You’re the Bishop #5 (Poll)

guestMormon 42 Comments

Bishop Bill again, folks.  Now for one that has nothing to do with the ward. bishop you have had a hard month, lots of problems, meetings, etc.  that took you away from your wife and young family.  Last Friday you had a date night planned with your wife, even had a babysitter lined up, and at the last second you had to cancel due to bishop duties.  Your wife was understandably upset, but did not complain.  When you got home late Friday night you promised her that next Friday would be all hers.

You’ve arranged for your mother to watch the kids, and everything is going to be great.  Your wife is just getting in the car, and as you are walking around the car, you hear the phone ring. You both look at each other, and you stop walking.  Your wife gives you that look.

[poll ID = “143”]

This very scenario was presented by a GA during a Bishop training meeting I attended. He said it really happened to a bishop he knew. Make sure you tune back for the very surprising outcome given by the GA!

Comments 42

  1. you have to rely on the spirit in situations like this one. Who knows whether that call is from a young person contemplating suicide or a wife thinking of running off with someone else, or a telemarketer trying to sell investments?

    I’d tell her ‘honey, I need to take this’ and then see if we should reschedule to saturday night or just leave for that date an hour later. Plus grandma here will probably enjoy staying for two nights if you explain that you had to run over and visit a 17 year old who was trying to kill themselves or to convince a young husband not to leave the home.

    So for me, take the call and then work it out. you are only bishop for 5 odd years average anyway and God can explain things better to the wife, if you are doing his work he is sure to help out.

  2. So you manage to save the young couples marriage, and in the process kill your own. In seriousness what a balancing act to have to manage full time employment, family man, and on top of that serve as the go-to counsellor in the Ward. The proper answer probably depends largely on how well you know your wife, and understand where she is with the whole thing. If she’s just a little irritated with the inconvenience, but ultimately satisfied with the religion and lifestyle, then answering the phone should probably be okay. On the other hand, if she is at her wit’s end with the time commitment and drain that comes from being a Bishops wife, then he ought to think seriously about being released. You can’t help others with their problems if you are unable to properly solve your own.

  3. I assume we live in the modern world, so that the caller can call on your cell if it’s that urgent. And if it’s not, then they might actually find their own solution to the problem.

    I had a bishop who regularly said, “Poor planning on your part does not necessarily equal an emergency on my part.” It seems hard to imagine what issues might arise that would require immediate attention from the bishop.

    A blessing could be given by any other priesthood holder. A disciplinary council will require prior planning anyway.

    A bishop who believes himself to be totally indepensible is just wrong.

    (That said, I agree with Carlos that you need to listen to the spirit.)

  4. In my experience as bishop, the call is not from some 17 year-old who’s going to kill themselves or a couple in the middle of a knock-down-drag-out fight. It’s someone who is wondering if Easter is going to be on a Sunday again this year and can’t wait until Sunday to ask or who would rather call you than their HT, VT, EQP or RSP. Take the call and refer them to their HT, VT, EQP or RSP.

    In our ward, a bishop’s wife had an affair because *he never had time for me*. Sometimes it’s the bishop’s wife who needs the attention and the ward members need to grow up and quit expecting him to be a surrogate father.

  5. I’m interested in what “Bishop’s Duties” would have been important enough to cancel the previous date, emergencies will happen but with proper planning and delegation, I don’t really see why a Bishops marriage should suffer.

  6. I once heard a sister lament to me. My husband is everyone’s else’s Elder’s Quorum President but he’s not mine.

    I can imagine some situations when it is necessary to cancel things, but for the most part, Floyd is right, I suspect that most things can wait or be dealt with by someone else.

  7. In Eric Samuelson’s film peculiarities, one of the plot lines revolves around a bishop whose own marriage is suffering. Almost this exact scenario took place, and he took the call, as a result of which he ended up overseeing the seating arrangements for a RS conference.

    I would check the caller ID, and if it is real person take the call. If it is a true emergency I’d deal with it, but in 95% of the cases it’s not an emergency, in which event I’d either delegate it or deal with it later. Which is to say I agree with Floyd.

  8. I would be interested in how effective Bishops training is in transmitting this message, perhaps Floyd the Wonderdog should do tours teaching this message clearly (as long as his wife still get’s quality time).

  9. ‘In our ward, a bishop’s wife had an affair because *he never had time for me*. Sometimes it’s the bishop’s wife who needs the attention and the ward members need to grow up and quit expecting him to be a surrogate father.’

    I’m afraid that currently isn’t the case these days. In my study of church history I’ve noticed a trend moving from Joseph Smith’s statement of “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves” to nothing but “Follow the prophet” (when that song really should be “Follow the Savior,” but I digress). In the past 50 years, it’s been ingrained into the minds of the Saints to rely more and more upon just the words of the “leaders” and not to think and act for themselves based on the spirit of discernment. The prophet Joseph even said that he wouldn’t consider people who had to rely on him for everything as intelligent men.

  10. Don’t answer the phone. Verizon isn’t the spirit, it is a massive conglomerate that interrupts life more frequently than breathing sometimes. The Bishop isn’t so all fire important as to have to take every phone call — it is the ultimate in grandiose delusions.

    A suicidal 17 year old — call 911.
    Young husband walking out — call a divorce attorney or marriage counselor (and let the wife pick)

    The still small voice isn’t the buzzing of your cell phone. If you were following the spirit you would have had everything cleared up before date night with the wife.

  11. I’d take the phone call and try very hard to delegate whatever responsibility was trying to make its way to me. A suicidal teen is better served by 911 than by a bishop, anyway.

  12. Some missionaries were asking President Monson to give a blessing to someone. He told them, Elders, you don’t have any less authority that I do. Go and give the blessing. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

  13. ignore the phone call. In fact, this bishop should have ignored the phone call the previous Friday. If I were the stake president, an area Seventy, or an Apostle, I would counsel the members of the church not to overburden the bishop with things, many of which are of little consequence. I would counsel members of the church that if the bishop cannot be gotten a hold of right away to take a breath and relax. Very little is of such dire need that a bishop must be counseled immediately. If something is truly an emergency, then call emergency services.

  14. My past 2 Bishops always screened their calls, even when they were home. That’s what answering machines are for. People get trained pretty quick when the Bishop is consistent. I know because I was the Exec Secretary and ended up fielding most calls when the Bishop wasn’t answering. In fact his answering machine message told people to call me and then listed my number.

    Rarely is there something so important it can’t be put off for a bit. In many cases a little time can help. In those rare cases when it is so important, the Bishop will probably know because they’ve been working with the individual or family or the spirit will prompt them to answer.

  15. As a bishop’s wife for five and a half years (many years ago), this scenario repeated itself many times. Most often, he would take the call. It was the worst 5 and a half years of my life. By taking the call, the bishop is saying that his service to his ward members is more important than his relationship with his wife. period. Our marriage has recovered, but it has been a long and difficult process. He has since spent 15 years in two different stake presidencies, and he no longer takes those calls. No one has died, divorced or committed murder as a result.

  16. You are already walking to the car….but you HEAR the phone ring. I say if you are out of the house and are walking to the car, you have committed your time. Should have turned the ringer off before walking out the door and then you wouldn’t have heard the ringer. If a funeral needs to be arranged, then it will still need arrangements two or three hours after the date. If someone is in the hospital, then they will receive health care at the hospital for 2-3 hours and still have needs that can be addressed then.

  17. I don’t have a cell phone and I couldn’t be happier. One of my previous bishops and I share the same sentiment on those things: “I don’t want to be that accessible.” He knew full well that there was a time for him to be a bishop and a time for him to be a husband/father/grandfather. Even the president of the church is a prophet when he needs to be.

    I also had a professor at BYU who told us that providing love and service for his wife is the highest possible calling that one can have in this life. If he’s talking with someone in his office and the phone rings, he will answer it ONLY if it’s his wife, not for anyone else. And if something comes up to try and interrupt his date night, he tells the caller, “I’m already engaged in a prior priesthood commitment,” and the caller will leave it at that.

  18. We did not ignore the phone when my husband was bishop. It wore both my husband and I out, and our children suffered. A bishop has two counselors. Let them carry more of the very heavy load. Let Family Home Evening go uninterrupted. Let a marriage remain strong!

  19. I am a Bishop’s kid. And with some siblings, the stereotype proved true. At one point in FHE, Dad asked us about requesting a release. We unanimously said NO, but we should have yelled YES. After 22 years (yes, really**) and much heartache, he was released. In the days prior to the 3-hr block, he would stay after priesthood meeting counting tithing, counseling members, etc. while Mom was trying to keep dinner warm and deal with hungry kids. From that perspective,

    and based on the following:

    A comment I heard years ago about advice to Bishops included the control of a schedule. In particular, about someone calling in late evening to see the Bishop NOW to finally repent from an old sin. Invite the person to meet on the Bishop’s schedule, like 5:00 AM at the Bishop’s office, instead of coming ‘right over’. It’s amazing how that urgent matter can suddenly wait for Sunday.

    And a true story:

    In a neighboring branch, the Branch President worked as a Physician’s Assistant. When branch members somehow acquired his private cell number (which was intended only for his wife to use in emergencies) and would call him while he was in surgery, he had to ask for an early release.

    I agree with CarlosJC and others that unless the Spirit is SCREAMING in your ear to answer the phone, run very fast to the car and drive away before Grandma calls you from the doorway.

    (**I tried to find a link to a Church News article about him but their online archives go back only to 1988. He was released about 1984)

  20. As the husband of a Relief Society president, I can say I greatly appreciate it when people take the necessary forethought and steps to prevent an “emergency” from occurring on a Friday or Saturday night. However, I have been surprised by the occasions when folks have felt no qualms about adding to the already heavy burden of a mother of four children on a weekend night.

  21. I would be remiss in not adding that Dad also had many, wondrous, joyful events as Bishop, and positively touched the lives of many people, in and out of our ward.

  22. Wow, interesting comments here.

    I completely agree and support that if a 17yold is suicidal one needs to get the professionals involved but there is some time between his call to you and the paramedics intervention. Most likely the bishop will take the call and then immediately he’d call for help, kids parents or 911 etc, wait with him until they arrive (whatever the spirit will lead one) but you still need to go back inside and take that call first.

    I agree also that first comes one’s own marriage, then the family and lastly the calling, that’s not in dispute here, but maybe that date can happen a bit later that night or Saturday, if the call is an emergency and not a telemarketer. It is a shame when a marriage or family is affected negatively by a church calling.

    But the: “a bishop’s wife had an affair because *he never had time for me*” ….Na, that just the excuse. The ‘He never had time for me’ is about selfishness and wrong choices on the sinners part and if anything it prove that there was a motive and then action ie 2 elements of a sin. Take that particular motive away and she probably find another one, like ‘God took him early (died) and I’m still a sexual woman, thats why I slept with someone’, or ‘I was bored at home, so I banged the gardener’, and I could go on and on with all the excuses I’ve heard over the years, all variations of the first great excuse to justify sin: “an I my brothers keeper?”. Anyways, I digress.

  23. Don’t even think twice and keep walking to the car. Then enjoy the date. The chances of a suicidal teen or some other life in the balance event are remote to infintesimal, though serious on the odd and rare occasion they do occur.

    I’m the HPGL in my ward and am successful reaching the Bishop only about half the time I try, and I’m firmly in the camp that calling the Bishop at home for anything is a measure of last resort, even to offer him my unused season tickets to a baseball game. He’s already bothered enough by the cranks and petty issues. Perhaps the Bishop sees my number and just ignores my calls, which I am perfectly fine with. This is really a no-brainer, unless, of course, the spirit is screaming to answer the phone. Absent the spirit screaming in my ear, I’m not even thinking twice about letting the call go straight to voice mail where it will sit until Saturday morning afternoon after I’ve also spent time with the kids.

  24. Re: 23 and the BYU prof calling a date with his wife a “priesthood commitment” sounds silly to me, even though it’s probably a useful dodge for a pestering member. A husband doesn’t need the priesthood to enjoy a date with his wife. Strange use of the priesthood, imo.

  25. A suididal teen? Please.

    I did not know til after my release (the second time I served as a bishop) how hard it was for my wife. She did not tell me (bless her heart; she wanted to sustain me) and I was too stupid to notice. Were I to do it again, I would do it differently as it relates to my family.

    I had a bishop who took no calls on Mondays because of FHE. That’s not no calls until 9 pm. It was NO CALLS ON MONDAY (midnight to midnight). The ward learned.

    As bishop I advocated a significant reduction in ward activities (or making sure “regular” activities were at “regular” times so that I could be home with my family instead of at the CTR 8 special presentation of whatever it was.

    President Packer taught us in a regional PH Ldrship meeting to get off the bishop’s “worry list.” He made clear that he meant becoming spiritually self reliant and not worrying the bishop with every little thing; he also made clear that some matters (very few) needed to go to the bishop (but almost never on a Friday night!)

    Elder Holland’s talk notwithstanding, my experience is that there are very, very few things that could not be postponed or delegated.

    (In Venezuela, where I was also a bishop, few members had phones; it was really nice!)

  26. We have a duty to take care of our marriage. If we fail that, we might as well not try in the other areas of life… it’s that important.

    A ward can easily wear out one bishop, even a small ward.

  27. Here’s a tangent but related question:
    How comfortable are we in discussing our problems with other line leaders. i.e. High Priests Group Leader, Elder’s Quorum President, Bishop’s Councilors, Relief Society President. Using these leaders would provide needed relief for the Bishop, but, do we give those callings the same respect? Probably the RS Pres., but the others???

    For me, it depends on my relationship with the person in the calling as well as the nature of the problem. Do I trust the person to be confidential? Do I think he can really help? Am I humble enough to work with him?

  28. Re 34

    I still don’t see a connection between a glib response and the endowment and/or sealing. How far can one extend the logic? Consider a Saturday afternoon phone call from a SP to a member asking for some time to discuss something Church related. Would a member be justified to respond, “Can’t speak now President I’m fulfilling my priesthood commitment by coaching my daughter’s soccer team, er I mean spending time with my daugther to whom I’m sealed by virtue of the temple covenants made in the Holy Temple with my wife and under which she was born.” Or is the silly “priesthood commitment” answer only good to avoid having to interrupt a date with a spouse? I think it has real potential in a wide range of settings. While I think it’s silly and too cute, I think the answer has some real practical value for a busy Mormon and even a BYU Prof.

    It only makes sense if everything a husband does with a wife falls under the husband’s priesthood commitment. Maybe it should, you get no argument here. But, as of today I don’t recall making a covenant or even a commitment in the temple to take my wife out on regular dates. Maybe I missed something. I wouldn’t be opposed to making such a covenant or commitment and having it solemnized in the temple even, I just don’t recall having done so. I have made a de facto arrangement with my wife to go on regular dates, but it hardly rises to the level of a “priesthood commitment.” That’s just silly. And to raise the stakes and incorporate the temple covenants makes it an even sillier statement still. (For the record, my wife and I both work and we prefer Saturday date nights since we are both too tired when Friday night rolls around to enjoy a night out.)

  29. Hah. You are all wussies. Are you talking about the same church that sent married men on foreign missions for years at a time leaving the wife to manage the 5 kids and the farm?

    Answer the phone already. It’ll take only a minute or two to determine whether its a real crisis or not. Sure, somebody’s more likely to be offended if you tell them you’ll talk to them later than if you just “happen to not be home”, but maybe they’ll be less likely to call you about petty stuff in the future.

  30. “Hah. You are all wussies.” And I mean that in the most flippant, irresponsible, and good-natured manner possible.

    I think bishops should delegate everything that doesn’t specifically require the bishop. If they would do that, I don’t think their wives would have such a hard time with a 2-minute interruption at the beginning of a date. I say that as a currently serving counselor of a bishop who wants to do it all, and whose wife has some justifiable complaints. He’s a great bishop, though.

  31. Hmmm. I’d say don’t answer the phone.
    However, I do remember I was supposed to babysit for the bishop and his wife once until she called and cancelled that evening citing bishop duties. Turns out a lot of kids in our ward were molested, the perpetrator in our ward was arrested and then committed suicide in jail.
    However, he doesn’t let being a bishop get in the way most of the time. They make family a priority and you can tell. So, I’m guessing she wasn’t mad, because of all the other dates they have been on.

  32. 35 rbc: I share your view on the glib connection between temple covenants and date nights. I suppose such comments are made from time to time in priesthood meetings, etc, to convince men that they really do need to foster a relationship with their wives.

    Of more importance to me is that this bishop already committed this time to his wife; he should honor his commitment to his wife and not simply assume that it is a disposable commodity.

    (I wonder what Johnny Lingo would do?)

  33. So, there I was sitting with lots of other bishops listening to this GA tell this story about a bishop going on a date with his wife. When the phone rang as he was walking out the door, we all thought that the GA would tell us to put our family first, and give our wife the time she deserved. But no, it wasn’t to be. In the story being told to us, the bishop returned to answer the phone, and ended up canceling the date with his wife to tend to an “emergency”. I don’t remembers the exact nature of the emergency, but it was either somebody leaving their spouse, or somebody contemplating suicide. (on a side note, I look at these stories as parables, made famous by Paul H. Dunn). The moral of the story was that you are only a bishop for 5-6 years, that you need to follow the spirit. I often wonder about this, as I personally know two bishops that were divorced soon after being released for reasons directly related to then not giving enough time to their family.

  34. Telephones and computers should be our servants and not our bosses. Telephones, especially, have horrible manners – ringing over and over insisting on an answer having no idea what one’s circumstances are. Just pretend you left a minute earlier. This is an interesting “time-machine” story – what if you actually had left a minute earlier – and the suicide call came – what’s the difference. Respect your leaving time – then, getting back a bit earlier than if you had taken that call, you may then not miss some other important call you would have otherwise missed. Let these tools be your dictator, and your agency is much compromised.

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