The time a man serves as a bishop is a strenuous season, but it is also a season of great joy and satisfaction, President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled bishops at the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting that was transmitted through the Church satellite system June 19.
"The time will come when you will be released, and at that time, a deep and poignant sadness will come into your hearts," he said. "You will realize then that the Lord has been with you, that you have had a rich and wonderful experience, that you have exceeded your natural capacity because of the Lord's help, and that this was one of the most joyous experiences of your entire life."
President Hinckley was the concluding speaker at the training, which was directed to bishops and bishoprics, and adult Melchizedek Priesthood leaders.
The training was conducted by President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve. Others who spoke included President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve; and Presiding Bishop H. David Burton.
The service bishops give directly affects the lives of the members of this Church, more so than other presiding officers, said President Hinckley.
"Not one of you (bishops or branch presidents) asked for this responsibility. You were called under the direction of the Almighty. I hope you will never forget that," he said. "When you get discouraged, as I am sure each of you do occasionally, think of the fact that you have been divinely called, that you were called only after your stake president worried and prayed that he might be guided by the Holy Spirit in selecting you."
Bishops carry a heavy load, he said. "We have discussed the matter at great length . . . but we cannot shrink the breadth of your responsibility" which was defined by the Lord."
But bishops can benefit by following counsel. "I re-emphasize that it is so very important that you delegate everything you can." Others can handle responsibility, including counselors, elders quorum presidencies, high priests group leaders, Relief Society presidencies, Young Men and Young Women presidencies, Sunday School officers and every member of the ward.
"The more people you can put to work, the more you will lighten your own burden and at the same time bring blessings into the lives of all who serve."
He suggested that bishops write a list of things with which they are concerned, then see what can reasonably be delegated.
"There may be some mistakes. You might wish that they would do better. Do not worry. Help them do the right thing, and then let them do it."
President Hinckley counseled bishops to have a close relationship with the Holy Spirit. "A bishop on his knees is a beautiful thing," he said. "You cannot handle this work without the help of the Lord. He is your ever-present strength."
He paid tribute to the bishop of his youth, a man who served in a ward of some 1,500 members for more than 20 years, a happy man who knew all the youth by their names, and who was prayed for by the ward families and was loved and trusted.
"The bishops ought to be the very best men in the Church family, and it has been my experience that you are," he said.
Offering points of advice on specific subjects, he suggested that bishops meet with those who lose their worthiness to hold a temple recommend before the recommend expires, and "quietly discuss the matter with the member and if necessary, pick up his or her recommend, giving assurance that it will be restored when the individual becomes worthy."
In dealing with the youth, the young women are as important as the young men, and in interviews with them, bishops should "cultivate such a relationship that they will be forthright and open with you. Many are afraid to tell their parents of misadventures. You are the only one to whom they can turn."
Bishops should never betray a trust, he said. And where there has been abuse, bishops should not hesitate to call the Church's abuse hotline.
Regarding missionary service, he said that some are casual about planning for a mission, while others have interpreted the raising of the bar to mean that only the most outstanding young men are wanted in the mission field. Such is not the case.
"We need more missionaries," he said. "The message to raise the bar on missionary qualifications was not a signal to send fewer missionaries but rather a call for parents and leaders to work with young men earlier to better prepare them for missionary service and to keep them worthy of such service."
"All young men who are physically and emotionally able should prepare to serve in this most important work."
Couple missionaries are constantly needed, and can be called without waiting for them to volunteer. Young sister missionaries perform a remarkable work, but they are not under obligation to go on missions, and do not have a missionary duty that is comparable to that of young men.
He counseled bishops to be men of integrity, to shun temptation, to live up to the highest standards of the gospel, and to walk with integrity "at all times and under all circumstances."
A bishop should not neglect his family. "Schedule your time so that you may hold family home evenings," he said. "They are so very important and will be the means of safeguarding your family through the years. Spend time with your beloved companion. You cannot succeed as a bishop without the help of your wife."
He concluded by expressing his love for the bishops and branch presidents of the Church. "I leave you my blessing and my prayers, that you may be strengthened for the work and that because of this strengthening you will grow as you have never grown before."