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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Portland, Oregon

An interesting experiment.

We tend to avoid things that make us uncomfortable, be they situations or people. While some might see Bishop Mussleman's actions as being disingenuous, I think it was more along the line of simply providing a splash of cold water in the faces of some who have been lulled into complacency in their insular world.

While we should be wary of strangers, especially where children are concerned, wariness does not rule out compassion and kindness, nor our obligation to love others as we love ourselves.

Perhaps the Bishop's lesson can be taken to heart by all of us in that we should exercise more faith in Christ and follow his example when dealing with those who may not share our blessings and bounty, yet are no less deserving of charity, compassion and love.

brent d
Lehi, UT

Many judged and evaded the Savior because He was "different". I think Bishop Musselman was inspired to do that, to teach his ward. I have been misjudged, when my heart's intent was good, but due to appearances, I have been treated like "a homeless man". I know what it's like to be rejected, and avoided. May the Lord bless all of us to remember that "if ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Anywhere, UT

I understand what this bishop was trying to teach but disagree with his methodology. Experts who work with the homeless state that it is harmful to give money directly to them. It enables and encourages their behavior instead of driving them to the organizations established to give them the help they need. Donate or volunteer at shelters and other such organizations, but do not give the homeless money. While doing so may make us feel better, we are not really helping. As far as church goes, all should be welcomed, but I would be wary of anyone who seems to be "off" in any manner, homeless or not, well dressed and clean or not.

brent d
Lehi, UT

Matthew 25:40 states "...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Yes, the Spirit will warn us if the "homeless man" is a predator or a fake. It requires that we be in tune, and not just judge by appearance or the context in which we see such a man. I have been suspected as being "homeless" when walking on the Temple grounds, because I was alone, and I look "different". When the feelings of one's heart are right with the Lord, yet those around you judge you based on what they see on the outside, it hurts. The Savior died of a broken heart, because His own received Him not, but took His precious, loving life, judging Him to "be of the devil". May we remember to be "wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves". May there be more of "the dove", which is a symbol of peace, in our hearts this holiday season, is my prayer...

United States, CA

Scary costumes belong at a Halloween party, not at sacrament meeting. I would have pulled my grandchildren away, being cautious for their safety.

Apeldoorn, N/A

This story is now reaching The Netherlands as well, as 2 regional newspapers are reporting about it. On one site of the newspapers ('de Volkskrant')it is the 2nd best read article of the day.

San Francisco, CA


You're so close! You said "Lesson: That 'homeless' person you avoid could be Jesus in disguise."

Lesson: that "homeless" person *is* Jesus.

usa, PA

The bishop's actions to play-the-part of a homeless man were quite disingenuous. His attempt to teach was calculated, but insincere, as it fell short of providing a human experience between different people. Would he choose to play the part of a paralyzed person, to see if congregants would lower him through the roof or leave him outside? Perhaps he'd consider playing the bleeding woman, who upon touching Jesus' hem, is healed of her hemorrhaging? A retired pastor, who ministered in inner city and rural churches on the east coast, I had the fortune to serve congregations who counted homeless individuals and families among them. As Jesus himself showed, a ministry that seeks to bridge divides between different people or communities, provides opportunities in day-to-day life for people to walk in others shoes. It would have been far less calculating, and more sincerely relevant, if the bishop himself had quietly lead them into ministry among those who are experiencing homelessness, in their own places of life, rather than falsely appear among them on the steps of the church.

willows, ca

The moral of the story isn't "don't judge" but rather "don't judge unrighteous," "don't be holier than thou," "be compassionate," and perhaps particularly "don't turn away from the needy because you have so much and they have so little."

Mexico City, DF

"I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite" - Joseph Smith.

"It is better to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition" - Joseph Smith

"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" - Hebrews 13:2

Matthew 25:35-40
Matthew 5:42
Luke 6:38
Luke 12:33-34
Matthew 10:8
Mark 12:31
Mark 10:21
Luke 10:25-37

"Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you." - Jacob 2:17

"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." - 1 Corinthians 13:3

What both Jacob and Paul are pointing to is that Charity is more than giving. Charity is loving. Job's "friends" thought his suffering was due to sin. Thinking that someone's suffering is due to sin is the diametricaly opposed to charity.

Mexico City, DF

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not". - Isaiah 53:3

payson, UT

I can understand the Bishop's intentions, but I am uncomfortable with him doing this in a Sacrament Meeting. Perhaps the ward party would have been a more appropriate place. I believe that this could become a problem if it is carried out by others to a wider audience. We had an attempted abduction in a ward building not long ago and while we should never judge someone by how they look, we do have to provide a level of safety. In the church there is a pattern to follow in giving to those in need. We are instructed in D&C to give to the Bishop, who then allocates those funds as he is directed. In the church we also have a transient Bishop who cares for those who may not live within the boundaries of a local ward. I do feel that we can help others when moved upon by the spirit, but we do have to consider the safety of those around us and ourselves when being kind to a person we do not know. Give to the Soup Kitchen or Food Bank instead!

willows, ca

The problem is not the these Mormons do not love the homeless. Their behavior is a symptom of something far worse.

Herriman, UT

Great comment from momw 10:24 a.m.

youth lessons for November discussed ways to give, also self-reliance. Good reminders especially on Black Friday.

usa, PA

The so-called statistic of 90% that another writer states as fact, rather than opinion, is incorrect and misleading. Start learning by working with the homeless as I did for 15 years.
The causes of homelessness include;
The deinstitutionalization movement from the 1950s onwards in state mental health systems
Redevelopment and gentrification activities instituted by cities across the country through which low-income neighborhoods are declared blighted and demolished
The failure of urban housing projects to provide safe, secure, and affordable housing to the poor.
The economic crises and "stagflation" of the 1970s,which caused high unemployment.
The failure to provide effective mental health care and meaningful job training for many homeless veterans.
Many foster children become homeless when they are released from foster care at age 18.
Natural disasters that destroy homes:
People who are hiding in order to evade law enforcement.
Adults and children who flee domestic violence.
Teenagers who flee or are thrown out by parents
Foreclosures of homes
Evictions from apartments
Lack of support from friends or family
Lack of resources in place in the communities to help aid in prevention of homelessness

Maryville, MO

This whole exercise was treating our neighbor with kindness and civility. No where in the article does it state that we are to give or anything else. Yet, I've there when a beggar has come and asked for money. I give him a dollar almost every time without care or how he spends it. That is not my choice but it is my choice to give. The Smart's were right to try to help and others have done so as well. Yet, I wonder how many of you have stood in soup kitchens administering to these individuals. How many of you give when the opportunity comes or do you just turn your back.

Many of you would turn a young woman away if dressed in a miniskirt, rainbow hair and tattoos. Do you really think the Savior would. This whole lesson was on compassion. You were asked to judge the individual just to love. You have the scriptures to support you. It is time to stand up and be counted. Someday you will be asked the same question as the Savior did in the OT? What will your answer be, they were fake?


In my opinion, I think Mormons on the whole are judgmental about lots of things and for me, and in my experience, not very Christ like and not all that charitable to others, except within their own religion and church. I remember my husband's family coming back from church, and then all they talked about was golf, better cars and bigger homes. The church is really not like a church at all, just bunches of people pretty much saying the same thing over and over again. It was more like a social club.

However, in this situation, I think I understand the lesson, but at the same time if anyone approaches me I will put safety first and then compassion second. Many homeless people have mental illness and substance abuse problems and you do not know how the will react. I have given money to many of them. I know where the money is going, and it is not for food, but I can understand about addictions and mental illness. Children are far more loving, caring and compassionate than adults, until adults teach them otherwise.

idaho falls, ID

For a state that shouldn't have already forgotten the Elizabeth Smart incident, I find this an interesting article. People love to immediately embrace the "Do Not Judge" remarks. If you don't judge, you are opening yourself and others up to very dangerous situations.
I don't think the message to all those young children present that day should be, "Hey that homeless guy is probably a loving, harmless Bishop in disguise"!
We need to be loving, and judge righteously. Although he shouldn't be turned away, a very guarded welcome should have taken place. Due to plans for a scenario like this, we had plans as a Bishopric that someone would have immediately been assigned to welcome, assist, be there to answer questions, and ESCORT this man in a very loving manner.
Since the Bishop was "absent", that would have fallen to the presiding counselor.
If you think the people were un-Christlike that wanted to turn him away, take your children or grandchildren down to Pioneer Park and let them take a stroll all by themselves and then see if a guarded approach is unwarranted.

Riverside, CA

I can see so many sides to this. My son lives a homeless life. He is 25. I would want people, especially church members to be kind and receptive with him. I do know on the otherhand, that altho he wouldn't rob anyone, he does play on people's sympathies, just in his appearance alone. Money given to him may go for food/clothing/room or substances. He has a home/family to go to but chooses to make ask the world to support him. He isn't well. I can see how we would judge someone in that position, out of survival. I also see how we judge each other for our choices about judging him! I would want you to love my son, give him food but please don't give him money. Buy him what he needs, if you must. Many of the homeless are mentally ill. I wish the church had more help available to them. I wish I knew the answers. Pray for them and count your blessings!

Chino Valley, AZ

I applaud Bishop Musselman for the inspiration that he received when he sought how to give a instruction to his ward.
Reading these comments, I have to add something about judging. The lesson I have learned from my Heavenly Father is that His Judgements will not come until AFTER all the facts, occurrences, et al are in. Thinking on this I have determined for myself that I 'evaluate' the person using all my resources, the guidance of the Holy Spirit first, then my own experiences ... Even in our courts the judging comes after all the pros and cons of a case are considered, THEN comes the judging.
Judging is a 'final' determination; evaluation of a person allows me to have more room for compassion. One of the main reasons we are here in mortality is to learn HOW to judge, so I don't judge until all the facts are in.
We do NOT know all the circumstances surrounding any individual. So I refrain from judging and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the scriptures, my own experiences, all of them.
Didn't Christ say, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

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