Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we’ll be answering the question, “What do I do if I don’t like my bishop?”
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A ward member may not feel endeared to his or her bishop for any number of reasons. It may have to do with personality, the way a bishop handles things or addresses people, or how he has dealt with a challenge in the past. Because the reason for the dislike can be varied, the solution is likely also to be varied, but here are some suggestions as to how to move forward with a bishop you may not like.
Remember He Didn’t Sign Up for This
Bishops are unpaid clergy. They are unlikely to have received formal training in management, or communication. They give many hours a week away from their families, work, and other interests to voluntarily serve their ward members. While your bishop may not have handled a situation well, remember he is just a man doing his best to serve his ward.
Once, I was frustrated when a leader didn’t bring my son home from a campout when he said he would. In expressing this frustration, his wife reminded me that he was volunteering and that perhaps I could be more grateful that he was serving my son and less picky about what time they returned. She was right, I was humbled, and I now try harder to recognize people’s freely-given service. We can do the same for bishops. Let’s give grace when we feel inclined to give criticism.
The Offense “Mattereth Not”
Being offended or disliking your bishop doesn’t have to dramatically change things for you. A bishop may say or do any number of potentially offensive things, but what he says or thinks is not what really matters. We go to church to partake of the sacrament and to ascend toward heaven with our fellow saints.
Captain Moroni (by Mormon’s account) was among the best men that ever lived. “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17). Even this good man, was dead wrong when it came to his understanding of why Pahoran wasn’t offering support from the Nephite government toward the war effort against the Lamanites. He wrote a scathing letter to Pahoran accusing him of all manner of corruption, but Pahoran was neither angry nor offended. It didn’t really matter that Moroni had a wrong belief about Pahoran. Pahoran knew Pahoran’s situation and didn’t let Moroni’s error ruffle him. We can do the same.
Elder David A. Bednar confirmed, “One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, ‘it mattereth not.’”
During a particularly dark and painful period of depression for me, I finally got brave enough to tell my ward leaders (Relief Society president and subsequently my bishop) that I was going through depression. I knew that service to others is one way to lift ourselves from darkness, so I asked my bishop about seeing if it was possible for me to serve as a temple worker (as I had many years previously). He explained to me that because of my mental illness, he didn’t think I should serve in the temple. It seemed he thought I would be a liability rather than an asset. I was devastated. It made me feel worse than before and I felt like I had nothing to contribute to the Lord’s kingdom.
Honestly, he may have been right, or he may have been wrong, but most certainly the Lord would not withhold blessings from me if I sought to serve Him and His people. My feelings were hurt, but ultimately, it “mattered not.” The Lord, through other means, provided a way for me out of the darkness and into His light as I diligently sought Him.
*Please note that service and obedience to God are not a panacea for depression, but they may contribute to improved outcomes.
Between Him or Her and Thee Alone
One way to handle an offense from your bishop is summed in this 1985 Ensign, “If your leader has actually offended you in some way, it would be well to follow the Lord’s counsel to talk to him about the matter and clear it up: ‘If thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.’ (D&C 42:88.)”
It can be helpful to discuss the matter directly with your bishop (or anyone against whom you hold a grudge). Don’t backbite. It only sews more seeds of discord in your ward and won’t actually help you feel better.
Sustain the Calling, Even If You Struggle to Sustain the Man
The Lord knows He is dealing with imperfect people, and we should, too. A man being called as a bishop doesn’t mean he is perfect. It just means that the Lord can use him to accomplish His purposes. The man still has his agency to decide if he will use his gifts to serve the Lord.
Occasionally, a man serving as a bishop is found to have been involved in illegal or immoral activity. Does this mean he shouldn’t have been called to his office? No. It means he used his agency poorly. He could have been who God asked him to be, but he chose not to.
We can honor the calling and office of a bishop even if the man currently holding the calling disappoints us at times. We sustain the bishop because we sustain the Lord’s church and whom He has called to serve.
Ultimately, having a bishop you don’t click with or who has offended you doesn’t have to change things very much. We can show respect, honor the calling, appreciate his hours of service, and let the rest slide. He won’t be the bishop forever, and in the meantime, we can learn humility and grow personally closer with the Lord. Never let any man or woman come between you and your relationship with the Lord. He is the way.
Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, emeritus Seventy, said, “There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. He is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way, is foolishness.”
It is worth every obstacle to get and stay on that path back to Him. I wish you well on your journey.
Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.
Becca loves audiobooks, cookies, hiking, walking, singing with Millennial Choirs and Orchestras, going out with her husband, and raising their ten chickens and five children. She still wants to meet her hero Sheri Dew, see magma and a blue whale in person, and uplift others with her words.