Editor’s note: This is the introduction to an Inside Church Headquarters series on the Presiding Bishopric.
Growing up in France, Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé took many gospel resources for granted — he attended weekly church services in a meetinghouse, he had a copy of the Book of Mormon in French and he received the Liahona magazine by mail every month.
“I wasn’t aware of the organization it takes, the preparation it takes, and all the people working behind the scenes to make this happen,” Bishop Caussé said.
Now as he serves as the 15th presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and understands what it takes to support the Church’s global membership, he said he feels “much more grateful” to have had those resources as a young man.
“Wherever they live,” Bishop Caussé said of the 16.8 million Latter-day Saints spanning the globe, “it is important that we bring what they need to live the gospel of Jesus Christ close to them in their own language and culture.”
As an introduction to a new Inside Church Headquarters series, Bishop Caussé — along with his counselors, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell and Bishop L. Todd Budge — spoke to the Church News about the role and purpose of the Presiding Bishopric in the Church of Jesus Christ.
What is the Presiding Bishopric?
The Presiding Bishopric is a council of three men who work under the direction of the First Presidency to manage the temporal affairs — or physical aspects — of the Church. All three members of the Presiding Bishopric are ordained bishops and carry the title of bishop.
The temporal affairs includes administration of tithing and fast offerings, the building and maintenance of meetinghouses and temples, humanitarian aid, welfare and self-reliance programs, and the production and distribution of gospel resources, such as scriptures and hymn books.
“The role of the bishopric is an essential role to provide support to the work of salvation and exaltation, to support the divine mission of the Church,” said Bishop Caussé. The work of salvation and exaltation focuses on four divinely appointed responsibilities: living the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for those in need, inviting all to receive the gospel and uniting families for eternity.
The Presiding Bishopric is also the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood in the Church. However, this oversight does not include the responsibility for the Aaronic Priesthood quorums or the Young Men or the Young Women programs of the Church. Bishop Waddell explained: “Our role is to prepare the way as John the Baptist did for the Savior in preparing the way for His ministry and mission and His first arrival. Our role is to prepare the way for the work of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the work of salvation and exaltation.”
The first bishop of the Church, Edward Partridge, was called in 1831, one year after the Church’s organization. At that time he received two primary responsibilities — to administer the temporal affairs of the Church and care for those in need (see Doctrine and Covenants 42).
These responsibilities are still applicable today, Bishop Caussé said. “The Church has grown, but we still do the same thing — administer the temporal affairs and care for the needy.” Local bishops perform these duties in respective congregations.
Bishop Caussé was called to the Presiding Bishopric in April 2012 and has served as presiding bishop since October 2015; Bishop Waddell was called as the second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric in 2015 and subsequently as first counselor in 2020, with Bishop Budge being called to the bishopric in October 2020.
Bishop Budge, the newest member of the Presiding Bishopric, said he has felt the Lord’s guidance as they work in unison, frequently praying together, attending the temple together and counseling together.
“I can testify that direction comes not only in terms of spiritual matters but also in terms of the temporal affairs of the Church as well. My testimony has been strengthened that all things are spiritual to God,” Bishop Budge said.
Day-to-day functions of the Presiding Bishopric
Prior to being called to full-time Church service, Bishop Caussé, Bishop Waddell and Bishop Budge had careers in business and held various management positions. Bishop Caussé worked in the food industry; Bishop Waddell and Bishop Budge worked in banking and finance.
Though their day-to-day functions managing the Church’s temporal affairs are at times similar to their previous work, “it’s totally different,” Bishop Caussé said. “This is the Church of Jesus Christ. … The Lord said in the Doctrine and Covenants that things should be done in His own way. And so every day, we try our best to do things His way.”
A typical week for the Presiding Bishopric often includes meeting with one of the Church’s 23 directors for temporal affairs around the world and coordinating with area presidencies, participating in Church councils, visiting Church properties, and meeting with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The administration of the Church is facilitated in 23 geographic areas. Each area is overseen by an area presidency, which includes a president and two counselors who are General Authority Seventies or Area Seventies. The area presidency provides spiritual and administrative direction to leaders and members in its specific geographic area. Each area has a director for temporal affairs who oversees the Church’s temporal affairs operations, including welfare and self-reliance programs, emergency response and many other important efforts.
“We have a global responsibility,” Bishop Caussé said of meeting often with the area presidencies and directors for temporal affairs. “It’s very important for us to be really unified with them.”
The Presiding Bishopric also works closely with the managing directors of 16 departments at Church headquarters.
Each member of the Presiding Bishopric serves on an executive council at Church headquarters. One way decisions are made in the Church is through executive councils, and the Presiding Bishopric participates in this process. Bishop Caussé participates in the Priesthood and Family Executive Council, Bishop Waddell in the Temple and Family History Executive Council and Bishop Budge in the Missionary Executive Council. Together they chair the Welfare and Self-Reliance Executive Committee, in which the Relief Society general presidency participates.
Of their participation in councils, Bishop Budge said: “We feel a great sense of unity with the various councils, with the ecclesiastical leaders, with the Twelve and others who we work with. … We have the same purpose and that’s to do the work of salvation and exaltation and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Caussé said one of the greatest blessings the Presiding Bishopric has is to report directly to the First Presidency. “We meet with the First Presidency typically at least once every week. We report to them, we present recommendations to them, we receive their counsel. And so they are very active in directing our work.”
Ministering to Church members worldwide
Before they were called to the Presiding Bishopric, Bishop Caussé, Bishop Waddell and Bishop Budge served as General Authority Seventies. In their role as members of the Presiding Bishopric they remain general authorities and have some ecclesiastical responsibilities in addition to managing the temporal affairs of the Church.
Members of the Presiding Bishopric do not conduct mission tours or reorganize stakes; they do, however, minister to Latter-day Saints worldwide as they preside at stake conferences and participate in leadership meetings, member devotionals and area reviews. Area reviews are an annual opportunity in which the area presidency reports what is happening in the area to a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy and often a member of the Presiding Bishopric.
Like other general leaders of the Church, members of the Presiding Bishopric seek to bring all they meet closer to the Savior Jesus Christ.
Bishop Waddell said one of the things he has learned serving in the Presiding Bishopric is “the Lord’s care for the one.” Referencing the Savior’s visit to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 17, he said, “That was the Savior’s example. … He healed them every one, and He blessed the children one by one.”
Bishop Budge added: “Bishop Caussé often reminds us that we are not the Church; headquarters is not the Church. The Church is made up of millions of members across the world that live in wards and stakes, and we’re here to serve them.”
It is important to keep in mind that “the Church isn’t solely an organization,” Bishop Budge said. “It’s millions of faithful members all across the world, who are striving to follow Jesus Christ and come unto Him.”