If you have Mormon friends or acquaintances, you might have heard them talk about their bishop. The title of Bishop is also used in other churches, the game of chess, or maybe you’ve never heard the term at all. A Mormon Bishop leads a group of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a specific area. Bishops serve as shepherds looking after their flock. In smaller areas they are referred to as Branch Presidents.
Bishops come from all walks of life. In an organization where there are no paid clergy, Bishops give freely of their time, talents, skills and resources to serve their congregation for a certain length of time. This means they do all of that while still working to earn a living to support their individual families.
So what is different about Mormon bishops when compared to most other ecclesiastical leaders?
Mormon Bishops are Chosen From Out of the Congregation
Mormons believe that leaders of the Church receive inspired information – in answer to sincere prayer – as to who they should call to the position of bishop. There are no qualifications of educational attainment or income bracket. They look at the worthiness of male members in a specific geographic area. A bishop must be someone who adheres to the standards of the Church and is striving to live them. He must also have a willingness to serve. The wife of a prospective Bishop is also consulted by leaders, to make sure that she is also willing and able to support him in his duties and obligations to the members of the ward.
Mormon Bishops Serve For a Limited Amount of Time
A Mormon Bishop only serves for an average of five years. Within that span of time, there are numerous things he has to preside over. Some of the most important ones include making sure that the members are “nourished by the good word of God”. He oversees church meetings, especially those on Sunday like Sacrament meeting. He sees to it that correct principles are being taught in classes and everyone is united in doctrine. The Bishop also attends to the welfare of the members. He makes sure that help is available and organizes committees to make sure members’ needs are met. A Bishop is also responsible for the finances of the congregational unit they are serving. He receives tithes and offerings, distributes funds where they are needed and keeps proper records.
Mormon Bishops Are Not the Only Spiritual Teachers
Bishops are expected to delegate. That means he will also get inspiration from the Lord to call other members to help him. First and foremost, he is to recommend two other worthy male members to be his counselors. Most members of the congregation serve others in some capacity. Some teach the children, the youth, the adult women or the adult men to name a few. He will then oversee these groups by conducting meetings. Training and followups are important tools for a Bishop.
Mormon Bishops Serve Without Payment
Bishops serve without any personal compensation, beyond their love for the Lord and the joy of serving their neighbors in love as Christ would serve them. It takes a great deal of faith but they hold onto the promise that “in the service of (their) fellow beings (they) are in the service of (their) God.” Service is a way of life expected from all disciples of Jesus Christ. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “They are totally uncompensated by the coin of mortality. For the reward of their labors, all rely on the Lord’s deferred compensation plan.”
Bishops are men who are “about (their) Father’s business;” men who serve their loving Father in Heaven so His spirit children will be blessed. Perhaps even the true meaning of charity and service are in their “worthy heart and willing hands”.
Being a Bishop is not easy. It is tiring, daunting and requires more than what meets the eye. They give not just time, effort and resources but patience, integrity and a sterling character. Bishops get by with help from the members in their respective units and other Church leaders. But even more important, they get divine help from above, without which, the whole work would be impossible.