Handbooks and Callings
6. The Bishopric

“6. The Bishopric,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).

“6. The Bishopric,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

6.

The Bishopric

6.1

The Bishop and His Counselors

The bishop holds the priesthood keys to lead the work of the Church in the ward (see 3.4.1). He and his counselors form a bishopric. They receive guidance from the stake presidency. They care for ward members with love, helping them become true followers of Jesus Christ (see Moroni 7:48).

The bishop has five principal responsibilities:

  • He is the presiding high priest in the ward.

  • He is president of the Aaronic Priesthood.

  • He is a common judge.

  • He coordinates the work of salvation and exaltation, including caring for those in need.

  • He oversees records, finances, and the use of the meetinghouse.

Because the bishop holds priesthood keys, he has the right to receive revelation for the ward (see Doctrine and Covenants 128:11). Therefore, some responsibilities are his alone. These are described in this chapter.

The bishop’s foremost responsibility is to the rising generation in the ward, including young single adults. To enable him to concentrate on this responsibility, he delegates many assignments (see 4.2.6). He may delegate to his counselors, the clerk and assistant clerks, the executive secretary, quorum and organization leaders, and others.

If the bishop is unable to perform his responsibilities, a counselor may act in his place temporarily, except as noted in this handbook. The bishop or his counselor consults with the stake president if he has questions about the counselor acting for the bishop.

6.1.1

Presiding High Priest

The bishop is the ward’s primary spiritual leader. He sets an example by serving “with holiness of heart” (Mosiah 18:12). He teaches, uplifts, and inspires (see Matthew 20:28). He follows the principles of leadership in Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46.

A bishop is a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. He is true to his covenants. He is loyal to his wife and family. He sets an example of righteousness for his family, the ward, and the community. (See 1 Timothy 3:2–7.) His counselors are men of similar character.

The bishop provides guidance and counsel to other leaders in the ward. He encourages them in their responsibilities.

6.1.1.1

Ward Organizations and Priesthood Quorums

The bishop has responsibility for the ward Relief Society and Young Women organizations. He assigns his counselors responsibility for the Sunday School and Primary organizations and other ward programs. (See 9.3.1, 11.3.1, 12.3.1, and 13.2.1.)

The bishop’s responsibilities for Aaronic Priesthood quorums are outlined in 6.1.2. His responsibilities for elders quorums are outlined in 8.3.1.

The bishop also guides the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents in overseeing ministering. He meets with these two presidents together at least quarterly to address the needs of individuals and families (see 21.2).

6.1.1.2

Ordinances and Blessings

The bishop directs the administration of the following ordinances and blessings in the ward:

  • The sacrament

  • Naming and blessing of children

  • Baptism and confirmation of 8-year-old children of record (for those with intellectual disabilities, see 18.3; for converts, see 18.7.1.2)

  • Conferral of the Aaronic Priesthood and ordination to the offices of deacon, teacher, and priest

For information about ordinances and blessings, see chapter 18.

6.1.1.3

Councils and Meetings

The bishop leads the ward council and the ward youth council (see 29.2.5 and 29.2.6). He uses these councils to help coordinate the work of salvation and exaltation in the ward. He delegates much of this work and follows up on assignments (see 4.2.6).

The bishop invites leaders to counsel together about how to build spiritual strength and unity in the ward. He encourages all council members to seek inspiration and participate in discussions. (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:122; see also 7.6 in this handbook.)

The bishopric plans sacrament meetings and other ward meetings listed in chapter 29. The bishop presides at ward meetings unless a member of the stake presidency, an Area Seventy in his area, or a General Authority attends. The bishop’s counselors may conduct these meetings. They also preside if the bishop is absent.

6.1.1.4

Callings and Releases

The bishop’s responsibilities for callings and releases are outlined in chapter 30. He may assign his counselors to extend callings and releases as outlined in the Chart of Callings (30.7).

6.1.2

President of the Aaronic Priesthood

“The bishopric is the presidency of [the Aaronic] priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:15; see also verse 20). The bishop has the following responsibilities as the president of the Aaronic Priesthood in the ward. His counselors assist him.

  • Support parents in teaching youth. Help youth serve faithfully, make and keep sacred covenants, and prepare to receive the ordinances of the temple. Help young men prepare to be ordained to priesthood offices and to serve full-time missions. If young women desire to serve full-time missions, help them prepare. The Children and Youth program can help in these efforts (see ChildrenandYouth.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).

  • Oversee Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes. The bishop is president of the priests quorum (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:87–88). His first counselor has responsibility for the teachers quorum. His second counselor has responsibility for the deacons quorum. For more information about Aaronic Priesthood quorum leadership, see 10.3, 10.4, and 10.5.

  • Counsel with the ward Young Women president. The bishop does not delegate this assignment to a counselor. He and his counselors also regularly participate in Young Women meetings, service, and activities (see 11.3.1).

  • Hold regular interviews with youth. For guidelines about these interviews, see 31.1.7.

  • Support families and Primary leaders and teachers in their efforts to help children make and keep covenants (see chapter 12).

6.1.3

Common Judge

The bishop is the common judge in the ward (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:71–74). He strives to follow the example of the Savior as a righteous judge (see 3 Nephi 27:27). He has the following responsibilities:

  • Help youth and adults qualify for and be worthy of a temple recommend.

  • Conduct worthiness interviews as outlined in 31.1.5. He may authorize his counselors to conduct certain interviews (see 31.1.6). For guidelines on worthiness interviews, see 31.1.1.

  • Counsel ward members who seek spiritual guidance, who have weighty personal problems, or who have committed serious sins, helping them draw on the healing power of Jesus Christ. The bishop may ask his counselors, elders quorum and Relief Society presidents, and others to counsel ward members about some matters. However, only the bishop counsels ward members about matters of worthiness, abuse, and approval to use fast-offering funds. For guidelines on counseling, see 31.2.

  • Under the direction of the stake president, hold membership councils as needed according to the guidelines in chapter 32.

6.1.4

Coordinating the Work of Salvation and Exaltation

The bishop coordinates the work of salvation and exaltation in the ward (see chapter 1). His counselors and other ward leaders assist him.

The bishop helps members live the gospel. He helps them strengthen their faith in Heavenly Father and in Jesus Christ and His Atonement (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:29). He teaches them to pray and study the scriptures. He invites them to make covenants by receiving the ordinances of salvation and exaltation. He encourages them to keep their covenants.

The bishop strengthens Church members. He encourages families to participate in regular family prayer and learn the gospel together, including in home evening. He teaches them to love and serve one another. He teaches by word and example that Church callings can be fulfilled without detracting from family responsibilities. He ensures that Church activities support parents’ efforts to raise their children in righteousness.

In addition to helping members live the gospel, the bishop has other responsibilities in the work of salvation and exaltation. For example, he:

  • Helps men prepare to be ordained to priesthood offices.

  • Leads efforts to care for those in need in the ward (see 6.1.4.1 and 22.2.1).

  • Guides the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies as they lead ministering efforts in the ward (see 21.2.1).

  • Coordinates the work of the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies as they lead the ward’s efforts to share the gospel and strengthen new and returning members (see 23.1).

  • Coordinates the efforts of the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies as they lead temple and family history work in the ward (see 25.2).

  • Helps members prepare to receive a temple recommend and temple ordinances (see 27.1).

6.1.4.1

Leading Efforts to Care for Those with Temporal Needs

The bishop has a divine mandate to seek out and care for those with temporal needs (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:112). He delegates much of this work to the Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies.

Some duties are performed only by the bishop. For example, he determines the type, amount, and duration of any temporal assistance provided by the Church. In doing so, he often consults with the Relief Society and elders quorum presidents. For more information, see 22.4 and 22.5.

Members of the bishopric teach the principles of caring for those in need and building self-reliance (see 22.1). They also teach the law of the fast (see 22.2.2). They oversee the gathering of fast offerings (see 34.4.2).

The bishop instructs other ward leaders in their responsibilities to care for those in need. He also leads the ward council in these efforts.

For more information about how the bishop cares for those in need, see 22.6.1.

6.1.5

Records, Finances, and the Meetinghouse

The bishop oversees ward records, ward finances, and the meetinghouse. He may assign much of the work with records and finances to his counselors and clerks.

Adaptation Icon
He may assign one of his counselors to serve as the ward building representative, or he may call another member to do so.

For information about records, see chapter 33. For information about finances, see chapter 34. For information about meetinghouses, see chapter 35.

6.2

Differences between Branch Presidencies and Bishoprics

In a branch, a Melchizedek Priesthood holder is called as the branch president. He holds the priesthood keys needed to preside (see 3.4.1.1). He and his counselors serve much like a bishopric but with the following differences:

  • A branch president may be either an elder or a high priest. A bishop must be a high priest.

  • A branch president is not set apart as a presiding high priest. However, he presides over the branch and has all of the responsibilities described in 6.1.1.

  • Counselors in a branch presidency may not issue temple recommends (see 26.3.1).

6.3

Ward Executive Secretary

The bishopric recommends a Melchizedek Priesthood holder to serve as ward executive secretary. They make this recommendation to the stake presidency. The executive secretary should be worthy of a temple recommend. He is called and set apart by a member of the stake presidency or an assigned high councilor.

The executive secretary works closely with the bishop and his counselors, but he is not a member of the bishopric. He has the following responsibilities:

  • Meet with the bishopric and prepare agendas as assigned.

  • Serve as a member of the ward council and attend ward council meetings. As directed by the bishopric, follow up on assignments made in these meetings.

  • Schedule appointments for the bishopric.

  • Schedule interviews for youth and adults who need to renew their temple recommends.

  • If assigned by the bishopric, coordinate the ward’s efforts to help members access Church magazines (see 38.8.8).

  • Help the bishopric with seminary and institute matters, such as helping ward members register for classes (see chapter 15).

  • Keep a current list of names and addresses of ward members who are in the military. Ensure that ward leaders are aware of these members (see 38.9.2). Inform the stake executive secretary when members plan to enter the military.

6.4

Ward Clerk and Assistant Ward Clerks

The bishop recommends a Melchizedek Priesthood holder to serve as ward clerk. He makes this recommendation to the stake presidency. The clerk should be worthy of a temple recommend. He is called and set apart by a member of the stake presidency.

Assistant ward clerks may also be called (see 33.4.3). They are called and set apart by a member of the stake presidency or an assigned high councilor.

Clerks work closely with the bishop and his counselors, but they are not members of the bishopric. The responsibilities of the ward clerk and assistant ward clerks are outlined in 33.4.2 and 33.4.3.