Don over at Nine Moons tackles the question of how we should treat “advice” from a church leader (Bishop, Stake President). In Don’s case, the advice was to get out of the movie business. Don asks:
My question is: Is “advice” in an interview like this “counsel” that should be taken and obeyed? Or is it just an opinion that should be taken like anyone else’s opinion?
That’s a tough question. It’s easy to say that we should take advice to read our scriptures, write in our journal, and do our home teaching. But I’m less certain of the proper course if your Bishop says, “I know you want to go to law school, Kaimi, but I think you need to go be a bus driver instead.”
My current ward offers something of an example. It’s a struggling ward, as I’ve written. The members don’t come, and the ones who come won’t accept callings, and as a result a handful of members — including me and Mardell, and Logan Bobo and his wife Amy — perform a number of functions.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I may move from the ward at some point. There’s nothing specific on the horizon, but it seems to be a possibility that something will come up, and we may end up in another neighborhood or even another city.
Every time I have said anything of that sort to the Bishop, I get a hard sell:
The Lord wants me and my family in the ward for now. I may think that I will have money or other things (such as a functioning primary program) in another place, but I am getting blessings staying right where I am.
Sometimes he mentions how he originally wanted to go to Brooklyn, but ended up in Kingsbridge, and now he’s the Bishop.
I’ve never found these chats to be particularly convincing. It seems transparent to me that the Bishop is very concerned about his ward, and wants to keep leadership in place. But I’m less convinced that he is concerned about my welfare or the welfare of my family. And as a conceptual matter, I find it hard to believe that someone should never move from an ailing ward. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you and your family, and leave the old dysfunctional ward behind. I haven’t yet moved, but that stems from lack of the right opportunity above anything else.
The bottom line is that I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to advice from leaders. Religious advice is clearly fine. But I’m much less inclined to view non-religious advice — “Me personally, I would never buy a Sentra” or “I think that home schooling is [good/bad]” or “sell your movie theater” or “never leave the Bronx” — as something that needs to be followed.