Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bishop Richard Gardner: A Friend and Mentor

I remember the day that Bishop Carroll was notified of his release. I was sitting outside his office in my capacity of Executive Secretary, as he was interviewing his daughter, Mandy. When he was done, I went into his office to see who was next and he had a glazed look on his face. I asked him what was wrong and he said that the Stake President just called him to extend his release.

I am now quite familiar with the range of emotions that hit Bishop Carroll upon learning of his release. It is, as he said, a bitter sweet experience. But mostly bitter.

This time, unlike with Bishop Dowling, the ward did not know of the release. So when Sunday came and the Stake Presidency showed up, the vast majority of the ward was surprised. But when they called Richard Gardner to be the new bishop, it just seemed to make sense.

The Gardners had been in the ward a few years longer than we had. He was serving as Bishop Carroll’s 1st counselor and had done so for Bishop Carroll’s entire time as bishop. He was already much beloved by the ward but also a bit older than most new bishops. This was going to be an adjustment for the youth and in a family ward, the relationship between the bishop and the youth is vital.

Bishop Gardner decided to call me as his 1st counselor to help bridge the potential gap between him and the youth. I had served as Young Men’s president and had a strong relationship with all the youth. So my goal was to help the youth learn to trust Bishop Gardner.

He wound up having a great relationship with the youth without my intervention. But the highlight is his connection with the youth came near the end of his time when we had the Heiss Death Float. There will soon be a post detailing that adventure and misadventure. But the most positive impact was having all the youth of the ward learn to rely on Bishop Gardner in a time of crisis. I only wish we could have had that experience much earlier during his time a bishop.

He was mostly noted for his unselfish service. He hated to see suffering and tried to do all he could to alleviate it whenever possible. Nothing frustrated him more than seeing someone suffer and be unwilling to take the steps necessary to end that suffering.

One of his greatest visible acts of service was the Lew’s wall. The Lews were a couple of very modest means who bought a house on a hill in the ward that had a severely broken retaining wall where their property met the sidewalk. It was not only unsightly, it was also dangerous and only getting worse over the years. The city of Orem demanded that they fix the wall but the Lews and no money to do so.

Bishop Gardner had two passions outside of his family, his service, and fishing. Those two passions were architecture and landscaping. He was perfectly positioned to help the Lew family. He rallied the ward and in a matter of months with help from people or all ages, we built a new wall which still stands straight at firm today – a testament to this great man.

When I was called to serve as bishop at BYU, I saw myself doing many things the same way as Bishop Gardner. He was truly a friend and a mentor. 

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