Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Five Years In



by ldsbishop:

I have recently passed my 5th Anniversary of being called as the Bishop of my ward. In early 2009 when I first started my calling there was no such thing as the iPad, missionaries were that little bit older and I had much fewer wrinkles. Back then I was a fresh-faced youngster, now I’m a grizzled, almost 32 year old.

As I looked back over the past five years, I made a number of observations, some of which I incoherently and randomly present below:

Serving as a Bishop teaches me compassion more that I ever thought possible
I’ve never been what I would describe as a “people person” so I always thought I would struggle with the love and compassion required for a Bishop. However, as I have served I have seen a wide range of human emotion and suffering. I suffer with my brothers and sisters as we work through their problems together. I can feel their pain and hurt and the various situations we deal with. My calling instills in me a desire to help people that was never there in the past.

Tied to the above is a greater appreciation for the atonement
I have encountered situations that I would have unlikely come across were it not for my particular calling. I can see how the atonement of the Saviour applies to the full scope of all human suffering. I doubt I will ever comprehend the true power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, but my testimony, such that is is, hinges on that event. Otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.

When you’re a Bishop you can’t avoid difficult decisions
As much as I’d like to run and hide from making the hard decisions that come with the calling, I have to be bold and confront the issues as they arise. Thankfully, I have not had to deal with much church discipline, but there are always things that need to be addressed by the Bishop, and no one else in the ward. I have found that if there is a situation that needs to be dealt with or a difficult decision to be made, I have to man-up and deal with it or things will get worse. I never really knew what discernment was until I started serving in this capacity. Thank God for the Holy Ghost!

My sense of humour has kept me going
A Bishop and those he serves with have to deal with some heartbreaking and upsetting situations on a regular basis. If I didn’t focus on the many good things that happen, the bad situations would grind me down. Coupled to this is the need to keep my sense of humour and enjoy a laugh and joke with my counsellors when we can. This makes dealing with the sombre times that little more bearable. Many of the situations we find ourselves in are so absurd you have to find the funny side of things. Sometimes all I can do to cope is to laugh at how obscure church service can sometimes become.

Mormon culture can be constraining
There are many wonderful things about being a Mormon, but sometimes we allow our culture to get in the way of our progression. One of the most constraining attitudes is “this is the way we’ve always done it.” I can’t change the doctrine, but everything else is fair game in my opinion. If something in our culture is holding someone back from their eternal progression, that cultural aspect should change.

Give me a funeral over a wedding any day
Both are worrying. Will I say the right thing? Are all the arrangements made correctly? What tie should I wear? However, it is much easier to upset a bride and groom than the person in the coffin. Knowing that the focus of attention can’t get upset with me because they’re in a more important place now takes a bit of the pressure off. Apologies if that sounds crass. By way of illustration, here is a video of the most recent wedding I conducted.

You lose some of your identity as the Bishop
I’m sure some of my ward have now forgotten my first name. “Hello Bishop” they say to me when I bump into them in the street. I suppose it’s nice that they acknowledge the office but it does mean you have lost some of your individuality when you’re called by your title rather than your name. I received a number of cards at Christmas addressed to “Bishop and [wife’s first name]”.

I need a new car
It takes well over an hour to drive from one end of my ward to the other. Over 50% of my car journeys are church related and I’ve driven thousands of miles in the past few years as part of the calling. In the past year I’ve had to change the clutch and timing chain on my car and, along with all the fuel, car travel is the major expense of the calling. On the plus side, I now have encyclopedic knowledge of almost every road in my ward boundary. So, if I’m ever looking for a career change, I could always become a taxi driver.

I both long for and dread my release
One day I will be released from this calling and I will become me again. The past five years have been the most enlightening and frustrating I ever thought possible. There is a part of me that wants to be released - anything for a quiet life. But there’s another part that actually enjoys this calling. It forces be to serve better and has made me a more compassionate and tolerant person. I expect I will weep with relief and loss in equal measures whenever my day of release comes.

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ldsbishop grew up in the land of Shakespeare, Milton and Monty Python. Looking for some culture, he moved to Utah for a while where he seduced his future wife with his accent. They now live back in the UK. He was called as the Bishop of his ward in his mid-twenties. That's where the similarities between him and President Monson end, though he can also wiggle his ears. He and his wife are the parents of two sons, the type of boys that have people suggesting we need more talks on reverence. He keeps his sanity by tweeting his thoughts under @ldsbishop.
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