One role of a Mormon bishop is to protect and help those in need. One bishop honored that role in an unexpected way when he defended a woman under attack with a samurai sword.
Kent Hendrix’s teenage son awakened him with the information that a woman was being assaulted outside their home. He sent his son to call police while he grabbed his samurai sword and headed outside. Others had also arrived to help, this being a largely Mormon community, but the sight of that sword startled and unnerved the attacker. The man raced for his car down the street. Those who had come to help chased him, but he escaped. However, Hendrix was able to get his driver’s license and also found a chap stick the man had dropped. He called out to the man that he had DNA and a license plate. This most likely encouraged the man to give up and he turned himself in later. He was arrested on burglary, robbery, and violation of stalking injunctions charges.
Hendrix is a fourth-degree black belt and collects the swords, which he uses for training. He reminds people he did not need to use the sword—he only showed it to the man. The element of surprise was the power behind the experience.
Mormon is a nickname people sometimes use when talking about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While it is appropriate to use that word to describe the people, it is not correct to use the term “Mormon Church.”
A Mormon bishop is a volunteer lay minister, normally serving for about five years. He is married and generally has private employment, unless he is retired. While the unpaid position is supposed to take about twenty hours a week—a rather extensive volunteer position—it generally requires far more, even though they are given a great deal of help.
Because the Mormons operate a lay church, nearly everyone has at least one service position, known as a calling. These rotate often and allow church members to have a better understanding than most of how their church operates. A person can be the bishop one day and the assistant toddler nursery leader the next. Mormons do not promote or demote. Since most people in “ground floor” positions have also been leaders, they have more respect for their leadership and a clearer idea of what is involved in the work, unlike the situation in many companies, where employees don’t really know what their bosses do. It allows them to develop a range of skills, some of which translate into the business world.
Mormon bishops oversee the work of the congregation, provide guidance to leaders, and counsel members. They also work with the Relief Society president (the women’s auxiliary) to oversee the charitable needs of the members. They do not give the prayers or sermons most weeks, although they do alternate with their two counselors in conducting the worship service. Prayers and sermons are given by church members ages twelve and older, both male and female. Most weeks there are two to three brief sermons on a single theme and most members speak about once a year.
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.