I was a counselor in a Bishopric ten years ago in a ward, that had recently been “promoted” from branch status, with a Bishop who was a year older than me (27). The ward was made up of a few students, a few young working families/couples, and a large group of converts – many of them young and inexperienced in the Church (in fact, that year we had 115 converts in five months with 15 over the age of 18 – that is another story). It was a fun, dynamic ward where the youth were nearly all new converts with a lot of excitement for the Gospel (we could have 30 or more kids at Mutual nights).

One week the Bishop was gone and I was conducting Sacrament Meeting when five minutes before Sacrament Meeting started the Mission President walked in with a member of the Seventy. We had a program already laid out and the speakers were on the stand. The Mission President asked if he and the Seventy could each take some time. The Seventy interrupted and stated (did not ask) that they were going to take the entire meeting. I told the assigned speakers that we would have to reschedule them for another week and they sat back in the congregation. I was looking forward to a nice meeting at that point as it is not often that a ward gets such “high profile” speakers. After the Sacrament, the Mission President spoke briefly and bore his testimony (it was a very nice talk), then the GA stood up. His first comments were about how apalled he was that the young men were not in white shirts (some had non-white shirts on but all had ties) and that the priests did not kneel on two knees when giving the sacrament prayers (both were new converts about 16 years old – only members in their families). He then started to chastise the ward for being too noisy and irreverant before the meeting started. He spoke for nearly 20 minutes and did not bear his testimony, but basically berated the ward for all of our “flaws”. After the meeting, he expressed his disappointment in me for not immediately cancelling the other speakers and allowing him to take over the meeting. By this point, I was so pissed off, I really did not give a rats @#$@ what he said. He then waltzed out with the Mission President who looked slightly embarassed.

There were some very upset members of our ward after this experience – mostly those of us who were “experienced” members. The converts seemed more puzzled than anything about the whole experience, but it did not really faze them. After I calmed down, I decided that it was really not that big of a deal as he was just trying to “fix” the problems he thought he saw, even though he did not have enough context to do so. It made me realize that I often do that in my life – jump into a situation to “fix” a supposed problem, rather than listen first to truly understand the situation before acting. It was one of those experiences that are surreal and a bit painful, but I did learn a lot from it.