I’ve been trying out for the team of the Native American Ward in Provo, UT, and today was ward conference, which means the stake authorities were in attendance. Bishop Youngbull began his talk with traditional Mormonese, and lost my attention right away. But he told a story that caught my attention, about his son’s name, a Native Cheyanne name meaning “Spiritual Light.” The rest of his talk was on WWII, and returned to Mormonese. But, because of the connection I made with his son’s name, his talk was by far the best! The next speaker was a one of the stake counselors, who created a stark contrast from Bishop Youngbull’s comments. He said his parents had a monkey, named Jake. It wasn’t until he (the counselor) was eleven that he realized he was not named after the monkey. It was his effort at humor to start his talk. Comparing stories told from the pulpit about names, I though it was extremely symbolic, one addressed Spiritual Light and the other was a monkey. The stake president said something of value too, reminding the members that they cannot live on borrowed light. Sacrament meeting became the subject of our LAST interview with Bishop Youngbull.
I met the bishop at the front of the chapel to tell him congratulations about his talk. I told him that he connected with me when it came to his story about his son’s name. I added that initially I thought it was just another boring talk, but his experience took me by surprise, and I ended up loving his talk more than all the others, …by a landslide. Questionably, he thanked me and invited me to his office, to release the verdict of his two week consideration to receive our records into the ward and let us speak freely (THE CUT). Before getting to his office, his counselor and I had a quick conversation at the front of the chapel. His counselor is a local Judge in the Provo Court District, so before meeting the bishop in his office I told Judge Darrel McDade, “Judge, be careful how you judge, for How You Judge, so shall you be judged.” I added in passing, “…You must walk extremely carefully to hear the truth, and make a judgement. The difference between you and God is, God actually cares about the truth, …and, …well, …you’re not in the business of truth, are you? …You’re only in the business of judging. How You Judge so shall you be judged.” We both laughed at the subject matter. But, although funny, I was not joking.
In the office, the bishop told me he spoke to Bishop Charles AhYou. He said that although I declared to be a full tithe payer, Bishop Ah You did not see any record of an anonymous tithe on his records, so he knew I lied. I responded, “Isn’t that what anonymous meant, no one knows?” The bishop said, “How am I to know you are a full tithe payer?” I told him, “I just told you! And that is all that is required, isn’t it?” He said, “Well, I’m curious to how that is done.” I told him, “The church has an account to give it directly to the church, but it’s none of your business how I pay my tithes. Your only question is whether or not I am a full tithe payer? And I can still answer emphatically that I sure am!”
He continued with the accusations from Bishop AhYou, stating that I belong to some online worship group, and I have membership with them. I told the bishop, “He tried to pin that on me too, but I have never belonged to any group, not online or offline. It was a false accusation, and still is, but Bishop AhYou still believes it. And since he is “all-powerful,” having held the office of bishop, it doesn’t matter what the truth is, …it only matters what HE BELIEVES THE TRUTH IS.”
Bishop Youngbull went down a different line of questioning, saying that we must follow the prophet. He asked if I believed that President Monson, and now Nelson are prophets? I asked him, “How do you determine if someone is a prophet?” Oddly he bore witness that Jesus is the Christ, Joseph was a true prophet, the Church is true, and that Joseph said that a prophet would never lead people astray.” I told him that Joseph never said that. That statement was quoined in the 1900’s and Joseph died in 1844. I asked, “Bishop, you bore your testimony, but I asked you how you determine if someone is a prophet?”
I changed the conversation focus saying, “Few knew Lehi as a prophet. Only Ishmael’s family and Zoram joined them. If you lived then, …how would you know Lehi was a prophet? Or, how would you know that Abinadi was a prophet, if you were King Noah, or Alma? That should give you a hint at how you recognize anyone as a prophet. It isn’t by their status, as Lehi was chased out and Abinadi had to come in by disguise. It wasn’t by their office. It was simply by their message. To be honest, the individual doesn’t matter, but it would be foolish to reject the message”
He claimed that a modern prophet tells us scripture for our day, addressing relevant concerns that the ancient prophets didn’t have. My wife said that it was Christ who atoned and no one else, so if prophets have any value, it is to point to a personal witness with Christ yourself. The personal connection to Christ was the advantage, and not a heads up warning from a prophet. I further explained that while a prophet speaks, you must discern between truth and error. After all, why would there be a warning to discern between a sheep, and a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
He repeated the earlier question, asking, “Do you believe they are prophets?” I told the bishop, “I really don’t care if they are or not. The only thing that matters is their message. Just as I told you that initially your talk sucked, but your story about your son’s name was legitimate, so I ended up really liking it. However, there wasn’t much to glean from the Stake Presidents talk, but a lame joke not worth repeating, and the advice that you can’t live on borrowed light. Not living on borrowed light resonates to me as truth, so I will take that, leaving the rest of his talk with him. I will not be a respecter of persons, and that includes, bishops, stake presidents, general authorities, and church presidencies. Too much respect is put into the arm of flesh, and I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh, or make flesh my arm.”
The bishop confessed that he felt the spirit and our love for the Savior and the scriptures. But, he wasn’t able to get past the deserved respect of the institutional leaders. He cannot see how we could teach truth with our opinions looming overhead, so he politely declined to request our records, …and we were cut from the Native American Ward team.
Conclusion: It was courtesy for my wife and I to lay out the circumstances for the bishop. Because of his rank, he judged, without being aware that it was never his right to deny us from bringing our records into his ward (according to scripture). Because of the rank and ignorant choices of the previous bishop, this bishop followed suit, unable to think for himself. Because we have shared light that went against his traditions, he fell to pieces like glass, remained darkened in his mind, fully expecting to follow the prophet, stick with the program, and cast people like my wife and I out of his synagogue. He and bishop AhYou have a little authority, as they suppose, and they have certainly exercised unrighteous dominion. Not only is this true in the Samoan and Native American ward, …it is true throughout the church.
Rather than learn from sad experience, free your minds from the bondage of the institution, by studying the words of Christ outside of their restricted parameters. They are setting up boundaries that refuse your eternal progression. Do not stop going to church. Go to church with a passion! Read your scriptures with a passion! Go to the temple with a passion! Prove all of God’s words by knowing them, and adjust your life to be reconciled to them. Wrestle within yourself, to break free from the institution of “follow the prophet.” Wrestle with your ward members with the intent to know the words of Christ! Wrestle with me by sparring in the scriptures. Be God’s wrestlers, to wrestle from God your calling and election made sure! Only through that wrestle will you prove yourself to be Israel. Israel literally means to wrestle with God a covenant!
Abraham wrestled. Jacob is named “Israel” because he wrestled. These are the fathers you must turn your hearts to. Judge wisely, for How You Judge, so shall you be judged!
Mahalo Ke Akua!