At a recent social gathering someone asked one of the women how she was enjoying her retirement. She replied, enthusiastically, “It’s great! Now if I could only find a way to retire from my Church work, I’d have it made! Sometimes I wish the Church had a retirement program like government or private industry does.”
“We’re busier now than we’ve ever been,” said another of the group. “Whatever happened to all the leisure years we planned to enjoy?”
“Well,” teased a friend, “that’s because it takes you longer to accomplish the same tasks. There’s a solution, though. You can purchase a recreation vehicle and go south in the winter and to the mountains in the summer. That way, you’d never be in one place long enough for a Church position to catch up with you.”
Another friend added, “Then when your Book of Life is opened hereafter it could read: ‘Retired from Church service at age 65. Spent remainder of earth-journey playing and resting.’”
I knew it was just friendly banter, because they were all happily involved in Church activities and wouldn’t have it any other way. There are some, however, who would have it another way. Such an attitude, if not eliminated, can cripple progress toward exaltation.
In the early days of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation concerning service in the Church: “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.” (D&C 4:2.) Does this mean that we can disembark from his service at a certain age or whenever our service becomes inconvenient and still stand blameless before God?
A close friend recently related to me the following experience. It has a strong bearing on this question.
“I was busy preparing dinner on one of those days when it seemed that everyone had a hand in trying to reschedule my time,” she said. “The phone had rung constantly, and in the last hour I had committed myself to making cookies for a special meeting, completing my visiting teaching, attending a grandson’s school program, and accepting two assignments for other projects.
“I heard the phone ringing again. It was my husband. ‘Can we meet with the bishop tomorrow evening at seven?’ he asked. ‘I’m free.’
“‘It’s my only free evening this week,’ I answered irritably, but gave him permission to confirm the appointment.
“My worry clock immediately started ticking, and I couldn’t help wondering what the appointment was all about. It can’t be about the budget, I reasoned—that meeting was last week. Surely it was not for my husband, with his present stake position. That left good old faithful Sister Margaret, and right now I just felt ‘old,’ not very good and faithful.
“Riding over to the church the next evening, I voiced my concern: ‘I’ve been doing a lot of thinking,’ I said, ‘and I have decided that if this appointment is for me, the answer will be no. I have held almost every possible ward and stake position, in addition to being a bishop’s wife, and I think I’ve done my share. I know that every call comes from the Lord, and I have been truly blessed in all of them, but I think it’s time to share those blessings with some of the younger generation.’
“I really didn’t expect any sympathy from a former bishop. Turning into the parking lot, he said quietly, ‘You’ve never turned a Church calling down before.’
“‘That’s right,’ I replied, ‘but I’ve never been this old before.’
“Waiting in the outer office for the appointment, I rehearsed my reasons for the decision I was sure I would be asked to make. I was nervous and uncomfortable.
“I looked up to see Brother and Sister Dixon in the doorway. They greeted me and sat down to wait. Looking at the tiny baby in her arms, I wondered how our young mothers accomplish all they do. And then I remembered my own busy mother years, fulfilling all kinds of Church assignments when the children were young. Even though we were very much involved in Church service, we never regretted the time and somehow found enough left over to develop the strong family ties that have endured over the years. We had been abundantly blessed.
“A young about-to-be missionary called a cheerful greeting from the doorway, and my thoughts went back to what we called our ‘blessing years,’ remembering enthusiastic letters from our three missionaries in foreign countries. Oh, they were busy years.
“Looking around the room, I noticed something new on the wall, a large portrait of President Kimball, accompanied by his powerful message, We Must Lengthen Our Stride. I couldn’t help thinking about the adversity he had endured in his lifetime. And yet he seemed to have had untiring strength in his many years of guiding and directing the Lord’s work on the earth.
“Suddenly, it seemed that President Kimball’s kind, loving eyes were looking directly into the depths of my soul, reminding me of my commitment to help build the Lord’s kingdom on the earth. I glanced down, trying to free myself from uneasy guilt feelings. When I lifted my eyes again I could almost hear his voice gently reproving me, ‘I’m a little older than you are, you know. I’ve been busy too, all my life. I never asked for this call, but when it came I didn’t say No.’
“I repeated the thought over and over. He didn’t say ‘No.’ He didn’t say ‘No.’
“A little later when the bishop faced us across his desk, it was no surprise when he said, ‘If your husband approves, we would like to call you to a new position in the ward where we need your special talents and experience. Are you ready for a few more blessings?’
“With a silent look of understanding, my husband approved. Then, thinking of President Kimball, my rehearsed words faded away and I heard myself saying that I was willing to serve wherever I was needed.”
My friend concluded her story with this comment: “So now I’m working in the Primary! You’ll never believe it, but I enjoy teaching those little children as much as anything I’ve ever done. The first day, when a little four-year-old looked up at me with big brown eyes and asked shyly, ‘Is your name Grandma?’ I realized how much some of those little ones needed someone my age to remind them of grandparents they don’t have the opportunity of seeing very often. And it helps me better understand my own grandchildren who live so far away.”
Opportunities to serve are within the daily reach of every member of the Church, regardless of age. It may be time to remind ourselves that every call to serve comes from one who knows our age, our problems, our health, and our talents, from One who has counseled us through His prophet to serve “with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”