Over the years, I have probably sat in over 300 interviews by church leaders with authority/stewardship over me. I was the “interviewee” in these cases. This includes youth interviews, Temple Recommend interviews, Mission Pres interviews, interviews for callings, Home teaching Personal Priesthood Interviews (PPIs), and monthly interviews by my Stake President while I was bishop.  In not one of these interviews did the person doing the interview show any apparent “discernment” about the truthfulness of what I was telling him (and it was ALWAYS a him!). There was never a case of the interviewer saying “the spirit tells me……..”. Not even my bishop during my teenage years had any discernment when questions about my little factory production rates were often answered by me with “carefully worded denials”. [1]

On the other hand, I have probably been the “interviewer” over 2000 times.  This includes interviewing people for baptism as a district and zone leader while on my mission,  conducting PPIs as an EQP (twice), being a bishops councilor (twice, once in a YSA ward) and then Bishop for five years.  Towards the end of my time as bishop , I became really good at “reading people”.  I could tell from their body language when they were being less than truthful.  I could tell when they were telling part of the truth, but were withholding something.  But I never attributed this talent to spiritual discernment, or to some power endowed upon me due to my calling. I just got good at reading people.

My discernment capabilities are about the same as a person in Human Resources that does job interviews for a living.

I think confirmation bias plays a roles in this.  When a leader does “discern”  that a person is not being truthful, and then it comes out they were right, it sticks to their memory, and reinforces the idea of discernment. But when they get it wrong, they soon forget it.

Have you seen examples of discernment from a church leader?  Have any of you felt the spirit give you discernment as part of your calling? And if so, how did you differentiate that from just human intuition that any good parent has when dealing with a teenage child?

[1] this is the phrase used in the essay on  plural marriage  used to explain Joseph Smith’s lies about polygamy.