In a recent Sacrament meeting, a speaker cut his talk short and explained he was experiencing a health event and needed to sit down. He did so and continued to look a bit fragile and tentative.

That and the dynamics that I then observed had me concerned.

Some discussion with the man occurred between him and those on the stand. A member of the Bishopric left the stand and consulted with a health professional in the audience. He then went into the foyer and accessed something on his phone. I wondered if he was summoning an ambulance.

The man’s wife joined him on the stand, looking concerned. After the meeting was over, he was escorted off the stand into a side room down the hall with more members who I know to be health professionals present as well as others. I speculated he might be waiting for an ambulance and/or getting a priesthood blessing.

Another friend approached me later in the foyer asking if I knew what had happened with this man. He had served in leadership capacities with the man in question and was a good friend of his. He was anxious for news and wanted to know what I knew. I knew nothing at that time. I spotted a counselor in the bishopric and pointed my friend in his direction suggesting that he may know something. He left to inquire of him and they had an extended conversation in the hall.

These are the highlights. Naturally, I was concerned. I have known the man in question for over 25 years. He has been my local religious leader, Home Teacher, and friend among other things.

After arriving home and still wondering what all this meant, I contemplated what I could and should do. If it was an active health situation, I felt contacting him or his family directly would be intrusive and distracting, especially if they were still dealing with whatever it was. Plus, they are not good texters and I do not hear well on the phone.

I decided to contact the health professional, also a friend, and simply ask if the man was okay or would be okay, then I could go from there.

Brother X, Is Bro. Y okay, or going to be? We’re concerned and wondering. Sister [My name]

I received back the following answer:

I cannot discuss medical details with anyone without his permission. I suggest you call him and convey your concerns/warm wishes

It was unsatisfactory on many levels.

  1. I did not ask for medical details.
  2. I asked a mutual friend if a mutual friend was okay.
  3. The incident of concern took place publicly in church not a medical environment.
  4. The health professional is retired.

If he is going to carry this viewpoint to its logical extreme, he needs to carry around legal waivers in order to deal with incidents like this that might come up.

His suggestion that I call the man gave me the information I needed anyway. Our mutual friend was alive and would have access to and the ability to use a phone. Armed with this information, I did text him and he responded back with thanks and a detail or two that put our minds at rest.

I think this interaction is symptomatic of a bigger problem, one I have been thinking about for some time.

The whole idea of privacy has been taken to a ridiculous extreme and people are elevating their professions above their basic humanity.

The Right to Privacy is Being Carried to Extremes

I have got news for you folks. The Constitutional right to privacy did not exist until 1965 when the Supreme Court decided Griswold v. Connecticut. The intent was to protect privacy in the marriage relationship from governmental intrusion.

My, how things have changed.

Now, privacy is being used as a reason to withhold information from anyone for any reason regardless of the topic or context.

It is nearly impossible to find out anything about anyone because people are always invoking the notion of privacy. It is being used as a reason to deny information and feel justified and even noble in doing so.

What Happened to Basic Humanity?

When I was in library school, I was taught that the relationship between a librarian and a patron was sacrosanct. I should never divulge what information someone accessed. We were told to never divulge to law enforcement, for example, what materials someone had checked out, even if they had a warrant.

This was used as a rationale to destroy circulation records so that law enforcement or any governmental agent or entity could never get a hold of them. Some libraries and librarians do this.

We were told that we were guardians of free speech and uniquely qualified to protect it. For this reason, we needed to acquire what most would consider pornography to ensure it was available, otherwise, democracy was in jeopardy.

I did not buy any of this nonsense. Most did, though, including Latter-day Saint members.

We were told that we should never interfere, judge, or evaluate why someone might need or want information. This included a depressed person who wanted to check out a book or seek information on how to commit suicide. We should simply provide it and let the chips fall where they may.

Not me.

I am a human being first, a child of God, a moral being, etc. Librarian is way down the list. I am not going to stand by and let someone kill themselves if I can do something to help them.

Soon after I was taught all this an incident occurred at a local public library. A patron had sent a friend a suicide note via a library computer terminal. The friend reached out to law enforcement who worked with the local librarians to identify the patron and get them help before they went through with their suicide plans.

It was gratifying to read this. The actions of these local librarians did not comport with what I was being taught in library school. I decided the viewpoint probably was not universal, in the library world at least.

However, I have still seen evidence that this distorted philosophy affects other professions as well.

Let us not carry our professions too far and into our personal relationships. We are people, after all, not our professions.

Let us not turn basic human interactions into legal incidents.

How Does This Affect the Church?

Information used to flow pretty freely. We knew about what other people were dealing with like illnesses, unemployment, or other challenges. Now, it is almost impossible to hear anything about anyone.

Great, everyone’s personal privacy is protected. The downside is that almost no one has any information about anyone making it almost impossible to serve them.

How are you supposed to bear one another’s burdens if you do not know what they are?

I am not suggesting everyone’s problems and challenges be trumpeted everywhere just that some basic information could be shared.

For example, my husband had a major heart incident recently. Every night when I got home from the hospital, I sent out a simple update on what we knew and what had happened that day. I sent it out to family, local church leaders, and friends, in that order, primarily via text.

My criteria were simply those in authority over us and those with a close connection to us. Some of the responses were interesting.

For example, one local church leader tentatively asked if it was okay if they apprised another local church leader of what I had conveyed. I told them I already had.

This cut out gossip entirely. Everyone got their information from me. It was good information. We were assisted in our needs because people knew what they were. Everyone knew what was going on.

Church leaders do deal with many issues that have serious privacy implications. They also deal with many issues that do not.

As an ordinary member, I am frustrated that I cannot serve people or service their needs because I cannot get any information on what they are.

If leaders cannot share any information, let alone details, they are going to have to address these needs themselves and not expect assistance from the rest of us.

I am frustrated because I have got some very high-level skills. Most of the time people that need my help do not even know that help is out there let alone that I can help them. How am I supposed to connect with these people if there is such a tight lid on information?

Isn’t Satan at the Core of This?

I think Satan is at the core of this. The threat of a lawsuit is governing everything we do. Are we allowing him to tie the Church and its members up in knots? I think we are.

Obviously, we need to be prudent, but we need to ask ourselves if we are overshooting the mark.

Remember, I asked a mutual friend if a mutual friend was “okay” based on what happened publicly at church. I did not probe for “medical details.”

We should not be using legal liability or privacy as an excuse to subvert our responsibilities to our fellow human beings. These human beings are hurting. They need help. They need help from us.

Can you imagine any of the subjects of Jesus’s parables or miracles suing him in court over violating their privacy? In this day and age, I can, actually. However, it would not stop me from helping people or soliciting others in my attempts to assist them in their needs.


If church leaders are the guardians of all information, I suspect this will increase their responsibilities exponentially.

Instead of my being able to assist people with whatever their needs are, a church leader will have to correspond with individuals and then privately and confidentially ask me for my assistance. I will then have to convey it through the church leader who will then convey it to the individual(s).

I have already experienced this. I did ultimately find out that the information I supplied to a local church leader in one instance was going to a personal friend. It would have been better if I could have assisted this personal friend directly. So much got lost in siphoning everything through the church leader. I wondered why the personal friend had not queried me first.

I’m not hostile to the concept of privacy. I’m just concerned it is being taken to a ridiculous extreme.

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