The Day I Lied to My Bishop

[ 4 ] Comments

by Paul

I was reading a thread on a bishop’s power of discernment elsewhere 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.

bishopI 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. 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 and 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 were 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.

This post first appeared on February 22, 2012 at A Latter-day Voice.

About Paul

Paul was a convert to the church with his parents and siblings when he was a child, and therefore has the great blessing of having some of his formative years in the church while still remembering his family’s conversion experience. He is the father of seven and husband to his lovely wife. He served an LDS mission in Germany and has lived in Latin America and twice in Asia for his employer; now he lives with his lovely wife and youngest two children in the Midwestern US. Prior to earning his MBA, Paul also earned degrees in English and Theatre History. He also blogs at A Latter-day Voice (see the link below -- in "Our Authors Elsewhere" section at the bottom of the page) where he writes, as he does here, of his own experience as a Latter-day Saint. He does not speak for the church but will speak in favor of it.

4 Responses to The Day I Lied to My Bishop

  1. Becky L. Rose says:

    I had much the same experience as a youth only with a stake president. He knew right away in the interview. He sat there and said nothing for what seemed like 20 minutes, but I have no idea really how long it was. He was forever my champion though.

    I was reading Elder Packer talk he gave in General Conference about the atonement. Beside it being a masterful talk in it’s layout, he says this about his experience in the islands.

    “I do not know who had been waiting for us at the beach at Mulifanua. I refused to let them tell me. But it was true that without that lower light, we all might have been lost.”

    Oh, the kindness and charity he offered.

  2. Paul says:

    Becky I’ve been so impressed recently by how many times Elder Packer has *recently* taught the reality of the atonement, and the opportunity for us to repent and to be fully forgiven. I heard him over a decade ago instruct a room full of priesthood leaders that none of us there (including several stake presidents) had sufficient knowledge not to be forgivable should we sin. I’ve heard him repeat that message so often since them. It seems to me that it is one of his core messages as the Lord’s special witness, and I am grateful to him for it.

  3. Bonnie says:

    So true. We are bound most intimately with those who have acted mercifully in our behalf when they didn’t have to. Forgiveness is the most powerful unifier. There is nothing like kindness and gentleness to perfect us.

  4. Log says:

    I heard him over a decade ago instruct a room full of priesthood leaders that none of us there (including several stake presidents) had sufficient knowledge not to be forgivable should we sin.

    Isn’t the direct implication that none of you there had sufficient knowledge to be saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God? After all, nobody can be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6), and a knowledge of the truth makes one unforgivable should they willfully sin (Hebrews 10:26). Moreover, since this saving knowledge which makes one unforgivable should they willfully sin is gotten by receiving the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:14), as we are commanded to at confirmation (D&C 20:41), he was as much as saying none of you had received the Holy Ghost. Since receiving the Holy Ghost through the baptism by fire is to receive the testimony of Jesus from the Father (3 Nephi 11:35), and the testimony of Jesus is required to enter the Celestial Kingdom (D&C 76:51), it follows directly none of you could be exalted.

    I am not sure I would be comforted to be included in a group about which that was said.

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