Monday, May 4, 2009

A Tender Mercy of the Lord

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to go to Church, the phone rang. I don't usually pick up the phone when the name of the caller doesn't show up on the caller ID. But this time I did.

It was Bro. B., the ward clerk. The bishop wanted to know if he could meet with me before Church. It was 8:11 a.m. The bishop was wondering if we could meet at 8:30 a.m. Fortunately I had already showered and shaved. All I really needed to do to finish getting ready was to put on a tie. So I told Brother B. to let the bishop know that would be fine. Then I finished dressing, got on my bike, and headed over to the ward meeting house. By 8:25, I was waiting outside the bishop's door.

The discussion was good-natured and loving as always. The bishop thanked me for some volunteer work I had done for the Church recently, and complimented me on the nature of my participation in the ward. He asked a few questions that were indicative of his general concern about my well-being. After we had chatted amiably in this way for a few minutes, he then proceeded to explain to me that I would not, as a general rule, be allowed to bear my testimony again over the pulpit as I had a few Sundays ago.

I told him the previous bishop had already informed me that as an excommunicated member I was not permitted to speak or pray in public meetings of the Church. I explained to him that the only reason I had asked his permission to do so was because the Spirit had prompted me. He told me that he too had felt the Spirit confirming that in that instance it had been permissible for me to bear my testimony in fast and testimony meeting. He wanted me to understand that as a general rule this would not be permitted. I told him that had been my expectation all along.

I promised the bishop that I had no intention to "break the rule." I agreed to help enforce the rule should somebody else who is not aware of my status ask me to speak or pray in a setting where I should not. I had conformed to the rules of good order of the Church. I had not done anything without the permission of the presiding officer at the meeting. There was no harm done, the bishop reassured me.

Far from feeling at all hurt or slighted, I was actually relieved when the bishop explained this to me. The prompting of the Spirit I had experienced was so strong and so remarkable. And the bishop had been so matter-of-fact when he said I would be allowed to bear my testimony, I later wondered if my previous bishop had really understood the rule. In fact he had. So that confirmed to me, rather dramatically, that my experience of Sunday, March 29, was indeed a gift of the Spirit.

My bishop smiled, and said, "You should consider it a tender mercy of the Lord."

I do. And for that, it is all the more precious to me. I felt a double-measure of the Spirit in Church yesterday, filling me with joy and gratitude.


Beck said...

I can imagine how hard this was for a sensitive bishop to explain to you, but obviously the two of you are in tune with the spirit and both are edified.

I wish it didn't have to be this way for you, and this tender mercy essentially notes that the Lord feels that way as well.

J G-W said...

Beck, the beauty of this situation was, I don't believe it was difficult for him at all. He knows how I regard him, and he knows my desire to respect his role as bishop and the rules of the Church. It was a needed clarification, but it was given and received in a spirit of love. He said a number of things that reassured me of his concern for my welfare -- both temporal and eternal. So I actually feel much closer to my bishop now than I did before the exchange! I feel very blessed.

Bravone said...

John, you continue to amaze me. Maybe I am just hard hearted, but I might have been offended. You seem to always look for reasons to look for the good and positive. Sometimes I don't get you. Maybe I am just jaded. I admire you so much. I don't think I could be a understanding and full of the spirit as you are.

This Sunday our lesson was on gifts of the spirit. You have great spiritual gifts that permit you to live without anger, hatred, and offense. You have gifts of love, understanding, meekness, humility, and compassion.

Thank you for being such a fine example to me. Every time I read your blog, I grow. Thank you.

J G-W said...

Bravone -- it's interesting you think of me as possessing these spiritual gifts. Because for very many years, it seemed to me like my main gift was anger and frustration.

I think you're right... I have received so many "gifts" in the truest sense of that word. This experience was a gift, because it showed me that the Lord loves me and knows my name and wanted me to have this opportunity to bear my testimony. It showed me that even though for a long time I was a very angry and impatient person, the Lord is turning those weaknesses into strengths. It also showed me how those gifts of patience and gratitude have enabled me to receive other gifts I might not otherwise have received, like a loving relationship with my bishop. And although I have had to make some effort to respond to or receive or cultivate those gifts (in response to the guidance of the Spirit), there is no question as to who their ultimate source is.

Cadence said...

HEY, so I read you post where you bore your testimony but I don't think I commented on it... I look up to you that is for sure... Hey I tried to email you and it wouldn't go through??? can you contact me...? thanks

sara said...

REading this and the post about the incident itself...well, I don't want to sound critical, but this is pretty harsh - you're not allowed to talk? It seems sort of mean, you are obviously sincere and moved by something.

Why did he say yes once, but then later say no? And even if there are rules like that, as the leader, doesn't he have the authority to decide that people can speak if they feel a calling?

And isn't there maybe a more liberal branch you can go to? As far as I know, there are even gay friendly Catholic parishes...

J G-W said...

Sara - thanks. There are plenty of gay friendly churches in town. But this is the place where I feel the Spirit the most intensely, and where I feel called to be.