The Bishop as a Representative of Christ

I have been drawing close parallels between bishops and Christ for quite some time. There is actually a very good reason for this. The bishop is a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, and is referred to as the Lord’s agent.

One way that the bishop is a representative of Jesus is that is the presiding High Priest in the ward (D&C 68:19 and 107:17). Christ is referred to as a High Priest all over the place in Hebrews (3:1, 5:10, 6:20, 7:26, 8:1, 9:11, 10:21).

Another important way that a bishop is a representative of the Lord is in terms of Judgment. Jesus forgave sins as is recorded in Matthew chapter 9:

And behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? (2-5)

Ultimately, we will all stand before Christ to be judged:

But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (Rom. 14:10)

Bishops are known as judges in Israel:

And whoso standeth in this mission is appointed to be a judge in Israel, like as it was in ancient days, to divide the lands of the heritage of God unto his children; And to judge his people by the testimony of the just, and by the assistance of his counselors, according to the laws of the kingdom which are given by the prophets of God. (D&C 58:17-18)

Through the spirit, the bishop is able to give direction to individuals who are seeking a forgiveness of sins. This may be one of the foremost ways in which a bishop represents the Lord.

It is also interesting that the bishop receives the sacrament bread and water before other members of the congregation. This is not simple priesthood hierarchy. If it were, I would suppose that his counselors would receive the sacrament next, followed by the High Priest Group Leader, his counselors, and then all High Priests, etc., etc. But this is not the case. After the bishop partakes of the sacrament it does not matter who receives it next. The bishop receives it first because he represents Jesus Christ, not because of priesthood hierarchy.

The bishop also extends callings to the members of the ward. Members should receive such callings as if the come from the Lord himself. In this way the bishop helps to provide the members of the ward with the experiences they need in order to progress and serve as the Lord directs, and as the individual needs.

I am glad to have a good bishop. He is much different from me. He is very spontaneous and flies by the seat of his pants. In the middle of last week he decided that he would like the youth to do a lawn clean-up service project on Saturday prior to conference (we are in the eastern time zone). What was he thinking? This was not planned or announced. What would we need to bring? Where would we meet? Who would drive? Would we get back in time for conference? AAAARRRGGGGHHH!

Well, as service projects often go, things weren’t as bad as they might seem. Somehow we pulled a group together and were hard at work cleaning up the yard of one of the widows in the ward. She did not even know we were coming that day. After about an hour of work she emerged from the house. I was on wheel barrow duty and happened to pass by her as she came out. I could tell she wanted to say something so I stopped. I said something real profound like – nice day for it. She reached out and squeezed my shoulder. I then noticed the tears on her cheeks. ‘You have no idea what this means to me’, she said.

As we were finishing up and preparing to leave I came up to her again and gave her a careful hug (she is over 80). She stared at her nice, freshly groomed yard and said over and over, ‘I can’t believe it’.

Sometimes raking leaves is just raking leaves. Other times it is much more. But was this not a little pure religion? What my bishop may lack in administering, he often makes up for in ministering. He, as many good bishops, represent the Lord quite well. As a group they may let us see a glimpse of what Jesus would be like if he were here. May God bless the many bishops of the church as they represent the Lord.


6 Responses to “The Bishop as a Representative of Christ”

  1. 1 Michelle April 2, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks for this, Eric. Brought a knot to my throat reading about that woman you were blessed to serve. Sounds like the bishop has a knack for listening to and responding to the promptings of the Spirit.

  2. 2 Connor April 2, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Great story. Sometimes menial tasks can be of profound importance to others, as it was to this widow. Makes you stop and wonder if you’re cheerfully doing everything you should be…

    The bishop receives it first because he represents Jesus Christ, not because of priesthood hierarchy.

    Hmm.. so would you argue, then, that the Stake President becomes the representative of Christ when he visits a ward and is served the sacrament first?

  3. 3 Phouchg April 2, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    You’ll change your tune when you get a real grade-A jerk for a bishop. It’s happened to me twice so far, and lets just say I am glad I moved out of said wards when I did.

  4. 4 Connor April 2, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    You’ll change your tune when you get a real grade-A jerk for a bishop.

    I have a hard time believing that any Bishop called by those in authority can be a universal “jerk”. Certainly a Bishop might not get along with everybody. I had one Bishop that definitely had his fair share of faults and a tad of hypocrisy to boot, but I wouldn’t call him a jerk because of it. He’s just another imperfect individual, called as Bishop, who has a lot to work on. Even during the times I didn’t get along with him, I sustained him in his office (yet looked forward to the time when he would be released.. hehe).

    Granted, I don’t know your experience Phouchg, so I don’t want to make any blanket statements. I hope your current Bishop is a stud. 🙂

  5. 5 Eric Nielson April 3, 2007 at 6:35 am


    Glad you liked it. I admit I got a bit misty eyed that morning – and it wasn’t the fog.


    Good point. I think that the presiding High Priest takes the responsibility of representing Christ. It probably wouldn’t do for the representative of Christ to be presided over by someone else.


    Thanks for your comment. You may well have valid complaints. I actually had a bad experience with a stake High Counselor while I was EQP, which may have got us both released (another story for another day). Many of us have heard rumors or facts of bishops who have been ex-communicated and otherwise have behaved improperly. With humans this is inevitable I suppose.

    One thing for some of us (myself included) is to ask if we happen to run into a lot of jerks, and if that is the case, is it just a coincidence. I can not speak for you or for anyone else. I just know I sometimes need to check my own attitude.

  6. 6 Michelle April 3, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Also, an exception to a model doesn’t necessarily negate the value of the model. I still think Eric’s points are valid and interesting, even if there is a bad apple bishop once in a while.

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