Reason No. 251 why I never will be called as a Mormon bishop: I give bad advice.
As a former cop, I’m well aware of what goes on behind the doors of Utah homes. I’ve seen the full gamut of domestic abuse — everything from hollering to homicide.
Years later, I’m still smart enough to know that domestic violence is often a two-way street, but also that most of the heavier and therefore dangerous traffic is traveling in just one direction.
I don’t know what counsel Mormon bishops give to abuse victims now, but I do know what advice I’d give if I were a bishop today. Keep in mind that mine would be based on what I’ve seen that actually worked.
Once, I responded to a call in which a woman — weary of being knocked around whenever her husband came home loaded — waited until he passed out and then poured caustic PVC glue over his naked genitals.
We didn’t get the call until he woke up screaming loud enough to wake the neighbors. With a fat lip and a wicked gleam in her eye, the woman said he did it to himself.
Since the only other witness was a guy with at least a 0.30 blood alcohol level and his hands glued to his junk, who was to say he didn’t?
Other domestic violence calls I handled included a woman who dumped a 5-gallon can of warm honey into the cab of her husband’s new truck. Another woman cut off all the legs of her business executive husband’s pants. And there was a wife who left her abusive husband after selling every gun he owned.
My favorite — in terms of irony — was a woman who put two dozen stitches in her sleeping husband’s face with a picture of them in front of the Provo Temple on their wedding day.
Women weren’t the only ones playing catch-up. I handled more than a few calls in which the husband was clearly the victim but didn’t dare defend himself for fear of being the one who automatically (in those days) went to jail.
Anyway, this is the experience I would have to base my advice on as a new bishop. I know there’s a handbook with instructions on what church leaders should do in cases like this, but, judging from experience, it is not always followed.
In fact, here is a likely but somewhat imaginary interview I would have with a battered sister in my ward.
Sister Vick • “Bishop Kirby, my husband keeps slapping me in front of the children. Last week, he kicked me in the stomach.”
Me • “I’m really sorry this happened to you. Now, I’ve read the handbook, and it seems clear to me — and the Lord, mind you — that there are but three ways we can handle this situation. And the cool part is you get to choose.”
Sister Vick [sobbing] • “Oh, thank you.”
Me • “First, we can get you and the children out of the home and to a safe place where trained professionals will help you.”
Sister Vick • “And?”
Me [laying a Taser on the desk] • “I can call your husband in and let the Spirit talk to him about being a worthy priesthood holder.”
Sister Vick • “Or?”
Me • “I know a couple of guys who can make Brother Vick’s knees and thumbs bend 360 degrees. If that doesn’t work, they can rebaptize him by immersion for the remission of being an a--. He won’t ever bother you again.”
Sister Vick • “Oh, well, not that. Yet.”
Me [handing her a can of PVC glue] • “If none of those work for you, try anointing his, well, ahem, his you-know-what. … And remember: I’m here to help you. It’s my calling — the fun part of it.”