“I am so busy with Church and other assignments that I don’t have time for anything else, yet I am taught to never say no when asked to accept a Church position. What do I do?”
Elder Of the First Council of the Seventy.
Like Nephi of old, I was born of goodly parents, and two of the most important things that my parents taught me were to follow the leaders of the Church and never turn down an opportunity to serve in the Church.
These teachings have had a profound influence in my life, but I must confess that it has been difficult at times to accept and magnify callings. However, to my best recollection, I have never turned down an opportunity to serve in the Church when asked.
We must recognize that there are times when people can be involved in so many activities that they don’t seem to be able to take care of them the way they would like, much less take on more. Elder Richard L. Evans referred to this in one of his sermonettes when he said, “Always there is less time left—a fact that we sometimes face with feelings of frustration because we are so busy—too busy sometimes to think enough about what we are busy about—
“Could it be that we have enslaved ourselves somewhat with many unessentials?
“Can we avoid letting unessentials enslave us? Can we resolve to seek somewhat to SIMPLIFY and to make a new appraisal of what we really consider essential, with a little more living, a little less of mere mechanics, a little less time being busy without accomplishing anything significant, a little less of meaningless motions?”
Before refusing a request to serve because you feel you are too busy, you might want to do as Elder Evans suggests: SIMPLIFY somewhat and make a new appraisal of what you really consider essential. Reconsider your priorities and remember your covenants with the Lord wherein you have covenanted to give of your time, talents, and means liberally to the upbuilding of the kingdom of God.
As you simplify your life by putting first things first and eliminate less essential activities, you will probably find time to accept the Church assignment. If after such a careful and prayerful consideration of the request you are still undecided, it would seem appropriate to discuss the request further with your local Church leaders.
Also, sometimes we are asked to accept Church callings that we do not feel qualified to do, and we are prone to say no because we are afraid. I have found that to a very large extent life is a series of assignments for which we don’t feel fully prepared, but as we accept and do our part, the Lord blesses us with wisdom beyond our natural selves, and in such cases we really reach beyond ourselves. Thus we grow by having to exceed our past selves.
It is my opinion that being generally too busy and not being qualified are really not valid reasons for saying no to opportunities to serve in building the kingdom of God.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I made this my rule, when the Lord commands—do it.” (History of the Church, 2:170.)
To us the Lord commands through his authorized servants: so my advice is, follow the leaders of the Church and never say no to an opportunity to serve. By so doing, you will not only see a great change come into the lives of those you are working with, but into your own as well. You will experience joy, happiness, contentment, growth, and development. To these things I can truly testify.
“Are you ever justified in disobeying parents in order to follow gospel principles?”
Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Utah
In the extremely unlikely instance where a parent might require or order his son or daughter to do something clearly evil, anti-social, or self-destructive, I would recall President Brigham Young’s counsel to the sisters of the Church to the effect that they should support and honor their spouses but that no woman should follow her husband to hell.
Where one parent may suggest that his offspring do something clearly contrary to gospel standards, the young person would certainly be wise to seek the help and counsel of the other parent first. But I cannot imagine reasonably healthy loving parents unitedly requiring or asking their children to do something truly wrong or evil. I have seen this only in the instance of mental illness or intoxication. These conditions should be reasonably apparent to the offspring.
However, I can imagine, especially in part-member families, an occasion where a parent might ask his children to work on Sunday or break the Sabbath in other ways, not put his money into the tithing fund, drink “forbidden” beverages, or do other similar things that might be contrary to gospel principles. But we must recognize that by both spiritual and temporal law the parents are the children’s guardians and do have responsibility for their rearing. So the problem will not be solved by outright rebellion. I would suggest that the young person request in a reasonable way that he be allowed to live Church standards. Solve the problem through peaceable negotiations, in a Christlike way. Certainly, fasting and prayer will entitle the worthy young Church member to receive personal revelation that will assist him or her in solving the problem with the parent in a constructive way so that everyone wins. If the problem or conflict persists, I would seek counsel of the bishop on how to handle it.
I remember a woman who constantly nagged her husband (an inactive elder) about not paying his tithing, saying again and again, “When you don’t pay your tithing, you deny me and the children the blessings that are associated with this commandment … I want those blessings, even if you don’t.” She became so irate and her marriage became so disturbed over this issue that she went to the bishop trying to get his aid in forcing her husband to pay tithing. The bishop’s response was, “Overall your husband is basically a good and righteous man. If you sustain him in righteousness, even in his judgment not to pay tithing at this time, the Lord will sustain you, and you will be obeying God’s commandments and will not miss out on any of the blessings.” When the husband later learned of this bishop’s counsel, he was so deeply affected and impressed that his Church activity increased and the marital relationship was much improved.
So sometimes we obey a greater commandment that overrules a lesser one. And the test one might use in deciding what to do and how to handle a delicate situation (as posed in the question above) would be, “What would Christ have done in a similar situation?”