Title and Foreshadowing:
What. The. Actual. F***?
Return and Report:
DW and I showed up to the interview. It started off like any church interview, exactly as expected. There was a brief minute of chit-chat. He noted that we also needed recommends renewed and then he jumped right into it.
He asked how COVID has been for my family specifically in regards to church and spirituality. I explained that I have continued to do sacrament at home and that our family has enjoyed the intimacy of being alone together. Being with just our kids has led to some awesome conversations when our kids speak up with questions, which is harder to do when we're constantly shushing them at church.
He asked about my thoughts on repentance. I told that I believe in the principle of repentance in terms of growth and change. The sacrament for all its doctrinal issues does give us time to self-reflect and commit to improvement.
He asked me about the role of mercy in repentance. I told him I have had times in my life where I felt mercy was extended to me and was deeply grateful for that and have learned that I wish to extend mercy whenever I can, whatever that looks like. I was kind of confused by this question and didn't know where to go from there, but he didn't really give me a chance anyway.
He asked me about my "relationship with Christ." I answered that I believe and strive to follow teachings of Christ that our primary purpose here is to love and serve those around us. I honestly feel good serving and helping others in any way I can, and I believe that is what Christ meant when he said that by serving others we are serving God. I told him that I feel my "relationship" (I didn't do air quotes or anything) which Christ is good in that I do respect those teachings. I have benefited from them, and I feel that following them blesses everyone. (I guess that statement could or should be significantly qualified, but I didn't elaborate).
From there SP jumped into the standard temple recommend questions. I had to do these a few weeks ago and strongly nuanced my way through them. But this time, as he got to question 3 Do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ? I paused for long enough to clue him in that something was wrong.
I told him my story - about a simple conversation with a friend on racism leading to the essays and then a faith transition centered on church history. I told him that I watched several families leave our ward in recent years over those same issues and each time I would beg the ward council to find some way to address the elephant in the room, but got shot down every time. I told him that I've read and studied and that I still very much struggle with church history.
And he just sat there.
When he started talking he told me that he was raised in a part-member home and because of the conflicting messages he got as a kid he gravitated tot he gospel because of its consistency.
He said that his testimony was based on his experiences and the feelings he has felt in answer to prayer and quote: "I've never had to reconcile the history as part of my testimony."
Then he went on with the recommend questions. I basically lied about tithing. Which also invalidates the question on honesty, I guess. But at this point, I really figured that I was out of the race for bishop and just wanted my recommend signed (for family reasons). I was actually a bit surprised when he got to the end of the interview and went ahead and signed my recommend.
Then he asked me to get my wife and he would complete her recommend interview. Up to this point there had been no specific mention of current bishop's release or pending changes and I was starting to question what the interview was even for.
DW did her interview and when she opened the door she said he wanted us both in the room. So I went back in, we all sat down, and he continued (I may get some of these words wrong so it isn't really a direct quote)...
"President Græy, I have here in front of me a letter from the first presidency authorizing me to call you to be the next bishop of your ward. The decision to extend this calling does not come lightly. Under normal conditions I would have spent time in the temple praying and pondering this decision. I have not been able to go to the temple due to COVID restrictions, but I have spent a great deal of time fasting and praying about this and I do feel this is the right choice."
Then he just kept talking for like 20 minutes and I basically heard none of it. It was mostly stuff like read the handbook, keep confidentiality, consult with your spouse on everything that isn't confidential, choose good counselors, blah blah.
When he stopped he asked me what I felt about all of that. I took a minute to think and then told him that I had assumed the interview was more of a preliminary interview where he would meet with 3 or 4 people before making a recommendation to SLC. And I assumed that when I brought up my struggles with church history I would basically be eliminating myself from selection. I told him that I certainly was not expecting this at all.
He said something along the lines of I feel this is the right thing for your ward and for you. All bishops struggle, and it may be that your particular struggles will be a great blessing to others in your ward.
At that point, DW was crying. He asked for her thoughts. She basically said she'd support me whatever my choice but that she felt I could understand people who were struggling because I have been or maybe still am there myself. He joked back that that is why I'd make a great bishop - I have a supportive wife.
He concluded saying that he felt the lord was calling me for a reason
(isn't that what we tell EVERYONE for EVERY calling?). He then said he'd tentatively say I was accepting the calling, but that if I really felt bad about it I could call him within the next day.
There was no closing prayer. We got up, bumped elbows, and left. My head was (is) spinning.
Pro: DW is questioning revelation and inspiration. Callings are all about relation.
Pro: Haha, suckaz! I made it to tippy-top of my ward and when I finally do crack and leave, no one can say I didn't give it a fair try.
Pro: Maybe I can help be empathetic and understanding to those who are actually struggling.
Con: While in the bishopric previously I AGONIZED over every testimony I had to give. Finding things to say that didn't feel like a lie was terrible!
Con: I'd be expected to motivate people to go to the temple and do missionary work. No Thanks!
Con: I'd have to be over the YM. Maybe this could actually be fun?
Con: 5 years!? Maybe its time to start looking into that new home.
Con: So many whining people. "We've tried nothin! And we're all out of ideas!" - Does that contradict my last pro?
Red Ryder, I blame you.
I feel like I passed a test, but only because the teacher had no idea how to grade it. If SP has "never had to reconcile history" he has NO CLUE how damaging it is to testimony or the church's truth claims.
How the f*** did I get approved by the first presidency after not paying tithing for over a year? Did joblessness and drops in tithing during COVID just completely cover me up?
DW already called both sets of parents which greatly
complicates things if I back out.
I'm better than dirt... well most dirt. Not that fancy store bought stuff, I can't compete with that... full of nutrients and everything. -Moe Sizlack