The Case of the Dueling Holy Spirits (Ghosts)

Recently, a LDS bishop fired a Sunday School teacher for discussing pre-1978 Mormon black history, the groundbreaking 2013 essay titled “Race and the Priesthood,” and other historic racial documents with his class of teenagers.  Here is how the story was reported in the SLTrib:

“Anything regarding black history before 1978 is irrelevant,” Dawson (the former Sunday School teacher) recalls his bishop saying, “and a moot point.”

Then, the former teacher says, his bishop insisted during a February interview that Dawson agree never again to bring up the essay or discuss “black Mormon history” in the class.

Dawson declined–even after believing he would be “released” from teaching the class for disobedience.

“If the [Holy] Spirit guides me in a way that involves these multitude of documents,” he asked the bishop, “who am I to resist the enticing of the Spirit?”

The bishop replied, according to Dawson, “The Spirit is telling me to tell you not to use those documents.”

And so it went.

The ironic part of this story is that Brian Dawson is white and his wife is from Nigeria.  They have 4 children, all pictured in the SLTrib story.  They look like a wonderful family.

So here we have it:  dueling promptings from the Spirit or Holy Ghost.  Obviously the bishop’s Spirit won and Dawson was canned.  But the question still remains:  Which prompting was real and which one was imagined?

While I come down on the side of Dawson, it’s an interesting conundrum.  Mathew writing at, makes a very worthwhile observation:  “Mormons have a hard time just owning their sh*t.”  Commenting on Mathew’s post SGNM states:  “It’s a shame we’re not as averse to taking the Spirit’s name in vain as we are to taking the Lord’s in vain.”

My wife, a few years ago, had an interesting conversation with our bishop at the time.  (I was a party to the discussion.)  The bishop wanted to release my wife from being the Sunbeam teacher in the Primary and call her to be the Relief Society clerk.  A huge part of my wife’s life is teaching in the Primary, and she is not gifted with secretarial skills; she likes artsy stuff.

The bishop indicated that he had come to his inspired decision while meditating in the temple, implying a Spirit connection.  His proposal was devastating to my wife.  She is not easily brought to tears, but she immediately began quietly crying.  The bishop then asked me if I could sustain him in his proposal.  I pointed out that this was clearly a problem for my wife.  In retrospect, I wish I had been more forceful.  Luckily, the next day the bishop called and said she could remain as the Sunbeam instructor.  A position that she has held to this day.

I think we all need to be careful about dropping the name of Holy Ghost or Spirit.  I personally don’t believe that God and the Holy Ghost are stirring the pot.  I doubt that the Holy Ghost was either on Dawson’s side or his bishop’s side.  Can’t we just have a discussion where each side expresses their opinion?  Does a bishop really need to set up his conversation with “while I was in the temple”?

This entry was posted in mormonism, Personal Essays, Religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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