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Bishop

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Mormon Bishopric
A bishop holds one of the key ecclesiastical positions within the Mormon Church. He is the leader of a local congregation, known as a ward. The position of a bishop within the Mormon Church differs from the position with the same name in other denominations. In other churches, a bishop may administer a large geographical area involving a large number of congregations. The Mormon position of bishop is most analogous to the position of a rabbi, minister, pastor, or parish priest in other denominations. The position of bishop is singular; there is only one bishop per congregation at any given time.

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Duties of a Bishop

The position of bishop is rife with responsibility, and the duties are demanding. Bishops are assisted by two male counselors who collectively constitute the bishopric and share responsibility for all ward organizations and programs. They invite other members of their congregation to accept positions of responsibility and fulfill numerous assignments in the many programs of the ward. The bishop is ultimately responsible for the administration of the all programs within the local congregation and the nurturing of each member’s spiritual needs. The bishop is also concerned for the daily physical needs of each ward member, especially the sick, elderly, and handicapped.

The bishop serves as president of the ward's Aaronic Priesthood holders (generally young men between twelve and eighteen years of age) and is responsible for all their activities. He is an ordained high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood and is the presiding high priest and common judge for the local congregation. As such, the bishop determines the worthiness of all members of his ward and directs the performance of sacred ordinances. He often spends a great deal of time visiting with or interviewing congregation members. He determines their worthiness to receive callings to serve in positions of Church responsibility, to participate in sacred ordinances, to receive the priesthood, and to do temple work. Where there is need, the bishop may be involved in counseling or administering Church discipline for members.

The bishop is also responsible to ensure that all Church ordinances are performed and recorded correctly. His direction or approval is necessary for baptism, confirmation, administration of the Sacrament, blessing and naming of babies, and priesthood ordinations for members of his congregation.

He is responsible for receiving and accounting for financial contributions of ward members and disbursing funds necessary for local Church programs. (See Church Welfare Program.) He also disburses funds and provisions he determines are necessary in caring for the needy within the ward. He arranges for and conducts funeral services, and may perform marriages (if allowed by local law).

See also, Roles of a Bishop

Selecting a Bishop

A bishop is a male member of the local congregation, called to his position by a stake president after being approved for that position by the President of the Church. Bishops do not seek nor apply for their position within the Church. Stake presidents prayerfully decide who should be a ward's bishop after considering many factors, such as maturity, testimony, judgment, availability, and commitment. The New Testament’s description of bishops weighs heavily the determination:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach. Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous. One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:2-6)

Once selected by the stake president and approved by the President of the Church, the prospective bishop is interviewed by the stake president and called to the position. The individual's name is then presented to the local congregation during a public meeting at which a sustaining vote is held. The bishop is not elected; the vote is confirmatory in nature—a way for the local membership to indicate their approval of the calling issued by the stake president, and a way to signify that they will support and uphold him in his office. The bishop is then ordained and set apart to his new calling, generally by the stake president under direction from the President of the Church.

Tenure of a Bishop

There is no set period of time for service as a bishop, but bishops generally serve for approximately five years. A new bishop is called when an existing bishop’s tenure is complete, when a new congregation is organized, or when the existing bishop is unable to complete his tenure for some reason.

The Church utilizes a lay clergy, which means that members serve in their ecclesiastical positions—including that of bishop—without formal schooling and without pay. A bishop normally has a regular occupation, such as an engineer, bus driver, teacher, manager, or policeman. The duties belonging to the position are performed by the member during their spare time, when not tending to professional or family matters.

When a bishop's tenure is complete, he is replaced by a new bishop. Despite the replacement, it is not unusual for a former bishop to be referred to as bishop throughout his life, due to the love and respect of congregation members garnered while actively serving in the position.

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