November 29, 2013

"An LDS Bishop went undercover as a homeless man in his congregation last Sunday."

"He wanted to use his disguise as a tool to teach on compassion this Thanksgiving." (Video at the link.)
Ward member Jaimi Larsen also didn't recognize the homeless man as [David] Musselman... "He was dirty. He was crippled. He was old. He was mumbling to himself"....

Larsen says she watched from the chapel as Musselman walked to the pulpit - his disguise so real, she had no idea that he was about to reveal himself as their bishop. "He quoted the song 'Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?'," said Larsen.
That story made me think of this passage in the New Testament:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


TMink said...

Wonderful verse. Thank you!


Quayle said...

Wonderful Bishop.

Hard lesson for some of his ward members.

Better that they learned it now, than after they died.

Because they have little or, perhaps, no excuse. Beside the scripture that Ann referenced, the additions in the Mormon canon of scripture and recent sermons are full of relevant reminders.

For example, here, here, and here, to cite just a few.

The line between love and indifference does not separate groups or parties, but divides each man and woman's heart and mind.

Each of us individually has to decide on which side of the line we will live.

Birches said...

I can't imagine people asking someone who showed up to Church to leave. We've had some rough people show up and act weird and no one was ever unkind.

We did have a guy show up one time in the middle of a meeting with a very large bag and sit in the choir seats. It was a little disconcerting, because it was such odd behavior (no one usually sits there, unless there's a choir). Someone just went and sat next to him and started a conversation during the next hymn. He was fine. He probably didn't know he was scaring half of us thinking he had some kind of bomb or something because of Prop 8.

Gabriel Hanna said...

That story made me think of this passage in the New Testament:

Huh, what are the odds? Think that Mormon bishop might have heard of that story?

I'm not really picking on Ann. Fifty years ago allusions to the Bible, Shakespeare, and Greek and Roman literature did not spelling out. Even people who hadn't read them recognized the allusions.

We're losing a lot, and losing it fast.

SGT Ted said...

It isn't the truly needy that people don't like. Its the lazy one's that can't be bothered to help themselves, that steal resources that should go to the truly needy, that people don't care for.

Shaun said...

I'm a Mormon. And I've asked people to leave Church before.

I live in New York City. Though I'm now in Brooklyn, I used to live in Manhattan. At our meetinghouse in Manhattan, we frequently had to ask people to leave.

See, in Manhattan, one encounters a lot of kooks (I know, this is a startling revelation to everyone on this blog.) We were often asked to volunteer for shifts during services to man the front desk. At that front desk, we were directed to welcome all, but to ask people we didn't know if they were here to worship with us, as the meetinghouse is a place to worship or to learn about the Gospel, not to beg. If they were not here to worship with us, they were kindly as to leave.

Now did we just scream at them to "get out!"? Hopefully not. Usually, we gave them directions to homeless services such as a shelter where they could find so many of the subsidized programs that could help them find the help they need to move forward.

But our meetinghouses are not homeless shelters. They're houses of worship where everyone (members of the Church or not) is welcome to come learn more about Christ and His plan for us.

Further, we were told that our primary goal in manning that front desk each Sunday was to keep the children safe. Not everyone that comes in off the street is mentally stable. It wouldn't take much for someone to come in during Sunday School, make their way into a children's class, and snatch a child. We were given a responsibility to help protect against that possibility.

I don't know what actions this Bishop in a suburb of Salt Lake City specifically took while "undercover". Given the rather limited reporting of this journalist, one is unable to discern whether the Bishop panhandled in the middle of services, for example, prior to being asked to leave. But I do know that a one sized fits all approach to homelessness is a disservice not only to people in that ward, but to people everywhere.

It's very, very easy to stand up and criticize when one doesn't live in an area where panhandling and homelessness are all over. I remember visiting my parent's ward (equivalent of a parish) in a rather rural area and hearing a Sunday School lesson that turned into a diatribe about how one needs to give without question whenever it is demanded, followed with copious examples of the same. I got up and stated that, living in NYC, if I gave without question, on each payday I wouldn't even make it home with a dime left in my pocket.

You can't just blindly give twice a year and then use that as a tool to pat yourself on the back and condemn others who don't do what you say they should.

YoungHegelian said...

A few years ago, on my way to Easter mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC, I was walking from my car parked in the hinterlands to the basilica when I passed a car filled to the top in the back seat with stuff in bags. As I walked past, the passenger side front door opened and I saw two shabbily dressed women, obviously sisters. And then the smell hit me. Like a brick wall, the smell hit me.

I have no idea who those ladies sat next to that fine Easter morning, or if the ushers even let them in, but if they got it, it was millenia off of Purgatory for their near-neighbors in the pews.

Big Mike said...

Interesting story. I note that only one ward member asked the homeless man to leave, but the rest -- especially the children -- tried to help him. From his words I think perhaps the bishop took a lesson as well.

Unknown said...

Ann -- Before you and your readers get all misty-eyed about that LDS Pastor story, maybe you should check Yep, y'all just got taken for a ride.

Geez. Doesn't it just smell too good to be true? (But it's interesting how so many of your commenters, above, rose to the lure of the "Mormon Bishop" as a pretext for judgment on the CLDS). This deception, piggy-backing on the Gospel, has been circulating the web in one guise or another for years.

It's not too good to be true. It's not true. Someone should have caught it.

Best regards, JRA.
Yrs. truly, JRA

jimbino said...

Nowadays it's

"For I was hungry and your gummint gave me a few foodstamps, I was thirsty and your gummint gave me soda, I was a stranger and your gummint deported me, I needed clothes and the Salvation Army clothed me, I was sick and your gummint directed me to an insurance website, I was in prison and you sent Joe Arpaio to visit me."

Gabriel Hanna said...

This isn't a fake story--the fake story inspired a real person to do it, in fact it's happened more than once. This is what Snopes calls "ostention".

Ann Althouse said...

"This is what Snopes calls 'ostention.'"

I was just reading about that on Snopes yesterday.

Robert Cook said...

"It isn't the truly needy that people don't like. Its the lazy one's that can't be bothered to help themselves, that steal resources that should go to the truly needy, that people don't care for."

And who are you to know and judge the difference?

The greatest thieves of other people's resources, by the way, are the wealthy. Do you hold righteous scorn for them?

Jason said...

As followers of Christ, it is not for us to condemn others, nor decide who is more deserving of God's love, grace and forgiveness.

As stewards of public and private resources, however, it sure the fuck is our business to differentiate between the truly needy and the lazy.

And fuck everyone who tries to obfuscate the two.

Rusty said...

Seems some comments have been lost.

n.n said...

The lesson to be learned is that God favors voluntary redistribution schemes, including economic and charitable works. He does not favor involuntary exploitation, other than to prevent the producer from becoming the slave of the consumer and vice versa. The Judeo-Christian religion acknowledges that life is a test of individual faith in the judgment and morality set forth by God.

Rusty said...

You don't make eye contact because then the crazy homeless person thinks you're now their friend and want hear all about the voices and how the CIA is secretly listening to their thoughts.

Rusty said...

The greatest thieves of other people's resources, by the way, are the wealthy.

Envy, Bob, is also a sin.

The Godfather said...

I think it's very nice to speak kindly to homeless people who wander into your church. It's the Christian thing to do. But doing so doesn't solve their problems.

Homeless people, usually more accurately called "street people", are mostly not just you-and-me-without-a-home. They are mostly people with severe emotional illnesses, very often including drug and/or alcohol abuse. There are exceptions, of course, people who have had a run of bad luck and just need a place to stay and maybe a helping hand while they get back on their feet. Churches often provide temporary shelter for these people, and God will bless them for it. But for most street people, not having a home is an effect, not a cause, of their problems.

I did pro bono legal work for a Lutheran church in Washington, DC, that was developing a facility to help homeless women. We overcame strong NIMBY opposition and government obstruction to build the facility. I met professionals and amateurs who were committed to helping these people. Not just by being nice to them, but by getting them into programs to overcome their addictions, to train them for jobs, and supporting them while they learned to be self-supporting.

Those helpers are the ones that should be told, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

ken in sc said...

I attended a service at First Church North Miami Congregational (UCC), in 1984, where the minister did exactly this same thing.

No one asked him to leave, he was easily recognized. However, I have been in several services--various denominations--where street people showed up. They were never asked to leave. In fact they were offered help and invitations to eat. I remember one scuttling out quickly to avoid such attention.