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HE HAS WITNESSED KINGDOM’S GROWTH ON A GLOBAL BASIS

SHARE HE HAS WITNESSED KINGDOM’S GROWTH ON A GLOBAL BASIS

As the 12th and newest presiding bishop of the Church, Bishop Merrill J. Bateman has a distinctly global perspective regarding the Kingdom of God, stemming, perhaps, from his rich background in international business as well as a keen understanding of the gospel.

A member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy since June 1992, Bishop Bateman was sustained to his new calling at general conference April 2. Addressing the conference extemporaneously, he said two scriptures had been floating through his mind for two days.One was the second chapter of Daniel, the description of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the stone cut out of the mountain without hands and Daniel's interpretation of the dream: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." (Dan. 2:44.)

The second scripture cited by Elder Bateman was in Isaiah: "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left: and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited." (Isa. 54:2-3.)

Both scriptures allude to the gospel message being carried throughout the world in the last days and the Kingdom filling the whole earth.

"As I've thought about those passages," Bishop Bateman commented, "I`ve thought about the awesome task of the Presiding Bishopric and all those who work with them to support the Brethren in carrying the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Because of that vision from Isaiah and Daniel, I plead with you brothers and sisters for your faith and prayers. I desire with all my heart to be a servant to these men and to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

At 57, Bishop Bateman has seen much of the world through business and Church assignments and has watched firsthand the prophecies he cited being fulfilled.

In fact, as his wife, Marilyn, pointed out in a Church News interview, the Batemans have lived on nearly every continent in the world.

"It's exciting to have that kind of perspective," noted Sister Bateman.

"It has been a privilege to see see the Church grow and developing, and see it change over time," Bishop Bateman added.

For example, while he was a missionary in England in 1956-58, the country had no stakes, just 15 districts.

"Although there had been many converts, most of them had immigrated to the United States," he said. "Consequently, Church membership in England just after World War II was relatively small in number."

The growth of the Church in England was requiring many new stakes by the time the Batemans went there to live in 1971-73, he being an executive with Mars Inc.

"In fact we arrived shortly after the first stakes were created and participated in the organization of the Thames Valley Stake, now the Reading England Stake. Today, there are over 30 stakes in England. It has been valuable to see the growth from just a few small branches in the 1950s to a point now where stakes cover almost all of the United Kingdom."

As a business consultant and a faculty member in the BYU College of Business (later the School of Management and Graduate School of Management), he had the opportunity to help pave the way for the establishment of the Church in West Africa. (Please see profile in the July 4, 1992, Church News.)

From 1963 to 1978, he visited that continent at least once a year. During some of those trips, he met informally with groups of people who had heard about the Church through magazine articles and LDS literature.

From these contacts, he was called in June 1978 to help search out the groups and determine their sincerity. (The revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male Church members had been announced that month. See D&C Official Declaration 2.)

Although he did not have occasion to visit West Africa again for the next nine years, his efforts helped lay the foundation for Church growth on that continent. Nine African missions have since been organized.

As a member of the Seventy, then-Elder Bateman became closely acquainted with the work in another segment of the world, Asia, where, for the past year, he served as president of the Asia North Area.

In the interview, he noted the growth that has occurred in many Asian countries.

The spread of the gospel is seen not just in numbers but in the lives of the people, he said. "It's interesting. You can see the impact of the Church on the families as they mature in the gospel. The Church is now starting to see more second-generation Latter-day Saints in Asia being called as missionaries. They're very strong young men and women who have had the benefit of growing up the gospel in their lives."

Bishop Bateman views the role of the Presiding Bishopric, as it pertains to the rolling forth of the Kingdom, from this perspective:

"The Savior gave the apostles and prophets of the Church the responsibility to carry the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. One of the main responsibilities of the Presiding Bishopric is to provide the temporal support to allow that to occur.

"One of our primary functions is to establish the record-keeping process in each country so that the Lord's people can be identified and nurtured. In this regard, the Book of Mormon says: `And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numberd among the people of the Church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God. . . .' (Moro. 6:4.)

"Another function is to rent or construct meetinghouses so the people have a place in which to worship.

"Responding to welfare needs is another key area in which the Presiding Bishopric is instrumental. Our first responsibility is taking care of Church members who have short-term needs of a temporal nature. Additionally, the Church is doing things to bless the lives of people worldwide in a temporal way."

Bishop Bateman was born in Lehi, Utah, and spent the latter part of his youth in nearby American Fork. His love for the gospel stems partly from his early service at age 16 in teaching a Sunday School class of 8-year-olds.

He met Sister Bateman during his youth in American Fork. She had moved there with her family from Logan, Utah. They were married in 1959, the year after he returned from his mission in Great Britain.

"It's been an exciting life being married to my husband," she reflected. "From the very beginning, our life has been one adventure after another, but each of these adventures has really been an opportunity for education, growth and spiritual development. He's a very bright, capable and hard-working person who is successful in almost all he attempts to do. Our family has reaped the rewards of having a role model that is committed to the family, committed to the home, but more important, committed to the gospel. He is a very loving and kind man."

An example of that came during the Church News photo session in the courtyard of the Lion House, where Bishop Bateman with a handkerchief carefully cleaned a spot on a bench where his wife was to sit down.

Bishop Bateman, complimenting his wife, said: "One of the things I've learned, and I think probably only recognized in the last few years, is how much a wife and companion helps to define and validate who you are. Marilyn has played that role in helping me to understand myself and challenge me to reach what's inside of me. She has been willing to tell me when I fall short and suggest ways in which I can do things better. But more than that, she's always been there as a quiet support. Given that I've been out of the home so much, she's played the stabilizing role in our family in terms of nurturing and caring for our children and helping me to be a father to them.

"She has an intuitive insight into people. She can read their character and understand very quickly how to relate to them and make them feel good about themselves.

"She's a warm and loving person who really cares. Probably her strongest aspect is her deep faith in our Heavenly Father and the Plan of Salvation. She knows where she's going, and I have to try to keep up with her." Bishop Merrill J. Bateman

Family: Born in Lehi, Utah, on June 19, 1936, to Joseph Frederic and Belva Smith Bateman. Married Marilyn Scholes in the Salt Lake Temple on March 23, 1959. Parents of seven children: Michael Joseph Bateman, 34; Mark Scholes Bateman, 32; Michele Bateman Swindler, 30; twins Merilee Bateman Collins and Melissa Bateman Pitts, 26; Matthew Bateman, 21, serving in Russia Moscow Mission; McKay Bateman, 18; 15 grandchildren.

Education/military: Bachelor's degree in economics from University of Utah, doctorate in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology; served in U.S. Air Force, 1964-67, as an associate professor at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Employment: Owner of a management consulting company and a capital management company, both in Orem, Utah, 1980-1992; senior staff officer for M&M Mars Corp. in McLean, Va., 1979-80; dean of College of Business at BYU, later the School of Management and Graduate School of Management, 1975-79.

Church Service: Member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, October 1992-April 1994; regional representative in the Orem Utah Southwest and Spanish Fork Utah regions; president of Provo Utah Sharon East Stake and BYU 1st Stake; member of Reading District presidency in England; high councilor; bishop of BYU 8th Ward; missionary in the British Mission, 1956-58.