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Question

I am a single female. For the past year, I have been unhappy with one of the men assigned to be my home teacher. While I appreciate this brother’s willingness to serve, I learned he is on our state’s sex offender list. So, I do not feel comfortable sharing personal things with him and the other home teacher when they visit. It also bothers me that my ward assigned him to come to my home without letting me know he is on the list. Also in the past, I had been asked to do service for him and was not told of the background. I accidentally discovered this by looking on the registry, as the local police page had shared the link.

I would like a blessing as I have been going through my own counseling. I realize I can discuss my frustration with the Bishop. I realize the value of the Atonement. I respect what the brother has changed. I do not know the background story. But I do not think it is fair for me to have a home teacher I do not trust. Also, I worry the sister missionaries should know as well, as they visit with him at times.

How do I approach this without sounding judgmental and like a busy body? Thank you for guidance.

Answer

It can be shocking to learn of the “sorrows that the eye can’t see”[i] when someone’s past actions are revealed to us. Even though this man hasn’t personally violated your trust, it can be difficult to know that he has violated someone’s personal safety. You’re in a vulnerable position as a single sister and need to know that the men who visit your home are above reproach.

You should ask your Bishop for a new home teacher if you don’t feel comfortable with this man. You don’t need to defend your decision in the same way this man doesn’t owe you an explanation for what he did in his past. Even though he may be in good standing with the Church, you are allowed to have your reasons for not feeling comfortable. President Gordon B. Hinckley reminded us that, “The Lord is forgiving, but sometimes life is not forgiving.”[ii]

You’re also worried about how your request for a new home teacher may be viewed by others. You can certainly hope that your bishop and high priest’s group leader will keep your request confidential. However, you need to feel comfortable in your own home when these men visit, so that becomes more important than how others view your request. Again, you have nothing to defend.

If you feel you need to explain your situation to your bishop, please do not hesitate to meet with him. This isn’t the same as defending yourself. You can see this as an opportunity to educate him about your experience and feelings. You can let him know how this has affected you. Perhaps he will receive ideas and inspiration for how to handle assigning this brother to other families in your ward.

It’s critical that you don’t gossip about this brother with other people in the ward. You know nothing of his past. As you stated, he needs the freedom to change, even though he has a record. This is one of the difficult consequences of his past choices, but none of us has the right to add to his burden by gossiping. The sex offender registry is full of men who have made amends, restitution, and changed their lives. Of course, there are plenty of offenders who haven’t improved their lives or repaired the damage they’ve caused. Either way, the registry is there to create public accountability to protect the innocent. However, it doesn’t provide any information on their restitution or recovery efforts.

You can always protect yourself and then encourage the bishop to be sensitive to families with minor children and single sisters. It’s a sensitive situation, for sure, but if this brother is working to rebuild his life, he’ll do it best in a community of saints who are “wise as serpents and harmless as doves”[iii] as they establish sensible boundaries while finding ways to fellowship someone who has made serious mistakes.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

 

[i] “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” Hymn 220

[ii] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1994/10/don-t-drop-the-ball?lang=eng

[iii] Matthew 10:16