Hands Raised Up : Corruption, Power, and Context in Bolivian Mormonism
Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought
In a 2003 Ward Conference in El Alto, Bolivia, fourteen members of the ward raised their hands in opposition to the bishop. When interviewed by the stake president these members stated that they felt the bishop was corrupt and used Church funds inappropriately. One family, in which the wife had raised her hand but not the husband, was singled out and disfellowshipped by the stake presidency. This family was well respected by members of the ward and regional Church leaders, but they were accused by the stake presidency as coercing other members to oppose the bishop. They were seen as a faction that threatened the leadership of the stake. Ward members in turn saw the bishop and the stake leaders as part of a faction, as certain members always seemed to be called into leadership positions. These ward members felt it was their duty, as worthy, long time members of the Church in Bolivia, to take action and speak out against the corruption they saw in their leaders. According to Knowlton, this drama took place at this time because of recent political events in the country. Nine months prior to this ward conference, movements by the people forced the corrupt president of Bolivia to flee the country. The people of El Alto took pride in the part they played in helping rid their country of injustice and felt they owed the same loyalty to their Church. Eventually, the bishop and stake presidency were released and the family was restored to full fellowship. Knowlton feels this is an important case study as the Church goes global and seeks to implement its top-down leadership authority throughout the world. For "though the Church hopes to give form and content to its authority structure, neither form nor content is very meaningful without local contest to interpret it."