I got offended so that’s why I left the church!
Has someone ever offended you? Do you know people who claim they were offended by the Bishop or Pastor and that they, “will never step foot in that building as long as he is Bishop”? Have you heard about someone who left the church because of what someone else supposedly said, whether in leadership or not? Have you ever offended someone and didn’t even know it but found out about it later? Have you ever spread a rumor about someone through the gossip line only to find out later that it wasn’t true?
Offenses happen all the time, both inside and outside church life. There seems to be an expectation that people within any church should be kinder, gentler, more loving and less prone to offenses and I believe that this exaggerates most offenses inside the church community and causes most of the hurtful feelings people encounter in dealing with church going members.
Having been in several leadership positions in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) over the past 20+ years on a local level, I have been involved in many experiences with people being offended and others claiming I had offended them. In trying to be involved in the online experience of the LDS church, including reading the experiences of those who left the church, I have also read many accounts of the reasons they have given for leaving.
To all those who struggle with how to deal with offenses, I believe I have discovered something anew that could help you and hope and pray that this article will have that desired result.
Apparently I have a rather offensive personality or very little class or taste because for some reason, I’ve managed to offend a lot of people over the years. I am an expert at it and I haven’t even tried. Apparently I’m unconsciously competent in the area of offending my fellow man. This has resulted in several confrontations and experiences that have been causes for growth on my part and in our relationships. Here are a few examples of offenses, both surrounding me and otherwise:
1-Several years ago while I was the Scoutmaster, a member of the Bishopric and I got into an argument. I really don’t remember what it was about, but for the next 3 weeks we rather avoided each other and I realized that this was not going to work out. Finally I decided to confront him and state that I was very offended by whatever he had done. He replied, “You’re offended? I’m the one that was offended and you should not have done that.”
So here we are, both of us claiming that the other had been the guilty party. We both had the same experience and felt the other was wrong. By gathering up courage to confront him, we got our differences settled and also clarified and cleared up something because we were following “the law” and example given by the Lord (see below).
2-Another time, someone came to the Bishop stating that I had offended them and he needed to deal with it, but I told the Bishop that it was the wrong time for him to get involved as they needed to come to me because I had no idea I had offended them. That is not how “the law” works and this was taking his precious time away from more serious issues.
3-On another occasion a Relief Society President (of the women of the Ward) was offended that one of her counselors had gone around her back and stated to one of the women that she didn’t need to do what the President had said. This enraged the President and she came to the Bishop asking that he release her counselor and call another to replace her.
4-People who leave the church almost always make sure that the world knows why they left, and with the Internet, that is very easy to do. Their pride has been hurt and they want to exact revenge. I love reading their reasoning, as it seems to follow a pattern, no matter how twisted. I don’t know if you can say that this is a comprehensive analysis but I find a few basic categories that all of them fit in are: A-sin, B-disagreement over doctrine and C-being offended. It’s a latter that I wish to talk about below.
Some of these people have been excommunicated (removed from the church, a very serious charge and an involved process to do so) and they have made some rather outrageous claims of the way it was handled and how mistreated they were. I have been through a few of these “courts” and I can instantly tell when they are lying and exaggerating their claims. The final product is that they were “offended” by the process and “everyone needs to know how bad it was” so they can avoid having anything to do with the LDS Church and its teachings. They were wrong and won’t admit it. There is a reason why they were excommunicated and it is now apparent in their actions.
Others have simply left the church because of what someone said and they then go about telling everyone about how awful this person was and that is why they are never going back. They were either too demanding, angry, hurtful or some other critical attribute and it was too much for them to handle as, “real Christians would never act this way.”
How do we deal with this and those who are offended?
In everyone of these situations, what is the proper way to handle them? What, if anything, has the Lord revealed to us regarding this issue? Surely with something as important as this, He would have done something similar to the Law revealed to Moses and given to the House of Israel, His people, as a way to live together in love and harmony.
There are actually very distinct and specific instructions about how to handle offenses in the church (any church can use this) and it was revealed in February 1831 to the Prophet Joseph Smith and is part of his “Law” to the Church labeled D&C 42. At the end of the chapter in verses 88 – 93 the Lord tells us this:
88 And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.
89 And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world.
90 And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many.
91 And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed. And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God.
92 If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her.
93 And thus shall ye conduct in all things.
All offenses need to be handled in this manner: the person who is offended needs to go to the offender and tell them that they had offended them. They are to do it privately, in person and obviously with a desire to repair the breech and grow the relationship in humility and love.
But what do most people do? They accuse the offender (usually in their thoughts only) of committing the offense on purpose and so the offended then shows how offended they were. The offender is supposed to recognize something is wrong (by reading their thoughts and actions) and come to them asking for forgiveness. When the offender does not respond in the manner the offended expects, it “proves” in their mind just how awful he/she was and Mount Everest is erected where the anthill once stood.
You can see what I am talking about, right? Have you witnessed this before? Wouldn’t life be easier if we didn’t have to deal with human nature, personal feelings and psychology?
What else do they do? They tell others. They gossip. They text and Facebook and comment. Then they leave the church and they tell the world about it on Facebook, through texting and commenting on blogs, retelling the story over and over again making the deed worse than the grossest crimes committed on a nightly TV drama.
But all they had to do was confront the person and tell them what they felt happened. Usually that solves the problem and after a few minutes, they are closer together and understand one another.
If they don’t admit the wrongs done, what does “the law” state to do? They are to go higher up the channel, to those in authority over them and tell them about it. That was what was wrong with those who told the Bishop that I had offended them. They didn’t come to me first. I didn’t even know I had offended them, yet they went straight to the Bishop getting him involved and not developing the courage to tell me first.
This wonderful “law” brings growth to all involved. It makes those who have been offended develop the courage and faith to go to the offender and make them see what has happened. We all need to grow and get better at human relationships and this is the first step in this situation. Whenever you see someone writing or saying anything about “being offended” the first thing you need to do is ask them if they have confronted the offender and tell them the problem. Most of the time they haven’t and they say something like,
“Oh I know what he meant! It was clearly his fault and there is no need to confront him. He needs to repent and tell me he is sorry and I will think about forgiving him, otherwise I am not going back to church!”
The reality is usually far different. The offended is usually not enough of a grownup person to confront them and wants to remain in his turtle-like shell in safe protection from growth and confrontation. The “law” of the Lord puts the burden of dealing with the issue on the backs of those who feel they have been offended so they can grow and deal with the issue. If they do their part, the next step involves authority getting involved and taking things to a higher level so they can grow too.
I am so thankful for the revealed “law” given by the Lord in these latter days! I have used it many times and save many relationships. I have suggested to the Bishop in our Ward to use it when confronted by those claiming offense and it has brought more harmony to our small community. I have seen people grow and grow together in love and understanding.