Brother Brad Wilcox: Too much on the bishop’s plate? A new perspective can help

I was serving as a member of the high council in my stake when a major announcement was made: there would be no more ward Young Men presidencies and the stake Young Men president needed to be a member of the high council.  

I was promptly called to be the stake Young Men president.  

In all honesty, my first thought was, “How do I take this on with my other responsibilities?” I’m sure many bishops felt the same way. As I pondered and prayed about the inspired change, I discovered three reasons that strengthened and motivated me. 

Keys

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints functions under the direction of priesthood keys. For many years, the Church worked in partnership with Boy Scouts of America as the activity arm for the Young Men program in North America.  This required two organizational structures to function — one under the direction of the bishop with priesthood keys and one for Scouting leadership.

Because Scouting is not part of the new Children and Youth program, the entire program can once again function under priesthood keys. The bishop is the president of the Aaronic Priesthood. The stake Young Men president, as a member of the stake high council, functions directly under the keys of the stake president. This change clarifies responsibilities and simplifies lines of communication.

Brother Bradley R. Wilcox is the second counselor in the Young Men general presidency.
Brother Bradley R. Wilcox is the second counselor in the Young Men general presidency. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Relationships

In the past, most ward and stake Young Men presidents served in their callings for much shorter times than members of bishoprics and high councils. They did not always have time to build the positive relationships with youth that make such a dramatic difference in their Church activity during their teen years and beyond. Now bishops, their counselors and stake Young Men presidencies have a greater opportunity to build those vital relationships.

Work of salvation

Along with holding priesthood keys and having time to build relationships, bishops can enlist the youth to help him in the work of salvation.  

One bishop said, “I feel like I need to call someone in the ward to be the bishop so I can be the Young Men president.”  

The comment shows how overloaded this bishop feels, but it also shows a misunderstanding about what he is expected to do. His job is not to direct the work of salvation and exaltation in the ward and plan parties for the youth on the side. The youth can help him do the work.

I grew up learning about three main areas of emphasis of the Church: perfecting the Saints, preaching the gospel and redeeming the dead. During President Thomas S. Monson’s service as president of the Church, a fourth area of emphasis was added: caring for the poor and needy.  

In the Church’s current General Handbook, those four objectives have been elegantly described as the work of salvation and exaltation. We come unto Christ and assist in God’s work as we live the gospel, care for the needy, invite others to receive the gospel and unite families for eternity. We can summarize using four key action words: Live, care, invite, unite.

As bishops oversee this work in their wards, they know to delegate to elders quorums and Relief Societies. However, they may not yet realize that the Children and Youth program is a tool through which youth can engage in and help others engage in the work of salvation.

Read more: What is a bishop’s no. 1 responsibility and how can members help? Here’s what Church leaders say

A mission president does not view his missionaries as a burden or added responsibility. Rather, he sees them as his arms. It is time for a cultural shift for all members of the Church so bishops can see themselves in the same way.

Years ago, we looked at bishops as fundraisers who asked for donations for building funds and budget assessments. That role changed. In recent years, too many of us have come to see the bishop’s primary role as a free counselor to help those who are struggling in their marriages and dealing with mental health issues.

Today, members must allow the bishop to delegate much of the counseling of adults to others and see himself more like a mission president. Together with a Young Women presidency, he and his counselors can care for the youth, nurture their growth and engage them in doing the work of salvation.  

With so much on a bishop’s plate, why add the youth?  

Bishops hold the keys. They are typically in their callings for a long enough time to develop solid and life-changing relationships with the youth, and those relationships develop best and most naturally when we are all engaged together in accomplishing the work of salvation. The youth are not one more thing on the bishop’s plate — they are the very ones who can help him take care of everything else on his plate.