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Bishop Stoker - 'like father, like sons' three family members lead wards, repeat scenario from 40 years ago

Like father, like sons.

Such is the case with the Bishops Stoker - a father and two sons in the Salt Lake City area serving concurrently as bishops of their respective wards.Bishop Clarence L. "Kenny" Stoker, 74, was sustained Oct. 21, 1990, as bishop of the Salt Lake 13th Ward, Salt Lake City Central Stake. His two sons, Stephen G., 46, and Doug G., 44, were called previously to serve in the same office.

Stephen, an attorney, leads the East Mill Creek 15th Ward, Salt Lake East Millcreek Stake. Doug, a podiatrist like his father, is bishop of the Stratford Ward, Salt Lake Highland Stake.

But there's more to the story.

In May 1950, Bishop Kenny Stoker - or "Dad" - was called as bishop of the Twenty-Seventh Ward of the Ensign Stake in Salt Lake City. At that time his father and his brother were also serving as bishops - the same scenario as today, a father and two sons serving concurrent terms as bishops.

History really does repeat itself.

A story in the June 18, 1950, Church Section of the Deseret News said the simultaneous service of the three was "believed to be unique in the history of the Church."

The father, Bishop William E. Stoker, headed the South Twentieth Ward, Ensign Stake. Kenny's brother, Bishop William L. Stoker, presided over the San Mateo Ward, Palo Alto (Calif.) Stake.

At that time, William E. was 75 years old and nearing the end of his nine-year service as bishop. He had also served previously in that same office.

"I always had great admiration for the manner in which my father served as a bishop," recalled Bishop Kenny Stoker. "He was called the second time at age 66. He delegated the nuts and bolts of everything he possibly could to younger counselors, and was a great consultive, loving, visiting, caring bishop. At that time he had no financial pressures, no family pressures. I consider him a great role model in what's come to me."

Bishop Stoker admitted that his being called as a bishop for the second time at age 74 was somewhat of a surprise. "My sons both exclaimed, `You're kidding me.'

"And Doug added, `At least you will be a good role model, because no one in your ward will be able to say they are too old to do something.' "

Bishop Stoker smiled as he related those reactions, and his sons are quick to add that their dad is up to the call at hand.

The mostly retired podiatrist now drops into his office only once or twice a week, where Doug and a colleague have pretty much taken over. Thus, he has the time - as well as the energy, enthusiasm and strength of character and spirit - to meet the unique challenges of an inner-city ward. He also has the guidance of the Spirit, experience from his first stint as bishop and the example of his father to draw upon.

"Dad is older than most bishops in the Church, but he's certainly well-prepared to serve in that calling," said Stephen. "I'm sure it will be a great experience for him, as well as for his ward members. He has always been a great example to me. His acceptance of this calling continues that example of faithfulness."

Doug added that his father's calling is "wonderful," and said: "Dad is a very outgoing man who people in a ward like he's in will enjoy. I think it's wonderful for him and that he will do a great job. He can relate well with people. I recognize it's kind of a unique situation, the three of us serving. It's a blessing to the family."

"I always admired my grandfather for his faithful service and the example he set for all of the family in actively serving in the Church," said Stephen. "Grandpa showed love and concern for us as grandchildren. I remember him always having a smile and positive outlook on life. That was a good influence on us."

Stephen said that since he was a child, the family scrapbook has included the old Church Section article and picture of "Dad, Uncle Bill and Grandpa serving together as bishops. It has been a fun coincidence for that to occur again."

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