Teachers, organists, advisers, clerks—wherever we serve we become teachers to all through our example.
The Value of Every Calling20903_000_011
“Therefore, let every man … labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?” (D&C 84:109).
It was an extremely difficult time for our ward—three Church members had died in one week, two of them tragically. I was the ward organist, and the sister who led the music in sacrament meeting called to give me the list of hymns for the following Sunday. Among them was a rather cheerful, upbeat intermediate hymn. I suggested we might want to replace it. Flipping through our hymnbook, we turned at almost the same time to “How Firm a Foundation.” It was just right, we agreed. And we would sing all seven verses.
On Sunday, the feeling of grief in the chapel was almost tangible. But as the congregation sang, “Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid,” a reassuring conviction began to rise in my heart. Then they continued on through the less-familiar fourth verse: “When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow, for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress” (“How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 85).
On and on they sang—of the Lord’s all-sufficient grace, of His eternally unchangeable love, and finally of His promise that, through the fieriest of trials, He would “never, no never, no never forsake” us. With each verse, my faith grew stronger. I still felt grieved but also at peace.
That Sunday, when the need for healing was so great and when music helped supply that need, I saw my calling in a new light. True, I could not help our ward cope with its losses in the same ways as our bishop and Relief Society president could. Still, in a small way—through my calling—I could help.
“You have as great an opportunity for satisfaction in the performance of your duty as I do in mine,” President Gordon B. Hinckley told Church members in April 1995 general conference. “The progress of this work will be determined by our joint efforts. Whatever your calling, it is as fraught with the same kind of opportunity to accomplish good as is mine” (“This Is the Work of the Master,” Ensign, May 1995, 71).
The contribution of every person in every calling is vitally important, especially because so much of the work that needs to be done in the Church is behind the scenes. Those who do this work—like the “feet” in the well-known metaphor of the body of Christ—move the Lord’s work forward in ways as indispensable as they are often unnoticed.
Using the body to represent the Church as a whole, the Apostle Paul points out how necessary the contribution of every person in the Church truly is: “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? … Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (1 Cor. 12:14–15, 22).
Who are these often little-noticed but absolutely essential “feet” in our wards and branches? They are the people who set up the chairs and control the temperature for our meetings. They play the prelude music and accompany our singing. They tend our toddlers so we can enjoy Sunday School class. They teach our children the gospel; they help them earn Scouting badges and Personal Progress awards. They show us how to submit records so temple work can be done for our ancestors. They deposit our tithing in the Church bank accounts. They greet us at the door of the chapel and make us feel welcome.
Some time ago, the Ensign invited readers to submit accounts about their service in behind-the-scenes callings and how their lives have been blessed by people who serve in those callings. The following stories illustrate the blessings that can be found serving in any Church calling.
They Welcomed Us to Church
The summer I was 11 years old, my family moved to a small farm in Idaho. My dad wasn’t a member, but he felt that since my sister and I had been recently baptized, we should attend our meetings. I vividly remember how scared and lost we felt that first Sunday. My sister and I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes shaking off the dust and smoothing our hair and clothes after a wild ride to church over dirt roads with a neighbor boy who left the car windows open. As we watched families enter the church, we thought the steps leading into the building looked so big.
Finally we gathered up our courage and walked up the steps. Inside, people were visiting in the foyer. We threaded our way through the crowd toward the chapel, planning to slip in quietly and sit in the back. Then we spotted a roadblock—a gentleman standing at the door of the chapel, greeting people and handing out programs. We glanced over and saw there was a woman at the other door doing the same thing.
We did our best to pass by unnoticed, but the man at the door spotted us and stopped us. For a moment I thought he might ask us to leave. Instead he asked us our names and welcomed us to church. He told us that his name was John Smith and that his wife, Jean, was the woman at the other door. It was always nice to have new people move into the ward, he said.
We found seats and sat down. A warm feeling came over me. My sister and I were going to like this ward, I just knew it. I shook off the last of the road dust and watched the Smiths greet the rest of the congregation coming into the chapel. The Smiths must be very special people to have such an important job, I decided.
Looking back now, I realize I was right. And I will always be grateful for a special couple who took the time to make two dusty, disheveled little girls feel welcome and at home.
A Teacher I Will Never Forget
I grew up in a small village in North Wales. Members of our little branch, the Sir Fon Branch, traveled for up to an hour to gather on Sundays. I was one of only four teenagers in the branch, and we met each Sunday to discuss our home-study seminary booklet. It was very hard to stay motivated and on schedule—that is, until Lorna Wise became our home-study seminary teacher.
Sister Wise and her husband, Peter, had just moved from London to our rural community so Peter could do graduate work at the nearby university. Although dealing with a difficult pregnancy, Sister Wise nonetheless accepted the challenge of her new calling.
Each Sunday our class met in a little attic room in the town hall. The room had sloping walls, a dusty wood floor, a handful of old wooden chairs, and a single light bulb hanging from a long cord. But dim as the room was, my knowledge of the gospel began to blossom. Each week, Sister Wise presented a well-prepared lesson to help us with the following week’s study. She collected our booklets, reviewed them with us, and helped us understand gospel concepts. She quietly encouraged us to stay on schedule and to make seminary study our own daily devotional. Sometimes I was the only student in the class, but Sister Wise was always there.
Soon the scriptures came to life for me. Instead of habitually procrastinating, I began to look forward to doing my seminary work each morning. I felt fortified for the day ahead in my school of 1,500, where I was the only Latter-day Saint. I began to find it easier to share my testimony with my peers.
After three years, the Wise family returned to southern England. I’m sure there were times when Sister Wise wondered whether her service in her calling was at all meaningful to anyone. She received very little praise and certainly no recognition. Our branch was so small and our class so tiny that she may have almost forgotten the experience herself. But I will never forget. Sister Wise touched my life at a crucial time. She helped build the foundation of my testimony of the gospel, which remains strong to this day.
The Power of “Yes”
Many blessings come from serving in Church callings. Perhaps the most surprising come to those who exert faith and effort to fulfill callings for which they feel unqualified, discovering new talents as they say “yes” and then prayerfully go about fulfilling their calling.
Ray Bridges, a member of my ward, felt stunned when he was asked to serve as Primary music leader because he could neither read music nor conduct. The idea of leading nearly 100 children in singing every Sunday seemed impossible to him. Nevertheless, he accepted the calling extended by a servant of God. He was released from his calling in the high priests group leadership, and the following Sunday morning he showed up with posters, puppets, and a copy of the Children’s Songbook.
Of all the wonderful things Brother Bridges did during his four years as music leader, there is one thing no one will ever forget. One Sunday he asked, “Does anyone notice anything special about my Sunday shoes today?” When the children looked, they were surprised to see he was wearing slippers.
“I was almost to church when I realized I still had my slippers on,” he told them. “I could either drive 20 minutes to my home to change into my Sunday shoes and miss Primary singing time, or I could come to Primary in my slippers and arrive on time. Did I do the right thing or the wrong thing?”
“The right thing,” the children answered eagerly.
“That’s right,” he said. “It’s more important to be dependable in serving the Lord than to have on the right shoes.”
Brother Bridges taught more than music that day. When he was released as music leader in Primary, I wept tears of gratitude for his great example. Brother Bridges wept too.—, Murrieta First Ward, Murrieta California Stake, California
Financial Clerk, a Sacred Trust
My husband, Herb, has served as financial clerk with four different bishops over a period of about 15 years. Though he is quiet by nature, he often says to me, “If I hadn’t known the Church was true before I had this calling, I’d know it now. The way the Church has its financial program set up is inspired. If it wasn’t, the Church would never be able to stay on top of the finances of the worldwide operation.”
Herb considers his work a sacred trust. He’s told me he’s impressed with the confidentiality maintained by the bishop and others when it comes to ward finances and the tithes and offerings of the members. Herb also keeps everything he knows confidential. He says he wants to be able to face the Savior and say, “I never inappropriately repeated anything that was sacred.”
Even though Herb is retired from farming, we still maintain six acres, including one acre as a family garden. He’s busy here, but he always makes time every week to go to the church to work for hours on the records.
Cub Scouts and Me
When I had my first son, I didn’t realize someday he would turn eight and I would have to learn about Cub Scout Bobcats, Wolves, and Bears. By the time I had my sixth boy, I was dodging the bishop, hoping he wasn’t thinking how wonderful I’d look in a blue and gold den mother’s uniform. But my soft heart betrayed me. I couldn’t stand to see my nine-year-old leave every week, Bear book in hand, only to show up 15 minutes later and announce dejectedly, “No Scouts again this week.” So one afternoon I took a deep breath and volunteered to help with a den. The Scout committee chairman beamed.
“That would be fine, Sister Voorhies, just fine. How about beginning this Wednesday? Only nine boys in that group. I’m sure you’ll just love it!” Ten minutes later the bishopric counselor in charge of Cub Scouts showed up. He called me to serve as a den mother, produced a registration form, and made it official in three minutes flat.
Over time I grew to appreciate hand-me-down uniforms with tiny needle tracks marking the patches older brothers had earned and moms had removed for the younger sons. I got used to repeating instructions 10 times—once for each boy and once for my six-year-old daughter, who insisted that she was a member of the den.
Together we learned first aid, bike safety, and woodworking skills. We visited the state capitol, the zoo, and the fire station. We were rained out at Cub Country day camp, awarded a prize at the annual Scout-O-Rama, and laughed off the stage during a skit we wrote for pack meeting.
However, there’s one project we’ll never forget—painting the fire hydrants in our ward. Our Cubmaster issued us red paint, I gave each of the boys an old work shirt to protect his clothes, and we were off. Never was paint spread with such enthusiasm. “We want the stake president to notice how good they look,” one boy said.
When the boys finished the hydrants, they started on each other, and soon laughter and paint were everywhere. It took us an hour and a half to clean up. Now when I pass those hydrants, I am always surprised to find I feel a sense of accomplishment that few other things in my life have been able to match. I see again those laughing, paint-blotched faces, and I get a glimpse of the unencumbered happiness I thought I had left behind with childhood.
The Sunday after our fire hydrant project, our ward honored its very first Eagle Scout. As I watched my Cubs proudly carry the flags to the podium, I thought about what they were capable of becoming. I don’t think it really mattered to me if they all became Eagle Scouts, but I did care that they fulfilled their duties to God and their country, that they learned to serve other people, and that they did the best they could. So I just kept putting up with the noise, the confusion, and the childish jokes because I liked having a hand in their future, and of course I had five more sons waiting to become Cub Scouts.
A very special experience occurred when I, as a recent convert, served as a Primary teacher to the seven-year-olds. I knew this class was important because it was the year before these children would be baptized, so I was surprised to discover how many of my class members didn’t come to Primary. As I began working to help those little Primary children, I found a mistake on my roll. A boy’s name had been erased because leaders thought that the family had moved, but I learned that the family had not. I felt bad. This young man had not been contacted for a long time, so I sent him a postcard saying I was sorry he had not heard from me before, and I invited him to Primary.
When he didn’t come, I went to his home and asked him if he needed a ride to Primary. His family was nice to me, but they said he didn’t need a ride. I continued to send him postcards telling him about the things we did in Primary and saying that we missed him. I always included my phone number.
One day he called me. He told me he was moving to a ranch with a horse. We talked about many things for about 30 minutes, including the importance of being baptized. When it was time to end the conversation, the young boy seemed reluctant. Finally he said, “Primary teacher, I love you.” There were a few seconds of silence, and then I said, “I love you too,” because I did.
He loved me—this little boy who had been forgotten the whole year, who had had one visit from me and a few postcards. I prayed that Heavenly Father would help him find another Primary teacher who would seek him out and encourage him to come to Primary and to be baptized.
A Big Heart
I was the only deacon-age Latter-day Saint boy in the entire town of Red Oak, Iowa. Every Sunday my family traveled an hour each way to attend church. Our branch had an unusually strong spirit. That spirit was exemplified to me in the form of Brother Bill Rickabaugh, my quorum adviser. Brother Rickabaugh was a big man. We described him as “kind of broad at the shoulders and the same at the hips.” Brother Rickabaugh’s testimony was as solid as he was, and his heart was just as big. The three of us in the quorum lived in different towns, each about a half hour apart. But Brother Rickabaugh never failed to get us together every week. He continually urged us never to lose sight of the goal of serving a mission. Under his guidance we read the Book of Mormon.
Every month, regardless of the weather and the terrain, Brother Rickabaugh took us camping. He kept up with us every step of the way. I remember sitting in makeshift shelters on frozen winter nights in the hills of the heartland while Brother Rickabaugh taught us the gospel. He bore his testimony to us as we hiked across a frozen lake. The three of us may have been a handful, but he took our antics in stride, and we knew he loved us.
Brother Rickabaugh may not have fully understood how much he meant to us. But I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from him when I was a 12-year-old boy. All three of us served missions and married in the temple, thanks in part to the dedication, sacrifice, and love of a bighearted deacons quorum adviser.
Waiting for the Font to Fill
Although I had served in a variety of Church callings, there was one thing I had always dreamed of doing: leading a large children’s choir. I felt very excited when, as stake Primary music leader, I heard—unofficially—that the stake president had requested a children’s choir to sing in the next stake conference. Because of my calling, I assumed I would be asked to lead the choir; however, as the weeks passed, I didn’t receive a call.
Then, three weeks before stake conference, our ward Primary music leader said to me: “I need your help. I’ve been asked to lead a children’s choir for stake conference, but I’m going to be out of town for the next two Sundays. Could you please substitute for me and make sure the children really know the music? I’ll be back in time for stake conference.”
I swallowed hard and told her I would be happy to. But I went home with a lump in my throat, disappointed I had not been asked to lead the choir. As the days went by, I continued to struggle with feelings of disappointment. I was doing all the work, and she would have all the fun. And added to those feelings were feelings of disappointment in myself that I was bothered by it all. As the days went on, I found myself praying many times a day for my heart to be softened that I might serve and do my part.
The Saturday before stake conference, my husband and I, who were serving as assistant physical facilities representatives for our building, were asked to fill the baptismal font. I walked across the street to the church, turned on the water in the font, and then walked back home, knowing it would take about an hour to fill. My heart was aching as I thought about the next morning when the children I had worked so hard to prepare would sing under someone else’s leadership. I knelt down in my kitchen and pleaded with the Lord to remove the hurt feelings from my heart.
About 45 minutes later I returned to the church to check on the font. It needed about 10 more minutes to fill. As I sat on the top step of the font to wait, my mind returned to the children’s choir. It was then that the Lord answered my prayer. I felt the Spirit fill that tiny room, penetrating my heart. And I heard the Spirit whisper gently that it didn’t matter where I served; filling the baptismal font was every bit as important as leading the children’s choir. Blessings and opportunities to feel the Spirit were available in every calling.
The next day I sat in stake conference filled with joy as I listened to the tender voices of the Primary choir. The Spirit was there, and hearts were touched, perhaps none more than mine as I reflected on the lesson I had learned while sitting quietly, waiting for the font to fill.