Bishop goes undercover as homeless man at church
Mormon leader wanted to teach congregation about compassion
A Latter-day Saints bishop went undercover as a homeless man in his congregation last Sunday. He wanted to use his disguise as a tool to teach about compassion this Thanksgiving.
David Musselman is the bishop of the Taylorsville Fourth Ward in Utah. He said the idea to dress as a homeless man came to him one night while he was pondering how to inspire people to show more kindness and acceptance of others.
"The main thing I was trying to get across was we don't need to be so quick to judge," said Musselman.
The bishop enlisted the help of his friend Tara Starling, a professional makeup artist, to come up with the disguise.
"When he presented this idea to me, I said when and where…let's do it," said Starling.
Starling used makeup and fake hair as part of Musselman's disguise. He was so unrecognizable that not even his wife or children knew who he was.
Ward member Jaimi Larsen also didn't recognize the homeless man as Musselman when he came walking into the chapel on Sunday.
"He was dirty. He was crippled. He was old. He was mumbling to himself," said Larsen.
Musselman said he got a lot of mixed reaction from ward members. One member even told him to leave church property. Later, that member admitted he had been worried for the safety of the congregation.
The reaction that touched Musselman the most was from the children.
"I was impressed by the children. I could see in their eyes they wanted to do more," said Musselman.
Larsen says she watched from the chapel as Musselman walked to the pulpit -- his disguise so real, she had no idea that he was about to reveal himself as their bishop.
"He quoted the song 'Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?'," said Larsen.
After telling the audience what he was grateful for, Musselman finally revealed his true identity and took off his disguise. Larson says a hush fell over the crowd.
"I started feeling ashamed because I didn't say hello to this man. I didn't offer him anything because I didn't feel like I had anything to offer," said Larsen.
Musselman is touched by his ward members' actions, but he says it wasn't his goal to embarrass or make them feel ashamed. Instead, he wanted them to remember to be kind to people from all walks of life -- not just at the holidays, but all year long.