What do you do with a bishop, when he stops being a bishop?

I’m sure almost everyone has seen White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen. In short, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are in the army serving under General Tom Waverly. General Waverly retires. After the war, Bing and Danny become a top song-and-dance act. At one point they find out that the General needs help and they put on a show for him with all their army buddies from before. One of the songs that is sung starts with:

What can you do with a general
When he stops being a general?
Oh, what can you do with a general who retires?

It may sound strange, but that is the song that kept playing over and over in my head the week I was released as bishop. Yes, after serving as bishop of my ward for 6 years, 2 months, 16 days, I was released. It happened a year ago today, but I’m just getting around to writing about it. I figured I’d share some of my thoughts and feelings about my time as bishop.

First off, let me tell you that I am still active, and I still love the Church. Hopefully no one is disappointed by this. There was nothing that I faced that made me question my faith. The ward is generally intact, and if anything might be a bit stronger than it was. I would have served for years less or years more if that is what was needed of me. However, with that being said, it was still very hard to be released. It had nothing to do with losing the authority and everything to do with losing the privilege of helping people one-on-one. Yes, I’m still a husband, father, friend and home teacher, but this is not what I’m talking about. Members generally love and respect their bishop. I felt this from week one. The week before I was just some guy was serving as the Elders Quorum President. The following week I was the bishop and the members immediately trusted me. They came in and confided some of their most difficult problems. They looked for counsel. They cried tears of sorrow and tears of joy. I felt like a better man literally every week I went to church. That’s what I miss. I’m now just a guy again. I help when I can, but now another man has that privilege of those experiences. I have righteous envy.

I also miss how serving as bishop helped my family. It seems counter-intuitive, but during my time as bishop we had more order in our family, and possibly more time together. I know, I know… it seems backwards. However, when I was bishop our life seemed to have more structure, which allowed us to have more time together. I was busy for 9 hours or so each Sunday, every Wednesday night, and often another evening or two each week. Yet somehow through all of that, I don’t feel that my time with my family suffered. Now that I am no longer bishop, my wife is the YW President, my responsibilities at work have increased, and the kids are getting busier. It seems that time is flying by way too quickly. We don’t have the same structure and our time together is suffering. I know that we were blessed when I was bishop so that our time together didn’t suffer. In a way, I think this is part of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood where it says that when priesthood holders are faithful in the priesthood and magnify our callings, they “are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies”(D&C 84: 33).

Lastly, I miss just being involved. It isn’t that no one cares about me, but things are happening and I don’t know about it. It seems funny to write that. It sounds like I’m gossipy or nosey. That, of course, isn’t it. When you are bishop, you’d get to see the big picture. You have a vision of what needs to be done, and you can plan for it. I’m the type of person that thinks the more you know, the more you can do. In a way, this ties in with my first point. If you don’t know things, it is hard to help.

With all of these things (and more) that I miss, there are obviously things I don’t miss. I’m quite happy to go to church at 9 am (instead of 6 am). I’m quite happy to attend limited meetings. There were obviously hard things to deal with, and in a way it is a relief to be free from some of those burdens.

So, it’s been a year now. Shortly after being released I was called to be a Stake Institute Teacher. I teach a weekly Institute class to the college-aged young adults (18-30). The class is held every Wednesday in my home and we usually have 15-20 people attend. I love it! I haven’t studied the scriptures so thoroughly in a long time. Hopefully I’m helping these young adults appreciate the scriptures more. I’m definitely learning a lot.

My wife was an unbelievable support while I was bishop. Due to my responsibilities and our young family, her church callings were a little “easier” that what she is capable of having. Now she’s the YW President, and doing a great job with the small group of girls she has to work with.

All three of my kids are under 10. It seems that they’ve survived some of my absences. Now that I am no longer bishop, I can be more involved as they grow into pre-teen and teen years.

As I said in the beginning, I love the Church. There is a woman in our ward who likes to say, “It’s a good life” I totally agree. With all of the frustrations I may have had wit the bureaucracy and other things. I still firmly believe that the church is led by good men and women who are trying to serve “with full purpose of heart” (2 Nephi 31: 13). I’ve found that any failings we may experiences are usually because we are not united. If we sustain one another and accept each other in our weaknesses, we’ll be much better off. I was by no means perfect in my service, but I hope that I did something to help the work of the Lord move forward.

3 Responses to What do you do with a bishop, when he stops being a bishop?

  1. Well I´m still an “investigator” with the church.
    But while reading your post I wondered why a bishop is released.
    I have totally no idea.

    • As with almost all callings in the Church, a bishop does not serve indefinitely. The direct leader about a bishop would be a stake president. When a stake president feels inspired to make a change in a ward bishopric, he recommends a name to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve and they approve it. The stake president can then make the change.
      At one point during my time of service, I was told that the average time of service for a bishop across the Church was 3 years. Changes have to be made because of moves, changes in employment, changes in family, ward needs a “fresh” look at things, etc. Of course the main reason is because the stake president felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost to make a change.

      Before I was called to be bishop I had a feeling in my heart that it was coming. I’m grateful for that time I had to prepare. Then a few months before I was released as bishop I had a similar feeling telling me I was going to be released soon. I am grateful for that time to prepare as well.

  2. Thank you very much for your explanation!
    I see the work of the HolyGhost in so many ways, it´s always inspiring.
    And -as an ex-catholic- I very much like the idea of “rotation”: It really keeps spirits fresh an brings new impetus for everyone.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings so helpfully free. (Hope I could express in English what I meant to say in German)

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