good 9 or more years now. There's never been an attraction to her and she knows that, which means he knows that. I truly believe his issues with me stem from something else.

I have struggled for 1 1/2 years with the fact that my kids are being taught the same lessons I was taught as a child, which were extremely damaging to me. For whatever reason I have still felt it important for them to remain a part of the church. I do my best to teach them at home the issues that I have with some of the teachings and hope that their hearts will soften because of it. I suppose it's all I can do. I would tear them from the church, but they would miss out on so much good. There will always be negative things said about homosexuality, whether in the media or at church or in the neighborhood. It's my job to continue to teach them a different perspective at home, by sharing my experiences and the hurt I've been caused. I trust they'll be able to figure it out in the future - they're smart kids.

theaton said...

There will be no peace for your bishop until he "deals" with you, and no peace for you until his intrusion is over. If you resign your membership it is effective immediately. See for details.

Neal said...

Sorry you're in a rough spot, my friend.

I have a suggestion - be honest with your Bishop and just tell him you don't want him intruding in your life. Tell him you did not feel the Spirit or any sense of love or concern coming from him in his interview. Tell him you have always felt love and compassion from other Bishops, but not him. Make him take a look in the mirror, perhaps, and reflect on the way he handled this.

You might also want to respond to the disciplinary council letter and simply inform him you that you will not attend. If you don't want to be interrogated or answer his questions, or feel like you're being controlled, then simply don't participate. No matter what happens, they CANNOT stop you from coming to Church with your kids.

FindingMyWay said...

Thanks, Theaton. I've read through that site and have strongly considered it. I believe at this point in time I've decided to allow them to do whatever they feel necessary. I will attend a disciplinary council when I'm asked and I will tell them my feelings and disagreement with it all. I don't want to shy away, and I believe I can share some thoughts that may even make them think. Probably not, but maybe?

RN - I have always loved your supportive words. I love your ideas and I'll be sure to use them. Love ya!

theaton said...

Sounds good FMW! I wasn't suggesting a course of action, just letting you to know your "rights" . I haven't resigned my membership even though I haven't believed in the church in decades. You could have fun at a DC if you didn't take it too seriously, and surely you could make the bishop think. I'd love to hear a full report!

jen said...

So, I know this entry is old... and you've since had your disciplinary council, I just wanted to tell you that I LOVED that you didn't feel like you had to answer his questions.

Reading this, it felt like you had all of your power. You chose to meet with him. You chose to answer the questions that you wanted to answer. You didn't try to stop him, change him, manipulate him, etc. (Although, I imagine he might have felt that you did. Sometimes it confuses people who are used to having everyone else's power. When someone doesn't let them bully them, they feel bullied.)

I think you are beautiful and amazing and inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

Kelly slash FindingMyWay said...

Thanks, Jen! It was so important to me that I took back my power. I'm glad you recognized it as that. It's so hard to do, but I'm so glad I did it for once.

Thanks for your kind words.