There are some changes happening in our little corner of the Church. Last week we sustained a new Stake President, and his 1st Counselor is our sitting Bishop. That means any week or two we will see another shake-up.
Whenever these changes happen, I am brought back to the quiet Sunday afternoon when my family’s life – especially mine – had that experience. It was General Conference Sunday, and we got a phone call between sessions asking if Chrissie and I could meet with the Stake President in the afternoon.
The next two hours were a blur. We watched the last session with teary eyes because we had a pretty good idea of what was coming. Sometimes the Spirit will give people advance notice that a specific calling is coming. Some are caught completely off guard. I was blessed to be in the first group.
I know there are some men in our ward who are very nervous right now. And they should be. In the next couple of weeks, some good brother will step into a calling and wear the mantle of Bishop alongside his two new best friends, his counselors.
That calling will have a huge impact on his life, and the life of his wife and family. Mostly for the better. He will learn a dependency on the Lord that he will cherish for the rest of his life. He will amass this incredible love for the people who live in his ward boundaries – even those he does not know. He will learn about sacrifice. His family will learn about sacrifice.
Most strikingly, he will learn about the incredible power of the Atonement as he watches it work miracles among his struggling flock.
I am confident that he new Bishop will step in and do his very best to step in and do what the Lord wants him to do, just as our current bishop has done.
I am also confident that he will experience times of sadness, times of frustration, and times of fatigue. I guarantee him that there will be some members of the ward that will just flat out not like him as Bishop. There will be some naysayers who complain about how he leads, and be quick to point out what he is doing wrong to all who will listen. It is inevitable.
Many years ago, at a Priesthood leadership meeting, President Boyd K. Packer presided. It was remarkable. I distinctly remember what he talked about because of his unexpected topic. (These are based on notes, so I’m paraphrasing the ideas.)
He spoke about how there were two concepts in the Church that makes us very unique from other churches. He referred to them and the “genius of the Church.”
- We have a “lay ministry,” which basically means our leaders are not professionals that have been to a theological seminary to train to become church leaders.
- We attend where we live. Every inch of the world is assigned to some branch, ward or mission.
Our last four Bishops were, in order, a fireman, an advertising guy, an agronomist, and a health insurance agent. See a pattern here? Nope? Exactly.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the idea that President David O McKay taught that the Lord “will have no interest in how you earned your living, but if you were honest in all your dealings.” (link)
Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke about the lay ministry this way: “The Lord in His infinite wisdom has designed His Church to operate with a lay ministry. That means we have been charged to watch over one another and to serve one another. We are to love one another as our Father in Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ love us. Our callings and circumstances change from time to time, providing us with different and unique opportunities to serve and to grow.” (Link)
Our new bishop might be a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, a plumber, a construction worker, or a retiree. It does not matter. He could be young, old, in-between. He could be loud, quiet, funny, boring, it doesn’t have anything to do with who we would choose – it only matters that the Lord does the choosing. As President Monson would say, “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” (link)
The second part of Elder Packer’s ideas, that we attend where we serve, is fascinating as well. Perhaps best explored by looking at how the Church would operate without ward boundaries.
People would “Bishop Shop.” Your Bishop too demanding? Find an different ward to attend. Rumor has it that your Bishop is tough when it comes to repentance issues? Find one that is supposedly easier. Is your Bishop a boring speaker? Go find one who is exciting, and attend his ward. Don’t like the calling you just received? Move your records to a different ward and try again until you find something you like.
What a mess that would be! The idea of community, unity and caring for each other would become very “iffy.” Wards would grow and expand based on the whims of the members, and the ever-changing leadership landscape.
Thankfully, we are all assigned to a ward or branch. We have he time and constancy to develop relationships and serve one another. We have the opportunity to “lift where we stand.”
“But if we all stand close together in the place the Lord has appointed and lift where we stand, nothing can keep this divine work from moving upward and forward.” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf)
I am one of the few men in my Ward that can comfortably sit back and feel quite confident that my name is not being considered. There are so many that deserve to be nervous right now.
Whoever is called to serve and receives the mantle of Bishop in our Ward will have my sustaining vote. I will also look for the Spirit to confirm in my heart that all is well. (I’ve learned that it is much better to receive this witness before you are asked to do something you don’t like/want, rather than after.)
I am also confident that whoever is called will embark on an adventure that will bless his life, and the lives of his family in ways he cannot imagine. It is a remarkable time of service and sacrifice. A time of teaching and being taught. A time of building relationships that endure, and a time of experiencing an unbridled degree of charity for those in the flock.
Serve as a Bishop? Anyone who understands the job would never covet it. I always used to say, “Serve as Bishop? You couldn’t pay me to do it…but I’ll do it for free.”