A Holy Calling
Every member must come to know the sacred nature of his or her own service in the Church.
A few years ago, I was privileged to be assigned to the Asia Area Presidency, with the area office being in Hong Kong. Our four youngest children accompanied Sister Brough and me to that fascinating city, where we lived for three very interesting years. Our children were accustomed to the wide-open spaces of western America, and Hong Kong required each child to make some very large personal and emotional adjustments. Many nights we sat around our dining room table in our modest 13th-floor apartment, trying to help them with school and cultural challenges.
One night, after anxiously working for several hours to complete school assignments, our youngest child, Kami (then eight years old), asked, “Daddy, how come we ‘got choosed’ to come to Hong Kong?” My first reaction was to be somewhat flippant and say, “Just lucky, I guess.” However, I could tell from the very sincere look on this little girl’s face that she wanted a grown-up answer to her question. At that moment, as I surveyed the challenges placed on our little family because of my priesthood calling, I needed to review the answer again for myself.
I recalled the day some years earlier when I picked up the telephone to hear the familiar voice of President Spencer W. Kimball, who carefully extended a call to me to serve as a mission president.
After the telephone call, I was troubled with great feelings of inadequacy. My wife and I were yet in our 30s, with a young family of six children. I remembered the deep love and respect that I felt and still feel for my mission president. Could President Kimball have made a mistake? Did they really understand who I was?
A few days later, we were granted an appointment with Elder Rex D. Pinegar. We explained to him our feelings. I will always remember Elder Pinegar’s answer: “Brother Brough, have you a testimony as to the divine calling of our prophets and other Church leaders?”
“Yes, I do,” I answered. “From my earliest childhood, I have believed in the sacred callings of our Church leaders. From the deepest part of my soul, I believe President Spencer W. Kimball to be a prophet.”
Elder Pinegar then said, “Now you must gain a testimony as to the divine nature of your own calling. You must come to know that you also have been called of God.”
Paul the Apostle had gained a personal testimony of his own “holy calling” and also that of Timothy. He declared that God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9).
This powerful personal witness would require Timothy to “be [a] partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8).
As Kami and I read this scripture together, I could see that she very much wanted to understand. I wanted her to know that there can be some “afflictions” associated with our callings in the Church. We talked about being away from our home and family members. I understood it was difficult for her to adjust to these new surroundings.
It was obvious, however, that I was still short of my objective when she asked, “But, Daddy, why did we ‘get choosed’ and not someone else?” Now that is a much more difficult question. Why do these callings and responsibilities come to some and not to others? I was reminded of the charge President Hinckley gave me upon my ordination as a Seventy. He said: “Brother Brough, now a lot of people are going to say a lot of nice things about you. Don’t believe them!”
It is very dangerous for any of us to think we have earned the right to a Church calling. However, every member must come to know the sacred nature of his or her own service in the Church. I remember my Primary teacher, Sister Mildred Jacobson, who I believe was divinely called to her position of responsibility. Two bishops, Bishop Lynn McKinnon and Bishop Ross Jackson, who served during my youth, played significant roles in the lives of many. I believe they were called of God in the same process of revelation as were Paul and Timothy.
We must each prepare ourselves for every good work that might come to us and then accept the principle that revelation, not aspiration, is the basis for our respective callings. We can learn much from the following New Testament story:
“Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
“… She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom” (Matt. 20:20–21).
I explained to Kami that Zebedee’s children were the Apostles James and John, who would later sit with Peter, one on his right hand and the other on his left. Then we read together how Jesus answered the devoted mother: “To sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father” (Matt. 20:23).
The Apostles also were taught concerning their important calling when Jesus reminded them, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:16).
I explained to Kami that we definitely had been chosen because we would not seek such a challenging assignment. This was reinforced just a few days later when Sister Brough and I were assigned to travel to India for a missionary conference. The flight from Hong Kong to New Delhi, India, was a late-night flight that arrived in New Delhi at about two o’clock in the morning. Even at that late hour, there were hundreds of taxi drivers who wanted to provide our transportation. After selecting a driver, we began our journey of about 40 kilometers to the hotel. Even though it was late, the roads were crowded with animals, people, and other vehicles. As we were going through an intersection, the taxi’s motor quit. I watched with increasing anxiety as the driver fruitlessly attempted to start the motor. Finally, in obvious frustration, the driver turned to me and in his very best English said, “Push taxi!” It was three o’clock in the morning, and my wife and I were very tired. I got out of the taxi and tried to push it across the intersection but was not able to do so. The driver then said to my wife, “Push taxi.” Lanette got out of the car and began to help me push the taxi through the intersection. As we were struggling to get the taxi through the traffic, I said to my wife, “There were a few things we didn’t understand when we were given this assignment.”
I shall never forget the experience we had in June of 1993 at a special meeting in Beijing, China, with couples who were then teaching English in North Vietnam and Mongolia. After two days of training and inspiration, we closed with this familiar song:
It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me.
(“I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, no. 270)
As we were singing, my wife leaned over and whispered in my ear: “But it might be ‘on the mountain height,’ or it might be ‘over the stormy sea,’ or it might be ‘at the battle’s front.’” The Lord surely had need for these beautiful people serving in this interesting area of the world. These wonderful missionary couples did not choose to come to these countries. Yet as we now look at the results of their service, I know that they were chosen by the Lord for their special calling.
On four different occasions, Sister Brough and I and our family have excitedly opened the envelope containing the mission call and assignment for one of our children. Each time, we have contemplated with excitement the various possibilities for their service. While preferences were expressed, the moment their eyes saw the words “You are hereby assigned to serve in the [blank] mission,” without exception a wonderful feeling of good and right came over each family member. We each knew that a prophet had guided a divine selection process to which four of our children have gladly responded. Tens of thousands of returned missionaries can also testify of this process and the divine inspiration of their own missionary calling.
I never completely satisfied little Kami’s question that night. Over the years, we have recalled that challenging evening when a small child was a bit overwhelmed with life. We have explored other scriptures and many other stories since that time. We have received the wonderful promise to those the Savior had chosen “that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it [to] you” (John 15:16).
That promise—of answer to our prayers—is directed even to a small child. This was reaffirmed recently when I heard Kami (now 15 years old) respond to a question directed to her by an adult friend: “How come you were so lucky to live in Hong Kong when you were a child?” She looked directly at me as she gave her answer to our friend: “It wasn’t luck, we ‘were chosen.’”
That personal and prophetic revelation is the foundation upon which our Church service is firmly based is my witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.