Although I use those words often, they are not a vain repetition. I have come to learn through my own experience that the men who serve as bishops are good men who desire to do good things. They are the product of their own experience, to be sure, and each brings his own personality and even biases to the calling. But I have also observed that each bishop I have known personally carries a specific mantle associated with his calling – one that comes when he is called and leaves when he is released.
Some of my bishops have been good friends of mine before their calling. It would have been easy for me to assume that my friend was the bishop and therefore I knew him. In one case, my bishop and I had served together in the church for years in a variety of capacities before his call as bishop. His son and mine had been good friends for nearly their whole lives. His wife and mine were also close friends.
And yet, when he was called and serving as my bishop, there was something about him that was distinct and precious. Because he was my good bishop.
My lovely wife and I had the chance to meet with our new bishop yesterday. We visited with him about some challenges that we are facing in our family. We wanted him to be aware and to seek any counsel he might have to offer. We have, from time to time, met with other bishops on family matters, not because of their professional training or their personal charisma, but because we honor and respect them as those called by the Lord to be our good bishop.
There was no earth-shaking revelation that came out of yesterday’s meeting. But there was this (and though it does not surprise me, it does amaze me): Our good bishop listened to us for quite some time. He allowed us to do about 80% of the talking in our interview. He asked a few clarifying questions, and shared an observation or two along the way. After we had said nearly everything we had come to say, he reached for his scriptures, turned to a particular verse and said, “I was reading this chapter the other day and came across this verse. I’m sure you’ve read it, but perhaps it will mean something to you today. It struck me so much that I underlined it.” And then he read a verse which offered such comfort and peace; it reinforced other counsel we had heard previously, and it reaffirmed truth taught by the modern prophets.
Looking back there are several amazing things to me:
1. Our good bishop listened so well. He let us share what we’d come to tell him.I read comments from time to time about struggles members have with their local leaders, and it saddens me. I remember a relationship with a bishop I had years ago that was not very positive; we served together on the ward council and did not see eye to eye, and it was a difficult period for me. I am grateful that since that time, however, I’ve been fortunate to have positive relationships with my good bishops. (I think that I’ve grown up a bit since that earlier experience, and I freely admit that at least a large portion of the issues I had with that bishop years ago were mine, not his.)
2. Our good bishop did not try to solve our problem. My lovely wife told him in the course of her sharing that she knew he could not resolve the issue we brought to him, but that we hoped that by sharing it, there would be help for all involved.
3. Our good bishop listened for inspiration. I had a stake president counsel me once that when I was bishop, I should listen 75% of the time in an interview, and during that listening time, I should be praying for inspiration so that when I spoke, I would say what the Lord gave me to say.
4. Our bishop taught us from the scriptures – scriptures he knew and studied; indeed he shared a verse that he had just read himself in his personal study. I count it as a tender mercy that he had read and retained what would comfort us.
5. The spirit confirmed the counsel we received. As the bishop shared the verse he did from the Book of Mormon, and as he concluded our meeting with prayer, the spirit’s influence was palpable. The Lord’s love for us and for our family, as manifest by our good bishop and by the spirit, was obvious to us.
I am certainly grateful for the good bishop I have today and for his dedicated service, and for his wife and children who support him.