Monday, July 25, 2011

The Lack of Abuse in the LDS Church - Explained

The other day one of my counselors and I somehow got on to the subject of abuse in the Catholic Church.  My counselor asked me why I thought that cases of abuse were so incredibly rare amongst leaders in the Mormon Church. After a moment of reflection I explained to him that it was because in our Church we call people into leadership positions using the Gift of Discernment.

The Gift of Discernment is one of the gifts of the Spirit and amongst my many gifts it is without question my favourite. According to this gift includes perceiving the true character of people and the source and meaning of spiritual manifestations.  Someone with this gift present cannot be deceived any more than you and I could deceive the Lord Himself. 

This was highlighted in the Liahona in this example given by a former mission president:
* “While I was a mission president in Texas, I was informed that a particular missionary had lost his testimony and wanted to go home. Some checking disclosed that doubts of the divinity of his call had been planted in the young man’s mind by an investigator. In an interview with the so-called investigator, I experienced special powers of discernment that enabled me to know that the man was a minister of another faith, posing as a college student and pretending to be an honest investigator of Mormonism. Confronted with the knowledge that had been revealed to me, he became confused and admitted his fraud. With the deceiver out of the way and the truth known, the missionary stayed and completed an honorable mission.”

This type of situation is common amongst LDS leaders especially those of us who hold the priesthood office of Bishop.

It is important to understand that as per a priesthood manual at ** “a bishop is called by inspiration of the Lord and ordained by a stake president under the direction of the First Presidency of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve. 

Can you imagine for example if someone who abused children were to be called as a bishop? This could never happen because it would mean that the stake presidency that discussed and submitted the name did not have the spirit of discernment guiding them.  Furthermore before being called to the position bishops have to be approved in writing by The First Presidency.  So for such a man to become a bishop it would mean no less than 6 righteous men (3 of whom are sustained as prophets, seers and revelator’s one being the actual prophet and president of the church) were lacking the Gift of Discernment, which, as I have mentioned, is the ability to perceive the true character of people.

I am thankful that the Lord is at the helm guiding this church and testify that the spirit of discernment is alive and well and daily guides those of us who are in positions of trust, and I leave these thoughts with you in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Adultery - and the Stake Disciplinary Council

Since coming online as a stake president and reading the various Church related boards and blogs I have time and again seen what seems to be a complaint against the church for requesting unnecessary details when members confess sins.  One sister reported that as a youth she was on several occasions asked by her bishop whether she would touch herself in an inappropriate manner.  He would then go on to ask her what thoughts brought on such urges and how it made her feel during and after the event.  He would then counsel her in ways to keep better control of herself and would give her the necessary steps of repentance to be pure again.  She felt so unworthy, but he would always assure her that she was a very special daughter of our father in heaven and could still fully participate in all church activities including going to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead.

Section 6.3 of the Stake President and Bishops handbook states the following:
“Repentance requires that all sins be confessed to the Lord…….Members who voluntarily and completely confess transgressions demonstrate that they have begun the process of repentance.

A very important part of repenting is learning to not hold back when confessing.  All relevant details should be given.  I have always taught that the Lord freely forgives those who freely confess. 

As a stake president it is my solemn duty to keep confidential any confessions by members.  Since this blog is about the life of a stake president and since holding stake disciplinary councils is an important part of my duty I am going to talk about a recent court of love (as they are sometimes called) that we held for a former member of the stake high council. I will change certain details such as the names so that the offenders will not be recognizable.

I would warn that some of the content in this post is unsuitable for all audiences and would ask all those under the age of 21 to stop reading immediately. 

At the Thursday evening meeting after verifying that all 12 members of the high council were present we had a hymn and a prayer, dealt with the more urgent stake business and then went through the usual ritual of each high councilor picking a number from 1-12 as per D&C 102:12.  We then read together from section 102 to invite the spirit into the room.  I dismissed the stake executive secretary and gave a brief overview to the high council, my counselors and the stake clerk of the situation. Sixteen men in total were therefore in the room for this council. 

My executive secretary then brought in Benjamin, a sister whom I will name Tara and their bishop.  We all stood as they entered the room.

I welcomed the three and went through with them the purpose of a disciplinary council which is:
1. To save the souls of transgressors
2. To protect the innocent
3. To protect the good name of the Church

I expressed love and appreciation to Tara and Benjamin for their willingness to be here (often offenders don’t show up) and told them that we love them and only want to help them on their path through mortality back to the safety of the Lord.

I then informed them that before their arrival I had given a brief overview of the transgressions to the council and asked that Benjamin give an account in his own words.

Benjamin admitted that when he was still on the high council he had committed adultery with Tara who was a fellow ward member and a sister he had home taught.  I should note here that Tara had already been disfellowshipped by her Bishopric and was simply present as a witness along with the bishop who has been closely involved in the situation. Stake disciplinary councils are generally only held for Melchizedek priesthood holders who are likely to be excommunicated.  Aaronic priesthood holders and women can be excommunicated at the ward level.

The conversation according to the stake clerk’s notes then went as follows (I have edited the conversation to only include the relevant points):

President Paternoster: Tara would you mind telling us tell us how this relationship began?

Tara: I already confessed all of this at my own disciplinary council.  Should I give the details again?

President Paternoster: For the benefit of this council it would be greatly appreciated.

Tara:  OK. Well I noticed a mutual attraction with Benjamin the first time our eyes met but we tried not to do anything because unlike me he was married.

President Paternoster: So what events occurred that led to the situation we are in today?

Tara:  Well we became friends on Facebook where we learned more about and flirted with each other.  We also saw each other at church and ward activities and always tried to talk and be together without raising suspicion. We missed each other terribly when we were apart though we never spoke of it. It’s hard to explain but there was an understanding between us and it often felt like we could read each others thoughts and feelings.

President Paternoster: So how did this relationship progress?

Tara:  One night very late we were chatting on Facebook and Benjamin asked me to come over.  His wife was out of town for a few days. I wanted to be with him so badly that I agreed. 

President Paternoster: and can you describe what happened when you arrived?

Tara:  Is it necessary to give details or can I just say that we engaged in intercourse that night?

President Paternoster: We would appreciate a full confession. Since you have already done this you can say as much as you are comfortable and let Benjamin fill in the details.  I just wanted to give you an opportunity to speak too, but as you know we are here to decide on the discipline of Benjamin.

Tara:  Okay I can continue a little; when I arrived he invited me in and took me in his arms.  I could see that he absolutely adored me by the way he looked at me and I felt the same way towards him.  It felt so amazing to finally be alone together after all this time.  Benjamin I'm getting a little hot perhaps you should continue from here.

Benjamin: Yes, well, I brought her close to me and told her how beautiful she was and how much I loved her and had wanted so desperately to be with her. I started nibbling her ear lobe and kissing her neck.

Tara:  and you told me you wanted to be with me forever.  There was soft music playing in the background and you had candles burning

High Councilor number 6: President surely such details are not necessary

President Paternoster: True.  Please move on.

Tara:  Of course. Well then he kissed me whilst stroking my face with his hand.  We kissed for a long time.  I loved having his hands in my hair, on my neck and around me.

Benjamin: and then I took your hand and led you upstairs to the bed. You were wearing those red high heel shoes that you knew I loved.

Tara:  Yes, and then we kissed on the bed for what seemed to be a wonderfully long time.

High Councilor number 5:  At this point were you still fully clothed?

Benjamin: Yes, but somehow I found my hands under her shirt and quite accidentally I undid her bra. 

Tara:  and then I lifted up my arms kind of like we do in the temple and you took off my top.  I loved how you kissed my arms and neck after that and ran your fingers through my hair. You held me so tight, I didn't want you to ever let go.

Bishop: Tara Tara I think you are getting a little carried away here! Sorry President this happens every time she talks about the events of that night. 

President Paternoster: Benjamin, please continue. 

Benjamin: Well at this point her bra was undone and I noticed that whilst kissing her shoulders I could make the bra straps fall down her arms without her noticing.

Tara:  and then I put my arms down and leant slightly forward to kiss him which caused my bra to completely fall off giving him full access to that which was previously hidden. 

2nd counselor in stake presidency: TARA, please let Benjamin continue.

Benjamin: Well I teased her breasts with my fingers and tongue which Tara seemed to very much enjoy.

Tara:  I just loved it when you gently made rings around my nipple with your tongue and then..

President Paternoster: TARA.

Tara:  Sorry. Go on Benjamin

Benjamin: Well after the whole breast session....or was it during it you took off my shirt Tara?

Tara:  It was right as you were teasing them – I pulled you closer and ripped off your shirt as I desperately wanted to feel your skin on mine.  I can’t believe you forgot that part.

Benjamin: I do apologize. Well, then I found myself gently stroking her lower regions with my fingers under her skirt but over the top of her panties while kissing her which drove her completely wild.

Tara:  and then I fell backwards and with both hands on your head I guided you down to that area.  You took off my panties but I still had my skirt on and you gently teased me with your tongue making me lift that region up towards you in order to obtain the pure ecstasy that I so desperately craved.

1st counselor in stake presidency:  Brother Stevens (the clerk), please note that in contradiction to the 1982 letter given by the First Presidency Benjamin engaged in the impure and unnatural act of oral relations of a sexual variety and nature. 

Brother Stevens: Duly noted President

Tara:  Let me continue; he then slowly put his fingers inside and started pleasuring me with them all the while still using his tongue on me which created the most sublime sensational experience I have ever had.  Then full of the lusts of the flesh I took off the rest of his and my clothes (apart from my red shoes) and did likewise to him, but in a way in which he still had access to pleasure me.

President Paternoster: I’m not sure how that would be possible – but please move on.

High Councilor number 9:  I can discreetly explain it to you after the meeting President

President Paternoster: That won’t be necessary but yes I think I will need to have a talk with you after this meeting.  Let’s move on.

Tara:  Well before long we were engaging in full intercourse and trying all sorts of different ways and positions to pleasure one another.  It felt like our bodies were completely made for each other and I became concerned that the neighbours might wake up. 

High Councilor number 7:  How long did this whole process take?

Benjamin: Oh it was a good three hours or so. 

High Councilor number 7:  Wow....that must have been...ummm...awful, just awful.

President Paternoster: Benjamin after all was said and done did you quickly put back on your garments as instructed in the temple?

Tara:  Oh no we slept completely naked together until the morning.  Luckily I had the day off and Benjamin called in sick so we spent the whole day together too.  I only left that evening as I had to go out with my sister.

1st counselor in stake presidency:  Brother Stevens please note that Benjamin did not put back on his garments after intercourse as instructed in the temple and in accordance with the covenants he has made therein.

Brother Stevens:  Noted

President Paternoster: Well I think we have heard enough and I appreciate your forthrightness in confessing all this. I understand it is a very difficult thing to do in front of everyone and am assured that you must both feel absolutely terrible for what you have done.  Benjamin what steps have you already taken to repent of this awful sin? 

Benjamin: Well as a first step I told my wife.

President Paternoster: And how did she react?

Benjamin: Well to be honest she seemed a little bit relieved and had some interesting things to tell me that I was previously unaware of.  We have a much more open relationship now.

President Paternoster:  Well it's important for couples to be open with each other and find out what's best for them.  The gospel brings great joy to those who confess and are willing to repent Benjamin. 
Benjamin: Indeed

Well without giving the rest of the details I just want to say that the spirit was very strong and tears flowed freely throughout this meeting.  As my first counselor has stated several times “In my experience the spirit is most abundantly poured out at funerals and disciplinary councils where feelings are more tender and hearts more open.”

We excused our three guests and deliberated as a high council.  As a stake presidency we then met separately for a few minutes and after consulting the Lord made our decision.  We received a unanimous vote from the council that Benjamin should be excommunicated and brought him back in the room to inform him of this decision and of our great love and concern for him.  I told him that we felt this was the best thing for his salvation at this time and encouraged him to work with his Bishop towards re-baptism and a restoration of his priesthood and temple covenants.  I mentioned that when his bishop feels he is ready a similar meeting to the one we just had would occur to determine worthiness for re-baptism.  I told Benjamin that at that time we will go through all the details of that night again.  He asked what would happen if he moved and I was able to assure him that the notes from this meeting will be sent to Salt Lake and would be made available to his new stake president so he had nothing to fear in that regard.  

When they left I noticed through the window that Benjamin and Tara went in the same vehicle.  I understand that gas prices are high but I really must counsel them to avoid being with each other (although after what they have been through I am sure they won’t make the same mistake again). 

I pray that this blog post will serve as a stern warning to all of what might happen if you have friends of the opposite gender on your Facebook pages.  I would invite those who are comfortable to open up and share how their testimonies have grown as they have participated in church disciplinary councils either as part of a council or as the one receiving the righteous disciplinary decisions from faithful priesthood holders.

May the Lord bless you all for your righteous examples and faithfulness.

Lovingly shared by your humble servant in the Lord, even President Paternoster.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Book of Abraham - A Powerful Missionary Tool

Occasionally as a stake president I feel impressed to contribute ideas to further the work of The Lord throughout the earth. In my experience I have found that people of all walks of life become very intrigued when I share with them the fact that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has in their possession some of the original writings of the great patriarch, even Father Abraham. I have recently proposed to my leaders that while the Book of Mormon is an excellent missionary tool perhaps we are underutilizing the Book of Abraham to the point where it almost seems it is being hidden under a bushel.  This need not be. 

Imagine a door approach where one encounters a Jew or a Muslim for example and instead of talking to them about The Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, we told them about the writings we have of Father Abraham! We would invite them to read, ponder and pray about that great book which is only five chapters long and could be printed economically in pamphlet form. On our next visit after they have had a chance to ponder the prophets words we could talk about how miraculous it was that Abrahams original writings (not copies) written by his own hand upon papyrus came all the way from the catacombs of Egypt into the possession of Joseph Smith - who just happened to be the only person on the earth capable of translating them.

From this point we could introduce other aspects of the gospel including the fact that facsimile 2 ( "contains writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God".

If Christians, Muslims and Jews truly esteem Abraham as much as they claim to, one can expect that they would do all in their power to be worthy of entering the temple in order to hear the words that were revealed to Abraham, as translated by Joseph; this will include accepting Jesus as their Saviour, leaving behind their religious traditions to join ours, paying 10% of their income as a tithe offering, giving up addictive substances such as green tea and many other important things that will only bring happiness and joy to their lives.

I would encourage all faithful readers of this blog to start looking for opportunities to use the Book of Abraham as a missionary tool as moved upon by the spirit of God.  I promise that in so doing you will bring joy and salvation to many souls,

Faithfully yours,

President Paternoster

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Extending Callings to Sisters - A More Inspired Way

As a stake president it is my duty to teach priesthood leaders correct procedures to use when extending callings. After reading this months inspiring Ensign article entitled “Called of God” I am going to make a slight adjustment to the way I extend callings to Sisters and will share this at the next bishopric training meeting. 

In the past if I had in mind to call a sister to a position in the stake I would meet with her and her husband. I would then find out how they are and perhaps inquire as to whether they are praying together, holding family home evening, attending the temple etc.  Then if I still felt prompted I would turn to the sister and extend the calling.  I would ask how she feels about the new responsibility.  Upon gaining her acceptance I would then turn to her husband and ask if he is willing to support and sustain his wife in this new calling. 

The current issue of the Ensign has shown me a better way to extend callings to sisters.*

From now on as per the perfect example given I will still meet with the couple and ask how they are but when extending the call instead of speaking to the Sister first to see how she feels about the calling that she is about to receive I will turn to the husband and ask for his permission to call his wife to the position in question.  After he and I have discussed it and he has agreed only then will I extend the call to his wife. In this way we will be taking the opportunity to firmly place priesthood brethren in their rightful place as head of the home.

As priesthood leaders follow the Lord in using the inspired interviewing techniques shown in this months Ensign, sisters will learn to put a greater amount of faith and trust in their husbands, a greater peace and tranquility will abide in the homes of members and there will be more love and harmony within the stakes of Zion.

Lovingly shared by President Paternoster         

Quote “…..the ward clerk set an appointment for us to meet with the new bishop on Tuesday evening. After a short visit, the bishop asked my husband’s permission to call me as the Primary president of the new ward. Then he issued the call to me. I was shocked, but I had been taught never to turn down a calling, so I agreed to do my best.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

American July 4th Celebrations to be Cancelled

In America July the 4th is the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This independence, won from shedding the blood of the British was prophesied hundreds of years before Christ in the Book of Mormon.

In 1 Nephi 13 Nephi states:
12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles (Columbus), who was separated from the seed of my brethren (the native Indians) by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity (The British and other Europeans) did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles (The British) were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them (the colonies), and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.

Now I will humbly and freely admit here that Britain was defeated by the colonies and that this happened in order for the Book of Mormon and the true gospel to come forth in these the latter days. But what I don't see here is an invitation to blatantly mock the British every year with American flags, fireworks and other preposterous celebrations. This is an absolute disgrace and can no longer be tolerated in this day and age of equal rights and respect for others backgrounds and nationalities. 

Do you think President Obama would allow such atrocities if world history had been different and Americans were celebrating independence from Kenya? No. Such a thing would not be tolerated. It would be seen as a racist anti-Kenyan disrespectful celebration and would be banned.  I am completely outraged and have written to Presidents Monson and Obama suggesting that Americans follow the lead of Canada who are quietly celebrating Canada day this day, yea even July the 1st, all the while still enjoying the righteous influence of the monarchy. The Queens beautiful head is still found on their money and it is they who are currently being visited by the royal couple Will and Kate not the US. And if that doesn't cause Americans to pause and think about what they are doing I honestly don't know what will.

The President