Monday, October 1, 2012

"Will My Bishop Think Less of Me?"



Many of us have obsessed over whether or not our Bishop's will think less of us as we struggle to find the faith and courage to enter his office and begin our repentance process.

Recently I found that someone had found my blog by typing in the Google search engine "will my bishop think less of me."  Reading this person's fear and trepidation broke my heart.  Here is a son or daughter of God who has resorted to searching Google to find a balm for their fear; to find courage; to find hope. 

After pondering this dilemma I was impressed to reach out to all current or former Bishops that I know and ask them their response to someone who fears what their Bishop will think of them if they were to reach out and let their Bishop in.  I am honored to know these men.  They are truly worthy and faithful representatives of our Savior and it is apparent they have a deep love for each member of their ward(s).

The following are their responses:

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It takes great courage and faith to ask a Bishop for help. Fear and shame discourage many from taking this step so vital for healing and forgiveness.  It is natural to wonder what the Bishop will think and feel when you share your struggles with him. While not all Bishops are alike, my experience, having been a Bishop twice and a Stake President, tells me that when members struggling with sin and addiction come for help most Bishops typically feel a myriad of emotions including: 
  • Respect for the courage and faith of the good brother or sister seeking help and forgiveness.
  • Grateful that they have placed a sacred trust in him to help them and that they want to live a life pleasing to God.
  • Humbled by the awesome responsibility that accompanies that trust.
  • Anxious to be directed by the Spirit and help in the way Christ would wish.
  • Compassion for the struggles the member faces and the burdens he or she is carrying.
  • Hope that they can overcome their trials, experience the miracle of forgiveness and know the joy of trying to live a righteous life. 
I wish could say that every Bishop has always responded in the best possible way when trying to help members—but the truth is some are better at it than others. I do know that all want to help and respond appropriately, and will do the best they can because they love you and the Lord. That love will be deepened, not diminished by seeking his help. I know also that God loves us enough to guide Bishops and will bless you for confiding in your Bishop and seeking his help. The Atonement is an infinite gift offered at tremendous cost. We must never let fear or shame keep us from accepting the gift.

- Current Stake President (twice former Bishop)

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I am very much aware how hard it is to come and see the Bishop when you need to confess sins and am very humbled at any one that comes in to see me.  I hold that part of my calling in very high regard. I don't discuss what is said to anyone. I have great respect for anyone who comes into my office for whatever reason it may be.  I am humbled to be the Savior's representative and would never think less of anyone.  None of us are perfect and should not feel ashamed that we have to go and see our Bishop for any reason.

- Current Bishop

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I just had this experience with a sister a few days ago. I assured her that whatever she has been through, whatever she has done, and whatever has been done to her would not make me view her as anything less than what she is--a daughter of Heavenly Father. The sisters who come to talk with me, as their Bishop, are exemplifying that they are those daughters simply by virtue of walking through the door. They know where to go for peace. They simply need someone to help them lay claim on it, and I am happy to assist the Lord and the sister in any way I can.

Fear is a tool of Satan. If he can make us afraid to let go of our facades and pride by opening up to our Bishops or Stake Presidents, then he has caused us to separate ourselves from the healing he knows is there.

- Current Bishop

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It takes great courage to come in and see the Bishop. I commend you on your courage and want you to know that Heavenly Father loves you very much. As to your question, I won't think less of you.  I only have great love and compassion for you and want to help you get through this very difficult time in your life. I want you to be able to feel the Spirit and love from our Heavenly Father again and I want to help you love yourself again. How grateful I am for the Atonement of Christ in my life and His tender mercies toward all of us.

- Former Bishop

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When I was called as a Bishop I remember the tremendous love I instantly felt for the members of my ward.  They became my brothers and sisters.  I loved them, cared for them, prayed for them and always welcomed them.  When I was called as a Stake President, again I felt the same overwhelming love for well over 3,000 members.  I learned shortly afterwards that the love I felt for the members of my stake came as a result of the keys I held and more importantly it was the Lord's way of expressing His love to the members of His church.  I pray each and every day, morning and night, that the members I have stewardship over will have the strength to overcome their fears and partake of the Atonement.  

One important lesson learned was that I was not to be intimidating to the members of the ward and stake. This was not the Lord's way of ministering.  Rather, He would ask them to "follow Him" and "come unto Him".  This does not happen when the leader is intimidating.  The leader must be humble and realize he is an advocate, brother and a friend. I never look down at the member that needs the Savior.  I welcome him.  I welcome her.  Although the road may seem long and hard to follow on the path to repentance and recovery, the end is filled with real joy and happiness, real growth and conversion.

The priesthood leader, Bishop's and Stake President's, certainly have experienced and witnessed the miracle of repentance:  "The Lord hath redeemed my soul from Hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love." (2 Nephi 1:15) Often times those arms are that of a loving Bishop or Stake President that will walk beside the member who treads the path to forgiveness.

Current Stake President (former Bishop)

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In considering the feeling I have had as a Bishop as people would come to me with concerns, problems, or sins that they needed to overcome I always feel a spirit of reverence and awe towards them. I marvel at their faith and commitment towards the Lord and at their willingness to place all of it at the Saviors feet.

I want them to know that no judgment or shock or disappointment or disapproval is part of the interview, just love, understanding and a commitment to help them set things right. Bishops are blessed with a short memory. We keep it all with us until it is all resolved but then all we seem to remember is the warmth of the spirit and the gift of friendship that has developed between those we work with. We don’t see evil or terrible people we just see beautiful and wonderful sons and daughters of God that are loved by Him and by us.

Current First Counselor in the Stake Presidency (former Bishop)

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May these few words serve as a sincere invitation and encouragement to any brother or sister who seeks healing and change through the Atonement of Jesus Christ to meet with their local priesthood leaders.  The Church was specifically organized by the Lord to provide a local Bishop or Branch President to assist and bless us in our efforts to return to our Heavenly Father.

I have knows many Bishops and Stake Presidents through my life and almost without exception these are some of the most thoughtful and caring men I have ever known.  They feel deeply for those the Lord has asked them to shepherd.  Their door is always open to help those seeking to repent and change.  One Stake President said that we are not on any firmer foundation or in any better standing before the Lord than when we have just repented from sin.  Repentance and change with the assistance of the Bishop is part of our Heavenly Father's plan.  While being a common judge in Israel is one of the Bishop's responsibilities, these judgments are to be the Lord's judgments.

To all those who are hesitant, be assured that your Bishop will hold you in high regard for the faith and courage to work with him in applying the principles of repentance. You will develop a personal relationship with him and know him as a friend and confidant.  He knows better than most that we all have faults, failings and sins that we must move past in our mortal experience.  Trust me when I say he will see it as a blessing to both of you to be able to help.  He will think more of you, not less.
Former Bishop and Stake President.



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Are you a current/former Bishop or Stake President and would like to participate in this post and add your own reply to someone who is bound by fear?  If so your response is most welcome!  Please email your thoughts to bythelightofgrace@gmail.com.  Thanks!

2 comments:

  1. Sid,
    Great post...I can tell you as a former Bishop that by the time most people get the courage to come in and confess, they have punished themselves more than they probably deserve. All Bishops take this part of their calling very seriously. It's the chance away from the weekly meetings and daily crisis where they actually get to exercise their priesthood keys and help someone in need. Your Bishop is your friend and your ally in the battle against sin. I wish I had realized this earlier in my own life. Once again...Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good points there! Love it! If you'd like to type up your own response that I can add to the list that would be awesome. You really have some good points in your response here. If you'd like to participate you can send it to bythelightofgrace@gmail.com and I'll get it added. Thanks!

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Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"