Sunday, November 19, 2006

Am I Moroni to my Bishop's Pahoran?

Behold, I direct mine epistle to [the bishop], ...who is the chief judge and the governor over the [congregation], and also to all those who have been chosen ... to govern and manage the affairs of this war[d].

...we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state.

...Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yea, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them, yea, ye might have [called others to help] them, to have strengthened them, and have saved ... them from falling [by the wayside].
I've been pretty frustrated over the last few months. I have two children in the nursery at church, one aged 3, one aged 1 and a half. We haven't had a nursery leader in our ward since July.

Keryn is in the primary presidency. Their presidency has submitted a stream of names, eventually getting to the point where they aren't looking to find the "right" names to submit. They are just looking for warm bodies. Some calls have been extended, apparently, but none have been accepted.

Weeks go by without word from the bishopric on the status of the names submitted. Each Sunday Keryn's ears perk up during ward business to see if someone will be sustained. None are read and she pushes back the tears of frustration that fight their way up.

5 months after being made aware of the need, there are no nursery leaders.

Each week would bring a fresh round of stress to Keryn as she called different people to find substitutes. Eventually, a letter was given to each parent with a child in the nursery, including the bishop, giving them an assigned week to serve in the nursery.

The merry-go-round of faces was tough on the kids. They didn't have a good routine, they didn't have a rapport with the teachers, and some increasingly resisted coming at all. Finally Keryn and I decided it would be better for our kids as well as the other children if we spent as much time in the nursery as we could until permanent leaders could be called.

So, for most of these five months, I've ditched my obligation to be with the Priests quorum and played with the kids in the nursery. I can hardly complain about the fun level during church. I really enjoy being with the children in the nursery. And the more I do it, the better I get at it, and the more I like it.

But every week I go in to the nursery, I must do so with guilt that I'm leaving a portion of my real calling undone. (Being a dad is my real real calling, so I end up in the nursery by choice.) My calling with the Priests is primarily a weeknight calling. I am in charge of shepherding their Tuesday night activities. Because I don't see the young men in church on Sunday, I never feel like things are as well organized as they might otherwise be.

I feel ready to issue an ultimatum to the bishop: Either call someone to the nursery so I can feel comfortable as a father sending my children there each week, or release me from my calling with the young men so that I can fill the role in the nursery personally. It isn't a case of being unwilling to hold two callings. It is a case of being uncomfortable holding two mutually exclusive callings, and one of those unofficially.

So... I feel like I have a pretty good case right? I've been feeling this building up over a period of weeks. Then this afternoon I thought of the story of Moroni and Pahoran. Moroni was so ticked at Pahoran for not sending him the needed help. He assumed that Pahoran had no excuse and he chewed him out good.

I guess before I get too angry at the bishop, I need to remember what an incredibly sticky situation he must be in, calling people (including former bishops and relief society presidents) to serve in positions who flatly refuse. I'm glad I'm not in his shoes.


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  • Could you talk to your stake presidency, or your ward's high-councilman and suggest you need service missionaries from adjoining wards to come help out your ward in the nursery?

    If the bishop can't do anything, maybe it's time to kick it up the chain of command.

    Service missionaries from the suburban wards have done much good in Indianapolis' two inner-city wards.

    By Blogger Bookslinger, at 11/19/2006 8:55 PM  

  • You do have the advantage that it is easier for you to sit down with the Bishop and discuss your concerns than it was for Moroni and Pahoran. I'm thinking a heart to heart with the Bishop would be a good idea.

    By Blogger JandS Morgan, at 11/19/2006 9:35 PM  

  • The idea of getting help from the stake in the form of service missionaries is an interesting one. I actually regret not bringing up the issue in my recent temple recommend interview.

    A heart to heart is a good idea... but the two that we've had (one with me and the two counselors in the bishopric and one with the primary presidency and the whole bishopric) doesn't seem to have made a difference. Keryn thinks that being the squeaky wheel isn't going to be sufficient. The wheel may have to fall off.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 11/19/2006 10:36 PM  

  • The problem may well be with ward members who refuse callings. I recommend that you don't bad-mouth your bishop until you know for sure.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/20/2006 6:51 AM  

  • We had a similar situation in our ward, and I went to the Bishop and told him that Nursery was in trouble and that I'd been helping in there for a couple of months. I pressed him hard enough on it that I frankly embarrassed my wife. He called his wife to be nursery leader the next week and Nursery has been awesome ever since.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/20/2006 12:16 PM  

  • I don't think issueing an ultimatum to your bishop is necessarily a bad thing. I've done so once before, and it was a really good thing. My husband was the 11-yo scout leader, had 12 boys, and no assistant. It was incredibly stressful for my husband, since the parents were always asking why their kids didn't pass off more requirements (well, duh, because you don't work with them on their scouts at home), and my husband didn't know how to help them do so, since he had his hands full just tying to rein in 10 11-yo boys. He finally got so stressed, and it put so much stress on our marriage, that I called the bishop and said that he would call an assistant or release my husband, because our marriage was more important than his calling. I think it was good, because I don't think the bishop realized how bad the situation was until I called him. My husband had an assistant within a couple weeks, and though he still had to do most everything, it made it manageable. Sometimes bishops (like everyone else) need the untenableness of a situation pointed out to them, and since you are willing to take the position yourself (since the problem might be that he just can't find someone who will), I think your ultimatum is entirely reasonable.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/20/2006 4:07 PM  

  • Eric, it is definitely true that a big part of the problem is people rejecting calls. That is frustrating on a whole different level.

    However, I guess I have a hard time understanding why the turn-around time is so long. (Usually four to eight weeks before we know that a person isn't going to work for whatever reason.) For example, four weeks ago we passed the names of a couple for the Nursery to the bishopric. I just heard from the Primary President that the bishopric had not yet met with this couple to even ask them. This family has been in church (all three hours) three of the last four weeks.

    I suppose I'm lacking the information as to why the counselor can't just pull them out of Sunday School or before RS/Priesthood to ask, especially since the situation is so extreme. Perhaps the stake presidency has asked them not to do that. Perhaps they have tried that, but it just hasn't worked. Rationally, I know that I'm so close to the problem that I get frustrated when people don't act like it is the MOST important problem in the whole ward (which of course it isn't). On the other hand, I really do think this situation is turning into a long term problem that is detrimental to the Nursery kids, the Primary Presidency, and by extension the entire Primary.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 11/20/2006 5:46 PM  

  • I recommend that you don't bad-mouth your bishop until you know for sure.

    Well, that was sort of the point of the post.

    To be sure, Moroni's complaint was valid. He needed more men and supplies to successfully complete his mission. Likewise, I think my complaint is also valid. The point isn't the validity of the complaint but rather how we don't always get to understand why our complaints aren't promptly addressed.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 11/20/2006 7:13 PM  

  • Having been in a bishopric, I have to say that problems of this nature became much more urgent when someone directly and bluntly confronted the bishop and made an emotional scene in the bishop's office. I must qualify this by saying that this worked with MY bishop -- his personality and our ward's condition. I don't know if it would work in your situation.

    I must further qualify this by saying that I do not necessarily advocate this course of action unless you have prayed about it and feel that it is the right thing to do.

    It is also frustrating at times from a bishopric perspective to be unable to disclose some of the situations that prevent things from happening the way an auxiliary leader might hope. You will understand that some things simply must be kept confidential, and you will appreciate that when it works to your benefit.

    However, bishopric members aren't perfect. Though I tried to be diligent in my calling, I occasionally failed to keep an auxiliary leader as informed as was appropriate. There are so many duties and contacts that must be maintained, that some things occasionally slip between the cracks.

    Being imperfect people, leaders sometimes need something stark to capture their attention. I didn't always appreciate this kind of thing when I was in the bishopric, but sometimes it worked out for the best.

    I think it is important to let your bishop know that you appreciate and support him and that you are willing to do your calling, but that the current situation is simply unworkable. I believe it would be entirely appropriate to present your perspective of two possible courses of action that could be taken and then ask for his counsel in the matter. This does not mean that you hold back from fully expressing your frustration with the situation, but it is a far more humble approach than Moroni's letter to Pahoran.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/28/2006 11:29 AM  

  • Thank you for that very thoughtful comment. Before too long, I hope to be able to tell how the story ends... I just have to wait to find out myself!

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 11/28/2006 6:42 PM  

  • I would suggest that your frustration has very little,if anything, to do with your bishop. The only thing you need to decide is if you truly believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the rest will fall into place. :) I'd be glad to expain it in greater detail if you don't figure it out.

    By Blogger ShelleyG, at 11/29/2006 1:42 PM  

  • Shellyg, the logic of your post implies that if Moroni only had a testimony of Christ he wouldn't have complained to Pahoran. Is this really your position?

    You've known me for enough years to know that I have a strong testimony of the Restoration. That testimony doesn't make the day-to-day struggles of life any less real. It also doesn't make it okay for a church leader to fail to sustain the people they have called.

    Perhaps I wasn't able to properly interpret the smiley in your comment. Since I don't think you question my belief in the gospel, I really don't understand your comment at all and I welcome your elaboration.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 11/29/2006 7:03 PM  

  • I think you are wise to consider Moroni and Pahoran. Moroni certainly had a testimony of Christ and he certainly was justified in complaining. His circumstances were horrendous-Pahoran was his leader and was obligated to sustain him. He was doing an exceptionally bad job-many people lost their lives (although the scriptures tell us they were saved in Christ). So by considering this, what can someone in your position learn?--there are some parallels. Pahoran was not fulfilling his role because he needed to be sustained in a literal way by Moroni. He needed Moroni to help him before he could effectively do what- as the leader- it way his unquestionable duty to do. So what is the likening? I am sure you already know the answer because I have known you for years and know that this is the conclusion you would likely come to-- Be the Moroni to your Bishop's Pahoran. It's OK to express your frustrations and concerns to him just like Moroni did. But you can't stop there. Moroni showed us that he was sincere when he claimed he just wanted to do what was best for his people. He supported Pahoran militarily. What does that look like today? Personal service to your bishop and his family is a good start, but it sounds like your ward may need more than that. You might consider increasing your own activity and invite other members in your ward to do the same. Fellowship in a ward goes a LONG way when you are trying to defeat the apathy of a ward (which is a spiritual coup metaphorically speaking). Moroni was justified in his complaint, but he also marched and fought for his people. I know you and Keryn are both the kinds of people that aren't afraid to take on a task that is worthy. Can you solve the problem in your ward with bloodshed or loss of limb? Of course not! But service and an increase in deliberate fellowship can go a long way in every ward.
    I don't think your testimony of the restoration is factor here. Lots of people had a testimony of the restoration and flat out quit the church. What I meant by the Joseph Smith comment was that if you are a member of the church he organized, you have to accept your bishop as the rightful 'Pahoran' in this analogy. He is your divinely appointed leader which makes him worthy of 'fighting' beside in defeat of what is a real problem in your ward that needs fixing.
    I agree that if we have a testimony of the gospel we still have day to day struggles that are real, but our excercise of that knowledge can certainly diminish the weight of those struggles. I am interested to hear how you will solve it because I know you will come up with innovative and inspired solutions.
    My smiley was just because I like you and want to spread around a little more sugar to people I adore (you and your family!) ;) :) :->

    By Blogger ShelleyG, at 12/01/2006 12:03 PM  

  • Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel

    I find it curious that one proposed solution to this problem is to "call service missionaries to handle the assignment." In effect, you are asking to outsource the responsibility to SOMEONE ELSE.

    First, let's first remember that Bishops across the world should be saluted, hailed, and thanked for selflessly giving 5+ years of nearly full-time service to the kingdom. Please express your gratitude to your Bishop this week. Rather than asking what the Bishop can do for you, ask what you can do for the Bishop.

    When people refuse to serve, they are selfish, uncharitable, and not fit for the kingdom or capable of building a Zion-like society.

    If this is the sad circumstance of your ward, then start with the basics - accountability and responsibility. Take every parent who is contributing a child to the nursery and ask them to serve (one after another) in this calling. If they all refuse in serial order, then refuse to admit their children to the nursury. No children admitted requires no calling to extend. Dropping your child off in the nursury is a priviledge and not a right.

    Too many members take advantage of the system, by consuming more than they are providing to the overall ward's well-being. If we have to call people out on the carpet and remind them of this, so be it. This will make it easier on the Bishops, and everyone else serving in the ward, knowing that everyone has their hands on the oars and rowing the ship forward.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/08/2006 1:02 PM  

  • Anon says: "People who refuse to serve are selfish..."

    I refuse to serve because I was mistreated, badly mistreated, in my last calling and the bishop took sides with the troublemaker who relentlessly complained and gossiped behind my back. (Sample complaint: I used hymns from an old hymnal to illustrate a lesson. Bishop's comment in passing along the complaint: "There's a reason those hymns aren't in the new hymnal.")

    When he released me last month -- and he pretty much admitted it was to keep the peace with the gossip -- I refused to take another calling. Why would I? Especially since the new "calling" was a ridiculous made-up calling that was nothing more than a sop.

    I don't imagine I'll accept another calling as long as either of these two people -- the ward gossip or the bishop who placates, and thereby encourages, the gossip -- have any authority.

    Am I selfish? Or merely sane? Convince me I should subject myself to the backstabbing again, and I'll reconsider.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/08/2008 9:37 PM  

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