Cover image via Gospel Media Library.
A missionary struggling to adapt to missionary work in Africa shared a dream he had that he should actually be serving in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA). He was convinced that his missionary call to serve in Africa was simply to fill some slots for missionaries going home. He easily discounted the inspiration from the Lord given to His apostle. In his mind, the brethren were desperate to fill those openings.
By contrast, how many times have we heard a story where a calling was inspired by the Lord? For example: a Japanese-speaking missionary was called to serve in South America and found a group of Japanese people there who needed his language skills to hear the gospel. Friends of ours had expressed a desire to serve in New Zealand and were called to serve in Washington, D.C. where his ability to speak French was needed for an inner-city ward of French-speaking immigrants from Africa and her background in social work blessed their lives to help them obtain needed services. A young man from our ward was called to serve in the Mexico Puebla Mission, broke his ankle in the MTC, and was reassigned to New Jersey. There he found an entire neighborhood who came from Puebla. The Lord is in the details of our lives.
How often have we been extended a call from our bishopric or stake presidency and felt this was a call from desperation, not inspiration? We learn an important lesson when we recognize that they too receive inspiration under the influence of the Holy Ghost. How often do the thoughts of desperation originate from our own feelings of being inadequate? We are not the first ones to feel that way nor will we be the last.
In October 2004, in his first talk after being called as an apostle, Elder David A. Bednar said, “…. my heart is filled to overflowing, my mind is spinning, my knees are weak and wobbly, and I find that words are totally inadequate to communicate effectively the feelings and thoughts I desire to share with you…. I have reflected on the teaching of Paul that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27). This morning I take great comfort in knowing that I am one of the truly weak things of the world…. “
Callings will test us and try us and stretch us. It takes effort but as President Nelson has affirmed, the Lord loves effort and blesses our efforts as we serve.
If we had turned down the opportunity to serve a mission in Africa, I think of all that we would have missed. We got to see the spirit of the Lord moving over the continent of Africa and witness the amazing growth of the church there. We felt the faith and joy and love of the African saints. We witnessed the sacrifice and devotion of the young missionaries. We felt their energy and enthusiasm in the Ghana MTC and felt their humility and love for the Lord in the celestial room of the temple. And we developed treasured relationships with so many senior missionaries.
Were there challenging times? Yes! Where there times when we were exhausted? Yes! Were there times when we missed our families? Yes! (We are thankful for WhatsApp and for Zoom!) But we would never trade that experience for anything.
Not every calling is exotic and far away. The Lord gives us opportunities to serve to help build up his kingdom and to help build us up. He knows us by name, he knows our circumstances, and he reaches out to us wherever we are. He has an eternal perspective and a deep, abiding, loving interest in our eternal progression.
Elder Bednar taught this lesson, “…. the enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. I testify and witness that the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement is real. Without that strengthening power of the Atonement, I could not stand before you this morning.”
There may be times when the bishopric or stake presidency are unaware of circumstances that might affect a calling. We have been counseled to share that information with them and then trust the Lord. A calling may be withdrawn or it may be extended even in the midst of what we consider special circumstances. We can remind ourselves that Nephi did not know how to build a ship. But Nephi knew that the Lord loveth his children. President Thomas S. Monson often said, “Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies.” The apostle Paul taught “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Elder Bednar sets the example for all of us when he declared, “I will go where the Lord and the leaders of His Church want me to go, I will do what they want me to do, I will teach what they want me to teach, and I will strive to become what I should and must become. In the strength of the Lord and through His grace, I know that you and I can be blessed to accomplish all things.”
May the Lord continue to bless and strengthen us as we strive to follow Him and accomplish His will.
[Please note: The ideas contained in these articles are tools and suggestions for self-care, but they are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]