Bishops Who Don’t Believe: Can The Church Support Them?

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I personally know of several Mormon Bishops and other priesthood leaders who have ‘lost’ their testimonies:

Some, of the Church;
Some, of the gospel;
Some, of Joseph Smith;
Some, of God and religion!

Some no longer pay tithing or go to the temple because of their disbelief in the Church, yet feel trapped in their callings due to the expectations of Ward members, Stake Presidents and their wives and families. As much as they would like to resign, they fear the repercussions for the members they love and serve, as well as for their relationships with family and friends. There is a deep desire to not let anyone down.

Most of these good men are deeply troubled by the hypocrisy of the situation they feel trapped in.

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Some continue because they feel they are doing some good in the Church by staying in their positions of leadership, dispite their non-belief.

I was personally asked by my counsellors after I resigned as Bishop to change my mind about resigning and continue in the role of Bishop, “because”, they said, “you are doing a good job!”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

Without a testimony of the gospel I felt compelled by my honesty and integrity to resign. Yet I was being asked by the two men I loved like brothers to continue to serve in the Church despite my certainty that the Church was not true. I personally couldn’t do it.

(My resignation letter as Bishop)

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Other non-believing priesthood leaders are desperate to be released so they no longer feel the pangs of guilt, for instance after performing a Personal Priesthood Interview, or Tithing Settlement. Or after conducting Sacrament meetings, particularly Fast & Testimony meetings, where they are compelled to bear false testimonies to the congregation.

Imagine having to conduct a temple recommend interview, where the questions remind you of your own doubting heart and questioning mind.

Consider how deeply uncomfortable it is to have to stand before a Ward or Stake meeting and pretend to be someone you’re not.

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I’ve been in this position. I know how deeply troubling it is. I could not persist in my calling for longer than six weeks without resigning as Bishop.

Some priesthood leaders can rationalise for awhile as a way of coping with the cognitive dissonance. But inevitably it eventually becomes an impossible situation & they look for some resolution. I empathise completely with their dilemma, & offer a listening ear to those who want it.

This problem is a growing one.

Tragically the current belief system in the Church has created it. Mormonism currently doesn’t value a questioning attitude, only authoritarian obedience without reservation or uncertainty.

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The Church elevates the pretence of certainty over honest and authentic doubt.

Yet the members still expect and deserve honesty. No matter what I now believe about God or religion generally, I still believe in honesty!

How can members of any Church truly thrive without Truth, Honesty, Openness, Transparency and Acceptance?

This is what we should be striving for.

After all, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)

This is a big problem in many churches as is so eloquently detailed by Daniel Dennett:

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/03/17/pastors-who-dont-believe-can-churches-support/31307

Please check out the Mormon Open Letter. A campaign for a more authentic belief system and cultural attitude within Mormonism.
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Currently the Mormon Open Letter has 75 Bishops signed up, as well as 2 Stake Presidents. Along with many other members serving in leadership roles both male and female.

My admiration and gratitude go out to all those who have the courage to speak truth to power!

“It is a paradox of our time that those with power are too comfortable to notice the pain of those who suffer, & those who suffer have no power.

“To break out of this trap requires the courage to speak truth to power!” ~ Daniel Goleman

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15 Responses to Bishops Who Don’t Believe: Can The Church Support Them?

  1. Jen says:

    I think each person has to decide for himself. That said, I am incredibly grateful for the bishop that didn’t believe but continued in his calling. His counsel, empathy, and support was crucial in my own journey.
    Not many believing bishops would have spent so much time learning about PTSD; or stressed professional counseling; or offered so much financial support (from the church); or told me that most of what was said by leaders was not for me; or to just stop going to church.
    I’m not sure where I’d be today if he hadn’t cared so much for the people he served, instead of the church he was supposed to be serving.

  2. Steve, I really enjoy your blog. Here are some notes I took from a podcast. It originally related to capitalism, however, it can also relate to personal belief as well:
    We need to have the critics juxtaposed to the celebrants to hear both sides in order for the general public to have all the relevant information and arguments so that everyone can reach their own conclusion. But unfortunately there are other times when this process is blocked and the process broken – it behooves it, or it is necessary for one group to try to exclude the other. Sometime critics exclude the celebrants; sometimes the praisers and admirers exclude the critics – the loser from that is everybody, because if you close out one side of the debate there is no more debate. And, if there is no more debate you don’t listen to the criticisms and then you can’t learn from them. Critics often have much to teach … Critics point out flaws and weaknesses, which have time and again enabled people to see a problem, and to fix a problem … To shut out a critic is to shoot yourself in the foot, to make a system seem more secure than it is. To silence the critic makes the criticism go underground – it doesn’t do away with the flaw; in fact it perpetuates the flaw that drew the attention of the critic. Sadly, sometimes criticism is excluded by demonizing the critic, making the critic NOT a person to who sees a flaw that sees problems, and explains why they deserve other people’s attention – instead, they are seen as evil intended people that can be silenced and excluded from the schools, media, and public discourse. This is not an achievement that any society should be proud of, it’s an outcome that should worry every reasonable person – we’re not going to hear what’s wrong, and what’s wrong is going to fester, it’s going to get worse because we’re not attending to it and eventually it will be a really big problem.
    Silencing a critic is like saying, “I’m not going to go to the doctor for my checkup because I don’t want to hear negative news.” That is a terrible mistake for you because what you don’t hear from the doctor will still be there, and it will get worse, and then by the time you face it, it may be too late – getting the critical perspective is part of living a safe and secure life.
    [Paraphrased – March 13, 2014 – Richard D Wolff, Economic Update / Truthout | Radio Segment]

  3. Gale says:

    Thanks Steve,
    I enjoy your blogs and read every one. I don’t believe the church fully understands the full damage caused to members such as myself, my family and others whom I personally know well. When church leaders promote lies, whether through depictions of art or in manuals or public statements, deceive and hides truth while bold claims, the damage done to individuals is almost incalculable. I, for one, stand with you in correcting those lies and working out my life to heal from them and pray that church leaders will one day be able to honestly tell the truth about its history, the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith and his illicit practices regarding polygamy, the truth about the “witnesses to the Gold Plates”, the truth about the way the Book of Mormon was written (“translated”) and other issues so that people can make informed decisions relative to the demands of the church. I know I am being redundant to the many statements made by others who have learned as I have, but I believe it is part of the healing process.

    I ache for the apologists who try to explain things that have weak arguments or no meaningful foundation. Many people in the church try to justify the actions of the church and I am sure that they hang onto some thread of hope that the church and leaders they have supported are not as bad as they often appear to be. It takes real courage to stand up for real truth.

    Best wishes on the lawsuit and support with Tom Phillips. Many of us in Utah are sincerely hoping for a victory and change for the better. The church needs to be held accountable for its lies and the damage done to its members.

    Please continue with your good work and I look forward to reading your next blog.
    Gale

  4. Kemari says:

    The bishop that I had in Colorado from ages 14-18, who I was close to eva use of the constant help through “repentance processes” left the church after he was released, stating he “never believed the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith” this was shocking then (not now! I feel the same;-)) I had never heard anyone declare this!!! let alone my bishop!! what happened is it made me question and rethink everything he advised to me and bore testimony of. I was astonished that I often “felt the spirit” when he bore his testimony, when he didn’t even have one. I went ahead and put it on my shelf and when my shelf collapsed in 2011 I thought back and I felt sad that he pretended and dedicated all those hours, days and years to something he didn’t believe. He must have been a mess inside. I cannot imagine. I am sure many will find your words helpful! Great post as always Steve!

  5. Good Will says:

    I empathize with everyone here who has left comments and/or who has experienced the type of “cognitive dissonance” and loss of faith described by Steve Bloor. What he describes is real and true — even if he does move quite a ways off base by imagining that ALL THINGS can be “explained away” by self-hypnosis, self-delusion, neuropsychology, etc. (The list of reasons for disbelieving is potentially endless.)

    I invite everyone here to look to the work Denver Snuffer is producing at his blog. The error, you will find, is not that the Book of Mormon isn’t true — it is! (Yes, I know there are arguments against it, but those arguments have, and will, continue to fall by the wayside.) The error isn’t that Joseph Smith wasn’t a prophet — he was! (And, I believe, still is, despite whatever flaws, faults and failings we ascribe — rightly or wrongly — to him.) The error isn’t that God doesn’t exist — He does!

    The error is that those who first embraced the Book of Mormon didn’t read it, misunderstood it and, for the most part, rejected it (if not ignored it completely) and “re-interpreted” it into something it wasn’t and isn’t. It is virtually impossible for modern Mormons to read the Book of Mormon as it was intended, so great is the “metatext” that has been imposed upon it by the modern Church. (Thanks to Daymon Smith and his blog for revealing this truth.) Consequently, the LdS faith and the Church produced by it — a truly “Gentile” Church, through and through — went astray…and has been moving farther astray with every passing year.

    The “solution” is not to throw out one’s faith, but to dive deeper into it. I know by personal experience that the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Book of Mormon is true. That doctrine is this: Cry unto God with all the energy of your soul to be forgiven of your sins, having perfect faith in Jesus Christ, and He will receive you — with the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, which spiritual element will purge you of ALL desire to sin, as if by fire, and fill your soul with unspeakable joy. You will commune with God, hear His voice, see His face, and know Him. Then, as a public witness to God and man that you have been converted and have repented of all your sins, you may enter the waters of baptism and receiving the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the promise that the Comforter will be in and abide with you forever, if you persist in prayer and calling upon His holy name.

    Those who have this witness do not care about the “side show” evident elsewhere. These are distractions. They tear away at faith, like acid, for those who have not been initiated in the heavenly gift. I’m not talking about your “testimony” here. (Even the devils have “testimonies”. Testimonies can be shaken.) I’m talking about “conversion” — being wrought upon by the Spirit of God and made privy, by revelation, to God, by which you know Him, have seen His face, heard His words, watched Him, His mannerisms, etc. Having done this, how can you then say “I do not know Him”?

    Better it would be for that person to have never been born than to deny the revelation of the Holy Ghost by which God is revealed…for what more can be done to “convert” one than to reveal GOD to him? If one rejects that, there is NO GREATER WITNESS!

    The problem, my friends, isn’t that the doctrine of Jesus Christ isn’t true. It is. It’s that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has mangled that doctrine through disbelief, misapplied it, forgotten it, and perverted it beyond recognition. One may attend the Church his whole life and NEVER hear a single sermon about the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost — so essential to salvation! — for virtually NO ONE who now leads the Church has ever experienced it! They have not been “born again”! In fact, those who now claim to have experienced this supernal gift are routinely denigrated, dismissed, and mocked (from that “great and spacious building”, which the Church has become) by those who have not tasted the fruit or who have spurned it, in shame, disbelieving, being overcome by sins.

    I implore you not to reject the truth — not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater”, as it were — just because this great error, this great stumbling block, has been exposed.

    I know Jesus Christ is real, that He ministers today. Those who have been the recipient of His witness are not shaken. Those who haven’t — who have merely “testimonies” of this man or that book, without the oil of “conversion” in their lamps — will simply be left in the dark and, ultimately, shut out of His presence.

    I urge you to cry unto Him with all the energy of your soul and He will hear you and answer you.

    Then, together, we’ll find out from Him what to do about this mess the Church has gotten itself into.

    • Crusader says:

      Hello Goodwill,

      Thank you for you comments, your message is clear and I agree with every word you say
      It’s time to take action and help the people who are confused and doubting, the church does teach truth regardless of its history, just like most other churches it’s history is suspect but it teaches some truth, all the church needs to do is to be open and honest about its past and stop trying to cover it up, the information about its history is out there for all to see so stop trying to spin it before it’s too late

      Regards
      Crusader

  6. Stormin says:

    I was not a bishop but in 6 bishoprics and when not in bishoprics in HP group leaderships —— within weeks of my learning the TRUTH my integrity could not allow me to go to church and stand as a leader and infer I was paying tithing and believed, hear “I believe xxx and xxx” constantly, go to look at gospel art and see lies (even not church doctrine), then go to gospel doctrine and listen to lies. I guess people are all different and I guess that is OK! Thanks for your great blogs and your support in the Monson case —– I am certain not all exmos could represent us (exmos/scammed) as well as the three of you.

  7. Camille Biexei says:

    There is fundamental wrong in an institution which essentially requires that its membership lies. And the LDS Church does that on many different levels in may circumstances, not just its leaders. Perhaps the phrase I really want here is “fundamental evil”. As Gale said, “…the damage done to individuals is almost incalculable.”
    I do not believe, as many people who are no longer believers, but who stay, have said, that the Church still does good, so it is okay to support it. I think the negative outweighs the positive, if for no other reason, in the cost of life satisfaction among members.

  8. TheOtherHeber says:

    I’ve been a bishop for five years and was on my second year at the High Council when my faith collapsed over the “Race and Priesthood” essay. At first I thought I could pretend to believe and continue in my calling, for my family’s sake, but after a couple of weeks I realized it was not possible. My family, primary and Young men leaders had always taught me to be completely honest and I took it to heart. Being honest and truthful is part of my identity. I came to the conclusion that to continue in that calling, or to continue supporting the church in any way, I would have to deconstruct myself and become another person. I would rather not, and have since completely left the church with my family.
    Even if the church is not what it says it is, I am what I say I am.

    • SteveBloor says:

      Dear OtherHeber,

      Thank you for your comments.

      As you indicate, I too feel authenticity, honesty and integrity is essential for my own identity.

      I love your last sentence, “Even if the Church is not what it says it is, I am what I say I am!”

      Wonderfully stated.

      Best wishes for your future as a former Mormon, as you rejoin the human race.

      Steve

  9. Hi Steve,
    I was a bishop for 5 years 1993 to 1998. I also have served as WML x 2; EQP x 2; HPGL. I left the church in 2011. Your blog really helps. Thank you. G.Lance Jackson.

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