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.
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.