Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bishop Tom Elder: The Activist

Bishop Kelsey served his five years and was replaced by Tom Elder. Unique is the best way to describe Tom. Tom and his family came into the ward the same way the Kelsey’s did – through a small boundary adjustment.

Before the boundaries were reorganized, Tom’s parents moved into the ward. The house belonged to Norma Humphries when we first moved into this ward. The odd thing about our ward is you are identified by the former occupants of the home where you live. For example, we moved into the Stanton’s home. Which meant that when we introduce you for the first while we had to tell people we live in the Stanton’s home? It just makes things easier.

The Elder’s upset this tradition. Tom’s parents were identified as living in Norma Humphries’ home. By the time it would have been called the Elder’s home, the boundary shifted and we lost track. Tom and his family bought the home from his parents. So when the house returned to our ward we weren't sure to call it the Humphries’ or the Elder’s home. Such is the complexities of life in a small Orem ward.

Just after the Stake Conference, when the boundary change was announced, our bishopric went to visit those who newly came into the ward. We visited the Kelsey’s and the Elders on the same day. Bishop Gardner got along well with Forrest Kelsey. However, Tom Elder and Bishop Gardner were completely different people. I got alone with Tom right away but Bishop Gardner was not too sure how to take Tom.


Well, Tom lacks in seriousness and is highly sarcastic. At times he can say things that are irreverent and cause you to pause to determine if he was serious. As I possess some similar traits, we had an instant friendship.

What I soon learned was that Tom had very few friends. He could connect with people but would quickly put up a fence to keep potential friends at a distance. I respected that and this added to our ability to work together.

Just as Tom was integrating into the ward, he was called to serve in a BYU bishopric and later as a BYU Bishop. As he had a young family, he served on campus by himself while his wife and children attended church without him. As Tom as not too well known, many members thought that Karrie was a single mom or that her husband was inactive.

When he came back to the ward he has first put into Young Men’s and then made a counselor to Bishop Kelsey. I am not sure how that dynamic worked. Bishop Kelsey was Tom’s neighbor and one time employer. These two men were also complete opposites. But I feel Tom’s calling into the bishopric allowed Bishop Kelsey to serve his last few months on a high note. Tom added a new type of compassion to a bishopric severely lacking that trait.  

I was in India with Karen when Tom was called. As Karen was the ward organist and we had few willing substitutes at the time, Tom had to play the organ the day he received his call. The ward really didn't know Bishop Elder as person as he spent so much time away from our community.  But he learned a lot while serving at BYU and became an activist bishop.

He spent more time in the homes of the members than he did in his office. He told me that the homes were his office. As he rarely had a steady job, he was able to visit ward members all through the day. This was a vast change from Bishop Kelsey.

Soon after Bishop Elder was called, he had me released from the High Council and sustained as the High Priest Group Leader. So he and I served together until I was called to BYU. We had an odd dynamic in leadership meetings that caused people to wonder if we even got along. But we did work effectively for that time and saw walls of solitude among ward members solely melt way.


  1. So, Andrew has this friend Alan—and they've both got that sarcastic humour and joke with each other all the time.

    On Sunday Brother Rogerson told Andrew he needed to talk to him about something but that it could wait until Monday, so Andrew met him in his office on Monday where Brother Rogerson (who works with the YM/scouting) told him that one of the youth approached him and asked if Andrew and Alan hated each other because they're always saying mean things to each other and fighting on facebook.

    Because the youth in question needs to learn about sarcasm, Brother Rogerson suggested that Andrew makes a point to be kind to Alan in front of a group of youth one of these days—high five him in the hall or something.

    The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree...

  2. I had a similar experience with Brad Kramer and with Sister Fujiki. After home teaching at the Fujiki's one night, Bob and Amanda both asked Bonnie if she was my friend because she teased me so much.

    Yeah, sometimes it is good to know your audience....