Kevin’s talks with the bishop was anything but routine. In fact, the interview left Kevin felling puzzled.
A week after Bishop Stone was sustained as the new bishop, his executive secretary arranged for an interview with Kevin Blake. Kevin was about to turn 14 and needed to be interviewed about his worthiness to be ordained a teacher.
Kevin waited after church to see the bishop. He didn’t expect it would take long, so Kevin asked his family to wait for him.
“Hello, Kevin,” said the bishop. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m here to be interviewed to be ordained a teacher,” Kevin said.
“Oh, yes. Of course. Let me ask you a question. Do you know where we find the duties of the office of a teacher?” Bishop Stone asked.
“I don’t know. In the teachers’ manual, I guess.”
The bishop smiled and opened his scriptures and handed them to Kevin. “Read Doctrine and Covenants 20:53–54 [D&C 20:53–54], please.”
Kevin began to read. “The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always and be with them and strengthen them; And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking.”
“You can stop there,” Bishop Stone said. “That seems like a tough job to me. How are you going to do it?”
Kevin sighed. “Well, I know that teachers go home teaching.”
“That’s true; they do. Good answer. That does help us to watch over the Church, and be with them and strengthen them. But let me ask you another question. As a teacher, how are you going to see ‘that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking’?”
Kevin was stumped. “I don’t know.”
The bishop smiled. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know either. But we both need to find out. I’d appreciate it if you’d think about it this week and then come back next Sunday and give me some of your ideas.”
On the way home, Kevin’s mother asked him how the interview had gone.
“I can’t believe it. I have to go back next week.”
His 12-year-old sister, Emily, picked up on that. “I’m not surprised,” she said.
Kevin rolled his eyes.
“Would you like to talk to your mother and me in private?” asked his dad.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. The bishop just asked me to come up with a plan about how I was going to see that there’s no backbiting or evil speaking in our ward.”
Just before they ate, Kevin’s friend Todd called to tell him about the teachers quorum activity for the week.
“I’m not a teacher yet,” said Kevin.
“No, but you will be, right?”
“I have to go back and see the bishop next week.”
There was a long pause and then Todd said, “Oh.” Todd made a quick excuse that he had to eat and hung up.
Kevin wasn’t very hungry, but he ate a little and excused himself and went to his room. A few minutes later his dad knocked on his door and asked if he could come in. He pulled a chair up to Kevin’s bed and said, “Kevin, I don’t think the bishop is down on you. I think he is just asking for your help.”
“I don’t see how I can help him,” Kevin said.
“Well, the Lord did give teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood the responsibility to see that there’s no backbiting or evil speaking. Maybe the bishop is just honoring the responsibility you have as a teacher. We have a good ward, but we’re not perfect. There is some backbiting. Not much, but some. Why not honor the bishop’s request and see what ideas you can come up with?”
Kevin reluctantly agreed to do what he could.
At first he couldn’t think of anything, but then things started to change. On Monday after family home evening, he swallowed his pride and went to Emily. “Do you ever see any backbiting or evil speaking in our ward?”
“What causes it?”
“Not every girl comes from a family with enough money for expensive clothes. That can cause people to talk.”
“I don’t see how I can stop that,” said Kevin.
“I try to stop it,” Emily said. “Whenever anyone starts saying bad things about a girl, I try to say good things. You could do that too.”
“That’s not going to stop it.”
“It will if more people look for the positive instead of the negative.”
Kevin felt a twinge of conscience. One of the boys in the deacons quorum was Justin Evanston. Everyone else in the quorum liked sports and camping, except Justin. The boys sometimes made fun of Justin, especially when he tried to play basketball. He was uncoordinated and awkward. Kevin himself had made fun of Justin. He felt bad about it now.
At school on Monday, Kevin saw Jon Dunford in the halls. Jon lived in their ward but didn’t come anymore. He’d gotten into drugs in the seventh grade and a few months later was arrested. He spent six months in a juvenile correction facility and then came back to live at home. Kevin had seen him the first day after he got back. “I’m going to start back to church,” Jon had said.
“Right,” Kevin had replied sarcastically.
Jon came to church once but never returned. Eventually he went back to his old friends. Kevin figured it was only a matter of time before Jon would be put away again.
Kevin decided to talk to Jon.
“Jon, that time you came to church after you first got back, what was it like for you?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“I just want to know.”
“Okay. I’ll tell you,” said Jon, an edge in his voice. “A lot of cold stares, a lot of whispering behind my back, and nobody my age talking to me. A lot of the adults said they were glad I was back, but nobody my age did. Not even you.”
Kevin swallowed hard. “Sorry.”
“When I first came back, I really wanted to change my life,” he sighed. “But it’s too late for that now.”
“Give us another chance,” said Kevin. “Come to church with me next time. I’ll do better.”
Jon looked at Kevin for a long time. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Maybe sometime,” Jon said, starting to walk away.
“What about tomorrow night? We’re going to a TV studio to see how they do the news.”
Jon pursed his lips. “That doesn’t sound too bad. Maybe I’ll go.”
The next day before school Kevin found Jon in the parking lot behind the school with the guys he partied with. “Is tonight still okay?”
Jon smiled. “I’ve never seen you out here before.”
“What about tonight? We could pick you up a little before seven.”
“That’d be okay.”
When they stopped by later that night, Jon wasn’t home, but Kevin wasn’t discouraged. He’d just have to keep asking until Jon gave in and went with him.
The next Sunday after church, Kevin waited to see the bishop. He no longer felt bad that the bishop had asked him to come back; in fact he was glad. This time, when the bishop asked him what a teacher could do to see that there was no backbiting or evil speaking, Kevin had some things to say.
He could hardly wait to see the bishop.