My former Mormon Bishop was a liar. I already knew he was a bit strange, somewhat creepy and a flake, but I found out he was a liar, too. This was, I think, one of the later points that helped signpost me away from Mormonism.
I went to a party held by someone who was a recent exmo. I was still a practising Mormon at that time. It would have been about 1980 or 1981. A young member of the ward was there, too. She was 16 and had obviously being drinking alcohol before she arrived at the party. She was quite drunk. I was in my very early 20s. I was concerned about the state she was already in.
So I decided to personally deal with her drink 'orders' at the party. She asked for a rum and Coke. She got a coke with a negligible amount of rum. She wanted a Martini and lemonade. She got a Lemonade and did I remember to put in some Martini? Who can possibly say?! Someone at the party (a nevermo) asked me why I was giving her so much booze? When I explained what I was doing, she thought it an excellent plan and gave it her blessing. She expressed concern that Mormon teenagers were not taught how to drink responsibly. To which I agreed. (Much to my then surprise...)
About a week later I was called into the office of Bishop Gold. (Not his real name, but close enough, for real life!) He barked out: “Give me one good reason why I should not put you before a church court?”
I thought: “Well, probably because I haven’t done anything wrong, you idiot.”
I looked at him and said, coldly, “Well, Bishop Gold. Why don’t you start by telling me what is on your mind?”
He gave me a cock-and-bull story about how he knew I had gotten a young girl deliberately drunk and that he was not only considering a church court, but also considering reporting me to the police for encouraging underage drinking.
He said: “And I know this is true, because a non-member friend of mine told me that he had been invited to that party and how it had become an orgy!”
I knew this was untrue and that he had probably been given a very distorted version of the events at the party by a rather strange and disturbed Mormon woman who had fried their brains with illegal drugs several years before she became a Mormon.
I suddenly felt very angry at Bishop Gold. Normally I was known for being a quiet and “unassuming” person. Whilst I am usually a fairly placid person who is slow to anger, when I do get angry I do get angry. It was all I could do to restrain myself from really telling Bishop Gold what I (and most of the Ward, as it happens!) really thought of him.
I looked him straight in the eye and said: “Bishop, what I would like to know is, first of all, why you have chosen to lie to me, today? I am not pleased that you asked me to come to a meeting with you, and that you threaten me with a church court and then you lie to me.”
He went bright red. I though: “Bingo! Got you!”
He blustered for several seconds. He then said. “I didn’t lie to you! I… Well…”
I continued: “You did not have a friend from work go to that party.” (I knew all the people who attended, so that was a dumb story to use and was a totally unnecessary invention on his part.)
“In fact, I would guess that Sister Singer (not her real name) told you about the party, didn’t she?” (I could see by the way his jaw dropped that I had scored a direct hit, even though it was only a guess.)
“Did you know that Sister Singer was not at the party? So she obviously passed on to you a juicy snippet of gossip that she embellished and added on to!
“An orgy was it? Well, actually, no. The hostess and her boyfriend kissed, but then, as it was her birthday party, no surprise there. By the way, Bishop Gold, what is the legal age for drinking at a private party in Britain?”
He looked much happier now. Here was an answer he knew! Or thought he knew. “It is 18!” he said, with a sneer on his face. His sneering expression said: “Yes. You think you are clever, don’t you? You spotted I was making it up, you realised who had given me the information but I have got you on this one!”
“You are wrong, Bishop Gold. The drink laws in Britain are complicated. In Britain it is generally the case that the age for drinking alcohol in Britain in licensed premises is 18. Incidentally, if a child of 14 or older is eating a meal with his or her parents they are legally allowed to drink alcohol with their meal, either wine or cider.
"However, as for the legal age for drinking at a private party or in a private home in Britain? You might be surprised to learn that there isn’t one. It is perfectly legal for children to drink alcohol at home or at a private party they are at in someone else's home. You and I might disagree with the law, but that it is the law as it stands.” He went pale.
I then explained how I realised that she had arrived at the party when already drunk (probably with booze from Sister Singer, I suspected, but I didn't voice my suspicions to Bishop Gold) and that that I had given her 'pop' with enough alcohol to give it a smell and taste, but not enough to have an effect on her.
I had won. And he knew it. There was no Church Court. Our relationship thereafter was strained to put it mildly.
But this set me thinking. He had been all for setting up a church court for me (Oh, yes. Bishop Gold liked his church courts) but he had decided to base this on nothing but the gossip of a mentally ill member (she was jealous of the woman hosting the party) his own fatally flawed understanding of the British licensing laws as they stood in the late 1970s and early 1980s and he had chosen to deliberately lie to me. Doubtless he would have seen his lie as a subterfuge to break me and get me to confess. But it was a lie, never-the-less.
Prior to that I had known Bishop Gold as a blowhard, a flake, a martinet and a pompous, creepy, arsehole. I now knew him also as being a dangerously flawed individual who saw nothing wrong in lying to get his own way.
Yes, that was one of the baby steps that lead me away from the Mormon church to the truth. And I never thanked Bishop Gold for his help in that regard!
(The original of this post was created in 2006. This is a slightly different, modified version)