SALT LAKE CITY — A Frenchman is the new presiding bishop of the LDS Church, assuming vast global responsibilities for the faith's finances, thousands of buildings, investment properties and humanitarian programs.
Bishop Gérald Caussé, 52, is the third presiding bishop born outside the United States, but the first whose native language is not English. He had been serving as the first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric since March 2012 and replaces Elder Gary E. Stevenson, who became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 3.
Bishop Dean M. Davies, who had been serving as the second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, will be the first counselor. The second counselor is Elder W. Christopher Waddell of the Quorums of the Seventy, who was a counselor in the South America Northwest Area Presidency in Lima.
"The presiding bishop has responsibility for the temporal affairs of a worldwide church," said Keith McMullin, who served as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric from 1995 to 2012. "The presiding bishop's load is really heavy."
"If there's a hymnbook you sing from or a church manual you use, temple clothing that you wear or words that have been translated for church use into your native tongue, it comes under the guidance of the presiding bishop and his counselors."
They oversee the design, construction and maintenance of temples, meetinghouses, seminary and institute buildings and other real estate, the commercial farming enterprises of the church and its real estate investment properties such as City Creek in Salt Lake City, Utah.
They also focus on the scriptural charge to care for the poor by directing the church's welfare and humanitarian programs. Membership records and the collection of tithes and offerings also come under their purview.
Members of the presiding bishopric also have ecclesiastical duties. They hold the keys to the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood, said McMullin, now president and CEO of Deseret Management Corporation. DMC owns the Deseret News.
"Each member of the Presiding Bishopric is an ordained bishop and a general authority of the church who goes out on assignments," he said, "as do all general authorities, to officiate in stake conferences, to teach members of the church and to handle the various ecclesiastical administrative affairs they are called upon to handle."
The members of the Presiding Bishopric meet each Friday with the members of the church's First Presidency, under whose direction they work.
The Presiding Bishopric's efforts extend beyond the church to improve the lives of thousands who are not members of the LDS Church, McMullin said.
"Those who suffer from hurricanes, earthquakes and privations of various sorts are blessed by the things the Presiding Bishopric does to relieve suffering."
The First Presidency announced the assignments, which are effective immediately.
Bishop Caussé previously served as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and as a counselor in the Europe Area Presidency.
He earned a master’s degree in business from France's ESSEC Business School in 1987. He was the general manager of Pomona, a food distribution company in France and worked as the director of logistics for the Carrefour group, an international grocery retail firm.
Born in Bordeaux, he married Valérie Lucienne Babin and they have five children and five grandchildren.
"Bishop Caussé is a fine priesthood leader, a consummate gentleman and a very, very able leader," McMullin said.
Bishop Davies, 64, has worked for the church since 1995. Before joining the Presiding Bishopric in 2012, he was managing director of the Special Projects Department, responsible for special-purpose real estate, temple design and temple construction.
He graduated from BYU in agricultural economics and completed advanced executive programs at Stanford and Northwestern universities, then worked for High Industries, Inc., and Bechtel Investments, Inc.
Bishop Waddell, 56, became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 2011.
He received a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and worked with Merrill Lynch, rising to first vice president of investments.
Two former presiding bishops were born outside the United States. Charles W. Nibley was born in Scotland and served from 1907-25. Victor L. Brown was born in Canada and was presiding bishop from 1972-85.