“What exactly does it mean when we are set apart for a Church calling?” Ensign, Feb. 1992, 51
Ronald D. Maines, Sunday School teacher, Franklin Ward, Oakton Virginia Stake. Among the great blessings the Lord has extended to his people is the “privilege of organizing themselves according to [his] laws.” (D&C 51:15.) One of the heavenly patterns the Lord has revealed for this purpose is the calling and setting apart of worthy members to labor in the Church.
Those who hold divinely delegated authority issue a call to us on behalf of the Lord. This action is sustained by the common consent of the local Church membership. Then, through a priesthood blessing, we are set apart from the world to focus our time and talents on a specific labor for the Lord.
In previous dispensations, when God’s followers were called to serve the Lord, they were also set apart to fulfill their service. Through Moses, for example, the Lord set Joshua apart to lead the children of Israel into Canaan. Note how well the pattern established anciently matches the practice in the Church today:
“The Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua … and lay thine hand upon him;
“And set him … before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.” (Num. 27:18–19.)
In the early Christian church, Barnabas and Saul were set apart for missionary work. (See Acts 13:2–3.) Earlier, the Apostles had set apart Stephen and six others to oversee assistance to the widows and other needy members. (See Acts 6:1–6.)
In our dispensation, we again enjoy the blessings accompanying this ordinance. As a priesthood ordinance, the action of setting an individual apart involves divine power, promise, and holiness. It is a special event which may be accompanied by an outpouring of the Spirit. As with other gospel ordinances, the inspiration attending this ordinance may deepen our understanding, elevate our spirits, remind us of our possibilities, and motivate us to a higher, richer quality of life.
We receive an investiture of authority from the Lord when we are set apart. We can thereafter act as the Lord’s authorized agents and carry out his errands with his approval: “Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business.” (D&C 64:29.) The Lord has admonished, however, that our authority to act on his behalf and to receive revelation pertaining to our callings is strictly circumscribed by the specific office of our calling. (See D&C 43:2–7.) Thus, one must never assume more authority than lies within the bounds of his or her own calling.
When we are set apart, we also receive the right to obtain knowledge and revelation to accomplish our assigned tasks. We prepare our minds to receive that counsel by following the commandments, praying, studying, and pondering the duties of our callings. As we do so, it is our privilege to enjoy knowledge that, as Joseph Smith described it, “shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” (D&C 121:42.) We may experience a flow of ideas that can guide us, help us develop plans and solve problems, and give us a clear, proper vision of our tasks.
We also have the right to receive special strength of body and spirit. As we seek this strength, we must also gird ourselves for the work. Having been set apart for the work of the Lord, we must, in a manner of speaking, set ourselves apart from the world to the work of the Lord’s kingdom. By being set apart, we promise to consecrate a portion of our time and talents to magnify our callings.
It should be noted that only those who preside over priesthood quorums receive keys when set apart. Therefore, the word keys is to be used only when setting apart these officers and not when setting apart counselors, high councilors, leaders in auxiliary organizations, or teachers in any organization. (See Bulletin 1990–1, p. 1.)
The fruits of devotion to the Lord and sacrifice for his kingdom are delicious. By consecrating our abilities and time to the Lord, we not only improve the quality of the lives of those whom we serve, but we too are changed. A calling to serve in the Church, with the privileges and responsibilities conferred on us when we are set apart, is an opportunity for God to create in us a more Christlike mind, a purer heart, and a nobler spirit. All that he requires is our willingness to serve faithfully.