A bishop is the leader of a local congregation (known as a ward) with duties similar to those of a pastor, priest or rabbi. He has overall responsibility for ministering the temporal and spiritual affairs of the congregation. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this position is unpaid.
Each bishop is assisted by two counselors. Together, this bishopric oversees the spiritual and social needs of their ward members. The bishop helps each member of his congregation in their efforts to follow Jesus Christ. In addition to spiritual matters, a bishop helps members who are struggling financially or in other ways to become self-reliant through welfare assistance. A bishop also oversees practical matters such as records, reports, finances and the meetinghouse where members meet.
Bishops typically serve for about five years. Bishops report to stake presidents, and these local leaders have a significant amount of local autonomy to make decisions regarding the members in their wards and stakes.
Is a branch president the same as a bishop?
A branch president is a leader of a “branch” congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The calling of branch president is very similar to the calling of bishop, except that instead of presiding over a ward, the branch president presides over a branch.
What is the difference between a ward and a branch?
Ideally, a branch will grow in numbers and strength and eventually become a ward. A ward is created when there are sufficient numbers and strength of members to carry out the full program of the Church. A ward does not have to have been a branch first. If there are enough members in an area, a ward can be created.
The Church’s Unpaid Clergy
Personal sacrifice is vital to the religious faith of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members volunteer their time to serve in various positions in tens of thousands of congregations throughout the world. Their service is critical at the local level because the Church has no full-time paid clergy.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles spoke on the concept of an unpaid volunteer ministry:
“The Lord in His infinite wisdom has designed His Church to operate with a lay ministry. That means we have been charged to watch over one another and to serve one another. We are to love one another as our Father in Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ love us. Our callings and circumstances change from time to time, providing us with different and unique opportunities to serve and to grow.”
In addition to serving in the Church, bishops have their own careers and families to look after. While there is no stipulated period of service, it is common for a bishop to serve his congregation for about five years, at which time he returns to the body of the congregation or is assigned another responsibility elsewhere such as teaching a youth class, helping others find employment or even directing a choir.