Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Bishop's Wife

That title refers to one of my favorite movies with Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young.
As of today, it also refers to me.
Mike was sustained as the new bishop of our ward today. For those who do not know what language that last sentence is, I will translate some Mormon Speak...
The LDS church is basically divided into congregations called wards, and groups of wards called stakes. Each ward is led by a bishop, his two counselors and his executive secretary. This group is called a bishopric. The stake is led by the stake president and 2 counselors. The LDS church has a lay ministry. That does not mean we spend lots of time napping (although I have seen plenty of nodding off going on during church). It means all of those who serve to meet the needs of the wards and stakes do so without pay.
As I have said many times while serving, "You couldn't pay me enough to do this job. I will only do it out of love." Sometimes the love I am feeling is only for God, and that leads me to want to follow His admonition to "do it unto the least of these". Other times, I know I am one of the least of these, that mercy will come where mercy is offered, and I want to be among those who are willing to serve as well. My formal calling right now is counselor to the president of our women's organization, the Relief Society, which handles education, welfare and service needs.
So we don't have paid jobs in church, we have callings. We receive callings (a request to serve in a particular way) from church leaders, who can receive inspiration through prayer and promptings as to who to call to a position. It is not something that can be lobbied for, or applied to. Well, it can, but that is not a good idea and usually doesn't work. Over the last 6 months, Mike actually had some promptings that this might happen. He tried really hard to apply for another job that would require us to move. He called it "pulling a Jonah". None of his attempts worked out. He just got thrown out of the belly of the whale onto the beach.
After we receive and accept a calling, the congregation is given an opportunity to sustain us by raising their hands to show support.
One of the most difficult, involved callings in the church is that of bishop of a ward. One that compares to it is that of bishop's wife.
A stake president can only call someone to be bishop after they have been approved by the First Presidency of the church. Some suggest that the potential bishop's wife is scrutinized more closely than he is. I doubt it. My years as a hippy during the 60's should have kept Mike out of consideration if that were the case.
While I was consulted extensively, there is no formal calling for me as bishop's wife. No instruction manual at all. That does not necessarily put me at a disadvantage. Mike has several manuals and lots of training available on But he still has a deer-in-the-headlights look of "I have no idea how to do this". I get to rely completely on prayer and promptings. He has that... along with all the instructions swirling around in his head.
That's understandable. He is now in charge of the spiritual and welfare needs of everyone (I do mean everyone, Mormon and non-Mormon) within a certain geographic area. Those needs are rarely predictable, or on a schedule, and never at a convenient time. All this while he continues working his regular, more than full time, high stress, I-don't-do-this-out-of-love-I-do-this-for-a-paycheck job.
And the ward is determined by geographic boundaries. We don't go to a church we pick because of who we agree with or are friends with. We go with those in our area, and we learn to love and serve and be served by them. We do it that way because it teaches us how to give and receive love, even when it is not convenient, even when we don't feel like it, and especially because of the miracles that happen that can't possibly be predicted.
So, in a nutshell, Mike's church calling is now to help people find their way home to God, and experience a bit of heaven here while in the trenches of life. I have known Mike for over 28 years, and been married to him just under 28 years. Through those years I have seen him go through hell (sometimes I'm the one who put him through it), and choose to follow Christ out of it. He has chosen to acknowledge his jerkiness and stupidity that all humans have, and learn love and mercy and strength and faith .....and I could go on but I don't want to sound too biased.
He will do a great job as bishop. I don't think he knows how to not do a great job.
Me? I'm still figuring out my job description. I do not need to know any of the details or private information of ward members to know we are all carrying our own burdens. These ward members have been there to share my burdens, and make them lighter. We all need to be reminded that we are never alone, and we are known by name and infinitely precious to God. I can do that.
One of those ward members is my bishop, my husband.
Share the journey, Michael. You are known by name. You are infinitely precious to God. You are never alone.
Don't worry, I'm here to remind you.