STERLING PARK WARD
WARRENTON, VA STAKE
Good morning, brothers and sisters.
I spent the first two months of my mission in the Language Training Mission (LTM), which was the predecessor to the Missionary Training Center (MTC). We each had a companion, and 6 to 8 companionships were formed into districts. Each district studied Spanish together in the same classroom. Each district also memorized the discussions in the same classroom. At that time there were six discussions in the form of dialogues. The objective was for every missionary to memorize and pass off all six discussions. If everyone in the district passed off the discussions, the district got to put up a poster in the foyer with all the names of the missionaries and instructors.
When we began memorizing the discussions, one of our instructors led a debate within our district about how we should memorize the discussions. Should we let each missionary go at his own pace, or should each district wait for everyone in the district had passed off the first discussion before proceeding to memorize the second discussion?
In this debate I argued that everyone should go at their own pace. After a few moments it became clear that this really wasn't a debate. The instructor had already decided that we were going to go together as a district. The instructor belittled me for for my wrong attitude.
It turned out that in about 4 days, I was the only person in my district who had not passed off the first discussion. They had to wait two days for me. The missionaries and instructors were worried they would not get a poster in the foyer. I became very unpopular at this point.
Some members of my district secretly started memorizing the second discussion. When I finally passed off the first discussion and began memorizing the second discussion, I was already behind. Once again, everyone in my district passed the second discussion, and I had not. I was sent to a counselor to the mission president to confess my sins, so I could get the spirit. I had no sins to confess. I also strictly abided by the mission rules. In fact, many of the Elders who were able to memorize did not abide by the mission rules. Some were secretly meeting their girl friends, some couldn't stand their companions, and some spoke English instead of Spanish.
While I was thus being interviewed, the instructor called my district to a meeting. They voted to continue memorizing and passing off the discussions without me. I was really depressed. I was trying as hard as I could to be a good missionary and I was failing. Not only that, those Elders who should have been my friends, abandoned me. Those instructors who should have been my protectors abandoned me. My spiritual leaders implicitly accused me of sin.
I got my coat on and walked out. I could not stay in such a place. I walked the streets of for about an hour and decided I was going to quit being a missionary. But where was I to go? I couldn't go home. My parents would just bring me back to the LTM. I had some friends in California. But how would I get there? I had no money on me. I could have hitch-hiked. But I thought anybody picking up a person dressed like a missionary would just bring me back. I had no place to go.
I walked up on to the mountain. I sat there. I only had one place to go and those people despised me. I was in despair. I even thought about ending it all. I decided to pray. I prayed for a long time. Finally, the Holy Ghost came to me. He delivered a message. The message was that they only thing I had to worry about was my relationship with my Father in Heaven. I was not to rely on my companions or instructors for my self esteem. It did not matter what they thought. What mattered was what Heavenly Father thought. I received a witness that Heavenly Father knew and understood my situation, and that He had not abandoned me. He loved me and He supported me. My call as a missionary came from Him and I was on His errand. He would take care of me.
Can you image the inner strength that brought me? I walked right back to the LTM, took off my coat and began studying again. I began to rely on the Arm of the Lord, not the arm of my companions and instructors. While I was gone, they decided to make three districts out of two. They put all the slow pokes from the two districts into the third district. That way the other two districts could get their posters. I went into the slow poke district. And it didn't matter.
So how did it end? My original district finished memorizing the discussions 7 days early. My slow poke district finished memorizing the discussions 2 days later--five days before we were scheduled to leave the LTM. But that is not the important point. The important point is that when we are on the Lord's errand, we must put our trust in Him, and He will take care of us.
A few years ago when Bro. Roueche was the Bishop in this ward, he called me to be the Scoutmaster. It is the custom in our marraige to be sure both of us have a witness of the Spirit that accepting a particular call to serve is the right thing to do. We prayed over this Scoutmaster calling. We did not feel right about accepting the call. This went on for two weeks, the longest we have ever delayed in answering a call to serve. I finally went in to see Bishop Roueche to ask him what the Bishopric was feeling about this call. He said they had prayed and knew they were supposed to issue the call to me.
This didn't make sense to me. How is it that the Lord would tell the Bishopric one thing and us something else? Janet and I went back to the Lord and asked why he would tell the Bishopric to issue the call and then tell us to not accept it. We got a clear answer this time. The Lord had a plan for me. I was to get prepared to become Scoutmaster. I would be called again in the future. I reported this to Bishop Roueche. A couple of weeks later, Bro. Berg was called to be the Scoutmaster.
My preparation then began. Janet gave me a Scout shirt for my birthday and mess kit for Christmas. I bought and read through the Scout handbook. Sister France, who was then the Scout Committee Chairman, and I attended Scout leader training. I went to summer camp as an assistant to Bro. Berg. I learned what I could and took a year to acquire most of the gear I would need.
About a year after I had turned down the calling, Bro. Berg was called into the Bishopric and I was again called to be Scoutmaster. This time there was no question. Janet and I had known for a year that I was going to get the call again.
The Lord is running His Kingdom. He has plans for us, and for the people we serve. It may not make sense to us why the Lord is calling us to do particular things. One thing is for sure. He knows what He is doing and we need to have the Spirit tell us what to do, even if we don't know why. What does the Proverb say?
Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
IV. MARY AND PRIMARY
I have a sister living in South Dakota. She and her family live in a small branch, where everyone has two or three callings. She was serving as a counselor in the Primary Presidency. The counselor to the branch president stopped my sister in the hall one day and said something to the effect that, "we are releasing the primary president. She thinks you would be a good replacement. So who do you want for your counselors?"
To me, that sounds like a call from the primary president, not the Lord. My sister emailed me, asking for advice about what to do. I told her that first of all, according to the handbook the branch president must issue the call to the primary president, not the counselor. Secondly, the branch president must feel that the Lord is calling you, and he is just the mouthpiece. Third, you must feel the Lord is calling you. The call must be given by the Spirit and must be accepted by the Spirit.
Why? Being primary president is too hard for a human to do. A primary president is presented with problems that seem impossible to solve. The only way to resolve these impossibilities is to cast the burden on the Lord. He knows what to do. His Spirit will tell the primary president what do to. The Lord will sustain and support her.
In D&C section 107 verse 9 it says:
D&C 107:99 - Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.
So what about the person who is not acting in the office the Lord has appointed? What happens if my sister acts in the position of primary president, when the Lord has not put her there? What happens if she colludes with the previous primary president and branch counselor to assume the calling? What happens when she has problems she can't solve? The Lord would be well within His rights to say, "you assumed this calling on your own, you can solve your problems on your own."
It is vitally important to know that we are called of God, because we are then entitled to His help. Conversely, if we have not received a commission from the Lord, it is hard for us to ask for His help.
In our ward, the ward leaders submit names to us of people they believe the Lord would like to work in their organizations. As a bishopric we discuss these names in the context of everything we know about the person and the needs of the ward. It is clear to us that we do not know everything. We do not know, for example, who might be moving into our ward next month. As a result, we must rely on the Spirit to tell us what to do. At the end of our Bishopric meeting we kneel around the Bishop's desk and pray. In the prayer we recommend each person to the Lord, one-by-one, for the particular calling. We do this slowly so we can listen to the Spirit tell us what to do. At the end of the prayer we each discuss what we think the Spirit is telling us. We have pledged that we will not issue a calling unless the Lord tells us to.
When we visit with you and issue callings, we believe we are just the messengers. We are the servants of the Lord, doing His business. Whether a person accepts the call we extend is between the person and the Lord. We will accept the person's answer regardless of what it is.
When we accept a call from the Lord we are on His errand. We are entitled to His help to carry out this errand. When we know through the Spirit that we have been call by God, our confidence will wax strong (cf. D&C 121:45) that we can, with the Lord's help, fullfill the calling. Over the last six months, while in the Bishopric, I have visited many of you and have issued quite a number of callings. I have felt the Spirit, sometimes quite strongly, as I have issued these calls. It is my testimony that Lord is running this ward and that your calls are from him.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.