Voices from the Exponent Email List: Meeting With the Bishop

Here at the Exponent, we have some interesting conversations on our blogger email list. We decided that it could be fun to do a series highlighting some of these threads.

Recently we were talking about the dynamics of being called in to meet with bishops. Many of us sense in these dynamics a power imbalance that makes us uncomfortable. The fact that we are called in without knowing what the topic of conversation will be puts many of us on edge. In our thread, we discussed preferable alternatives and strategies for dealing with these dynamics.

Deborah: Being “called in” to meet with the bishop has always been slightly anxiety-inducing for me because I hate the power imbalance from the get-go. The last time, I asked directly what the meeting was about, but he exec sec couldn’t even confirm it was about a calling! Why not an email that says, “hey, we are restructuring Young Women and thought you might be a good fit for a counselor. Give it some thought and let’s touch base on Sunday.” Our cultural habit of expecting an “on-the-spot” answer when you don’t know the agenda in advance in creates problems.  A cultural habit of “here’s what we are thinking, think it over/pray about it/talk to your spouse and get back to me” = more respectful + less intimidating.

Alisa: I tell people that I am a professional and I don’t go into a meeting that doesn’t have a topic or an agenda. If the bishop wants to meet with me, he can present the topic to me, and I will decide if I think a meeting is necessary or something shorter like a phone call would suffice. Meeting in the bishop’s office on demand, without knowing anything about the appointment is so anxiety-producing for the person summoned. It sets the leader above the member, which is more like  leadership/dominion and not the servant leadership that the church seeks to promote.

Professionally, I know a lot about how meetings and private appointments should be run. To show power over someone in business, set meetings in your own office, rather than in a conference room (neutral territory) or their office. This is basic business psychology. If you want to freak out an employee, make them meet with the boss but don’t tell them what it is about and don’t send them an agenda or allow them to prepare. These are business power plays. For that reason, when I meet with church leaders, I prefer to do so in my home, with dress that’s appropriate for the home and where we can follow our house rules about decisions and prayer, equality of the sexes before God, and the church being a supporting institution to the family, not the other way around.”
Jana: I would never again attend a meeting with a priesthood leader unless they told me what it was about beforehand.  I know that it’s not ‘how it’s done,’ but the way it currently is does not respect the interviewee.  I might also suggest a meeting at my home rather than at the church.
How do you feel about these dynamics of meeting with the bishop? Do you have strategies for dealing with this? 


Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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49 Responses

  1. Ziff says:

    I don’t have anything to add, but I think all three of you make great points. There seems to be no reason for the “no agenda” meetings other than tradition, and I suspect the tradition grew out of the things y’all pointed out. It makes people less likely to resist going along. It signals that exact obedience is what is expected. (After all, if people are expected to go along 100% with whatever their bishops say, why would they need to prepare?)

    And I love this idea for a series! What fun it is to get a peek at your email list discussions!

  2. Diane says:

    Being called into a meeting with the Bishop is equivalent to being called into the Principles office as a child. There’s absolute no respect when its done this way. I don’t understand why they can’t just tell you what they want ahead of time. At least this isn’t a gender thing, I think men/women are treated just as badly with regard to this issue

  3. Chris says:

    Although some bishops are heavy-handed, many are trying to do their best in a calling that is very demanding and time-consuming. It would be very difficult for a bishop to visit every member in his or her home every time they needed to issue a call, release someone from a calling, or counsel with them.

    • Jane's Diction says:

      It’s not meeting in the office that needs to be reconfigured per se, but the way it is habitually presented. I agree with the laudable agenda of most bishops, and I don’t envy the long hours they donate. But to request a meeting without giving any heads-up is lacking respect, and produces anxiety, for many. I appreciate the suggestions given here, and plan to use them in the future. Instead of just feeling grumpy.

  4. Porter says:

    When I was first called into the Bishopric I hated the person I was meeting with not knowing what the meeting was about. So I would d telegraph plainly what it was going to be, but I soon learned that can be a disaster . The Bishop would assign us to meet with a particular person, talk and try to follow the spirit as to whether to extend a calling or not. A couple of months into my calling I met with a brother who I had told why I wanted to talk to him. But as we sat down it became very clear that I was not to extend the calling to him. That put me in a bad spot.. not extending the calling he was expecting. It was very awkward and I never did that again. I went into each interview with an intended calling, but in probably one in ten meetings I did not extend the call. If you are doing it right, and relying on the spirit, having the person know what your intention is does not work very well.

    • April says:

      In a business meeting last week, our agenda was to negotiate a partnership with another organization. However, during the course of the meeting, it became apparent that our goals and methods were too disparate for that to work out well. So I openly and honestly said so and we did not continue the idea to partner. I do not see why the same could not be done with a calling. Tell the person you would like to explore the possibility of extending a call to whatever organization. If, during the course of the meeting, it becomes apparent that wasn’t such a good idea, openly and honestly say so. Maybe even ask the person their own opinion about what kinds of callings they might be interested in instead. They may have some good ideas about their own potential.

      • Alisa says:

        This has been my experience professionally too. It’s not hard to change one’s mind in a meeting. Besides, if the Spirit can inspire you in the middle of the meeting, the Spirit can also inspire you beforehand. In fact, I think the Spirit will most likely be present when both parties are on more equal footing and the sense of domination of one party over the other is reduced and fear and anxiety have been brought down and replaced by respect.

      • amelia says:

        I think April and Alisa are both completely right about this. I definitely understand the possible awkwardness described in this kind of situation, and am very sympathetic about it. But I think proper guidelines from church headquarters could help. Something along the lines:

        1. Call the member and let them know you’d like to have a conversation with them about the possibility of their working in _________ (primary, YW, YM, RS, Elder’s Quorum).

        2. If they ask what position, say that the bishopric has considered a couple of options, including __________ ( you could name multiple positions, or even just one; the important thing is not committing yourself to extending one specific calling).

        3. Ask the member to prayerfully consider the possibility of working in this auxiliary and come prepared to discuss that. You could indicate that you would appreciate their thoughtful consideration of what would work for them given their personal circumstances.

        When what matters is that people willingly and thoughtfully commit to serving in the church, rather than be coerced into it (even if the coercion is inadvertent).

    • Annie B. says:

      I’m much more in favor of meeting with my bishop for the possibility of being extended a calling, getting to know each other better, and then find I’m not being extended a calling after all, than being called to his office without the courtesy of being told what I’m being called in for.

      I am one of those people who experience extreme anxiety when I’m called in. Not knowing why I’m being called in is a huge contributor.

      If letting members know they’re being called in for a potential calling extension were made standard practice, it would substantially lessen whatever awkwardness might occur if the spirit directs the leader not to extend the calling and the meeting ends up being a much needed bishop-member council.

  5. MB says:

    Porter has a good point. I’ve had similar experiences. Sometimes you are inspired to meet with someone for a reason other than the one you though it was for when you first set it up.

    For the first time in my life I currently have a bishop and counselors who do all of their calling, and a sizeable number of their releasing, in the home of the person being called or released. We had a major revamp of Young Women and Young Men callings a few months ago which affected a bunch of Primary callings in the process and the three of them took the time to travel to call and release about 35 people, visiting each one, within a week. And we don’t live in one of those tiny geographic wards either. I was impressed. And I agree, it is more relaxed in my home than in an office.

  6. NB says:

    Deborah, I think we need to repudiate the cultural expectation for on-the-spot acceptances. Certainly if you immediately think it’s a great idea, you are free to accept right away if you wish, but I was brought up knowing that, “Let me pray about that and I’ll get back to you” was a totally reasonable and intelligent response to a calling.

    I thought most people understood that. I guess I was wrong about that.

    • Alisa says:

      I do this too, but I think it’s fringe. I heard last month in Relief Society on a lesson about sustaining leaders that we should always accept a calling. If that’s a foregone conclusion, then why run them through this exercise? The thing is for me, I actually turn down callings frequently, and I’m happy to keep them guessing. Only last time I turned one down, they asked me what I wanted and I said: I want to be able to attend Relief Society, but I don’t want to be involved in my calling every week. They called me to be a teacher, and what could I do but accept? They actually listened to me and gave me my favorite calling ever.

      Besides the recent lesson about sustaining leaders through accepting any calling, I also heard a leader say this a few years ago in a previous ward. I have never, in fact, heard any leader advocate that you go home and pray about it when your leader doesn’t first suggest such a thing.

    • spunky says:

      When I was a Mia Maid, I was extending a presidency calling and supposed to accept on the spot. I told the guy I was meeting with that I wanted to pray about it. He was surprised, because they wanted to set us all apart after church that day. But he could not force me to be set apart that day, so said I could have the week. Mid-week at the YW activity, he asked me again, in passing, as though it were no big deal, and mentioned that he could set everyone apart that night– to save time on Sunday. I was annoyed and declined.

      Whether the issue was my age or my sex, or the scheduling, I don’t know. What is interesting is that my father backed me up, but my mother did not and repeatedly told me I was unrighteous because I “turned down a calling.” I disgareed with her, but that is another story.

      I agree with you that allowing someone a week at least — is a “reasonable and intelligent” response, but I find in many callings, perhaps especially auxiallry callings, the immediate acceptance is expected more often than not.

    • Annie B. says:

      I definitely grew up with the idea that it was sinful to decline a calling and that the only righteous answer was “yes”. It probably stems from all those talks in church touching on callings and how God knows what challenges will help you grow the most, and that whether it comes from the mouth of God or the mouth of his servants, it is the same etc, etc…

  7. Davis says:

    I agree with NB. I was never taught that instant acceptance was expected. Nor did I ever feel it was a cultural expectation. I have asked both Bishops and Stake Presidents to give me time to pray about a calling, and have never had anything but very positive responses to that request.

  8. Sandy says:

    I totally agree with Porter. If you said to someone, I am thinking about extending a call to you about YW, what if the Bishop or whomever decided that you weren’t worthy to be a counselor or the president. Having a calling where I had to be inspired about my counselors I found that my being inspired to put forth the name doesn’t mean they will be called. It could be the Lord’s way of getting that person to meet with the Bishop! Until the leaders of the Church say it should be done a different way shouldn’t we (NOT AS LEMMINGS) follow their promptings to do it the way it is currently done? Isn’t that sustaining their calling?

    Also, in my ward there are many who turn down callings, sadly. NB is right – there is nothing wrong with saying “I’ll get back to you.”

    If you were currently the YW president would you want someone to come up to you and say – the Bishop wants to talk to me about YW position?!

    • Deborah says:

      “If you were currently the YW president would you want someone to come up to you and say – the Bishop wants to talk to me about YW position?!”

      Yes, I would be fine with that. I assume I would have been part of that conversation with the bishop and would welcome an opportunity to answer questions or assuage concerns prior to acceptance of said calling.

      There are plenty of good reasons to meet in person to discuss callings, but the secrecy in advance does create a power imbalance. There are lots of reasons one might be “called in” to talk to a priesthood leader. If you don’t know in advance the basic shape of the conversation, the balance is tipped to the person who requested the meeting. You enter a room (usually with a really big desk) and you don’t know why you are there. It can be intimidating. It can be anxiety-inducing. I know I am not alone in this. I have seen the most I’ll-do-anything-for-Zion-faithful of friends and family lose sleep wondering why the bishop wanted to talk to them. Now imagine that you have had a bad experience with a bishop — one has been too heavy handed or questioned your worthiness or called you in to discuss a negative rumor or to tell you to stop breastfeeding in sacrament meeting or that your daughter’s skirts are too short . . . .

      I just don’t buy that inspiration will be stunted if the executive secretary said, “We are exploring a new calling for you in the primary and would love to discuss it more on Sunday.”

    • Annie B. says:

      “If you were currently the YW president would you want someone to come up to you and say – the Bishop wants to talk to me about YW position?!”

      I would very much prefer that over being called in without knowing the reason. And knowing that you’re being called in for ahead of time doesn’t mean you have to skip the meeting. I envision if it became standard practice to know ahead of time, that it would also be standard to meet with the bishop to be formally asked to serve and either accept, decline, clear the air, get to know each other better, or whatever the spirit directs needs to happen.

  9. sartawi says:

    I never accept an interview with the bishop, unless I know the subject of the meeting. The main power balance issue I have encountered in recent years has been with the interviews themselves. The bishop always calls a husband in when extending a call to a sister that is married. However, a priesthood leader is called in alone. They say it is to make for less interviews where the bishop is alone with a woman, but also to show respect to the husband when asking for a time commitment from the wife. Why, then, is the same “courtesy” not given to sisters when their husbands are extended a calling?

    Regardless of this lack of mutual respect, I find this method of extending callings very unethical. I may not want to accept the calling being offered to me, but with my husband in the room, it is much more uncomfortable to turn it down, or even say I will get back to the bishop about it. It puts a pressure on the sisters in our stake that is unnecessary.

  10. Paul 2 says:

    We can use Handbook 2 in order to differentiate between culture and church policy.

    Handbook 2: (19.1.1)
    “Leaders keep information about proposed callings and releases confidential. Only those who need to know, such as an auxiliary president who oversees the person, are informed before the person is presented for a sustaining vote. A person who is being considered for a calling is not notified until the calling is issued.”
    It seems that not explaining what the meeting is about ahead of time is policy and not due to culture. The primary concern seems to me to be to reduce gossip about callings.

    From (19.2)
    “The leader may invite the spouse of a married person to be present and give support when the calling is extended.”
    If ward leaders have the husband present when the wife is extended a calling, but don’t have the wife present when the husband is extended a calling, then that particular gendered structure is cultural and not due to current policy. There does not seem to be any gendered policy about having spouses present.

    From (19.2)
    “Leaders ensure that the manner in which they extend a calling is consistent with its sacred nature. Callings should be extended in a dignified, formal manner, not in a casual setting or manner.”
    In this part, the assumption is that formality == sacred and informality == not sacred. While I would agree that informality can be unspiritual, I don’t think all kinds of informality are not sacred. In any case, formality seems to be a matter of policy.

    Hopefully this helps clarify differences between culture and current policy. I can see a rationale for the different parts of the policy, but I agree that together the policies create situations that make some uncomfortable. Hopefully the language of the policy can be adjusted in the next version of the Handbook in order to help issuing a calling be more comfortable for them. I think there is overall lots of movement towards a more collaborative environment. The ward council changes are significant. I don’t think the policies were designed to make people feel intimidated. I think that is probably an unintended consequence of the way problems had been dealt with in the past. An increasingly informal culture also makes the formality asked for in the policies seem imposing. 50 years ago, culture had more formal aspects and a formal interview was more normal. Hopefully someone in the COB is collecting ideas from blogs and feeding them into the appropriate committees.

    • Caroline says:

      Paul 2, thanks. That is useful info.

      So if a bishop wanted to keep in line with the handbook,perhaps he/the secretary could send an email or leave a phone message saying that he would like to meet with the person to discuss a possible teaching calling, or primary calling or Relief Society calling. That would not reveal exactly what the calling would be, but it would alleviate some anxiety since the person would at least have some sort of ball park idea of what the conversation would be about.

      • sartawi says:

        This is my opinion as well. You can maintain confidentiality, without causing anxiety. Being called in to the office can be for any number of reasons, good or bad. Maybe it has to do with tithing or temple recommends or your child saying something uncouth in primary, a complaint from an auxiliary leader concerning your outward feminism (possibly speaking from experience on all accounts), or simply to extend a calling. If they would just call and say “the bishop has a possible calling he would like to discuss with you, could you come in, and would you like to have your husband present at the meeting?” It would solve all kinds of problems.

      • Paul 2 says:

        Those are good suggestions, Caroline. I think putting people at ease is important and the more open and transparent communication is, the better.

  11. Ben says:

    I’m sorry, but I think most of your comments are a little much. Have you ever had a meeting with the Bishop that wasn’t about a calling? Maybe, but not very often. The fact that you won’t go unless the reason is specified infringes on what can and should take place. The Spirit should dictate what goes on in those meetings. Does it always? Probably not. But when I was in the Bishopric I know that multiple times our Bishop met with someone for a calling and felt impressed to not extend the call. But, the person really needed to come in and clear some things up and receive counsel, etc. Had they just turned down the interview before even showing up, then those sweet experiences that the member had with the Bishop would have never happened.

    I feel that often women think that us men love to flaunt our Priesthood and dominate, but this is the honest truth: we are doing the best we can. I know that most women are more capable than me and I’d love for you to have the Priesthood and finally figure out how to get home teaching done. I’d love for you to be at meetings all day on Sunday so I can take a nap. I’d love for you to give the Priesthood blessing and stress every day about how you are living your life to make sure you are always worthy to bless those you love. It might happen one day, and I wouldn’t be surprised. BUT, it’s never going to happen just because women raised their voices and fought for equal rights. That’s not how things roll in the Church.

    • Ziff says:

      I feel that often women think that us men love to flaunt our Priesthood and dominate, but this is the honest truth: we are doing the best we can.

      I’m a man too, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I don’t think women think men are intentionally using priesthood authority to push women around. The problem is that the structure of the Church is set up to encourage men to do this, as there’s no check at all on men treating women badly. So it’s really quite easy for men in authority to drift into using their priesthood authority to treat women badly, completely without intent.

      As to the rest of your comment, it’s definitely true that there are costs to holding the priesthood. I don’t think anyone would argue that. But citing them all in a stream as though there were no benefits whatsoever is misleading at best. Maybe having held the priesthood most of your life, you have forgotten the benefits. Or perhaps being in a privileged position you are simply blind to them. But they do exist, and denying women the priesthood is denying them real benefits, and not just saving them from all the costs you list.

    • Jane's Diction says:

      With or without the priesthood, conscientious parents, children, spouses, friends, etc. worry about the state of their worthiness when it comes to blessing the loves of those they interact with. To suggest that not holding the priesthood means one doesn’t stress in a like manner, or that it isn’t necessary, is insulting and problematic. And it does flaunt what you have and we don’t. I worry and stress about blessing my loved ones, and people in general, on an hourly basis.

    • Caroline says:

      Ben: ” Have you ever had a meeting with the Bishop that wasn’t about a calling?

      Yes. Most of the meetings I have had with bishops over the last few years have not been about callings. They’ve been about women’s issues. And they have often been at the bishop’s request. Having time to think about and prepare for such conversations is hugely important. Thankfully, I think almost every time, the bishop has let me know what the topic of conversation will be. That leads to a much more productive conversation.

      I think that perhaps some of the people on this thread have forgotten that we are speaking as Mormon feminists. Porter is right, we are not in the mainstream. Everyday we deal with internal dissonance as feminist Mormons. Everyday we bear the weight of knowing we affiliate with an institution that does not always share our principles. Everyday we hope for that institution to do a little bit better. Everyday, many of us write about our struggles as feminist Mormons. Because of our insider/outsider status, many of us would like a little more information when we meet with the man who has the power to affect our Church lives. Many of us would like to explore the possibility of meeting on neutral territory if the conversation is to be fraught.

      Amen to everything Ziff said.

    • Annie B. says:

      I do think priesthood authorities in the church are doing the best they can. Some are better at expressing care and concern than others, and some are better at applying that care and concern to their calling than others. I’ve met with some that have been very compassionate. The way that I knew that they cared was because they listened, took me into account, and didn’t dismiss my fears, concerns, or questions as illegitimate or “a bit much”.

      We’re relating our experiences. We’re saying that this one practice of not knowing what we’re being called in for is intimidating. I’m much more in favor of meeting with my bishop for the possibility of being extended a calling, getting to know each other better, and then find I’m not being extended a calling after all, than being called to his office without the courtesy of being told what I’m being called in for. The spirit can dictate what goes on in a meeting whether the person being called in knows why they’re there ahead of time or not. A member doesn’t have to turn down the interview just because they plan on declining a calling. And the bishop can still be impressed not to extend the call upon meeting with the member.

  12. Porter says:

    It is really sad reading these posts, that these posters have not felt the love that (in my experience) Priesthood leaders have for those who they “lead”. I take that there are bad bishops out there, I am just glad that in my 45 years on this earth I have only had ones who are simple, loving men who are doing the best they can under exhausting circumstances.

    And to take a crass turn here.. I would venture, that if you are at such and oppositional state that you demand a Bishop come to your house to extend a calling, or demand an explanation for why he wants to meet then you are in a different place than the majority of Saints I have known. I am just wondering what Jesus would do if he were called to meet with his Bishop, would he set demands? And in MANY interactions that Jesus had in his earthly life the “power balance” was stacked against him. How did he deal with it? Scratch and claw for tiny, insignificant victories that somehow made him feel better or vindicated? Probably not, he just “humbled up” (as opposed to “manned up) and allowed them to score what could be perceived as secular victories, but he had the benefit of knowing the big picture.

    • Alisa says:

      Porter, you’re violating the comment policy of this site. Check it or we’ll check you.

      I’ve served in many leadership callings in the female auxillaries of the Church. We always had an agenda or a topic for our meetings: presidency meetings, get-to-know-you, visiting teaching, book club. And we had prayers, and we were led by the Spirit even though we had a topic and a way the meeting was ordered to run. I wonder why there is so much resistance to holding meeting in an orderly and rational way by so many commenters. Why wouldn’t God want there to be a topic and an agenda for a meeting? Just doesn’t make sense to not go into a meeting with some intention and purpose from every participant involved.

    • Annie B. says:

      We’re saying that this one practice of not knowing what we’re being called in for is intimidating. We’re not accusing church leaders of not having love and concern for us.

      I do think priesthood authorities in the church are doing the best they can. Some are better at expressing care and concern than others, and some are better at applying that care and concern to their calling than others. One part of care and concern is listening with compassion and not dismissing the feelings of members as illegitimate. One part of care and concern could be changing an inconsiderate tradition so that members are not caused undue anxiety.

  13. IDIAT says:

    Is it really all about power imbalance? A meeting with a bishop is not a business meeting. Sure, when presidencies meet, they may make a written agenda and discuss certain items. Fine. That’s called being organized. But it isn’t a business meeting. The extending of a calling is not business, and there is no power play. It’s not about leveraging you into doing something. It’s a servant of the Lord inviting you to serve along side him in some capacity or another. That’s all it is. And if you don’t want to accept that invitation, or want to sleep and pray on it, fine. And one shouldn’t feel anxious or nervous about meeting with the bishop. If the bishop is not viewed as a friend, then perhaps there’s something missing in the relationship. Would you really be comfortable telling President Monson: Check with my scheduler. And by the way, shoot me an agenda first because I want to know what we’ll be talking about, and then I’ll decide if and when and where we’ll meet, and whether it’s worth my time. Yeah. good luck with that.

    • Jane's Diction says:

      Porter, whatever the reasoning behind the practice, it makes people uncomfortable. Should that not be addressed? And it certainly has nothing to do with luck if anyone decides to ask the reason for the meeting. It’s about knowing yourself, and respectfully requesting preparation so you can feel best prepared. It’s being responsible. Are we not counselled to be prepared, to end that we don’t fear? Yes, I know the original context of the scripture, but it’s applicable in this instance, too.

    • dankrist says:

      Telling people how they *should* feel isn’t helpful. Especially following some pretty clear explanations as to why people have the feelings they do. The reality is that many people have anxiety issues that are triggered by Bishop meetings. It’s kind and appropriate to acknowledge that and give folks a heads up. It’s also true that many people are busy or like to have personal prep time before receiving a calling or having a discussion. It isn’t disrespectful in any other context to ask someone why they want to meet with you. Why is it threatening/inappropriate when dealing with a church leader?

      • Ziff says:

        Telling people how they *should* feel isn’t helpful. Especially following some pretty clear explanations as to why people have the feelings they do.

        So well put, Dankrist. This is actually the perfect response to so many dismissive comments on all kinds of topics. “Oh, you couldn’t/shouldn’t have felt that way,” and variations on it show up over and over and over.

  14. porter says:


    Sorry if I violated any policy. I just read them, I think I challenged some thinking, but I thought I did it respectfully.

    Can I ask you to comment on the underlining premise of my post, that a main tenant of Jesus’s teaching is that it is irrelevant if others have power over you, your only response should be to exhibit humility?

    • Alisa says:

      Thank you, Porter, for reading our policy. Your apology is accepted. 🙂

      Thanks for asking me to address your points, which I think are intersting for this discussion. I don’t see the bishop as the person with all the true power. Sure, he has the power to ask for a meeting, but not much else. I feel that I’m the person in power, since the Church can’t make me do anything I don’t want, and I honestly do not do anything that I don’t want to do or feel a conviction to do when it comes to the Church (I am a huge advocate for personal revelation in this regard). I think the purpose of the bishop is to be a servant-leader, not a dominant/authoritarian/totalitarian leader. In fact, I think all of leadership in the Church is a servant-leadership model. I have a background in Protestantism and have studied this model, and when I hear talks about Priesthood authority, it always comes back to service. I am not trying to be cheeky or twist your words. I honestly see bishops and pastors of other church organizations as servant-leaders. I see them as accountable to those they serve as well as to God. Those who follow the servent-leader get a say in how their relationship works with the servant-leader.

      So in light of your underlying premise that those in the position of service under others should be humble, I think that as a servant of the ward members, the bishop should make reasonable accommodation to take into account the feelings of those he serves, which would include giving them at least an incling of what a meeting might invovle (topic, brief agenda, time estimate so they can arrange child care for the interview, etc.). I think only then can the Spirit work to its fullest potential because the focus will be on the meeting, not on the anxiety or mystery or all the other possibilities.

      • porter says:

        I will only add that it seems to come down to choosing one of 2 possible negative outcomes.
        1) dont relate why you are asking for the meeting, and allow the possibility for the spirit to dictate the calling (or non calling) in the meeting. Per this thread, that can lead to a bit of anxiety.

        2) try to alleviate some anxiety by telling the person you are considering them for a calling. This however can lead to hurt feelings, or feelings of being judged, which can last a long, long time if you do not extend the calling.

        I personally started to do instant interviews. I would lurk in hallways, and grab targets and pull them into a room and do the interview. The interviews were then held in a dignified manner (not standing in the hallway). We held a full on interview, and I listened to the spirit. That way there was no pre-meeting angst, and I felt free to listen to the spirit. Would not work for a Bishop, but as a counselor I could freelance a bit. And note, It was never about surprising them and pushing for an answer.. I never asked for an answer on the spot.. they were always encouraged to pray about it and then accept or decline. Many did accept on the spot, but it was their move, I jencouraged thoughful consideration.

        When I was on High Council I knew any call from me was superstress inducing, so I did the instant interview a lot, just

  15. porter says:

    sent before I was done– continuing:

    Policy: Try to stick with your personal experiences, ideas, and interpretations.
    me: what I posted was a completely orignal interpretation.. so I think it fit.

    Policy: This is not the place to question another’s personal righteousness, to call people to repentance, or to disrespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.
    me: I refuted an attitude (not a belief), AND i did it respectfully

    and in closing– And talk about power imbalance–geez.. no need to threaten me

    • Alisa says:

      It was strong language, and I’m sorry.

      I feel passionately about defending the right to speak your own truth about your experiences, and this is the form of discourse we promote here. But questioning the righteousness of others or the validity of their experiences isn’t allowed. I think you see that now. Again, thank you for looking into that.

  16. Naismith says:

    I guess I don’t see the problem. Indeed, in my professional work, I’ve had a lot of meetings scheduled with no agenda; these typically ended up being somebody telling me that they were leaving (in confidence) or a problem to work out.

    I don’t doubt that some people have had traumatic experiences with bishops that would cause them to have angst…but is that the rare exception or commonplace? Hard to tell when it is just your experience. It would never occur to me to be uncomfortable with it. If an executive secretary is making the appointment, I’d just as soon that fewer people know the topic.

    Why would it make a difference to know the topic? It’s not like you have to prepare a powerpoint and spreadsheet to talk about a YW calling.

    It never occurred to me that we had to give an answer right then. I’ve generally been encouraged to pray about it and get back to them.

    I’ve been called in more for my husband’s calling than he has for mine. That is pretty much equal where I live.

    I wonder how often bishops worry when members request a meeting. Do we have to give an agenda to the executive secretary?

    • spunky says:

      Re: “Do we have to give an agenda to the executive secretary?”

      I’ve been asked on a number of occasions what the meeting is regarding; I think for the most part it is to clarify how much time the bishop needs to set aside (i.e temple recommend or “major personal issue”). For the most part, I am pretty open, so will state with the Exec. Sec., “I’d like to meet with the bishop for personal reason/update on a situation/temple recommend/ask advice.” So yes, if only to make the best use time and not foul-up an already overbooked agenda (think tithing settlement), I think it is fair and responsible for a meeting to be clarified, at least on general terms before the meeting occurs, if only for practical reasons.

  17. Ruth says:

    havent read all the comments but I LOOOOOvE,this post and the ideas presented!

  18. Annie B. says:

    I’ve always felt intimidated by meeting with church authorities. Even my baptismal interview when I was eight felt incredibly creepy and scary. At eight I didn’t have anything at all to be afraid of, and yet, I was. Which, because I had been taught in primary that bad feelings come after sin, only made me think I must have done something wrong. Every such meeting since has felt the same. Even being confirmed for the dead in the temple, having several men I didn’t know lay their hands on my head, felt intimidating. It could partly be due to the way my dad ran our house backing his temper up with doctrine and playing the priesthood authority card to induce guilt…so that might be unique to me. I wasn’t used to priesthood authority figures listening with compassion when I had a fear, concern, or questions. I was used to my dad.

    In the past year as I’ve tried to go back to church and have started teaching nursery, that feeling still persists, but I have my husband come with me anytime I’m called in to talk with the bishop. It’s still incredibly anxiety inducing, especially not knowing what you’re being called in for, but at least I have moral support there with me and don’t have to face it alone. It never occurred to me to have leaders come to my house, and I don’t know if I’d want to ask them to do that, since as others have mentioned it does present an inconvenience for the leaders. Telling people what they’re being called in for doesn’t seem to present an inconvenience to the leaders, just a slight change in practice to help members feel more at ease. The spirit can still work through this practice, and leaders and members still can meet and discuss the acceptance or decline of said calling and not miss out on anything.

    • Deborah says:

      Annie, I hope this post shows that you are certainly not alone in feeling some level discomfort. To those above who seem to think we are maligning good bishops, feeling said anxiety usually has NOTHING TO DO with how decent, kind, or well-meaning a particular bishop is. Rather, he is in a position of authority, and we are in a church that prizes deference and obedience that that authority. And as such being called to a meeting — and no, not all meetings are about callings, not by a long shot — can cause worry EVEN WHERE NONE IS INTENDED.

      “Telling people what they’re being called in for doesn’t seem to present an inconvenience to the leaders, just a slight change in practice to help members feel more at ease.” Yes. This.

  19. O says:

    I met with the bishop a few weeks ago, with a question about which ward was right for me to attend, as far as the Lord was concerned (I’m moving out of home into another ward boundary, because of family issues – I’m a 25-year-old YSA, but I can leave my address the same on the ward list, most of my mail will stay at that address in case it’s not long-term).

    I asked for the meeting, and it ended up being a meeting in which he expressed (with sincere love) concern about my actions or worthiness (specifically, if I’m addicted to The Internet) (maybe I am), and a couple of other things.

    I may be avoiding seeing him, and I’ll probably freak out next time I’m asked to meet with him, even if it’s “only” for a calling. I don’t think being told that it’s about a calling would necessarily lessen my anxiety. Having a good relationship with my bishop would probably help, but we rarely speak outside of formal interviews.

    • Joe says:

      “Having a good relationship with my bishop would probably help, but we rarely speak outside of formal interviews.”

      I feel like this is one of the biggest problems–not that it is a problem with you, or even with your bishop, just sort of a general problem we have in this huge society of ours. When we don’t know each other, it is that much harder to get along. I feel like if we were all good friends with our bishops (or fellow senators), then a lot of the problems like this would disappear because there would already be a basic level of trust.

      I felt it on my mission. When the APs or the mission president called it was a big deal. Later, when the APs were also former companions, and I’d served near the mission president, I knew him–it was less intimidating.

  20. Anonymous for This says:

    One Sunday a couple of years ago, when my parents-in-law were in town for the blessing of my son, my bishop–whom I barely knew–asked me before church began if he could speak with me during Sunday school. Sure, I said, expecting to be extended some minor calling. Instead, without any warning whatsoever, the bishop started to grill me about my objections to the temple, and sweepingly dismissed all of my concerns as the result of silly misunderstandings. I was completely blindsided; I was in no way prepared to discuss such a sensitive and deeply personal subject with the man, who reduced me to tears (to my everlasting humiliation), trivialized all of my concerns, and then threw me out of his office.

    I realized later that I’d been the unfortunate object of a power play on the part of my father-in-law, who had quietly conveyed my feminist objections to the church to my bishop the evening before when everyone had been at our house for the baby blessing. I don’t know when I’ve felt so furious and so powerless in a church situation. The patriarchs had conferred about my private spiritual life and found me wanting and in need of their priesthood “counsel” to fix me. I disagreed (and continue to disagree) with my father-in-law, but as a man, a high priest, a former CES employee, he has access to institutional power that I will never have as a mere woman. He knows the truth. I need to be fixed. And he has all the institutional hierarchy on his side to fix me. It’s crushing, and beyond infuriating. And this harsh fact does not impugn anyone’s motives. The terrible thing is that I know both my bishop and my father-in-law acted out of nothing but the best of motives. They simply could not see how utterly devastating their behavior was to me, nor could they even begin to understand what it means to be on the wrong side of power in the church.

    After that experience I will never approach bishop’s interviews with the same naivete. I’ve not gone so far as to require agendas in advance, but I’ve thought about it. I do have a personal policy of never accepting a calling without taking a week to reflect on the matter. But if a bishop approached me about such matters today, I would immediately shut the discussion down. Every time I enter a bishop’s office now I’m smiling and making nice and silently preparing to do just that if I have to.

    • Caroline says:

      Anonymous, wow. Thank you for sharing this. What a vivid illustration of the reason some of us might feel some anxiety of going blindly into a meeting with the bishop.

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