Updated on August 21, 2023
Doug Tales 132: Friends, Part Two
Doug Mendenhall’s former friends complained about Doug to his local church leader when they learned about Doug’s daughter having spiritual gifts. When Doug talked to his church leader about his financial difficulties, his LDS ward bishop spoke to him about the prior friends’ complaints about Doug. Doug writes about the conflict in My Peace I Give Unto You (2001), pp. 144-147:
“Doug, will you please ask the Bishop for help?” my wife Dianne urged. “There isn’t much food left and the landlord called about rent again. Please promise me, Doug, that you will talk to him tomorrow at church.” Dianne was very insistent.
“Okay, I’ll talk to him tomorrow.” I looked down and walked away.
I couldn’t believe this. Two days ago I learned that my daughter Denise had the power and ability to completely take away our financial stress, and yet she refused. I had asked her over and over the past two days and each time she kind of scowled at me and told me, “No, Daddy, look inside.”
If she said that one more time, I thought I would strangle her. Why couldn’t she just give me those winning lottery numbers?
I had prayed every night and morning that her heart would be softened, that she would tell me what I needed to know, but she was as stubborn as I was. She left me no choice but to go begging to the Bishop after church tomorrow. Oh, I hated the thought of that. I just wanted to provide for my family and she was standing in my way.
Just yesterday, I had talked to our caseworker at Medicaid. She gave me a list of documents that they needed before they could rule on our case. But because I hadn’t licensed my survey business, I didn’t have the documents she wanted. I tried to tell her that I couldn’t get some of the information, but she was very insistent and wouldn’t be satisfied until I promised her something I couldn’t deliver.
“Bishop, can we talk?” I cornered him after services.
“Sure, Doug, come into my office where it’s a little more private. You know, this actually works out well because I need to talk to you.” He held the door for me.
“Sit down, Doug, make yourself comfortable.” He smiled warmly and took the chair behind his desk.
“What can I do for you?”
“Well, you see, Bishop,” I bowed my head, “I haven’t been able to work since Denise was in the hospital. I’ve tried but everything has gone wrong and, well, we have very little food left and our landlord is threatening to kick us out of the house if I don’t give him the rent. The hospital and state are arguing about the medical bills and we are caught in the middle without a penny. I guess what I’m saying . . . no, what I’m asking is, well . . . please, we need rent and food. Can the Church help us?” I finished with flowing tears.
I had been raised to be self-reliant and to actually admit that I wasn’t, hurt me more than I thought it could. I couldn’t believe I had just asked someone else to provide for my family.
“Oh, Doug, you know we love you and understand your pain. The Church would be honored to help. How much is your rent and who is your landlord and I will take care of it. As far as food goes, we have food vouchers redeemable at the local market that I will gladly give you. We love you and want to help you. You have been there in the past for us donating your time and money, so much so, that we cannot deny you in your time of need. Thank you for letting us help you.” He smiled again.
Bitterness filled me, I was angry at having to ask. If only my daughter . . .
“Thank you, Bishop. I don’t know what to say,” I replied, his generosity amazed me.
“Now that that is taken care of, I need to talk to you about something that troubles me.” As he began his posture changed. He fidgeted with the pen on his desk. “I received a call last week from a former member of our congregation. He kept me on the phone for almost an hour as he told me a story he had heard.”
He lowered his eyes. His discomfort was beginning to affect me. “Doug, it was Jeff, your good friend and former neighbor, who called me. The story you told him had him very upset.”
He looked at me as if expecting something. I had no clue what.
“Doug, he asked – no, demanded, that you be removed from our congregation. He said you were involved in things unholy and blasphemous before God. He warned me not to let you infect anyone else in the congregation.” He paused to let his words register with me.
“Wha . . . Jeff said what . . . about me? I don’t understand.” I was shocked, stunned and incredibly hurt.
“Doug, I told Jeff to mind his own business and that I didn’t need his counsel on what to do with my congregation. He hung up but he wasn’t satisfied with my response. I feel that he will try to cause you more problems.” He took courage in the fact that he had stood up for me. He raised his eyes to meet mine.
“I need you to tell me what you told Jeff.”
“I just told him what was happening with Denise.” I answered, still shocked, trying desperately to understand Jeff’s reaction.
“Doug, will you tell me what has been going on with Denise?” He tried to get me to focus on what he wanted to hear; namely, Denise’s story.