Young single adults are reflecting on time in YSA bishoprics after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints handbook change in March 2021 allowed for young single adult males to hold bishopric counsellor callings.
The General Handbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was updated to include young single adults as being able to serve in their YSA bishoprics. The restriction that bishopric members had to be married only applied to YSA wards at the time.
In handbook section 37.2.2 “Leadership in a Young Single Adult Ward or Branch in a Geographic Stake” states, “The bishop’s counselors may be members of the unit. Or they may be other single or married men who live within the unit boundaries.”
Weston Miller, a young single adult and second counselor in a Provo Young Single Adult ward, said he was called to his bishopric nearly three months ago. He said when he got the call he did not know what to expect because he did not have a role model for the position and he did not know what it would be like from a social perspective.
“My biggest concern, probably, before getting sustained in my work, was this element of being among my peers,” Miller said. “I was concerned on a social level, perhaps about the way that I would interact with people.”
According to Bishop Jay Wootton, a married adult who serves as the bishop in Miller’s Provo ward, Miller’s ward mates were excited when he was called.
“On the Sunday that (Weston) was sustained, there was a little buzz of excitement in the chapel and you could hear a little kind of audible gasp,” Wootton said. “It was exciting that the ward members (were) excited for this and they’re really happy about it.”
Miller said people have been supportive of his position and goals. He said he appreciates the excuse he has in his calling to get to know the people in his ward, expressing that to be his favorite part of the calling.
Samuel Gerber, a young single adult second counselor in another Provo YSA ward, said his favorite part of the calling is following the spirit in order to do things the way God wants him to and trying to inspire people as he meets with him.
“You try to inspire them to understand that they have an impact on people around them,” Gerber said. “(You try) to inspire people to know that their efforts will really mean something.”
According to Gerber, the bishopric calling does not come without challenges. He said that for him the biggest challenge in the calling is the time commitment on top of his school, work and other responsibilities. He said it is a balancing act.
Miller has also found challenges in his bishopric calling. For him, the biggest challenge of the calling is seeing people go through hard things.
“It’s a perspective shift, just (understanding) that people go through hard things all the time,” Miller said. “It’s just a helpful reminder to always be kind to people and always be uplifting.”
Wootton said having a YSA in the bishopric gives them a perspective that they did not have before. He said that Miller is in the trenches of YSA life, so he knows what is going on with the ward members, what they need, what they are struggling with and what their concerns are.
Wootton expressed excitement regarding having YSAs in bishoprics. He said this is a historic time for the Church.
“This generation of young adults, both the young ladies and the young men, they’re a remarkable generation (with) their depth of testimony, their commitment to following the Savior,” Wootton said. “They’re not perfect, but they are striving to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and the Lord needs their influence right now.”
Wootton said the Lord is putting the YSAs to work, and it has been wonderful.
Gerber said YSAs in a bishopric can be a bridge between the bishopric and ward members, because they are involved in the same kinds of things as the ward members are.
Miller said he has learned that there is an individual aspect to each bishopric that plays a role in the culture of a ward and its environment.
“I’ve learned just how important it is to engage with people and to create an environment where people can grow their testimony so they can worship Jesus Christ,” Miller said. “I am realizing that it doesn’t just happen—it takes motivated … and informed leaders to be able to create these environments.”
For those recently called to YSA bishoprics, Gerber said it is OK to be overwhelmed. He also said it is OK to have other priorities in one’s life.
Miller said he is excited for young adults to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity. He said he would advise them to identify strengths and apply them, while not being scared about what has been done before.
“I’m really excited that the leaders of the Church see this opportunity for young people to come in with their own experiences and start being influential at an earlier age,” Miller said. “It’s a testimony to me of the way that every generation has their strengths and weaknesses, and we’re ready to start using our strengths as a generation.”
Miller said some of the strengths of the YSA generation include sympathizing with others and inclusion, and those strengths should be used now in a church environment.