I have had lots of Bishops in my life. Most of them have been your usual, garden-variety church leaders. I’ve always had white, middle-aged guys as my Bishop. I think having an African-American or some other minority as Bishop would be cool. That could take a while. Iowa isn’t known for its racial diversity. In the meantime, I want to tell you about the most interesting Bishops I’ve had.

1. My current Bishop seems to be pretty great. We have only been here a year and I haven’t dealt with him in any leadership role, but from the back of the chapel it feels like he radiates calm, loving support. So far so good. The thing I am most intrigued about is his hobby. He is a long-distance bicycle rider. He is passionate about riding and has been known to miss an occasional church meeting while racing. I admire that. Iowa does a crazy annual ride called RAGBRI (Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) that goes 7 days, over 450 miles. It is done the last week of July, when the heat and humidity is in full force and only complete wackos are out doing exercise. My bishop participates every year.

2. When we lived in rural Illinois, we had a semi-inactive guy called as Bishop in our small ward. He and his wife had 5 grown kids, all inactive. His wife was Stake Relief Society President when we moved in. I hadn’t seen him at church in over a year when he was called to serve. His big thing was hunting. He loved hunting every weekend and often traveled to hunt animals not in our area. Shortly after his reluctant acceptance of the call, he bore his testimony about how he felt closest to Heavenly Father while sitting out in the woods. He talked about how he carried a buckeye in his pocket as a talisman to remind him of God. He pulled it out of his pocket and held it up for the congregation to see. We were in the back and I couldn’t tell what it was. I was confused. What is a buckeye? How does carrying that thing help him? I asked Rob after church what the heck a buckeye was. He laughed and corrected me. It was a buck eye. A preserved buck’s eyeball. Yuuuuucckkkk.
While serving, he became fierce about the Temple. He got all 5 of his kids back at church and baptized grandchildren who had fallen through the cracks. Good things happened with the roughest-around-edges guy I’ve ever seen in leadership.
Rob’s favorite thing was the Bishop instituted a priesthood potluck before General Conference meeting that was called a “Wild Game Supper”. All the hunters in the ward brought game they killed and everyone ate them. It is amazing how many inactive guys attended the Priesthood General Conference meeting just because they got to share their secret Armadillo Marinated Stew.

3. While in Colorado we had a Bishop who had creativity oozing out of his pores. Every winter he created an ice rink for his kids and the ward in his backyard. The youth loved it. He made wooden strip canoes in his garage and the Scouts used them for their adventures. He was constantly cutting wood for Relief Society craft projects and once taught a RS class on using power tools. He and his wife were fearless about trying out new things. The best Christmas program I have ever attended was under his leadership. It took 3 months of work by the youth and transformed the Cultural Hall into Old Testament Jerusalem. Every ward activity was over the top fun because he encouraged spending time and money on socials. All of the Young Women got their Personal Progress Recognition by working on Ward projects. I really like a guy who knows how to party.

As I think about what made these Bishops special, I realize that it wasn’t their amazing testimonies or correlation skills. It was they each had personalities that flavored the call. They didn’t do what many people do, which is drop all extra-curricular activities and make Church their only focus. Instead, they integrated their passions into the call.

Even though I have no intention of ever eating squirrel or rattlesnake, I like it that there is room in our church for folks who do.