Part IV – Of the Calling of Wizard
Welcome to our party! We are on an expedition to slay the dragon of church culture. We are so glad you’ve joined us. If you want to see the beginning of our journey, please feel free to take the trek through Part I: The Dragon of Church Culture; Part II: Of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Men, and Wizards; or Part III: Of Turning Mountain Trolls of Jargon to Stone. These posts will give you the important groundwork for the allegory which this blog series is leaning upon. And now, on with the quest!
The Councils of Celebrities
I was the youngest of four girls born to my parents. Thus, I was the last to get baptized into the church. I still remember thinking, after my dad got called to be the bishop of our little ward that “I’m the only one who will have been baptized by a bishop!” It’s strange to me now that I thought that my dad being a bishop made my baptism more special than that of my sisters. But I thought it for a long time. Part of it was a need inside me to compete with my sisters, to win, somehow. To have something they didn’t. To be better.
But the primary problem with my 8-year-old reasoning was that my dad being called to be a bishop did not make him more special than he was before, nor did it make my baptism more effective, or valid, than my sisters’ baptisms. The calling didn’t make him better. He was already wonderful. Yet, I saw his calling as bishop as a sign that God approved of him, a validation of sorts that he was a cool as I thought he was. I figured it was the same with stake presidents, mission presidents, apostles, and the prophet. For many years, I felt that these people must be extra special, more approved of, even, if the Lord had called them to these important, visible callings.
Now, it isn’t that there isn’t some basis for this cultural construct and belief. The idea of God having a “chosen” or “peculiar” person, or people, or even of people being “favored” (1 Nephi 17:35) and “foreordained” to certain missions is scriptural, even doctrinal. In Jeremiah 1:4 we read: “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations”. However, interestingly Jeremiah’s response to this foreordination account was this: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah felt normal and he also felt insufficiently talented and inexperienced. He did not feel extra special. He too believed that to be a prophet for the Lord he needed to be “more special” than he was, to have more skills and power. But God replied: “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:6-7). God’s response was a denunciation of the idea that Jeremiah had to be something other than he was. It was God’s own power that He said would give Jeremiah help: “for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (Ibid.).
Isaiah, another Old Testament prophet, said: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8). This is an interesting interchange that teaches us a lot about what “favored”, “chosen”, and “called” means to God. It does not mean extra special, extra talented, extra charismatic, and it certainly doesn’t mean flawless. It doesn’t mean preferred. It means humble, willing to submit to the Lord, willing to do the Lord’s will. Another prophet, Joseph Smith, simply wanted to know what church to join. Importantly, he was willing to obey God’s answer and join whichever church God told him to join. That willingness led God to restore his church through Joseph because of his willingness to obey. Joseph didn’t seek to become a prophet. It was a consequence of his humility and childlike submission to God, His willingness to obey, not his affluence, education, or preferred status. Repeatedly in scripture, God chooses the “weak things of the earth” to show forth His wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants 124:1). That means that being called to a calling, whether as a wizard or as a meek hobbit, requires humility because whether a wizard or a hobbit, or a man, elf or dwarf, we are all weak. We are all children, like Jeremiah. We all need God’s aid, guidance, and support. That is what it means to be chosen, and favored: to be willing to submit to the Lord and to volunteer for the helpful assignments that He needs filled. It means to be servants. It seems then that Jeremiah was willing and volunteered to serve as a prophet in the premortal life. Perhaps, as God’s chosen people, we might see the true meaning of “chosen”, or of the title of “House of Israel” as evidence of us volunteering, in the premortal world, to serve God and take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. Thus, we are not preferred over others, we are simply willing servants.
Let’s look at a couple other words from the scriptures, from Abraham 3:23, that we often misinterpret. They are the words, “rulers” and “noble and great ones”. Some, because of their righteousness in their first estate (the premortal world or scripturally called, the “foundations of the earth”), most certainly did become “rulers” here on earth because of their diligence and obedience in comparison to others (Abraham 3:22-23; Alma 13:1-12). But what does the word “ruler” mean. Well, in Doctrine and Covenants 130:19 we read: “And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come”. This is a doctrine. That means that it is a truth that is fundamental and unchanging; that it applied before we were born just as it applies now. In Alma 13:3-6 we learn: “And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works… And thus, they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren. Or, in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing…thus this holy calling [was] prepared from the foundation of the world for as such as would not harden their hearts”; for those who were more diligent and obedient. Then, here is the advantage these noble and great ones have in this world, the ruling advantage: they were called to “this holy calling…to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that [these others] might also enter into [God’s] rest” (Ibid.). Thus, to be a ruler, means to be a servant and a teacher, not a rich monarch.
It is important to understand that this doesn’t mean these individuals are perfect, nor that they won’t have human personality struggles, psychological weaknesses, or other mortal issues and opposition. Part of coming to this earth, for all of us, is weakness. Being mortal, God allows us to be weak, in many ways, and subject to mortal struggles so that we might be humble and find our strength in Him, not in ourselves, as we learn in Ether 12:27. The advantage given for being favored is never perfection. These noble and great ones must still work out their salvation like everyone else. Except, unlike us, they often have to work out their salvation while also serving us in visible callings, which makes their strengths and their weaknesses more visible to the rest of us.
In the Doctrine and Covenants 1:24-28 we read: “Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known: and inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; and inasmuch as they were humble, they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge…”. Wizards are meant to be flawed so that we can see what a relationship with God can do with them, so that we can know that He can also do it with us.
In the tale of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien, we find that there are ruling councils. Those that sit on those councils are considered the “caretakers”, or servants, of Middle Earth. On one council sits two considerably powerful elves, Galadriel and Elrond, and two powerful wizards, Gandalf and Saruman. This council was concerned with keeping an eye out for “the enemy” (Sauron, our type of Satan), and anticipating and squelching evil. The council was also concerned with giving warnings, advice, and counsel to the other races and peoples in Middle Earth.
The other council we see is the council of Elrond. In this council, the ruling elf of Rivendell, Elrond, calls a council of the leaders of all the races (elves, dwarves, men, and a few hobbits). The purpose of the council of Elrond is to determine what must be done with the evil “one ring” of Sauron, because whatever happens with it will affect them all. The ring is, like our cultural dragon, a tool the enemy wishes to use in order to crush the agency and power of the other ringbearers: many of which sit on the councils that watch over Middle Earth. He wants to control them through the ring and by so doing conquer and control Middle Earth. He wants these rulers to seek to have the ring, the precious, “for their own”, with good intent of course. But he knows that should any of them try to use it he will be able to control them through it. He wants them to fight over possessing it and having the honor of carrying it. These characters on the council are asked to represent their races, to offer opinions and make decisions on their race’s behalf regarding the ring. Upon them is being laid the burden of deciding the fate of Middle Earth. That’s a heavy burden of service and accountability.
Here’s the subtle bit. Sauron places more weight on the heads of races, elvish ringbearers, and wizards than he does on the average man, elf, dwarf, or the humble hobbit. He “celebrates” these more visible characters and it never occurs to him to worry about what the loyalty and will of a few tiny hobbits means. Deviating in the allegory for a moment, we see the same flaw in Voldemort, in the Harry Potter book series. Voldemort values celebrity and wizard blood, and his own superiority, above all else. He fears another wizard-type, Dumbledore, because his magical talent and skills are so formidable that they can’t be denied. But this villain discounts the normal every-day muggle and even the half-blood wizards. They aren’t “full-blood” and so they can’t be important, or special. They can’t possibly have the power to defeat him.
Do you notice the prideful flaw of both Sauron and Voldemort? It is the same prideful flaw I had as a kid, and which many still have today. It is giving certain “callings” and “titles” and ancient “heritages” too much credit. It is thinking that if someone holds a certain position or acclaimed role, or if they descended from a certain person, that they must actually be more special, more powerful, or more important (or in the case of church culture, even more righteous and more blessed). Voldemort sought only such people for his followers and he discounted all others. Sauron sought only to watch and destroy, or control and conquer, such celebrated individuals and ignored “all else that moved” within his sight. This prideful belief that some were more important, preferred, or special was his downfall, which Gandalf predicted. For it was not a wizard or council member that destroyed Sauron’s power. It was two meek, humble, home-loving hobbits whose willingness to take the ring to Mordor, and whose loyalty and diligence were the only things to recommend them.
Villains often give too much credence to celebrity, and sadly, so do we. The word “celebrity”—its dictionary definition, or denotation—actually means someone that is “well-known” and in consequence of being well-known, they are “celebrated”. People often become well-known because of certain accomplishments. We tend to celebrate popular actors, and in the case of books, popular characters. In the case of the scriptures, we tend to celebrate righteous and prophetic characters, and sometimes even infamous ones. We also, today, tend to celebrate certain callings within the church; and we do so because those positions are “well-known” and because they are more visible. Let’s face it, the bishop interacts with all ward members, whereas those in other callings only interact on a regular basis with small groups within the ward. Those who are less visible and less “well-known” are therefore less “celebrated”.
So, here it is. Because certain callings are more visible, we fall for the dragon roar that they are more golden, more important, and that God loves us more or approves of us or others more if He calls us to those callings. Or, Satan may even try to tell us that God loves us less and approves of us less if we aren’t ever called to one of those callings; that He doesn’t think we can handle it because there is something wrong with us. Then, there is the other side, where we count our golden capabilities and can’t believe God hasn’t called us to one of these callings. This might be an especially sore topic if we feel more talented and more capable—like we would do a better job than whoever is presently in that calling. I am personally guilty of this myself and I fight it, with God’s help, on a consistent basis. Satan may try to tempt you with the thought that God can’t be in control of the church if He lets such flawed people serve in these important callings, especially if offenses are being given. Ignore the roar of the cultural dragon who pads your golden ego along with his own and encourages uncharitable and unmerciful thoughts so that you’ll offer him more gold. Do not fall for Satan’s ego-padding lies which encourage us to undermine and destroy our fellow men.
But this is not the end of the cultural misjudgments regarding certain callings. I still remember how frightened Frodo looked when Gandalf pulls him aside, right before they go into the ancient dwarven kingdom of the Mines of Moria. Gandalf—the celebrated wizard, whom we expect more of—asks Frodo how he’s doing. “You feel [the ring’s] power growing, don’t you? I’ve felt it too. You must be careful now. Evil will be drawn to you from outside the Fellowship…and I fear, from within” (link to reference). Frodo then asks Gandalf who he can trust? “You must trust yourself. Trust your own strengths.” Gandalf says to Frodo. “What do you mean?” Frodo asks. Then, Gandalf, our celebrity wizard, reminds Frodo of something he should already know about Gandalf—his weakness, even though he’s a wizard. “There are many powers in this world, for good or for evil. Some are greater than I am. And against some, I have not yet been tested.”
Imagine Frodo’s shock. Gandalf, who thus far on the journey had seemed to always show up to save the day, admitting that he’s weak and may not even be able to be trusted against the evil pull of Sauron’s ring. I think it seriously undermined Frodo’s confidence in the success of the quest. If he couldn’t fall back on Gandalf, if Gandalf wasn’t perfect and invincible, he would be left only to himself and his own strength—and he was just a hobbit. That must have been frightening. Yet, it was Frodo’s personal strength that made him capable of carrying the ring to Mordor. And it was the personal strength of his dear friend Sam that enabled them to fulfill the mission to destroy the ring. It wasn’t Gandalf’s powers that saved Middle Earth, it was the humility, diligence, and obedience of a hobbit. And that is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is—it’s a relationship between us and God. It is not a relationship between our leaders and God, and then we just maintain a relationship with the leader. God wants a direct relationship with each of us so that we can get to know Him so we can become like Him. We can’t fall back on anyone else, not even our wizards, for that relationship. Their role of ruling and service is to supply the instruction and the ordinances and covenants. All of the rest is up to us in developing a saving relationship with the Almighty.
The Israelites tried this pattern and it consistently led to their captivity and downfall. First, they rejected a direction relationship with God and asked Moses to do that for them. Then, as their second prophet Joshua aged, they rejected prophetic leadership and went to serve other gods. Then, when in the consequences of their sins they would get conquered and put in captivity. Then, they would call to God for help. He sent them judges to save them. They depended on the judges again, for their relationship with God. So, they couldn’t hang on. They returned to idol worship. Then, Samuel the prophet was raised up and they did okay for a while, but again turned to other gods, got beat in battle again, and then begged for a king. They wanted a mortal king to manage their lives and their relationship with God. They wanted a celebrity figurehead to fight for them, and to tell them what to do. Their continual rejection of a direct relationship with God was the fundamental gospel struggle they had.
Culturally, our dragon, would like us to seek to become “extra special” or to base our testimonies and strength on those whom we believe God has labeled “extra special” because of the callings they hold. He wants us to become defeated when we get released from being the bishop, gospel doctrine teacher, or Relief Society President. He wants us to think we’ve been released because we are no longer special, or because God is disappointed in us in some way, or because someone else can do it better. He wants us to think that this calling was the height of our glory, and that we will never rise so high again in other people’s eyes, or even in God’s eyes. Even more so, the cultural dragon wants us to get angry when people at these heights of perceived glory disappoint us and admit, that “some [temptations] are greater than [they] are. And against some, [they] have not yet been tested”.
Whether a person sits on a council or bears the calling of wizard, or head of the race, does not make them more loved, more righteous, preferred, or more important. It simply makes them more well-known. What it does make their lives more visible to all of us, and it makes them more accountable. They have been called and been willing not to be “greatest among us” but to be our servants” (Matthew 23:11-12).
Communicating with Our Wizards
In The Fellowship of the Ring, when Frodo woke in Elrond’s house having nearly become a creature of the shadow because of his dangerous journey to Rivendell, he first sees Gandalf, the wizard, sitting in front of him. One of the first questions he asks the wizard is, “Why didn’t you meet us?” You see, Gandalf was supposed to meet Frodo and Sam originally at the Inn of the Prancing Pony, several weeks before. But he didn’t show up because he was having problems fighting a minion of the enemy himself—another wizard. Gandalf’s good wizard friend and fellow council member, Saruman, had gone rogue and betrayed the council. He tried to turn Gandalf to follow the enemy, and they fought and Gandalf was imprisoned and injured for a bit. That was why he couldn’t meet Frodo. He had his own problems and was fighting his own battles.
Frodo had felt let down and had, in his humble hobbit way, been frustrated. He asked Gandalf why he had failed to meet them. He sought to find out why Gandalf had failed him. Turns out, Gandalf had a good excuse. He had his own issues, even though he was a wizard.
God has taught us: “Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established…” Matthew 18:16-17.
God calls wizards because they are willing to serve. That is often their only recommendation for the calling. That means that we can communicate with them if they do things that bother us, offend us, or leave us feeling abandoned by them. We don’t simply have to accept everything they do and say without comment or complaint simply because they are a wizard. Some of us get offended and instead of speaking up and seeking reconciliation directly with our wizard, we simply complain and gossip about our wizard behind his/her back and let our frustrations grow into enmity and offense. Sometimes we use our grievances with the wizard to avoid coming to church, or serving in callings. We let our issues with them get in the way of our relationship with God.
What if communicating with your wizard doesn’t go well? Well, in Matthew we learn that we can get some help. In the case of bishops; if you can’t seem to reconcile with them, go to your stake president. The stake president loves the bishop and he loves you. It is his responsibility to help teach the bishop, if teaching needs to get done. Then, you can “gain thy brother”, through grace, and also help your brother-bishop learn and become better. That is a role that we as ward members can play. We don’t have to, and shouldn’t, sit back and simply do nothing, gossip and complain, or wait for God to magically fix the bishop. It may be that He would like to help the bishop get better, but it takes us speaking up to help the poor man along. He’s supposed to learn from his calling, just like the rest of us. The same can be said of other leaders in the ward, male or female. It is as much our responsibility to resolve our grievances with them as it is their responsibility to own and repent of their mistakes.
There are times when the Lord qualifies his servants and upholds their acts despite their weaknesses and issues. While we truly do need to communicate with our wizards, we should still be respectful and charitable. I’m encouraging making appointments and privately resolving issues with your bishop, or other visible leader. If that doesn’t work, then I’m encouraging making appointments with your stake president and privately seeking his guidance, help, and council on the matter. If it’s your Relief Society President or Elder’s Quorum President that offends you. Talk to him or her. If that doesn’t work, talk to your bishop. If that doesn’t work, talk to your Stake President. Use the tools God has provided to help your leaders learn and grow, not fight against them. Treat your wizard with the same charity you would want to be given to you if you were in his/her place and your own mistakes were under scrutiny (Matthew 25:40).
I sat in a ward conference once, where one of the members of the stake presidency spoke. Normally, this counselor in the stake presidency was one of my favorite speakers. But he had a rough day. His talk focused on some things that I knew that he didn’t intend to be the message of his talk, but which totally overwhelmed his doctrinally correct message. I struggled, miserably, through listening to the talk. Parts of it made me angry and annoyed. How had my favorite stake presidency member let me down? He did. Did he really believe the things he had taught? If he did, they were not within his stewardship or right to preach. But as I pondered on it later that day, I knew, having had several talk and lesson debacles of my own over the years, that the Holy Spirit was already working with this man, and likely he already felt that despite his best intentions, he’d gotten off track and caused problems rather than bring people to Christ. Instead of just complaining, because I’ll be honest, I did complain a lot to my spouse, I also prayed for this wizard that same night. I knew what it felt like to feel like I had let the Lord down. I don’t wish that feeling on anyone. It’s terrible. I forgave this faithful man and prayed that God would comfort him. I knew that he would learn from the talk and go on to still be my favorite speaker.
Finally, I had a bishop once who, from the moment he met me, I felt that he simply misunderstood everything I said. I felt initially annoyed, and yet I could clearly see that he was a good man and wasn’t trying to misunderstand me. Many people in the ward loved him. So, I didn’t let it worry me and I did my best to serve wherever he called me. In time, I got to know the bishop better and he got to know me better. Suddenly, it seemed like we were on the same page. It just happened! It was such a joyful thing! How tragic it would have been if I had let my feelings lead to a rift between us (mostly on my part, of course). How tragic it would have been if I had gossiped and complained about him to other ward members, increasing the contention in our ward. I would have never known the joy of seeing how patience and faith can make it possible for the Spirit to translate and bring unity between people.
If we are having struggles with our wizards, like Frodo, we need to ask questions. We need to communicate. We need to get the whole story. We need to pray for and sustain our wizards. It does us no good to complain and grumble and take offense if we aren’t willing to do our part to get to know our wizards and try to help them get to know us so we can learn from each other. Sometimes, wizards need to be ministered to by us and by those to whom they report. We can help them so that they can better help us.
The Point of Wizardry
Back in 2010, I was called to teach early morning Seminary in my home ward, in Missouri. I really love to teach. It is not a burden or a stressor in any way. It’s invigorating and energizing! So, initially, I figured God called me to teach seminary because of my love of teaching and because I do a pretty good job—through His grace, of course. However, not long after I began teaching, I came to see that God had many things He wanted to teach me through the avenue of this calling. The most important thing He taught me while I served as a Seminary teacher was about motherhood.
Yes, motherhood! You see, at the time I was recently divorced, had no kids, had no plans to get remarried, and there was a deep pain inside of me that I would never be “a mother”. As I faithfully served in my calling, God taught me what motherhood really is, and it was far less about being a biological mother than I had ever believed or realized. I learned a lot of things while serving. But nothing that I learned transcended this revelation on motherhood. It has changed my life, drastically, in marked ways and it still affects me every single day. Even though I am now a mother of one child and the step-mother of seven, I don’t feel that I am any more a mother than I already was after learning that doctrine. In fact, after serving for 4.5 years in that seminary calling, the most important thing I remember is what I learned about motherhood.
The point of callings (or wizardry) in the church is to help us keep the commandments and to help us learn and grow and draw closer to God. Callings are about strengthening our relationship with God. Callings help us learn things that we cannot learn in any other way. I don’t know how I would have learned what God taught me about motherhood, in that seminary calling, if I hadn’t been called to it at that important time.
Consider that in the gospel of Jesus Christ we are commanded to minister to and serve our fellow men. Then, an avenue to support our capacity to keep that commandment has been built into the organization of the church. We are given ministering assignments and opportunities to serve in various callings. Thus, the callings are an opportunity to be instructed and tutored by God. They are the church supporting our individual and home-centered gospel efforts. Yet, culturally, the dragon often wants us to think that callings are an opportunity to show other people “how it’s done”. To show them that “we know the best way”. We are going to hold the best activities, give the best lessons, and bring so many souls to God. Or, at least, that’s what the dragon wants us to believe. Again, the dragon encourages golden coins, pride, and self-focus.
Then, there’s the other side. The dragon also wants us to think that callings are a “performance” and thus many who feel unequal to the calling invitation, who don’t feel they know “the best way”, or “how it’s done”, accept the calling with shaky knees and fearful hearts because they are self-conscious about their performance. The dragon wants them to focus on their performance in comparison to others. He encourages a focus on personal deficiencies and weaknesses that distracts worried and self-conscious individuals from the point of the calling—it drawing them closer to God.
Over the years, I have accepted many callings. I have fulfilled many callings. Yet, when all is passed, what mattered most in that calling was what I learned about God and how I drew closer to Him, and what I learned from those whom I served with. A calling often, by necessity, groups us up with other individuals. I have learned that God has deliberately brought me into contact with these people. There is something He wants me to learn from them—either from their failings or their spiritual victories and testimonies. Which means that He also knows that they will learn from my failings and my testimony.
Not too long ago, I served in a YW’s Presidency. The women I served with were all incredible people. Yet, they didn’t necessarily do things the way I thought things should be done. I hope I hid my frustration well, but I often felt it. I thought I was there to help them get things right. However, when I would talk to God about it, He would teach me things I needed to know. In this YW’s calling, He taught me about the importance of unity. It was crystal clear, and it was this: unity is more important than having the best way. That truth changed the way I approached my service and brought me and these incredible women together in a miraculous way. God was right. It wasn’t about exactly how we did things. It was about unifying, as God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are unified. In that YW’s Presidency, we accomplished more and better when we unified than when we were all trying to convince each other why our way was better. After that I felt so uplifted by our association and service together. I have to be honest; I have never had that experience before. Once again, the calling was to teach me something, not for me to tell everybody the best way to do things. The calling was not because I was extra special, or that the other women were extra special. We simply all had something to learn and God knew we could learn it best together—if we were willing.
Here is something else that this YW’s calling taught me. That is: it’s okay to be asked to be released from a calling—which the cultural dragon roars at, of course. Once before, in my years of service, I was serving as first counselor in the YW’s Presidency in a ward in Kansas City. I can’t lie. It was a tough calling. Our demographic spread was wide and we struggled to be there for our girls. Some had culturally and financially easy lives. Others had culturally and financially horrific lives. Some were embarrassed to look at a boy. Some were under the very real temptation to form deep, intimate relationships with boys and were under the constant threat of getting pregnant before the age of 16. I felt crushed under the emotional, spiritual, and psychological weight of the calling. It was hard to develop lessons and activities that could reach the range of needs we had. I loved all my girls fiercely, but I was crumbling. I felt strongly that I needed to be released. But then, before I could ask to be released, the bishop released all of us and called a new presidency.
In some ways I was relieved. I had felt that it was sort of a failure to “ask to be released”. Then, not too long ago, again while serving in a YW’s presidency, the same presidency in which I learned about unity, I experienced the same strong feeling that I needed to be released. However, this time, the bishop didn’t magically change the presidency out. I kept waiting for it to happen. It didn’t. Months passed, and because I was having trouble justifying why I felt the need to be released, I didn’t ask for it. Then, one Sunday, in a Youth Leader Council meeting, I experienced a total disconnect from the calling and the meeting. I kept feeling, so strongly, that I just didn’t care and couldn’t do it anymore. I struggled to hear people at the meeting, even though we were sitting in close proximity, and I simply said no or didn’t respond to any requests for me to take on an assignment or to volunteer for something. This was so unlike me, that I couldn’t help but notice the drastic change.
I went home after that meeting and told my husband, “I think I need to ask to be released.” I explained to him my experience in the council meeting. He said, “Sounds like you’re right.” I texted the bishop immediately after counseling with my husband, and the bishop said, “Of course. I’ll get on that right away.” I felt immediately at peace. My mind reconnected. I received personal confirmation of what I had known for months. Then, later, when the YW’s President, who had become my very good friend, found out the bishop was releasing me on my request, she said, “I had been feeling that maybe it was time to release you months ago, but I pushed it away.” This was because our presidency was so unified and we loved each other so dearly. But her words further validated my feeling. It was a second witness. God wanted me out, and He wanted me to be the one to tell the bishop.
Why would God want me to be the one to ask to be released? Why didn’t he just give the bishop a vision or a prompting to release me? Brigham Young taught, “It is only where experience fails, that revelation is needed” (https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Journal_of_Discourses/2/6). Yet, sometimes, we expect the bishop to be all-knowing and telepathic. But bishops don’t get magical revelation especially if it’s something we can tell them, and should tell them, ourselves. God expects us to act. There’s no reason for Him to send an angel or a vision if our mouths and voices work just fine. We need to communicate with our wizards, remember? We need to be honest with them and ask for a release before we begin to resent our calling, and our wizard.
Remember, the gospel is “home-centered, church supported”. It always has been. However, culture developed over the years has often led us to expect the organization’s programs to do all the teaching, scripture study, and saving, when they were never meant to do so. We have slowly, over the years, let the church’s supportive programs instruct us and our children and carry the heavier weight in developing our testimonies. Thankfully, prophetic guidance is encouraging us to get back on track. Thus, if we feel we can’t do a calling anymore, it’s okay to let the bishop know that we can’t do it anymore. There is no need to feel guilty or like a failure. It is actually, the opposite. If the calling is no longer supporting our efforts to follow Christ, and is instead an immense burden and is compromising our sanity, we aren’t supposed to just keep doing it at our own expense or the expense of our family. Staying in the calling doesn’t make us more spiritual or valiant especially if we are under spiritual and emotional, or even physical, strain.
In the same vein, if we are extended a calling and our gut says, “This is going to stress me out and make me miserable,” or “This is going to strain the relationship between me and my spouse…”, or “I really don’t like teaching adults and feel happiest as a simple primary teacher,” then we need to tell the bishop how we feel. He may ask us to pray about it, but that doesn’t mean that he is sending us away until we feel guilty enough to change our mind. We should pray about it. And if our thoughts and inspiration are telling us that it’s not something we can do, we should be honest and not feel bad that we cannot accept the calling extended. It may be an opportunity to counsel with the bishop about the types of callings we do feel comfortable serving in, at least for the present. Sometimes, our mind will change if we pray about the call extended. But God will talk to us personally about when we seek His will for us. We don’t have to just accept the bishop’s witness without pondering it.
Once, years before I met him, when my husband was serving as a Sunday School teacher, a call was extended to him to serve in the Elder’s Quorum as a counselor with a very good friend of his. He thought about it and the invitation to this particular calling just didn’t sit well with him. It wasn’t because he couldn’t do the calling or wasn’t willing and he didn’t feel bad, necessarily; he just simply felt like he shouldn’t accept it. So, he told the bishop no. Then, a month later, he was called into the bishopric. This calling sat right with him. Thus, sometimes, simply because we can do a calling, or like the people we will be serving with, doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t still seek our own witness that the calling is the Lord’s will for us.
Later, when my husband was serving as a bishop, he felt the need to extend a calling to a woman as a Primary President. The feeling to extend the call was strong. So, he extended the calling. The woman rejected. My husband still felt strongly about calling her, so he counseled with his stake president, who also felt like the call was right. So, my husband asked her again. Again, she rejected the calling. My husband accepted that and it was fine. Then he was prompted to call someone else. My husband wondered, after that, why he had felt so strongly about extending the call to this woman if she was only to reject it. Then, he had the impression that the she had needed to at least be extended the opportunity. That was what was critically important. My husband’s role was not to convince her to accept, but to ensure she had the opportunity to serve.
This is the end of Part IV: Of the Calling of Wizard. This is a five-part series, and we’ve only got one part left to go! Join me next time for Part V: Golden Program Sickness where we’ll learn how the dragon of church culture wants us to focus on achievement and meeting outward, cultural norms rather than remaining focused on home-centered, church-supported gospel learning and instruction. We’ll revisit how programs cater to and create modern pharisees out of the unsuspecting and well-meaning Christian. Hope to see you on the trail!