Kevin Gardner has spent almost all of his adult life in church leadership. He has served as a bishop, an elders quorum president, ward mission leader twice, high councilor, a councilor in the San Bernardino California Mission Presidency, and currently serves on a stake high council in the Settlers Park Stake. Professionally, Kevin works for Idaho Central Credit Union as the Vice President of IT. He resides with his wife and four children in Meridian, Idaho.

Enter Kevin…

The day came when I was released as a bishop.

I had that same feeling I had when I was released as a full-time missionary, bittersweet.

I loved serving the Lord and the members of the Ward and had some wonderful experiences that will impact the rest of my life and how I see Life. It had been a heavy load for me, I was a young father and husband, and I had spent lots of time away from home during my tenure of service. It had also been a heavy load that my wife had carried by herself at times and never once did she complain.

The Importance of Our Spouse

When I had the call extended to me from the stake president, he spoke directly to my wife and said,

“There will be times when the Church needs your husband and there will be times when you need your husband and when that happens, you tell him you need him at home and he can put everything else at the church on hold or delegate it.”

My wife was good at that, I felt. In my very biased opinion, I feel that most bishop’s wives are typically the best person in the ward. Men get called to serve in leadership positions, oftentimes, because their wives are so good spiritually and emotionally grounded.

A bishop’s wife can be steady in the chaos that we may deal with at times, even without knowing any details. I’m so grateful for my wife’s service right along with me.

A Change

Soon after I was released as bishop, we moved to another state for my job. It seemed that overnight I had gone from being one of the most needed person in the ward (always having somewhere to be or something to do) to just being a “regular guy,” not having to worry about much.

One of the things I loved about serving was my opportunity to grow charitable efforts. By nature I am a pretty selfish person with my time and other things. However, serving the Lord allowed me to think of others in ways I would not normally consider.

I felt important, and needed, and oftentimes had many interactions with the Spirit, which can be addicting in some ways as a missionary or church leader. (Alma 36:25, Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors.)


Now instead of coming home and resting for a minute before I had to go to the church for a meeting or a youth event, I had nowhere to go.

No one really needed me outside of my family, which left me empty in some ways. I had to re-integrate myself into my own family. Things I had excuses for because I “had a meeting” I now had time for. Fixing things around the house, spending more quality time with my kids, and helping my wife do more stuff in the kitchen.

I was not a bad husband or father during my tenure as a bishop, but believe you just get tired between work and the duties of a bishop. Thus, putting things off or not doing them right away, seemed “ok” or justifiable at the moment.

Finding a New Identity

Sunday would come around, I only had to be at church for Sacrament, Sunday School or Priesthood, and rarely any meetings before or after the block. For about three months I kept feeling like I had to be somewhere or meeting with somebody. I would look at my cell phone to see if there were any messages. Sometimes I felt relieved that I didn’t have to be anywhere and I would asked myself why I felt this way. Other times I felt lost because I didn’t have anywhere to be or was not needed.

I noticed I was having a bit of a hard time finding my identity.

I am a convert to the Church so serving in a leadership calling made me feel like I belonged in a lot of ways, but that is another story or topic for another time.

Progressing Through Change

In October 1979, Elder Marvin J. Ashton gave a great talk about change entitled, “Progress Through Change.” He said:

“As opportunity for change reaches into our lives, as it always will, we must ask, “Where do I need development? What do I want out of life? Where do I want to go? How can I get there?” … In God’s plan we are usually free to choose the changes we make in our lives and we are always free to choose how we will respond to the changes that come. We need not surrender our freedoms. But just as a compass is valuable to guide us out of the dense forest, so the gospel points the way as we walk the paths of life.”

Interestingly enough, I had two brothers-in-law who were serving as bishops during the same time.

One had received his call about three years before I did, so we only served “together” for a few short years.

The other brother-in-law was called about six months after I was called and was still serving when I had got released.

I reached out to my brother-in-law who was released and asked him if he had the feeling of being a little lost after being released and he said he did. I reached out to another really good friend who had served as a bishop during the same time and explained what I was going through, and he could relate and had a similar experience.

I soon realized that I was not alone. Many had similar feelings or experiences after being released in church leadership.

Over the years I have had many conversations with past bishops, some stake presidents, elders quorum presidents, and with my angel wife after she was released as a Relief Society president. I found comfort in knowing I was not alone in that experience.

Our Calling is Not Our Identity

It took me about three to four months to find my way through my disparate feelings about moving on in church life.

I embraced the reality that my calling was not my identity or a defining part of who I was as a person or member of the Church.

I soon picked myself up and found fulfillment in being more part of my family. Ultimately, projects around the house got done, I did more mountain bike riding with my son, spent time with my daughters in areas and things they liked, and helped my wife more. I also began studying the gospel differently.

A Time and a Season

We all have read the below scripture, but I feel that it’s a great reminder of moving forward and through changes in our callings, our families and our lives.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

I suspect some of you reading this article may have felt like this or had a similar experience after being released from a calling that took a large amount of time and energy. I almost feel if I would have had a re-immersion program to normal life, things would have evolved easier. But, perhaps that’s part of the process of learning, growing and evolving. What do you think?

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