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Lessons I’ve Learned as a Bishop

This past Sunday I spoke in our ward's sacrament meeting. Here is a copy of my remarks. 😊

 

In June, it has been 2 years since I have been serving as the Bishop of the Belmead ward. Today I would like to share 5 lessons I have learned in these past years serving in this capacity.


I don’t share this list to be “look at me, I’m a Bishop.” I actually rarely feel like I’m doing a really great job. Most of the time, I feel like I’m letting you down. Instead, I hope that together, we can learn a few things from this harrowing experience.


Lessons I have learned as a Bishop, #1…


#1 - My number one job I love you.

When I was young, I remember hearing returned missionaries saying things like, “I just the people of the Philippines”, or “I really learned to love the people of Colorado.” And I remember thinking, “How can that be? You learned to love everyone in Colorado?” “You can’t love all the people in a country.” But as I have grown older, I have discovered this can be a reality. We can love people we do not know fully.


We have been in the ward since 2011, and for many years it has felt like home. But I remember the first week I sat up on the stand as Bishop. The way I felt about all of you had distinctly changed. I love every one of you. Even those I don’t know that well. I believe I have received just a little glimpse of how our Heavenly Parents and our big brother, Jesus Christ, feel about all of us. And it is my primary role to remind you of the love they have for you. I hope that when I serve you, when I am in your home when you are in the Bishop’s office, you feel a little bit of God’s love through me.


This principle applies to every one of us who serves in the church. We are to help others remember that they are loved.


Please be that person who others can feel God’s love through.


#2 - Ministering is the most important thing we do for each other.

I often lay awake in bed worrying about you, and sadly, I have concluded that I can’t help all of you. I can’t be at every move (although I’ve tried), I can give every blessing, I can’t be in every home, I can’t solve all your problems. This is why ministering is so important.

Besides the ordinances we participate in, ministering to one another is the most important thing we do in this church. We cannot make it through this life on our own. We need each other.


Please minister to each other.


#3 – Everyone here is a little broken.

I don’t actually believe anyone is broken, but I use the word “broken” only because it easily gets across my intended meaning - Every single one of us has problems. Every single one of us has weaknesses. Every single one of us feels inadequate. Every single one of us feels “broken” in some way.


One of the worst parts of being a Bishop is that I know this fact firsthand. I know your problems more intimately than I have any desire to. Because of this, I know every single one of us has challenges.


You will likely remember a story Elder Eyring told of going on visits with his Priesthood leader, who would often say to him,

"Hal, when you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” Not only was he right, but I have learned over the years that he was too low in his estimate.”

I tell you this for two reasons:


#1 – So you know you are not alone.


#2 – Look to your left, now look to your right. At least one of those people is really struggling right now. Please do something to lighten their burden, to make their day a little brighter.


#4 - Anyone can change

Let me repeat. Anyone can change.


The best part of being a Bishop is that you get a front-row seat as people make changes in their life. It is so rewarding to see members of our ward family express a desire to change, work to enact that change, and then experience the joy the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring.


Academically, I think most of us believe that change is always possible. But, in practice, we are often a bit more skeptical. Let us look at 2 examples from scripture that exemplify how change is always possible:


In Acts, we read how Saul was a zealous persecutor of Christians. We read that he was a key player in the horrific stoning of the apostle Stephen. But after a divine experience on the road to Damascus, he becomes one of the great missionaries of the young church.


In the Book of Mormon, we read that Alma the Younger was described as “the very vilest of sinners.” Later in life, he became the Chief Judge to the Nephites and prophet to the followers of Christ.


If Paul and Alma can change that much, can you make the 1% changes you need in your life?


Please know what you can change.


#5 - Receiving revelation is work

One of the most challenging parts of being a Bishop is filling all the callings needed to make a ward run.


I really don’t like to be micromanaged. I actually really don’t like being told what to do. But sometimes I wish God would do a little more micromanaging when it comes to callings. If I had my wish, an angel would appear in the office and just tell us who to call. Unfortunately, this is not how God has set things up. Instead, he wants us to put in some effort.


What I have learned is that there is rarely a way around this. If we have a calling to fill and the only time I think about it is during Bishopric meeting, I am not going to get divine help. Instead, I need to include that in my prayers, I need to spend time thinking and pondering over it, I need to discuss it with the Bishopric. I need to show my Heavenly Father that I am serious about getting an answer.


This same principle applies to any type of revelation you want to receive. Do you want to receive a witness of the divinity of the Book of Mormon? This is going to require work. Do you want to get an answer to a question? This is going to require work. It all requires work.


“In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. … My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. … Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.”

What does this mean in practice? What does it mean to “increase your spiritual capacity to receive work”? Let me give 2 suggestions.


(1) It is key that we learn to know what the spirit of God sounds like.


In the Book of Mormon, we read of Nephi’s mission to retrieve the brass plates from Laban. He and his brother attempted this multiple times and failed multiple times. During his last attempt, Nephi found Laban drunk and passed out. At which time, the spirit commanded Nephi to slay Laban. Upon feelings this, Nephi “shrunk and would that I might not slay him.”


I can imagine that if I were Nephi, I would very quickly rationalize that the prompting I felt was not from God but just a weird stray thought in my head. But Nephi did not make this mistake. So, how did Nephi know that this message had a divine origin? Because he had heard the voice of God before. He had put himself into a position to feel the Spirit so many times that he knew the difference between divine impressions and his own thoughts. We need to do the same.


(2) It is difficult to feel the Spirit amidst distractions.


When I am watching Netflix or doom scrolling on social media, I rarely feel the Spirit. There is nothing necessarily wrong with these activities, but God is not usually going to kick the door down to speak to us. Instead, we know that it usually comes as a “still small voice.” But when I take the time to be quiet, to eliminate distractions, to consider all I am grateful for, the Spirit speaks to me. I promise the same can be true for you. Create an environment where both God can speak to you, and you can hear him, and I promise you will.


I don’t always feel it, but I am grateful to be your Bishop. I am grateful for you, the amazing people of this ward family. I love you. Please love each other. Please minister to one another. Please know you are not alone on this journey. Please know you can change. And please put in the work to hear God in your life.


In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.




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