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Presiding Over Your Friends

Rusty - July 20, 2007

I have lots of friends in my ward. This surely has more to do with the fact that we have loads of friendly people than my own personal friendliness. But nonetheless, there are no less than 15-20 couples (and a handful of singles) that I would be happy to call to go out to dinner, go to a show or just hang out. Brooklyn seems to attract some of the coolest people I’ve ever known and I’m honored to be considered their friend.

But a couple of years ago I was called into the bishopric. This is problematic for the obvious reasons of my distaste for meetings, my preference to be a teacher, my lack of organization skills, my discomfort with asking people to sacrifice and my aversion to managers. But adding to that last point is the fact that I have to manage my friends, asking them to sacrifice. And then what to do when someone slacks. I mean, I’ve always been good at pointing out my friend’s failings behind their backs but now I have to say it to their face!!

As Mormons we all know our duty and that we’re going to be managed and asked to sacrifice. I’d just rather it come from someone else and not me. Let me be the person they’re complaining to, not about. And if I see them slack I prefer thinking, “Hm, that’s too bad. Oh well, I wonder what they’re doing on Saturday.” rather than, “Ugh. How am I supposed to bring this up without being a jerk?”

Now don’t get me wrong, generally things run quite smoothly and my friends are tremendously helpful, gracious even. I know I say a lot of remarkably stupid things that they magnanimously overlook and I’m sure that most of the discomfort is on my side. And yeah, I know, my life is really hard. I’ve got too many friends in my wonderful ward and sometimes I have to ask them to do stuff. The travesty of my situation is not lost on me. So let me just say that I’m grateful I’m not their bishop.


  1. So let me just say that I’m grateful I’m not their bishop.

    Amen to that, brother.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 20, 2007 @ 10:15 am

  2. Take your best shot Rusty. I’m not at all prideful so i won’t be offended.

    Comment by cj dougalss — July 20, 2007 @ 10:25 am

  3. You have to have excellent social skills to be effective in the bishopric without alienating friends (and family sometimes). Especially friends who aren’t that into Church service, but whom you really need to step up to the plate. I’m sure you’re awesome, Rusty.

    Comment by ECS — July 20, 2007 @ 11:05 am

  4. Leadership is a lonely position (sometimes).

    Of course you can always tell your friends that the bishop made you do/say it.

    Comment by Apollo — July 20, 2007 @ 11:06 am

  5. This is the number one thing that makes me nervous at one day being in a bishopric. There are other drawbacks (meetings, for example), but this one is tops. And for me, it’s not so much about friends as about peers in general.

    Comment by Tom — July 20, 2007 @ 11:29 am

  6. Presiding over my friends was probably the hardest part about being bishop.

    Comment by Chris Williams — July 20, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  7. When I was a PP, two of my counselors were decades older than me. It was awkward at times; but they were great. The people I had the most problems with were the teachers, nursery leaders, and scout leaders. I felt, as Rusty said: “Ugh. How am I supposed to bring this up without being a jerk?”

    It was SO HARD. I lost a friend over it, too. ~sigh~

    Comment by Cheryl — July 20, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

  8. Chris-
    Is it harder being a Bishop because you have to preside, or is it harder because now you know a lot of quiet details of people’s lives?

    Comment by Cheryl — July 20, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

  9. Our previous bishop used to go hang out in the nursery and primary for a bit every Sunday. I think it was his escape from all the trauma he had to deal with from the adults.

    Comment by Susan M — July 20, 2007 @ 2:21 pm

  10. Keep the new Manhattan-themed landing-page artwork. It’s clever.

    Comment by John Williams — July 20, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

  11. I see right through this one, Rusty. You’re just trying to pretend that it’s not awesome to have power and authority over other people so that they won’t covet (and thus threaten) your power. Very convenient.

    Comment by Eric Russell — July 20, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  12. I love the latest logo! =)

    Comment by Tatiana — July 20, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

  13. My husband struggles with this, too. There have been some touchy situations in the past where he has had to have a “discussion” with some of his friends about their church responsibilities. Very awkward at the time, but I think they all felt fine about it afterwards.

    One trick that sometimes works is to have another member of the bishopric or organization presidency do your dirty work for you. Then if your friend comes to you afterwards you can say that you asked the other person to do it because you thought the other leader needed the experience as a “training” opportunity.

    Comment by maria — July 21, 2007 @ 9:26 am

  14. It’s also really awkward when people in the ward are doing “borderline” inappropriate stuff and then seek out my husband’s seal of approval. I mean, he could care less whether people are watching R-rated movies on their own, but if they come and ask him if it’s cool to organize an EQ activity around going to an R-rated movie, he has to play the prude and tell them he thinks it’s not such a bright idea. Otherwise everyone would be saying that the bish gave the A.O.K.

    Comment by maria — July 21, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  15. One of the hardest parts of serving in the Bishopric for me was extending callings to people considerably older than me…especially when they refuse.

    Also I remember, back when we ward had a budget, and temple assesment, asking a very active member to contribute what the Bishop thought was appropriate and his reaction….not good and very uncomfortable for me.

    Also temple interviews and youth interviews are bad when they have something to “talk about” (confess). Stop! I don’t need to hear this….take it to the Bishop.

    I hid out in primary most of the time too.

    Comment by Don Clifton — July 21, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  16. The hardest part of being the bishop – giving a temple recommend interview to your former bishop.)

    I never felt like I was “presiding” over the ward members. I guess it’s the same thing for me when I have served as a manager or supervisor. I just felt like my job was to help them do their job better. When I was bishop I was just there to help people live their lives better. When someone would come to me to confess a serious transgression they usually were afraid that I would be shocked. But the reality of it was that I had usually heard much worse from others. And when you serve as bishop the Lord gives you a new perspective about the transgressions of others. I loved that job.

    Comment by lamonte — July 22, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

  17. Rusty,

    I found out a funny thing about myself and leadership. I’m certianly no good at it for most of the same reasons you stated (I already knew that) but that it is not like the old adage “leadership is a lonely position” for me. I guess with all the responsiblities they require I have to get to know more people and interact with them; hopefully in a friendly way. When I’m in a low-maintenance calling, it’s a whole lot easier for me to be the recluse that I am and only talk to people I feel like talking to.

    This still doesn’t mean I necessarily want big leadership callings, but I don’t mind them so much anymore.

    Comment by Bret — July 23, 2007 @ 5:12 pm

  18. Wow, I have never looked at the bishopric counselors as having “power and authority” over me in any sort of personal way. Sure, someone has to preside over the organizations and keep things running smoothly. I don’t look at someone as suddenly becoming super human due to their calling. I respect what they are doing and respect the fact that they are willing to accept callings that take up so much time and energy. I give everyone props for that. I don’t think these types of callings make an individual automatically better or elevated compared to the rest of the ward. We have great men in our bishopric and we have plenty of other great men in our ward as well.

    I think that serving in the bishopric is an awesome opportunity to serve and to also get to see the miracles that take place within a ward that the general membership may be unaware of. I would be thrilled if my husband were called to the bishopric because I know it would be a wonderful testimony building and growth experience for him. Granted, I no longer have small children and so it would not be as burdensome to our family as it is to many others.

    Being female, I know I probably will never understand the pressures of being in a bishopric and I am sure there is a lot I just don’t know or understand. It seems to me, however, that it might be wise to take the calling seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously in the calling. I have had friends in high leadership positions (and their wives) who got really majorly stressed out because they felt the pressure to be perfect over night. That isn’t fair. We need to give these guys a break too. I also think that some make it worse on themselves, when they understake the task of trying to force people to comply with their requests. My personal opinion is that if a person declines an invitation to speak, then accept the decline gracefully. I don’t understand the tendency to try and talk people into things against their will. Encouragement is one thing but sometimes I think that there is a desire to “fix” people and we forget to respect their agency. We all are growing at differnet speeds and in different areas. I don’t like asking people to do stuff either but when they say “no” I try and handle it gracefully and move on to the next one on the list. Anyway, that’s is just my opinion on the subject. I am sure many disagree.

    Comment by AJ — July 25, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

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