...I also wanted to comment on the article "Mountain Saints and Minority Mormons" [Vigor #1]. I think this type of thing is long long overdue. I was born in Mesa, Arizona, and lived there until I was almost fourteen. Then I moved to Montana. My ward in Mesa could be walked around in an hour, and we had nine member families on our street. When I first got to Montana, it took us an hour to drive to church each Sunday, and it was miles to the nearest member family.
The point that it is more difficult to resist peer pressure to violate Church standards from Church members is consistent with my experience. One thing that I've also found is that members in Mountain wards frequently lack that fire in their convictions that comes from having them challenged. I can think of many members I knew in Mesa who grew up in Mormon families, went to Primary every week, went to Mutual and seminary when the time came, went on their missions, came back and married in the temple, and went on to regular temple attendance and were active in their callings, but in all of that they never really got the deep-level turn-your-life-around excitement that I found in minority wards.
To use a metaphor, they seem like trees in a thick forest that are so protected by each other that they never learn how to be strong on their own. With the trees, they live together, grow together, are infected by diseases together, and eventually burn together. But with the people, we all will be judged alone. I think my metaphor is failing, so I will bail from it at this point. BN
Editorial reply: Your observations are all well taken, but as others have reminded us since that article appeared, there are plenty of individuals and even a few wards that are exceptions to the generalities.
Smugness can be found far from Utah; burning testimonies can be found in Mountain wards. The trouble with generalities is that we can almost always find exceptions; but exceptions don't mean that the generality doesn't contain an important warning!
To follow through on your metaphor, the trees in the crowded forest may not all be weak -- we just don't know until the storm comes which ones have the strength to stand.
Making It Work in the 90s
Editor's Note: Church members taking part on the Nauvoo bulletin board on America Online had a great deal to say about food storage recently. CK has prepared this summary of some of the best ideas.
There seems to be a growing enthusiasm for the idea of food storage, not only among members but also among nonmembers of the Church. While Mormons have long-standing teachings of the prophets to urge us on in this area, some have been especially prompted lately by dreams, impressions, and sometimes "just a feeling" that we should be paying more attention to this area.
Why do you think we have been commanded to have a year's supply?
1. There will be a global natural or man-made disaster that will force us back to a primitive economy. (This idea seems less popular now than in the past, possibly because of the thawing of the cold war, or perhaps just because of wishful thinking!)
2. There will be a global natural or economic disaster of short duration, and the supplies we've stored will maintain ourselves and our nonmember neighbors until the crisis is over or we have started producing our own goods again.
3. The signs of the times will continue to be manifest, increasing the number of regional disasters that will occur. While not affecting the entire world at once, events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and floods do cause problems in smaller areas.
4. Continued problems with the economy will cause "disasters" for us on an individual basis. Our stored supplies will help us during our individual trials. One member who has been unemployed for more than a year said he certainly has a testimony of individual storage now.
5. While storage helps in some individual cases, the main reason for the commandment is to test our obedience.
There seems to be less of a "survivalist" mentality about storage than there has been in the past. Most would include weapons and ammunition in their storage only as a means of hunting for new food -- not to keep their neighbors away from their storage. Most comments seem to advocate following the higher law of consecration and sharing with our neighbors who haven't prepared themselves.
Couldn't this be another reason for storage? To see if we will have the faith to share with our neighbors, knowing that God will replace that which was given, much like the parable of the fishes and the loaves?
But I don't have the time/money/talent to get started.
Those who haven't yet started on their storage feel like they are sitting at a table with a knife and fork, and have just had a 2000-pound steak placed in front of them. They want to eat, but aren't sure how to start.
Here are some suggestions for getting started:
1. Just put a few extra items in your grocery cart each week, and start putting them in your storage. After a year or so, you may not have a well-balanced supply, but at least you'll have something. Periodically take an evening (a good FHE activity) to inventory your growing supply and decide the areas that need improvement.
2. Shop at "warehouse" stores that tend to sell in bulk, and have lower prices than grocery stores. Many members have also formed co-ops with others that enable them to buy in bulk as a group.
3. Eliminate "junk" foods and other prepared foods from your shopping list that tend to be expensive. Use the money you save to add to your storage.
4. Use those unexpected sources of money (tax returns, bonuses, etc.) to enhance or start your supply.
The most common excuse given for not having a storage supply is the lack of money. When he was given this excuse by one member, a bishop asked her to buy a notebook and keep track of every cent she spent for two weeks. One of the things she found was that she was stopping by a convenience store for a large soft drink while driving both to and from work. She was spending $48 a month for this. That same money is now being used to build her storage.
Many people reported that once you start building your supply, the money you save tends to offset the extra cost, so you are actually building a supply for free. One financial adviser who is not a Church member actually suggested food storage as an investment that anyone could do with minimal risk and maximum gains. The difference between an item purchased in bulk on sale versus the "regular" price is often ten to fifty percent, a better return than most investments will ever provide.
What items should I store?
1. "Store what you eat, and eat what you store." Most people found through sad experience that you need to store the foods you usually eat and then rotate those through your regular menus. Storing special "emergency-only" type foods is usually just a waste of money, as they often rot in the basement until they are discarded. These types of foods also cause problems because your body may have a hard time adjusting to different foods in a time of crisis.
2. Don't store just the basics, but have some fun stuff too. If the world comes crashing down around you, you'll have enough problems without eating just wheat and powdered milk for a year. Include some treats like chocolate chips and raisins.
3. If we have to live on our own for an extended period of time, we will need many things to sustain us, not just food. Some of these items we might consider storing would be:
. Equipment for canning and drying foods
4. One special concern was for those who rely on either prescription or over-the-counter drugs. These tend to have limited lifetimes and don't store well. Some suggestions:
. Find out natural herbs or remedies that might be adequate substitutes, if possible
So where do I go from here?
There are probably fewer commandments that generate as much guilt as this commandment to prepare ourselves. But we should motivate ourselves through obedience, not through guilt. As with most commandments, the hardest part about doing it is first deciding to do it. Then it's almost coasting from that point. Many people commented that once they started following this commandment, not only was it easy, but it was also quite fun.
Relief Society Power Management
Or: Wielding the Scepter So No One Gets Hit
I was recently released from the calling of Relief Society president. It's an interesting adjustment made easier by a new calling. I miss the power but not the responsibility (too bad one comes with the other). Being "queen" of the ward is a unique position; having the official female opinion that other leaders listen to can be a daunting opportunity.
I learned some strategies in dealing with priesthood brethren that were very helpful. These suggestions already assume that you are prayerful and have obtained a testimony of the rightness of your calling. If not, a testimony is the absolute first place to start, because you can't gather and use power if you don't believe that God wants you to have it and use it to build the kingdom.
Gathering Power. Sometimes men (and women) believe that the main function of Relief Society is to provide refreshments and to keep high visiting teaching statistics so that the men will be motivated to do more home teaching. It can be frustrating to work against such stereotypes. It helps to remember that you have been called to work with the council and not against them and that you are in a wonderful position to teach the men proper perceptions.
Support Others First. Networking is the best way to gather (and share) power in the Church. Start with sincere compliments; notice the things that you appreciate in other leaders and comment on them specifically. Especially focus on the bishop and tell him the things you notice that he does well. I have observed that being a bishop is a demanding and thankless job at times and encouragement is always appreciated.
In addition to encouraging people to keep doing what they are doing well, you will win friends and they will believe that you are quite intelligent (after all, you noticed how good they were).
Lighten Up. A gentle sense of humor, especially about yourself, can be very useful. Humor can diffuse tension in a room, promote companionship and sometimes subtly change the focus of an issue. I always found it humorous when the men would discuss something like Mother's Day gifts among themselves and then turn to me and say, "You're a woman; what do women want?"
I was amused that they would have suddenly discovered my gender difference, and that anything forthcoming from my mouth was supposed to represent women in all walks of life, in every dispensation. I usually answered with something like "eternal youth and beauty, but a carnation would be fine."
A word of warning about humor: There can be a temptation to use wit to demean others, or humor can promote insensitivity to the struggles of others. Such negative uses of humor, although funny at the time, impair good leadership, and, most importantly, offend the Spirit of the Lord.
As a Relief Society president, your first responsibility is the best interest of the sisters of your ward. However, this doesn't mean you can't be a team player. Helping others is a Relief Society tradition and mutual support in the ward council is ultimately good for the sisters. Be flexible on non-important issues, such as Mother's Day gifts and which night of the week to hold homemaking meeting. Save your firm stands for issues that really are important to the sisters.
During a crisis, the best and worst in people will usually come out. Get calm and stay calm. Prayer is the first and best course of action, as we all know. Another one that has worked well for me when enduring a long tirade is to write in my notes every scripture I can remember on charity; it keeps me calm and people really think I am listening carefully and taking notes.
Don't Lose It. In meetings where tensions are high, such as in budget sessions, a good rule of thumb is, "The one who shouts first, loses." To keep your power and respect, it's a good idea to state your position calmly and to have some compromises ready.
No Tears. Keep your emotions under control; save the tears and tantrums for later, in privacy. Tears are appropriate for times of tenderness and spirituality, but not for a crisis. Tears could be misinterpreted as a manipulation tactic or as a sign of weakness or hysteria; and, at the very least, tears inhibit open communication. If you feel your emotions rising, repeat to yourself a scripture like "I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me," promise your self a good cry when you get home, and keep your promise.
Get Counsel. Often there are conflicts within the Relief Society that must be addressed, for which advice is needed; if you can not get the help you need from within your own presidency, getting advice from the bishop is very appropriate. It is not a good idea, however, to dump all your problems on him and walk away -- so many other ward members are doing that already. Get counsel from your bishop and then solve the problems yourself; it works out best for both of you.
The next three suggestions -- stalling, staying solution-centered, and gathering resources -- are best illustrated by telling you the story of the time when I learned them.
During ward conference one year, when the stake presidency was in attendance at ward council meeting, the 1st counselor in the bishopric suggested -- to my horror -- that some inactive young men in our ward would come back to the fold if the Relief Society were to move to a different building in the stake for homemaking meeting so that the boys could use the gym for an extra night of basketball practice. He continued with a sales pitch to the stake presidency about how reclaiming youth should be worth any sacrifice, and then turned and suggested to me that I must agree with him.
I was too shocked at the moment to write down scriptures on charity. "Thou shalt not kill" came to mind, however.
Stall for Time. I knew I was being pressured into a corner so I would say yes without being able to consider alternatives. So I stalled. I told him that I couldn't commit to such a decision, that I would have to pray about it first, and get back to him later. Saying you'll pray about it first is a great stall because no one in their right mind would counsel against it. And you will certainly want to do it.
Center on Solutions. So I prayed and prayed. I wondered if my revulsion at the idea of moving homemaking meeting stemmed from just being threatened. I wondered if I was being ego-centered instead of solution-centered. I think it's important to check from time to time to make sure that we are God-serving and not self-serving.
Through prayer and inspiration I had my gut reaction confirmed and several reasons came to mind why agreeing to this proposal would seriously weaken the morale of the Relief Society in my ward. In effect, it would tell the sisters that they and their one night a month for sisterhood in homemaking meeting were less important in the ward than yet another night of basketball. I knew that even rumors of the proposal would cause contention and bad feelings.
Use Your Resources. Not wanting an adversarial meeting, I tried to see the bishop privately but, since it was ward conference, he was too busy to talk. I wasn't quite sure what to do next until I saw the bishop's wife. I remembered what Elder Neal A. Maxwell had said about the counsel he received during pillow talk with his wife. I knew then that I had an ally in the bishop's wife, and so I explained the situation to her.
She was wonderful. She made sure that I got in to talk to the bishop as soon as possible. She also talked to the wife of the 2nd counselor. I was able to speak to the bishop in private about my concerns. His wife pleaded my cause when he was at home, as did the 2nd counselor's wife.
Both women nagged their husbands until they understood the implications of this drastic proposal on the Relief Society. Cultivating a good relationship with the wives in the bishopric can be a great resource and strength.
I believe that the Priesthood is the backbone of the Church and that the Relief Society is the heart. Both are indispensable. I was blessed to have worked with a very humble and good bishop.
When the new president was called to replace me, I prayed and received a testimony as to the rightness of her calling so that I could support her wholeheartedly. As for my new calling, I'm once again a leader focusing on harmonious relationships. I'm Primary chorister, and I'm having a wonderful time. ALD
Getting the Righteous to Sing Well
I have been a music educator and choral director for over fifteen years. Music has been my life since I was seven years old. In all that time, and with many varying types of Church callings, I have never found a calling to be more challenging, more frustrating, and more rewarding than that of ward choir director.
How do you pull 10 to 25 lay-musician Saints together for one more weekly meeting? How do you get those Saints to come on a consistent basis? And once you get them there, how do you get them to produce a product that praises the Lord and doesn't offend the congregation's musical ear? May I give a few suggestions based on my personal experiences.
People do things because they enjoy them. Do they enjoy your rehearsal? Have they had a satisfying musical experience? And just as important, have they had a satisfying spiritual experience? You must plan for both.
This does not mean a five minute discourse on the doctrinal significance of the text or a lecture on the role of dynamics in a musical phrase. Make your comments brief. It you talk for more than fifteen seconds at a time it is too much.
While you are hammering out notes, or working on breathing, or polishing dynamics, include a comment about the power or beauty or subtlety or poignancy of a particular passage. Let the members do their own reflection. It will carry over into the performance and add each member's spirit to the sacrament meeting.
Use your ears. While doing a stake music workshop I was challenged, "How are we supposed to do what you do? We don't have the training!" I turned the challenge around and had them identify what they had seen me demonstrate that required specialized training.
The group reached consensus on one item -- my ears. I had trained my ears to know what I wanted and to detect when what I got did not match my expectation. Everything else is experience and imagination.
Listen to your choir! What didn't you like? Dream up some way to get them to correct it. If the first tactic doesn't work, try something else.
As a guide to your ears, my experience (and not my education) has taught me that a poor-sounding choir is usually caused by:
(1) an inadequate flow of air (breath support),
(2) impure vowels, and
(3) a closed mouth resulting in a tight jaw.
Remember, most problems can be solved by having members sing vowels the same way, by getting them to create enough space by opening their jaws (not their lips, their jaws), by singing crisp consonants, and by singing a legato (unbroken) line.
Finally, if you try to do this all with your eyes buried in your music you will never make it. Look at your choir while you are listening to them. See what they look like as they make their most unpleasant sounds.
Quality literature is the only way to a quality performance. I am very conservative in my choice of music. For me to consider a piece of music for my choir it must be based on a hymn or have a totally scriptural text, word for word. I don't care how beautiful the melody, how profound the harmony, or how moving or even doctrinal the text. If it is not from the hymnbook or from the scriptures, I don't think it is appropriate for sacrament meeting.
I totally avoid the "Mormon pop" sound that is so much the trend in Utah now. It was Elder Packer at a BYU fireside that said that anyone who thinks the Spirit of the Lord can be communicated through a popular medium has no idea of what that Spirit truly is.
When I say use hymns, I do not suggest using just the hymnbook. I find great difficulty attracting and keeping good musicians to rehearsals that run through the same four-part hymn arrangements designed for an untrained, unrehearsed congregation.
There are many fine arrangements of hymns to use. Search them out. For those outside the "Mormon corridor" this may be difficult. Have your stake music leaders organize a list of possible (not suggested!) pieces with a sample copy for review. At this point let me emphasize, never violate the copyright laws. An inquiry to the Church music committee revealed that the Church pays substantial legal fees to music publishers because choir directors and wards are prosecuted for illegally copying music. Any form of copying any music for any Church or private use by anyone is illegal!
Get help. You are not meant to do it all alone. A good choir president and/or good section leaders are essential. The best I have had know how to lovingly twist people's arms to get them to choir. I feel it is the president's job to get singers to choir; it is my job to make them want to come back.
May I offer my assistance to any who are looking? Send a letter to:
This PO Box may be used for this purpose through December 1993.
The Vigor editors have agreed to publish as often as possible a list of two or three songs or hymn arrangements, along with information about ordering them. So send your discoveries to the above address so we can share them with others!
A Changed Man
Orson Scott Card
It's every stake president's nightmare. He has called in one of his high councilors and asked him to accept a difficult and important calling. The high councilor says yes, but then asks, "This doesn't mean I have to leave the high council, does it?"
"I don't see how you could do both," says the stake president.
"Well, then, I won't accept the new calling," says the high councilor. "I don't want to be released from the high council."
You think it doesn't happen? Think again.
Admittedly, the hypothetical high councilor is way out of line. If he's not ready to accept the assignment of the stake presidency, he shouldn't be on the high council either.
And as long as we're admitting things, let's also admit that the stake president handled this a bit carelessly. He should have told the high councilor that he was being released from the high council first, thanked him for his fine service, and then said, "We'd like to call you to another assignment now." That way the question of "accepting" the release doesn't come up. Just as a rule of thumb, when you're asking someone to accept a new calling, you don't ever make it sound as if his being released from his present calling is contingent upon accepting the new one -- unless you really mean it that way and can live with it if he says, "No thanks, I'll stay where I am."
It can take many forms, some of them not so obvious, but it really is a frequent problem in the Church that members just can't let go of callings.
Identity. This shouldn't surprise anyone. For those who are truly committed to the Church, our calling becomes our identity. When you move into a new ward, you know just what to expect from the bishop, from the Relief Society president, from the librarian, from the ward mission leader. Each one will have his or her own strengths, a certain flair, and, of course, an assortment of annoying habits. But the basic function of that person within the ward is easy to understand.
So, naturally, we also come to see ourselves in those roles. When you put your whole heart into the calling of, say, choir leader, you begin to see ward and stake events through a choir director's eyes. You interpret changes in the ward according to how they will impinge on your calling. Sister Brown is moving away? Oh, no, who will take the soprano solos in the Christmas cantata!
Sometimes, of course, we don't feel truly comfortable in a calling and are glad enough to have it lifted from us. But when you have a calling that is a perfect fit for your temperament and talents, one in which you think you're doing well, it feels like the worst thing the bishop or stake president can do to you when he calls you in and says, "You've served well but we feel it's time for you to be released from this calling."
A friend of mine told me of a testimony meeting she attended when she lived in a California ward. One sister stood up and told how she decided early in her studies at BYU that music was how she would serve the Lord. She consecrated herself to that task, majoring in choral music and preparing for a lifetime of leading choirs. And, sure enough, in that California ward she had been called as choir leader and served with distinction for five years.
Then, she said in her testimony, the sky fell in. The bishop called her in and released her. "I felt as though my offering to the Lord had been rejected, as if I no longer had any value. And after they called someone else as choir leader, I had to sit there and listen to the choir, knowing that the choice of music was not very good, that the choir could sound so much better."
My friend waited for this sister to say, "But now I understand ..." But there was no but.
Tears streaming down her face, this sister still felt that way. She couldn't be happy doing anything but music.
A few months later she was called as stake music director. But my friend couldn't help wondering what this sister had missed by insisting that the only way the Lord could use her in his service was with music.
Gospel Doctrine Teacher for Life? I'm not immune from these feelings, either. I was visiting with some friends in Virginia when the conversation turned to callings, and I said, "I'm glad I had my time on a high council, because now I've proved to the Lord and to myself that I'm really not cut out for administrative callings in the Church. Now I can settle down to spending the rest of my life teaching, which I'm pretty good at and which I enjoy."
You know what happened next, of course. The very next day, my stake president called me from Greensboro and asked me if I could hurry home -- to accept a calling as 1st counselor in a bishopric. I hadn't changed my opinion of my own abilities as a leader, but my stake president insisted that I had been called by revelation and the Lord would help me. I agreed that it would have to have been revelation -- no mortal man who knew me would have called me to such a position without prompting! But I accepted the calling and resolved to do my best with it.
There was only one sticking point. I was then gospel doctrine teacher in my ward, and I loved doing it. I felt as if I had been preparing for that calling all my life, and I couldn't bear to think of letting go.
So I didn't. I let the stake president and the new bishop know that I really, really didn't want to give up teaching. It wouldn't interfere with my duties in the bishopric, I insisted.
And you know, I was right. I taught the class as effectively as ever (though, as with all teachers, opinions no doubt vary about exactly what that means!), and I still gave my all to the office of bishop's counselor. I made mistakes, but none of them were caused by my teaching gospel doctrine class.
As the months wore on, various leaders took me aside and urged me to give up the gospel doctrine class, but I always protested and they always, eventually, gave in and let me continue. Class attendance was high; no one could complain that I was not fulfilling my bishopric duties. I simply could not understand why my holding those two callings at once bothered them so much.
And when at last I was released from the bishopric, I continued as gospel doctrine teacher until we moved out of the ward. I was absolutely right. I did both callings to the best of my ability. Since my abilities lean far more toward teaching than leading, I was a better gospel doctrine teacher than bishop's counselor, but I had warned everybody from the start that I was just a gospel-doctrine-teacher kind of guy. No harm done, right?
It is only now that I can look back and see that, contrary to my thoughts at the time, it was a foolish thing for me to have done. For one thing, I was not indispensable as gospel doctrine teacher. When I moved, someone else did the calling and I haven't heard that my old ward has suddenly drifted off into apostasy or heresy for lack of my marvelous lessons.
Having both callings also harmed my ability to function as a bishop's counselor, even though I didn't realize it at the time. There is a certain balance in a ward. Gospel doctrine teacher is one of the most visible callings; the gospel doctrine teacher is the only person who gives a sermon to the adult members every week.
Add to that the visibility of a bishop's counselor -- conducting about one sacrament meeting and priesthood meeting in three, coming to youth and ward activities, attending and speaking up at leadership meetings -- and the sense of balance in the ward was definitely teetering. One of the strengths of the Church is that we distribute authority widely. The gospel doctrine teacher has a certain authority over doctrine and belief; it is not good to commingle that with the authority over policy that comes with service in a bishopric.
Others could feel that imbalance, that loss of proportion; it made them uncomfortable, and that was why they kept pressing me to part with the Sunday school calling. Only I, unable to stop seeing myself as gospel doctrine teacher even when the Lord had called me to fill a very different role, was blind to the harm.
There are few callings that last for a lifetime, and that is good. It is good to become someone else from time to time. It is good to discover new possibilities and challenges within yourself. And because I never let myself fully become a bishop's counselor -- and nothing else -- I missed out on what that might have felt like.
It is sometimes possible to avoid or postpone an unwelcome release. But I don't think it's very wise even to try, and harm is done whenever you manage to do it. I harmed myself, and I harmed the ward. And I did so even though I fulfilled both callings to the best of my ability.
A Relief Society Kind of Person. I remember how my wife felt when, after years of service as a Relief Society counselor or instructor in several different wards, she was called to serve as Young Women president. She had clear memories of a brief service in a Young Women presidency when we were first married. She did her best at the time, and loved the girls she worked with, but she was released after relatively short service and always felt that the bishopric must have regarded her as a failure or they wouldn't have released her so soon. So she had reached the conclusion that she wasn't a Young Women kind of person. In the meantime, her good experiences in the Relief Society had convinced her that this was the organization where she belonged.
Fortunately, my wife is much wiser than I (which is why I married her); despite her trepidations she did not resist the change, but instead plunged into the Young Women program with an open heart and both sleeves rolled up. Because of a temporary shortage of women in the ward, she served much of the time with only one counselor and no teachers -- it was quite a challenge. But this time she came to understand the calling and realized that the first time she had served in that calling she had simply been too young. She needed to have more experience behind her before she could teach the girls.
She's been in Young Women ever since, serving in virtually every calling in the ward and in the stake, putting on youth conferences and girls' camps, dealing with every challenge that either of us could ever imagine coming up. She can hardly imagine serving anywhere else.
And yet we both know that a day will come when the stake president will call her in and release her from the Young Women, and her next calling will be in Primary or Relief Society or Sunday School and she'll once again face that same anxiety. I'm a Young Women kind of person, she'll think; I can't do this new thing.
That's just the way it feels when you devote your life to Church service. Your labor becomes your self. Your service is the joy of your heart, and to lose that calling feels like the loss of joy, the loss of self. And yet if you plunge into the new service, The Lord will make you into the kind of person who does well at that calling, too.
Spiders. There is a worse kind of harm that can come from not letting go. Sometimes people think of a calling as their private possession, and even after they have been released from it, they want to own it. The results can be poisonous.
When the Lord has called stewards to fulfill particular duties, it is the duty of all other Saints to support them in those callings. That means respecting their right to make certain decisions, as long as they don't violate the guidelines from the leadership.
But alas, the spiders of the Church just don't understand this. Once they have tied into a particular calling, they can't seem to shake loose of it. As they move from calling to calling, all those old strands form a web, and whenever they feel any disturbance to any part of the web, they rush to the attack.
I remember one sister from many years ago, a little wisp of a woman that you could hardly imagine having any harm in her. But woe betide the poor soul who was called to a position that she had once had -- especially the first to have it after her. The Primary president who followed her, for instance, found herself immediately inundated with endless piles of handouts and visual aids that had nothing whatever to do with the program that she was actually carrying out -- but had everything to do with the program that her predecessor had intended to pursue.
When it became clear that the new president was not complying with her will, the spider, bless her little heart, began a whispering campaign. Her technique was devastatingly simple. She would call the mother of one of the Primary children and say, "Isn't it awful how the Primary leadership did this?" Then would follow a list of woes, real or imagined. If the sister she was talking to uttered the slightest agreement ("Oh, how awful!" would do) then the spider's next call would begin with, "I just got through talking with Sister So-and-so, and she is so upset. She thinks it's just awful that the Primary leadership ..."
Soon it appeared that there must be a serious problem in the Primary -- there were so many people upset about it!
If the bishopric didn't listen to the complaints, then she would go to the stake Primary leadership and wait for the reports to reach the high council and from there to come back to the bishopric, this time from above. And if that didn't work, she was on the phone to Salt Lake City, trying to find someone who would agree with her that the situation in the Primary in her ward was not proper, and armed with a name from Salt Lake City she would sting the Primary president again.
I think that through all her weaving of webs and traps, this sister did not imagine that she was doing anything but trying to help the Church to function properly. She would never have thought of herself as a spider. And yet she was. Many tears were shed, many ulcers thrived, many Saints struggled to control their helpless fury, and far too many hours were wasted in trying to deal with problems that would not have existed had she not been trying to fix them.
She just couldn't let go of those old callings. She still felt that her will should prevail in all of them.
And, just to add to the irony, she truly believed that she was inspired with all the ideas she so generously offered to her successors. So of course, when they did not follow her instructions, they were clearly resisting the will of the Lord.
Here's a maxim worth putting on the fridge: If it isn't your calling, then any inspiration you think you're getting about it probably doesn't come from the Lord.
A House of Order. The truth is, we really should feel personal responsibility toward every calling in the Church. But our personal responsibility toward callings that are not currently ours consists entirely of supporting the person who now holds that calling.
Support? Ah, but wasn't the spider "supporting" the Primary president?
Not at all. The Lord's house is a house of order -- even when it seems most chaotic. Sometimes you can see people making a perfect botch of a calling that you know how to fulfil to perfection, because you once held it. What do you do?
You don't discuss the person's mistakes with others. You refuse to listen when others complain, unless you can see that the problem is really serious rather than the normal kvetching -- and then you refuse to assign blame or make judgments.
You don't even take them aside and give them a list of their failings -- after all, chances are good that they are perfectly aware that they haven't yet mastered the calling and the last thing they need is for someone to point out that yes, indeed, the rest of the ward really does think they're doing an awful job.
You do come with an offer to help, not by imposing your ideas on them, but rather by finding out what they are trying to do and taking part of the burden from them. "Let me make that poster for you." "I can call those young men and women and make sure they remember the rehearsal." You volunteer for the least glamorous of the duties they're struggling to fulfill. And when the work is done, you make sure that they feel that the accomplishment is more theirs than yours. "Oh, I was glad to help, the work you're doing is so important and I really do believe in what you can accomplish." Sometimes these words will be more an expression of hope than of observation, but hope is enough to make them true.
And if they really are botching up the calling and your efforts to help and support are rebuffed or don't solve the problem, go to the appropriate authority, take him or her aside, present your observations and concerns truthfully and without malice, and then do your best to forget about it. It's out of your hands.
Through all of this, as you watch someone functioning in a calling that you once had, make sure that you frequently remind yourself of this simple truth: "That is not my calling anymore. The Lord has given that responsibility to someone else. I have my own work to do."
Let It Go. When we are released from a calling, from the very moment the words pass the lips of the person releasing us we must rise out of that stewardship as completely as our spirits leave our bodies when we die. I chose the analogy carefully, because sometimes it can feel like a kind of death to suddenly be pulled away from the work we were doing. After all, if we're doing what we should, we will be planning ahead for the weeks and months to come. We will be filled with love and concern for the people we are responsible for serving. We should, in fact, be anxious about that calling -- anxiously engaged in a good cause.
And then, just as death can come to us when we least expect it, we are called in to talk to the bishop or stake president and we hear words that simply played no part in our plans. "We feel that it's time for you to be released from your calling."
No! No, please, I have so much to do, I'm not done yet ... the words rush through us and sometimes even slip out of our mouths. No matter what we do or do not say, a wise bishop or stake president will offer us comfort -- but will not change his mind. For anything we do in a calling after the time when our leaders wanted to release us is done in service of our own desires and fears, and not in service of the Lord and his children.
From the moment that my bishop and my stake president urged me to give up my calling as gospel doctrine teacher, I no longer fulfilled that calling in service of the Lord, I did it for myself, and it ceased to count as righteousness.
Yet when I finally did accept release, when I finally allowed the burden to slip away, it wasn't the terrible loss that I thought it would be. It was truly a lightening of my heart.
When we don't let go, we haunt that old calling like a malicious ghost, frightening everyone else who tries to carry out the stewardship, until it sometimes seems that nothing short of exorcism will get us to go on our way.
Instead, when releases come, we must accept them gracefully, embrace them as wholeheartedly as we should embrace new callings. When we do that, the Lord will heal the sense of loss, will grant us perspective, will give us peace.
In Joseph Smith's Zion, men and women did not receive wealth or authority for their own gain and glory. The Lord granted them stewardships for the good of others, their families first and then the larger community. A steward's chief responsibility was to bless others.
/from "Joseph Smith in the Current Age," Joseph Smith, The Prophet, the Man
Sister Higgins's Little Guide to
Part 3: Verbs
The verbs are the worst. Even if you are blithely using thou as the subject and thee as the object and thy and thine as the possessives, those verbs that end in "st" can trip up your tongue in a thousand different ways.
The truth is, though, that most of the time you don't have to worry about "shouldst" and "wilt" and "art" and (shudder) "gavedst." Why not? Because most of the time in prayer we use the imperative voice, for we usually speak to the Lord of what we wish him to do. And the imperative voice is the same with both thou and you, so it requires nothing special at all.
The imperative voice? That's the command form, isn't it?
Yes, but that doesn't imply that we're ordering the Lord about. When we say, "Grant us thy Spirit here today," or "Bless those who are ill that they may be healed," we are respectfully recognizing that only the Lord has the power to grant such requests. Often, too, we soften that command voice with "please" or "we pray." In the solemn formality of prayer, the imperative voice does not sound harsh, the way it can at the breakfast table when we might think it a bit rude for someone to say "Pass the Cheerios" without adding "please."
Sometimes, though, you find yourself launched on a sentence that you can't escape from with an imperative verb. "We thank thee for the rain that thou ..." That thou what?
Don't go for the difficult word: "That thou sentest us" or "that thou gavedst us." Use the simple helper verb: "That thou didst send us" or "that thou hast given us."
Here is a handy list of thou-form helper verbs matched with their more normal you-form equivalents. These are all you will really need.
These verbs are simple and lovely, and they are enough. Anything fancier -- "thou offerest unto us" or "thou pouredst forth upon us" instead of "thou dost offer" or "thou didst pour forth" -- and you may distract from the humility of prayer.
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