On Feb. 25, 2018, I was released as the Bishop of the Vernon Second Ward. You will find the thoughts and prayer that I shared in sacrament meeting below. I feel that it reflects some of what I have learned and felt during 5 years as a Bishop.
I am struck over and over again how the Lord can use us despite our weaknesses.
I have often felt and —I think— have been inadequate as a bishop in many ways.
There are times, usually when I’m overwhelmed by tasks and to-dos and meetings, when I haven’t felt like a Bishop.
But there have been many moments when, despite my actions and my inadequacies, I have felt love and I have felt the Spirit. In those moments, I have felt like your Bishop.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like a great “pray-er”, but over the last 5 years I have relied on prayer more than ever before.
I want to share my prayer with you today.
I am grateful for our Father in Heaven who knows us and loves us. He knows you and he knows me. He loves you and he loves me.
I am grateful for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us, so that through Him, our Saviour and Redeemer, we can return to live with our Father again.
I am grateful for the joy the gospel brings. I am grateful for the plan of happiness.
I am grateful for the miracle of forgiveness. I have seen it work in my life, and I have seen it work in yours. I am grateful for those moments that I have spent with you, when I have been witness to His embrace, when I have seen you encircled by the arms of His love. (D&C 6:20) THAT is when I have felt like a Bishop.
I am grateful that you have shared your lives with me, and that I have shared mine with you. I am grateful for our ward family. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” [Ephesians 2:18–19]
I’m grateful for the youth. I keep learning whenever I’m with you.
I’m also grateful for the not-so-youthful. When I’m with you, I’m inspired to fight the good fight, to finish my course, and to keep the faith. (Timothy 4:7)
I am grateful for how you serve. I have had the pleasure of serving with so many of you who make us all better. From counsellors and clerks to councils and teachers, I hope that I’ve been able to stay out of your way and not slow you down.
I’m also grateful for how much fun we’ve had together. I hope that we haven’t been disrespectful, but “A merry heart doeth good [like] a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22)
I feel about our ward as I feel the prophet Joseph must have felt about the Saints when he said, “…therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it. Where this people are, there is good society.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)
Lucky for us, we live in the Okanagan, which is a lot easier place to live than in hell … but it’s also a lot more like heaven with our ward family here. (The real estate, however, is probably more expensive here.)
I am grateful for my family. I am theirs, and they are mine. I proud to be a Poulin, and I love my family. I’m also privileged to be adopted into the tribe of Salmon, by which name I am also known.
My children are growing up as part of this ward family. I love them and I am grateful for how you have taught them.
I am grateful for Jen. She is the love of my life. She is my guardian angel, reminding me what I need to do, telling me when my talk is too long, reminding me that I’m not that funny, but laughing with me when I am. I feel so much better knowing that she is there, helping me to be better. I suspect many of you feel that way too.
I pray that we will be one. I pray that we will be one as the Father and the Son are one. I pray that we will be one in Christ … and I pray that as we are one with Christ, that others may believe. (John 17:21)
The first and great commandment is to love the Lord, and the second is to love your neighbour. (Matthew 22:37-39) That is what a Ward family is about. Love God and love your neighbour. Be one.
I pray that we will “…preach nothing save it [be] repentance and faith on the Lord … [that we will] look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having … hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another. … And thus [become] the children of God.” (Mosiah 18:17, 19–22)
I hope that we can enjoy being good. And then be just a little better.
I pray that we will understand that we can change, that we are “free to choose”, and that we can, when faced with trials, “choose the good part” (Luke 10:42).
I pray that we can change our habits. I pray that we can grow, and know that whatever has happened, we can keep growing.
I pray that you and I will start where we are, turn to the Lord, and take a step with him. He will “make weak things become strong to us.” (Ether 12:27)
I appreciate the patience that has been extended to me. I pray that you will be patient with yourselves.
We all have made mistakes. Behind those good looking Sunday clothes and Sunday smiles, are often wounds and injuries that others can’t see.
Christ’s grace is sufficient for others, and it is sufficient for you. I pray that you will forgive others and forgive yourselves.
This is still my ward tomorrow just as much as it was yesterday. It’s your ward just as much as it is the Bishop’s. I pray that we will own it. I pray that we will look beyond ourselves, that we will “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5).
I have been so grateful for your support and prayers, and I know that your support and prayers will now be with Bishop Whibley.
Jen reminded me as I prepared these remarks that no one will remember much of what I say here today, but she emphasized that we will remember what we feel. I hope that that feeling is one of a loving ward family with one hope, one faith, and one baptism.
I pray that we will be one in Christ.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.