'I did not ask for this opportunity:' Confessions of a Mormon bishop

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  • crunchem Cedar City, Utah
    July 1, 2013 9:12 p.m.

    Dennis - I know darn well that's happened in some of my bishoprics as well...unfortunately

  • crunchem Cedar City, Utah
    July 1, 2013 9:10 p.m.

    Brave Sir Robin - be forgiving of toosmartforyou: although the article states the SOURCE as the bishop's blog, there is no indication to know if the HEADLINE to this reprint comes from his blog, or perhaps more likely, the DN editor. I would have assumed the latter myself as well. However, after linking over to the bishop's blog, it is indeed self-titled "Confessions..."

  • Kenngo1969 Tooele, UT
    March 29, 2013 8:19 a.m.

    @ Vonkalicious - I believe I understand what you're trying to say, and, having sat at my bishop's elbow for about 18 months now, my appreciation for you and for all bishops who serve has only deepened. Yes, your ward and its members will benefit as you inspire their trust by following Christ, but I would suggest a small modification in your thinking: Teach THEM to trust CHRIST. (Perhaps that goes without saying, but ...)

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    March 28, 2013 12:11 p.m.

    Tyler D: One thing to remember there is only one leader per congregation. If the Bishop is receiving guidance and someone else is at the same time going in a different direction will cause chaos, confusion and divicivness in the congregation. As Twin Lights put it only the Bishop receives revelation for the whole ward and the Branch President for the Branch. Each has two counselors, a ward/branch clerk and an excecutive secretary. This makes up the Bishopric/Branch Presidency. Counselors may receive revelation and inspiration that is necessary for the ward/branch to function. When decisions are necessary the counselors should counsil with the Bishop/Branch President on these issues. If even one of them is not unified with the discussion; prayer is taken and the one offering the prayer is the one who isn't unified. Once the Bishopric is unified then it is generally brought before the entire Ward Council. Again a discussion is said, the Bishop listening to all discussion. If the Bishop/Branch President feels that the guidance to the bishopric/branch president needs further discussion then it is tabled.

  • byu rugby Crystal Lake, IL
    March 28, 2013 5:15 a.m.

    loneliest calling in the church. I am glad they serve. Wouldn't wish it on anyone.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 27, 2013 5:08 p.m.

    Tyler D, Dennis, and Bill in Nebraska,

    No, we won’t receive inspiration contrary to that of the bishop. My own experience is that inspiration comes to the various members of the bishopric and the ward council, but the bishop has the keys to discern from these the way forward.

    None of my bishops have been perfect. But none have ever been anything but dedicated men trying to move in close tandem with the Holy Ghost. I think they succeeded most of the time.

    Do they ever delegate? All the time. Those closest to those being served/led should receive the inspiration and communicate that to the bishop. In fact, bishops often require this (as they are busy enough).

    Lastly, do they ever just “wing it”. Sure. Why? Because not every decision requires a divinely inspired answer to follow. Just a decision and follow through. What is the best night for blue and gold banquet? How many of this or that should we order? Sometimes even who can preside at the baptism on Saturday (though that one could swing both ways)?

    Not every question requires the heavens to open to the bishop.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 27, 2013 4:07 p.m.

    @Bill in Nebraska – “You will not nor will anyone but the Bishop receive inspiration and guidance for the WHOLE ward. You will only receive confirmation that what he is doing is correct. You won't receive inspiration or anything contrary to his inspiration. NEVER! The same is said of anyone who is in authority over you.”

    Wow, did this send a chill down my spine. I wonder how much evil has been done in the world because enough people believed exactly this regarding “God inspired” authority figures.


  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    March 27, 2013 3:38 p.m.

    @Bill in Nebraska....you're wrong.

  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    March 27, 2013 1:22 p.m.

    "I have learned that the strongest among us are those with the cleanest mirrors."

    I have learned that the strongest among us are also the humblest and probably because they have the cleanest mirrors.

  • mdgalbraithjr South Riding, VA
    March 27, 2013 1:06 p.m.

    Bishop (All Bishops, especially my Bishop), thank you for accepting the call. I really appreciate your service and the lessons learned.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    March 27, 2013 12:45 p.m.

    Dennis: I've served under too many Bishop's to even think anything you've said to be anything but fabricated to benefit your own pride. When you say you were intuned with the spirit always then basically you're saying you received this inspiration to do this for your ward but the Bishop did it differently from what you would have done. That unfortunately will never be the case. You will not nor will anyone but the Bishop receive inspiration and guidance for the WHOLE ward. You will only receive confirmation that what he is doing is correct. You won't receive inspiration or anything contrary to his inspiration. NEVER! The same is said of anyone who is in authority over you. They are open to that revelation not you. You only receive confirmation. Failure to listen or follow that confirmation puts you squarley on the side of receiving light from the adversary and only the adversary.

    The Bishop's and Branch President's are told to delegate, delegate, delegate by their Stake Presidents and Area Authorities. They can't do it all otherwise they will not be able to function.

  • sgcannon Medford, OR
    March 27, 2013 9:50 a.m.


    Great question. I am a bishop and I'll give you my answer. One of the first things that you learn as a bishop is that the answers to most people's problems lie within themselves. I try very hard not to dispense advice but to get people to be honest with themselves and to do the hard things that will make their lives better but which they don't want to do simply because they are difficult.

    In most parts of the US, LDS Family Services offers professionally trained LDS counselors who can help with the situations which are beyond the person's ability to find their own solutions.

  • m.g. scott LAYTON, UT
    March 27, 2013 9:39 a.m.

    Well Dennis, whether or not intended, you kind of implied that the Bishops you worked with never followed the necessary "inspiration" to make decisions, but just went ahead and made decisions as if they were managing a baseball team. As far as delegation goes, sometimes that in itself is the inspiration for a calling or decision. Bishops can't do it all, and need help.

  • War dog Taylorsville, UT
    March 27, 2013 9:29 a.m.

    Someone you can talk to and feel comfortable with, be it just a friend, sometimes a complete stranger is just as effective as the overrated professional. The only thing the profressionly trained person can do different is prescribe drugs, which they do to often

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    March 27, 2013 6:08 a.m.

    This is very interesting. Apparently I wasn't "faithful", didn't "listen to the spirit", didn't "recognize" the spirit etc. etc. etc.
    You're all wrong.
    I've been "in tune" for my entire life. What surprised me as a member of the bishopric for these 3 different bishops was how often they had no clue as to what to do and simply delegated decisions to others hoping the task would go away. They were nice men, two of them relatives and one a good friend.
    Not all good ideas come from "inspiration" and not all bad ideas come from "not listening".
    We learn a lot just living life, making mistakes and moving forward.

  • PMaloy Salt Lake City, UT
    March 26, 2013 10:18 p.m.

    Dear Dennis, It sounds like you may have missed the opportunity to learn from men who most likely were consistently seeking to do God's will. Bishops are not perfect. I clearly know of so many mistakes that I feel I made during my term as bishop. Like many other learning experiences they shine brightly in my memory and could easily be depressing if I allowed them to overwhelm me. You will never really know the weight until you are asked to fill those shoes; It is a deeply humbling experience, but not typically frightening if approached faithfully.

  • Y-Ask-Y? Provo, UT
    March 26, 2013 5:51 p.m.

    I appreciate this Bishop's sentiments: that he did not ask for this opportunity. Perhaps if it had been up to him, he would have refused the calling.

    And a few less than positive experiences with Bishops over the years reminds me that neither did the Ward members ask for any particular Bishop to be given the opportunity, as well. Perhaps if it is really up to Ward members, they would frequently refuse some of the Bishops who are called, too.

  • Contribute A Verse Livermore, CA
    March 26, 2013 2:19 p.m.

    What an insightful rendering of your experiences. The only thing to make it better would be a little proofreading and a punctuation check. Helpfully Yours, Contribute A Verse

  • Y Grad / Y Dad Richland, WA
    March 26, 2013 1:23 p.m.

    The experiences are different, but the feelings are very much the same. Nothing prepares you for the inadaquacies and the crushing burdens. Nothing can take the place of the divine confirmation that your sacrifices are acceptable, or when The Lord lets you participate in His miracles in the lives of His precious children.

    In this respect, I've grown increasingly tender and found of Elder Packer's painting, "the Bishop's horse."

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 26, 2013 11:47 a.m.

    Tyler D,

    Perhaps an overgeneralization. But I don’t think he is talking about normal everyday life either. I think he is talking about the most difficult things in our lives and that for those, often one of those four outlets is chosen.

    We believe that those of us who “have the gospel” are under a greater obligation and that going against what the Holy Ghost has once witnessed to us leads us to an often destructive path. It is not a matter of the world being wicked, but of what we do with the information put in our charge.


    Agreed. Stake Presidents tell me their jobs are easier than those of a bishop.


    I can only say that has not been my experience. The more important the question, the more I have seen the spirit move a bishopric to one opinion on a topic.


    Yes, there is that potential but the bishops I have known knew the difference between spiritual counseling and psychological counseling and used church resources to access the latter when necessary.

  • DR Hampton Portage, MI
    March 26, 2013 10:38 a.m.

    Dennis: I served as a branch president, served in 2 bishoprics, and served as a branch president again. In those 9 years, I saw and felt heavenly guidance. Often, however, you don't know how well your inspiration has served others. Honestly, as someone sitting in the other chair in various bishops' offices, I can testify that they were inspired to say what they said to me. Sitting in branch council with our stake presidency, I saw as the president, then his 1st counselor, and then his 2nd counselor each took a shot at a difficult problem. Yes they were winging it. But we all knew when the 2nd counselor spoke that inspiration had been received. Getting guidance from God is not simple or easy, but it happens in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints frequently enough that if we aren't seeing it, either we aren't looking or aren't in tune.

  • donn layton, UT
    March 26, 2013 10:32 a.m.

    RE: Confessions of a Mormon bishop Bishop, I have learned that many know about Jesus Christ but more of us could make an effort to know him. True,

    "Jesus said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins".(John 8:24).

    for if believe not that I am he; the everlasting and unchangeable I am, the true God, God over all, blessed forever; the eternal Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, really made flesh, and become incarnate; the true Messiah, the only Savior of sinners; the one and only Mediator between God and man. Not an exalted man

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 26, 2013 10:14 a.m.

    “I have learned that to deal with life's pain most of us choose one of the following: alcohol, drugs, pornography, or spirituality.”

    This comment seemed odd. There are all sorts of ways people escape from normal day-to-day life, including the painful stuff. How about work, sports, hobbies, video games, books, music… just to name a few?

    It’s almost like he is saying, “either be active in the church or engage in destructive acts to cope.”

    Whether this is his real experience or not (perhaps only the ones who engage in destructive forms of escape come to see him in the first place), it seems to stem from a very “us/them” mindset – “them”=the wicked world, while “us”=the faithful.

    Too cynical?

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    March 26, 2013 10:06 a.m.

    Bishop is the most difficult job in the church no question. Great respect for all bishops. They have to somehow find the time and energy to work their job and their calling as a bishop and there is only 24 hrs in a day...and add to that their family....and then try to figure out how to find a moment or two of 'down time away'.

  • mcrowley SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    March 26, 2013 9:15 a.m.

    Quote attributed to LeGrand Richards: "God cannot make an unwilling man qualified, but he Can make a willing man qualified." I have certainly witnessed this miraculous principle. As a professional clinical therapist, I have come to the conclusion that any person, a Professional or a Bishop, who 'leans to his/her own understanding' robs his client of the ultimate source of help. I have have been astonished on many occasions at what has come out of my mouth, knowing full well I was not that wise.

  • Southernmiss kaysville, UT
    March 26, 2013 9:00 a.m.


    The mantle of authority rests only on the Bishop. You could not, and would not have known the feelings in his heart. You also would not have been in the office with him when he spoke with members of the congregation who came to him privately...

    If you are not feeling the spirit...then that is you "winging it". Think what you like, but you can't "know" the intent of anothers heart. Did he ask for your counsel? I am sure he did! And you no doubt "winged it"!

  • dotGone Puyallup, WA
    March 26, 2013 8:43 a.m.

    Our bishop is a young guy with six young kids, a beautiful wife and he works as an ER MD. I don't know how he and his wife do it! Many men in our ward with less family responsibilities could have filled that role. I had no idea who he was until he was called. Yet, he has stepped up to the plate. and his wife stepped up to the plate. They inspire in me a desire to pitch in, to not add to burdens. Maybe that's partly why Bishops are often called from that demographic - so we will all pitch in... Keeping the congregation going is an "all hands on deck" situation. I've often heard bishops say they appreciate the help from the Lord, their counselors, other ward leadership -and even us rank and file folks who just try to fill our callings without being a pain in the behind. "Let us all press on"!

  • JohnSA Sandy, UT
    March 26, 2013 8:10 a.m.

    While I appreciate the experiences and insight shared by this good Bishop, a part of me felt awkward first reading this on his blog as he currently serves as a Bishop. I wondered after reading his blog, are his Ward members now more likely or less likely to share their confessions with him? Are his Ward members really looking to him for wisdom as he has stated? or are they looking to the Lord and go to him because he’s the one filling the position at this time? It is true, we expect so much from our Bishops and they do so much in their service for us and we are so grateful for their overwhelming service. The best ones protect our confessions as sacred and serve the Lord with the deepest and sincerest humility.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    March 26, 2013 7:36 a.m.

    Though I often disagree with Hutterite, I think his question is legitimate, though it does appear tainted by an agenda.

    I am an active LDS male. I think many of us are aware of situations where a Bishop fell short. Mostly it is human frailty, bad habits or personality quirks that rub us the wrong way and make it difficult to work with a Bishop. But if we humble ourselves and go to the Lord, we can get past that, honor the call and recognize that "he did not ask for the job".

    However, the Bishop of my youth, who sent me and my best friend to our missions let pride enter into his life, acted on a base impulse when a female ward member confided in him, and was a large part of ruining two marriages. Later the same pride got him involved in shady business deals, got him excommunicated, and got him assassinated in a hotel bathtub in Vegas.

    I can't say that this did not impact me and my best friend.

    But for every one of these stories, there are literally 20,000 stories of selfless men who serve long hours righteously for God and His children.

  • M88nlight Raymond, Canada, 00
    March 26, 2013 7:34 a.m.

    Quite often when a person acknowledged his/her sins to me as their Bishop, they would add the comment, "You must really think poorly of me now!" - or words to that effect.

    In actuality, I admired them for their courage.

    It was amazing the confidence they would place in me. I don't know if they realized it or not, but their confidence was placed in God who called me to His service. He is the healer; I was his servant. My advice was His message that was whispered to my mind.

  • EnglishAlan Rugeley, Staffs
    March 26, 2013 6:42 a.m.

    @Hutterite. That is a great question, and one that worries all Bishops in their early days. Having served two terms as an LDS Bishop, I can promise you that I did not feel any more prepared the second time than the first time. There was a more than twenty year gap between the terms, and the world had changed so much in the interim.

    One "Lesson Learned" that is not mentioned in the article is one I learned very early. It was simply, "Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies." I recall a Sunday very early in my first tenure where everything that could go wrong did so. I prayed in my room, and poured out my soul as to my inadequacies, and told the Lord that I felt He had the wrong man, and I was letting him down. There followed a sweet, sweet moment where I felt hugged, and heard a voice inside me say, "But I love you, and your sacrifices are acceptable to Me." I doubted myself several times after that experience, but I knew who had called me, and I did not doubt Him.He carried me to places I did not know existed.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    March 26, 2013 6:19 a.m.

    @ John C.C.....I've been in three bishoprics and have yet to witness Gods "guidance" in a single decision or action from the Bishops involved. They were all winging it.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    March 25, 2013 9:56 p.m.

    Hutterite: You look in the mirror and see wisdom. The truly wise, however, see wisdom from the reflection of others. Instead of asking a self-serving question, perhaps another question could be asked: is there something the Bishop said that strikes me as being particularly insightful for my own situation? Maybe that train of thought will lead to a valuable and useful insight. Your question, on the other hand, seems to reflect an agenda.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 25, 2013 8:01 p.m.

    Awesome. Thank you.

    We should be grateful to those who invest so much in our service. Further, we should cut them a break - knowing that they are not perfect and need our support.

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    March 25, 2013 7:48 p.m.


    Yes, if they don't rely on God's guidance. If they do rely on it I prefer their guidance to those who are only "professionally" trained.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    March 25, 2013 6:02 p.m.

    Is there any potential for problems arising when the untrained or unqualified are placed in positions where they have access to 'the darkest corners' of peoples' lives?

  • Gregorio Norco, CA
    March 25, 2013 5:08 p.m.

    As a released Bishop, I found the confessions in this adage: The highest form of SPENDING is spending self for others." As the LDS number 237 hymnal says, "And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrrow" Bishop.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    March 25, 2013 2:25 p.m.


    This article is a reprint from this bishop's blog which went viral over the weekend. The bishop himself chose the "Confessions" title for the post. It's awfully presumptuous to tell this man what he should call his writing.

  • baddog Cedar Rapids, IA
    March 25, 2013 1:56 p.m.

    Bishop Hill is spot on. Lessons learned while helping others learn how to overcome are priceless. I'd never exchange those 5-plus years for any other opportunity in my life, outside of being a husband, father and grandfather.

  • bw00ds Tucson, AZ
    March 25, 2013 1:43 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this article. It was thought-provoking and insightful. Thanks to all the bishops of the world.

  • SoCalTrueBlue2 San Diego, CA
    March 25, 2013 1:32 p.m.

    This was powerful and deeply insightful. Thank you.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    March 25, 2013 1:19 p.m.

    I respectfully request the editors to change the title from "Confessions" to "Lessons." That would be more accuraste and not make it look like sensational reading of a bishop that messed up. I honestly think the calling deserves that much dignity.

    Thanks to all the Bishop's I've had over the years. Their dedicated service can hardly be counted in terms we would understand. And others are helping them, too, such as their counsellors, stake presidents, and relief society presidents. Those who are willing to receive help may certainly obtain it.

  • common twit Salt Lake City, UT
    March 25, 2013 11:28 a.m.

    Living on the other side of being in a clergy, I am grateful for bishops, priests and ministers. They do a great service to our communities. I see these clergy, as a whole, trying to guide us to a path of happiness.
    I admire these people but I am extremely glad that I don't have to be one of them.

  • IJ Hyrum, Ut
    March 25, 2013 11:05 a.m.

    It's the best call that can come to a man. Thanks for allowing me to reflect.

  • Third try screen name Mapleton, UT
    March 25, 2013 10:59 a.m.

    I have learned that trying to change someone else is futile.
    When you change yourself, you can profoundly impact the lives of others.
    Bishops encourage us to make those changes and persevere.

  • Vonkalicious Lehi, Utah
    March 25, 2013 10:38 a.m.

    Thank you Bishop. I've only been experiencing these same feelings for 7 months. It is reassuring to know that I am not alone. I echo your words in that I had no idea the world was so dark and so beautiful. I don't feel sorry for me but instead for my flock; I can only hope and pray that their trust in me continues as I seek counsel from His spirit.

  • falasha Mount Laurel, NJ
    March 25, 2013 10:21 a.m.

    Bishop Hill. What are some ways in which the uniquely Mormon views of atonement have revealed additional light on how to convert weakness into strength, stress into faith, despair into hope, anger into love, and criticism into a desire to clothe with the "garment of praise" Isaiah 61:3?

  • Donald Williams Marysville, WA
    March 25, 2013 10:12 a.m.

    Amen and amen!

  • rlsintx Plano, TX
    March 25, 2013 9:56 a.m.

    Yes, you're learning well. :) And thanks for serving others - we appreciate it most in our quiet moments. My bishop in Texas literally saved my life one night by just dropping in to see how I was doing and I count him as my deepest friend on earth years after his release.