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LDS bishops and confidentiality


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#1 dahlia

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 01:41 PM

OK, please correct me if I have the heirarchy wrong. Every LDS male can become an Aaronic priest, right? Some are Melchizedek priests, correct? So, 1) What is the correct title for the head of a ward or branch? Is that personal always called a 'bishop'? 2) If the bishop is a regular person, is he considered a member of the clergy for legal reasons? For example, is anything told to him confidential and he cannot be made to testify to it in a court of law? I guess my question comes from trying to compare a Catholic priest or Protestant minister, who has been through seminary, been anointed, and (big assumption here) has been trained in the legal ramifications of his duties. I just wonder if your usual layman drawn from the congregation would have an understanding of privacy and confidentiality and, since any worthy male can be called to head the ward, does that person have the legal standing of other members of the clergy? Thanks again.

#2 Dravin

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 02:01 PM

1) What is the correct title for the head of a ward or branch? Is that personal always called a 'bishop'?


A Ward is headed by a Bishop and is referred to as such, either without name or as Bishop Smith or what have you. The head of a Branch is a Branch President and he would be referred to as the above but with President instead of Bishop. The leader of a Stake or District would be a Stake of District President and the same pattern holds.

BTW, the President of the Elder's Quorum is also technically a President but in my experience they are less often referred to as such instead going by Brother Jones or if close even by a first name. When in doubt calling someone Brother of Sister shouldn't result in ruffled feathers though you may be corrected (ideally gently) as to their title.

2) If the bishop is a regular person, is he considered a member of the clergy for legal reasons? For example, is anything told to him confidential and he cannot be made to testify to it in a court of law?


My understand is that Bishops, Branch Presidents (and Stake Presidents) are considered clergy legally. At least in the United States a Bishop (or the other two) can perform legal marriages as other clergy can. I do believe that the Church issues them a special certificate certifying that they are clergy for the Church for legal purposes. I can't cite law but my understanding is that they qualify for the purpose of testimony as well. Someone much better in the know will probably come along shortly.

As far as legal ramifications pursuant to their duties, the Church has a handbook of instructions (Which covers how the church is supposed to operate and I imagine it takes into consideration legal requirements as well as moral and doctrinal) that Leadership receives and I know specifically in cases of how to handle abuse there is a Hotline set up for leadership to call asking about legal responsibilities. It would not surprise me in the least if there was a general legal hotline (or if the abuse hotline is the same thing) but I can't say for sure.

Edited by Dravin, 21 July 2010 - 07:52 PM.

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#3 MarginOfError

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 02:31 PM

and if there's any question, the Church has a legal department (or legal departments around the world) to consult with local leaders about these issues.

Dude. When both Vort and MOE are in agreement, the thinking has been done. :D


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#4 Just_A_Guy

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 03:01 PM

OK, please correct me if I have the heirarchy wrong. Every LDS male can become an Aaronic priest, right? Some are Melchizedek priests, correct?


There are two facets to priesthood in the Mormon church. The first facet is "priesthood office", which more or less reflects one's stage in life; and the second is "calling", which reflects what the person actually does in the Church.

Priesthood Office

Basically, there are two orders of priesthood--Aaronic and Melchizedek--and within each of those "orders" are several "offices":

Aaronic Priesthood:

--Deacon
--Teacher
--Priest
--Bishop

Melchizedek Priesthood:
--Elder
--High Priest
--Patriarch
--Seventy
--Apostle

A group of men holding the same office is called a "quorum", and one hour of each Sunday service is devoted to quorum meetings (women go to "Relief Society" during this time). Each ward (local congregation) has a deacons' quorum, a teachers' quorum, a priests' quorum, and an elders' quorum. Each stake (group of 8-10 wards) has one "quorum" of High Priests; on Sundays, high priests in a single ward will get together in a "group". (I'm not aware of any formally organized quorum of bishops or patriarchs in the Church. There are also quorums of Seventies and Apostles, but these are governing/administrative quorums over the entire Church.)

The typical rite of passage for a Mormon male is that as a teenager he spends a couple years at each of the first three offices of the Aaronic Priesthood (Deacon, Teacher, Priest), and at 18 or 19 years old he is ordained to the office of an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Callings

There are a multitude of "callings", or roles, that one can fill in a local congregation (teacher, librarian, nursery leader, etc); and lots of them don't require that the person have any office in the priesthood at all. But the main positions that involve running actual congregations, or groups of congregations, are as follows:

A ward is supervised by a leader, called the "bishop", who has two counselors (collectively called the "bishopric"). The bishop must be ordained to the office of a bishop in the Aaronic Priesthood, and to the office of a high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood. He will retain these "offices" even after his term of service ends, and on Sundays he will meet with the high priests group. The bishop's counselors are also ordained to the office of High Priests, but not to the office of a bishop. Again, they retain that office even after their term of service is over. But as a matter of secular law, they are no longer clergy.

A small congregation is called a "branch" and is overseen by a branch president and his two counselors. A branch president must be ordained to the office of elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Elders who are serving in branch presidencies, AFAIK, are recognized as clergy under secular law.

A group of wards is called a "stake", which is overseen by a stake president and two counselors. All of them must be ordained to the office of a high priest. The stake president and his counselors ("stake presidency") are assisted by a group of twelve high priests called the "high council". As a matter of law I think currently serving members of stake presidencies are recognized as clergy; members of the high council (and former members of stake presidencies, who retain the office of high priest) are not.

Now, theoretically, within a ward--if none of the bishopric are present, then the elders' quorum can step in with running the meetings; and if no elders are present, then priests can step in, and then the teachers, and then the deacons. I personally have never seen that happen in a ward, though.

Clear as mud? ;)

Edited by Just_A_Guy, 21 July 2010 - 03:03 PM.

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#5 john doe

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 07:43 PM

LDS.org - Lessons Chapter - Priesthood Organization
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