“Do you refer to a former bishop as brother or as bishop?” New Era, June 1980, 14
Answer/Brother Roy W. Doxey
Because of the importance of the office of bishop, considerable space is devoted to this calling in the scriptures and in the writings and sermons of the General Authorities. As far as I am aware, the answer to your question is not available in these sources. This may suggest that the custom of referring to a released bishop by this title is acceptable.
There should be no compulsion to continue to use the title over a long period of time, however. Certainly, the first few weeks or months after a bishop’s release is the period when the members of the ward will call him by that title. It is probable that as time passes the inclination to use the title bishop will be replaced by brother.
The axiom “once a bishop always a bishop” is correct because the office of bishop is an office of ordination conferred by the laying on of hands, the same as the Melchizedek Priesthood office of elder or high priest.
As a stake president, I always referred to a released bishop as bishop, and even to this day, years later, the same salutation is used. Such a relationship continues to bring back memories of times spent in a very special calling. Latter-day Saints use the titles of bishop and president as names of respect. When they do so, they are recognizing that the Lord has called the person to a noble calling and their sustaining help is constant. They also know that when a bishop is released he no longer presides over the ward. The concern which one might voice in calling a former bishop by that title would be if members of the ward believed that he was continuing in the bishop’s role of counselor. Wise released bishops understand that when ward members come to them as though they were active bishops they refer them to their present bishop.
If I were introducing a former bishop to a congregation or audience, I would refer to him as brother and then possibly mention he is a former bishop.