Mosiah 11: 2, 7
2 For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.
7 Yea, and they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them.
I was reading in these chapters and thinking about how my testimony is affected when I hear the horror stories of abuse from church leaders like that which came out this past week. It is not often that such stories arise, but when they do I always feel a certain amount of doubt that such a man was truly called of God to fill that position. This then affects how I view the rest of my priesthood leaders, and I am left feeling less sure about my trust in them.
I have been battling with the question what to do with these feelings for a long time, this week especially. I realized something now, however, that I was not honest with myself about in the past occasions of hearing such stories; I feel a certain amount of relief when I hear them, almost like I was looking for a reason to refrain from allowing other priesthood leaders to take stock in my life. This realization made me take a step back and for the first time ask myself, why? Why, in the face of all the positive experiences that I have with the priesthood leaders that I know personally, do I let stories such as these rock my testimony so hard?
I feel now that at least part of the reason such things affect me so strongly is that there is still a lot of rebellion in me. I have since started coming up with a few ways to retain my testimony of priesthood leadership and properly address my concerns. I am choosing to be open with my bishop about how I’m feeling about such things rather than pretending my worldview hasn’t shifted an inch to the left. I am choosing to remember that my faith in Christ’s atonement, which I gained from reading and pondering the Book of Mormon, is not based in the actions of anyone other than Christ’s and my own. I am choosing to be honest with myself about the parts of me that relish the opportunity to have a valid reason to rebel, and giving those parts up to God through prayer.
None of these things are to say that we should just forget about and push under the rug instances of abuse and misconduct from church leaders. No, I truly believe such things should not just be talked about openly because it helps members to process them in more healthy way, but also to fight the “all is well in Zion” attitude. Just because the church is true doesn’t make it impervious to intrusion from wolves in sheep’s clothing. No one is beyond reproach when it comes maintaining personal comfort in areas of physical contact and space.
I do see that there is a stark contrast in church organization from Noah’s time to now, and that the situations of misconduct and abuse come in different ways, but the principal is the same. Whether by deceit or lack of vetting of those given authority, some who would abuse power find it. How we react to such instances says something about the situation at hand of course, but I found, in this case, that it also said something about me. My prayer for the future is to not let such situations weaken my testimony but rather strengthen my empathy for victims of such atrocities and embolden the vigor with which I fill my personal role of preventing them.
Comments and opinions are welcomed from anyone.