TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Members of a Mormon congregation in a Salt Lake City suburb encountered someone they thought was a homeless man at church on Sunday. What they did not know was the man was a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At least five people asked David Musselman to leave the church property in Taylorsville, some gave him money and most were indifferent.
He said he disguised himself as a homeless man to teach his congregation a lesson about compassion. To make his appearance more convincing, he contacted a Salt Lake City makeup artist to transform his familiar face to that of a stranger not even his family recognized.
“The main thing I was trying to get across was we don’t need to be so quick to judge,” Musselman told KUTV-TV (http://bit.ly/1gkeZMw ).
He received varied reactions to his appearance at church, he said.
“Many actually went out of their way to purposefully ignore me, and they wouldn’t even make eye contact,” he told the Deseret News (http://bit.ly/1aYkBtP ). “I’d approach them and say, ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ Many of them I wouldn’t ask for any food or any kind of money, and their inability to even acknowledge me being there was very surprising.”
The reaction that touched Musselman the most was from children.
“I was impressed by the children. I could see in their eyes they wanted to do more,” he said.
Musselman, who told only his second counselor that he would be disguised as a homeless man, walked to the pulpit during the service. He finally revealed his true identity and took off his wig, fake beard and glasses.
“It had a shock value that I did not anticipate,” he said. “I really did not have any idea that the members of my ward would gasp as big as they did.”
Ward member Jaimi Larsen was among those surprised it was her bishop. “I started feeling ashamed because I didn’t say hello to this man ... He was dirty. He was crippled. He was old. He was mumbling to himself,” she said.
It wasn’t Musselman’s goal to embarrass ward members or make them feel ashamed, he said. Instead, he wanted to remind them to be kind to people from all walks of life not just at the holidays, but all year long, he said.
“To be Christ-like, just acknowledge them,” he said.