A Mormon bishop was so stirred by his own lack of compassion for the poor that he decided to craft a secret social experiment -- one that very literally allowed him to see through the lens of a homeless man in desperate need of both resources and love.
David Musselman, a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, disguised himself as a homeless stranger before heading to his church on Nov. 24 -- an experiment that inevitably served as an educational experience for everyone involved.
"I thought about some ways I could somehow convey the importance of not being critical ... and sometimes the best way to do that is through experiences that go beyond just a talk in church," Musselman told Deseret News. "And so I just laid awake many nights just thinking about what I could do, and then this kinda popped into my brain.”
Bishop David Musselman's evolution (Credit: Tara Starling's Facebook page)
But going into a church congregation that you've known and interacted with for quite some time isn't easy if you're hoping to look like an entirely different person. So Musselman contacted Tara Starling, a make-up artist in Salt Lake City, Utah, and she agreed to help transform his appearance.
Starling documented her stunning effort on her Facebook page, explaining the actions she took to completely alter Musselman's appearance.
"At 6 am in the morning he showed up at my house, and for the next hour we altered his appearance with fake sideburns, a bruised and cut cheek, deeply scarred lip, contact lenses, a wig, tooth stain and lots of of 'dirt,'" she wrote.
After the transformation, Musselman went to the church and interacted with a bewildered congregation; no one knew who he truly was.
The experience yielded a plethora of responses and was a learning experience not only for Musselman and Starling, but for those who interacted with the faux homeless man.
When the bishop entered the building and began walking around, he said there were some diverse reactions.
"Many actually went out of their way to purposefully ignore me, and they wouldn’t even make eye contact. 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," he said, noting that five people even asked him to leave.
Musselman added, "It made me think of the category of people that … the Savior has the most difficult time with. That’s the people that are lukewarm. That really don’t take a stand either way."
When the bishop stood up and revealed himself during the service, some people gasped. Musselman said he was surprised by their overall reaction to his social experiment.
In the end, the bishop said he learned that people do want to be better than he had originally assumed and that "we don't know what happened to an individual, and so we can't and never should try to judge."
Read more about the fascinating experience here.
(H/T: Deseret News)
Featured image via Tara Starling