Jon Grant accepted what many would describe an untimely calling to serve as bishop in the Maplewood Second Ward of the Houston Texas South Stake. Grant, a 30-year-old first-year medical resident in radiation oncology and father of three young children, in February 2012 assumed responsibility for a multicultural congregation in the central part of Houston.
The responsibilities of a bishop, the lay leader of the ward (geographic boundary), involve leadership, organization, counseling, administration and financial management and usually require about 20 hours a week. A bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) assumes a ministerial caretaker role for the members of his congregation, but those assignments do not supersede his family and professional responsibilities.
For Grant, the task is a delicate balancing act to divide his attentions and set his priorities.
The young resident notes, “I usually have a typical work week, Monday through Friday. While working with patients, I will get phone calls that I have to let ring through to my answering machine and then answer them later. Email is such a blessing — I can answer questions or respond to issues during breaks throughout the day and easily communicate with the other ward leaders.” Most of his Sundays are spent at church, which rarely conflict with work; however, frequent weeklong medical shifts require some help: “Right when I received my calling, a co-resident and friend of mine who is also a member of the Church offered to cover Tuesday nights and Sundays for me so that I could take care of my church responsibilities. This was a great blessing. But remarkably,” he adds, “there have been very few absolute conflicts between work and my calling so far.”
To manage the stretched time commitments, Grant tries “to compensate by using small islands of discretionary time throughout the day better — learning flashcards while I walk from my car to the hospital, for instance. My family certainly does sacrifice time with me that we had before. This is harder on my wife some days than others. This calling was truly for the both of us, as she has had to absorb more responsibilities at home in my absence. I’ve learned what I can do and learned what is okay to leave undone to balance all the time constraints.”
When the challenges of energy and time management push, Grant gains perspective from his patients at work as well as his fellow Church members.
“In my profession and training,” Grant explains, “I care for many people at the end of life. Life can be so fragile, the course of nature sometimes unyielding to all the efforts of science and medicine to change it. When faced with a serious diagnosis such as cancer, people's priorities sharpen up — life becomes about relationships with other people. For all the emphasis that the world puts on material things and influence, true happiness comes through relationships and service. That is what callings in the Church are about — not so much administering but ministering. I’m so grateful to serve and serve with such wonderful, dedicated and humble people.”