Last Sunday was a typical Relief Society meeting – announcements, opening song, opening prayer, 4th Sunday TFOT lesson – until the bishop walked thru the door.
He had an announcement: After being counseled by the legal department in Salt Lake and the local Stake presidency, he was here to inform us that recently baptized members, Bro & Sis. John Doe, were in fact Bro. & Sis. John Smith – and that Bro. Smith was a registered sex offender in the state of X but had failed to register in the state of Y, and that he was baptized using an alias.
Water dripping. Crickets chirping. Dead silence.
Registered sex offender. In the ward. Oh my gosh.
The bishop continued: After much suspicion, they were finally able to determine who Mr. Doe was, and because he had failed to register according to his probation, he had been arrested and was now waiting in jail to be arraigned. Additionally, the bishop said, he wanted the adult congregation to know that both Bro. & Sis. Doe, now Smith, had at various times over the year and a half of their membership been asked to babysit during Stake Family Firesides, meetings formerly known as Enrichment, and in individual homes.
Babysitting? Our children? Fear, panic, squirming, and uneasiness begin.
The bishop wasn’t done: He said, in full disclosure, that he had also learned that Bro. Doe/Smith was also Facebook friends with several youth in the ward and that his original felony occurred with an 11 year old girl. (Which can be found on the X state’s sex offender website).
Is this going to end?
The bishop concluded that, to his knowledge, there had NOT been ANY incidents in the ward involving children/youth and Bro. Doe/Smith, nor did he believe any would be forthcoming. He also counseled that Sis. Doe/Smith, although aware they were using an alias was told by her husband it was for other reasons, and that she needed to be embraced and befriended.
He then asked for questions.
My first reaction was the say, “Whew! I guess my pathetic attendance habits at church functions have paid off big time.” Or, “So glad my husband keeps the kids at home when I come to an activity!” But then I looked around at all the women who have brought their kids to church to be cared for in “nursery” while they attended an activity. Holy Crap.
I also learned on Sunday that you don’t have to prove who you are to be baptized or produce and ID. I suppose even if you did, it wouldn’t warrant a back ground check.
So, what do you ask your bishop once he tells you there is a registered sex offender in your ward? How do you react? Do you start looking at everyone suspiciously? What do you do to safeguard your kids at church? How do you keep from immediately judging?
Glad it is General Conference this Sunday so I don’t have to worry about the bishop interrupting Relief Society.