Wednesday, January 27, 2016

When I Knew LaVoy Finicum

He was not an anti-government radical in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the late 1990s. In fact, he wasn't even a Cowboy. Sure, he spoke with a Southern Utah drawl. And he talked about getting down to the family ranch, but there was no hat, no guns; maybe he did wear the boots.

I was his bishop in the Santa Fe Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was a good and kind man who then was taking in foster children with his third wife - sequential, not concurrent - an important distinction.

No one on the earth is perfect except for the One we look to for eternal salvation through His infinite Atonement. LaVoy and I as his bishop did some work together on his soul because after two divorces, he wanted to be sealed in the Temple to his wife. That took some effort for church clearance. We went through extensive interviews and LaVoy engaged in sincere efforts to repent. I was required by the Church to correspond and speak with his former spouses to ensure that he was fulfilling any and all family obligations and that they saw no objection to his temple sealing. The bottom line is that I knew as much as anybody could about him at that time. What I knew was that he was a kind and simple soul who wanted to move beyond his mistakes.

LaVoy also met with our Stake President, a very smart man who had a PhD in Physics and was learning Russian at the time as he was traveling from Los Alamos National Labs to check on compliance with nuclear disarmament in the former U.S.S.R. This was no Stake President to fool with. Both he and I forwarded the recommendation to the Office of the First Presidency of the Church to be cleared for temple sealing.

The approval came. LaVoy and his wife were thrilled. They told us of the date they had arranged understanding the distance was far to St. George where they were to be sealed. We kept it quiet but we were to be in the area for a family reunion at the same time so my wife and I surprised them when we walked into the sealing room to be there with them. That is the look on LaVoy's face that I will always keep with me.

With the recent tragedy, LaVoy died for something that he thought he believed in. His church and I have a serious disagreement with those beliefs no matter how sincerely held by LaVoy. And to his credit, I heard LaVoy tell a news reporter when questioned about the Mormon Church's condemnation of the armed occupation, that what he was doing had nothing to do with the church. He was there on his own and was responsible for his own actions.

It is not for us to judge. That is left to the one perfect One who performed the Atonement. This I know of the Spirit of God that is in me. And what I know of LaVoy still leaves me with Hope, and Charity.

St. George Temple, Utah

1 comment:

  1. Out of respect for LaVoy and my relationship with him, no comments will be accepted on this thread. Thank you.