A Snoozing Counselor and the Bishop

Posted by: Andee / Category: , ,

Many moons ago, in March, I had the opportunity to sit down with my Mom's bishop, his first counselor, and her Relief Society President. Mom and I had been planning the meeting for months, and I had made a special trip across the state to be there. I had a notebook full of questions that I had regarding the things I have learned over this past year.

Mom my knew these people, but I didn't. It was, for me, an emotionally charged conversation with strangers. I am still unsure if that made it harder or easier. I certainly knew I should keep my cool because these are the people Mom had to live around. Her community is extremely small, and you can't just hope you don't run into certain people. It just won't work that way.

We planned the meeting at her home instead of agreeing to meet the bishop in his office. We wanted the location to be in our territory instead of his. I don't think he was the kind of guy who would use this kind of thing to his favor, but we didn't want to take the chance. They were guests in her home, a way to have an equal playing field. I certainly didn't want to sit in church pews or uncomfortable church chairs for three hours either. Mom's living room was much more comfortable.

The night before the meeting I sat down in my Mom's brand new office to write out the questions I wanted answers to. I wanted to be prepared, to let them know that I had studied. I knew what I was talking about, and that the usual apologetic phrases like, "Put it on a shelf" were not going to be good enough. We wanted and deserved answers.

I had a hard time sleeping the night before the meeting. I kept going over scenarios of what could happen the next day. I was trying to prepare myself for anything. I have never been that kind of person that could find the right words at the right time. It was more like going over the conversation hours later and thinking, "Damnit, Why didn't I say that?!?!" I wanted the ability to speak my mind and do it well.

One thing I did know was that if they insulted my Mom in any way, or at any point, either by ignorance or on purpose, I would lose my cool. She had been hurt by so many people in her ward, (no, that is not the reason she left the church) that I simply would not tolerate that. Especially in her own home.

The time for the meeting came and went with no car pulling up in her driveway, or noise coming from her doorbell. She had been worried that they wouldn't show up at all, but thankfully they were just running behind. My Dad used to make fun of my Mormon family members who were always late. He called it Mormon Standard time. I took their lateness as a sign that my Dad was there with us in spirit... at least, I would like to think he was there. I kept telling my Mom they were off somewhere praying for protection from the evil apostate and her mother.

They finally arrived.

All of them were still dressed in their Sunday Church clothes (of course) and Mom and I were more than relaxed in jeans and T-shirts. I even had my shoes off. It was quite a contrast looking at the Relief Society President, in her long, light blue, floral print dress with white trim and looking at me chilling out sitting on the floor.

They took seats on her sofa, while I opened my Diet Coke and put it next to me. I still wonder if I should have switched that for a steaming cup of coffee. That might have been a little "in your face" for the tone of respect I wanted to show them.

All three people, the bishop, his counselor, and the Relief Society president made comments about how loving and warm they felt in my Mom's home. It was a nice compliment, and it was probably true, but it was said to butter her up. I couldn't keep the smirk off my face. I tried, but I couldn't. Biting my lip didn't help.

The first thing they wanted to do was open with a prayer. Mom and I expected that. The Relief Society President gave a rehearsed-sounding prayer that asked the Lord to help my Mom and I find the answers we needed in order to be at peace with the gospel. I made a point to make sure they knew I wasn't folding my arms with the rest of them. I switched positions on the floor, took a sip of my beverage, and I was the only one in the room that didn't say, "Amen."

We sat quietly for a moment. No one knew what to do next, so I jumped in and introduced myself. They knew my name, and that I was their ward member's daughter, but that was about it. I told everyone in the room that no matter what I would be respectful to their beliefs if they were respectful to mine.

Then I launched in with my favorite topic. The translation of the Book of Mormon. I tried to keep things light-hearted as I told them about the first time I saw the South Park cartoon made about a Mormon family that moves to South Park, Colorado. The bishop admitted that he had never seen the cartoon, and I got the feeling he hadn't seen it because he thought it was "anti-Mormon."

I went on to explain that when I saw the cartoon version of Joseph Smith translating the plates of gold by using a peep stone in a hat, I was upset that the South Park creators could get it so wrong. I was born and raised in the church... in Utah... Surely I would know how it happened... I had been told the story over and over again, starting as early as when I was a fetus!

I asked him point blank why I wasn't told the truth, why my Mom had spent her entire life in the church and she hadn't known about a seer stone...

I glanced at Mom's Relief Society President. I was curious if she had heard of this before. She was sitting next to the bishop with her hands clasped in her lap with a look that could only be described as "out there." It seemed as if she was physically in front of us, but in her mind she was riding a purple unicorn on a rainbow somewhere. This would continue for most of the meeting.

The bishop first wanted to tell me that he could only speak for himself. The things he said were not officially things the church believed, but things he believed. I could have rolled my eyes right then and there, because the whole purpose of the meeting was to get these official answers. If a bishop didn't have them, who did? Stake President? The prophet himself? I think it's a way of skirting around and being able to backpedal if you make a mistake or say something that isn't true. You said it, not the church, so the church is right.


Bishie went on to say that it didn't matter how the translation happened because it was inspired and from God. I asked him that if it truly didn't matter, why hide it? This was the moment I realized that he was skilled at skirting around the actual questions that were being asked of him. He would state historical facts and go off on tangents that had little to do with the question at hand. He said some facts are unreliable and that we simply needed to have faith.


I wasn't getting anywhere, but I did tell him that the stone was used, and he agreed with me. I then asked him why the church uses paintings and drawings that show the translation in a false manner. I hated his answer.

"Those drawings and paintings are personal representation from the artist. They are not official doctrine."

Why then, would you have these incorrect pictures to teach children and investigators?

"Those are just teaching aids, not officially anything."

I didn't say this, but I should have... Would it kill them to depict the events as they actually happened? If we have the wrong paintings, we can get the right ones. Hell, I could give the church a couple internet links that show historical representations of what actually happened. Kind of shows you that they are knowingly sharing half-truths, and that is something many believing Mormons accuse me of!

I had a million more topics to cover and less than 2 hours left to do it. I dropped it and moved on... well, kinda. I had to stick with the seer stone for a couple more minutes.

Joseph Smith's arrest was never mentioned to me, and we ALL know why. Many of my relatives refuse to believe that 'ole Joe was using a stone to look for buried treasure because no one can prove that he was convicted. They refuse to believe it because I can't prove it. I find that funny because they don't ask for proof that Joseph Smith was indeed visited by an angel named Moroni... just proof that he wasn't. It's just so backwards to me! Their burden of proof is on the wrong side!


I brought up the issue with Bishie and he pretty much said the same thing. Typical.

"Stuff like this doesn't matter if you have faith."

I guess I am a weirdo, because it sure as hell matters to me.

It was time for a complete subject change because I was just spinning my wheels. Frustration was starting to take over, and I was doing everything I could to stay calm, collected, and respectful. I do have to admit that the bishop stayed respectful the entire time. I wish I could say the same for his counselor...

The counselor wasn't being mean or nasty... as a matter of fact, he wasn't doing anything except for falling asleep on Mom's recliner.

Here I was trying to find answers to questions that were literally keeping me up at night and this asshole didn't have the common decency to listen and add his thoughts. Maybe he didn't want to be there at all, maybe my questions bored him. Maybe he was exhausted from his family and church duties and needed a nap. Whatever it was, I was a little put off by it.

Bishie was trying to explain the many accounts of the first vision. I had asked why so many different accounts were available. He said, with a chuckle, that Joseph Smith would emphasize different parts of the story depending on who he was talking to. He went on to say that other people were responsible for this problem as well because they would add and remove certain parts of his original account. It bugged me when the bishop laughed, as if my question was silly or funny and the answer to the question was obvious to anyone with a pea sized brain.


I would love to add here that the bishop again mentioned that he was just giving his personal take on things. He wasn't speaking for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and he wasn't giving me any official answers. Did Mom spend tons of money on gas to get me to her house for unofficial answers? Where are the official answers?

*insert photo of me banging my head against the wall here*

Joseph Smith disappeared from the conversation for a while. I decided that I wanted to talk about more recent things like racism, homophobia and sexism. These things are much harder to explain because there is accepted proof that these things happened. There is zero dispute of racism in the church because of the facts and written discourses. The only thing they can do is make excuses... and I heard plenty of them.

I began sharing some of the quotes made by former prophets. I asked the bishop point blank how a man who is supposed to receive revelation fro God could be so hateful to a race of people. Some of the comments made were proven false... these include:

  • Dark skin isn't a curse from God because they were less than valiant in the pre-existance.
  • People with dark skin are not stupid or less smart compared to white people.
  • When those with dark skin accept the Mormon gospel, their skin color does not change.

We all know now, that dark skin is simply hereditary. It's the same as having blond hair compared to brown. Green eyes compared to hazel. Short people compared to tall people. Left-handed people compared to right-handed people. You get the point.

What could this guy actually share to explain these horrific statements? Because in my opinion there is no excuse. None. People who said these things are simply ignorant bigots. Racists.

Bishie thought the reason for the priesthood ban was because God didn't want to give the Mormons a lot of problems. He said that the church would have had far fewer converts back in the day if they had accepted blacks as complete equals. He thought polygamy was enough of a stretch at the time, no one would be able to accept both.

"Who knows why God makes these decisions, Andee? We just have to love and trust in Him."

It's not God that I have trouble with. It's men claiming to receive revelation from God and claiming he said things that a loving God would never say. I doubt God would let people with dark skin suffer like that. I don't think a loving God would want ANYONE to suffer.

The Relief Society President Chimed in here. It was the first time she had opened her mouth since the opening prayer. The sometimes heated exchange seemed like it made her retreat into the typical quiet and meek woman I never wanted to be. I couldn't believe she was going to say something... I listened closely.

She was a teenager in the 60's and she was raised in a racist home. My own Mom dealt with the same thing. Mom and R.S. Pres. talked for a minute on how happy they both were when the priesthood ban was lifted. Many of my relatives (including my great-grandmother) couldn't believe the church was allowing this to happen, because of what they were taught for so long. This was a time when racial slurs were still common (sadly) and I am glad my parents were brave and honest enough to decide things like this for themselves instead of taking their parents point of view. They formed their own opinion, and thankfully they didn't raise me the way their parents raised them in this regard.

R.S.Pres. was happy and elated when the "revelation" came. I use quotation marks because I have never felt (even in my active days) that it had anything to do with revelation. It was all about money and tax breaks. I kind of interrupted R.S. Pres. and I felt bad about it, but I felt that she was so focused on the happy resolution that she forgot how long and painful the problem was.

Yes. Thankfully, things are all ducky now... but that doesn't forgive the past, or how long it took the church officials to make that change. All isn't forgiven or forgotten, and it shouldn't be.

Done for now, but I will finish the rest of the re-cap tomorrow. I feel like I have been typing this up for a long time and my fingers need a break.

Till then,