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Be Nice to Your Bishop

Can we talk about this whole lay clergy thing? Please, consider your bishop, or say, a a member of your stake presidency.

Here's a guy with a lot of responsibility, even power.  Something in us as humans (perhaps especially in egalitarian Americans) makes us want to knock the powerful off their pedestals, bring them down to earth, take them down a few pegs.

For example,  a teacher my school just loves to embarrass the headmaster.  Nothing major, just take him down a few notches.  She seems to think it's her mission in life and comes up with all kinds of mildly humiliating things for him--usually silly skits at faculty events or in her classroom.

I've noticed that we do this in the Church a lot to our local leaders--everything from teasing to more advanced hijinks.  And I don't think there's anything wrong with that per se.

But let me toss out a few thoughts.  My headmaster applied for the position.  It's his job and I assume that he's well compensated.  Local priesthood leaders are exactly opposite. They did not apply, did not seek the job, and are not compensated.  Frankly, they often do not want their callings. They give up most of their discretionary time and make huge sacrifices in order to respond to a call they believe is from God.

They have jobs and families.  Like you, they have bad days and they get tired.  They have problems at work, they have problems with their children. Their lawns need to be mowed, their kids have ball games, they have a spat with their wife...regular stuff that everyone does.

In addition to those problems, there are other things no one sees. I have found that Lord keeps an almost constant refining fire burning in the lives of those who preside. Presiding in the Church means the Lord is constantly refining, testing, and teaching a leader to be worthy of his position.

Then, of course, there are extra meetings and the psychological burdens of working with people going through a divorce. Or dealing with pornography. Or needing food because they are unemployed. Or, or, or....

Let's just say that a hypothetical local priesthood leader goes to a Church event--a ward party, for example.  He's tired.  It's been a rough week.  He's struggling with some concerns.  Nothing major, nothing anyone knows about--but he's feeling weighed down by car repairs and how to pay for the orthodontic treatments his kids need.  He's been away from his home every night this week to do Church work and he hasn't seen his small children in days.  He has some big deadlines coming up at work and he isn't sleeping well.

Now, let's say that the party features a talent show and the organizers have planned a special surprise.  The local priesthood leader is going to arrive and be expected to be in a silly skit--nothing awful, but something that will be a bit embarrassing/uncomfortable. Perhaps  a pie in his face while he wears a silly costume, or getting doused with water.  No one asks him beforehand if he's game--it's just an expectation. He's either tricked into doing it without knowing the full deal, or it's sprung on him right there.

What does he do?  He wants to be a good sport, but he just doesn't want to play tonight.  On another night, he might be game.  Or not--he might be a quiet, introverted guy who simply doesn't enjoy doing things like this.

Of course, he HAS to go along with it.  If he doesn't, then everyone will think he's stiff and stuffy and a bad sport and probably holier-than-thou.  He reaches past the fatigue and tries to respond as graciously as he can.

Everyone laughs and loves seeing him playing the fool.  They all say, "Bishop so-and-so is such a good sport."  A few people say, with an edge in their voice, "Wow, I didn't think you ever took off that shirt and tie.  About time you finally unwind a little" (like he wears that suit for recreational purposes, because he wants to).  A good time is had by all, except him.

He'll get over it.  People have worse problems, for sure. But there is something unkind in this situation.

We essentially expect our leaders to be whatever we want, whenever we want.  A spiritual giant when we need a blessing or help.  A fun-loving fool when we want to do silly skits.  A calm and steady presence who's available when tragedy strikes.

But a leader is human and we have to remember that.

In my experience, our leaders are happy to give as much as they can--and more.  But we have to remember their fundamental humanity.  Sometimes maybe we need to be the good sports and be gracious enough to cut them some slack.

Braden is the author of The Road Show.  He blogs about writing, teaching, and life at

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