A few posts ago I posted the news article about a man who is in jail having been charged with "stalking President Monson". Stalking was the only legal charge (aside from a previous trespassing violation) filed against him. Since reading the news article a friend and I have been to the SLC jail to visit this man. Our visit was last Sunday. It wasn't so I could talk about it, or share it. It was for personal reasons I don't feel like elaborating about. That being the case, I won't comment much on specifics other than to say that there are some sore spots the church has that could use some attention. Not criticism, but loving attention.
The church does so much good for so many people. I has done and does incredible good for me. It's all of our duty to care for those among us in need, and continually seek to live the truth our scriptures posses.
So if you're the church where do you put those who come to us with needs like this man from the news article? This man is homeless and has no family. He told us that he wanted to speak with the Prophet and tried the chain of command through his local leader which produced no results; this he said was due to his beliefs about who he is, and his homeless circumstances. This then lead to the events at Church Headquarters. He came with shirt and tie and repeatedly asked for an appointment on various days. He was on an errand and was going to continue it even if it meant he goes to prison.
This man felt God directed him to speak with President Monson regarding his unique challenges getting to the temple. If God indeed did direct this, and the man was prevented from doing so, then some policy and procedure needs to be addressed. We know God sends people among us in disguise (Hebrews 13:2) and should this case turn out to be among them, we may be in for a few surprises.
So what does the church do with those who persist in speaking with the Church's living prophet about their plight? Some may need counsel, others may need to simply deliver a message, or others may need other kinds of help. But it's troublesome when someone doesn't fit the traditional criteria and doesn't quite fit in, and ends up in prison. Especially when they are not a threat or danger to anyone. That speaks of a wound or cause for attention.
I wonder about this man being turned away from church headquarters and sent to prison because no one can think where else to send him. This is a very very difficult thing. He went from a church to a jail. Was there middle ground? A real place of refuge for him if he persisted in his desire to speak with President Monson? What do we do with him? It's a sore spot and while uncomfortable, avoiding it isn't going to cure it. Perhaps things have previously been done to help him, I honestly don't know, so again will not comment. From what I saw it was obvious this man wasn't out to harm anyone or himself, he was not angry and was not a threat. He has some needs that are not being met, and the system had not helped him solve his concerns. He was willing to accept the incarcerated consequences to make himself be heard.
In my view, prison is not the answer to people who won't go away, and don't fit what we as a church want people to be like. Since it was from a church headquarters that the police were called, that makes us the responsible party for his imprisonment. This man is a member of the church, called himself a believer, and was sent to prison on the only charge they could come up with, which was stalking. This is a bit painful.
I wish I had heard of someone calling his local leader, or someone calling a counselor to come and visit with him and help him get what he needed. Or at least offering a phone call to a leader that would satisfy the man's request. Maybe they did, I don't know. It would seem odd that God calls modern prophets, only to then isolate them behind layer after layer of administration and protocol. But what do I know.
I'm no leader, nor am in any position to speak of such decisions. But I hope and pray something good comes of this man's plight. I hope he was not turned away without offers to help. I don't know all the details, and don't know what, if anything has been done for him in the past. I hope it in some small way a visit helped brighten this man's day. God can use such a place for good, as he said to Joseph Smith, but prison can be a dark place. The physical building has no windows and lets in no natural light. A sad symbol of living in darkness.
I read in scripture about Christ visiting with "the least of these" and with the outcasts, misfits, and rejected of society. The more I learn of Christ the more light I see truly emanates from Him.
My point here is to be aware of how we treat people. Whether or not the Church acted correctly or not, I don't know. I don't know what efforts were made in this man's behalf. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, and continue to lend my support. What I know is we should be mindful of how we treat each other. The Lord says how we treat the "least of these" we also do to Him. (Matthew 25:40).