Discipline, Excommunication, and Name Removal
Meeting with the Bishop
by Jan Watson
Affinity, November 1996, pp. 5, 10-11.
Since I'm not on Q-Saints anymore, I'm not sure what you all are chatting about, but I thought you might be interested in a meeting I had with my Bishop last night.
My Home Teacher (conveniently, also the Bishop's secretary) let me know that the Bishop wanted to see me. So I went in to see him. I was pretty certain about the topic because I have expressed all my concerns about the church to my Home Teacher and I am sure they are passed along.
Anyway, we engaged in chit-chat for a bit, during which time he showed
me a picture on his wall of Christ sitting and talking in the office
of a modern day Bishop. He says he imagines Christ asking if the Bishop
really listened to the concerns of his ward people, etc. and that it
was a reminder to him.
He then asked me how I was, if I was still traveling a lot, if I was happy, how my testimony was, etc. I told him all was well and that my testimony was fine. I still believe in the Gospel as much as ever, but that I had some concerns about the church. I'll try and reconstruct the conversation from there:
B: Would you like to share them with me?
So, what should I expect? How many people can I invite to my excommunication? What should I wear? Do I get to make a speech? How long will it take for them to convene the thing? How much notice will I have? (Will I have time for engraved invitations or will I have to make phone calls?)
J: I don't feel any driving need to share them, but if 'you' would like me to share them, I'd be happy to.
B: Would you share them with me, then.
J: Sure. As I'm sure you know by now, I'm gay. I know the church's position
on it. I also know that a large number of church members do not agree
with that position. The fact that many of these people remain silent,
I believe, is almost a greater hypocrisy than the position itself. I
don't come to church anymore because on days when the topic comes up,
I feel more drained than when I arrived. That seems counterproductive
so I stay away.
B: Are you practicing?
J: Excuse me?
B: Are you a practicing homosexual?
J: It doesn't require any practice. It is what I am.
B: (very small chuckle) I mean...
J: Oh, you mean am I in a relationship. Yes, I am.
B: I see. Well you know that that is wrong.
J: Quite the contrary. I know that the church believes it is wrong.
Because it effects me, I know through personal revelation that I am
exactly what Heavenly Father intended me to be.
B: The scriptures say it's wrong.
J: Which scriptures?
B: The 'scriptures' say it's wrong.
J: 'Which' scriptures, Bishop.
B: The first presidency says it's wrong.
J: That, I know. I believe...
B: The church says it's wrong.
J: I know that too. And...
B: It's just wrong.
J: (leaning forward in chair across B's desk) Bishop, you keep telling me that it is wrong, but you give me nothing to back it up.
B: So, are you in a relationship?
J: Yes, I just said that.
B: Do you plan on continuing in this relationship?
J: Yes, I certainly hope to. Do you plan on continuing in your relationship?
B: (laughing) Yes, I do, but I'm married. Have you ever been married?
J: Yes. I tried very hard to be straight. (we discussed the marriage—-not really relevant to this telling of this story)
B: So, you were straight at the time you were married?
J: No, I've never been straight. I was attempting to 'act' straight.
B: So, you had had relationships before you were married?
B: (pulling out his procedural handbook) Hm, let me just find this in here.
(At this point there is a long pause while he searches)
J: (innocently) What are you looking for?
B: (perplexed) I'm trying to find Homosexuality in here. I know I've seen it before, but I can't seem to find it.
(Another pause while he searches)
J: What are you trying to find out?
B: (uncomfortably) Just what it has to say.
J: Whether you should excommunicate me?
B: (self-righteously) Well, there 'are' disciplinary measures. We try to work with the individual and a number of things.
J: I see.
B: Well, I can't seem to find it, so I'll have to get back to you. (as if I'm asking for some response)
J: (brightly) Sure, whatever.
B: So, you have no desire to become straight?
J: No, do you want to become gay?
B: (exasperated chuckle) Of course not, but I don't have that kind of problem.
J: I don't have a problem either. I could no more become straight than you could become gay.
B: Well, homosexuality is wrong.
J: I recognize that you believe that and I know it to be false.
B: The church says that it is wrong.
J: I know that and I'm glad you recognize that it is the Church which says it.
B: God believes it is wrong.
J: That, I know to be false.
B: Let me read you something (pulls out Proclamation to the World). Have you seen this?
J: Yes, I've seen it and I have no need to hear it again.
B: It comes from the prophet, so it has to be true. (note to readers: If you haven't read Henry's paper "0' Say, What is Truth," please find it ASAP-—it's the "By them ye shall know their fruit" argument, again)
J: Just because he is the prophet, does not mean he is infallible or that he always asks for Heavenly Father's opinion. Until we ask the questions, we do not receive the answers. This is a question to which the church believes it 'already' knows the answer. Until they realize they do not already know the answer, they will not ask the question.
B: He is guided by divine inspiration and revelation. Everything he says is true.
J: He has given no indication that any revelation has been received on this topic.
B: It doesn't matter. (pulls out the Temple interview questions and reads the one about sustaining the prophet and other authorities, then looks up with a question mark)
J: Yes, I do, but that doesn't mean I believe them to be infallible. I ask every question for myself and act according to the answers that 'I' get.
B: You are listening to the adversary. (Here of course, there is no further argument. If you do not agree with the prophet and say that you received a different answer from the Holy Ghost, then you are listening to the adversary. Therefore, in Church logic, the only true communication from the Holy Ghost to an individual is one which agrees with the prophet/church)
J: I know that I (am not).
B: You are wrong.
J: I understand that you believe
B: The church says it is wrong.
J: Bishop, if you are going to talk over the top of me there is really no reason for me to stay. (I rise and put on my jacket)
B: (sitting back in his chair) I'm sorry. I'll listen.
J: (standing) I will tell you one thing. You will do what you have to do... and it will be very hard for you.
J: (I hadn't anticipated that question) It just will (pause) But you will do it. (pause) And we will meet again, one day, you and I (pause) and everything will be fine. (I smile at him—or smirk, I can't tell what it looks like when I'm the one doing it—and shake his hand)
B: (during handshake) I still think you are a good person.
J: So do I. (big smile and exit stage left)
I know this flippancy is probably offensive to some of you. I hope you will forgive me. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I also know that the Church is 'only' a body of human beings attempting to understand and administer that gospel. When that body of human beings attempts to claim divinity and perfection in purpose and knowledge, it is no longer of any assistance to me in my personal growth. I can be flip because I know that what is done to me by a body of human beings has no impact whatsoever on my spiritual progression and individual growth (except perhaps to give me another experience from which to learn) I believe there are a number of spiritual principles and ideas which are 'not' inconsistent with the Gospel, yet are quite inconsistent with the doctrine of the Church. For my personal growth, I will pursue as many of them as is possible in this lifetime.