Meet the New Presiding Bishopric

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor; and Marianne Holman Prescott and Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writers

  • 10 January 2016

Presiding Bishopric of the Church (left to right): Bishop Dean M. Davies, First Counselor; Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé; Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, Second Counselor.

Bishop Gérald Caussé

When Bishop Gérald Caussé first walked down the aisles of the Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City, he felt right at home. The native of France had never lived in the United States, but the sights and smells in the warehouse reminded him of his career working with several supermarket chains and food distribution companies. “When I smell the special smell at the bishops’ storehouse the memories flow,” he said. “The call I have now is a blend of many diverse things I have seen all my life. I know what questions to ask and what to do.”

Bishop Caussé, 52, of France, was named Presiding Bishop on October 9—after serving three and a half years as First Counselor in the Bishopric. He filled the vacancy created when Elder Gary E. Stevenson was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 3.

Joining Bishop Caussé in the Presiding Bishopric are Bishop Dean M. Davies, who had been serving as the Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and is now the First Counselor; and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, who as a member of the Seventy served as a counselor in the South America Northwest Area Presidency in Lima, Peru.

Before being called in 2012 as First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Bishop Caussé served as a General Authority Seventy and as a counselor in the Europe Area Presidency. He is the third Presiding Bishop born outside the United States and the first for whom English is a second language.

Gérald Caussé was born in Bordeaux, France, on May 20, 1963, to Jean and Marie-Blanche Bonnet Caussé. “My parents joined the Church when I was a little baby,” he said, noting that he was raised in small Church units filled with first-generation Latter-day Saints. “We started from simple beginnings.”

Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé and Sister Valérie Lucienne Babin Caussé. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Back then, youth in the Church had many callings and responsibilities. Among other things, he played the organ for Sunday services. Because of this Bishop Caussé learned a pattern for serving in the Church in his youth.

After earning the equivalent of a master’s in business administration degree from ESSEC Business School, he worked in the food industry. At age 33, he was given responsibility for 1,800 people in a food distribution company. At the time of his calling as a General Authority, he was working as managing director of Pomona, France’s largest food distributor.

Bishop Caussé credits much of his success in business to the support of his wife, Valerie Babin Caussé. They met in a young single adult ward in France. On August 5, 1986, the couple married in the Bern Switzerland Temple; they have five children and five grandchildren.

Together they watched the growth of the Church in their native France.

There are almost 38,000 Church members, 108 wards and branches, 10 stakes, and two missions in France today—a stark contrast to the small branches that dotted the country in their youth. The Church is also building a temple in France, not too far from where Bishop and Sister Caussé once lived.

“See how the Church can grow in just my lifetime,” said Bishop Caussé, who served as president of the Paris France Stake.

When Bishop Caussé was called at age 44 to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy and as a counselor in the Europe Area Presidency, the couple moved their children to Germany and began the process of adjusting to a new culture and language; the family moved again—this time to the United States—when Bishop Caussé was called as First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric in March 2012. Bishop Caussé said the family could not have made the moves without Sister Caussé, who “always kept faith and a good sense of humor.”

Bishop Caussé said the three and a half years he spent serving with Elder Stevenson were years of learning and training. It was a “wonderful experience,” he said, where he and the other members of the Presiding Bishopric enjoyed what Elder Stevenson called “heavenly unity.”

While serving with Elder Stevenson and Bishop Davies there was “no contention or disagreements,” just “harmony and love,” he said.

Elder Stevenson is an “inspired, incredible leader in the Church” who is a “humble man and great mentor,” said Bishop Caussé.

Now he hopes to continue that pattern while continuing his service with Bishop Davies and Bishop Waddell.

Looking forward, he continued, there is much to be done.

The Presiding Bishopric holds the keys to the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood and has the responsibility for the temporal affairs of the worldwide Church under the authority of the First Presidency. The Presiding Bishopric also has an additional “very important responsibility which pertains to all bishops around the world”—that of caring for the poor and needy, said Bishop Caussé.

“A wide range of responsibilities pertain to the temporal affairs of the Church,” said Bishop Caussé, noting that the bishopric oversees the design, construction, and maintenance of temples, meetinghouses, and all other Church properties around the world. “We have the responsibility to support the priesthood leaders in their divinely appointed responsibility to invite others to come unto Christ.”

That means scriptures, hymnbooks, and Church manuals have to be sent around the world in more than 100 different languages to a constantly growing Church membership. “This is our commitment and also our challenge of every day,” he said.

The bishopric also works to help Latter-day Saints become self-reliant, he said. “What is amazing to me is that any time anyone works to become temporally self-reliant there will be spiritual blessings in their lives.”

Church aid also extends, under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric, to those in need of other faiths. “Recently, under the direction of the First Presidency, we have focused on refugees,” said Bishop Caussé, noting that the Church is reaching out to refugees living abroad in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and to those living close to Church headquarters.

Bishop Caussé never served as a bishop of a ward; in fact, he wasn’t ordained as a bishop until his call to the Presiding Bishopric in 2012. However, he has been blessed by the example of many faithful bishops, including his father, as well as his father-in-law, Jean-Albert Babin. “I am grateful for those bishops that have blessed our life,” he said.

He also expressed deep gratitude to the thousands of bishops and branch presidents serving across the globe. “The Church rides on the backs of bishops,” he said.

Bishop Caussé said it is special for any Presiding Bishop to work and serve under the direction of President Thomas S. Monson.

“He has the heart of a bishop. He will never miss an opportunity to teach us on welfare. He is a source of inspiration. His life is, for us, a model and example to follow.”

As Bishop Caussé looks back on his life, he sees the Lord “put this all together as a path, preparing me for what I am doing.”

The Lord will “guide us in a way we don’t know in advance but that has great consistency.”

Bishop Dean M. Davies

One of the first things Bishop Dean M. Davies’s wife, Sister Darla Davies, gave him for his office when he was called as a General Authority was a framed photo of the two of them on their wedding day.

They were married on June 20, 1973, in the Salt Lake Temple. In the photo, the two of them—dressed in their wedding finery—smile at the photographer. Behind them are the familiar vertical pinstripe windows of the Church Office Building.

“Little did we know the important role that building would play in our lives,” Sister Davies observed.

Bishop Dean M. Davies, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and his wife, Sister Darla James Davies. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.

Bishop Davies has occupied an office on the 18th floor of the Church Office Building since being sustained as Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric on March 31, 2012. But he became familiar with the interior, the daily operations, and the people of that building for more than a decade before that as he worked as director of real estate for the Church, managing director of the Physical Facilities Department, and then as managing director of the Special Projects Department.

He’ll continue to make the daily drive downtown to the building on North Temple Street for the foreseeable future as he was named First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric on October 9, 2015.

Before being called to the Presiding Bishopric, Bishop Davies served in many Church capacities including as president of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission, stake president, stake president’s counselor, high councilor, counselor in a bishopric, and as a missionary in the Uruguay/Paraguay Mission.

After his mission and marriage to his childhood friend, Darla James, in 1973, he received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Brigham Young University and completed advanced executive leadership programs at Stanford and Northwestern Universities.

Prior to his tenure in Church employment, Bishop Davies worked his way up the corporate ladder to hold executive positions in several large corporations. When senior leadership counseled him on one occasion that service in the Church would interfere with his ability to succeed in the corporate world, he offered his resignation. His experiences in the business world, however, as well as his time in Church employment, have provided useful insight. “I came from the business side and it has allowed for a balance in the bishopric of understanding both ecclesiastical purposes and temporal operations of the Church,” he said.

Throughout his varied professional career and Church assignments, Bishop Davies said his wife has been his helpmate and partner. “My wife is absolutely caring and supportive,” he said.

They have five children and 14 grandchildren.

Reflecting back, Bishop Davies feels both the blessings of his service and the weight of responsibility going forward. He explained that the Presiding Bishopric has the responsibility to oversee the temporal affairs of the Church. “The Bishopric is literally responsible for things that impact every member of the Church—where they worship on a Sabbath day, where they go to the temple, how they pay their tithes and offerings, where their membership records are carefully kept and monitored.”

As such, the Bishopric works with every Church department and reports directly to the First Presidency. “The Bishopric is a service organization,” Bishop Davies explained. “We serve the Church. We serve the Church departments. We provide professional resources in a temporal kind of way that allows them to focus on their ecclesiastical or spiritual assignment.”

The Family History Department, for example, recently had a need to find a new space for their engineers and designers. “They had a need. We had the tools and resources. We were able to identify a new location and design an office building that will house their department and discovery center. We worked together to resolve a long-term space need.”

One of the things Bishop Davies said he has most appreciated in the past three and a half years, and expects to continue to enjoy, is the sense of “heavenly unity” felt both within the Bishopric and while working with other quorums and Church entities.

“Even though we have different roles and stewardships, it doesn’t impede [us] from coming together to achieve success and a unity of purpose. We help one another.”

That spirit of collaboration couldn’t be more strongly felt than within the Bishopric, Bishop Davies said. The members of the Bishopric have their own individual committee assignments, but there are other committees and assignments where they participate as a unit. “We never force a decision where there’s not a oneness of heart, mind, and spirit.”

Bishop Davies remembers being in Vietnam last year while the rest of the Bishopric was in Salt Lake City and an important issue arose. “I participated in a conference call in the middle of the night so we could make a decision together,” Bishop Davies recalled. “We are one. We act as a brotherhood, a shared unit.”

Still, there are challenges in administering the temporal affairs of a worldwide Church. “With so many more Church units being organized and meetinghouses being built, how do we make certain we have the tools and resources to oversee an ever-growing Church in a seamless and transparent way?”

The answer, Bishop Davies said, is through the members and staff. “Our most valuable resource in the Church is its people. It’s not the bricks and mortar but it is the faith, testimony, devotion, experience, and skills of every Church member and every Church employee. That’s the true worth of the Church.”

Bishop Davies said he has learned from experience that “the Lord guides and directs you if you’re open to the whisperings of the Spirit. He will lead you to know what to say, what to do, or what information to have if you will invite Him and invite the Spirit into the process.”

It was a principle taught to him repeatedly in his responsibilities to choose temple sites before being called to the Presiding Bishopric, and it has been reiterated in the three and a half years in the Bishopric. “I believe anything is possible with the Lord’s help,” he said. “Anything. By having faith and by applying yourself and inviting the Spirit, miracles happen.”

Bishop W. Christopher Waddell

As Church assignments have taken him abroad for most of the last decade, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell has seen many countries and people. Although cultures vary and languages differ, he has found one thing remains true: the gospel is a “unifying force” no matter where a person lives.

“Though continents, people, and cultures are different, the Church is the same,” Bishop Waddell said. “It’s the Lord’s Church and it is so marvelous to see how the handbook can be applied—even in different cultures—and used by people in different parts of the world. It is wonderful to see how they respond to the gospel.”

Whether it was on assignment as a mission president in Spain, serving as an Area Seventy in California, or as a General Authority Seventy in the South America Northwest Area of the Church, Bishop Waddell has seen, time and time again, how the Lord directs His Church.

“Whether it’s temporal or ecclesiastical, the Lord is involved in the details,” the new Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric said. “Again and again it was reinforced to me the role of the Spirit and the Lord’s role in our lives and His involvement in the details.”

Bishop Waddell was called to serve as Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric on October 9, 2015, just days after Elder Gary E. Stevenson was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In his new assignment, Bishop Waddell joins Bishop Gérald Caussé and Bishop Dean M. Davies, both of whom were serving as counselors in the Presiding Bishopric at the time of Elder Stevenson’s call.

“Even though they had already been together, their reception has been nothing but warm and welcoming and an immediate acceptance saying ‘you are one of us,’” Bishop Waddell said of his colleagues in the Bishopric. This call is another opportunity for him to put his trust in the Lord, he said.

Learning to trust in the Lord has been something Bishop Waddell has developed many times in his life, beginning at a young age.

Elder W. Christopher Waddell, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and his wife, Sister Carol S. Waddell. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Born in Los Angeles, California, on June 28, 1959, to Wayne and Joann Waddell, Bishop Waddell credits his faithful parents—converts to the Church after they were married—and strong Church leaders for helping him develop spiritually.

Standing 6’5”, Bishop Waddell excelled at volleyball in his youth and had to decide if he was willing to put his volleyball career on hold to serve a mission. He chose a mission and was called to the Spain Barcelona Mission where he served from 1978 to 1980. The decision to serve a mission was important in establishing his personal path of discipleship and helped him develop good habits he continues today.

In his most recent assignment as a General Authority Seventy, Bishop Waddell—along with his wife, Sister Carol S. Waddell, and one of their four children—spent four years living in Lima, Peru, while he served as a counselor in the South America Northwest Area Presidency. There he was able to serve in an area with 1.4 million members living in five countries, including 225 stakes and 32 missions. His assignment had many responsibilities, with a highlight of that experience being his involvement in calling new stake presidents.

“Of all of the experiences I had, I think one of the most special to me—and sacred perhaps—was being involved in stake reorganizations.”

It was often during brief interviews associated with calling a new stake president that Bishop Waddell felt the Spirit work in a quick and powerful way. He always knew, “without exception, without fail,” who was to receive the calling.

“This is the Lord’s Church,” added Sister Waddell. “Every person on earth can fit in the Lord’s Church.”

His call to serve as a General Authority Seventy provided opportunities and experiences that will be of benefit in his new call to the Presiding Bishopric, he recognizes.

“It was a blessing serving in an Area Presidency because as an Area Presidency … you are responsible for all of the ecclesiastical and temporal needs in the area,” he said. “We were involved with humanitarian work, we were involved with the Perpetual Education Fund, we were involved with self-reliant services, we were involved with all of that side of things as well as the ecclesiastical. So that gave me at least a glimpse into coming to the Presiding Bishopric.”

Bishop Waddell sees his call as an opportunity to serve others and participate in an important part of Christ’s work. Whether it is spiritual or temporal, all work is part of helping people return back to the presence of their Father in Heaven.

“If we do everything thinking ultimately of exalting God’s children, whether we are starting from a temporal standpoint or an ecclesiastical standpoint, it still all goes to the same place in the end,” he said. “That’s what we are building towards.”

As he serves in his new calling, Bishop Waddell said he draws from the words President Thomas S. Monson shared with him when he was called to preside over the Spain Barcelona Mission in 2006–2009.

“He said the Lord will qualify those whom He calls, He will strengthen your back to bear the burden He places on it, and when you are in His service you are entitled to His help,” Bishop Waddell said. “Those are the three things [President Monson] mentioned so I have never forgotten that, … and I try to apply that every time something new comes along.”

Sister Waddell said the Lord is moving His work forward. “It’s just fun to be on the same team as the Lord—together.”