What kind of support does a bishop need?
June 1977

“What kind of support does a bishop need?” Ensign, June 1977, 41

We hear a lot about sustaining the bishop. What does that actually mean, besides just accepting callings? What kind of support does a bishop need?

Floyd A. Jensen, first counselor in the Salt Lake Emigration Ward bishopric What do you mean, “just” accepting callings? That’s a great deal. When people refuse callings or accept them reluctantly, the bishop feels like he’s still out there all alone. Even if someone does accept, the bishop still has to worry about whether he’s actually going to do the job, and in some cases his worry is fully justified. I can think of several people in our ward who are really the backbone of our organizations. The priests quorum adviser, for instance—we never have to remind him what meetings he’s supposed to attend. Once he knows what they are, he is always there, and there are a lot of extra meetings involved in his calling. He’s always willing to pitch in and go the extra mile, too.

Another thing people can do is assist with the variety of essential activities of a ward—temple work, clean-up projects at the ward, ward socials, coming to meetings. We’re trying to repaint our recreation hall now, and it gets a little discouraging to hear the Sunday commitments of people who aren’t there Wednesday night. But there’s a great feeling when you see the stalwarts there—just as they were last Wednesday, and just as they will be next Wednesday. And you know they’ll still be cheerful about it, too.

Something else that really helps is when quorum and auxiliary leaders are willing to sustain the decisions of the bishop and put the interests of the whole ward first. It’s natural for a leader to be primarily concerned about his organization—that’s his stewardship, after all. So it takes something special for him willingly to accept a decision that may be a little disappointing to him, and then work to fulfill that decision.

On the personal level, I know how much it means to our bishop when people express their personal concern about his son on a mission. It means a lot to him when people are aware of the kind of time he has to spend away from his family and are considerate and appreciative of that time. Another thing he really appreciates is the kind of appropriate informal feedback he gets from ward members—about how a program could be improved or what they like about sacrament meeting—little things that say they care how the ward runs, and believe he is doing a good job.

We also support the bishop by refraining from tearing down ward leaders through criticism and gossip. The bishop would rather have legitimate complaints brought to him than have the effectiveness of the ward organization hampered by backbiting.

Working closely with the bishop is an experience every member of a ward should have. I admire and respect my bishop. More than that, I consider him a personal friend. And seeing the number of things he has to do and the amount of time he has to spend on ward business has made me keenly desirous of doing everything I can to help ease his burden.