How Old Are Latter-day Saint Bishops?

Last time we used Duke’s National Congregations Study to see how racially representative Latter-day Saint bishops were of the Church. Today we’ll look at how old Latter-day Saint bishops are compared to their peer congregational leaders in other traditions. If we take the two most recent waves (2012 and 2018) of the survey and calculate the means and confidence intervals, it looks like Latter-day Saint bishops are relatively young (with an average age of 51) compared to congregational leaders from other traditions. I’ll admit to being surprised, I knew that Catholic priests tended to be older, but I guess I envisioned Protestant pastors as being more hipster, youth minister types (that’s not a dig, just my false, apparently, image).

When we look at the distribution of bishop’s ages it’s “left skewed,” which means that there are some bishops that are much younger than average, but not a lot of bishops that are much older than average, with the “modal,” i.e. most standard bishop being in the 55-59 range.

The youngest bishop in this sample is 32, and the oldest is 68.

To whoever the 68-year old bishop is:

R Code

library(foreign)
library(dplyr)

DCS = filter(DCS,(YEAR==2018) | (YEAR==2012))

DCS<-DCS[!is.na(DCS\$CLERGAGE),]

MeanTable <- DCS %>%
group_by(DENOM) %>%
summarise(
AvgAge = mean(CLERGAGE),
sd = sd(CLERGAGE),
n = n(),
se = sd / sqrt(n)
)

write.csv(MeanTable, “LOCATION”)

LDS = filter(DCS,DENOM==’Mormon’)
table1<-as.data.frame(table(LDS\$CLERGAGE))

14 comments for “How Old Are Latter-day Saint Bishops?”

Actually I think we need to salute the 32-year old bishop who is sacrificing his early career time and young family time to serve. The 68-year old Bishop probably doesn’t have these same demands on his time. YMMV.

2. Stephen C. says:

@Chadwick: I was thinking more in terms of aging-related difficulties, but good point, maybe the youthful energy is cancelled out by the young children at home.

3. John Taber says:

I had a great-uncle who was called as a bishop at age 24, around 1940. He was the youngest bishop in the Church at the time.

4. Lily says:

As a 55 year old woman, I would much rather deal with the 68 year old than the 24 year old. I’m sorry, but at that young of an age you probably think you have it all together and you don’t. I’d rather deal with someone that has actually lived and been knocked around a little bit. Also, I agree that the 20’s and 30’s is a terrible age to ask someone to serve in such as demanding calling.

5. Stephen C. says:

@ Lily: Also, I’m reminded of President Uchtdorf’s comment about “not inhaling,” it would be hard to not inhale as a 24-year old bishop (because *almost all men* as soon as they get, etc. etc., not to dismiss John Taber’s uncle’s sacrifice, of course), whereas the 68 year old might be more likely to focus on his flock in the moment and not see it as a stepping stone (whether consciously or not).

6. Dr Cocoa says:

I don’t suppose the data distinguish between a Bishop and Branch president?

I have a notion (perhaps false) that branch presidents tend to be younger than bishops on average which may skew the data. But that notion is just based on my personal experience living in three different branches compared with the 6 or seven wards I’ve lived in.

7. Stephen C. says:

You’re absolutely right, they don’t distinguish between the two, so that was my bad for not making that clear.

8. E.C. says:

My dad was that 68-year-old bishop, or at least he was 68 when released as bishop. Yeah, us kids were all pretty much grown up and didn’t need his constant attention at home, but he was constantly tired and weighed down by the strains of being a bishop in our ward of newly-wed and nearly-dead. Anyone who accepts the call to be a bishop is worthy of respect, though I admit that those who *want* the calling have less of that respect than those who, like my dad, simply felt they should not say no to a call to serve.

9. Sterling says:

Interesting stuff, once again. I have another data source, if you are interested in a similar analysis. Do a Google search for “site:https://www.thechurchnews.com new stake presidents” (without the parentheses) and you will get about 13,600 results. With a little bit of web scraping and text parsing, you would get the ages of stake presidents when they are called, as well as a chance to break out the data by location.

10. Stephen C. says:

Once again you’re full of great ideas Sterling. A Stake President dataset (possibly with occupation, age, children, etc.) would be interesting.

11. John Charity Spring says:

By and large, young people do not have what it takes to be good bishops. They simply do not have the life experience to fall back on. Since they don’t have the wisdom of age, they seek to be popular. They quote Post Malone and Bon Jovi in their talks in an attempt to be hip. This fools no one, and everyone knows they are dealing with a novice.

12. Our bishop is 74 and fortunately pretty high energy. As a counselor, i really appreciate working with a guy who’s retired and willing to take on tons of duties that other bishops would normally have to delegate.

13. Niklas says:

I had a bishop once who was 24. This was at the turn of the millennium. The bishop after him was 29. The next two bishops were quite young too, but probably in their early thirties. They all did well. In many ways probably better than the older bishops I have seen.

14. This is cool! Thanks for doing the analysis and sharing it here!