Monday, February 27, 2012

The day I lied to my bishop

I was reading a thread on a bishop’s power of discernment over at BCC and it made me think about my own experience lying to my bishop. I really wrestled with whether and how to share this experience, but ultimately I've decided to go ahead.

I was a boy (well, we’d call me a “young man,” but I was a boy), and I had never done baptisms for the dead because we lived so far from a temple. But I had the chance to go and do some family names. In my interview with the bishop, he asked me a direct question and I answered in a way I knew was untruthful. (Don't fret over which question. It really doesn't matter as you'll see...)

The experience is forever seared into my brain, perhaps because of the painful burning I felt as soon as I did it. This was NOT a warm and fuzzy feeling. This was a scorching flame that started in my heart and went to the top of my head the soles of my feet.

If he discerned anything unusual about my response, he said nothing.

As I recall, that interview was on a Sunday. By midweek, my conscience had gotten the better of me. Like the Telltale Heart, it called out to me, and finally on an evening during the week I was meeting with the bishop again (this time in his home; if memory serves, he was sick, but still agreed to see me because I said it was urgent).

After I confessed my lie (and told the truth about the answer to the question he’d asked) he was much more concerned about the lie than what I had lied about. He was kind and gentle. He never suggested to me that he had suspected I had lied. He taught me. He assured me of his and the Lord’s love for me. And he let me keep the recommend that he had given me.

That experience had a great influence on me when I served as a bishop decades later. I will ever remember the compassion my good bishop showed, and his concern for my integrity. Although he allowed me to keep the recommend, I carried that difficult experience over my head like a cloud until he and I had a pre-mission interview several years later. I had always feared that he remembered the incident and somehow thought less of me because of it. After my mission interview, I was certain that was not the case. (He did remember the incident, but he did not think less of me.)

That good bishop was one of three or four models I looked to when I served as a bishop (twice). He was a young bishop with a very young family. At the time I had no idea the sacrifice he and his family made to serve us as he did. He had an undying devotion to the Lord and to the youth of his ward. Many of the lessons of priesthood service I learned under his care.

It should come as no surprise to my regular readers that I assume most bishops do their very best to serve in often challenging circumstances. I can’t tell you how fortunate I was to have this bishop in my life when I did.


  1. God bless the good Bishops of the Church.

  2. I truly admire the faith and commitment of the bishop's of the Church. So much of what they do goes unrecognized, unheralded, and sometimes even criticized. Although they are not perfect, all of the bishops I have had do their very best to be examples of true Christlike love.

  3. This is a story of contrasts. You went from liar to truth-teller. That journey is not understood until we know where you started. You took the short-cut to the moral of the story, but that doesn't really work. What did you lie about? It does matter.

  4. No. No it doesn't . . . The real lesson of the story was told very well. Recognition, remorse, repentance and restitution. The details of the story only need to be known by the Boy, the Bishop and the Lord.
    For everyone else it is just being nosy.

  5. Thank you for a great lesson that all in the church, particularly the youth, need to learn: that their Bishops love them with an intensity they cannot understand. The mantle of Bishop is real and changes you--you see His children more thru His eyes, and love them unconditionally. And as people come to their Bishop with their burdens, they are able to go out of that office with a lighter heart and know that they are right before the Lord.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I pray that others will realize that their Bishop's are not there to condemn, but to save them. Sometimes that saving will be harsher than you want, but it is ALWAYS driven by a love for the Lord and a love for that soul that come to him.

  6. I agree with anonymous, it doesn't really matter what the lie was about. We don't need to know. We just need to understand the love and concern that Heavenly Father and His servants have for us.

  7. Thanks, all, for your comments. And thanks to Emily at Deseret News for flagging this post.

    Kevin, I agree with you: if this were meant to be a story about my journey from liar to truth teller, then some more detail might be helpful (and if I were writing a fictional short short about that subject, I'd for sure include it).

    But as I said at the outset of the post, I'm responding to a post I read elsewhere about a bishop's discernment, particularly in a temple recommend interview. That's why I focused as I did on my bishop's behavior in this post.

    Thanks for reading, and for commenting!

  8. I most worry about the fact that this man was so hesitant to share the story. He indicates he almost didn't. Is it because he feels he will be judged too harshly by those who know him? Do many of us, in the Church, feel like we can never be imperfect- or at least we can never let each other know we are imperfect? I have found that to be true. We need so much to share our mistakes and how we overcame them. Otherwise, where will our youth and others find the examples of how to turn things around from wrong to right? Thank you so much for sharing this.

  9. "We need so much to share our mistakes and how we overcame them."

    Amen - and amen.

  10. I had a wonderful experience with Church discipline that forever reinforced my understanding of the love our leaders have for their "flocks". I will always remember the words, "We need to relieve you of the responsibility of Church membership for a while" and then, "Don't stay away too long." I didn't.

  11. The Scriptures teach us of the doctrine of repentance and forgiveness very clearly. In Hebrews 10:16-17 the Lord states, "I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." When we repent completely, the Atonement enables us to change, to become better men and women, to "turn away" from sin. There is no value in remembering sin, only in remembering the pain it caused and the joy of forgiveness. As Alma said, "And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with you as exceeding as was my pain!"

    To me, that is the true moral of the story; that through a Bishop, a young man could come to understand the need to repent and change and become better than he was. Well done!

  12. SisterinZion, you're right, I did hesitate before posting this story, but ultimately I came down where you did: in the right setting there's value in seeing someone else's path, however rocky it may be.

    As we share our faith journeys with one another, we can strengthen (even edify) one another. I do believe, however, there's a good reason for us to be guarded about how, when and how much we share. One reason for that is what Anonymous said just above about remembering our sins. Someone once told me that it might be harder for the Savior to forget our sins if we keep reminding him of them.

    But I am heartened and well taught by stories like those told so well by President Faust of his learning experiences of his youth.

    Thanks for reading!

  13. I was encouraged NOT to share my journey through repentance, which included being disfellowshipped. In the telling, the way home may seem "too easy."