Thursday, November 18, 2010

No Longer Worthy Enough: One Father’s Voice

This past Sunday, I went to church just like I have for almost every Sunday for the past 20+ years since becoming a member.  I went to priesthood meeting, just like I always have.  The opening announcements were made, just like they always are. 

Then, everything changed. 

The bishop announced that a worldwide priesthood leadership broadcast had been held the previous day and some important changes to the Church Handbook of Instructions had been made, one in particular being relevant to the priesthood holders then assembled.  He then went on to paraphrase the following passage from the new handbook:

“Only a Melchizedek Priesthood holder who is worthy to hold a temple recommend may act as voice in confirming a person a member of the church, conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood, ordaining a person to an office in that priesthood, or setting apart a person to serve in a church calling.

As guided by the Spirit and the instructions of the next paragraph, bishops and stake presidents have the discretion to allow priesthood holders who are not fully temple worthy to perform or participate in some ordinances and blessings. However, presiding officers should not allow such participation if a priesthood holder has unresolved serious sins.

A bishop may allow a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to name and bless his children even if the father is not fully temple worthy. Likewise, a bishop may allow a father who is a priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder to baptize his children or to ordain his sons to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood. A Melchizedek Priesthood holder in similar circumstances may be allowed to stand in the circle for the confirmation of his children, for the conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood on his sons, or for the setting apart of his wife or children. However, he may not act as voice.” (pg. 140, 2010 CHI)

I felt as though the proverbial rug had been pulled out from under me.  Suddenly, and devastatingly, the church no longer looked the same to me as it had five minutes before.  Something very profound had happened to me, and I knew I would never be the same again.

A bit dramatic?  Perhaps.  But I’m entitled.  Let me explain.  But before doing so, I want to say that a number of things could be and have been written about this new policy, mainly by people who aren’t directly affected by it.  I will let others expound in the abstract on the whys and wherefores of this new directive.  Their voices are valuable, but they aren’t mine.

This post is my voice.  The voice of one LDS father who, as with the stroke of a pen, is no longer worthy enough to exercise his priesthood on behalf of his family.

I’m going to drop a veil or two in this post, but I feel like it is worth it.  My voice is only my little voice, but I feel it needs to be heard in sincerity, in broken-heartedness, in pain and sorrow at losing something that, I fear, can never be regained.

Over the past several years, my wife and I have adopted several young children overseas.  We had biological children; but as a result of a series of events that I won’t go into, we felt compelled to seek out and adopt these children.  We didn’t have the money to do it, but we did it anyway, trusting that God would provide.

Unfortunately, the financial crisis and the Great Recession hit us hard.  We had borrowed money to finance these adoptions, and we found ourselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place as we struggled to pay off this debt.  Still, we tried to trust.  But we got to the point where we had to make some hard choices, and we reluctantly reduced our charitable donations, including tithing.  We just couldn’t do it and survive.  Some might have said that we needed to exercise more faith.  To those I say, Sorry, we’d already been there and done that (i.e., with the adoptions) – in spades.

A few months ago, my temple recommend expired and I was not in a position to renew it.  I felt badly about that at the time.  However, I felt that God understood our situation, and I hoped that, someday soon, I would be able to become a full tithe payer again.  It was unfortunate that we would not be able to go to the temple for a time, but we could live with that.

That was then.  Before the announcement of this new policy.

You see, one of those children that we adopted is about to turn eight.  I was planning to baptize and confirm this child.  I had been looking forward to pronouncing a blessing upon this child’s head.  My wife and I had been through so much with these children.  Starting down the adoption path.  Travelling overseas.  Meeting the children.  Making the decision to adopt them.  Bringing them home. Integrating them into our family. Dealing with serious and long-lasting attachment issues that were so stressful and affected our family so deeply that I wondered at times if we had made a terrible mistake, wondering if our family would ever be “right” again. 

Then, the good times.  Seeing them make progress.  Seeing them start school.  Watching them learn and grow.  Looking forward to the milestones of their baptisms.  Thinking that perhaps the Spirit, in the course of their confirmation blessings, would share some clue as the wondrous mystery of their adoptions, how the fates had brought us together.  Looking forward to that time when these two little orphans would become members of the church.

That was before the announcement of the new policy.

Now, I will not be able to confirm my child. That is certain.  If the bishop is so guided, I may be allowed to baptize my child.  I also may be allowed to stand in the circle as someone else confirms this child, if the bishop feels so guided. 

But I ask myself, why would I want to merely stand in the circle?  After the humiliation of being denied the right to act as voice because of a new policy, why on earth would I want to stand in the circle with other men who are not even related to this child and listen to a blessing pronounced by someone who had not been through what I have been through in raising this child?  If this was meant to be some sort of consolation, then I’m afraid that, as far as I am concerned, it has rather widely missed its mark.

When I first heard the announcement on Sunday, I felt sick inside.  I left the meeting.  I not only felt betrayed, I also felt like the church – not the bishop, mind you, and not the stake president, but the CHURCH – had suddenly and without warning cast me out into the street as no longer being worthy enough. 

Even though I have been active ever since joining the church.  Even though my wife and I have made huge financial sacrifices in adopting these children.  Even though we have been paying tithing consistently for years.  Even though, in every respect except the payment of a full tithe, I consider myself worthy enough to perform these ordinances, and I would have been considered such – prior to the adoption of this new policy. 

Some might say (and have so written online concerning this policy) that this change should serve as an incentive to me to exercise more faith and pay my tithing so that I can then be “worthy enough.”  There might have been a time in my life when I might have agreed with this statement. 

But not now. 

Why?  Because, in my situation, for me, right here, right now, after feeling like I have been cast out into the street, to embrace such an attitude would be tantamount to purchasing the right to confirm my children, or to ordain my son.  And for me, that simply makes me feel sick inside.  Nauseous.  Empty.  Gutted.  Disillusioned.  And very, very, very sad.  Because something inside of me that once was very precious has been lost, and at this point, I fear it will never be found or regained.


  1. Invictus, I'm so sorry. I've been seeing the new policy as much more restrictive, also--but the Church is now spinning this as more inclusive. They are saying that it allows for priesthood holders who do not have a temple recommend to "participate meaningfully" in ordinances involving their children. I've read an online response from one person that their bishop did not previously allow PH w/o recommends to participate in ordinances for their children, but from my perspective this was unusual.

    I hate this. I understand your feelings about purchasing the right to confirm your son. Do you think you will speak with your Bishop and try to work something out?

  2. Although I wasn't trying to buy salvation, I was trying to buy acceptance. One thing I learned years ago in that church, you will NEVER be good enough. I still regret the time and money I gave.

  3. Bored in Vernal - Thanks for your comments. My bishop has been very sympathetic. He's a very good man. His hands are tied, but he has indicated that he is more than willing to do everything possible to make the best of this situation. He, too, sees this as a very significant change.

    TGD - I hear you about buying acceptance. I think I have been in that place for a very long time ...

  4. The only person you need to receive (not merit) acceptance is from yourself and from the Higher Being of Goodness, Generosity and Creation that you believe in.

    When I hear policy, spin on promoting, ... I see a corporation, not a spiritual God.

  5. Have you actually discussed this issue with your bishop? And, especially the tithing issue? If not, you should. We pay on our increase, which is not strictly defined one way or another . . . Think about that, ok?

  6. Yes, Quiet Song, I have discussed it with him. He was very supportive, but his hands are tied. To the extent he can help mitigate embarrassment, he has said he will do so. He knows our financial situation. Again, he is sympathetic. He recognizes the significant change this represents, and he also knows, because I have told him, that this change has deeply bothered me.

  7. I also think that what is important here is: why do you feel literally sick? Physical manifestations like this are signs of something deeper: it seems to be that you are no longer "included", that you've been abandoned? Do these strike a chord?

    Nothing can stop you from bestowing a blessing upon your children in the privacy of your own home between God, you, your wife and your children. I don't think any explanations will be needed.

    As for the other things that you won't be able to participate in, perhaps it will allow the distance you need to think more about the path your children embark upon when making such a commitment. It will also allow you.

    Being someone who LEFT the church, I don't consider myself inactive, I can only say that the feelings I had when doubts began with me are only confirmed by this new direction. This is NOT God to me. I believe in a God that is a mixture of NEW Testament (not Old) and some other spiritual beliefs. This just doesn't mesh with me. This could also be what you are feeling sick about - the clash of what you know and believe to be God and what is happening around you.

    The tithing issue and putting one's self in the submissive position of not being worthy is only a a branch. It's not the whole problem.

    I will stop now. I know that this is not a "mormon" blog but I don't want to offend anyone. I just want to voice my intolerance of something I feel should not be tolerated because of its ---------- aspect and dictates.

  8. Since I didn't go to the meeting, i didn't know about this. Wow. Tightening the noose. Did they add 4 new questions to the temple recommend list too?

  9. Thank you, Libellule. I think - I know - the reason I literally felt sick is because I felt the pain of disillusionment - disillusionment in something (the Church) that I have devoted my entire adult life to.

    Of course, my coming out and embracing my sexuality had already opened the door to this disillusionment; but that was something I felt *I* controlled. But with this new policy, I felt like the Church was rejecting *me* - something which I couldn't control.

    Beyond that, I felt a bit like Dorothy did when she discovered the real identity of the all-powerful wizard. Disillusionment leading very quickly to anger and, in my case, to sadness.

    I'm sad because the Gospel used to represent something very precious, very beautiful to me. Now, not so much, particularly with respect to the Church. And sad because, again, this is something I've devoted my whole adult life to, something that has been my source of meaning, of purpose.

    Now, as you say, perhaps all of this is for the best. I must find my *own* way and live up to my moniker of pilgrim, finding my Self and learning to love and trust my Self.

  10. Hey Joe Conflict - I don't know about new TR questions. MoHoHawaii has been posting about the new handbook, and his blog would be a good place to look.

  11. What you say makes total sense and your sadness is authentic and justified. It speaks to your sincerity.

    If I may say something, that is always easier to hear than to digest:
    I guess that having devoted your entire adult life to this is not a loss because it has created who you are today. Although this person is you are is sifting through parts to keep and parts to not keep, this experience with the church wasn't an end in itself: just a brick on the yellow brick road.

    I'm trying to remember what happened after Toto revealed the guy behind the curtain: weren't they all relieved? didn't the voice of Oz get to finally come out from hiding and be himself? didn't Dorothy get to go home? I don't remember all the details. i should watch it again!

    In any event, the next chapter is yours and is a white page...

  12. I'm sorry for your pain. However, I'm sure the Church had a good reason for enacting this change, just as they had a good reason for "raising the bar" when considering worthiness of young men and women who want to serve missions. There were a lot of kids who thought they could live wild and unclean lives, then repent just before time for their mission. Its called 'planned Prodigality'. It was becoming rampant, hence the "raising the bar" move. Maybe something similar was happening with people performing confirmations and ordinations??

  13. Invictus Pilgrim

    I do not understand why you are not worthy of a Temple Recommend, "Full Tithing" is so ambiguous that I'm sure you, your Bishop & SP could come to some arrangement. Your circumstances strike me, the "widows mite" comes to mind.

    Personally I would suggest ask the Bishop for assistance from the Bishops store house, then pay tithing and go to the temple, at this time going to the temple is vital.

    Don't give up your self & your Bishop can find some solution.

  14. @Neal: I'm sure there is a reason. But when I see collateral damage like Invictus Pilgrim's family is in for, the "goodness" of whatever reason for it is highly questionable IMO. I judge things by their results. I honestly can't imagine what discernible good can come from this change other than the higher ups feeling better about their own efforts to defend purity and worthiness, even though they refuse to get involved in the actual judgment calls at the local level. No wonder Invictus Pilgrim feels as he does. More bureaucratic rules overtaking real families and real spirituality.

  15. I am so sorry. This post really hurts!

    I would suggest that the Bishop's hands aren't as tied as he thinks they are. I read the directive as giving the Bishop the final say, and that his view of your "worthiness" has enough flexibility in it to allow what is best for you and your family - IF he would be so inspired.

    Rigidity kills the spirit!

  16. I am also sorry. I sense, though, that you have the wherewithal not to let what ever happens get in the way of this child's good experience with baptism and confirmation. That's my hope anyway.

    Not only can you bestow a blessing upon your loved-ones at home at any time (a pre-baptism blessing to calm your child, or a post-confirmation blessing to 'seal" it with your father's blessing, or both or neither), you are also free to start your own meaningful traditions. The letter you sent to your older son was a beautiful example of this. You could and should write a letter (if you want to, that is) to this child who is being baptized and express in the permanence of written words how you feel about him/her, your relationship, their future, etc. Or use the baptism/birthday time of year for an annual special date/outing with just this child and dad. I'm sure your creative mind can think of other ways to make this meaningful to both you and your child.

    I urge you to pursue this AND the good counsel you've received about revisiting this with your Bishop. Sorry if I sound preachy here, I just want you to realize that you always have options. Even when crap drops out of the sky on to your head, you have the option to say, "I think I'd enjoy a nice shampoo right about now, and maybe I'll start wearing a hat, too." :D You and your loved ones are in my prayers.

  17. It's the cynic in me, but when I heard about the change my first thought was that the church was using the new rules for exactly this purpose, to get people to pay tithing and "purchase the right" to perform priesthood blessings. Of course, since my disaffection, I have felt that the whole TR is ultimately about securing income for the church.

  18. I'm not sure the Church needs to make moves like this to secure income from us. It spends what it gets and moves on from there. The Church has used tithing as a benchmark for worthiness for generations. Although these new clarifications are catching you offgaurd right now.

    If you are financially strapped, which by the way shouldn't be a cause for embarrassment considering what you have done to help others, pay your tithing and ask for financial assistance to help in other areas. Those members who pay fast offerings would like nothing better than to think that their money goes to help someone who richly deserves it.

    I also think Beck was right about the Bishop's perogatives.

  19. Thanks for all the comments, guys. I appreciate receiving feedback from the spectrum of MoHos out there who are each on their own journeys and are each in a different place with respect to the Church. I respect all of your opinions.

    I hear those people who have hoped that the bishop could exercise more discretion. The policy, however, is quite clear. The only discretion he has are with respect to AARONIC priesthood ordinances. He has NO discretion with respect to MP ordinances. Full stop.

    My bishop has also been very supportive during these extremely difficult economic times. The fact that the Church chose NOW to introduce this policy has also troubled me. I mean, the timing is terrible ~ about like BKP's conference talk. But I digress.

    I tried to be disarmingly authentic in what I wrote because I am honestly, truly, deeply distressed about this new policy - not so much because it means I cannot confirm my child; I'm getting over that - but for what, to me, it stands for.

    I don't care what well meaning people (who would understandably like to give the church and the Brethren the benefit of the doubt, or who perhaps feel they don't even have to go that far) say, this represents a significant change in what it means to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, and this change troubles me on several levels. And I'm just going to have to work through this.

  20. I feel I should clarify the last paragraph of my comment above.

    I *do* care what well-meaning people have to say. What I should have written is: "*Despite* what well meaning people ... say ..."

  21. I just came across your blog recently and this issue has been on my mind too. I didn't realize the change until a few weeks ago. We just moved into a new ward within the stake we've been at for several years. So we knew a few people. One of the guys I kind of knew baptized his oldest daughter and then the next day he wasn't even in the circle for the confirmation. I thought that was odd. Then I read up on the policy when the handbook came out online. I was a bit shocked. I've always included my father in the circle even though he's not active. Ultimately, it's God who actually blesses. All of us are flawed. The blessing after giving the Holy Ghost is a prayer from the father with all his hopes and dreams for that child. It's sad that even one with the priesthood who is living a worthy life, but may not be paying tithing, is prohibited from this sacred experience.
    I wish my wife were in a better financial position. I could really use the tithing money to pay off some debt for the next 6-8 months. I'd been considering it, but now with this policy, I don't know. My 2nd kid will be 8 in 13 months. My new bishop may not find me worthy even if paying tithing again by that point. The leaders of the church have also encouraged us to get out of debt but also have to pay tithing. Sometimes the only extra money I have is that tithing money. So it's hard to pay off debt.

  22. Crisco, I really appreciate your comments. I think more and more people are going to have the experience you described, and more and more men are going to be hurt by this. Others think otherwise, but that's just my opinion.

    These are very difficult economic times, and what you have written is absolutely true. Many people are in a bind, and tithing becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible.

    All each of us can do is our best, and if that isn't good enough, well ... then I guess it isn't good enough.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  23. I just read this post (which was, ironically, written on my birthday). It was, and is, so beautiful, and so heart-wrenching. It made me cry. Thank you for sharing.

    The church's insistence on connecting money to worthiness--through tithe paying, through this Calvinist notion that wealth is somehow a reflection of virtue--sickens me. You're absolutely right: nobody could possibly be more qualified to bless your child. How horribly, horribly sad that the church, as an institution, can't see that.

    Also, congratulations on your decision to adopt! For all parties involved, adoption is just the most wonderful, wonderful gift. Your children are so lucky to have you.