Here is a crazy scenario for you: What would you do if your husband, just an ordinary guy with an ordinary job, was suddenly asked to be the minister of your church? How would you feel about that? How would it affect the relationship with your neighbors and friends? Would they treat you differently? Would people start to expect more of your family? How would you feel, being married to the minister?
Most people don’t have to worry about this scenario. But Mormons do.
What is a bishop?
A bishop is the Mormon version of a pastor or a minister. He is called to serve and preside over a congregation (ward) of about 300-400 people. I asked my husband what the official duties of a bishop are and he said, “There’s like . . . a thousand of them.” So I looked it up and the bishop’s duties are mainly six:
1. He is the spiritual leader of the congregation
2. He presides over the Sunday services in the church
3. He leads the youth and teaches them about their priesthood responsibilities
4. He helps people who have committed serious sins and encourages them to repent
5. He manages tithes and organizes financial assistance to members of the ward who are in need
6. Organizes and manages other organizations in the ward (Relief Society, Young Men and Young Women, and Primary)
See, Scotty? The bishop doesn’t do that much.
How is a bishop selected?
In our church you don’t “run” for bishop. You don’t campaign for it, you don’t petition for it, you don’t apply for it, and you don’t ask for it. Because “aspiring to the honors of men” is the opposite of what the priesthood is about.
All assignments in our church, including the bishop are given by revelation. Although a bishop is selected by the stake president, the calling must be confirmed in the stake president’s mind by the still small voice. There are many qualified people who could serve as the bishop of a ward, but it all comes down to the Spirit. We believe that in the end, it is God who selects the bishop.
How is a new bishop trained?
The new bishop usually has very little warning that he is going to be bishop– no time to go to a divinity school or seminary. There is no training period. Everything is learned on the job. One day he is sitting with his family in the congregation, the next day he is whisked up to the stand, leaving his wife and children on the bench to weep like orphans. Then he stays behind the podium for five to six YEARS until it is time for someone else to have a turn. Sometimes a man will serve as one of the two bishop’s counselors for a while before becoming a bishop (as in Scott’s case; has been a counselor for the past 3 years) and that is helpful, but it is not a prerequisite.
How much does he get paid?
Zero. Every calling in Mormondom is pro bono. And that is why it works so well.
All of my past bishops worked in other professions. For example, I had one bishop who was a painter of fine art. One owned a golf course. One sold motorcycles and atvs. One was a computer programmer, one sold real estate, one was a plant manager, one was a biostatistician.
Now our ward will have a tax professor.
When you consider that Mormon bishops are not trained clergymen, and are unpaid for all of their time, you should also come to the conclusion that Mormon bishops have a learning curve. The bishop (like the rest of us) deserves forgiveness. In advance. His over-supportive, enthusiastic, blogger wife? Even more forgiveness. Which leads me to my next topic:
The bishop’s wife
I found it interesting that when the stake president called Scott to serve as bishop he met with us both. He spoke to both him and me. He told us it was our calling (plural) not his calling. There will be much of Scott’s calling that I will not know about because he will be helping people work through the process of repentance and he will be helping people with welfare needs–both are confidential matters not to be discussed with anyone, even (and probably especially) a wife. But there will be many ways I can help him. Also, I will have to do more at home without him since I will have to share his free time with the rest of the ward. And, when he is overwhelmed with responsibilities and concerns it will be my job to make him laugh and recuperate. But if Scott has a burden to carry, I will not let him carry it by himself. I mean really, look how strong my arms are. That man needs me.
There is a quote by C.S. Lewis, the most famous non-Mormon to be quoted constantly by Mormons, that says,
The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only–and that is to support the ultimate career.
Scott’s main job as bishop is going to be to strengthen families by bringing them to Christ. But that is what I do for our family every day. minute. second. Some people might say that I will be supporting my husband in this calling. That I am his sidekick. That I am his cornerman. But you could also look at it the other way around, that his calling is supporting me, and that, by being a bishop, he is my sidekick and my cornerman.
We are partners with the same vision that, if everything goes as planned, will result in the same destiny. We are two parts of a whole. His contribution is like the bones of the body, giving it structure and definition. My contribution is like the muscles of the body, keeping things moving and strong. A body cannot function without both.
One of my good friends is married to a bishop in another ward. One day I emailed her to ask her how she was doing. This was her reply. I found it very beautiful and insightful, and her words stayed with me for many months.
We are doing well, thanks for asking. We do our best to help our ward. Of course, there is only so much I can do but I do try to support my husband. There is so much we cannot talk about but there are some things I can help him with or at least give my opinion. I truly believe that this is not a male-dominated church. My testimony of that has grown so much. You may not see the faces of the women as much but they are there and their influence is among us whether we know it or not. I think it must work like that with Heavenly Father too.
What it means to be a leader
Some people get the idea that the bishop (and his family) are selected because they are better at keeping the commandments, or they “have it all together” or they have less problems than everyone else.
Excuse me while I laugh and wipe the tears out of my eyes.
Just because you have been called as bishop does not mean you are extra special or that you have “arrived.” Being the bishop does not mean you are most likable or popular person in the ward. It doesn’t even mean that you are the most righteous person in the ward. (Although sometimes, as in Scott’s case, it might mean that you are the best-looking.) It means that you are the person that God wants to be the leader for a while.
And what is God’s definition of a leader?
It is this:
I am honored to have a husband who is worthy and willing to be called to serve the wonderful people in our ward. I realize I am probably naive, and that this will be much harder and more of a sacrifice than I am expecting. I’m sure the “coolness” factor will wear off pretty fast. But I know from experience that in our family we would much rather serve than be served.
So let the work begin. Wish us luck. And a prayer or two wouldn’t hurt, either.
20 responses to “Strange Mormon Customs: The Bishop & Me”
-From Sophie Dyreng, not my mom
The only suprise for me is that it has taken this long for him to be called as bishop! I loved the line “Excuse me while I laugh and wipe the tears out of my eyes.” and “Although sometimes, as in Scott’s case, it might mean that you are the best-looking.” You are so funny and awesome and you guys will both do a great job!
Congrats to you both! Good luck and prayers for sure! I know your ward will be so blessed!
Yay! Loves to you, Scott, and all your littles!!
Oh Chelsea, what a great experience and blessing this will be for your family! Not always easy and convenient, but truly great in so many ways. Shaun also served in the bishopric and then was called as the bishop afterward. He served about 3 1/2 years and was released in May because we were moving (moved now) to Mesa. It really was a great thing. I loved your post and related to it so much. I must admit that I never did get used to being called “Sister Bishop” our the”Mother of the Ward”. 🙂
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What? Did I not know Shaun was the bishop? Crazy. I also didn’t know you moved to Mesa. I bet he was a great bishop, and I hope I never get called “Sister Bishop.” 🙂
I am happy to have Bishop Dyreng serve as the bishop for my young son (and the rest of our family). He will likely be the only Bishop that my son will know until my son serves his mission. I bring this up because Mormons boys raised in the Church are in fact trained to be ministers starting when they turn 12. Bishop Dyreng and those who work with our youth will help our family teach my son how to be a lay minister.
You will be so blessed!
I just wanted to thank you for this inspiring message. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today. My sister must have been inspired as well because she sent it to me. 😉 What a beautiful reminder…and testimony you gave along with making me smile! My husband was just set apart to be the bishop of our ward less than a month ago and it has been quite the whirlwind of adjustments. 🙂 I am 31 and he just turned 35…we have 4 wonderful children 8 and under…he runs our family farm…has his own appraisal business..sells real estate…and we flip homes…and because he does all of this for us I get to be a stay at home mom. :)…..To say we felt(feel)…terrified….too young…overwhelmed…humbled…terrified…is an understatement. 🙂 The power of prayer and the The Holy Ghost are beautiful and amazing gifts from our Heavenly Father though aren’t they! We have been so blessed already, as I’m sure you have, to see so many little miracles and we can feel the prayers of our sweet ward members along with the help and love of our Savior. Your blog was another little miracle for me today. 🙂 It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear…..so THANK YOU! Thank you for the encouragement…reminder…and the smiles. I wish you, your little family, and “your bishop” 😉 ALL THE BEST!!!
This is beautiful. Felt the spirit and your testimony the whole time I read it. In so excited! Scott will do great. You guys are awesome.
Thank you, Nancy!
Thanks for sharing. My husband was called at the end of June to be the bishop of our ward in NC. He is only the second bishop to serve in the ward that was formed 6 years ago and only 3 weeks after we moved to this city. We’re in our mid-to-late 30s with three young kids. Whoa. But whom The Lord calls, He qualifies, right?
Looks like we are in the same boat, Joette. I, too, feel much too young to have my husband serve as bishop. But I guess I have to grow up someday. 🙂
Surprised you had the time to write this. (No, you don’t know me and no, I have never been)
Thanks for taking time to write this! I loved it, and you were so spot on! My husband served as bishop for 6 1/2 years while our 5 children were all really young. It was definitely challenging, but one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. You will have some of the most sacred and sweet experiences during this time…with your husband, with your children, as a family, and with your ward. Here’s a big hug from me!
Are you sure you weren’t campaigning for it? Ha ha ha. Oh, but seriously, prayers for all of you! Better start making millions as a writer so he can retire.
Really great post! Although my husband was only in the bishopric… I could definitely relate to this.
Actually the Bishop is called by the First Presidency. I learned this truth this year in Seminary. You should have received an official calling document signed by the Prophet and his counselors. Great Article.
a bishop also has to be approved by the First Presidency and if he is approved then the Stake President is sent a letter authorizing him to call and set him apart.
What ironw1l said – kind of awesome that the centralized organization of the Church allows us to ensure that no one is called as a bishop if they have past serious problems on record.