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Guest mormonmusic

Priesthood Leadership Conundrum Number 3

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Guest mormonmusic

I was hoping someone else would pose a priesthood poser...but since no one has, here's another.

You are the High Priest Group Leader in your Ward. At a Stake High Priest meeting, the Stake President has announced that he wants more youth involvement in the new FamilySearch geneology software at FamilySearch.org - Family History and Genealogy Records. Youth are technically savvy, he says, and that this will also strengthen them spiritually. He also wants to see Wards call capable youth as family history consultants given their familiarity with technology, and their ability to share this knowledge with others.

You go to a local university where you have a relationship with the IT director and president. They agree to let you use a room full of 30 computers that are Internet-ready, and suitable for training people in the new FamilySearch program. You of course asked this as "an exploratory question" -- and have not yet committed to a date, or whether you'll use the facility at all. Nor is the university expecting you to use it. But you know it's available for this purpose if you wish.

You talk to the Bishop about the possiblity of a HP Group sponsored activity for the youth to go to the university and learn to use the new FamilySearch program. He thinks it's a great idea.

I have two questions:

1) How do you proceed with the idea to train the youth in the new FamilySearch program in the University Computer lab?

2) How do you proceed in getting youth family-history consultants called? Assume you have a lot of suitable youth to consider calling (whether you agree with youth being family history consultants or not).

This one really blew up in my face -- BADLY. So I'm intersested in how others think one should proceed....

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Ouch. Sorry to hear it.

How would I proceed? I suppose I'd go roughly as follows:

  • Ask the bishop to call the youth family history consultants - perhaps giving him a list of people I think would be qualified. Then get a list from him of those who have been called.
  • Talk with the youth and their parents about what you want to do (take them to the college campus and train them on the new program). Find a best time to go.
  • As a part of the previous step, explain what the youths' responsibilities will be before and after the training, so that you don't end up with a bunch of youth trained on the new program who have no idea what they are supposed to do with the knowledge.
  • Set up that time with the computer lab.
  • If/When everything is worked out, do the lab session and teach the program.
  • Report back to the bishop how everything went.

I assume you did something like the above and it "blew up". Care to elaborate?

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Guest mormonmusic
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Edited by mormonmusic

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How would I proceed? I suppose I'd go roughly as follows:

  • Ask the bishop to call the youth family history consultants - perhaps giving him a list of people I think would be qualified. Then get a list from him of those who have been called.
  • Talk with the youth and their parents about what you want to do (take them to the college campus and train them on the new program). Find a best time to go.
  • As a part of the previous step, explain what the youths' responsibilities will be before and after the training, so that you don't end up with a bunch of youth trained on the new program who have no idea what they are supposed to do with the knowledge.
  • Set up that time with the computer lab.
  • If/When everything is worked out, do the lab session and teach the program.
  • Report back to the bishop how everything went.

Thanks for posting an approach here Vort.

Your approach is what I thought was best originally, but I later felt the youth leaders had stewardship over youth activities, and that I should include them in the planning and execution. Also, they had mechanisms in place to make announcements, distribute calendars, and arrange rides. I also didn't want to compete with their activity night -- since that was the night I figured most youth and parents would be available.

Regarding calling the youth Family History Consultants, I spoke to the YW president for ideas since I didn't know the youth well enough to make a judgment. She replied "I'm still praying about it, and haven't decided who I want to do it". I explained that technically, it was my role to recommend candidates, and that I was only consulting her for information since she knew the youth. Family History Consultants ultimately report to the HGPL, consistent with the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook. Also, that the Bishop was the ultimate decision-maker.

She did give me two names, which I forwarded to the Bishop.

He never called them, or any other youth to the position of family history consultant.

The activity is more complicated== separate post below.

Edited by mormonmusic

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Guest mormonmusic

The Activity: What Happened

Here's what happened:

Opposition from the Young Men's President and the Family History Consultant

I actually tried to work with the YM and YW leaders to make the event happen, as well as the one Family History Consultant that reported to me. We had about 20 YW and only 2 YM. Scheduling would require that it happen at a time when the most youth were available, probably the activity night.

The YW President liked the idea of the training, and told me to work with a counselor in planning it. I spoke to the newly called Young Men's President and he balked. He thought the whole thing needed to be approved at BYC, even though I knew this meeting had never been happening, and as a three-time YM President, rarely saw a Bishop have time for it. I shared with him that perhaps we shouldn't let BYC be an issue since the meetings werent' happening yet. He disagreed, so I moved on without him.

The Family History Consultant also disagreed with it, claiming a whole variety of technical issues that I learned were really non-issues after doing some research.

A New Family History Consultant and a Date for the Activity

I spoke to our High Counselor, and he was a floored that there was so much disagreement. He said to call a different Family History Consultant that would cooperate. I did so, and told the YW counselor that the new family history consultant and myself would work with her to schedule the activity. We came up with a date and things looked good -- involving only the Young Women, but good.

Sabotage

Finally, the YW President calls me and asks for a meeting. She brings her YW counselor who then came out with a ton of other reasons why the activity should not happen. Including calling the university with whom she had no relationship, to determine if some non-essential software was installed (ancestry.com). Also that they were afraid it would be a turn-off to the youth, because family history was such a dry topic. I wasn't able to allay their concerns by citing the vision of the Stake President. So, I said, OK, what help would you like from my on Family History. They said "None". They later held their own family history activity, with the family history consultant who originally objected to the activity in the first place. They held it at a local library.

The Reprimand

I was actually flabbergasted that everyone was so against this, and after the meeting, was even more flabbergasted this YW Counselor had contacted the university (my employer) behind my back for the apparent purpose of sabotaging the meeting. She had also called the wrong person, who probably was wondering how a group of Mormons ended up using her computer lab. I was concerned there would be fall-out when I got to work, as this lab person had once been angry with me that IT had installed software for one of my projects in her lab.

So, I called the YW counselor to figure out who she spoke to, as well as the nature of the conversation so I knew what I was dealing with. She hung up on me. I tried to call back, but she wouldn't answer, so I wrote a note apologizing if I offended her, stating that what mattered was that we had a good relationship, not the activity or conflict.

Later that evening, she wrote a nasty note about how self-important and pushy I was, and also that I didn't listen to the youth leaders on matters that affected them. She copied the YW leaders and YM President, the Bishop, and then complained to the Bishop personally with her YW President. It was three pages long and very hard not to take personally.

A couple days later, the Bishop's Counselor took me aside and reprimanded me for being so overbearing and pushy with the youth leaders, and that I needed to listen to them more.

My Reaction

I was completely floored, because like everyone else who posted above, apparently, I thought this was pretty straightforward. Also, I'd experienced no interpersonal problems in the Ward to date, that I was aware of. In fact we'd had two previously successful cross-auxiliary projects that my group had initiated, and people were responding generally positively to the leadership I was giving. Also, in my work, I was involved in leading project teams, and none of this behavior from others had ever surfaced; feedback had always been positive.

There was even more fall-out after this, but I'd be interested in hearing what everyone's reaction is to what I've written so far -- what did you think I did wrong? Or was their reaction justified?

Edited by mormonmusic

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Guest mormonmusic

Oh, my goodness. I'm pretty much speechless.

Why Vort? Don't leave me hangin' here!!

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I would have started out by bringing up the idea in PEC and Correlation meetings before setting anything up, talking in terms of possibles and maybes, and then taking it to BYC with the bishop's endorsement. If those meetings aren't happening, then that needs to be addressed first. You can't correlate across auxiliaries if the leadership of the ward is not behind the programs.

Quite frankly, I have never seen a YM or YW leader who felt the need to report or answer to an HPGL. They answer to the bishop, the HPGL is not in their line of authority.

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Guest mormonmusic

Quite frankly, I have never seen a YM or YW leader who felt the need to report or answer to an HPGL. They answer to the bishop, the HPGL is not in their line of authority.

Agreed -- we were peers so to speak. I think one reason this thing blew up is the fact that rarely is there interaction between High Priests and Youth Leaders on common projects. So, there was no unifying force, other than the approval of the Bishop.

I don't feel I was trying to get her to "answer" to me, however -- beyond asking her for some background on some youth to act as Family History Consultants -- she agreed to the activity, and delegated the planning to myself and her counselor.

Also, there was a subsequent meeting that I requested with the Bishop, his counselor, and the YW leaders to clear the air over what happened. In that meeting, it came out the YW leaders didn't understand why I was even involved in this. The Bishop explained that "it's the HPGL's responsiblity to direct family history work in the Ward". So, if they didn't see it as any of my business to intiate a family history event like this, can you see how they might've reacted the way they did?

Another reason it blew up -- the Family History Consultant that wouldn't cooperate -- she was a really good friend of the YW Counselor, and was completely ticked off that I went ahead with the project by calling an additional Consultant.

That was the ultimate source of the vindictiveness.

And that's why I think this very Consultant was all of a sudden willing to teach the youth at a library after refusing to deliver the training at the university.

By the way, the Youth activity at the university was approved in PEC. BYC meetings weren't happening.

Edited by mormonmusic

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Why Vort? Don't leave me hangin' here!!

I don't understand the petty machinations of political intrigue in the Church. Paint me naive, I suppose, but I am aghast at the idea that a man's efforts could be sabotaged by fellow Saints simply because they think he's...well, I don't even know what. I can't tell from your description what it is they didn't like or why they had it in for you.

The trite old saying is that there are three sides to every story -- theirs, yours, and the truth. Since I haven't heard theirs, I'm left to believe that yours represents the truth. I have no reason to disbelieve that, except that it's so incredible to me that such a thing would even happen. But though I may be aghast, I'm not quite naive enough to think it's impossible.

Don't know what to say. When we set out to help build the kingdom and other "Saints" impede our best efforts, I guess we just keep on trying to build the kingdom as best we can. I have no other insights or words of wisdom to offer. I'm just speechless at the whole situation.

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Vort: The trite old saying is that there are three sides to every story -- theirs, yours, and the truth

As I wrote out the scenario, as well as what happened, the same thing came to mind -- that the behavior seemed inexplicable the way I described it, and the thing might be perceived like a divorce. One spouse depicts the other side one way, while the other comes out with a different version of the facts. Behavior seems bizarre until you hear the other side of the story.

To try to represent their side of the story fairly, apparently, they thought I was overbearing, and initially, managed to convince the Bishop and his Counselor that I was too. The YW counselor also said it was offensive when all of a sudden we had a different family history consultant on the activity when the original family history consultant had objected to it.

Confusion about Roles in the Church Causes these Conflicts: Peers working together Can Lead to Infighting

I think the YW's lack of understanding that it's the HPGL's responsibility to direct family history work also had an impact on how they perceived me. What's this guy doing running my youth activities for me? Also, as someone earlier pointed, out, I had no authority over the youth -- this was a situation which crossed boundaries in a way that isn't spelled out clearly in the manual, and was new to the Ward. I think that's why it's important for everyone to undergo training in "duties" in the Church -- so such misshaps don't happen.

The Meeting and all the Hugs

This actually really disturbed me for some time. Eventually, I initiated a meeting with the Bishop to clear the air, there was an apology from the YW Counselor for her behavior.

The Bishop, after hearing what had happened from my perspective sort of coached her saying "The Gospel is about relationships". When the YW leaders said I had no business working with the youth on family history, he also explained to the YW organization that it WAS my responsibility to direct family history work, and that I was acting appropriately in initiating and driving the activity. I felt some support at that point.

He also indicated that there should be respect saying "Brother Mormonmusic could be the next Bishop of this Ward and he's a good HPGL", which I thought was implying there should be respect. Perhaps he was just calming the waters, but I felt that finally, there was support now that they'd heard my side of the story.

And finally, the Bishopric counselor had tears streaming down his face in the meeting when I described the impact such harsh behavior had on my desire to serve in the Church. How I no longer felt proud of being a member of the Ward, and the severe impact everyone's behavior on my desire to be a leader in the Ward, or even attend the Ward at all. And he apologized for his part in it. He later sent me an email indicating how powerfully he felt the Spirit as I presented my feelings about the situation.

The Bishop, the 1st Counselor, and the YW President all gave me hugs afterward, and the YW counselor coldly shook my hand.

The other counselor in the Bishopric spoke to me later as it related to some other business we had to talk about. He said that such vindictiveness was a characteristic he'd seen before in certain people in the Ward. He thought the mistake I made was going ahead with the activity with a new family history consultant when she objected to it. Replacing her set her off, inspired her to put the YW counselor up to the sabotage, as well as the subsequent fall out.

That renegade family history consultant can't look me in the eye when I see her -- and it's been a couple years now. I think she was the source of the problem. I've never really known how to resolve this with her, as I have no proof she was at the center of this. But the fact she DID teach the youth, but on her own terms without my knowledge is a strong indicator.

What I learned

If I was to do this again, I'd take the youth leaders out of it as you suggested, but first, I'd get the Bishop's approval to do so, and to work directly with the families and youth. I'd have the Bishop or his counselor communicate that I'd be working with the youth directly to the Youth Leaders. This way there would be no tension between the youth leaders and the HP group when they saw I was working with youth.

As a priesthood leader, if I have to mediate conflicts, I'm going to do the homework to listen carefully and without judgment to both sides and not to jump to conclusions without hearing everyone out. This is the mistake our Bishop's Counselor made. I later had to use this skill when I had to mediate a fight between two people in the parking lot (another dramatic story).

Last of all, the High Counselor who suggested I go ahead with the activity after calling a new family history consultant talked to me about what happened. I told him I was floored because nothing like this had ever happened in my work or Church life in the last 20 years. When I told him I was confused by all this politicking and harsh behavior, she said "this happens all the time in the Church because they are volunteers".

He too had experienced the nasty note phenomenon, and the Bishop also said "the note thing is good experience for when you're a Bishop someday". I asked if he'd received his own equivalents, and he nodded his head and then darted out of the room -- as if he was repressing the thought of it.

Unknown to them, that experience cured me of any desire to be a Bishop. I'll need a real ephiphany to convince me to do it should a call happen.

Even if I was overbearing, they make convenants to avoid speaking evil of church leadership. Now I see why.

Now, this whole thing was "bad juju" as a wise man once said. A combination of organizational, training, and personality issues, as well as ignoring temple covenants.

Edited by mormonmusic

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Here's where i'm confused,

Even if you are "pushy" and "self-important", it's irrelevant. The ideas you presented are good ones, and from what you tell us they were organized in a well thought out manner.

Methinks someone is a little jealous they didn't come up with it first. Or they just personally don't like family history so they didn't want to be forced into doing it via their callings as youth leaders.

I'm personally going to bring up an idea similar to this to my branch president, YM and YW leaders because I think they would be thrilled. Your ward is nuts.

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The original idea (and plan) sound like a good one, and have the potential to be successful. Your original side of the story is just flabbergasting -- it's incredible (read literally: unbelievable) that leaders of and example to the youth would behave in such a manner. You second run through the story gives me a slightly different perspective.

You sound like you've got a victim complex. Given everything, it's understandable. But it does sound like an "everyone's out to get me, woe is me" mindset. The fact that you're bringing up these scenarios years after they've happened, just to see our reactions (and it seems implied that you're trying to justify your own reactions) indicates that you are very defensive about these situations and haven't gotten over them completely.

There was a definite lack of communication across the board. Presented with the opportunity again, I would first get approval from the Bishop, then ask him what he thought would be the best forum in which to present the idea to the various auxiliaries. This sounds like a ward-wide program that you were trying to launch. If I were Bishop (which would only happen in the Reorganized Church ;)), I would either put it on hold until the next Ward Correlation meeting, address it in BYC (as a youth, I found that the biggest obstacle to BYC was youth laziness, not Bishop availability), or call a special meeting with my counselors (or just the one to whom the program would be delegated), the YM and YW presidents (invite counselors, too), the high councilor, and the Family History Consultant (assuming he/she had been called already). As Bishop, I would direct the conversation in the meeting, present the idea as something on which I'd placed my stamp of approval and wanted to institute in the ward, and then explain the whole thing before inviting feedback. That way, if there is a fallout, it happens with the bishop, and doesn't harm other relationships in the ward.

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Here's where i'm confused,

I'm personally going to bring up an idea similar to this to my branch president, YM and YW leaders because I think they would be thrilled.

That's what I thought -- my wife said she would have just gone to the activity, and

would've been thrilled someone else was taking care of the details.

What is your calling in the Ward?

Your ward is nuts

One has to be careful as leader to speak negatively about the people in the Ward, but I tend to agree there are nutty elements.

When we were considering moving here, people in our previous Ward warned us, as the ward had a reputation for disobedience, lack of leadership, as well as general lack of commitment. The ward also had trouble creating good programs.

In fact, the previous Stake President came to the Ward years ago and rebuked everyone in Sacrament meeting because people weren't willing to serve, welfare cases were through the roof, and there was a lot of interpersonal problems, apparently.

He came, called the Ward to repentence, and then shut down Sacrament meeting, and sent everyone home. He also told everyone to go home and write a letter to the Bishop telling them what they were going to do to live the gospel more fully.

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In fact, the previous Stake President came to the Ward years ago and rebuked everyone in Sacrament meeting because people weren't willing to serve, welfare cases were through the roof, and there was a lot of interpersonal problems, apparently.

He came, called the Ward to repentence, and then shut down Sacrament meeting, and sent everyone home. He also told everyone to go home and write a letter to the Bishop telling them what they were going to do to live the gospel more fully.

Wow. If I were that Stake President and things didn't shape up after that, I think I'd appeal to Church Headquarters for a massive boundary realignment, and move all of the leadership (and other members, obviously) from this ward into other wards. It would create boundary mayhem, but then I'd talk to the Bishops in each of the wards, and tell that that certain specific people should not be called into leadership positions for a period of 2-3 years.

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You sound like you've got a victim complex. Given everything, it's understandable. But it does sound like an "everyone's out to get me, woe is me" mindset. The fact that you're bringing up these scenarios years after they've happened, just to see our reactions (and it seems implied that you're trying to justify your own reactions) indicates that you are very defensive about these situations and haven't gotten over them completely.

Actually, you'll notice that this scenario is one of four individual threads/topicsm I started so far in this Priesthood forum -- If you haven't looked them over, you'll see they had little to do with victimization or self-justification. Instead, they posed what I hoped would be interesting problems in leadership and implementation. This particular scenario, I agree, did generate some hard-hitting consequences for me.

However, I have to reject the conclusion that my motive in posting this particular scenario was self-justification. No offence taken though -- I can see how you might conclude that given the limitations of online discussions.

This sounds like a ward-wide program that you were trying to launch.

Actually, no, it was just for youth, with help from the HPGL and one of the family history consultants. I'm wondering if you read the initial post that started it off?

re If I was the Bishop (which would only happen in the Reorganized Church ;)), I would either put it on hold until the next Ward Correlation meeting, address it in BYC (as a youth, I found that the biggest obstacle to BYC was youth laziness, not Bishop availability), or call a special meeting with my counselors (or just the one to whom the program would be delegated), the YM and YW presidents (invite counselors, too), the high councilor, and the Family History Consultant (assuming he/she had been called already). As Bishop, I would direct the conversation in the meeting, present the idea as something on which I'd placed my stamp of approval and wanted to institute in the ward, and then explain the whole thing before inviting feedback. That way, if there is a fallout, it happens with the bishop, and doesn't harm other relationships in the ward.

Ideally, this would be wonderful. However, Bishops have a ton of work to do -- far too much, in my view. I'm pretty sure it would have died in PEC if it was up to the Bishop to hold a kick-off meeting with that breadth, when it involved only youth and the family history consultant, and HPGL. Plus, I mentioned earlier The Bishop had his opportunity to give input about the process like you're suggesting, and thought my own plan was the way to go.

But I do agree that some kind of unifying priesthood leader should have been involved in the execution, perhaps a Bishop's Counselor -- as this was an initiative which crossed auxiliaries.

Edited by mormonmusic

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Wow. If I were that Stake President and things didn't shape up after that, I think I'd appeal to Church Headquarters for a massive boundary realignment, and move all of the leadership (and other members, obviously) from this ward into other wards. It would create boundary mayhem, but then I'd talk to the Bishops in each of the wards, and tell that that certain specific people should not be called into leadership positions for a period of 2-3 years.

Might work -- boundary mayhem could be avoided by simply merging the existing ward with neighbouring ones where geography allowed. It's a bit of red tape -- as you say, there has to be an appeal to "Headquarters".

I'm not sure about putting people on the "Do Not Call" list -- I like to think we're a Church that allows inspiration and reptentance; if there is someone who responds to the rebuke and shows the right attitudes, I wouldn't want to be prevented from calling them into positions if I felt so inpsired.

Also, as a Stake President, I'd want decisions about Ward leadership to be made at the lowest level possible after a Bishopric is installed, and that means leaving it up to the Bishop.

Failing a boundary change, I think really strong oversight of the Ward by regular visits from Stake Presidency members, High Councilors, as well as frequent PPI's with Ward priesthood and auxiliary leaders. Targeted talks from the Stake for that particular Ward's problems as well.....

Edited by mormonmusic

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