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Just before Christmas, I was released as the bishop after four-and-a-half years. This has stirred a spirit of reflection in my soul.

During most of those years, I never really felt capable. In fact, I felt completely incapable. I seemed so far away from what I imagined a bishop should be. My desk was messy. I drink too much diet Dr. Pepper. We struggled to have family home evenings. Other bishops in the stake seemed so much more qualified.

In addition to feeling unqualified, being a bishop was difficult. A bishop is on-call 24-7-365 for crises spiritual, temporal, and emotional. It is exhausting, physically and emotionally.

There were so many hard days and hard problems: welfare, divorce, discipline. Watching people hurting them themselves and their loved ones is a difficult and lonely burden to bear.

It is lonely because there is so much that needs to be carried alone. A bishop has counselors, a Relief Society president and so on. But the heaviest burdens of all must be kept confidential. Consequently, being a bishop is lonely and ultimately, something that has to be experienced to be understood.

As a bishop, I sacrificed not only my time and leisure, but my identity as well. My title became my name, and Braden, the person, essentially disappeared.

There were, of course, also wonderful moments: Attending youth temple trips, helping repentant sinners connect with the Atonement, seeing marriages renewed. But somehow, the triumphs never seemed as numerous as the challenges.

Moms, does any of this sound familiar? If so, there's one other thing you should know:

For most of these past years, I didn't think I'd ever be released. I felt like I had been a bishop forever and would probably be a bishop forever. Some days that was a good thing. Other days, not so much.

I thought it would never end. But it did.

And, now that it's over, I have forgotten the fatigue, the frustrations, and struggles. However, the beautiful parts remain with me. The rigors and burdens of the experience are over but the blessings still flow. I suspect they will forever.

Happily, while I wasn't perfect, I did the best I could with what I had. I found out that you don't have to be perfect to be a bishop. You do your best and the Lord works through and around you. Your best is a lot, for sure, and it's not easy. But it's different than an arbitrary idea of perfection. A good-faith - albeit flawed - effort counts.

Which is one more way being a bishop is like being a mom.


Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah and earned degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. from New York University. He and his wife, Meredith live with their five children outside of Nashville, TN, where he teaches theatre and music. Braden enjoys reading, writing, gardening and long walks with the dog. His first book, The Road Show, will be released by Cedar Fort in June of 2010. Read more at

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