The Church provides wonderful handbooks in order to figure out the best way to serve as a bishop and to make sure that one understands policy. However, it is refreshing to hear the words of prophets and apostles in relation to being a bishop. Here are 5 General Conference talks every bishop should read (or listen to).
Did you know Elder Perry’s father was called as a bishop when Elder Perry was 6-months old and was released 18 years later? In this address, he talks about the blessings his family received during the time of his father’s service. He gained a deeper love for his father and benefited from his example.
Elder Perry says, “Now, it is not my purpose here today to spend time on the role and commission of the bishops and making them feel more burdened. Instead, let me talk to you about what we can do to support and sustain them in their great responsibility.”
This is a great discourse on putting the respect of the call of bishop into focus, specifically in the perspective of the bishop’s wife, his children, and ward members in general. Elder Perry gives 5 rules members should follow in relation to the bishop.
- “Never go to your bishop before you have been on your knees asking for inspiration and for solutions.”
- “Never involve your bishop if your home teacher or your quorum can care for your needs.”
- “Never speak ill or gossip about your bishop or his family.”
- “Live your life in harmony with the gospel so that when your bishop calls you to serve, you will be ready and worthy to accept that call.”
- “Remember your bishop in your family prayers.”
I really liked rule number 4–I’ve never thought about respecting a bishop in that way before.
Elder Holland touches on the sacrifice that is required of the family, namely the wife of someone called to serve in the kingdom. All who have been married to a bishop during his service can probably recount various instances where the responsibilities of the call interfered with the joys of a family.
Elder Holland tells one of my favorite conference stories of a bishop’s wife begging for more focus on their marital relationship, when once again, it is interrupted by a phone call. What makes this experience so unique, is that bishop’s wife later talks with the woman on the other end of that phone call and she explains how the answer of her bishop that night changed her life and salvation forever.
That story alone makes it worth a review of this talk.
By reading this talk a bishop will no doubt feel the burden of his call. Most importantly he will further understand the importance of his call. President Hinckley expresses the importance of being a just man. He states, “Your goodness must be as an ensign to your people. Your morals must be impeccable.”
There are great warnings for the bishops to remain pure, to avoid pornographic materials, and to never leverage their title or position for personal gain.
This talk could be looked at as an informal handbook on how to be a bishop.
By the end of the talk it is easy to feel overwhelmed as a bishop. Thankfully he ends with these uplifting and motivating words:
God bless the bishops of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You may on occasion be inclined to complain about the burdens of your office. But you also know the joys of your service. Heavy as the load may be, you know this is the sweetest, the most rewarding, the most important thing you have ever done. You know that yours is the power to shape young lives, yours the right to recommend for missions, yours the authority to open the doors of the temple to your people, yours the calling to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and minister to those in distress, yours the obligation to teach and lead and inspire, yours the mandate to judge with equity and truth and mete out with love and understanding, with charity and faith.
In 1999 President Hinckley revisited this talk in his remarks in the April priesthood session.
President Packer tells a remarkable story about a bishop he served with, who was a farmer and was often called away even when he was in the middle his farm work. It’s a wonderful example of the pause a bishop’s life must take from time to time when he is called away–leaving his work until he can return to it.
In a huge international church, President Packer explains that the church is no bigger than a ward. All ordinances, save the temple, are found within the ward. What a great perspective on the inspired structure of the church.
Bishop Hales, serving as a bishop for the fourth time, talks about the power and inspiration that comes with the call of a bishop. “Once a bishop is ordained, he is never released—the reason being that he holds within him the confidences, which will go to the grave with him, of those whom he serves.”
He relates a funny story about Elder LeGrand Richards:
After a weighty discussion in the temple with all the General Authorities, he said, “Now, Brethren, I understand all that we discussed, but until the bishops move, nothing will happen. Everything above the bishop is all talk.” He taught a great lesson.