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The most important gift I received on my forty fourth birthday was a phone call. Not from my mother or a long lost friend wishing me a happy day, but from the ward executive secretary. He asked if I was available to come to the church late that evening because the Bishop wished to speak with me, and wanted me to bring my husband.

Uh oh. He wanted me to bring my husband. That could only mean one thing: I was receiving a call to be the president of…what? Both our Young Women and Relief Society presidencies had been serving for only a year, so they wouldn’t be replacing anyone yet. Oh dear. Bishop Jackson wanted me to be the Primary president.

A wave of queasy panic washed over me. I had nothing against Primary—I loved Primary. When my children were young I rotated between positions as pianist, chorister, counselor, and secretary. But a decade had passed since I’d had a Primary calling and I didn’t know the young children of our ward any more. How could I be in charge of a crowd of kids if I didn’t know their names? That thought led to another issue. I was not president material. No sir. Didn’t like to be in charge of anything.

I spent the day nearly sick with dread. Happy birthday to me. My mind began “horrible-izing,” bringing up every possible reason I would be a failure as Primary president. I wasn’t out-going enough to make everyone feel welcome. I wasn’t exciting enough to keep the kids’ attention. Exposure to my many weaknesses would ruin the children of the ward. The whole organization would fall apart due to my lack of leadership skills. It sounds melodramatic now, but as I allowed fear to take hold of me, it squeezed so tightly that it interfered with reason.

That evening, my husband took me out to choose a birthday bicycle. I had looked forward to the outing all week, yet my apprehension over the impending interview eclipsed all the fun. Recognizing my struggle, Brad kindly suggested we postpone bike shopping to another time when I wasn’t fighting back tears.

We pulled up to a gas station on the drive home, and as my husband climbed out of the truck to fill the tank I had a moment of truth. All my life I had claimed to trust God. I was certain He helped Nephi obtain the plates of brass and build a seaworthy ship. I believed He enabled young David to take down a giant. A question in my heart now begged to be answered: do I trust that God can help me? My internal dialogue continued. Either I trust Him or I don’t. Either He can do what He says He can do or He can’t. There is no half way with an all-powerful God. He can’t be “sort of” omnipotent. Can I trust that the magnificent God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will show me how to be a decent Primary president? 

Slumped in my husband’s truck, with tears dripping off my jaw, I told Heavenly Father that, yes, I did trust Him. In spite of personal inadequacies, I trusted Him to make me equal to the call. I have reviewed that moment in my heart many times in subsequent years, and feel grateful for the birthday phone call that led to it.

Funny thing about that calling to be Primary president–I never received it. An hour after my emotional experience in the truck I sat in the Bishop’s office, surprised to be called as counselor in the Relief Society presidency. Our current president was being released to accept a mission call with her husband. I think I startled Bishop Jackson when I started to laugh with relief. “Yes Bishop, I would be happy to accept that call.” Happier than you’ll ever know.

I’m certainly not the first person to feel inadequate when faced with an assignment—real or imagined—from the Lord, or to come up against a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Compared to every scriptural account or church history story of facing challenges, my experience seems laughable. Yet my leap of faith led to a deepened testimony of God’s power, of how the odds of overcoming difficulties increase exponentially when we are working with Him, trusting that He knows how to think outside our mortal box on a scale that boggles the mind. Consider the following scenarios:

Situation:

Moses and the children of Israel have been led out of Egypt, but there’s a problem. Their path is blocked by the Red Sea, and the armies of Pharaoh are in hot pursuit.

Mortal options:

  1. Try to swim across the sea, carrying your children and elderly relatives and leaving your possessions behind.
  2. Scatter, hoping at least a few Israelites will escape.
  3. Turn and fight Pharaoh’s army, though you’re unarmed.

Factoring in God’s odds:

God causes the waters of the Red Sea to literally part so the Israelites can cross on dry ground, then He closes the waters over the Egyptian army, drowning all the men and horses. The Israelite nation is saved.

 

Situation:

Mormon pioneers are forced to flee their city, Nauvoo, in order to avoid persecution. They plan to head west but the Mississippi River lies in their way.

Mortal options:

  1. Choose a different site to flee to, east of the river.
  2. Build ferries large and sturdy enough to transport thousands of people, their supply-laden wagons, and livestock.

Factoring in God’s odds:

God causes the Mississippi River to freeze over solidly enough to support the load of people, wagons, and livestock that must cross, allowing the pioneers to make their way west.

 

Situation:

The prophet Daniel is cast into a den of lions.

Mortal options:

  1. Be eaten. (Not too many options for human vs. wild beast scenarios.)

Factoring in God’s odds:

God shuts the mouths of the lions so they cannot harm Daniel. He is saved.

 

Situation:

You’ve left your home and your possessions in Jerusalem and traveled far into the wilderness. Now your father asks you and your brothers to return to the city and petition the local ruler, Laban, for the plates of brass.

Mortal options:

  1. Cast lots to see who has to go beg for the plates.
  2. Take all of your family’s gold and silver to trade for the plates.

Factoring in God’s odds:

God leads you by the spirit to find Laban drunk and vulnerable, commands you to slay him, put on his clothing and armor, and then helps you impersonate Laban so effectively that the keeper of the treasury is fooled and gives you the plates of brass.

 

Situation:

You receive a calling that intimidates you, or a medical diagnosis that frightens you, or news about a family member that is devastating to you.

Mortal options:

  1. Give in to the fear that tries to take hold. Panic.
  2. Turn against God in anger, asking “why me?”
  3. Try to soldier through difficult times, relying on your own strength.
  4. Recognizing that there is a better option, turn to the Lord humbly through the various means He has given to access His power: engage in mighty prayer, search the scriptures earnestly, ponder regularly in connection with your prayers and scripture study, fast with purpose, and seek Him in His temple.

Factoring in God’s odds:

As you seek Him, God can send the Comforter to soothe your pain and anxiety. When you are inwardly still He can bring to your mind ideas and solutions that would never occur to you on your own. He can even send angels, both earthly and heavenly, when the need is great enough. And when the only answer is to endure the terrible/beautiful alchemy of trials tempered by faith, He will grant sufficient strength. (See Mosiah 24:15)

A Leap of Faith (from the album “Lift Your Mind Higher”)

Words and music by Lynne Perry Christofferson

Moses’ mother placed her baby
in a basket on the water.
When she hid him in the rushes
he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter.
Oh, she took a leap of faith,
kept her tiny prophet safe.
Young boy David was a shepherd,
yet he chose to face a giant,
and while Israel’s army trembled
David trusted God and triumphed.
Oh, he took a leap of faith,
and the Spirit made him brave.

(chorus)

Oh, good people, never fear
for your God is ever near.
He will grant sufficient strength
when we take a leap of faith.

Good Queen Esther, full of beauty,
recognized her solemn duty.
So she fasted, she was prayerful,
risked her life to save her people.
Oh, she took a leap of faith,
they were spared a cruel fate.

(chorus)

Oh, good people, never fear
for your God is ever near.
He will grant sufficient strength
when we take a leap of faith.
Oh, you must take a leap of faith.