“What can I do about my upset feelings over a Church calling?” Ensign, Apr. 1979, 27
Someone was just called to a position I feel I could have filled. I feel even worse because I am upset. What can I do about my feelings?
Sherry Downing, mother of seven, Relief Society Cultural Refinement teacher, Pitman Ward, Wilmington Delaware Stake I’m glad this question was directed to me, because it’s a problem I have struggled with several times in years past. I thought for years that being called as president of the Relief Society was the ultimate achievement for an LDS woman. Failing that, being called as president of the Primary or of the Young Women was almost as satisfying.
Instead, I found myself serving as everything else. Several times I was a counselor in Relief Society, but never president.
I found reasons: “I wasn’t called because I have too many young children.” Then the next president would have four preschoolers. “I wasn’t called because I’m too young.” The next president would be younger. “I wasn’t called because I’ve only been in the ward five years.” The next president would be a new arrival.
Finally, there was to be another change, and everything pointed toward my being released as Junior Sunday School coordinator and called to lead Relief Society. I was sure my time had come. The bishop made an appointment with me “to talk about how things are going in Junior Sunday School,” but I knew he just wanted me to be surprised when he called me to be Relief Society president. I was ready with a list of things I thought would be great innovations; I had even decided who I would request for counselors.
Then came the meeting with the bishop. And do you know what we talked about? The Junior Sunday School!
I was crushed. I complained to my husband that the bishop must not think I was capable. When he gently replied that callings are from the Lord, I started to cry: “It doesn’t make me feel any better that the Lord doesn’t think I’m capable, either.”
Yes, I really suffered at the time, but something happened to me, and I have never felt those feelings again. Like you, I was shocked and ashamed of my negative feelings; I really hungered to change my attitude. And I finally did what I should have done before: I went before the Lord, confessed my feelings—all of my feelings—and searched more deeply than before for the Lord’s reasons. When I was ready to learn, he was ready to teach me. Over the next few weeks, a process began that is still continuing. Gradually my understanding was opened, and the true nature of callings in the Lord’s kingdom was impressed on my heart. I’ve come to know the following things:
A calling is an opportunity to serve, not a reward. We sometimes carry over from the business world the idea that unless we are able to “work our way up” and become president of an organization our abilities have not been properly recognized. We have to be aware that the Lord is not dispensing favors by calling us, but is asking for wholehearted service. A calling may prove to be a blessing to us, it is true, but that is dependent upon our efforts after the call.
The true hierarchy of the Church is a hierarchy of righteousness. The Lord judges our hearts and actions, not the “level” of our callings. We have celestial visiting teachers in many wards, and celestial choristers and teachers. It’s character that pleases the Lord, not calling.
We cannot second guess our Heavenly Father. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isa. 55:8.) Sometimes the vantage point of a few years lets us see the purposes of the Lord unfolding in our lives. It may be as hard for us to see this as it sometimes is for our own children to understand the direction we give to their lives. We marvel that the Creator has worked things out with such delicate balance in nature. Why not trust him, then, and strive for understanding? Why not truly say, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38.)
We can fulfill our own callings better. President Duane Lloyd, a counselor in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake Presidency, comments, “No one is doing his own calling as well as he could be doing.” He recommends redoubling our efforts in our present callings as an antidote to desiring the callings of others. I call it “making the grass greener on your side of the fence.” It works quite well.
We need to be humble. Jesus told several parables and gave much counsel on the importance of being humble. He knew that we (and those around us) will be happier when we are not lifted up in our pride, happier when we are not coveting another’s opportunities. One of Lehi’s sons, Jacob, made a fitting summation of all these thoughts when he said, “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.
My earnest hope in sharing these experiences and thoughts with you is that your heart may be softened to the ways of the Lord, and that you can know that your Father loves you.