Bishops are selected by the Stake President (SP), but must have First Presidency Approval. They are told not to interview ward members about who would make a good bishop ( I wrote about this last week). The bishop “must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach ” (1 Timothy 3:2).
The form the Stake President fills out includes questions about if the prospective bishop has ever had any disciplinary actions taken against him, regardless of the outcome. It also asks if he has ever had a divorce. I was specifically asked these questions several times by my Stake President. I asked my SP why the concern about a divorce. He referenced the 1 Tim 3:2 verse about “husband of one wife”. I asked him how my GGGrandfather could have been called as bishop when he had five wives! He didn’t have an answer and changed the subject. I also learned later that I was not the first choice for bishop (no surprise to anybody that knows me) and that the first choice had been rejected by the FP due to a divorce years before in his life. (the SP did not tell me this, I learned it from a source years later). The no divorce rule is not absolute, it all depends on how long ago the divorce was, the circumstances of the break up, and if the ex-wife lives in the area. I’ve known men who had a divorce and were called as bishop.
While the SP’s I’ve known generally tend to be successful business men (my last 4 were a Dentist, CEO, Surgeon, and Business Executive), bishops tend to be working class people. My last three bishops have been two high school teachers and a sheriff.
While I was bishop, we had a stake conference with a visiting 70. He ask to meet with just the bishops. In that meeting, he said that the brethren wanted to make sure that when we were released we still had a job and a wife, and that too many times that was NOT the case. He told us our wife and job came first before being bishop. He said the average time served church wide was 3.5 years, and that many times they found bishops moving away from their ward just to get out of the calling.
I think Stake Presidents select bishops that think and act like they do. Except when they don’t have a choice. The bishop I replaced has served over 7 years. With the SP’s first choice rejected as explained above, my SP was forced to pick a bishop that was a little more heterodox than he was.
I invited my RS President to PEC all the time, my thinking being that how could I make divisions about the ward without the majority of the congregation being represented. (This was 20 years before the brethren also thought this would be a good idea) I told him about it during a bishops council meeting. He was concerned, but then to his credit said “read the church handbook so you know when you are deviating from the norm, and then do what is best for your ward”.
Another time he was upset that a lady in my ward had become an “internet minister” so she could officiate at the wedding of her best friend and her fiancee, both of whom were in my ward. He wanted me to do something about it after the fact, but I told him what is done is done, but I would have a talk with the sister in question. I did, and told her it was probably not a good idea to do that, and just go down to the court house next time and register to perform the wedding. I really didn’t care.
So the SP really has a lot of leeway in who he picks, but then has to live with the result. My friend who was a SP told me of one bishop that he did not pick but inherited from the previous SP. This bishop was not following the handbook, and he wanted to release him before the five year mark. But Salt Lake rejected his request, and told him it was his responsibility to train him better. But on another occasion he did release a bishop early because he could not keep confidences and the ward had lost confidence in him. Salt Lake approved that early release without hesitation.
So what has been your experience with bishop selection? Has it been obvious who the next bishop would be, or was it a complete surprise with audible gasps from the congregation (yup, I heard them when I stood up in middle of the chapel!). Where any of your bishops released early that didn’t include a move?