In Awe of Church Leaders and In Fear of Jesus

One of my earliest memories as a member of the church came when I was about five years old. This was back in the day when families would go to church for Sunday school classes in the morning, and then return for sacrament meeting in the evening. We lived only about a block from the church, and I was walking home alone on a beautiful summer day.

Shortly after I left the building I became aware that someone was walking up behind me. I turned and saw Bishop Parkinson a few steps away. But I clearly remember that I thought that he was more than just a local bishop. I was pretty sure that this man was also Jesus.

The thought that Jesus was walking behind me, and getting closer, filled my little soul with great fear. So I fled. I ran home as fast as my little legs would carry me. I did not turn around or stop until I got home. What a relief to escape this bishop whom I thought was also Jesus.

I have not really given this early memory much thought. But now wonder why I would feel this way. It seems that I had a combination of two attitudes that might be good, or might be less than good. These attitudes are:

1 – An awe for church leaders.

2 – A fear of God.

It is good to have a healthy respect for church leaders. We should sustain them in their callings, and be grateful for their efforts. But Awe? This is an area where my attitude has changed quite a bit. About ten years ago I held church leaders, both local and general, in much higher esteem than I do now. Now they are just people, not much different from me. I do not have the nervous excitement during interviews and conversations like I used to. I don’t get to meet many General Authorities, but it would not be as big a deal today as it would have been a decade or two ago.

It might also be good to have a fear of God. We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There are several scriptures about a proper fear we should have toward God. A common compliment many years ago might be that someone was a God-fearing person. What does it say of a five year old who wants to run away from the thought that Jesus might be coming. Would it be more appropriate that if I thought my bishop was Jesus that I would run toward him instead of away? This is another area where I have changed. I do not fear God as much as I once did. He loves me. His work is to bring to pass my immortality and eternal life. Why should I not seek his companionship? I have even thought at times that if it were time for me to step up to the judgment bar of God that I would do so without much fuss. I do not say this to brag about any great righteousness. I’m just not that afraid of Him anymore.

So, I am not currently in awe of church leaders, nor do I have a great fear of God. Is this progress?

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11 Responses to “In Awe of Church Leaders and In Fear of Jesus”


  1. 1 M&M January 11, 2007 at 1:56 am

    Interesting thoughts, Eric. I love especially the picture of a five-year-old running to his bishop rather than away because he thought he was Jesus. Each day is different for me…some days I think I would run and hide because of fear and insecurity and frustration with my weaknesses, and other days, I think I would run –full sprint — to Him.

  2. 2 Naiah Earhart January 11, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Forgive me as I have a complete mom moment and tell you that you are just beyond precious!!!

    (nevermind this was decades ago)

    It’s so funny how children’s minds will morph things that seem so evident and straightforward to adults into something entirely new…

  3. 4 BrianJ January 12, 2007 at 2:14 am

    Interesting thoughts.

  4. 5 Teancum January 12, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    I know the awe that I feel in regards to Church leaders is not for the leader, but for the Spirit they posses. I want to live my life in a way that also makes me worthy of possesing that same Spirit.

    My fear for God is not for Him personally, but for the blessings I will NOT obtain if I do not live worthy of eternal life.

  5. 6 Eric Nielson January 12, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Brian:

    Thanks for letting me know.

    Teancum:

    Seems like you have a good attitude, dude.

  6. 7 Geoff January 15, 2007 at 1:30 am

    I’m with you Eric. Any awe I felt about church leaders in the past is done for me now.

    We all made the same covenants — we can all either keep them or not regardless of the assignment we currently have in the church. (I find myself using the word “assignment” in place of “calling” more lately actually.)

  7. 8 Eric Nielson January 15, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Thanks Geoff.

    Assignment, unfortunately, is often the right word.

  8. 9 Kullervo February 14, 2007 at 5:30 am

    The problem with awe and reverence for church leaders (who are regular people with the same amount of access to revelation and inspiration that you have) is that it leads to some incredibly dysfunctional behavior, and opens the door to abuse and pain.

  9. 10 Eric Nielson February 14, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    I suppose it could. We should have a respect for the office that is held, but not an awe of the individual who happens to currently hold that office.


  1. 1 Blogger of Jared » Blog Archive » The Bishop as a Representative of Christ Trackback on April 2, 2007 at 6:46 pm

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