During the priesthood session of General Conference President Faust related a story about his father’s respect for the office of bishop. He told of a church party at which they set up a dunking machine (you know the kind where you throw a baseball at a lever which, when hit, the dunk-ee falls into a receptacle of water). According to President Faust the members of the ward encouraged the bishop to be a dunk-ee (a bigger draw to raise more money). After a few dunkings the bishop began to shiver. President Faust’s father then said to him that he was offended because the office of bishop was belittled and held in contempt.
Now, my initial reaction was that his dad needs to chill out. They’re just having a little fun and apparently the bishop was too. I mean, at the same moment President Faust’s dad was telling him that he was offended, how many other dads were telling their sons how cool it is that the bishop’s playfulness reminds them of Joseph Smith and that he respects him for the lengths he goes to raise money for the ward.
But I don’t want to come to a conclusion based on an initial reaction. Perhaps we do need to have more respect for the office of bishop. The problem is that I’m just not sure what that means. And when I say this I’m talking about a bishop with whom I am friends with, not one I barely know, like those from college. (It’s easy to “respect the office of bishop” when all he is is an office, not a person whose interests, passions, humor/sarcasm, talents, etc. I’m familiar with.)
Allow me to use an anecdote: Bishop Williams (Chris Williams who posts here occasionally) is a good friend of mine and isn’t much older than I. Our regular exchange of sarcastic banter consists of self-deprecating jokes, each other-deprecating jokes, and a good poke at our commonalities for good measure. Something he recently told me, “Hey man… Though I will admit that I am in fact too good for you…” made me laugh (partially because it was funny banter, but mostly because I, in fact, am too good for him). This is all fun stuff.
But the question is whether this increases or decreases my respect for him. In my case it’s the former because I am able to see the man behind the office. I’m able to see how he comes to decisions, how he struggles with issues, how much he truly sacrifices to serve, and how he can do all this and still be a really cool guy. I wish most/all members of the ward could get to know him on this level. And if that were the case, I would imagine an activity of bishop-dunking would raise literally thousands of dollars for a good cause (even if that cause is to see Chris get dunked which is a good cause :)
Now that I’ve had a some time to think about President Faust’s point I’ve decided I agree with him, that it’s very important to have respect for bishops, but I guess I just don’t agree with him on how he defines “respect for a bishop.”