“Do you want me to help you?” I ask my son as we kneel beside his bed.
Danny is four now and always wants to say his own prayers. But I like to help occasionally, to guide him away from the repetition I hear emerging. “Heavenly Father, bless the bishop.” Those words are as certain as summer sunshine. Where did he learn them? Why have they made such an impression on his young mind? I do not know. But every night his prayer begins with those same simple words: “Heavenly Father, bless the bishop.”
I think about the bishop as I wait for my son’s decision. Bishop Smith is homespun. In the curriculum of mortality, he majored in calluses and common sense. He seems to be all bone. He is bald, thin, and very tall. One Sunday he spoke at the pulpit and we listened from the front row. Danny asked, “Is the bishop a giant, Dad?” Since I suspected that he could not see the bishop’s spirit, I said no–“He’s just tall, Danny. And good.”
I am the Young Men’s President and teach the Priests. It is Bishop Smith’s quorum so he comes when he can. One Sunday he came in late, water streaming from his coat, tie and trousers. We had just started the lesson when it began to rain–a marvelous, unexpected thunderstorm, drenching for twenty minutes what had been a beautiful, blue Sunday.
“I’ll be back,” he said. “I’m going home to change.”
“Where have you been?”
“Rolling up windows,” he answered. He smiled and was gone.
Last Sunday night we attended a priesthood leadership meeting together. Stake leaders emphasized again that nothing the bishop says to a young man is as important as what he does. They made the point that the relationship between a bishop and the young men in his ward is a primary factor in getting them on missions and married in the temple. Their message was: “If you want those young men to listen to what you say, they have got to know that you care. You must testify to them, but you must also fish with them, joke with them, roll in the mud with them . . .”
Yesterday we rode together to Bishop Smith’s work place to pick up a plumber’s snake. As we drove we talked about the meeting. “How do you strike a balance?” he asked. “How do you find time to fish and joke and roll in the mud, along with everything else a bishop is supposed to do, and still succeed as a husband and a father?” We discussed that dilemma for a time, and then the talk turned to the business at hand.
I had called him with a serious problem: the tubs, toilets, and sinks in my house were all backed up. I needed to know whom I should call for help. Bishop Smith is a builder and knows about such things.
“That will cost you a month’s wages,” he said. “Can it wait till tomorrow? I have a hundred-foot snake at work. I’ll come over and see what I can do.” I was reluctant. A bishop’s time with his family is precious. I tried to talk him out of it.
“I’ll be there tomorrow afternoon.”
Three of his children came along for company. For hours we labored over uncooperative plumbing and stubborn pipes. I apologized again and again, and prayed to be done quickly, to give him back to his family. Long after dark we decided that the only way to get around the right corners and down the pipe to the problem would be to get up on the roof and put the snake down the vent.
It was storming again. Bishop Smith stood in the yard and watched for a few minutes, the rain running off his face, thunder roaring, lightning stabbing out of the clouds. “No,” he said, with a smile. “With the kind of luck we’ve been having, we better not get on that roof tonight. What time do you get up in the morning?”
At 5:30 this morning we were on the roof and by 7:00 we were done. Toilets flushed. Tubs drained. I walked with him to his truck and tried to pay him. He got in the truck, leaned out the window, and glanced up. “He’ll pay me,” he said, and drove away.
Now I kneel with Danny. “Do you want me to help you?” I ask again. He has been waiting while my thoughts have wandered.
“Do it myself,” he says. “Heavenly Father, bless the bishop . . .” Those same words, but tonight they reach deeper than sermons or scriptures. When Danny is finished, I climb the stairs to my room to kneel beside my own bed.
“Heavenly Father, bless the bishop.”