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Question

 

Gramps,

If someone I know is openly violating  what our Church stands for, at what point do you decide to make the Bishop aware of the situation. I.e. Adultery, pornography, alcoholism.  It bothers me to sit in Church  with this person. Especially since I brought them into the Church, and I know they will not go to the Bishop themselves.

Anonymous

 

Answer

 

Hi Anonymous,

The situation is common: We know someone at Church to be acting in an inappropriate manner. What do we do?

First, let’s talk about the obvious stuff. If we see someone doing or saying things that are hurting others, we cannot just close our eyes to that. We must speak up, perhaps to the offender directly and perhaps to others authorized to do something about it. Is an alcoholic driving? Is an untrustworthy person taking care of nursery children? Is an adulterous brother advising a Priesthood quorum? In such cases, our duty is clear.

By the same token, if what we know about is a purely personal issue, we would do very well to abide by what President John Taylor called “the Mormon motto”: “Mind your own business.” We all have weaknesses and issues we’re dealing with. In polite society, people pretend not to see the incidental, embarrassing foibles and struggles of friends and acquaintances. It’s simple courtesy.

It’s the in-between area where we struggle with shades of gray. Everything a person does eventually has an effect on others. At what point does our duty to protect our fellow man outweigh our duty to keep our noses out of the business of others? It’s a good question, one not easily answered.

You speak specifically of “adultery, pornography, alcoholism”. These are indeed serious matters. A person who is struggling with any of these probably ought not be counseling young men’s Priesthood quorums without the bishop’s specific okay, for example. More importantly, how sure are you? Some people’s “knowledge” of the weaknesses of another consists of something they overheard. This sort of “knowledge” is properly called “gossip”, and should not go from you to any other person without very good reason.

If in doubt, tell your bishop and let him judge whether the information is important. But if and when you tell your bishop, make sure you are purely factual. Don’t burden him with what you “think”; your opinion is not important. Tell him what you know and why you know it. Then — and this is important — leave the burden with him. Don’t check up on him or ask how everything worked out. (Answer: “That’s really none of your business, Brother Jones.”) Just let the bishop take care of it.

The only exception to this rule is when the sin involves criminal activity. But in that case, you should be telling the police as well as the bishop, and probably in that order.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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