Editor: I hope readers of this blog will take these observations with the purpose they were intended — To help members in their own lives and also to help them understand some things from a Bishop’s perspective.
For those who are not LDS (Latter-day Saints) and read this – here is some background information at the following link about what is a Bishop, what they do, what are some of their responsibilities, etc.: Bishop. Bishops have regular full-time jobs/professions. Serving as a Bishop usually requires a weekly time commitment of 20-30 hours per week – sometimes even more than that. Usually Bishops serve several years – a very common time length is about 5 years. They are not paid by the Church or congregation so the sacrifice required and expected is very, very significant. This service is given very willingly at great personal and family sacrifice. Bishops willingly do this because of the love they have for the Lord, for the love and charity they have for Gods children and for doing what is asked. Being a Bishop can be very stressful, demanding, tiring, never-ending, etc. But it is very rewarding in the feelings you get while helping and serving others and the unique position you are in to help change peoples lives.
The following is from a talk I gave upon my release as a Bishop over a decade ago. I served for almost 5 years for a Ward (congregation) of 400+ members with average Sunday attendance of 200+.
Some of this is reminiscing. Some are observations. And some is counsel. I initially never intended to make this available publicly. However, I’ve recently felt that I should share this in the hope that it might help others.
(Let me state up front that just because I served as a Bishop doesn’t make me any more special or better than anyone else. In fact, when I was called as Bishop I knew of several men that were eminently more qualified than myself and would have been great Bishops. But I was called by the Lord through modern revelation given to the Stake President to be the Bishop of that ward at that time to help individuals, families and the ward as a whole because that is what the Lord determined at that time of what that ward needed. This doesn’t even begin to identify those things that being a Bishop did to help me as a person and helped my family.)
Things I learned as a Bishop – or Counsel I would give
- Our family has been watched over with countless blessings – financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc.
- Appreciation of the Sisters (aka women in church lingo) and their dedication to the Gospel.
- Importance of being firm in mind (firm = firm, steadfast, stubborn at times, fair, taking strong stands and staying true to that, strong-willed, not always giving in)
- How devastating and wasteful it is to not repent and take care of sins immediately. How it hurts me to see members carry the sting, pain and burden of sin with them for months or even years.
- Young men should not babysit young girls (sibling situations are excluded)
- Importance of praying for local leaders – Bishopric & Stake Presidency
- Importance of being teachable – not defensive. In your interviews with your priesthood leaders, ask them what counsel they would give you. Provide an opportunity for you to be taught.
- Don’t complain. Offer help, insight, suggestions – but don’t complain. If you become aware of a situation than needs fixing – let the Bishop aware, but then offer a suggestion or even offer your help to resolve it.
- Be careful in doing business with other members of the Church. My father taught me a long time ago through some experiences he went through that it is usually best not to do business with fellow ward members (and even family members).
- Everyone has problems (I remember sitting on the stand and looking at the congregation. I could go family by family and identify problems that each family had to deal with: Financially, healthwise, emotionally, trials, being alone, sins and weaknesses, family struggles, etc., etc.)
- Be positive
- Importance of Service. Not only from a perspective of helping those in need, but the importance of individuals reaching out and helping others.
- You should dress up in your Sunday best when you meet with the Bishop or Stake Presidency. This is out of respect for the office – not necessarily the person.
- I will now have to learn to close my eyes during the Sacrament prayers
- Importance of attitude. We should be willing to do whatever the Lord wants us to do.
- I have learned much better how to listen to the Spirit
- How sensitive the Spirit is. Why would we want to do anything that will drive the Spirit away (watch inappropriate shows, movies or music, be angry, inappropriate thoughts, etc.)
- I’m going to miss Young Women and all the great treats there
- I’m going to miss the Primary children coming in to my office for candy after Church. One of my most favorite things about being Bishop. (Ed. – I used to give candy to the primary children for memorizing a scripture, Article of Faith, etc. Not only did it benefit the youth to learn scripture and gospel principles, but it was also a way that I could get to know all of the children and develop a relationship with them.)
- Importance of going to Church every Sunday and supporting Ward Activities; Much of the work of the ward is reaching out to those less-active or on the fringes and getting them to be involved. Instead of just being a Most-of-the-time member OR a Attend-Church-Most-Sundays-Member OR I’ll-support-it-if-it-is-convenient-member – strive to be a full-time disciple of Christ.
- We should go out of our way to be involved with Church as much as possible (i.e. Stake Conference, General Conference, fast offering, Home & Visiting Teaching, Priesthood and Relief Society assignments, Ward activities, Ward and Stake Temple Nights, and all the extra things). These are all signs of someone who is striving to live the Gospel.
- The Lord’s hand is involved with people and their lives a lot more than I ever imagined.
- There are a lot more “coincidences” than I realized
- Importance of magnifying our callings
- The Lord can make great and incredible things happen with weak and inadequate tools (us).
- Gained an appreciation of the importance and power of being a good administrator
- There are a lot of good, good people in the ward – both men and women.
- Sometimes we have to allow parts of the ward to not run as smoothly so that individuals have the opportunity to grow. In the church and gospel, we are developing and growing individuals and families. That is more important than things running smoothly.
- Don’t wait for the Bishop to tell you what to do with your calling. Take the initiative on your own, put together a plan, get concurrence from your ward leaders, and go for it. If you always wait for the Bishop to instigate things, then the ward won’t be as successful.
- You should always refer to the new Bishop using his proper title – instead of using his first name
- 3 important attributes that parents need in raising good children: 1) Discipline 2) Communications 3) Love
- Importance of the youth and parents supporting Youth Conference, Girl’s Camp, EFY, etc.
- Importance of Seminary. (After having taught early morning seminary for 5 years – I already believe in the importance of it. But after having seen it from a Bishop’s perspective it just raised that importance even more.)
- What a great blessing it has been to feel and receive inspiration every day.
- Lastly, the Church is about love for God, Our Heavenly Father (which is manifested in obedience to His commandments) & love for our fellow man.
- My favorite scripture – Alma 7:23,24:
- 23 And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.
- 24 And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.