I Have a Question

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    Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

    A number of Church meetings and firesides for adults are held on Sunday. In order for me to attend, I have to ask a baby-sitter to stay with my children and work on Sunday. Are there other ways I can meet these baby-sitting needs?

    Jayne B. Malan, first counselor in the Young Women General Presidency. From time to time, I have had a part in helping to produce satellite programs for the Church. I have a great appreciation for what goes into the planning and production of these events. Therefore, I would first like to address the question of why we have Church firesides.

    Firesides provide opportunities for Church members to gather and be instructed and edified. Through attending these firesides, we experience the strength of shared Church membership and receive the messages the Lord would have us receive. Satellite broadcasts from Church headquarters are particularly helpful. Through the miracle of modern technology, we can see and hear our prophets and general Church leaders and feel the Spirit as they address us. Satellite broadcasts can be a time of renewal, of spiritual nourishment, and of gaining new insight and perspective. They can strengthen our testimonies and help us find peace in this complicated world. For these reasons, it is beneficial for members to seek ways to attend Church firesides.

    When I had young children, I, too, found it difficult to ask others to baby-sit when I had special meetings to attend on Sunday. However, just after we moved into our neighborhood, our twelve-year-old neighbor Elizabeth asked if she could baby-sit the children sometime. Elizabeth was wonderful. She seemed to anticipate my needs and often offered to baby-sit even before I asked her. She did not accept pay on Sundays, but she let us know that when we needed her on Sunday, baby-sitting our children would be her gift of service to us.

    When I think of Elizabeth, I realize that baby-sitting so that parents can attend the satellite broadcasts on Saturday or Sunday is a wonderful opportunity for young women to practice the Young Women Values of “Choice and Accountability” and “Good Works.” Such service can provide young women with an opportunity to build loving relationships with those around them and to respond to their requests for help. When such service is given freely and lovingly, it is deeply appreciated, and both the young women and those they serve can be blessed.

    If you don’t have a baby-sitter like Elizabeth, you might talk to the Young Women president in your ward. Knowing all the young women, their needs, and their progress in the Young Women program, she may be able to help you find a baby-sitter—or suggest other alternatives.

    Some bishops have found it effective to encourage Church members to work out ways to provide baby-sitters. An enthusiastic bishop can do much to encourage the youth in his ward to take advantage of baby-sitting as a service opportunity—something they can do along with helping widows, the disadvantaged, and the elderly.

    In some areas, the Primary and Young Women organizations work together to provide a nursery at the chapel for the children of those who attend broadcasts or firesides. Activities are planned for the older children as well as for the younger ones, and sometimes the young men are asked to assist.

    For the annual general women’s meeting, to which all women Church members—including girls age ten and older—are invited, some wards and stakes ask fathers and Aaronic Priesthood holders to help provide child-care for the evening. The children love to spend the evening with these fine men. Especially when a priesthood quorum holds a fireside, the brethren should consider arranging ways for the sisters to attend.

    When meetings are broadcast by satellite from Church headquarters, another option is to borrow the videotape of the broadcast from the ward or stake library when the tape becomes available. A videotape of a satellite broadcast may not have the same immediate impact that the live broadcast has, but the messages delivered are the same. And for those unable to get baby-sitters who will donate their time, viewing a videotape of the broadcast may be the best way to “attend” the meeting.

    The Savior told Peter, “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15–16.) Firesides and satellite broadcasts are held for that very purpose—to “feed” our Heavenly Father’s “sheep” and help us “come unto Christ.” (Moro. 10:32.)

    With advance planning and cooperation, baby-sitting needs can be happily and graciously met.

    A nonmember friend is interested in sharing her unique talents and abilities in our ward. Can she hold a Church calling, or are callings reserved for “members only”?

    Paul M. Norton, president of the Madison Wisconsin Stake. In considering this question, we need to remember that neither “interest in” callings nor “unique talents and abilities” necessarily qualifies someone—member or nonmember—for a calling. However, the answer to your question is yes, a nonmember can receive a Church calling. In fact, calling nonmembers to serve in certain positions in the Church, especially in small wards and branches, may be more prevalent than is commonly thought.

    In my experience in the Church, I have known nonmembers who have served on Scout and activity committees, as Sunday School or auxiliary class officers, as family history librarians or consultants, and as organists and choristers. In fact, the calling of nonmembers to the latter two positions is specifically approved in the Church’s General Handbook of Instructions.

    The question of whether a nonmember can serve in a calling is really several questions: Why would a person want to accept a calling in a church to which he or she does not belong? When are such callings appropriate? Why are such callings extended? Certainly, a prime factor in ward or branch leaders’ consideration of a nonmember for a particular position should be the person’s motivation for wanting to serve in the Church. Does the person truly want to render selfless service, or does he or she merely want personal recognition?

    The question of motivation reminds me of an account of one brother, quite new in the Church, who was very eager to serve in the front ranks—but for the wrong reasons. Once, when he met with President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency, he asked, “President Brown, how does someone get to be a bishop in the Church?”

    “Well,” answered President Brown, “the process is very simple. You just have to be invited by the Lord.” (Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 100.)

    “In the work of the Lord we don’t seek positions,” said Elder Robert L. Simpson of the First Quorum of the Seventy, in recalling this incident, “nor should we refuse the opportunity to serve when called.” (Ibid.) That same “policy” applies to all Church callings; we receive a call from the Lord, through our ward or branch leaders.

    But back to the question—when is it appropriate for a nonmember to receive a calling? Most Church callings require substantial commitment and sacrifice of time, sometimes travel, and often other related costs. When would a nonmember be willing to make such commitment and sacrifices?

    One answer is: when he or she has a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. But if he or she has a testimony, why can’t he or she be baptized and serve in that calling as a member? In the answer to this question is found the other major factor ward and branch leaders need to consider when extending callings to nonmembers—the individual’s particular circumstances.

    For example, I know a young man—a nonmember—who faithfully attends church and early morning seminary. He has a testimony of the gospel and desires to be baptized, but his parents do not desire to grant their permission. A call to serve as a seminary officer or class officer would both thrill and bless him.

    I know of another nonmember—a dedicated sister who has attended Church meetings regularly for years. She, too, has a testimony, but her husband does not want her to join the Church. Another nonmember I know, not wanting to offend his wife, has postponed his baptism, hoping that with time she will join him. Many such individuals have been called to Church service by inspired priesthood leaders.

    Ours is a church of involvement, and human development is the very foundation of the gospel plan. In this context, it is well to remember that it doesn’t matter where we serve, but how we serve. A calling is not a “reward” or a “favor,” but an opportunity for dedicated service. A bishop is entitled to inspiration in working with all who live within his ward boundaries—including nonmembers.

    By Church directive, nonmembers cannot be called to teaching and administrative positions. But an inspired bishop, discerning and understanding a particular person’s motivation and circumstances, can issue calls to nonmembers to serve in certain positions and can thereby bless their lives and help build the Lord’s kingdom.