Saturday, August 2, 2008

I See… When Bishops Attack!!

I have witnessed several of them. They are legendary for their sheer savagery. You seemingly carelessly, with a feigned nonchalance, wander in during the opening minutes of sacrament meeting, and slip into the padded chairs in the overflow, trying too hard not be noticed. You are wholly seized with the fear that someone is going to ask you to do something. Will it be something as innocent as helping the Elder’s Quorum Moving Co. relocate old Sister Magruder’s grand piano to her nursing home? Or is it something more sinister… say like filling in at the last moment to babysit 12 giggling adolescents at girls camp? But it really doesn’t matter. During the sacrament, the Bishop’s gaze reaches all the way across the congregation, and you magically lock eyes. You quickly break off telepathic contact, but you know in your heart that it is too late. You know he is going to attack. You know he is going to ask you to do something that will monopolize your precious time, ask you to step out of your comfort zone, or both.

Resistance is futile. Morphing the final “amen” of the benediction into the “blam!” of a starter’s pistol, you quietly race for the lobby doors, simultaneously calculating with ruthless efficiency a clever cover reason-“little Joey has really done it this time! The mess he has made in his pants is toooo big for the changing tables in the bathrooms! I’m going to have to take him home and detox him in the tub!” “Yea, that will work…” as you emotionally stroke yourself down to a state of controlled apprehension.

But it is too late. The attack has already begun. The first parry is thrown by his young, fresh-faced executive secretary, pretending to help you open the glass doors on your escape route as he cheerily proclaims, “Bro/Sis. Jones, could you spare a moment for the Bishop? He would like to talk with you.” It is impossible to turn down an invitation issued with such fervor and pure intent, so you begrudgingly relent. “Sure, just a moment. Let me pass off little Joey to his Mom/Dad. Honey!” you whine sweetly above the controlled din of a lobby flooded by ward members released from sacrament meeting, frantically making home and visiting teaching appointments with each other before the month ends this Wednesday, “could you take little Joey and change his stinky loo-loos? The Bishop wants to speak to me for a moment.” Now the fear has spread to all the adult members of your family.

Bearing a veneer of politeness, you can now be found waiting outside the Bishop’s office, fretting the next blow. The Jeopardy clock song plays incessantly in the background of your mind, and you struggle to control being overwhelmed by a flood of irrational thoughts about the impending attack. You’ve been able to postpone this confrontation for at least a week, thanks to the wonderful invention of caller ID, but it’s only given you more time to “awfullize” what is about to occur. “Don’t they already have an activities committee chairman? Can they call men to be Primary Presidents? I can’t afford 12% tithing and potty train little Joey at the same time!!”

Now you are sitting timidly across from the Bishop’s desk, with pleading, wondering eyes that you hope will be strong enough to deflect another thrust. But it has no effect. With a fatherly smile radiating enough gospel heat to melt a polar cap, the Bishop releases a final, stunning blow: “Bro/Sis. Jones, Thanks for coming in. I have two items. First, I’d like to personally thank you for the bowtie pasta casserole you brought our family last week when the twins were sick. My wife couldn’t get anything done and it was a great help. Second,“ he leans over privately for a moment, “when we counted tithing last week, the total on the receipt didn’t match the amount on the check. Could you please review this and let us know what you would like to do?”

The brother/sister in the above passage suffers from a relatively recent mental malady, “Bishopophobia,” or “fear of Bishops.” As you can plainly see, however, it is purely an irrational phobia. Yes, Bishops administer busy wards, and they are empowered by the Priesthood they hold to ask ward members to lose themselves in the service of others, but are they worth the imagined reality of a phobia? Maybe, just maybe, the Bishop doesn’t want to ask you to do anything. Could it be, just maybe, he merely wants to issue a warm, lingering handshake, look deep into your soul via a pair kindly eyes, and propose the most penetrating, yet comforting and Christ-like question of all: “So…. Bro/Sis. Jones… how ARE you doing?”


  1. That's good stuff Bishop T. Being a bishop must be such a hard job... Rewarding yes, but I just can't even imagine half the stuff you must deal with. You do an excellent job though!

  2. We had a tithing conversation with our bishop too. I guess I need to use a calculator when I fill out the slip. Opps. We have learned to fear the call you get from the Stake Presidents office too.