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Cynthia writes:

I’m new to the Circle of Sisters, but I wondered if a new topic could be discussed regarding life as a Bishop’s wife. Having a newly released bishop-husband, I have come to realize that there are many unique aspects to fulfilling the role as “the Bishop’s wife.” There are fears, doubts, questions, uncertainties, lessons learned, and expectations. I’m wondering if some of your readers could offer their input into how they handled the role of a bishop’s wife, what did they do that helped them cope, how did they handle having wayward or rebellious children during that time period, how did they help their husband adjust to his release, what unique sacrifices were they and their families required to make? There are so many aspects that could be discussed. I feel there are many sisters out there who could benefit from a discussion on this topic including me!

Kathy says:

We’ll do some idea shopping, swapping, and swiping. I think it would be fun. I hope the sisters whose hubbies are never likely to put them in that position will not feel they are being relegated to a “less than” corner, even temporarily. Maybe we can serve this slice of pie in such a way that it doesn’t seem exclusive. I know it is not intended to be and in fact the Bishop’s family’s role is very much impacted by the concern that others will think they occupy some rarified social niche that doesn’t really exist in the daily press of duties and sacrifices.

Alison says:

Just butting in for a second to pass on some great resources I found. I’ll be back later for a real response!

“Bishop, Help!”
Dallin H. Oaks

Common Sense vs. Nonsense, or, “Bishop, how do I fix my lawn mower?”

Clair F. Rees

How to Sustain Your Bishop
Annette Paxman Bowen

Side by Side: Supporting a Spouse in Church Service
Jeanette Goates Smith

Jeannie says:

My husband served as branch president and then bishop for eight consecutive years. When he was first issued his calling, a very wise and sensitive stake president called our whole family into his office. He told us that family life as we knew it would radically change. He emphasized that this was not a negative thing. Rather, it would be a very blessed, but arduous journey. There would be times when a tangible blessing of stamina would be ours and times when we would falter. There would be praise and a substantial amount of criticism and scrutiny.

He warned us against the pitfall of trying to pour our children into the “bishop’s family” mold and admonished us to “be ourselves.” He also told my husband that on issues that were not confidential, he could seek my advice. Because of this last bit of counsel, I felt included. Perhaps this is the reason I rarely felt shut out when it came to those confidences that were none of my business. In fact, I was grateful not to know all that was discussed for two important reasons:

  1. Unlike bishops, we, who do not wear his mantle of authority would be influenced by what we heard. It would be easy to take sides and worst of all, we would probably remember every detail. My husband said repeatedly, one of the greatest miracles a bishop can experience is the “veil of forgetfulness” after problem resolution is in place. It is very literal.
  2. I was so thankful that my husband honored his calling by not letting those sacred confidences “slip.” I knew that others, who desperately needed someone they could trust, felt safe telling him their most private and tender feelings. I knew how violated I would feel if everything I told a bishop would also pass through the ears of his wife.

I tried hard to stay in tune with my brothers and sisters. Many times, I was able to pick up something a word, a statement or subtle body language and mention it to my husband. This heightened his awareness and proved very helpful in opening doors for discussion or conflict resolution.

Oh, boy, as I think back, it certainly wasn’t all roses, either. We traveled about 40 minutes each way to Church. There were many Sundays when we arrived early in the morning and waited many hours after meetings while he did interviews. Our children were usually good-natured, but there were times when I could have gladly marched into whatever meeting or interview was in progress and said, “Hey, we are so out of here.You find your own way home.”

One Sunday, in particular, my kids were tearing around the building like enraged bull elephants and someone made the comment under his breath, “Yes, and those are the bishop’s children, too!!” I felt like asking him how he or his children would behave if they had been at Church for nearly seven and a half hours. Luckily, I resisted the temptation to flatten him, bit my tongue, and smiled. In retrospect, maybe I should have said a little something. Perhaps it would have opened his eyes and raised his level of tolerance. I did learn to pack a basket on those long Sundays and tried to be creative in the game and entertainment area. As the years passed, the kids learned to cope and we bought a second car!!!

Two aspects of the stewardship were very difficult and I’m sure all of you bishops’ wives will agree. First, hearing either first-hand or through the ward grapevine, unjust criticism about the bishop or a decision he had made. My husband, my bishop, taught me something unbelievably valuable about criticism. Upon hearing a particularly hurtful comment, he grabbed a piece of paper and pencil. He drew a small triangle at the top-middle of the page and said, “This is what they know and this is what they comment on.” He then took the pencil, extended the two outside sides of the triangle downward until they hit the bottom corners of the page. The drawing resembled an iceberg. He looked at me and pointed to the huge extension saying, “This is what I know, this is how I make my decisions, and I can’t say a word.”

People will judge. How many times have I judged without knowing all the facts? This small illustration helped me to be merciful even to those who had offended and I tried to remind myself of it each time, thereafter.

Secondly, when he came in late at night after a bishop’s court or difficult interview, it was hard to see him weighed down by the heaviness of what had transpired. I tried to have something ready for him to eat, if he had an appetite. If he needed to cry or share his feelings, I got pretty good at listening even if my evening alone with the kids had not been the smoothest. I developed a great deal of respect for him and the calling he was trying his very best to magnify. It put bedtime squabbles or being alone in perspective pronto.

In those moments of weakness about which our stake president warned me; when a complaint about long hours spent away from home would slip my lips, my husband would say, “Jeannie, know that if I could be home with you, I would. In fact, there is nowhere I would rather be.” This was a great comfort to me and I’m sure every bishop in the world would echo this sentiment.

One more thing I learned the hard way: Whether we realize it or not, the things we say as wife of the bishop carry extra weight. Learning to measure our words without compromising our own identity can be tricky. Things can be misunderstood, misconstrued, and just plain misquoted. I tried to listen to myself with a “third skeptical ear” when making a comment.

A great source of joy during this time was a policy our family had established. We welcomed, literally, scores of people into our home, some for a meal, some for a night, some for weeks until they were able to make it on their own. We hosted members and non-members alike, nearly all from countries other than Austria (where we resided at the time). We felt so enriched, so blessed to have had our eyes opened to cultural diversity and the fact that in spite of these differences, we do belong to one, very large family.

After eight years, one of the saddest sentences we ever heard was “We release with a vote of thanks ?” The opportunity for incredible growth, selfless service, the tangible and intangible blessings experienced during this time have had eternal impact on our family. I would like to think that this service also impacted the lives of the brothers and sisters whom we served.

Being immersed in concern for others and being responsible for the welfare of several hundred people sharpened the sense of our own vulnerability. It awakened a reliance on the Spirit that is hard to explain. Even in times of doubt or wayward behavior, our children could remember these things and were blessed by them.

Our stake president was right. It was a blessed and, in some instances, arduous journey. However, I would not trade one millisecond. To all of you dear bishop’s wives: may the Lord strengthen you during the absences and magnify your joy as you perform an indispensable service for His children.

Alison says:

I have never been a bishop’s wife. I have been a bishop’s daughter twice. When I was a teenager, my father was the bishop of a BYU married student ward in WyView Park. When I was older he was a bishop at the Mission Training Center. (Twice before my birth he also served, in Lafayette, Indiana, and when a missionary in Holland.) I have also been the wife of a counselor in the bishopric twice, the wife of an executive secretary twice, the wife of a high councilor twice, and the wife of an elders quorum president once. (Same husband, by the way!) My perspective won’t be exactly what you are looking for, but perhaps it can be of value to someone.

I, too, am blessed to have a father and husband who never broke the confidences of their callings. When my dad was serving in the MTC, it was almost humorous (to those who stayed in bed!) the number of middle of the night phone calls that came from prospective missionaries, suddenly seized with guilt, unable to sleep a wink until they confessed all to their bishop. Dad would get up, slip into his suit, and drive to the MTC. When he came home, sometimes after sunrise, he never said a word.

Once my husband interviewed a new member of our ward to extend him a calling. A few weeks later I found out that this man manufactured a funny watch I really liked (a Bill Clinton watch that ran backwards). When I told my husband, he said he already knew. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, since my husband knew I loved the watch and had even asked for one for Christmas. But since he had found out about the man’s career within the context of an interview, he felt he shouldn’t mention it at all.

I, too, found it critical to have a “third skeptical ear” when speaking. Critical, but extremely difficult for someone with such an active jaw muscle. In spite of my husband’s almost excessive respect for confidences, I often found that my usual, sarcastic, teasing words were misconstrued. If there was any basis in fact, even a remote connection, it was assumed that I “knew” because my husband had told me. Once I teased a lady (who had often said she did not ever want a particular calling) that she was sure to get it if she kept saying so. Unfortunately (and completely unbeknownst to me) she had just been extended that same calling, but hadn’t yet been sustained. She assumed that word had been leaked to me through my “inside sources,” though nothing was further from the truth. I have always been far less informed when my husband serves in ward or stake leadership!

I love Jeannie’s husband’s “iceberg” illustration. One of the bishoprics my husband served in had a joke that there was a rule for the amount of time a bishop served. The bishop could not be released until he had personally offended at least 90% of the ward. We would laugh but how sad it is that as a body of “Saints” we display such behavior, deciding we “know it all” and pointing out the perceived flaws of our leaders to others. Why do we find it so hard to follow the scriptural example to take our criticisms directly to the person or no one at all? No one asks to be the bishop or the bishop’s wife and we should at least realize that they are doing the best they can. And since that is all God asks of them, it should be good enough for us.

The biggest issue for me during these times of “heavy service” was the amount of time away from home and family. Frankly, in Florida I found it easier for Sam to be in the bishopric than on the high council. At least in the bishopric he was in the same ward and my kids could at least see him up on the stand. (And, of course, our current toddler could make a scene during the sacrament prayer, calling, “Daaaaaaaddddeeeeee,” when she happened to notice him at the most inopportune time.) On the high council he often had to travel an hour or more round trip to attend another ward’s Sunday block, bishopric meetings, etc. And somehow those meetings never coincided with our own, so when he was home, we were gone, and vice versa.

Over the years I have, however, gained some wisdom and perspective. What was once resentment at feeling that something was being taken from me, has turned to gratitude that I have been given such a gift to have a husband who is actually worthy and willing to serve the Lord ?in whatever capacity. That is indeed a blessing.

{ 53 comments… add one }

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:01 pm

    Judy writes:

    I sit, apart from the rest of the cheering parents, on a small, grassy hill which overlooks the baseball diamond where my ten-year-old son is “giving his all” at first base. It has been a rough week for me, a bishop’s wife of only two years, and I am having difficulty controlling my tears. My husband, attending to a ward matter, is not watching our son with me, but my sweet sister is. She senses my turmoil and asks, “Can you talk about it?”

    “No,” I say, “But will you do me a favor?”

    “Anything,” she answers.

    I take a deep breath. “When you go to church on Sunday,” I finally whisper, “Would you give your bishop’s wife a hug?”

    “I will,” she says, “I will.”

    My husband is just finishing up his fifth year as bishop of our ward. I remember my feelings on that grassy hill, however, as if it were yesterday. Perhaps that is because I have experienced those emotions often since then while attempting to find my way as a bishop’s wife. I have always appreciated my bishops and their families, or so I believed. But I will never underestimate the degree of their sacrifice again.

    Bishops’ wives do need hugs once in a while. They are often lonely, even in a crowd of people. One of the most difficult adjustments I have, of necessity, been required to make is to accept the distance that has been created between my husband and me. Five years ago, we were a very close couple, sharing hopes and dreams, family issues, and worries. But as a bishop and a bishop’s wife, we now must deal with an invisible wall. More than the many hours he is gone from our home and our family, the subtle detachment that has developed between us is most troubling for me. Early on, I began to be able to tell the moment he entered the house after a stint at the bishop’s office whether or not this would be a “no discussion” evening. I would detect a slight slump in his shoulders and notice his weary eyes, and I would know that his burdens were heavy that night. Yet, we could not talk; I could not help him. And he could not help me. I would have to deal with family situations alone. I felt I could not further encumber him. Sometimes, information would become public knowledge weeks or months later, and I would then understand the depth of his anguish long before; but still, we could not talk, and I would ache for him.

    All of this is not to say that I regret our experience. I have constantly been in awe of the mighty service that members of a ward provide to the bishop and to each other, something I have taken for granted before. I have often felt the support of individuals who took the time to express it. There have been wonderfully fun times, camaraderie, the coming together of a new ward as a family. All have been inexpressibly sweet.

    Most of all, I have discovered, in an unprecedented manner, that my Savior knows my needs, understands my sorrows, and accepts that which I have to offer as the wife of a bishop. As alone as I often feel, I know that I am never truly on my own. My Father in Heaven and his Son, Jesus Christ, are aware of me, and they can fill any void. I am grateful for that knowledge. This, too, has been sweet.

    And as far as looking ahead? I will never, ever forget my feelings that day long ago, on that grassy hill. And I will be certain to hug my bishop’s wife often.

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:01 pm

    Angela from Riverton, Utah, writes:

    Thank you so much for having the idea for this article. I loved every word of it. These sisters were so insightful and articulate and honest. I only wish that there had been more sisters’ perspectives included. Like ten more! Would you consider doing a follow up with more essays?

    I am a bishopric counselor’s wife with three children under six a five month old included. I went from having two children with my husband home all the time to having three children with him gone all the time. We have no family around and it has been a hard adjustment for me but seems to be getting easier. I feel the hand of the Lord sustaining me and helping me cope. I love the insight and the wisdom expressed by these women and see that it is through sacrifice such as this that such wisdom is gained. Thank you again.

    Please give me more!!

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:02 pm

    Janet from Petawawa, Ontario, Canada, writes:

    I have never been a bishop’s wife, but a former bishop and district president helped keep their famlies going with the following policies:

    • When he was called as bishop he announced to the ward: “Monday night is Family Home Evening. It does not end at 9 pm or start at 5pm. I will not be accepting calls on Monday evenings unless it is a true emergency. Please respect our family’s time together.
    • In regards to ward functions, he explained that he liked to dance and have fun just like everyone else and would appreciate it if the ward members who needed to speak with him would make appointments through his executive secretary.
    • I know of a District President, who would not see anyone unless they had an appointment. Some considered this harsh, but what it meant was that he was able to see and support his family. In a real emergency he was, of course, able to be seen. He also never cancelled or was late to an appointment unless there was a very good reason.

    What the above did for the members of the ward and district was to engender a feeling of respect for their leaders and their families. As I said before, some people felt that this was harsh. But seeing that the leaders kept up their end of the bargain, seeing people during appointmented times, helping out at ward functions, etc., they began to see the sanctity of the family and started to treat their own a bit better.

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:02 pm

    Sherri writes:

    Thank you for putting into words my exact feelings over the years. My husband is one who serves. He was bishop for five years and before that a part of the bishopric for seven years. Less than a week after he was released as bishop he was called to the high counsel and, five months later, called as a counselor to the stake president. I had a difficult time not feeling bitter, thinking that after he was released as bishop it would be our time again, but not yet. I also have spent many lonely hours at activities with my five children being asked time and again by non-member friends where my husband was. I found it rather difficult to explain the exact sacrifice and commitment that church callings such as his demand. I am still working on gaining the level of spiritual support that I feel I need to have to help my husband with his many concerns.

    I really appreciate columns such as yours and thanks! Especially to Alison who said “Over the years I have, however, gained some wisdom and perspective. What was once resentment at feeling that something was being taken from me, has turned to gratitude that I have been given such a gift to have a husband who is actually willing to serve the Lord… in whatever capacity. That indeed is a blessing.”

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:02 pm

    Marjean writes:

    Because my children were all teens when their father was called to be the Bishop, we did not experience the difficult challenges that come to wives with young children. In fact, they would all merrily go off to MIA on Tuesday nights and leave me home to an evening of solitude. But there were other challenges.

    They say the loneliest person in the ward is the Bishop’s wife. People either don’t talk to you about their problems because they are sure you will tell your husband, or they assume you already know. In fact, you know nothing. Although on occasion, I did hear things that I could pass onto my husband, which helped him in making certain decisions.

    My children had the challenge of being the “bishop’s kids.” And, as they were by nature, very obedient and righteous, they really got harassed for that. When it became clear that a new bishop was needed in our ward, we both felt that he might be called to the position. At the time, we were struggling with some marriage problems and I did not see how I could fully sustain him. Then the miracle happened. The Lord changed his heart and prepared him to receive the mantel of bishop. And my heart was changed too. During the five years that he served, he made great strides and improvements and they were some of the happiest years of my life. When the time came for him to be released everyone would ask me if I was glad he was being released and in my heart I wished it could have gone on forever. Now he teaches early morning seminary which means he is almost as busy as before. All in all, in spite of the challenges, the blessings are too numerous to numerate.

  • Jeannie Vincent August 12, 2007, 3:03 pm

    Isn’t it so true that the Lord leaves us in a place until He, and more importantly, we are comfortable and then whammy ?just when we get the hang of it, we are taken out of that comfort zone and given new challenges? I guess humility must be learned and re-learned.

    I’m happy that the calling of bishop had such a wonderful effect on your husband and marriage. I am especially happy that your children weathered the “bishop’s kids” stigma. Mine were also teenagers for the greater part of my husband’s stewardship and it was sometimes hard for them.

    This is my own opinion, but next to the bishop, I feel a seminary teacher can have a most profound influence on youth. Sounds like your husband is perfect for the job.

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:05 pm

    Lee from Salt Lake City, Utah, writes:

    I am from Salt Lake. My mother is Jeri Warner and my grandmother is Fern Warner. My grandma died in 1995 at the age of 94 and thankfully my mother is still alive and still such an example to me (She just turned 70.) I am always saying to my girls “Grandma says” and then share with them the things I’ve learned. I pray that my children will feel about me the way I do my mom. (Though the ages 16-18 were not my best years! she has forgiven me:)

    I love your column and learn so much from the other women. I always feel that our differences are slight and our commonalties (testimony, service, love of the Lord, etc.) are our strengths.

    I grew up with a grandfather and a father who served as bishops. The most valuable lesson I learned from my grandmother and mother was that the Lord continually blessed us because of the service these good men gave. I never once heard my mom complain. In fact, she always pointed out to us the many ways we were being blessed.

    This attitude came to my memory when my own husband was called twice to be bishop and again when he was called to be stake president. My mother reminded me that when he was out serving the ninety and nine, the Lord took care of the one and we would never be alone.

    Whenever my husband is away from us serving, I truly feel the Lord’s spirit increase in our home. The protection and love from Him is a great comfort. I have kept a pulse on my children’s feelings and they report that they never feel neglected and that Dad is always there for them. I know that the Spirit fills the gap when my husband cannot make it to every function.

    I have always felt that when he is serving the Lord he is really serving our family. What great lessons I learned from my mother through my Dad’s service and hope that my children will get the same example from me. It has not been a sacrifice to have him serve, but a great gift to us.

    I try to prepare myself for the loss I know we will feel when his release comes as stake president, and am grateful everyday for the experience and blessings we receive from his priesthood callings. I am truly in debt to our Heavenly Father for the blessing of being a bishop’s wife and daughter and even more so for having a wonderful mother and grandmother to give me such a great example on how to carry on!

    I am a witness of the fact that our Father never leaves us alone. By relying on His Spirit we can balance the things we need to do. I would like to share part of an experience we had 18 months ago.

    My son was in a life threatening accident and was in the hospital for several weeks and in recovery for several months. How could my husband serve our son, me, our other children, his work, and the stake? How could I handle everything plus the worrying and all the emotions I felt? Well, whenever I got down the Lord stepped in and lifted me. When my husband felt overwhelmed, the Lord quickly answered his prayers. He made us stronger, more capable, and able to handle each task! At times, I felt like the Nephite women who were made strong and understood how the raw meat tasted sweet. With God, nothing is impossible! We found out first hand that there is nothing we can’t do if the Lord is on our side.

    Things have settled down now, we’re back to normal (?) and realize that God truly does watch over us and bless those who serve Him.

    To all those sisters whose husband’s serve, my only advice is to rely daily on the Lord and to enjoy the calling for the short time it lasts!

  • Jeannie Vincent August 12, 2007, 3:05 pm

    Beautifully put. There is definitely a special increase of the Lord’s Spirit during this time of service. We also noticed an immediate answer to problems and prayers. Sometimes, they came in the form of a member of the ward seeing to our needs. That was humbling, indeed. I’m so glad your son is better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Wish I could have known your mom. She sounds like a great lady.

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:06 pm

    Traci from Bay City, Texas, writes:

    I read your column with my bishop husband sitting next to me (a rare occurrence I must say) and we both shook our heads in approval. He was sitting with me because we had just gotten back from vacation and he didn’t have any interviews set up for this Tuesday night. He has now served for five years and five months, but who is counting?

    A couple of the things that were not mentioned (maybe it is just us): Since he has gotten so good at not telling me things, he forgets to tell me the things he’s supposed to; like who is in the hospital, or that we were to have been somewhere, etc. This usually leads to an interesting conversation on our part! Another thing is our house and yard is falling apart. I figured that soon enough the weeds will cover the house so you can’t see that is needs painting.

    I just can’t do it all, and it seems that we are expected to. I had to take over all of the jobs that were his, and add those to mine. Ugh! So some things have to slide and the bishop’s house is not a showplace for Better Homes and Gardens.

    All in all, it has been a blessing to our life, so we really don’t complain too much. I think that if he ever gets released we will have a lot of new adjustments here on the home front, too. The kids have grown up and two left home while he has been serving the ward. I can say that I will not miss being the first one at the numerous funerals, baptisms, and other meetings and usually the last to leave and always the last family to eat lunch together on Sundays. This too shall pass.

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:06 pm

    An anonymous reader writes:

    On the topic of bishop wives: As a family we always pray for the bishop and their families, especially for their wives and children and I am so glad that my children have heard me pray for them. Now they as include them in their own prayers. It is vital for us to help them as well, as the head of their household is away from home many hours.

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:07 pm

    Becky from Salt Lake City, Utah, writes:

    On the subject of bishop’s wives; a gentle reminder that it isn’t only difficult for the bishop and his wife, but also for the children.

    My father was bishop three times during my childhood once being called to a ward that we didn’t live in. Members around me seemed to be more critical of me and my siblings, and the impression was given that “bishop’s kids” were either angels or devils. Members weren’t quiet about their opinions of us and our “normal” behavior was often criticized because we were “the bishop’s family.” Being a member of the bishop’s family is hard and definitely lonely. As one reader said, “We should expect our friends to act differently.” An adult can understand that. But it is a difficult thing for a child to understand; especially an adolescent who is struggling with all the “joys” of the world. I agree with what many said: that we need to be supportive of our leaders and their families. We’re all struggling and doing our best. Calling or no calling.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 12, 2007, 3:07 pm

    As I said earlier, two of my father’s tenures as bishop were spent presiding over wards we did not live in. Once he served as bishop for a BYU married student ward and later as a bishop at the MTC. At the MTC my mother was actually given a calling and a nametag that read something akin to “Wife of Bishop, Sister D’On Moore.” It’s still one of favorite religious artifacts.

    During his stint with the BYU ward, my mother usually attended both our regular ward (because she had callings there and some of the children were still living at home) and my dad’s ward (to lend support and to get to know the families living there). After many years away from our home ward, my father was released. On his first Sunday back, a woman approached my mother and said, “Oh, it’s so nice to see your husband coming back out to church again!” In her usual fashion, my mother simply said, “Yes, we’ve all been praying for him.”

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:08 pm

    Deborah, from San Juan Capistrano, writes:

    Yesterday, I cried out to my Heavenly Father that I might know what I needed to do to be a better bishop’s wife. I had been feeling like my relationships with my friends in our ward had slipped. “What had I done?” I wanted to know. “Why are so many members critical of my husband?” I asked. Then, today, a good friend (and newly called RS President in our ward) forwarded this article to me. After sobbing and then thanking my Heavenly Father for angels on earth like my friend, I thought I would send some thoughts.

    I had been feeling like I needed some serious divine help if I was ever going to be able to forgive the ignorant criticism of my good husband (bishop now for two years). What has hurt me the most has been criticism of members who should know better. I have wanted, at times, to go over to their homes and say,” have you forgotten what it is like to be a bishop? Have you forgotten what it is like to be a bishop’s wife? Let me remind you.” After seeking advise from my mother, however, the wife of a former bishop and stake president, she counseled me to avoid that exercise. She told me that there was really nothing that I could do or say to make them do better. All I could do was to fix my own heart and continue to support a bishop (my husband) who is doing an incredible job.

    This has been a very lonely six months for me. When my husband was first called to be bishop, our stake president and his wife told us that we should expect our friends to act differently, that it would be somewhat of a lonely calling (if we were doing it right). I really didn’t experience that right away, but I sure am now. When my husband was called, he felt like some things needed changing in our ward. What we found was that old traditions die pretty hard. When you make decisions regarding callings or programs in the ward based on what you feel inspired is right (not popular), feathers most certainly will get ruffled.

    As you can see, I am deep in the thick of this experience we call a blessing. And, it has been a great blessing to our family in many tangible ways. Whenever I feel down, the Lord seems to send me an angel to buoy me up, and for that I am so grateful. Also, when I think of the many, many willing, obedient, humble members of our ward who are so helpful to my husband and to each other, I am reassured that this is, after all, the Lord’s work, and it will go forward with or without us. We just have to be sure we are on the right side, doing the right things.

    And, may I suggest to all of you bishop’s wives out there, when it is your time to be released, never forget what it was like. I loved the iceberg analogy. The time will come when your husband knows only the tip of the iceberg again. Remind him if ever he (or you) thinks that the current bishop “doing it wrong.”

  • Alison Moore Smith August 12, 2007, 3:09 pm

    Deborah, I was so touched by your letter. It has made me resolve even further never to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed even when he or she is my imperfect next-door-neighbor! When we moved from Florida last autumn I resolved never to be involved in gossip. And as we have just moved and will be attending our new ward for the first time this Sunday, your letter has reminded me how this particularly applies to those who serve (let me emphasize serve) us, day in and day out, in the church.

    As for your calling being a lonely one, let me share with you a couple of experiences I have had. A number of years ago my husband was serving as a counselor in the bishopric. The bishop announced that he was moving. After he left, it was three months before a new bishop was chosen, so my husband and the other counselor alternated weeks as “acting bishop.” Of course, there was great speculation in the ward as to who would be called as the new bishop, and many people assumed it would be my husband. From that time until the new bishop (who was not my husband) was called, I experienced a number of people acting toward me only in a manner I can describe as “strange.” After the new bishop was sustained, everything returned to normal.

    A couple of years ago our bishop was called to be the new stake president. Obviously, everyone knew we would be needing a new bishop in short order. Again, the speculation began, but this time it was more pronounced. Ward members even started calling me “Sister Bishop.” One sister actually said to me, “I know it’s going to be Sam because you are acting so different.”

    I was acting like a bishop’s wife? OK. Is that a good thing? I wondered for months whether that meant I was somehow glowing with spirituality (in which case this “change” is one I would want to sustain) or I was appearing to be arrogant and self-righteous (in which case I’d better get my act together pronto). I never did figure it out and, for all intents and purposes, when someone else was called to be the bishop a number of weeks later my proclaimed radical behavioral change was forgotten.

    As I have said, I have never been the wife of a bishop, but my short-lived experience tells me that what you say is true.

    It is also true that some wards are more adaptable and flexible than others. As leaders we might not always be as sensitive as we need to be to established tradition. Of course, we should never ignore inspiration for the sake of comfort, but perhaps the needed changes can be delivered in a way that is less shocking to entrenched ward members.

    Many years ago my sister and I both served as Relief Society presidents at the same time in different cities. My ward was young and transient and I had been there as long as most of the members. Hers was much older and more established and she had only been in the ward a few weeks when she was called. I started out my “tenure” with a bunch of ideas and programs and abruptly changed the way I administered every single program a few months later after reading the newly published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My sister made changes in the visiting teaching partnerships to better accommodate needs expressed to her. The radical changes in my ward made the sisters motivated and excited. The minor changes in my sister’s ward made the sisters mad. Go figure.

    And I can promise you that my sister is far more spiritually in tune than I am!

    We can’t always predict how people will react to change and their reactions are not always a good indicator or the rightness or wrongness of a decision, but if we are prayerful and careful, it will be acceptable to the Lord.

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:10 pm

    Angela from Riverton, Utah, writes:

    Thank you so much for having the idea for this article. I loved every word of it. These sisters were so insightful and articulate and honest. I only wish that there had been more sisters’ perspectives included. Like ten more. Would you consider doing a follow up with more essays?

    I am a bishopric counselor’s wife with three children under six a five month old included. I went from having two children with my husband home all the time to having three children with him gone all the time. We have no family around and it has been a hard adjustment for me but seems to be getting easier. I feel the hand of the Lord sustaining me and helping me cope. I love the insight and the wisdom expressed by these women and see that it is through sacrifice such as this that such wisdom is gained. Thank you again.

    Please give me more!!

  • Alison Moore Smith August 12, 2007, 3:11 pm

    Poof! Your wish is granted!

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:12 pm

    Janet from Petawawa, Ontario, Canada, writes:

    I have never been a bishop’s wife, but a former bishop of mine helped keep his family going with the following:

    When he was called as bishop he announced to the ward: “Monday night is Family Home Evening. It does not end at 9:00 pm or start at 5:00 pm. I will not be accepting calls on Monday evenings unless it is a true emergency. Please respect our family’s time together. In regards to ward functions, he explained that he liked to dance and have fun just like everyone else and would appreciate it if the ward members who needed to speak with him would make appointments through his executive secretary. I know of a district president, who would not see anyone unless they had an appointment. Some considered this harsh, but what it meant was that he was able to see and support his family. In a real emergency he was of course, able to be seen. He also never cancelled or was late to an appointment unless there was a very good reason. What the above did for the members of the ward and district was to engender a feeling of respect for their leaders and their families. As I said before, some people felt that this was harsh. But seeing that the leaders kept up their end of the bargain, seeing people during appointmented times, helping out at ward functions, etc., they began to see the sanctity of the family and started to treat their own a bit better.

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:12 pm

    Sherri writes:

    Thank you for putting into words my exact feelings over the years. My husband is one who serves. He was bishop for five years and before that a part of the bishopric for seven years. Less than a week after he was released as bishop he was called to the high council andfive months later, called as a counselor to the stake president. I had a difficult time not feeling bitter, thinking that after he was released as bishop it would be our time again, but not yet. I also have spent many lonely hours at activities with my five children being asked time and again by non-member friends where my husband was. I found it rather difficult to explain the exact sacrifice and commitment that church callings such as his demand. I am still working on gaining the level of spiritual support that I feel I need to have to help my husband with his many concerns.

    I really appreciate columns such as yours and thanks! Especially to Alison who said, “Over the years I have, however, gained some wisdom and perspective. What was once resentment at feeling that something was being taken from me, has turned to gratitude that I have been given such a gift to have a husband who is actually willing to serve the Lord ?in whatever capacity. That indeed is a blessing.”

  • Reader Comment August 12, 2007, 3:12 pm

    Marjean writes:

    Because my children were all teens when their father was called to be the bishop, we did not experience the difficult challenges that come to wives with young children. In fact, they would all merrily go off to MIA on Tuesday nights and leave me home to an evening of solitude. But there were other challenges. They say the loneliest person in the ward is the bishop’s wife. People either don’t talk to you about their problems because they are sure you will tell your husband, or they assume you already know. In fact, you know nothing. Although on occasion I did hear things that I could pass onto my husband, which helped him in making certain decisions.

    My children had the challenge of being the “bishop’s kids”. And as they were by nature very obedient and righteous, they really got harassed for that.

    When it became clear that a new bishop was needed in our ward, we both felt that he might be called to the position. At the time, we were struggling with some marriage problems and I did not see how I could fully sustain him. Then the miracle happened. The Lord changed his heart and prepared him to receive the mantel of bishop. And my heart was changed, too. During the five years that he served, he made great strides and improvements and they were some of the happiest years of my life. When the time came for him to be released everyone would ask me if I was glad he was being released and in my heart I wished it could have gone on forever. Now he teaches early morning seminary which means he is almost as busy as before. All in all, in spite of the challenges, the blessings are too numerous to numerate.

  • davidson October 1, 2007, 11:57 am

    I am new to this; is it okay to pick up a thread that has been silent for awhile? I have to say something. I had been praying for this! I stumbled on to Mormon Momma accidentally one day recently, and it has helped me so much already, in many areas. God bless you all! Especially thank you to those who started it and work so hard to keep it going. I think Heavenly Father will kiss your foreheads when He sees you again. I should be doing laundry and dishes and painting the bathroom, but you are feeding my soul! I really needed this! And I thank you for your kind hearts and your willingness to reach across the world to help. This is charity in work clothes.
    My husband was called to be the bishop of our ward in January 2007. Just prior to that, he had been serving in a bishopric in the singles branch. It was great in the singles branch. Our family attended Family Home Evening and activities and church with the singles, and they treated us like family. When my husband sat on the stand, he’d wink at me and we’d share looks that communicated deep feelings very quietly, and no one ever knew. So when he was called to be the bishop, I thought, “This will be a wonderful experience! I’m really looking forward to this!” And I was not prepared. Because it might be helpful to a new bishop’s wife, I’m going to share some bare-faced journal entries.
    “December 19, 2006, Tuesday–Life takes interesting turns sometimes. Two days ago my husband was called to the bishop of our new ward. It will include part of two other wards, and a meeting to discuss boundary changes will be held on New Year’s Eve. I will be the first to raise my hand to sustain him. From the beginning of our relationship, I sensed the Lord’s love for him and trust in him. He is the Lord who assured me he was the right man to marry. Even our trials have been used to mold and shape him into the leader he will need to be. He comes to this calling with the humility and compassion of a heart many times broken. I bear witness that our Lord truly “healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” I will be so grateful to go along for the ride with him. He will be a pleasure to follow, and I gladly give him to the Lord. I will stretch to grow with him. I will try hard.
    Our stake president told both of us that our first and most important responsibility will be to love people. We have his good example to follow. The stake presidency also said something beautiful and so characteristic of them: they said they were praying that many members of our wards would be even now beginning to feel the confirming witness of the Spirit that my husband was chosen of the Lord. They asked if he had felt it. What a hard question to answer. He humbly confessed that he had, but said he had been pushing it away, feeling it was born of uninspired arrogance. How calming and comforting to watch these priesthood brethren at work, to watch the Spirit move amongst them.
    And it extends to women, more evidence that our dear God is no respecter of persons. I have been feeling for a month that a change was coming to ME, which is surprising, to know that the Lord would be interested in my personal angle of it. I pray now that the Lord will send his assurances and strength and hope to the hearts of my precious children. Some are beginning to feel it already. It will be hard to keep the secret two more weeks.
    January 8, 2007, Monday–Yesterday we had our first meeting in the new ward. My husband did so well. He was nervous and pale, but I was really proud of him. All of the teaching he has had in his different callings through the years is coming together now to make him the bishop he will need to be, and I am so grateful he’s had that training. I’m glad the Lord can use him. I struggle, though. The Relief Society presidency, the Young Men presidency, the Young Women presidency, and Sunday School presidency, and some of the teachers in the organizations have been called. There is a great excitement and enthusiasm in the air. And me? I’m nothing. Okay, I’m the ward momma, and I’m trying to have a good attitude about it. The Lord is pruning me, testing me. Satan tries hard to whisper in my ear: “You are not needed. You are not wanted. Your husband is loved of the Lord, but you are not. You are worthless, helpless, and hopeless.” I believed him for a day. I cried about it for a day. AND THEN I GOT OVER IT. Self-pity is not a luxury I, or anyone else, can afford. It is a damaging indulgence. It is a snowball rolling down a hill with ever-increasing weight and force, big enough to crush a person at the bottom. If the Lord wants me to stand and wait, I will wait with a smile on my face. If the Lord doesn’t need me to serve in a calling, I will look for other things I can do to help. I typed up the bishopric’s blessings when they were set apart and gave them copies. I’m typing up an abbreviated ward telephone directory (learned later they can be printed from the Internet, so I really wasted my time on that one. :) I can answer the phone and the door and run errands. I can substitute-teach lessons. I can tend my husband’s flock. Peace has come to my heart. There is work I can do to help build the kingdom. I don’t need a spotlight or an official calling. Maybe that will come later. The Lord is teaching me important things: how to be a better follower, how to be less selfish, less prideful, all things I needed to learn. God help me to pass this test. People have been so sweet and kind and supportive. I can’t believe all the notes that have been written, hugs given, words of encouragement said. I’m sure hard things are coming, but these will be life-preservers to cling to.
    January 27, 2007, Saturday–If only every peaceful, happy perspective would stay permanently fixed in my heart. We humans are odd creatures, experiencing everything in the rainbow of emotions, sometimes all in the same day, the same hour. I am tempted to sugar-coat this journey, this new experience we are having, but it wouldn’t be fair and it wouldn’t be true. The calling is noble, and the practical application is difficult. I want to be a great support and a great comfort to my husband, and I have strongly conflicting emotions. I can take the physical leaving, his being gone all the time. I can understand completely the hours he must spend away from our family. I can deal with that. Much harder for me is the emotional leaving. I even understand his need to keep confidences about private matters, and I respect him for keeping them. What has me totally baffled is how dispensable I’ve become. I assumed, foolishly, that we were in this thing together, that somehow he would continue to want and respect and even value my thoughts, my opinions, and the inspiration I receive for my stewardships, since he always valued them in the past–and I am embarrassed to find out how wrong I was about that. Silly me. So do I take my position on the back burner of his life for the next five or six years? Put up and shut up? Be there to comfort him, but seek my own comfort elsewhere? There is so much yap in the church about marriage being a partnership, a thing of equality, a oneness–except for maybe the bishop and his wife. If I felt like I were even JUST AS important as other members of the ward–not MORE important, but JUST AS important–I could live with that. What I am finding is that he jumps through hoops for everyone else, and he is tired when he finally gets to me. I should understand and avoid being just one more extra burden for him to carry. Shame on me for having needs. Back away slowly.
    It will take, I think, a long time for me to figure this out, to figure out what my role should be in his life and how I can do it well. I miss my best friend. I feel like I’ve had an arm aputated suddenly, violently, and I am not to whimper. I tried to talk to him about it last night. He looked at it as the withdrawal of my support. I will support him or die trying. I will continue to raise his children, pray with them and study the scriptures with them when he can’t be here, fix meals that are a burden for him to eat, answer the phone for him, run errands for him, protect and defend his brief opportunities to sleep, listen when he feels like he can talk, try to understand when he can’t, do any callings as well as I know how, and love him as much as he will let me. And sometimes it will hurt. Harder things have been done for the building of the kingdom.
    Oh Lord, lead me along! Help me to feel the things I should feel! Help me to be the things I should be!
    Mold me in whatever way Thou wilt, and teach me to bend! I need Thee every hour.
    February 15, 2007, Thursday–Well, I think we’ve weathered that little storm. It is true that I sometimes get my exercise jumping to conclusions. It is true that my husband was staring right through me, not seeing me, whenever we went to ward meetings and functions. It is true that on several occasions when I tried to speak to him, he completely ignored me, didn’t even hear me, even though I repeated myself. And I have learned why. I had it in my head that he was ashamed to be seen with me in public, maybe embarrassed by the things I said, way too important to even consider any of my suggestions or feelings. I have learned that he was struggling with something much more difficult and frightening than even I could have supposed. He described it as tunnel vision. He even called it an “out-of-body” experience. I think if I had to coin a phrase for it, I would call it “paralytic fear.” While he has had to function in the office of his calling without training or sufficient experience in these first few weeks, he focuses so completely on one aspect that he becomes very really deaf and blind to everything else. I’ve seen it happen to one of our kids when he went to the dentist; he was scared out of his wits. Oh, fear is an awful thing! I can see why it is such an effective tool for Satan. I pray and pray for our new bishopric, that they will be able to deal with these stretching, frightening, overwhelming experiences. And I feel stupid for not understanding my husband better, for being so concerned about my own feelings and needs that I couldn’t see the terrible ordeal he was was going through alone. Well, not alone. The healing power of the Atonement covers every pain, every physical or emotional or mental anguish Satan has power to conjure up. I’ve watched that healing, calming blanket of peace settle over my husband this week, and I am so grateful for it. It will be all right. We are learning to rely on the Lord in ways we’ve never needed to before.
    Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and I set up a candlelight dinner for us. Since my husband and I talked about his tunnel vision and the effect it was having on me, he’s made a very concentrated effort to acknowledge me, even when he is so busy, and to really show his love for me. I feel foolish for having stomped my foot and whined. I can’t even enjoy his extra attention; I just feel guilty for having demanded it and gotten it. Sometimes I should just learn to keep my mouth shut! It is time to grow up. Why do I write these ugly things? Why do I bother to record them at all? Because I learn from them. I examine patterns in my lousy behavior and see where my weaknesses are and learn by the Spirit what I need to change. My husband is learning and changing, too. We will get through this, but it is not the picnic I assumed it would be. I saw a bishop’s wife from our stake in the grocery store yesterday, and she came up to me all enthused and asked me how I liked being the bishop’s wife. She said, “Isn’t it a wonderful, spiritual experience?” I said “Well?” or something neutral like that. My husband had just spent an afternoon with a woman who stomped into his office, demanded welfare assistance, and told him what his faults were, and I have learned that is not an uncommon experience for a bishop to have. I wanted to deck that woman! And now he and I are working on loving the unloveable, because I think that is what the Savior would have us do. ”

    Okay, that is a peek in the life of a bishop’s wife. I would have given anything to have some comfort and counsel in those first few weeks when it was so hard. Thanks, ward mommas, for sharing your words, and I hope we hear more! The worst thing was not having anyone to talk to during the initial shock. And I expect that this will turn out to be a great blessing in the long run. I have gained a new respect for bishops, stake presidents, General Authorities, and their families.

  • Jennifer July 22, 2011, 12:19 am

    Judy, I loved your comment. It was so honest and almost uncanny how it reflected my own feelings. I feel exactly the same way about the distance forced between my husband and myself. Much harder than the physical time apart is the emotional wedge that is often put between us. He sometimes recesses into himself–purely out of necessity–but it’s depressing and lonely to be around, and I miss my husband when it happens. It all ebbs and flows, and we have our great times and our low times. More good than bad, I think. I hope. My challenge is that my husband also owns his own business and is extremely busy with that, and often out of town, so I really do feel like a single mother a lot. And since no one reading this blog knows me, I’ll admit right now that I am sick of doing everything myself for the kids, sick of sitting through tedious hours of their activities by myself, sick of filling every single request and need and want by myself, from sunup until sundown. Also, sick of having any small moment I may have leftover from the children immediately seized by someone in the ward, even when my husband is gone. Maybe it’s just summertime, but even my late nights–after 9 pm–usually mean someone stopping by or calling, and always talking or staying way too long. I literally do not have a moment to myself, unless it’s at 11:30 pm like right now. I miss being a part of the adult world, the world my husband wishes he could escape. I know I sound horrible, but I’m actually really nice to people. I just have to vent. Feeling kind of nasty and resentful tonight. Sorry. I know I’m not as righteous as I need to be. I really do try, I’m just having a bad day. Tomorrow will be better, and I’ll be a happy mother and wife again. But this blog really helped me today. Especially your comment, Judy. Thanks for being so honest and well-spoken.

  • Bill September 12, 2011, 7:45 pm

    As a Bishop, I enjoyed reading this forum. I recommended it to my wife who also has enjoyed it. I was called at the age of 29 and I must stae here that I have grown to truly appreciate my wife for her abilty to be drama free. It has allowed me to serve in such a way as not to worry about the extra issues that drama can bring. Being Bishop has been the greatest blessing in my life and I could not do it without my dear wife. May the Lord bless each of you in all you do.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 13, 2011, 11:46 am

    Bill, thank you for the kind tribute to your wife. Here’s to drama-free spouses. :)

  • Michelle October 17, 2011, 12:23 am

    Bill, I think your “drama free” comment” was off the mark and rude. I found this web page in desperation, as it seems, others did as well. Maybe some of you bishops should read these comments and LEARN from them. After trying for the third time to have a discussion with my husband about my frustrations, he just went to bed. No drama there, just a wife who is invisible and second fiddle to about everyone else in the world.

  • Alison Moore Smith October 17, 2011, 5:16 pm

    Michelle, I’m sorry to hear you are struggling. Sincerely, I don’t think Bill was meaning his comment as a put-down to wives who want to be heard and considered! In my reading, he was just grateful that his wife had the ability to overlook the unimportant, but sometimes irritating or annoying, stuff.

    Maybe we can help?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Gifts and DementiaMy Profile

  • Vickie January 13, 2013, 7:49 am

    Isn’t the Internet wonderful? This conversation happened while my husband and I were dating and now here I am up early on the morning my husband is being called into the new bishopric. I stared getting a little anxious as to what this calling means for me and what I will be expected to do. I typed “bishopric wives” into google not really expecting anything to pop up and I found this gem. Thank you for all your comments. I was the daughter of a bishopric counselor, bishop, high councilman, and stake presidency counselor. I know how to be the daughter, but I’m not sure how I’ll do as the wife. I just don’t know how to handle being an example family. We aren’t perfect and I don’t want to be. But, my husband is amazing and will do an amazing job, of that I am sure. But it will be hard for him too as this is the ward he grew up in. So, thank you, thank you, thank you for your advice from the past!

  • Alison Moore Smith January 13, 2013, 5:20 pm

    Vickie, welcome to Mormon Momma. It’s an old post but happy to hear it was helpful to you.

    May this time in your life be blessed. :)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Don’t Let Your Boys Get Their Skanky OnMy Profile

  • Angie Gardner January 28, 2013, 7:36 am

    It’s funny this was just brought back up, because my husband was just called as bishop last week. I attended a different ward in the stake yesterday and that bishop’s wife came up to me and asked how I was doing and said she’d been thinking about me. I told her so far, so good. She said, “Well, it’s only been a week. Call me when you need me.”

    Looking forward to an interesting ride.

  • jennycherie January 29, 2013, 6:51 pm

    Angie- I am sure it will be a great adventure!
    jennycherie recently posted…My Journey with Essential Oils, part oneMy Profile

  • Rose Munoz February 2, 2013, 10:24 pm

    I just wanted to say how grateful I am to all of you for your experiences. My husband was called as Bishop a few months ago, and I was called as Relief Society Secretary for our ward at the same time. We also have a very active and strong willed 2 year old, and we have been waiting for another child for several months now. With my husbands previous callings it seems like he has gradually been spending less and less time at home and now we’re lucky if we can share Saturdays together as a family. When we started we had so much time together, and now we’re lucky if we have time to talk alone at all. Most days he gets home so late I’m asleep and leaves so early we just have time to say goodbye. We live in South America and in many ways the church is still in its infancy here. There are so few members willing to take on callings and fulfill them, not to mention we live in a ward with many widows and single mothers, so there is a lot if work for the bishopric. It does often feel lonely and were just getting started. Nobody seems to know how hard it really is to juggle a small child(even if he is only one), the stress of trying to conceive (and dealing with the constant questions of why we don’t have another baby), the management of our home, my own calling and of course now the work load my husband used to help carry. And harder still to know you have no family nearby to talk to or ask for help. My days are spent alone with my little one who misses his daddy, and it tugs at my heart because its just me and him most of the time. I’m sorry I seem to be venting but lately all I can do is cry out to The Lord for patience and strength to sustain my husband and to do all I need to and not be resentful, especially of those who criticize both of us on how we fulfill our callings, yet get to go on 2 month vacations while we haven’t taken one in 4 years. I wish members understood that we need help too, that sometimes it would be nice for someone to come over and provide some form of much needed service, our that our friends would understand that we can’t visit them as much as we would like, but that if they want to hear from us so badly no one keeps them from picking up the phone and calling or coming over and visiting even if it’s just to say hi. I wish people knew that instead of criticism we need encouragement, sometimes I feel inadequate and so imperfect that I wonder how I can be the person chosen to have my calling and be a bishop’s wife, and it doesn’t make me feel any more capable at doing these things when I hear others pass judgement on our family. I’m sorry I wrote so much, but I appreciate the chance to express my feelings and any advice for this new bishop’s wife would be great appreciated, thank you all.

  • Angie Gardner February 3, 2013, 9:05 am

    Thoughts, prayers, and hugs to you, Rose, and welcome to MM! We are only a few weeks into the calling and life is already busy. Even with letting go of some other commitments that were time consuming, my husband is often gone, on the phone, or otherwise preoccupied. We are so lucky to live in a very big, active ward with many who can and do serve and thus help to carry the burden. The challenges in an area not as strong in numbers or commitment must be extremely difficult.

    I am sad that people are questioning you not having another child. Your baby is still a baby! This is something that is your business and your husband’s and God’s and no one else’s. As someone who has also been criticized for having “only” 3 children, I feel this sting too. People just have no idea, and it’s none of their business. If they had known what I had gone through just to birth the 3 I did, they would be quiet, I’m sure. :) This has nothing to do with being a bishop’s wife but it’s really been a pet peeve of mine when people question other people’s reproductive choices. There may be infertility, difficult pregnancies, medical issues, postpartum depression, or simply a choice to have a smaller family or to space the children out further. People need to mind their own business. (Sorry, ranted there a bit. Hot topic for me!)

    Is it possible that there is someone else who could be called as RS secretary? I know in general the church really tries to not have both spouses serving in leadership callings at the same time. Particularly with your husband as bishop, it seems that you need all the help you can get!

    My heart goes out to you. We have 3 children but they are old enough to manage themselves quite well (13, 11, and 9). When they were little my husband was sometimes in bishoprics and that was so hard, but the commitment as bishop is just so much more time consuming since there are some things that he alone can do. I don’t know how I could have done it with little kids. Now seems like a good time for our family.

    Feel free to vent here. There used to be a lot more of that and it’s slower nowdays. I miss that.

    Best of luck to you.

  • Angie Gardner February 3, 2013, 9:11 am

    I should also add in my reproduction rant that the criticism is there often as well for big families. I have a good friend who has 8 children (and many others with 6 or more) and have sometimes heard jabs about that too. I still really don’t get why we feel the need to judge others this way. It’s such a personal thing with so many factors that people simply just don’t know and need to butt out.

  • Darlene Redding April 30, 2013, 7:26 am

    I found this site straight after my husband was given the call for Bishop. Even though we both had strong feelings it was coming, the Holy Ghost is quite amazing. Anyways I have been reading the writings and am, ever grateful for this medium. I felt it inappropriate to write on this site until he was sustain and ordained, that took place 4-28-13.
    You my fellow Sisters have already given me so much support, I now have a reservoir of strength and will be better prepared to sustain him and be more respectful of the “needed” space and time that he will need,. Im ok with that because I know where to go for strength… I think I will put down some “padding” for him and for me, to see who will wear the padding out first in his years as Bishop (LOL).
    It is bitter sweet for me, because I will be loosing my calling as Relief Society President in the next few weeks (time lapse/Stake Conference). I absolutely loved my calling it was great for me and I could feel the Lord stretching me. I know that all the information that I held in silence/confidence I now can communicate with my husband/Bishop and it will help him. I will be better able to cope with the effects of not knowing and the possible” loneliness” of being the Bishop wife, because of your writings. Now I can plan, and “NOT” to let that happen :)
    I thank you for this marvelous site and participation.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 30, 2013, 12:49 pm

    Darlene, thank you for the big dose of nice today. :) It is good to hear that our past efforts have been helpful. May God bless you and your whole family in this time of service. :)

    Much love from us all.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Smart Mormons?My Profile

  • Amber May 14, 2013, 4:59 pm

    Just found this gem from a friend (fellow Bishop’s wife) when I asked her to give me her thoughts on the blessings that come from being a BW.
    I have been asked to be a speaker at Stake Conference on this very subject. I have only been a BW for a short 15 months, I do not feel like I have enough experience to speak on this matter. Thank you ladies for your thoughts. The frustrations and emotions that we experience are kept silent. You have all lifted my spirits today!

  • Donna September 27, 2013, 9:18 am

    Wow! Dh was just called as Bishop and I am so glad that I stumbled across these posts. Thank you so much to you brave women who posted your experiences, thoughts and fears. I am a bit overwhelmed but trying my best not to let it show to my poor man who is way more overwhelmed than I am – ;) I am scared but hopeful…

  • A bishops wife November 7, 2013, 4:51 am

    Wow! I too appreciate this site. Man I have LONGED for other women who would simply understand. This is the loneliest place I have ever been. My husband got called 4-22-13.y youngest……6 weeks old. My oldest 7. Three others in between 6,5,14 months. Yup. 5 kids 7 and under. I cannot believe how hard satan is at work. I actually today do not understand this calling. I don’t sleep due to babies. So that my friends means functioning is practically nonexistent. I had comments after he was called of “I can’t talk to you anymore cause your the bishops wife.” “You just seem to good for everyone now” (as I wrestle 5 young kids EVERY Sunday) The same time he got called his job became more demanding. I NEVER see him. We don’t talk much anymore. I simply just take care of everything. The weight is so heavy. The demands of welfare from him become really annoying. Honestly, I don’t know why we are asked to do this with such a young family. Any others question The Lord? I thought I had a strong testimony. A strong relationship. A good knowledge. I feel like its all gone. I so badly wish I had someone to talk to. I really do want this to be a good experience. I do make it that for my kids. But. Where do I fit? The judgements, the stares, the comments, the craziness, the risiculous expectations, simply today right now is to much.

    Sincerely,
    Overwhelmed bishops wife who everyone thinks is super woman

  • Marie K November 10, 2013, 2:29 pm

    Good that this post came to attention again! I have read it before and I scanned it tonight. I am a former bishops wife now stake presidents wife. I have had a thought several times before (husband going on his 4 year as SP), should I invite the bishop’s and branch president’s wives to dinner and socializing? It can be lonely and we need others who understand what is going on. If it was you who was invited by the stake president’s wife? Would you be happy about it? Would it be a good thing? I am thinking of making it a tradition, like once a year. Please help me out!

  • jennycherie November 10, 2013, 9:19 pm

    A bishops wife, you have every reason to be overwhelmed! I have nothing to offer but to ignore the people (or answer in a very pointed way) that say ridiculous things. There is nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade, and people have little quips like “you’re too good for us now,” that they may mean in a lighthearted way, but that can actually be problematic. My dream is to some day have a quick enough brain (or enough automatic responses in my repertoire) to not let these type of comments pass by me with no response. Right now, it takes me a solid 24 hours to figure out what I wish I would have said!

    For what it’s worth, the Lord *could* call someone who is retired with plenty of time on his hands to be the bishop, but he rarely does. There must be a purpose to calling men as bishop in some of the busiest times of their lives. You will figure it out. Also, there is nothing wrong with telling your husband what you need from him. If he is wearing himself out serving others and neglecting time with you and the kiddos, he needs to adjust his priorities. As his wife, there is nothing wrong with helping him do that. I think that one reason the Lord calls really busy people to really demanding callings is so that they must choose and prioritize.

    Marie K: What a lovely idea to invite the bishops’ wives to dinner!
    jennycherie recently posted…It’s that time of year again: NovemberMy Profile

  • Angie Gardner November 11, 2013, 5:11 am

    bishops’ wife: Welcome! I don’t think people realize how lonely it can be (on top of all the sheer work of it) to be a bishop’s wife until they are there. Jenny gave some great advice. I have been thinking of starting a little “support group” (for lack of a better word) among bishops’s wives. I had an especially hard week last week and I kept thinking that I really need to reach out to other wives so we can share our thoughts, helps, and yes our burdens. Will you email me at amcgardner@gmail.com and maybe we can talk more? (this goes for anyone else who might be interested as well)

    Marie: I love the idea. My stake president does a good job of socializing with the bishops’ families but I think something for the wives separately is wonderful. For me personally, I already have a good relationship with my stake president’s wife and family (they are in my ward) but for other wives in the stake I think it would be really uplifting to do something like that.

  • Angie Gardner November 11, 2013, 1:12 pm

    Funny this post has been brought back again, for it has been on my mind a lot lately. One of my good friends whose husband is a former bishop told me that it would be about 6 months in when it “hit me” and she was right! I have had a bit of a hard transition (my husband was put in in January). For me it hasn’t been about the time involved (he was always busy before, just doing different things now) but rather the way this has shifted the balance of power in our relationship and also the emotional struggle that it is. By that, I mean the fact that my husband, who never was Mr. Tell-my-wife-very-many-things, is now Mr. Tell-my-wife-nothing! This includes his schedule half the time. Yesterday afternoon I got home from choir and he pulled in about 10 minutes later. Good, I thought. We can finally talk (he had been out of town all week and we had literally talked to each other a total of about 30 minutes in a few phone conversations and quick ride from the airport – and this 30 minutes is total in OVER A WEEK). I was trying to get dinner ready and he told me he came home for a quick bite and then had to go back to the church for some things.I really wanted a nice Sunday family dinner after him being gone all week and was working to get it ready and then find this out. I did pull it together in time for him to eat but it certainly was not the vision I’d had in my mind. Before anyone says anything, yes I realize this is probably a personal problem between us that we should work out (i.e. communicating better about the schedule), but I just feel so disconnected from him sometimes that even talking about the stupidest little thing is an effort. I don’t know if anyone else gets it but I would LOVE someone to talk to. All day long yesterday it was bothering me and then I read the last few comments on this post. Then I came home from work and was listening to a podcast while I cleaned up and the woman on there was talking about her husband being a bishop and how isolating that feels. So, I jumped back on here to suggest that we talk to each other – either here or in a private group. I am thinking of starting a secret Facebook group for anyone who would be interested. Not a gripe session about our husband’s callings or anything but just somewhere that we can feel like somebody gets it. I try to talk to my mom but her experience is just so different from mine – my dad was a bishop when all but their youngest child had left home (my oldest is 14). My mom is very traditional (I’m not necessarily like that!). My dad and my husband are different in their approaches both to family life and being a bishop. My dad’s service was 15 or so years ago when dynamics in the church are different, he was bishop in a small Utah farm town and my husband is bishop in a suburban area of a large metro area. I don’t know, it’s just different. My mom just tells me to buck up but she doesn’t get me either haha. Anyway, just venting a bit but really if anyone wants to talk, let’s talk! Heaven knows we aren’t getting it from our husbands because they are A) too busy and B) too exhausted to listen to any neediness from us! At least mine is.

  • Erika January 3, 2014, 4:05 pm

    Wow, I just found this thread and cried and cried as I read the posts because I feel like I have had things bottled up inside and not known who to talk to, and then some of you are writing exactly things I need to hear. Thank you!! I am like the woman who recently commented, “a bishop’s wife” (i feel your pain my dear!!) I have 5 kids also and my oldest is 7!!! I am actually due to have my 6th baby in a couple weeks. I understand the wrestling of the children during sacrament for sure! It is so hard to do everything myself. Sundays are the most exhausting days ever and when I drive home from church I say every time, “WE SURVIVED” ha ha. I understand I am on my own much of the time now, I understand ward members need my husband, I understand there is a “wall” now between my husband and I, but it has been really hard lately to deal with what others think. My husband got called in April and there was a little honeymoon phase and I felt supported and love, buuuuut all it takes is one negative judgment (a completely false assumption!) that we heard about (so we’re not even sure who is saying it which makes it hard, now I am suspecting everyone) and I am getting so paranoid over what people are thinking about my husband, about me, about our kids, and I find myself not knowing how to act anymore. I feel overwhelmed with things I should be doing as bishop’s wife, I honestly don’t know, and way too worried with what people think. I feel inadequate and want so bad to just be liked and for people to support and sustain my husband and for the most part have felt that, but people are so judgmental and I hate feeling paranoid about who is really my friend or not. That’s been the hardest so far… seeing that it’s kind of a thankless job. I support my husband 100% and think he is doing great, but have to come to terms with the fact that he can’t please everyone. Anyway… “a bishops wife” if you’re reading this i will seriously give you my email I’d love to talk, we sound very similar with all our little kiddos!!!

  • Alison Moore Smith January 3, 2014, 7:04 pm

    Erika, thank you for your brave words. Just so you know, this post was written in 2001, so the original posters and commenters are likely long gone — and long released!

    As I’ve gotten older, I have to wonder why we call so many young fathers to serve as bishops. Yes, I know inspiration and all, but I really don’t think God is so rigid that ALL these men HAD to leave their families for so long. More to the point, perhaps, I don’t think all these young mothers SHOULD have been left so much on their own. Too many times I’ve seen the fallout afterward — and the cleanup.

    A few years ago my husband and I were interviewed (yes, together — MUCH APPRECIATED) about being called into a student ward and the second the stake president heard our youngest was only six (he’s now 10), he pretty much called off the interview. What a great thing that they valued OUR family so much!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Sex is Bad – Then You Get Married and My Profile

  • Angie Gardner January 4, 2014, 8:45 pm

    Erika, if you’d like to email me (amcgardner@gmail.com) I can let you know about some places to find support. Welcome!

  • Peggy February 18, 2014, 12:56 pm

    I think for me the hardest thing is to watch your husband with a load of burdens on his shoulders. I feel helpless. Its so frustrating to watch him get down on himself and I don’t now how to help him. Any suggestions from you wonderful bishop wives?

  • Angie Gardner February 19, 2014, 6:17 pm

    Peggy, welcome.

    I think your concern is probably the most common I’ve heard amongst bishop’s wives, and we struggle with it too in our house.

    Some advice that we were given is to talk it out. I am not speaking of divulging confidences or anything, but simply being there for your husband. When you can see that the weight on his shoulders is heavy, let him know you are there for him. He can’t tell you specifically what is bothering him, but he can certainly talk about how it is difficult for him to know hard things about his congregation that he loves and just have you be that listening ear for him.

    Another thought – are you familiar with the Love Languages? Something that has been helpful for us is trying to speak each other’s languages during hard times. For example, if your husband’s love language is physical touch, when he comes home and you can see he is carrying a burden, perhaps a back or foot rub, a hug, kiss, etc. might help him to feel better. If his love language is acts of service you could do something special for him like make his favorite meal, shine his shoes or iron his shirts…just whatever he might notice that tells him you care.

    My husband’s love language is words of appreciation. If I can see he’s had a hard day at work or church I try to express to him in words (verbal or written) that I appreciate all he is doing for his family and for the ward. I try to be specific as I can without knowing all the details – but when someone tells me that they appreciated how he interacted with them or their children, for example, I can pass that on to him so that he feels like he is getting some appreciation and that his work isn’t in vain.

    Just a thought, something that has worked somewhat for us.

  • Tiffany February 22, 2014, 10:12 pm

    I just want to say that I love you ladies for the sacrifices that you and your families have made on behalf of your wards and the “kingdom” has a whole.

    My husband is a really great person but I heard somewhere that if you have ever been divorced, you cannot be a bishop (may or may not be a rumor) so if that is true, my household will never be in such a position. I definitely do not feel like I’m in the “less than” corner. Heavens no. In fact, I’m in the “grateful” corner. Haha. I don’t think I am strong enough to do what is required of a bishop’s wife.

    Kudos to you all, seriously. I think it’s beautiful that we have this worldwide volunteer organization where so many people are willing to serve.

  • A Bishops Wife February 28, 2014, 12:04 pm

    I just read all the sweet comments that just came after mine. Thank you! I just started a blog to tell my story and a place to connect.
    thewifeofabishop.blogspot.com

    I share my real and raw experiences. I think we all were led here to find support that we desperately want and need. Angie I would LOVE a facebook support group. It would be super helpful! Just to know I am not alone has been a huge help! I have googled everything and nothing comes up except a talk on sluffing……which I may or may not have thought of doing. And a talk where a wife is sure her husband has a hot meal and a pressed white shirt. That one made me cry. I can barely keep five kids alive and pancakes has become my staple especially on Sundays. I laughed at Erika just thinking after church you survived. Its how we all feel. hahahaha. Anyway Angie….start a group I think we would all benefit. I tried but I am so not tech saavy enought. :(

  • Kendall April 29, 2014, 6:00 pm

    Goodness, if there is a group somewhere, please let me in! My husband was called 10 months ago, when I was 8 months pregnant with our 4th child. Our oldest is 7. At the time I felt so strongly that he was the right person for the job. Now I wish I could remember how that felt. I had so many strong spiritual experiences but now I am not sure I can even remember what the Spirit feels like. It’s so disheartening and I don’t know how we are going to get through 4 more years of this.

  • Erika May 2, 2014, 3:19 pm

    I get emails whenever someone comments on this thread and I want “A Bishop’s Wife” to know I’ve totally read your whole blog. :) I think it’s nice to see into the real life. And I can relate to so many things. I’ve meant to comment on it, but just haven’t. Kendall, it is hard, huh!! My oldest just turned 8. I feel your pain. I too felt pretty great at first, like a honeymoon phase, and then as the months go by you start to see what you got yourself into. :) I was having a rough time a couple months ago- when I commented the first time- but I am feeling better about things. I’m sure this is how it will be, kind of a roller coaster with highs and lows. I just feel so much compassion for my husband and what he has to deal with. Our stake president’s wife just had a cute little breakfast for all the bishops’ wives (I cried when I got the invitation because I was so desperate to meet and talk to women who know exactly what this is like!!!). She was so sweet and told us, “we could talk about the hard things. But I don’t want to do that. I want us to all talk about the positives and the blessings and joys you have felt.” and it was like I put on Blessing Glasses. It’s only been a year, but looking back I really can see certain blessings. And that’s what I have to remember. God is behind me and us and is there. And as each bishop’s wife talked, I could feel hope inside of me– hope that I will survive this. :) If I knew how to start a private facebook group I would! I don’t know how either!

  • Someone May 8, 2014, 3:51 pm

    I’ve been a bishop’s wife for over 4 years and by in large it has been the one of the greatest blessings of my life. But today I am annoyed. Dear member, my husband is at work earning a living for his family. No I will not call him and try to get him to drop everything for you because you want to go to the temple today and you haven’t renewed your recommend. Your failure to plan is not my or my husband’s emergency. Dear other member, yes I have a phone number for that person. I have it because it’s online at LDS.org. It’s accessible to everyone. Even better try LDS tools. Thank you

  • Angie Gardner May 15, 2014, 10:11 am

    Kendall, Erika, and anyone else interested. There is a secret Facebook group and you are welcome to join. Because it is a secret group, you have to be Facebook friends with a member before we can add you. If you want to send me a friend request, please email me at amcgardner@gmail.com and I will link you to my profile.

    I think once you are added to the group (not positive) that you can unfriend me if you want :)

    I am really not fishing for friends here, just trying to help support bishop’s wives. But a new friend is always nice too. :)

  • Sister in Zion July 20, 2014, 10:15 pm

    My DH has been bishop for over a year and a half now. We have four young kids 4, 6, 8, and 10 now. It has been a blessing and a trial. I am seeing the blessings outweigh the trials though. I started going to the temple once a month for my own needs, as well as a way to help support and sustain my dear husband through some of his most heavy trials since there are things I can’t do to help him anymore. About 6 months ago our previous bishop\’s wife emailed me this gem and I cried and cried and cried as I read it. “I thought of you when I read this. I know your husband spends many late hours assisting people in a way no one else can, so you wait. Thank you.”
    Willing Sacrifice By Kerry Bennett
    A quiet knock comes at the door, A contrite sinner ushered in. One panged with sorrow and regrets Yearns to abandon worldly chains And free himself from Satan’s grasp. A chosen man, ordained of God, Listens to the heartfelt plea for Deliverance and clemency. He, like the Savior, longs to help This wayward lamb rejoin the flock. And while he serves, his helpmate waits As Heaven heals a wounded soul. Her offering–a patient heart Unseen by everyone but Him Who notices the widow’s mite.

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