One need only turn to the index of the Doctrine and Covenants to be reminded of the holy calling of the Presiding Bishop, who in company with his counselors holds the keys on earth to the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood, and who is empowered under the direction of the members of the First Presidency (who hold the keys of presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood) to officiate in the administration of the temporal and certain other affairs of the Church.
One may also reflect on the concerns of the Presiding Bishopric by simply reviewing the many labors of members of one’s own ward bishop.
At the Presiding Bishopric level, the three presiding high priests known as the Presiding Bishopric are primarily responsible for the Aaronic Priesthood-age youth of the Church, as well as the reception and administration of the tithes and offerings of the Saints, care of the poor, and other duties assigned by the First Presidency.
To this important calling now comes Bishop Victor L. Brown, the tenth person thus called in this dispensation, who for the past ten years has served as second counselor to Presiding Bishop John H. Vandenberg.
Prior to that call in 1961, Bishop Brown lived and worked in the Church in five different areas, which has helped make him intensely aware of the different needs and conditions of the wards and branches of the Church. He was born in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, and knew until he was sixteen the lifestyle and customs of the Canadian. Then his family moved to Salt Lake City, where he acquired some of his college and university education.
In his mid-twenties, he began working for a major American airlines and subsequently served in management capacities in Washington, D.C., Denver, and Chicago. During this period he also served as bishop and then counselor in a stake presidency, as well as in numerous other priesthood and auxiliary positions.
Bishop Brown married Lois Kjar of Salt Lake City, and they are the parents of three sons and two daughters. He is now 58 years of age. (For further biographical information, see Improvement Era, December 1961 and November 1967.)
The following interview discusses some of the thoughts of the new Presiding Bishop.
Q. What are the major assignments of the Presiding Bishopric?
A. Our first and foremost assignment is the Aaronic Priesthood-age youth of the Church—from twelve to nineteen years of age, both boys and girls. We also have the responsibility for the welfare program of the Church. My counselors and I sit as chairman and vice-chairmen of the Welfare Committee of the Church.
Another major responsibility is the Health Services Corporation of the Church, which includes the Church hospital system. The bishopric also has a mandate from the Lord to receive the tithes and offerings of the members of the Church. We have the responsibility for the statistical analysis of activities of the membership taken from the reports of ward and stake clerks. Presently we are in the process of converting to the computer the three million membership records. There are others, but these are our major responsibilities.
Q. As you look ahead, in what areas do you hope to give emphasis?
A. First priority is the youth program of the Church. The whole future of the Church rests on the youth of today. We want to devise and develop programs and activities that will bring the youth closer to the Church and the Church closer to the youth. This is a great challenge. The bishoprics prior to us have also faced this challenge, but as times change, each bishopric has been led to do different things to meet the needs of a new generation. We hope to draw upon all the available resources of the Church during our administration to accomplish this objective.
That’s our goal. We want the gospel to really live in the lives of our youth. With the help of the Lord and the ward and branch leaders, we expect to accomplish it.
Q. Where do you see your greatest challenge in accomplishing this objective?
A. One of our greatest challenges is to present the Church in such a light as to make it more enticing, interesting, and challenging than the activities of the world. Our youth are faced with so many serious temptations today, from the drug culture to illicit sex. Unfortunately, much of this behavior is not frowned upon by the world. The gospel of Christ will not modify its position. We need to present our case in such a way as to raise the whole spiritual tone of our youth. Basic to all is our desire to strengthen the family so that parents and youth can love and labor together in joy and happiness.
Q. If you were to talk to parents and youth, what trait would you ask them to use more in their relationships?
A. Honesty. I’d ask them to be honest with themselves, honest with the Lord, and honest with their parents or their children. It’s difficult to be honest with the Lord and not be honest in all our dealings—and to be honest with the Lord, we must be honest with ourselves. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll be honest and kind to our children—or our parents—and behave toward them as we would have them behave toward us. Honesty of heart will keep one close to all the commandments.
Q. What have been the highlights for you of the past ten years?
A. I have greatly appreciated the opportunity of working with Bishop Vandenberg and Bishop Simpson. In my own assignments, I have appreciated the support Bishop Vandenberg has given me.
We need to give support and strength to one another—parents to youth, youth to parents, and leaders and teachers to fellow workers. This is a lesson I’ll never forget.
May I also say that Bishop Vandenberg has given the Church a sharpness of intellect, an orderliness, a devotion that has been an inspiration. He is not a man to criticize others. He is a loyal person, and he teaches those around him to be loyal. What a blessing in all of our lives if each of us could apply these same traits!
Q. Do you have a special theme that you like to address yourself to?
A. The theme of caring for others, of being genuinely interested in the welfare of those around us, I tell the story of a blind Indian boy who was left on the desert to die when seven years of age; of how he was found by some tourists; of how he was almost a wild man and viewed the world as his enemy; of how everyone had given up changing him so that he could enter society, until he chanced to come into the hands of a good Latter-day Saint woman and a good Latter-day Saint boy who held the Aaronic Priesthood. Together they loved and cared and literally changed that young Indian boy’s way of life.
Through the love of two people, a blind Indian boy was baptized and later received the Melchizedek Priesthood. Today all the blessings of the gospel are available to him—because someone cared.
Do you think the readers of this interview will care enough to look around themselves for the friendless and unfortunate who live in their neighborhood, branch, or ward and love them enough to do as Jesus asked us to: “love one another”? This is the theme I find myself drawn to: love—real, honest, brotherly love.
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