Monday, August 29, 2011

The Danger of Members Seeing Their Own Membership Records

As a stake president I sometimes run the risk of coming under the condemnation of the Lord for not ensuring that bishops, clerks and other leaders are properly trained in their duties. 

We had an instance just last week where Jim, a less active member, maliciously took advantage of a bran new ward clerk by asking him for a copy of his own membership record.  The clerk unaware of the policy but wrongly thinking that it should be everybody’s right to see what the Church records show on them gave him a copy.  Jim then got all upset at the bishop because as he had suspected there was an annotation on his file regarding some unresolved church discipline. 

The church has put policies in place to prevent this sort of situation from happening.  During tithing settlement each year members are given a copy of their Individual Ordinance Summary and are encouraged to check it for accuracy, but these summaries are different than official church membership records. 

To quote from Handbook 1 for Stake Presidents and Bishops under section 13.6 “Official Church membership records should not be shown or given to members.  Under no circumstances may membership records be given to anyone other than the bishop or a clerk.

I resolve to do a better job as a stake president going forward to ensure that leaders are properly trained so that members will not be exposed to the information that the Lord would have us keep confidential.

President Paternoster

41 comments:

Jesus Smith said...

Also, when I was a financial clerk, we never revealed to members that we could use their information as means for determining which members were in a good financial state to donate to Proposition 8, or to the Mit-for-World-Ruler secret funds. It's good that members don't know what we know. It's better to appear inspired.

wontbefooledagain said...

Wise words President, as there are notations on many people's records that would upset them. Many don't relise that while the Savior forgives and forgets, the Church never forgets and never fully forgives. In the church, we are blessed to know that if we are less than perfect, ALL of our past sins return if we ever slip up. It is a beautiful thing to know that we must be perfect, because we know that the atonement is a weak force. Joseph Smith was more powerful than the Savior himself.

Kory said...

Too true, wontbefooledagain.

Shortly before his death, our beloved Prophet, Joseph Smith, said that he was greater than Christ: "If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get up on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them.... My enemies... think that when they have my spoke under, they will keep me down: but the fools, I will hold on and fly over them.... I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet." (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408-409)

Stray Mutt said...

Faithful Latter-day Saints must remember that these records belong to the church, not the members. The church gathers the information and does the record keeping. Yea, verily, making the records was the Church's idea, its intellectual property. They did all the work so unto them must go all the glory. If members want to see records about themselves, they can make their own.

ibowedmyheadandsaidyes said...

You know, its unfaithful members like Jim, who chose to be offended about such trivial matters, that give us faithful members a bad reputation. If Jim had kept his emotions under control and put the Church above his mere self, this wouldn't even be an issue. I suspect that Jim was influenced by Lucifer Himself to request those records so he could try to maliciously discredit the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.

I KNOW the church is true even though its members are sometimes not.

In the name of Christmas Eve, amen.

Me from Cali said...

I don’t feel very creative right at this moment to enter a clever, tongue-in-cheek response, but I just realized something after reading this blog entry: If there was ever a reason to have my name removed from the records of this church it would be for the fact that I am not ever allowed to see my ‘dossier’, i.e., membership record. Why in Heaven’s name (in Hell’s name I can understand) would I want to remain a member of a non-essential organization that kept a secret file on me? If my employer keeps a ‘secret’ record of my performance, behavior, etc, so be it -- it pays me MONEY in order for me to maintain my livelihood so that I can support my family. For the most part I need them more than they need me (no one is irreplaceable), and so I have to acquiesce and put-up and shut-up to a certain degree. But why would I tolerate and willingly set myself up for potential abuse from a ‘church’ that pays me nothing (and pleassssssse, don’t feed me this line that I need it for my salvation), and which in fact needs me far more than I need it? Why would I voluntarily submit to allow certain men in a mere church to have control and power over me and put in writing anything they wanted to without any ways and means for checks and balances to ensure accuracy and truthfulness? And if I should choose to be, or remain a member of this church, you would think that true ‘men of God’ would in fact *insist* that I monitor my membership record from time to time in order to ensure that there are no errors and unwarranted comments on it to wrongfully taint my reputation.

Why should I be concerned about this? Because during my lifetime of serving in the LDS church in bishoprics and a high council as well as president of local quorums and having grown up in a fairly high profile LDS leader’s home, I came to know some (and even “some” is too many) bigoted, almost viciously judgmental, small-minded leaders who, from time-to-time, seemed to really relish digging up dirt in order to ‘make a case’ against and report about certain members (especially the ones they didn’t seem to like for any number of reasons). I could readily discern that in some warped way it seemed to make them feel ‘up there’. It seemed as if these few men were stepping on these unfortunate souls in order to elevate their own supposed status, or even perhaps to enhance their own feelings of being more righteous. Or even worse: to get revenge on someone, or (I know of one case where this did happen) to try and ‘take someone out’ -- in other words, to remove the competition in order to better his chances for advancement in the church!!

If there ever was a reason to get out of this ‘church’, and totally leave it once and for all, it would be for this reason alone.

‘Church’ -- give me a break. I need this ‘church’ like I need to be shot to have another hole in my head. I think over time and circumstance a Frankenstein’s monster has been created.

Despicable.

Thanks for posting this. I forgot about this reprehensible policy and had never given it any thought about how deleterious it can be and in fact MUST BE in many cases, until now.

In the name of Jesus-better-come-down-and-clean-His-house. Amen.

Cindy said...

You have to understand that the records the church have on you are not yours, they are the churches. It is very important that these records stay confidetial and stay with in the hands of those authorized to handle them. These records exisit to protect the church and it's members. Let's say someone had had a disiplinary council for a sexual sin. There may be somethings in the notes that lead up to that person committing his/her sin. This information is important to bishops in the future to be able to watch out for warning signs in order to provide the appropriate assistance for that person. Someone already mentioned the abuse of the welfare system. Many will try to take advantage of new Bishop's but if there is something on the records this would help the new Bishop to be prepared for the challenges that come with his calling. Bishops come and go and yet there is often a feel from each Bishop that serves that he knows his ward members on an intimate level. This is essential to his calling as a watchman in Zion. If everyone were to read their own records and were to know where the Bishop was getting some of his insight and inpiration it would lessen his effect as a Bishop and the authority he holds.

On a more serious note let's say someone had been charged with child abuse. The Bishop would need to know that so he doesn't put that person in a calling working with children. Or let's say someone had been to a disaplinary council for writting a book or advocating for issues that the church disaproves of. A Bishop may not want that person to teach certain sunday school classes or at least be on the alert or contraversal topics. Seeing their own records would give these people a kind of leverage they do not deserve.

Sometimes things like this mistake happen to teach us a lesson. I am impressed that you were willing to share this learning experience with us. Thank-you for all the valuable, insightful and inpiraing blogs posts you do.

Cindy said...

My comment was not directed at the comment before me. It's unfortunate that some people abuse their position of power. I'm sorry for the bad experiences you have had.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand all the fuss. I keep files on all my friends and neighbors, and yes, even on the church. I don't show those files to anyone, they'd think I was crazy.

Of course your leaders keep notes on your life. Why is this surprising or a topic for a blog?

kolobian said...

I agree with Cindy. There's a great misconception out there that bishops are inspired by the Lord in their work. This is just not the case.

The lord gave bishops good jobs and big brains so they could figure out how to do it themselves. Likewise with the prophet and apostles. I mean, it's not as if they actually PROPHECY or anything. Prophets in the Latter-Days don't prophecy. That's not thier job.

Bishops NEED mountains of paperwork filled with gossip, tithing receipts, and minute details of sexual depravity in order to do the job someone in a position of leadership SHOULD be able to do if guided by a supernatural phantom from the star system Kolob. They just have to do it on their own.

Shame on those unfaithful members for wanting to get in the way. In the name of Jesus Christ, even the savior of this universe. Amen.

Anonymous said...

EPIC FAIL!

Sister Abbot said...

Please could you tell us who gets access to these records, President? I understand that as a non-priesthood holder, I couldn't possibly expect to ever access my records. But say, for example, Brother Abbot was called to be on the bishopric or the stake presidency - would he be able to read my membership record? Not that I have anything to hide, you understand. But if there were something on my record that Brother Abbot didn't know about, don't you think it would be a bit unfair that the Lord 'remembers sins no more' while the church keeps a permanent record of them?

Bishop Wigglesworth said...

Sister Abbot,you have nothing to worry about. Your records will remain confidential. Myself, and my counsellors, and the Ward Clerk, and the Executive Secretary will be discreet.

Anonymous said...

Wow! It really offends me that my own records would be kept from me. They are about me and it is my right to not only see them. But, correct discrepancies and state my opinion. Nothing should be kept in the records that would serve to embarrass or be an opinion...Right?
There is so much gossip between church members, nothing is a secret. And in fact, stuff is made up. I've heard more erroneus tales about even myself and I'm a fairly innocent person.

Someone who did not want to visit teach. But, didn't want to look bad had said that I refused to let them in my house. Which, is an utter lie. One boy was going to my elderly mothers house weakly to collect her fast offerings...ie a little extra cash and I had to put a stop to it. Once again, lies behind my back. There have been so much gossip, I can't think the "records" would reveal anything new. Just saying!

Sister Abbot said...

Bishop W - you, and your consellors, and the ward clerk, and the exec sec? Oh dear.

Bishop Smegma said...

Sorry Sister Abbot, Bishop Wigglesworth misspoke. He meant to say:

"Your records will remain confidential. Myself, and my counselors, and the Ward Clerk, and the Executive Secretary, and my wife, and the member-janitors, and the ward basketball team will be discreet."

Anonymous said...

Sounds like they are keeping these records so they can judge a persons Faithfulness by what they contribute and what views they might have so they don't get anybody in any position that might think differently then the hierarchy of the church.
And if they do i bet they will threat to make these records public to keep the members in their place and all will be well. I think if its a record about you you should be able to see it and make sure what is written in it is true

Anonymous said...

A Church of Christ in LaGrange, Georgia recently put out a list in the foyer of unfaithful members. Yes, my name was on the list because I haven't attended this church in over 30 years(since graduating from high school).

Deseret Diary said...

I appreciated the comment by Stray Mutt about the records belonging to the Church. I would not have understood that until a few months ago when I was able to secure a Temple recommend. I notice that it states that the recommend is the property of the Church and must be returned upon demand or something to that effect. I was surprised and annoyed at first because it took a lot effort and white shirts not to say tithing to be able to answer the questions without outright lying.
We surely learn this holy principle in Primary in our youngest years when we are taught tithing. Nothing that we possess is really ours because it all belongs to God. If the Church is God’s do not our records and recommends belong to the Church as well?
Is it not true then that everything that we possess in this life really belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints? Is my wife really mine or could she be claimed by the church too?
Am I getting carried away President?

~Clint~ said...

Deseret Diary,

As to your statement "Nothing that we possess is really ours because it all belongs to God".

If you pay close attention in the temple you will note that the covenant you make with regard to property (and other things) is specifically stated as being to "The Church" ... God is not mentioned in it.

As for a Church authority claiming your wife, well I don't think that has happened since polygamy was done away with, so you are probably safe.

Still you should be prepared in your heart to give whatever is asked of you if you are to be truly righteous.

However, rest assured that if someone does ask for your wife you can know that they can only be inspired in this request if they are in a position of authority above you.

Still, these are just my thoughts, I would also be interested to know what the President has to say?

Anonymous said...

Good job sir!

What a better world this would be if we had more perspicacious church leaders like yourself.

Anonymous said...

Yet another reason I left the Church.

jetlagak@gmail.com

Vince said...

This is clearly not a real stake president's blog. A bitter, ex Mormon.

Anonymous said...

These records must be handled by inspired gentleman that is able to handle the truth. No one would like to have recordings based on church gossip.
If someone would see his/her own file, they may be become wrongfully proud.

Gay Mormon Turnaround Artist said...

What is the big deal about? When I was in high school, i was constantly threatened with negative items being added to "my permanent record."

Then I grew up and they said the same thing about my credit report. Now it's your church membership records?

Listen guys, I can testify to you that I have never seen ANY of these three records and my life has been better for it. Don't question the church's wisdom in this.

Rachel said...

@Vince, just because you are bitter about the truth the stake President is sharing with us does not give you the right to accuse him of bitterness. Never in any of President Paternoster's post has he ever shown even a hint of bitterness. Infact he never complains about what is asked of him or even what our leaders have said all he does is support them.

Anonymous said...

The records might belong to the church. And of course personal records should remain confidential from others. But the law in the UK on accessing personal records is, that the individual member is entitled to see what records are kept on them and not just what the church choses to see.

unforgiven said...

"There may be somethings in the notes that lead up to that person committing his/her sin. This information is important to bishops in the future to be able to watch out for warning signs in order to provide the appropriate assistance for that person..." -- please... nobody has a church court unless they approach the church wishing to "repent" of their sin, hoping to CLEAR the slate, not have it hanging over their head for the rest of their lives. so much for their "scarlet" sins becoming "white as snow". with all the corrupt bishops in the world, who the hell knows what has been noted in church records of those committing "heinous" sins.

Politicians at their finest said...

I understand that the church needs these records for information passing to new bishops, etc. But why on this earth or any other should I not be able to see what I have documented for, against, or surrounding myself? Completely ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"wontbefooledagain said...

Wise words President, as there are notations on many people's records that would upset them. Many don't relise that while the Savior forgives and forgets, the Church never forgets and never fully forgives"

Wow!! I thought the church was run by the Savior. So how can he forget but the Church keep records of every misstep that one takes. To me this seems so contrary to what we are taught about having a clean state. If this is true, the Church truly cannot be led by the savior as true forgiveness can never be fully achieved.

There is something inherently wrong about this practice. It's like a secret FBI file. And I wholeheartedly believe that it violets a persons privacy. I mean the church knows exaclty where you have lived, family info addresses phone numbers. And now to top it off a subjective "disciplinary" review of one's past.

I cannot believe that not seeing this record does anyone anygood accept for keeping the church from being sued.

As far as the gentleman in the story goes, here is my take:

1. He didnt do anything wrong wanting to see his records. How did he "maliciously take advantage" of this clerk? Did he point a gun to his head and demand his record? I suspect that he simply asked for a copy of his record, and then the clerk screwed up and accidently printed the wrong thing. Or perhaps the clerk simply thought the right thing to do was to do the right thing and show the complete record to the individual.

2. Wouldn't you be upset if something popped up from years ago that is now a "non-issue." If the church is about moving forward to bigger and brighter things.

Or has it occured to anyone that maybe the Bishop simply disliked this person or was too self righteous himself, that cuased himself to be a stumbling block for this individual. There is a reason why the lord said "many are called but few are chosen." I fully believe that bishops apply to this as well. Just my 2 cents.

It is absurd that the church has such a policy. The church expects each individual member to be fully transparent with church leaders, but does not do the same in exchange. Makes you wonder....

Strangerbird said...

In the UK, under the Data Protection Act (1998), anyone on whom records are kept has the right to inspect that information to ensure its correctness. This would include information being held concerning people's convictiuons for offences against children. There is no need for the Church to hold that information, since anyone who is called to any position involving contact with children should be the subject of a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check. That is the law in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Oh, for crying out loud. Yes, I know the point of this site. But just in case anyone ever revisits this post: the "official" record is exactly the same as the ordinance summary that you are given, with one exception: the official record contains the membership record numbers of people you're tied to (parents, children, spouses.) The ordinance summary doesn't. So stop getting your knickers in a twist about not being able to see their record numbers. You aren't entitled to them. Only they are.

Mikao Yamakuro said...

Actually, and sorry for contradicting many of the people posting here, but Church MUST comply with local laws of any country it is based upon. The church may have collected the records but the information in it belongs to the member that records his/her information. Stating otherwise, is not only breaking many laws, but also is immoral. The same way I can access my birth certificate etc by going to a local registrar, I should have access to my records from the church if I need them. So, President, while I agree that training is essential for anyone handling church records, actually the member who asked to see his record was only accessing his biographical data, and that is his rights. Data protection laws may apply but the right to disclosure must also apply, as it does the right to withdraw membership. As far as I know, unless things have changed dramatically in teh last few weeks, the church is not a dictatorship and is not entitled to withold any information from its individual members. If this is happening then I have a question: why the secrecy? Why should a member not be entitled to see his record even if there is a note stating they they have not paid tithing? Clarity is a seed to honesty!

Mikao Yamakuro said...

UPDATE: only is the USA people still talk about whether members should or should not access their records :-) Makes me laugh! Come to the UK then and the story will be different. Maybe when the church is sued enough then their guidelines will change. As for this blog - the dangers of writting ignorant things so credulous people believe in them. Right on President, don;t you have a Stake to run somewhere amongst the Nephites?

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an effed up policy. No wonder people think this religion is a cult. At least our government, medical and public school system is still required to release documents and files containing personal records and information upon request. God forbid we ever have a United States President of the Mormon faith who is trained to conceal, allude and lie, we'd really be screwed. But it's okay to talk about financial matters of course like a tithing settlement, it's always about the almighty dollar. What a bunch of shameless crooks! I'm glad I'm not subjecting myself to this weird religion anymore. Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

This is a Anti Mormon Blog.
Most like other christian churches that teach anti against this church.

Anonymous said...

Everyone who believes all of this crap about church records and all of your sins being written down are idiots. Anti Mormon crap. Don't you all have better things to do than put down people's religion?? Go raise your kids, go work your jobs, stop thinking you are doing anything important here. Cause you're not. Go free yourselves and live.

Anonymous said...

Members should have the right to see their records.

Spencer Hewitt said...

This is totally bogus. I really wish this blog would disappear as it is completely anti-mormon literature. And dont you dare quote from the handbook. Especially when you misquote it. Having been a ward clerk for 3 years and a stake assistant clerk for 1, I can tell you this is untrue. Stop leading honest seekers away please. People who don't know any better will think this is true.

Anonymous said...

I wish someone would explain why former Mormons are so filled with hate. I have yet to meet a reformed Catholic, Baptist, Muslim or Jew with such anger. On second thought, I don't want an answer. I have endured the hatred from a former Mormon in my family, because I 'brainwashed' him - until he was 57. Why would I ask for that from a stranger.

As the Eagles sang, "GET OVER IT."

Find happiness somewhere, because it's not available through bitterness.

Anonymous said...

I wish someone would explain why former Mormons are so filled with hate. I have yet to meet a reformed Catholic, Baptist, Muslim or Jew with such anger. On second thought, I don't want an answer. I have endured the hatred from a former Mormon in my family, because I 'brainwashed' him - until he was 57. Why would I ask for that from a stranger.

As the Eagles sang, "GET OVER IT."

Find happiness somewhere, because it's not available through bitterness.