Many years ago I found myself speaking to a group of bishops. I don't remember why I was speaking to them, but I remember joking with them that I had asked the Lord to never call me to be bishop. They chuckled and so did I.
After the meeting one of the bishops put his arm around me and warmly said, "I know you were just kidding about asking the Lord not to call you as bishop. But never be afraid of that calling. It will be one of the priceless experiences of your life. You'll be walking on sacred ground as you enter into the hearts of the members of your ward."
Years later, I was called to be bishop and I learned for myself the truthfulness of his words. As a bishop you share not only heartaches and the struggles of ward members, but you also have sacred glimpses into the hearts of Latter-day Saints who love their Savior and their fellowman. I witnessed the pure love of Christ manifested on many occasions.
It was clearly visible when someone lost a loved one in death. Ward and family members rallied around them, prayed for them, loved them and wept with them.
I found it in envelopes of tithing, fast offerings and missionary donations. The love was even more profound when the donations came happily from those who had little.
I saw His love revealed through saints who were "saviors on Mount Zion" as they did family history, baptisms, endowments and sealings for those who could not do them for themselves.
The love shone frequently in my bishop's office where members faithfully accepted callings that intimidated them or demanded long hours away from their families.
I observed the love of Christ delivered at doorsteps in the form of warm, wonderful meals for those who were ill or suffering. And the love was openly apparent during welfare farm assignments where members worked and laughed together on behalf of people they would never meet. It stood out even more clearly the year the snow came early and members in hats, gloves and boots harvested the grapes before they could be lost to the cold.
This love was easily spotted in the eyes of little children who sang and waved to their parents during Primary sacrament meeting presentations. And I saw the love reflected from the eyes of parents who smiled and quietly waved back.
I heard charity in the careful speech of members who refused to be critical of those it would have been easy to criticize. And it was frequently manifested in the handshakes and warmth that members offered to each other each Sunday.
I came to realize that the bishop had spoken a great truth to me. I had been privileged to walk on sacred ground adorned with experiences that testified of Moroni's words: "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him" (Moroni 7:47).