When I led music in Primary, our Father’s Day performance often included all the verses of “Fathers” in the "Children’s Songbook" that also pays homage to the service provided by bishops, or the “Father of our Ward.”
They don’t get enough thanks, so it was nice to create a musical moment to show gratitude.
While the sacred mantle as well as priesthood handbooks provide continuity and predictability, the individual strengths of a Mormon bishop’s personality lend themselves to a variety of unique priorities during his short-term lay ministry.
For all the different bishops and styles of leadership I have supported, the thing I appreciate most is each one’s effort to encourage “happiness” as we try to live according to God’s "plan of happiness.”
Of course, a Mormon’s doctrinal definition of happiness also includes elements of repentance, sacrifice, service and ironic sorrow necessary to keep our baptismal covenants of mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort.
Bishops remind us to be happy as we serve in ward callings, pay an honest tithe and give generous fast offerings to help those in need.
But I’m sure bishops often feel like the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi when his brothers whined that they “might have been happy” if things had been different — if they hadn’t been asked to serve, sacrifice, repent and leave all their treasure in Jerusalem. That’s when Bishops, like Nephi, make it a priority to remind us of the things we know and believe.
Nephi strongly reminded his brothers that their faith was based in part on the knowledge of God’s miracle in leading the Children of Israel to the Promised Land. Our bishops often remind us through example that the best way to be happy is to share our testimony through word and deed.
The duty was wearisome for Nephi just as it is for every bishop I have known. They seem to end their call to duty with a few more gray hairs, worn fabric on the knees of their suit pants and instinctive reactions to drop everything if needed when the phone rings.
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My heart has ached as I’ve watched the bishops in our area suffer through poor health, failed businesses and family struggles while serving. Although their personal lives have been less than easy, they have never failed to remain “happy” with the righteous perspective that God doesn’t always immediately bless us for our service.
So as our current bishop passes his sixth anniversary this month, we are especially grateful that the Father of our Ward has impressively endured to the end (and beyond).
Happy Father’s Day to our bishops in the church, and may we all try a little harder to be “happy children” in our ward family.