I Have a Question


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

What exactly does it mean when we are “set apart” for a Church calling?

Ronald D. Maines, Sunday School teacher, Franklin Ward, Oakton Virginia Stake. Among the great blessings the Lord has extended to his people is the “privilege of organizing themselves according to [his] laws.” (D&C 51:15.) One of the heavenly patterns the Lord has revealed for this purpose is the calling and setting apart of worthy members to labor in the Church.

Those who hold divinely delegated authority issue a call to us on behalf of the Lord. This action is sustained by the common consent of the local Church membership. Then, through a priesthood blessing, we are set apart from the world to focus our time and talents on a specific labor for the Lord.

In previous dispensations, when God’s followers were called to serve the Lord, they were also set apart to fulfill their service. Through Moses, for example, the Lord set Joshua apart to lead the children of Israel into Canaan. Note how well the pattern established anciently matches the practice in the Church today:

“The Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua … and lay thine hand upon him;

“And set him … before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.” (Num. 27:18–19.)

In the early Christian church, Barnabas and Saul were set apart for missionary work. (See Acts 13:2–3.) Earlier, the Apostles had set apart Stephen and six others to oversee assistance to the widows and other needy members. (See Acts 6:1–6.)

In our dispensation, we again enjoy the blessings accompanying this ordinance. As a priesthood ordinance, the action of setting an individual apart involves divine power, promise, and holiness. It is a special event which may be accompanied by an outpouring of the Spirit. As with other gospel ordinances, the inspiration attending this ordinance may deepen our understanding, elevate our spirits, remind us of our possibilities, and motivate us to a higher, richer quality of life.

We receive an investiture of authority from the Lord when we are set apart. We can thereafter act as the Lord’s authorized agents and carry out his errands with his approval: “Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business.” (D&C 64:29.) The Lord has admonished, however, that our authority to act on his behalf and to receive revelation pertaining to our callings is strictly circumscribed by the specific office of our calling. (See D&C 43:2–7.) Thus, one must never assume more authority than lies within the bounds of his or her own calling.

When we are set apart, we also receive the right to obtain knowledge and revelation to accomplish our assigned tasks. We prepare our minds to receive that counsel by following the commandments, praying, studying, and pondering the duties of our callings. As we do so, it is our privilege to enjoy knowledge that, as Joseph Smith described it, “shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” (D&C 121:42.) We may experience a flow of ideas that can guide us, help us develop plans and solve problems, and give us a clear, proper vision of our tasks.

We also have the right to receive special strength of body and spirit. As we seek this strength, we must also gird ourselves for the work. Having been set apart for the work of the Lord, we must, in a manner of speaking, set ourselves apart from the world to the work of the Lord’s kingdom. By being set apart, we promise to consecrate a portion of our time and talents to magnify our callings.

It should be noted that only those who preside over priesthood quorums receive keys when set apart. Therefore, the word keys is to be used only when setting apart these officers and not when setting apart counselors, high councilors, leaders in auxiliary organizations, or teachers in any organization. (See Bulletin 1990–1, p. 1.)

The fruits of devotion to the Lord and sacrifice for his kingdom are delicious. By consecrating our abilities and time to the Lord, we not only improve the quality of the lives of those whom we serve, but we too are changed. A calling to serve in the Church, with the privileges and responsibilities conferred on us when we are set apart, is an opportunity for God to create in us a more Christlike mind, a purer heart, and a nobler spirit. All that he requires is our willingness to serve faithfully.

Are Church members still asked to submit their four-generation family group sheets to the Church’s Family History Department?

David M. Mayfield, director of member services, Family History Department, and bishop, Grandview First Ward, Salt Lake Wilford Stake. Yes—and no. Yes, members are still encouraged to contribute family history information to the Family History Department. But we are asking for this information on floppy disks, not on paper, and we are asking for information not on four generations but on as many generations as members have recorded. If members work together to contribute their collected family history information, they will be able to realize their own hopes of providing temple ordinances for their ancestors. Let me explain why.

Ancestral File™

I hope every member of the Church becomes familiar with this computerized collection of genealogies. It links individuals into families and pedigrees, showing their ancestors and descendants. The file contains genealogical information about millions of people from throughout the world. It is now available at hundreds of family history centers throughout the United States and Canada as part of FamilySearch®, an automated system that greatly simplifies the task of family history research.

With FamilySearch, you type in an ancestor’s name, and the computer system searches through the millions of records in Ancestral File in a matter of seconds and displays the results of that search on the screen—names of individuals, their family relationships and pedigrees, and the dates and places of their birth, marriage, and death. If no information on that name has been contributed, the system will not display any information.

Contributing Information to Ancestral File

Ancestral File depends almost exclusively on individuals’ contributions of family history information in order for the file to grow. You can obtain a brief instruction sheet titled Contributing Information to Ancestral File at your local family history center. Keep in mind the following suggestions:

  • Coordinate your efforts with the efforts of relatives and others who may be researching your family line. This will enable you to obtain the information they have and avoid duplicating research.

  • Contribute all the information you have. We originally asked for only four generations of family information. Now you are encouraged to contribute information for many more generations—as far back as you may have traced your family lines. If you wish to contribute information from the period before A.D. 1500, please contact the Medieval Families Unit 2WW, Family History Department, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150.

  • Contribute your information on computer disks. To assist you in computerizing your information, the Church has developed a basic inexpensive software program for personal computers called Personal Ancestral File.® The inexpensive program is available from distribution centers. If your family does not own a computer, there are other options.

First, many family history centers and genealogical societies have Personal Ancestral File loaded on their computers.

Next, stakes throughout the United States and Canada have been authorized to put Personal Ancestral File on every Church-owned computer in meetinghouses.

Some family organizations are entering their family records onto computer disks as a joint effort.

Finally, wards or branches can organize service projects allowing youth and others to help members convert their family history information and contribute it to Ancestral File.

You may still wonder why you should contribute. This sounds like a lot of work—and it is. But keep in mind that Ancestral File not only simplifies the research process, it is a cooperative effort that enables you to learn what others have already discovered about your ancestry. As a contributor, you join with millions of others, both members of the Church and those of other faiths who are sharing what they have found. In time, this will change forever the way family history work is done, making it simpler and more accessible to practically everyone.

NOTE: FamilySearch, Ancestral File, and Personal Ancestral File are trademarks of the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

How can I help an erring loved one feel loved without approving of his or her decisions?

Nadeoui A. Eden, Relief Society teacher, Bowie Ward, Suitland Maryland Stake. It is easy to be confused and upset when those we love choose to live contrary to gospel teachings. We want them to exercise their agency, yet we feel responsible to offer them good choices. When they choose behavior or life-styles out of harmony with our best advice, we feel guilty and blame ourselves for their decisions. We get upset and may alienate them with our yelling or lecturing. We can’t change what we’ve done in the past when reacting to our loved ones’ choices, but we can learn to deal with the present situation.

A difficult challenge is dealing well with a loved one at the moment when you first discover the choice has been made. It is said that an individual can’t die from emotional pain, but I wondered about that recently. I was driving my daughter back to her apartment after a weekend at home.

“I’m not going to church anymore,” said my daughter quietly. “I’ve thought it all out. There are many things that make me happy, and going to church doesn’t. It’s just not for me.”

We’d been tiptoeing around the subject for weeks. I knew she hadn’t gone to church since she’d moved out. Finally I’d decided to get it into the open; I’d asked her a question, and here was my answer.

I managed not to cry, told her I loved her, and let her off at her door. But on the way home, I cried my heart out. It hurt. And I was angry. I berated myself for not providing her with more testimony-building experiences. I blamed my husband. I blamed others. And I wondered if things would have been different if the youth in the ward had tried harder to include my daughter.

But I knew these were only excuses. Eventually I dealt with the situation the best I could.

First, I made a list of the facts, identifying the things I couldn’t change and the things I could. I recognized that although I may not like the feelings my daughter was experiencing, I couldn’t tell her not to feel what she felt. Respecting her feelings was an important step in the process.

Next, I identified my daughter’s decisions and behaviors that I didn’t agree with and decided how to deal with each one. In our home, gospel standards would be maintained. I tried to ensure that our home rules were based on correct principles, and then I tried to treat my daughter with firm respect, as I would a good friend.

For example, while I would not force a friend to stop smoking in order to visit me, I would ask him or her to smoke outside. I would not force a friend to attend Church meetings with me, but I would ask him or her to understand that I cannot eliminate the gospel from my thoughts or conversations.

Sometimes tough decisions are necessary. But our home must continue to be a haven—for the wayward loved one, if he or she is willing to abide by our home rules, as well as for us. I read 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 [1 Cor. 13:4–8] and continued to love, realizing that loving someone doesn’t always mean liking. It doesn’t mean accepting evil behavior. And it doesn’t mean putting up with abuse.

Finally, I concentrated on the good behavior and traits my daughter did possess. I found opportunities to sincerely compliment her and found ways to build her up and to show my support and love. A phone call or letters can keep communication lines open and can offer opportunities for us to reinforce positive and good decisions.

Of course, sometimes these loved ones are not easy to get along with. Sometimes their choices have taken them into situations that we cannot even imagine. These are difficult challenges. But we can prayerfully seek the Lord’s guidance as we show love and support while maintaining our own standards.

Our loved ones have made choices—and we hope they are choices not forced on them by us or anyone else. Our agency gives all of us the right to make our own decisions and to live by the results of those decisions.

Will my daughter ever come back to the Church and to the gospel? I hope so. I pray for opportunities for her to learn how important the gospel is, but I don’t pray for God to force belief upon her. He won’t do that and neither must I. I pray for her to have opportunities to learn how much she is loved by her Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I pray for her to learn that she really is a child of God.

She may never come back into the Church, but she is my daughter, and I will love her forever. I continue to hurt, but I know that cherishing hurt feelings and making them the center of my life is the wrong choice for me. Christ would have us acting in love, honoring our own beliefs and commitments, even with our erring children.