Comments about ‘Mormon bishop disguises himself as homeless man to teach congregation about compassion’

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Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

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Gene Poole

My wife and I lost our home and everything else a little over a year ago. At our ages it is difficult to find. To remain self employed is difficult without a base of operations. Our Stake President and Bishop helped as much as they could officially. Then they went further personally because they knew that our plight was serious and we were in danger if we were on the street. We have been helped and befriended by angels unawares.

To be on the outside looking in may just offer a different perspective. I laud those who feel compassion and I have compassion for those who castigate.

Where are we now? Doing our best to pull out of a very deep pit. Each day is a struggle between depression and elation that we know that no matter how deep we go or have gone, we will not have suffered as much as the Savior. I constantly pray that I can use my skills to bring us back to a place of acceptability in society. We continue to hope. We continue to work to do better.

Pocatello, ID

What many of you are forgetting, is that the clothes or situation don't make the "predator". I am not saying that you don't need to be cautious about people you don't know, but as a mental health professional, most problems aren't caused by strangers. They are people you know and trust. On the people that are commenting that the guy could be mentally ill. That is true, but realize that the congregation that you go to has as many or more that are struggling with mental illness.

We in the church have a really hard time addressing mental illness, and we all need to be better at understanding where people are at, including myself.

Richmond, VA


"What you are suggesting is not in harmony with the revealed word of God. There is nothing in the Lord's admonition to, "care for the Poor," that we should be concerned with the motive of the beggars, in fact, it is to the contrary. In the Book of Mosiah we are warned:

...and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish."

The Lord also admonished and expects us to be wise. What if the homeless person is a fake, or even worse, a felon with insincere motives? How long would it take you to continue to be kind and helpful? I'm not saying that we must shun them but that we must be cautious and very very careful. We are living in a very different and dangerous world now that we can't be too careless and nonchalant in our desire to be good Samaritans to our own detriment. It's noble to help yes, but we must also be wise about it!

USS Enterprise, UT

To "van" luckily the LDS church didn't spend a dime of tithing money on a mall. The poor should be grateful that the LDS church purchased more land in Florida. Now the LDS church can run more cattle on that property, and feed even more people.

Think of it this way. What is better for a church to do, give money to the poor, or purchase a farm and give their members an opportunity to serve AND to provide fresh food for those in need perpetually?

Chino Valley, AZ

I spent a number of years hitchhiking around this country,looking for work, going to my mothers funeral, or following God's direction. Sometimes experiencing bad rides, but 90+% of the time experiencing good fellowship from those who helped me. Now whenever I see someone hitchhiking I send up a quick prayer and ask my Heavenly Father if I should stop or keep on. The Holy Spirit has only had me pass someone by maybe 4 times in the last 20 years.
I do the same with the homeless. Once in a while I will give a dollar or two but for the most part I will give food, energy bar, etc., if I am able. A quiet silent prayer on their behalf never hurts anything either.
A pleasant greeting, a smile, and remembering that admonition our Lord has given us in Matthew 25:40 "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." serves me well. Having been there, done that, won the T-shirt, and bought the hat, I do not just walk on by. I cannot just walk on by.

Brigham City, UT

Re: Van

I've been attending church weekly for more than 60 years, and I have never heard a message about "the importance of paying your tithing so the church can build more 2.5 billion dollar malls or buying a bigger percentage of Florida." I have heard many messaged about compassion and charity. Tithing isn't used to buy malls or bigger percentages of Florida. Do your homework before you make more ridiculously uninformed statements.

Draper, UT

Many comments about panhandlers, others will say: are we all not beggars?.Who are we to judge? How do we know why a person is begging or mooching. We have no idea what the person has been through! And why they're is doing that! The thing boils down 'us' and not 'the beggar'. Whether or not they are what they claim to be, they'll be judged for who they claim to be. We'll be judged on how we react to their petition. Who cares how they use the money. That's their concern. We'll be judged for what WE do and what's in our hearts. I remember a 'bad lady' begging here in Draper. She asked if I had any spare change. I gave her what I had, mostly pennies. She then asked for a ride somewhere. On the way she told me that she begged for change (pennies mostly) to save them up and then donate them to Primary Children's Hospital at the year's end. We never knowr what's in a person's heart. Yes, we are to judge righteous judgment, but always give and you'll never go wrong.

Open Minded Mormon
Everett, 00

The Prophet Joseph Smith's favorite hymn was "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief".
King Benjamin's sermon also comes to mind.

Trampling the poor and needy was the plight and ultimate down-fall of the once blessed and righteous Nephites.

Good call Bishop,
Good call.

Country, NM

Saying hello to this stranger or giving him a kind word and a smile wouldn't hurt anyone, would it? Welcoming him to church wouldn't hurt anyone, would it? But there is such a thing as "idiot compassion". In such a case, "we rely on a shallow and ultimately selfish notion of helping that is primarily concerned with eliminating our own unease rather than truly lending a hand......Avoiding idiot compassion suggests that we pause to consider what is truly needed when helping others - that rather than jumping to solutions or rushing to the rescue, we can be discerning and deliberate in our efforts."
- Michael Carroll

oakley, idaho

there was a time in my life when we were desperate. Many would have considered us homeless although we had a camper and were together as a family. A homeless beggar came up to our pickup window asking for change. We had one quarter to our name and a bag of rice to feed our six kids and no help in sight. That man, drunk and homeless that he was was an angel sent to us from God. He literally fed US. All that summer he and his under the bridge trolls made sure we had enough to eat and helped us find help. Never look at a person, judging them for their circumstances. We might be their angel or yes. They might be OUR angel.

Maryville, MO

I'm a little ashamed by some of the comments here. The article says that the Bishop was at home wondering what to do to teach his congregation about judging when it came to his mind what he was supposed to do. How many of you have been sitting doing the same thing to teach your children and you get an idea in your mind? This is called inspiration or in even the most complex personal revelation. Someone mentioned that a pastor got the same type of idea a few weeks ago. This is a lesson that all of us are open to personal revelation regardless of faith.

The whole topic wasn't about what this person needed but about pre-judging him. Some members had a bad relationship with one like the bishop and turned him away. Personal experience carries a lot. However, scripture is pretty clear that we are not to turn anyone away. Even a person who has been excommunicated is to be welcome in our congregation. The Bishop IS A JUDGE in Israel which pertains to his calling. However, he too needed this as much as his congregation.

Here, UT

(Readers Digest very condensed version)

27 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; & ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 ...
29 ... so he asked..., “And who is my neighbor?”
30 ... “A man going from Jerusalem to Jericho, ... was attacked by robbers. They stripped him ..., beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest ... saw the man, ... passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, ... passed by .... But a Samaritan, ... came ... and when he saw him, took pity on him. He ... bandaged his wounds, .... Then he put the man on his own donkey, an inn and took care of him. The next day he gave two denarii and gave to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense'....
36 “Which of these three ... was a neighbor...?”
37 ..., “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

South Jordan, UT

Wonderful story! Sometimes we need to be awakened to those less fortunate than ourselves. Yes we need to somewhat careful but reaching out in caution is okay too.

Holladay, UT

I think there is a big difference between "judging" and being cautious. This Bishop showed that there is often something beyond what you see on the outside. Someone might be homeless because of a number of reasons. They may have addiction issues or mental health issues or they may be so beaten down they may not be able to get up. They may even *gasp* have a criminal history. Jesus would have reached out regardless of the reasons and aren't we supposed to live a Christ like life?
Look closer people, you might see the face of God! Thank you Bishop Musselman! You Rock!

American Fork, UT

Truth inspired by a hoax (Google Pastor Jeremiah Steepek). Interesting. I would have loved to see the looks on the congregations faces! Well played Bishop, well played indeed.

Blue AZ Cougar
Chandler, AZ

"the religious frequently follow their basest inclinations when it comes to meeting strangers"

Not sure what religion has to do with following your "basest" inclinations. Are there not atheists or anti-religionists who would react the same way to meeting a stranger? Again, it's a lesson in human nature, not religion.

Salt Lake City, UT

Several years ago there was a man in our ward who was an undercover cop. He really looked rough, but quit coming to church because of negative reactions he was receiving. He was accidentally shot and critically wounded while working security protecting the prophet at conference. I have a police friend who was working narcotics undercover. He said when they moved into their home neighbors would have nothing to do with them -- even forbade their kids to play with theirs. After years of working undercover, he was promoted to Sergeant and had to "clean up". I've so often wanted to ask what his neighbor's reactions were when they realized that not only were they living in the same neighborhood as a "good guy", but one that was out protecting them everyday. I try to help when I can and the one I remember is a "beggar" asking me to buy him a hamburger -- said he was $.27 cents short, and gave me what he had to buy something to eat. Hopefully he didn't eat the money I tucked in the wrapper. We should all learn from this. Example was always my greatest teacher.

Gail Winn
West Haven, UT

The Bishop may have meant well, but pulling a stunt like that takes the focus off of true compassion. We recently were encouraged to "first observe and then serve." Compassion comes from our heart and not from manipulation. Panhandlers for the most part are manipulators. It is easy to hand someone a dollar, but does that make you compassionate? Do you forgive others? Are you patient and kind? Study, ponder and pray about the scriptures and let the Holy Spirit guide you in all you do. Let the Savior soften your heart and you will be compassionate. Opportunities are all around us, they do not have to be fabricated.

San Diego, CA

As a bishop for six years in San Diego, I have mixed feelings about whether this is appropriate to put the members in this uncomfortable position. I would be surprised if the Stake President or Area Seventies would have approved this ahead of time.

We have strangers and homeless drop into our ward and we always welcome them with kindness. However, when they start asking members for money or disrupting the service with unusual requests, I always have the members bring them to me so I can meet with them privately to see how I can help them. I have a duty to protect the members from panhandlers but also a responsibility to make sure I don't turn away a truly needy person without giving some kind of help. I've had some dangerous situations related to this but too long to detail here. I doubt you'll see other bishops replicating this kind of object lesson as I doubt the Church leadership will want to put the members through this. There's a reason it's not in the Handbook of Instructions or you haven't seen the prophet do this in General Conference.

B ob
Richmond, CA

Perhaps what those who ignored him sensed he wasn't what he appeared to be.

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