Converted to the Church at age 20, Bradley W. Botteron revered his bishop, stake president and other leaders.
"I admired them so much I wanted to be like them," he reflected. "I wanted to be able to do what they could do."He received his opportunity in April 1991, when he was called to be bishop of the Kansas City 1st Ward in the Kansas City Missouri Stake.
By then, Bishop Botteron, now 41, had learned something of the sacrifice it takes to be the leader of a ward, especially sacrifice to one's family, and he no longer desired the calling, although he still admired his Church leaders, past and present.
"I remember when the stake president interviewed me, and I told him I didn't desire that calling," Bishop Botteron reflected. "He said he knew that I didn't, and that was one of the reasons why the Lord had called me, because He knew that it wasn't something I had aspired to."
Like more than 20,000 other men throughout the Church who serve as bishop or branch president, Bishop Botteron exemplifies the qualifications of a bishop given in 1 Tim. 3:2-6. Virtually any of those men could have been profiled in this article; Bishop Botteron was selected by the Church News as being typical.
"A bishop . . . must be . . . sober. . . ."
Bishop Botteron commented: "I'm not one who cries. Very seldom do I shed a tear, but I just completely broke down and cried when the call came. I remember feeling that it was as if I were being asked to go into Gethsemane. On the one hand I felt honored to be able to serve, yet on the other hand, I knew there would be a lot of challenges, a lot of suffering along with the joy that comes from the service. So it was a very, very spiritual experience for me; probably, other than my marriage, the next most memorable experience I have had. The Spirit touched me in a powerful way; there was no question in my mind that the call came from my Heavenly Father."
"A bishop . . . must be . . . the husband of one wife . . . . given to hospitality . . . 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?) . . . Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."
Bishop Botteron and his wife, Ann, are the parents of four children, ages 11, 9, 6 and 4. He owns an electrical contracting business.
"I'm president of my company and I spend 50-60 hours a week working," he said. "Then I have a wife and a family who have needs as well. And one of my concerns when I was called was that I didn't want to lose my family, so to speak, in the process of serving as a bishop. I wanted to make sure it was going to be as positive an experience for them as it was for me.
"One of the things we've done is to have ward members into our home on a regular basis, just so my children and my wife feel that they're a part of this experience, too."
Being effective in business, at home and at Church can be a balancing act. Bishop Botteron finds that scheduling helps.
"On Sunday, our meetings start at 7:30 in the morning, and I'm at the meetinghouse until about 4:30 in the afternoon," he said. "Of course, on Monday we have family home evening. Tuesday is another Church night. I go to the meetinghouse at 6:30 or 7 o'clock on Tuesday nights, and I'm there usually until around 10 or 10:30. Wednesday night is similar to that.
"Thursday is more of a night for my wife. She'll have Relief Society functions on Thursday nights, and if she has school or community activities, hopefully she can work those things out so she's away on Thursday nights while I'm usually home.
"My wife and I try to go out together as often as we can on Friday nights. Saturdays, day and night, are usually for family activities."
Of course not all of a bishop's duties can be structured within specified time periods.
"There are a lot of other things that come up," Bishop Botteron said, "youth activities, stake meetings, telephone calls. But I try to keep my schedule structured. My executive secretary takes my appointments; he knows my schedule, and keeps to it for the most part. That allows my family to know where I am going to be, and it relieves, I think, a lot of the anxiety. I'm fortunate because my family's very supportive of me, and they don't complain when I go to Church."
"A bishop . . . must be . . . vigilant . . . apt to teach . . .
andT patient . . . ."
Being called as bishop can be overwhelming at best.
"Fortunately," Bishop Botteron said, "I followed a bishop who was well organized; that helped a great deal. The ward staffing was in good condition, the leadership was in place for the most part, the procedures were fairly well established. I had a good ward clerk and executive secretary. Those things made it easier."
He had spent a year in a bishopric and most recently had been a high councilor and stake Young Men president for about four years. He said the leadership experience had schooled him to a great degree, but he felt the need for further instruction.
"I pored over the manuals and the General Handbook of Instructions. I studied the Melchizedek Priesthood Leadership Handbook, and I read through the Relief Society and Primary manuals. I had a good handle on the Young Men and Young Women programs because of my stake calling and because I had spent about four years as a ward Young Men president. I had spent several years as an elders quorum president, so I had a good understanding of how the elders quorum functioned as well."
Bishop Botteron said he felt the need for greater preparation in financial matters, including administration of the fast offering.
"That was probably the area of greatest concern and least preparation for me," he said. "It is challenging to determine how much assistance to give and when assistance should or should not be given to someone. Our ward is diverse and includes a large portion of the inner city. There are also members in more affluent areas that from time to time have financial problems."
Reading the handbook of instructions helped, the bishop said. "But a lot of it came through fasting and prayer, and listening to the people, understanding their needs and being able to discern by the Spirit what was appropriate.
"It has taken practical experience too. Having gone through it a so many times, I've learned that when someone first comes to visit and needs assistance, we need to take plenty of time to analyze not just their worthiness in terms of their keeping the commandments, but thoroughly analyze their budget, how they spend their money and their sources of income."
Such an approach is necessary, he said, to come up with an effective and lasting solution.
"By considering the needs of the whole family and their situation in totality, we have been able to help these individuals provide for themselves and not have to rely on Church assistance," he explained.
His roles as president of the Aaronic Priesthood, presiding high priest, and as a common judge also require a great deal of time and attention, he said.
"We have youth activities every Wednesday evening, and a fireside once a month; we call it a bishop's youth discussion meeting. On Sundays, the bishopric will spend time with either the Aaronic Priesthood or Young Women classes. In addition to that we have youth conferences each summer, stake youth dances once a month and special youth activities from time to time.
"All the aspects of working with the Melchizedek Priesthood, both the elders and the high priests, and the other organizations within the ward occupy a substantial portion of time."
An important part of a bishop's responsibility is entailed in being common judge: interviews with youth and adults; determining worthiness for temple recommends, Church callings and priesthood advancements; conducting tithing settlement; and convening disciplinary councils when necessary.
"In my interviews," Bishop Botteron reflected, "I do a lot of listening before I get to the point. I'll ask a lot of questions, too, to try to get the information I need to understand an individual's situation, understand what needs to be done. When I get all that information, then I hear the Spirit speak through me as I counsel with the individual. Often I will say things I hadn't considered before, or sometimes I'll come to an understanding of a scripture or a gospel principle I never had before. It's a good indication, I think, that the Spirit is prompting one in one's discussion and conversations."
Do the burdens of his calling take a toll?
"I love it," Bishop Botteron affirmed. "I enjoy it. I admit, though, that there have been times when it has begun to wear on me a bit. I have felt at times that I just didn't have within me what was needed to give to the calling. I realized then that the thing I had to do was put more oil in my own lamp.
See D&C 33:17.T I think that is good advice for anyone in any calling in the Church. You'll hear from time to time people say that they're burnt out in a Church calling. A bishop and stake president serve a number of years, and they don't necessarily get burnt out. I think the secret of it is you have
to put oil in your lamp. You have to invest enough time in your personal spiritual life - your scripture study and your personal prayer - to have what you need to give to those you've been called minister to."
"A bishop then must be blameless . . . of good behaviour . . . not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil."
Having joined the Church at age 20, Bradley Botteron served a mission in Idaho and Utah.
"If anything prepared me for my Church service or calling as a bishop, it was my mission," he reflected. "That's something that any young man who has the opportunity to go needs to take advantage of. On a mission, you learn something in terms of your own depth of character and determination to serve. You learn when you're a missionary to give your all.
"And when you get back from your mission, your life gets complicated with college, work and family, and other things that tend to crowd in around your commitment to Christ. Sometimes, you have to relearn that commitment to the gospel. You find one level when you're an elders quorum president and you have to dig deeper when you are called to be a bishop; you discover new levels of service, and I think that's something that develops throughout your tenure. I'm still learning what it really means to serve and what creative commitment it requires to be a successful bishop."
While serving on his mission, he had the opportunity to work with ward leaders. He said that for someone who was not raised in the Church, it was a valuable education about what it means to minister in the manner described in D&C 121, "with love, tenderness, kindness and patience. And that's something that it takes time to learn."
In 1 Tim. 3:6 in the LDS edition of the Bible, the word novice has a footnote indicating that an alternate translation from the Greek text for that word would be "recent convert." Bishop Botteron, a convert, found that the seasoning he gained from his mission and later Church service helped qualify him ultimately to serve as a bishop.