Several years ago I was called to serve as a counselor to the Bishop of a brand new ward. This young bishop, 32 at the time, had all the qualities a good bishop should possess: humility, kindness, compassion, a listening ear and a discerning heart, and most importantly he was a Christ-like person. I had no idea how much of an impact this man would have on my life.
After about 3 weeks of frantically staffing a brand new ward from scratch he came up with our ward motto and we called it the ‘higher five’. It didn’t come right away. The bishop spent plenty of time on his knees asking the Lord for a simple plan to build strong spiritual roots in each ward member.
The ‘higher five’ was a simple invitation to:
1. Read your Scriptures
2. Say your Prayers
3. Have Family Home Evening
4. Attend the Temple
5. Have Fun
If practiced regularly by everybody in the ward, the bishop promised that together we would rise higher toward our heavenly goals. He also promised that each of us would receive “Peace”, and the byproducts of that peace would be joy and happiness.
The simplicity of the concept seemed to grab hold of every member and we began to flourish as a ward family. To this day, visitors always comment on how friendly and warm our ward is.
After the first couple of years went by the good bishop had logged plenty of hours listening to members with problems. He made the observation that without fail, those people who came to him with problems were NOT practicing the ‘higher five’ at all. He lovingly suggested that they start reading their scriptures, even just a verse or two on a daily basis and that the others things would naturally follow. I witnessed some mighty changes in the lives of those who listened to his wise council.
There was, and always will be, a special place in every bishop’s heart for the youth in his ward. The youth of our ward knew that they could come to the bishop with any problem and he would lovingly guide them through the repentance process and back on the straight and narrow path.
We noticed, however, that those members of our ward – both youth and adult – who proactively practiced the ‘higher five’ reduced their chances of making those mistakes that would bring them into the bishop’s office.
In 1990, Elder James E. Faust told of a time several years before when President Spencer W. Kimball asked a bishop, “How often do you have family prayer?” “We try to have family prayer twice a day, but we average about once,” replied the bishop.
Elder Faust gave us President Kimball’s response, “In the past, having family prayer once a day may have been all right. But in the future it will not be enough if we are going to save our families.”
Emphasizing our NEED to attend to gospel basics Elder Faust, poignantly added, “I wonder if having casual and infrequent family home evening will be enough in the future to fortify our children with sufficient moral strength. In the future, infrequent family scripture study may be inadequate to arm our children with the virtue necessary to withstand the moral decay of the environment in which they will live.”
(James E. Faust, “The Greatest Challenge in the World — Good Parenting,” Ensign, November 1990, 33.)
The ‘higher five’ is a safe and proven place to start and continue living
Recently, when this wonderful bishop was released he was asked, “What are you going to do now?” He replied, “I’m going home, I’m going to keep reading my scriptures, saying my prayers, having family home evening, and going to the temple.” You can bet he’ll have a little extra time to enjoy some fun with his family too.
By Clark Smith, EFY speaker, ESPN cameraman