Letter: The concept of an LDS Church “lay leader” scares me to death

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The sun rises on the temple of the LDS Church on the first day of General Conference in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.

I’ve never talked too much about why I left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the recent lead article in The Tribune compelled me to write.

I was born and raised in the church. My father was a bishop. I had always, from a very young age, been bothered by the lack of knowledge of the presiding leaders. All prayers were dry and predictable. All sermons were lacking in knowledge or style.

When I was a teenager I began to question why the Mormon Church used only “amateurs.” Catholic priests were highly trained and articulate – think Francis Mannion. Years later I met Tom Goldsmith. I still can’t believe that one of the great minds in American philosophy chose to live in Salt Lake City as a Unitarian minister.

But back to my disdain for amateurs, or as the church calls them “lay leaders.” These bishops, as the church calls them have the power of life or death over teen aged children, be it regarding mission qualifications or allegations of rape from a 17-year-old girl at Brigham Young University.

And who supervises these “lay bishops,” a stake president, who graduated from the bishopric, or a General Authority who came from, guess where? Remember the “Peter principle”?

Getting back to my personal story, I was a church-going, choir singing seventeen year old.

My father was the first counselor of the bishopric in our ward. (By the way, I loved my father dearly). The only reason that he held that position was that he was a traveling hat salesman and his flexible time could accommodate the needs of the position. He knew nothing about Christianity or Mormonism, he had never read the Bible, he had never read the Book of Mormon (he had read Cleon Skousen). He had never had any training in theology. He was a true “lay leader.” What he knew of theology you could put in a thimble, but because he was a “lay leader,” he was the first counselor in our ward.

One night the members of stake presidency came to our home and asked to meet with him in private. In about an hour they emerged from their conference with my father and announced to my mother and me, “We would like to introduce your new bishop.”

So there was my dad, a bishop. Did I mention that what my father knew of theology could fit in a thimble? He was a good man and I think he didn’t do any harm. It went from there. The more I questioned the less I believed. Joseph Smith was the consummate amateur, a true gold digger.

The danger of the concept of a “lay leader” scares me to death.

Kay Barrell, Murray

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