Why are all the handbooks describing the role and giving guidance to bishops/stake presidents not available to the public? If we are run by lay people, why not provide the handbook to all people so that we can ensure that the church is being run properly?
Before answering, I’d like to address a few misconceptions outlined in your questions.
First, The Church is not “run” by lay people.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s Church. It is run by Jesus Christ Himself. The Prophet is His earthly representative. We are simply instruments in His hands, not the mind and certainly not the ones to counsel the Lord or to judge His chosen leaders. This goes both ways. Just as leaders have a duty to the Lord to serve the ward, the ward members also have a duty to the Lord to sustain His leaders. Both of these duties are based on our receiving personal revelation that we’re in the positions the Lord has appointed.
Second, HB1 (Church Handbook Of Instructions 1) is guidance and counsel to Bishops and Stake Presidents. It is not about the operations of Church functions. That is what HB2 is for. From the Church Training meeting regarding the latest edition of HB2 books:
…copies of…Handbook 2 are given to all members of the ward council. Thus, the Melchizedek Priesthood quorum leaders and the presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School and their counselors will have all of the chapters that pertain to administering the Church in the wards and branches. In this way, each member of the ward council—women as well as men—stand together in knowing what each of the other members of the council is responsible to do in their organizations.
HB2 is available on the Church website for anyone to view. So, the Church already does what you are proposing. This is the system that the Lord has set up for His Church. There is already a system of checks and balances. And there are already a sufficient number of people counselling the bishop to remind him of his duties as well as the rest of the ward council. It is this organized system that allows a ward to function at all. And it does work.
Third, (if you are talking about the bishop specifically) how would we determine if the bishop is doing his job correctly?
Do we receive revelation for the bishop?
Would we counsel the ward that their bishop has become apostate?
Are we called to balance the mercy, the compassion, the love, the patience, and obedience to the Law of the Gospel as required of such a position?
Do we seek to steady the ark or to counsel the Lord?
Many do not know how the counseling process works. When in ward council the bishop receives counsel from members of the ward council. In a separate bishopric meeting, he receives counsel from his counselors on the same points and the bishopric prays about a decision. Many times the wisdom of men is guided by the Spirit and it is fairly simple to proceed. But periodically a definite revelation comes upon those in that room. And if they are in tune, another option becomes the new directive. While there is often consensus among the bishopric, sometimes the bishop alone receives this revelation. And, if in tune, he must act on that impression.
If you’ve ever had this experience yourself, you’d know that sometimes such impressions do not seem to make sense to the mortal mind. But the Lord’s ways are not our ways. One reason that HB1 is not made public is this dynamic of leadership. A leader needs the freedom to be able to make decisions based on sound judgment of all the factors involved. In the Church, that includes having the revelation required as a key part of making such judgments.
One thing many are not aware of is that this manual is not the only tool the Church provides the bishop. There are several levels of training that the bishops of the Church are required to go through. And they also have PPIs with the Stake President. It would be impractical to send everyone in the Church through such training. And the Stake President can’t have a PPI with each and every person in the stake.
Now the exception. What if there is something clearly wrong that the bishop is doing? We know that leaders in this faith are not considered infallible. They are human and can make mistakes. So, if we do find such a mistake what are we to do?
First, as we would with scriptures, we must study, ponder, and pray about it to be sure that we are correct. Then we need to be sure that it is a matter that requires action. Nobody likes a backseat driver. And it’s always easy to see the bad calls from the cheap seats. Many things that leaders do that are wrong will not significantly affect anyone. So just don’t bother.
Sometimes (perhaps always) the Lord gives people callings that they are not suited for just so they can learn and grow in that calling. So, let them learn from these mistakes. The job of a bishop is very demanding and no one is ever fully qualified. I personally remember a bishop who wanted to turn down the calling because he was (in his words) “not bishop material.” But he whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.
Second, if we really are sure about something that is seriously wrong, consider sending it up the proper channels. If it is a Relief Society matter, speak to the Relief Society president and so forth. If the bishop himself is the source of the problem, you can report it to a stake high councilor or a member of the stake presidency.
In the end, we need to remember that it is the Lord’s Church. While He uses imperfect humans to do His work, He is at the helm. While some may get bumps and bruises along the way, the path the Church follows is a true one. And we will trust in the Lord that He will take care of that which we cannot.