“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” Matthew 5:11
I’ve been very hesitant to write a post in regards to the abuse, mistreatment and horror our family has been put through by the leaders of the LDS Church. Perhaps it’s because when we’ve shared even a small portion with close family and other friends we can tell they don’t believe us and don’t want to hear it. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to forgive and move forward and I don’t want to dig at a healing scab. It could be that I’m still in shock that the Church that we gave our entire heart and soul to would turn on us like it has. More than likely it is because I’ve moved on to a new chapter where I am free and I have peace. Nevertheless, I feel compelled today to write this down.
A few years ago the bishop of our ward called my husband to come in. We felt it a bit strange that I wasn’t called in also. When my husband arrived another well respected man in our ward was leaving, a man we consider a great friend. When my husband left his interview another highly respected man entered.
As my husband entered the bishop’s office he immediately felt an uneasy spirit. The bishop asked my husband to offer a word of prayer. While praying, my husband was distinctly told by God that the bishop was judging him and his spirituality through his prayer. My husband gave the most powerful prayer he’s ever uttered. Once finished the interview/interrogation went something like this:
Bishop: “Someone in the ward has gone to the stake president with accusations against you.”
Husband: “Who is my accuser?”
Bishop: “That’s not necessary for you to know. And, just so you know, I have the spirit of discernment and I will know if you are lying to me.”
The Bishop then proceeded to ask the following questions, which in my journal I described as insane:
Bishop: “Do you make your own wine?”
Bishop: “Do you drink alcohol?”
Husband:“I’ve never touched alcohol and I don’t even drink caffeine”
Bishop: “Have you built an altar?”
At this point my husband recalled being at his friend’s house, the man he saw leaving as he came in, where he saw a photo album full of pictures of piles of rocks. Suddenly my husband knew that this interrogation was really about his friend and he said to the bishop, “This is about so and so, isn’t it? Let me tell you that he is one of the most valiant and respected men that I know. You’re new to this ward so you don’t know him, but trust me, you have nothing to fear from this man.”
Bishop: “Do you attend study groups?”
Husband:“Can you define study groups, because I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and I talk about it with everyone, everywhere I go.”
Bishop: “Do you have a testimony?”
Husband:“Yes!” at this point my husband bore testimony of the restored gospel and of Jesus Christ.
Bishop: “Do you sustain the First Presidency and Apostles?”
Husband:“yes! Bishop, this is very disturbing to me, who would accuse me of this? I have a right to know who has accused me of these things.”
Bishop: “It is not necessary for you to know.”
During this series of questions my husband had the distinct feeling that the bishop did not believe him, especially since the bishop kept patting his knee and saying “I’ll know if you’re lying to me.”
My husband returned home, stunned and hurt beyond belief that someone in the ward would accuse him of such behavior. He was also stunned at the malice leveled at our family. He asked me to go on a drive where he poured out his wounded heart. He was devastated; I was angry and in shock. After driving around for an hour or so my husband felt the need to go and visit his friend who he had seen leaving the bishop’s office. Little did we know that the bishop had someone spying on this man’s house and it was reported back to him that my husband came to visit and how long he had stayed. Later we would learn that the bishop used this information to convince others that we were part of an “apostate group”.
Two weeks after this initial interview my husband was called in to meet with the stake president of the local single’s stake. The interview was amazing. They were considering calling my husband to serve in the stake high council. We felt strongly that this was an olive branch which God was extending as a balm to my husband’s battered soul. Unfortunately, the spirit also communicated to us that because of the false accusations our bishop had levied against us this calling would be retracted. (Later, we found out that this did come to pass exactly as the Lord revealed).
Three and a half weeks after the initial interview we awoke on a Saturday morning with plans to attend the temple that evening. As we were going about our day the executive secretary called me and asked me to come in for an interview the following morning. We both what this meant. I was overcome with nausea. I could not imagine who would accuse us of this kind of behavior. We loved the Lord and we loved the Church. We were strictly obedient to the commandments and we followed the prophet. I was encompassed with fear, almost paralyzed with it. I feared that the end goal for the bishop was to have us excommunicated.
As I sat in the temple the Spirit of the Lord filled me and infused me. Christ visited me. I asked Him to help us in this situation with our bishop. Immediately I was shown some things in regards to our bishop.
Sunday morning I awoke about 3 am, I could not sleep for worry. I began praying in earnest, God revealed to me that it doesn’t matter what I say, the bishop will never believe me because he is our accuser and will never admit he was wrong. It was also revealed to me that our bishop is using this opportunity of bringing down an “apostate” group to get noticed by the chief seats in Salt Lake.
I was afraid to enter the bishop’s office, mainly because of what was revealed to me the previous day. I asked my husband to come in with me, but as he prayed about it he felt that he should stand just outside the door, but not enter in.
“God-I need you today more than ever-speak through me, humble me, help me to be kind, gentle and meek, lowly of heart, slow to anger and quick to forgive. I love you and I need you with me today.”
I thank God from all my being. He opened my mouth and spoke through me. He gave me perspective, kindness, gentleness and confidence. I spoke with the bishop for about 45 min., toward the end of our meeting he asked me how my testimony is, I replied, “stronger than ever, I have felt Christ with me and aware of me more this year than ever before.”
I knew that this was not over. I knew that the bishop had been spreading throughout ward and stake leadership, his own family and his friends the false accusations against us. We began to be shunned by most everyone in the ward. We were put in a calling teaching youth Sunday School (which became our favorite calling because we could teach scripture and teach about Jesus Christ without any adults watching over us). I was put in a visiting teaching companionship with the former stake president’s wife so she could make sure I wasn’t teaching apostasy. My husband was released from home teaching his favorite families. Eventually, over a period time, we were released from all of our callings with various excuses. We were slowly, “unofficially” dis-fellowshipped.
Our children were brought in for birthday interviews or advancement interviews and interrogated in regards to what we believe and what we teach them in our home. Our children were asked to give the bishop the names of friends who came to visit at our home. One day we found out that the executive secretary sat in his car across the street from our house and reported to the bishop anyone who came over. If they were ward members they were brought into the bishop’s office where they were interrogated as to what things we had talked about. Eventually we found out that this was why no one talked to us anymore at church, because if the bishop saw them visiting with us they were brought in, interrogated and then warned to stay away from us.
We were miserable and had no hope that things would get better. One day our young son was interrogated under the guise of a temple recommend interview and it was the last straw. We called up the stake president and made an appointment to go in for a visit. We wrote down all the things that had been being said about us and the things God had revealed to us in regards to our bishop and these false accusations. We found out that Elder Pyper of the Seventy was behind the interrogations. At least, that is who they blamed. The stake president said, “we did not believe the husband’s so I went to Elder Pyper for advice and he said to bring in the wives because they’ll rat out their husbands”. A week later, during ward conference, things we had shared with the stake president in confidence were shared by the bishop over the pulpit, word for word, leaving out only our name.
We had no one other than God to turn to and turn to Him we did in earnest, heart rending prayer. After a couple of years things became so bad that I began having mini breakdowns. I lost the ability to eat and lost a lot of weight in a short time. My husband and I began discussing divorce as things that would have been minor in our life previous to this began to take on immense proportions. The pressure and pain were almost unbearable. I would find myself on the floor, sobbing and begging the Lord to not let anything more come upon us. The very next day something new in our life would fall apart.
Looking back now I can see that the Lord was tearing us down so that we would be receptive to being built back up in the way He desired. I learned just how prideful, arrogant and judgmental I had been in my Pharisaical obedience. The one thing we had in this life was our reputations. We are not a family of wealth. We are not a family of worldly success. We have nothing the world would look on to envy. The only thing we had was our reputation and that was now in tattered ruin.
Slowly, the Lord began to work to wake us up to our awful state. Slowly we began to open our eyes. Slowly we began to understand the false traditions that were keeping us from His presence. Slowly we were learning to be free. Slowly we began to understand, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” Matthew 5:11