Sunday, May 3, 2009

Callings from God

Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an active - not a passive - experience. Members are encouraged and expected to serve each other.

The best way to show your love for others is to serve them. Service can be achieved through your own efforts - doing favors for others without being asked; visiting the sick, sad and lonely; bringing fresh-baked cookies to a neighbor, giving a kind word, or just helping another with their chores.

But within the context of the Church - actual Church service - the Lord calls his people to perform specific duties in particular offices. These positions are not sought by members - they are assigned by leaders who are inspired.

When your Bishop meets with you and asks you to be a Sunday School teacher, for instance, it is not the Bishop asking. Well, it is - he's the one extending the calling to you - but the calling comes from the Lord. The Bishop is the messenger, acting on behalf of the Lord.

The Bishop has the authority to call members of his ward to certain ward-level callings, such as Sunday school teachers or members of auxiliary leadership, such as primary or young men/young women programs. Certain callings in the ward are handled at the stake level - your Stake President may call you to serve, for example, as a counselor in a bishopric, or as an Elders Quorum President.

As the circle of influence of a calling increases, the calling is extended by a higher level Church authority, such as when a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles calls a new Stake President.

All things are done in order, according to a well-established pattern set by the Lord.

A member will likely serve in many different callings during their life. For example, a man may serve as an Elders Quorum President, then a Bishop, then a primary teacher, then an employment specialist, then a Mission President. A woman may serve as a Primary President, then a Sunday school teacher, then a counselor in a Relief Society presidency, then as Stake Young Womens President, then a nursery leader. A couple may choose to serve a mission together after retirement, in which case they may then receive a calling to do so.

I, myself, have served as a member of two different Elders Quorum presidencies, a Primary teacher, a Ward Mission Leader, First Counselor in a Branch Presidency (a branch is basically a small ward), and a leader of 14 and 15 year old boys, among other callings.

Callings come and go. You are called, you serve for a season ("season" being a figurative term), and then you are released (or sometimes have to be released when you move away from your current geographic area of service).

Some callings are permanent. The calling of a father, for instance, is eternal. If you are a home teacher (we'll talk about home teaching in another post), you will be a home teacher for life (even though your home teaching assignments will change from time to time). Stake Patriarchs are called for life, as are Apostles and the President of the Church.

Church service - performing a calling - is a labor of love. Diligent service brings with it great blessings - for those you serve, and for you personally. Service in a challenging calling really stretches you spiritually. It makes you grow. It keeps you on your toes. It helps you become a better person all around.

There is nothing like it.

Sometimes it can be a real challenge to deal with a release from a calling that you have loved and served in diligently. When you have a lot of responsibility, and you live up to the task, and you grow to truly love those people who you have been called to serve, it can be hard to accept when your time is up and it's time for another to serve in your place. It can actually be kind of personally devastating at first. You may feel like you're being "fired" - or that you've left things unfinished. You wonder what the Lord has in store for you next.

I've experienced this myself, and I know some good people who've also gone through it (or are going through it right now). It can leave you feeling empty and disoriented at first. But I have a testimony that callings come from God. He knows what is best for you, and what is best for everyone else. He knows who else needs the opportunity to serve, and He knows where else he needs you to serve. Change is inevitable in all but the permanent callings. The key is to trust the Lord, to know that you did your best and made a difference, and to understand that more great opportunities for service are ahead of you. The best thing to do in such a circumstance is to stay strong and true - continue to live righteously and worthy of being called to serve - and to fill the immediate void by being sure to attend the temple and love and serve your own family and friends and neighbors in unofficial capacities while you await your next calling.

And then willingly accept that next calling, ready to serve.

It amazes me that some members will refuse callings. It is simply a concept that is foreign to me. I could not imagine saying "no" to the Lord when His appointed servant calls me to serve in a calling. There's a great hymn, "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go." Here are the words to that hymn:

It may not be on the mountain’s height, or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice He calls to paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Yours,
I’ll go where You want me to go.


I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

Perhaps today there are loving words which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now, in the paths of sin, some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if You will be my Guide, though dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet,
I’ll say what You want me to say.


There’s surely somewhere a lowly place in earth’s harvest fields so wide,
Where I may labor through life’s short day for Jesus, the Crucified.
So, trusting my all unto Your care, I know You always love me!
I’ll do Your will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.


And this great scripture accompanies that sentiment:
"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."
1 Nephi 3:7

If you are called to serve, and you feel inadequate - not up to it - perhaps just humbled that God has put that trust in you, remember that the Lord qualifies those whom He calls. If you're not ready at the moment you are called, He'll make sure you are ready when it comes time to serve, and will help you and support you throughout your service.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said the following in the Priesthood session of the October 2008 General Conference:
"You may feel that there are others who are more capable or more experienced who could fulfill your callings and assignments better than you can, but the Lord gave you your responsibilities for a reason.
There may be people and hearts only you can reach and touch.
Perhaps no one else could do it in quite the same way."
I testify that if you consecrate yourself to the work - to serving in the Church where and when the Lord calls you to serve (through his appointed servants) - that you and those around you will be blessed immeasurably.

I know this from personal experience and from the experience of friends and family. I know I'm far from perfect in my magnifying of Church callings, but I do try, and consider it a privilege to be called to serve the Lord in any capacity.

The work is true. The Church is true. And it only functions if we each do our part to serve and love one another, following the example of Jesus Christ.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your words. Sometimes we do not even know how much we help people. There are many ways, indeed! Even with small things.

Suzanne said...

Have you ever felt like life is good, but it should be harder? I should be serving more? There are people in the world who are suffering and wards that could use my talent more than I can be used here? Move to 98188. Our ward needs a couple of young families who want to help those of us who already live and work here influence others for good. I wonder if there are young couples who have the missionary spirit and are living in Eden and are ready for a real trial. We need them.

Michael said...

Suzanne: Before we met, my wife lived in Federal Way for four years and liked it a lot, and especially liked her ward.

But we're not planning on moving there any time soon, unless you know someone who wants to hire a writer and pay him good money! :)

Rethabile said...

I have just been called as Branch Employment Specialist and has not felt so happy deep in me. When I was first called as Second Counselor in the Relief Society, I was devastated that Im not good enough for the calling, I can not cope with the work, but now, I feel ready than ever. I remember how I smiled when my Branch President talked to me about the calling. I pray that our Heavenly Father bless each and every one of us in our callings that we reach out to where He wants us to be.

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