Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bishop Harold Clayson and the Law of Chastity

Bishop Clayson had the dubious distinction of being both my Bishop and my elementary school principal. Perhaps he is the reason why I spent my childhood doing all I could to avoid bishops. Seeing the bishop was literally like going to the principal’s office.

As I was quite young during his tenor as bishop, I really didn't get to know him that well. In fact, I have only one Bishop Clayson story. It may not be so appropriate for this blog, but I would tell it often to my BYU ward when I was bishop, so I might as well tell it here.

I turned 12 near the end of Bishop Clayson’s service as bishop. That meant I had to have an interview with him in preparation to become and Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood. I was scared to death to go talk to him. But, in those days, before you got to that that dreaded interview, you had to go through all the Primary graduation requirements.

To graduate from Primary you had to recite all 13 Articles of Faith, repeat a number of scriptures you had to memorize, and with the Blazer program replacing the Guide Patrol, we had to recite the Blazer theme. We had to do all this in the home of the Primary president, who at the time was Sister Clark.

Sister Clark’s husband was one of Bishop Clayson’s counselors. So it was a double whammy. If I failed my Primary test, Sister Clark would tell Br. Clark and he would tell the bishop. I was convinced I would have to spend another year in Primary in I failed. So I studied hard.

I can still remember the sense of doom that came over me as Mom dropped me off at Sister Clark’s house and said she would be back in 30 minutes. Thirty minutes!!! Would it take that long? What if took longer? I was a nervous wreck. Matt and Nicki both passed this test. What if I was the first Heiss to flunk Primary?

Well, much to my surprise I passed with flying colors and I was out of her house in 10 minutes. What a relief! Now I had 20 minutes to calm down and finally feel good about myself as I waited for Mom. I didn't even care if she was late. I had passed my Primary test.

But the Primary inquisition was only half the battle. Just a few days later I was standing outside the bishop’s office waiting to see if I was worthy to be a Deacon. I was real worried about this interview because I had no idea what to expect. As bad and the Primary horror was, at least I could prepare. What if the bishop asked me a hard question and I got it wrong. Would I be the first Heiss to flunk a bishop’s interview?

When I was escorted into his office and sat on the chair across from his desk, I am sure Bishop Clayson knew I was intimidated. He did his best to make me feel at ease but I was likely too scared to recognize his efforts. I just wanted to be worthy. Was I smart enough to be worthy? I really had no idea what being worthy meant.

As he started asking me questions, I soon realized that this interview was far easier than my Primary probe. I knew all the answers to all his questions and Bishop Clayson seems impressed that I knew so much about the church. After a battery of questions, my confidence was soaring. I was even convinced that I knew everything. That's when it happened.

Bishop Clayson saved the more difficult questions for last. Those questions had to do with the Law of Chastity. Well, they weren't difficult for me because I had no idea what the Law of Chastity was. I clearly understood tithing, Word of Wisdom, honesty, Sabbath day, and obeying parents. But I had never heard of the Law of Chastity.

I realized it had to be important because Bishop Clayson’s demeanor changed from relaxed to very serious. He looked me in the eyes and asked: “Do you have any problems with the Law of Chastity. Now remember, you must be perfectly honest with me.”

I had been so impressive with my previous answers that I didn't want to disappoint Bishop Clayson by admitting that I had no idea what he was talking about. So I body said: “No, I have no problem with that.” I think he could tell I was a bit in the dark so he got even more serious and said: “Have you ever been involved with petting?”

I knew I was in trouble now.

It had been four years since we got rid of all our pets. I knew Nicki was still angry. But did she have to tell the bishop? Obviously the Law of Chastity had something to do with animals. I still loved animals even though I was allergic to them. So I spent a lot of time with Taby and Boots, the neighbor’s cats and Salty, the neighbor’s dog.

Yeah, I knew I was wrong in doing this. I wasn't helping my allergies by spending so much time with animals. But I had no idea this was the type of sin you had to talk to your bishop about.

I felt horrible. That interview was going so well but now I was guilty of a serious sin. I had no idea petting animals was even a sin. I was caught. I had just assured the bishop that I was honest, so I had to come clean with my sin. I had, indeed, violated the Law of Chastity. I had petted animals in spite of my allergies.

So, after a brief pause, I looked down at the floor and confessed to the Bishop that I had a fairly serious problem with petting and not only once but several occasions. The bishop’s jaw dropped. He couldn't believe that I had a serious Law of Chastity issue. To make sure we are on the same page, the bishop asked me to explain the last time I had this problem.

I told him it was earlier that day. Again, he looked totally surprised. I went on to say that as I was waiting for my Mom to drive to the interview, my neighbor’s cat Taby was outside and I called her over to see me. When Taby arrived, I scratched her under her chin and on her back. Taby always liked that. So, my latest incident with petting was just prior to my interview.

I think Bishops are trained not to laugh. I don’t know how he didn't bust out laughing when I confessed to petting a cat. Somehow he kept a straight face. He finally asked if I really knew what the Law of Chastity was. Obviously I didn't. So he said: “If you don’t know what it is, then you don’t have a problem with it.”

I passed my interview. I passed, even though I had a problem with petting animals while having severe allergies. What a great church!

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