With a gun and a Bible in hand each day for protection, Mike McPheters led an exciting double life.
An FBI agent by day and a Mormon bishop by night, McPheters combined fighting crime with keeping marriages and congregations together as he served four times as a bishop.
"I was bishop 15 years of the 30 years I served in the FBI," McPheters said. "When I was released this last time, in my sixth year as bishop, I asked the stake president what I did wrong. I was still raring to go."
McPheters was bishop of the Miami 3rd Ward in the Miami Florida Stake, of the West Linn Milwaukie Ward in the West Oregon Stake, in the Pendleton 3rd Ward in the Walla Walla Washington Stake and of the Glines 5th Ward in the Vernal Utah Stake.
Along the way, he was married and became a father of five.
Now he's written a book about his adventures using the notes from his personal journals, newspaper clippings, fellow agents' recollections and personal research.
"Agent Bishop: True Stories From an FBI Agent Moonlighting as a Mormon Bishop" was released in September by Cedar Fort Publishing. More than 8,000 copies of the memoir have sold, with most sales outside of Utah to non-Mormon readers.
"It's mainstream interest. It's not written to the LDS market, but there are definitely spiritual implications," McPheters said.
It chronicles McPheters' adventures and sometimes narrow escapes as he worked for the bureau investigating homicides and assaults on Indian reservations, chasing drug traffickers in Los Angeles and arresting lawbreakers from one coast to the other.
The book also shows the author's regard for God and inspiration ?— detailing several stories in how the whispering of the Spirit saved his life by changing his choices. (In one instance, he was prompted to discard his shotgun in favor of a small handgun, which ultimately saved him in a fierce and deadly shootout.)
Now retired and living in Moses Lake, Wash., with his wife, McPheters feels an obligation not only to record his stories but to tell the public what kind of heroes serve in the FBI and how important it is to have a balance in life.
"Whatever your belief, if you're true to that, it'll be a fulfilling, exciting life. This was always more than just a job. I had the opportunity to deal with some wonderful people," he said. "Of course, I worked with the dregs of society as well."
To maintain an optimistic outlook, McPheters relied on prayer, scripture, service and leaving his work at the office when he went home to his family.
"I try to emphasize (when I talk in firesides and at book signings) that whatever our profession is, we need to keep our lives in balance. As long as I kept my job and my religion in balance, I did fine," he said. "One day I performed a marriage. The next day I arrested a bridegroom. At one point on Sunday I'd be on the stand; the next moment I'd be in a parking lot chasing a tool thief."
He decided to go into the FBI after he served an LDS mission in Uruguay and came to BYU to find two of his missionary brothers working for the bureau. Ultimately, all three worked together on one of the first SWAT teams in Miami.
"They called us the Mormon mafia," McPheters said.Comment on this story
Today, McPheters teaches the high priest group lessons. He and his wife served a mission to the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area and served in the temple in Orlando.
They're energized about the book and more than happy to present their stories at church firesides (call 509-361-9026).
"I kind of feel that this is a kind of mission," McPheters said. "I want people to know what the FBI is really like, that the agents are above average in religious eduction, devoted to their work and their families, with flaws and shortcomings but striving to be better."
The book is available at Deseret Book Seagull Book and Amazon.com.