My Church Calling: A Love-Hate Relationship

I have a love-hate relationship with my current church calling: gospel doctrine teacher.

Okay, maybe “hate” and “love” are a little harsh and extreme. Let’s try “like” and “dislike”.

With the recent changes to ward boundaries, I had hoped I’d be reassigned. In fact, I thought everyone would be released and we’d start over with a clean slate of callings. But no such luck.

I have spent time praying and pondering to have a better attitude about this calling. During that time, I distilled my dislikes into three main points:

  1. I am not happy with the way I look and consequently, I hate standing up in front of a group of adults every Sunday. I’m just not comfortable with that much attention on me.

     

    I even purchased a dress and some other wardrobe pieces based solely on my comfort standing in front of a group in them. Plus, if you have a favorite outfit, you cannot wear it more than once a month or people will surely notice.

     

  2. I worry that my lessons will not have enough substance and I will have wasted everyone’s hour.

     

    This is not my first rodeo in this calling. I held it a very long time ago when I was a BYU student. Then, I team taught each week with a gregarious recently returned missionary. To be honest, our lessons were more about entertainment than substance. Age and experience have altered my priorities. Now, I am not teaching for amusement, I am teaching because I truly want people to learn to love the scriptures as much as I do and to see how they apply to our daily lives. Mostly, I want them to feel the Spirit speak to them.

     

    Which leads me to dislike number three…

     

  3. Because I worry so much about the quality of my lessons, there are a lot of angst-filled hours preparing.

     

    I love Sunday afternoon because I do not have to think about my next lesson for 24-hours! Come Monday, the anxiety starts all over again when I read the scripture block and start to craft my lesson. Throughout the week, I plead that Heavenly Father will inspire and help me. By Friday, I have a rough draft to practice on my husband. Saturday, I do a final polish and pull any pictures or make any signs I might need.

     

    Most Sundays, I do not hear the sacrament talks because I am so knotted up worrying about my lesson and running it through my mind. It is relentless. Teaching Seminary 5 days a week was far less stressful and much more rewarding because I felt I was making a difference. And, you get summers off to just study and prepare.

If you have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than a couple of years, there will come a day when you receive a calling that you are not crazy about. Whether it is because you really don’t like what you are asked to do or because you feel utterly inadequate. It will happen. So, how do I magnify a calling I don’t like?

Shortly after I was called to serve in a stake young women presidency, I looked around at the other three sisters and thought, “one of these is not like the other, one of these does not belong.” At that time, I had never served in any presidency in the church and here I was first counselor in the stake. I felt completely inadequate.

Our president, Anne, shared a powerful talk with us by President Henry B. Eyring, “Rise to the Call,” that changed everything for me in that calling and has helped me many times since. It’s time for me to review that talk in the context of my current calling and put President Eyring’s counsel to work on my current anxieties:

“First, you are called of God. The Lord knows you. He knows whom He would have serve in every position in His Church. He chose you. He has prepared a way so that He could issue your call…The person who was inspired to recommend you for this call didn’t do it because they liked you or because they needed someone to do a particular task. They prayed and felt an answer that you were the one to be called… It was prayer and revelation to those authorized of the Lord which brought you here.”

Some believe that not all callings are inspired; that sometimes a bishop is just looking for a body without a calling to fill a need. This may be true.

However, if you believe in the bigger picture of what President Eyring is saying, that the Lord “knows whom He would have serve in every position in His Church,” and that “He has prepared a way so that He could issue your call;” then, like I do, you have to believe that the Lord knew you would be available at the right time to fill that slot, and that He inspired that bishop (or other leader) to issue the call.

Maybe the bishop did not offer a prayer in that moment he chose you, but he certainly has offered many prayers asking for inspiration over the decisions he makes on behalf of the ward. Callings are some of those decisions.

Regardless if you believe every calling was inspired or not, in the end, if we remember what King Benjamin said, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17), then you know your service is in His name. That means I when I accept a calling, I covenant to magnify it to the best of my ability, and He covenants to help me.

If you are uncertain about a calling, pray to receive a confirmation that it is right before you accept. If you continue to feel bad about it, turn it down. I have. I turned down nursery worker—’nuff said. But don’t turn a calling down just because you feel inadequate. That is an opportunity for Heavenly Father to work with you and refine you and bless you.

President Eyring said: “Just as God called you and will guide you, He will magnify you. You will need that magnification.”

He Will Magnify YouWith regard to my first dislike, President Eyring warned,

“Your calling will surely bring opposition. You are in the Master’s service. You are His representative. Eternal lives depend on you. He faced opposition, and He said that facing opposition would be the lot of those He called. The forces arrayed against you will try not only to frustrate your work but to bring you down. The Apostle Paul described it this way: ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world’ (Ephesians 6:12).”

Exactly! For me, it is Satan and his unhappy band of minions whispering in my ear to try and make me feel bad about myself in the hopes I give up, asked to be released, or not show up.

Let’s consider my dislikes (aka worries) about substance and time. President Eyring said:

“There will be times when you will feel overwhelmed. One of the ways you will be attacked is with the feeling that you are inadequate. Well, you are inadequate to answer a call to represent God with only your own powers. But you have access to more than your natural capacities, and you do not work alone.”

“The Lord will magnify what you say and what you do in the eyes of the people you serve. He will send the Holy Ghost to manifest to them that what you spoke was true. What you say and do will carry hope and give direction to people far beyond your natural abilities and your own understanding.”

I know this is true, but sometimes, I just need to be reminded of it. More than once, I have had a young person thank me for something I taught or said and I have thought to myself, “I didn’t say that.” And I didn’t, but the Spirit did. Because the Spirit was team-teaching with me, that youth heard what they needed to hear and the Spirit bore witness to them it was true.

I needed to hear this again. I needed to be reminded that when I do my best, the Lord magnifies my efforts and sends the Holy Ghost to help those I teach hear what they need to hear and feel what they need to feel. I can have the ultimate team-teacher: the Holy Ghost as my partner. That’s pretty powerful.

One of the other things I know for sure about callings, is once we accept one, we are responsible to magnify it to the best of our ability. Heavenly Father, the Savior Jesus Christ, and those whom we serve or have responsibility over are depending on us to do so.

After Jacob and Joseph were ordained priests and teachers by their brother Nephi, Jacob tells: “And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day” (Jacob 1:19).

In this dispensation, President John Taylor warned: “If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those you might have saved, had you done your duty” (Quoted by Elder Hugh B. Brown).

And Elder Hugh B. Brown gave this charge: “…if any of us fail to teach, lead, direct, and help to save those under our direction and within our jurisdiction, then the Lord will hold us responsible if they are lost as the result of our failure” (Elder Hugh B. Brown).

And from President Eyring:

“Your call has eternal consequences for others and for you. In the world to come, thousands may call your name blessed, even more than the people you serve here. They will be the ancestors and the descendants of those who chose eternal life because of something you said or did, or even what you were. If someone rejects the Savior’s invitation because you did not do all you could have done, their sorrow will be yours. You see, there are no small callings to represent the Lord. Your call carries grave responsibility. But you need not fear, because with your call come great promises…”

“With your call comes the promise that answers will come. But that guidance will come only when the Lord is sure you will obey. To know His will you must be committed to do it. The words ‘Thy will be done,’ written in the heart, are the window to revelation.”

If I do the best I can do, listen for the revelation and guidance that is promised to me, I can have the promise made by Joseph Smith fulfilled in my life: “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17).

I might not be the most capable person called to fill a position, but I am the right person; chosen by God through His called and ordained servant. And, He wants me to succeed. If I humbly ask for His help and exercise faith, through his grace I will receive power to overcome all obstacles before me. That is something I know for sure.

Mosiah 2 17

Do you have a love-hate relationship with your calling? What did you do to learn to magnify it anyway?

 


8 Comments

  1. thank you for giving voice to what many of us feel. I know I needed to be reminded that the Lord will make up the difference if we do our part.

    • Tanja
      I misspelled your name in your last blog about your son. I don’t know if I would ever noticed what you wear. I notice something far more important!! You a beautiful, loving, and caring soul. I might add…. with a great sense of humor.

  2. Nice job, Tanja! I’m sad you feel insecure about your appearance and your ability to teach because you are gorgeous and the BEST teacher I’ve ever known. I want to be in your class!

    I really appreciated your quotes and comments. I have certainly had callings I struggled with for the entire time I served in those capacities (RS Pres, Primary Pres, and YW Pres to name three).

    Your words did serve to reiterate how extremely thrilled I am in my current calling. I’ve been the 5-6 year-old primary teacher in our ward for the past three years. Talk about fun! These sweet (and sometimes rowdy) children crack me up and humble me with their insights every week. The only downside is the fear I have of receiving that phone call from the executive secretary asking me to meet with the Bishop. Doing something else causes me more anxiety than I’d like to admit.

  3. This was a great reminder!! Thanks for the inspiring words. It’s probably applicable for any calling.
    BTW You are a great teacher!! I’ve enjoyed every lesson!

  4. Tanja-I feel your pain. I teach only occasionally in Relief Society and I go through the same process you describe. I remember your Relief Society lessons from years ago, and I remember envying how confident you appeared. In our ward we have two gospel doctrine teachers and they take turns. Maybe your ward would be willing to try this. Dianne Alexandre

  5. How timely for me. I teach my first RS lesson tomorrow and, of course, I’m nervous. You can count the number of times I say, “I forgot where I was going with that…” Sigh. I live in terror of forgetting where I am. Your words have helped me focus though on the important things and not on what Satan would like to distract me with. Thanks so much, as usual!! Those Taylor and Brown quotes are stingers!! I love your blog posts because they never fail to direct me toward the best scriptures and quotes which so perfectly support your points. Again, your strength and courage inspire me!! You’re probably my favorite gospel doctrine teacher ever!! I learn not only the subject but also how to teach!!

  6. I would like to hear or read how your adopted son turn out. Bless your heart!!!

    • Thank you for coming by and reading about our journey. Check back here from time-to-time and you will be able to read more about how things are progressing.

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