After our marriage we moved into married student housing (apartments) in Salt Lake City. For the next four years we always attended the ward to which we belonged geographically. Despite that, due to a chain of unusual circumstances, we had six bishops in four years.

Perhaps it should be noted that bishops and their congregations typically have a sense of how long the bishop’s assignment will last, a period usually lasting from three to five years (depending on the ward type).

Also, all these bishops are good men. We are still occasionally in touch with three of them. I’ve avoided using their names or even initials because my purpose in writing about our experiences is not to scrutinize them as individuals. Rather, my purpose is to share experiences and a few personal observations.

Here is a briefest possible rundown of what happened with each bishop.

Our first bishop was close to completing a normal bishop’s term of service. He was released two or three months after we moved into the ward.

The second bishop was released after about a year of service, as he was in the midst of a divorce.

The third bishop was killed in a sudden tragic accident.

The fourth bishop served for a brief period of months at which point the ward was dissolved in a long-planned stake re-organization.

The fifth bishop had already been serving in our ‘new ward’ for awhile and was released after a normal term of years. After a brief period of months of our getting to know him, he was released.

The sixth bishop has been serving a normal period of time and is still the bishop of that ward. We just happened to be moving out soon after he was called.

What I learned from observing and experiencing this chain of events in our ward:

1) Bishops are subject to exactly the same vicissitudes of life as anyone else. This may appear to be a common sense conclusion, but there is often the sense that bishops are protected, that bad things (besides the unusual stresses of having to shepherd a ward) will not happen to them. That isn’t always going to be true. We shouldn’t take bishops for granted.

2) The church hierarchy has a built-in priesthood leadership redundancy. If something happens to one priesthood leader , another can be assigned or called to fill responsibility. When one of our bishops was killed in an accident, the stake president assigned a high councilman (for a period of weeks) to be a temporary steward over the ward until a new bishop could be selected. Though this high councilman wasn’t a bishop, he was present to preside at meetings and ready to assist with the execution of any crucial leadership endeavors.

3) On a local level, long-held traditions of church attendance create a kind of institutional momentum that keeps rolling forward, even when unusual things happen. Almost regardless of what happens, it is more than likely that church meetings will happen each Sunday and church programs will continue with barely a hitch.