For three Laie women, they said their lives have been filled with blessings and challenges as wives of YSA bishops. They agreed the blessings, such as new perspectives on parenting their own young single adults or getting to know the student members in their ward families, outweigh the challenges like not having much time with their spouses.
Stacy McCarrery, orginally from Washington, is the bishop’s wife in the Laie YSA 11th Ward. She said she has been married to her husband for 27 years. Bishop J. Scott McCarrery has been a bishop for the last two and a half years. She said she hasn't struggled with her husband’s calling. “It's not as challenging for me as it is for him. He has always been really busy. So in a way, that's not that different, except for Sunday. He’s generally not home from about 8 a.m. to about 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. It depends each night.”
Kari Smith, who moved to Laie from Texas and has been married to her husband for almost 19 years, said her husband, Bishop Jeff Smith, was called four months ago to be the bishop of the Laie YSA 6th Ward. She said the biggest trial is “he is gone a lot, especially when he was first called. He was first called during the [BYU-Hawaii] endorsement season....He would do interviews Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So in between that and his work schedule, and then being gone all day Sunday, it was really just the time" away from the family they had to get used to.
Alice Nielsen, who moved here from California, is the bishop’s wife in the Laie YSA 16th Ward. Her and her husband, Bishop Donald Nielsen, have been married for 41 years, and during that time, he has been called to serve as bishop three times for a total of 16 years. They have been in the 16th Ward for the last five years.
Nielsen explained how for her “some of the challenges are trying to juggle home-ward and student-ward responsibilities. I have a calling in my home ward, and there have been times when I go to the student ward when i feel guilty about not being in the home ward -and vice versa. The biggest challenge is losing touch with the people in my home ward.”
McCarrery shared some of the blessing of being a bishop's wife. “I think it’s been really great to get to know more of the students and to see another side of campus life. I see students in class and get to see the academic side, but you don't always see the other half of what people do. Not that we see all of it anyway, but it is good to have a different perspective on people's lives and their challenges, and where people come from.”
Nielsen said of all the blessings she's received from her experience, the greatest is “relationships with the ward members. It's so wonderful to see them as freshmen, then come back as returned missionaries and then watch them get married and have families.
“Another great blessing is to meet students from all over the world and learn about their cultures and watch them lead in the gospel. The gospel is truly the same everywhere in the world, and it's so inspiring to see things through a new lens.”
Smith said one of the greatest blessing is her husband said he "feels way more in tune with the spirit. I mean more so than usual. But since he's been bishop, he feels even closer to the spirit and that translated at home too. It's more spiritual in our house in general, which is awesome."
Smith added her husband shares with her some of the trials and experiences young people face, and with a teenager daugther nearly old enough to be in a YSA ward, "that has kind of changed our focus and our perspective. We realized, ‘Okay, so maybe we need to think about these challenges.’ One of those is pornography, he told me, ‘You would not believe how bad it is, and you would think it’s men all the time, but really it's a lot of women.’ That is not something I would have thought I needed to talk to my daughter about, but she's about to hit that age."
Nielsen outlined what a week in the life of a bishop's wife is like. “Besides Family Home Evening, my week is normal. My husband has meetings and interviews, but for me it's no big deal. A typical Sunday is like normal church unless I need to attend both wards. Then it's long. Break the Fast [dinners] are a bit of a juggling act, but the counselor’s wives and I divide and conquer. We have it down to a science now.”
Smith offered a description of an average day in her life. “I don't work outside the home. I am lucky enough I get to stay at home, even here. So I do home stuff and kid stuff, making sure kids get lunches made...During the day, it's clean house, run errands, that kind of thing. I have worked in the past, but I enjoy being able to be home when my kids come home.”
McCarrery talked about her typical Sunday, “I have a 15-year-old daughter still at home, so we go to our home ward. I go to his sacrament meeting but not the rest of the meetings. As far as him, he usually has meetings on Tuesday nights. He used to have bishopric meetings on Thursdays and then all day Sunday, and service projects or temple trips on Saturdays.
“I go to my ward at 8 a.m., and I have a calling so I have to go there with my daughter. When we get done, we go to his ward, listen to his sacrament meeting, and then go home." She said if she did not have a calling in her home ward, she would go to the YSA ward more.
Smith said what her Sundays look like. “Our ward doesn't meet till noon, so I will sleep in till 8 a.m. I am the Young Women's president, and we've recently done Youth Conference, and now Girls Camp so it's been pretty busy on Sundays. In the mornings it’s slow, which I like, but it's also a lot of phone calls, making sure I know who is teaching what, following up on the youth, and making sure they have the things they need.
“I usually have Ward Council, Bishop’s Youth Council, or presidency meetings with the Laurels or my own presidency. So a lot of meetings on Sunday, and then Bishop Smith usually gets home around 8 p.m. Then once everyone is home, we will sometimes do our Family Council on Sunday nights.”
Nielsen shared some words of encouragement. “The one thing I wish I could really make clear is how much we love our YSA ward members. I pray for them as individuals and rejoice with them and mourn with them, just as I do my own children. They have become an important part of my life and have claimed a piece of my heart forever.
“As our time working with them is nearing to an end, I know not having them in my daily life is going to be very hard for both of us. It makes me cry just thinking about it, but I know it's someone else's turn to have these life-changing experiences and to expand their families by a couple hundred more.”
Smith offered some advice. “Trust your bishops. I would say use your bishops to help you if you need it - with questions or with help on issues." Smith said it saddens her to think young adults are afraid to talk to someone, like their bishop, when they have problems. She added if they let their issues go too long, "it just builds until you are in such a deep hole that it makes you feel worse than if you had just spoken to someone in the beginning. I would say talk to your bishops and counsel with them.”