Questions and Answers

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

    Someone was just called to a position I feel I could have filled. I feel even worse because I am upset. What can I do about my feelings?

    Sherry Downing, mother of seven and member of the Wilmington Delaware Stake Relief Society board

    I’m glad this question was directed to me, because it’s a problem I have struggled with several times in years past. I thought for years that being called as president of the Relief Society was the greatest achievement for an LDS woman. If that did not happen then being called as president of the Primary or of the Young Women would be almost as satisfying.

    Instead, I found myself serving as everything else. Several times I was a counselor in Relief Society, but never president.

    I found reasons: “I wasn’t called because I have too many young children.” Then the next president would have four children not yet old enough to go to school. “I wasn’t called because I’m too young.” The next president would be younger. “I wasn’t called because I’ve only been in the ward five years.” The next president would be someone who had just moved into the ward.

    Finally, there was to be another change, and everything seemed to indicate that I would be released as Junior Sunday School coordinator and called to lead Relief Society. I was sure my time had come. The bishop made an appointment with me “to talk about how things are going in Junior Sunday School,” but I knew he just wanted me to be surprised when he called me to a Relief Society position. I was ready with a list of things I thought would be new ideas; I had even decided who I would request for counselors.

    Then came the meeting with the bishop. And do you know what we talked about? The Junior Sunday School!

    I was really disappointed. I complained to my husband that the bishop must not think I was capable. When he gently replied that callings are from the Lord, I started to cry: “It doesn’t make me feel any better that the Lord doesn’t think I’m capable, either.”

    Yes I really suffered at the time, but something happened to me, and I have never felt those feelings again. Like you, I was shocked and ashamed of my negative feelings; I really desired to change my attitude. And I finally did what I should have done before: instead of finding “reasons” for why someone else was chosen, or suppressing my disappointment, I went before the Lord, confessed my feelings—all of my feelings—and searched more deeply than before for the Lord’s reasons. When I was ready to learn, he was ready to teach me. Over the next few weeks, a process began that is still continuing. Gradually my understanding was opened, and the true nature of callings in the Lord’s kingdom was impressed on my heart. I’ve come to know the following things:

    A calling is an opportunity to serve, not a reward. We sometimes carry over from the business world the idea that unless we are able to “work our way up” and become president of an organization our abilities have not been properly recognized. We have to be aware that the Lord is not giving us rewards by calling us, but is asking for wholehearted service. A calling may prove to be a blessing to us, it is true, but that depends upon our efforts after the call.

    The true hierarchy of the Church is a hierarchy of righteousness. The Lord judges our hearts and actions, not the “level” of our callings. We have celestial visiting teachers in many wards, and celestial choristers and teachers. It’s character that pleases the Lord, not calling.

    We cannot anticipate (or predict) the actions of our Heavenly Father. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Lord.” (Isa. 55:8.) Sometimes when we look back after a few years we can see the purposes of the Lord unfolding in our lives. It may be as hard for us to see this as it sometimes is for our own children to understand the direction we give to their lives. We marvel that the Creator has worked things out with such delicate balance in nature. Why not trust him, then, and strive for understanding? Why not truly say with Mary, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38.)

    We can fulfill our own callings better. President Duane Lloyd, a counselor in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake Presidency, comments, “No one is doing his own calling as well as he could be doing.” He recommends redoubling our efforts in our present callings as an antidote to desiring the callings of others. It means to change your attitude so that you feel your calling is the best one in the Church. It is really effective.

    We need to be humble. Jesus told several parables and gave much counsel on the importance of being humble. He knew that we (and those around us) will be happier when we are not lifted up in our pride, happier when we are not coveting another’s opportunities. One of Lehi’s sons, Jacob, appropriately summarized all these thoughts when he said, “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.” (Jacob 4:10.)

    My earnest hope in sharing these experiences and thoughts with you is that your heart may be softened to the ways of the Lord, and that you can come to know that your Father loves you and cares for you. Who knows but that your service, wherever it may be, might be an example to someone who, unknown to you, models his attitudes on yours.

    “Where and when should we manifest a sustaining vote in the Church, and where and when should we not manifest such a vote?”

    Bishop H. Burke Peterson, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric.

    Each Church member is entitled to vote for officers of any Church unit to which he or she belongs. A member may vote to sustain officers of the ward or branch in which he lives. However, he is not expected to vote for officers of wards or branches in which he does not live, although it is not likely that anyone will object if he does.

    A member may vote to sustain officers of the stake, district, or mission in which he lives. He may sustain these officers whenever they are presented for a vote in any meeting held within the stake, district, or mission in which he lives. However, he is not expected to vote for officers of stakes, districts, or missions in which he does not live, although, again it is not likely that anyone will object if he does.

    A member may vote to sustain General Authorities of the Church in any meeting held anywhere within the Church at which the names of the General Authorities are presented for a vote.

    When a member is called to a Church position and he is presented to the congregation for a sustaining vote, he should manifest his personal sustaining vote for himself in that calling.

    Voting by the uplifted hand to sustain someone in a Church position is a sign of our personal commitment to uphold the Lord’s choice of that person in that calling. President Harold B. Lee identified the commitment, the covenant, inherent in voting to sustain. In the solemn assembly called to sustain Joseph Fielding Smith as prophet, seer, and revelator to the Church, President Lee said:

    “Everyone is perfectly free to vote as he wishes. There is no compulsion whatsoever in this voting. When you vote affirmatively you make a solemn covenant with the Lord that you will sustain, that is, give, your full loyalty and support, without equivocation or reservation, to the officer for whom you vote.” (Conference Report, April 1970, p. 103.)

    We are free to exercise our free agency to sustain or not sustain, but we should consider prayerfully the counsel of President Joseph Fielding Smith:

    “No man, if the people decide not to sustain him, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in this Church, and yet it is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood. The priesthood selects, under the inspiration of our Father in heaven, and then it is the duty of the Latter-day Saints, as they are assembled in conference or other capacity, by the uplifted hand, to sustain or to reject; and I take it that no man has the right to raise his hand in opposition, or with contrary vote, unless he has a reason for doing so that would be valid if presented before those who stand at the head of the Church. In other words, I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only if he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold. That is my understanding of it.” (Conference Report, June 1919, p. 92.)

    The right to call members to Church positions rests with the presiding priesthood authorities under the guidance of divine inspiration. The right to sustain rests with the individual members of the Church. President John Taylor said, “God appoints, the people sustain.” President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., outlined this principle in a general conference of the Church:

    “When the presiding authority has so ‘nominated’ or chosen, or called any man to office, that man is then presented to the body of the Church to be ‘sustained,’ in political language to be ‘elected.’

    “Thus the body of the Church has no ‘calling’ or ‘nominating’ power, but only the sustaining, or politically speaking, the ‘electing’ power.

    “When the presiding authority presents any man to the body of the Church to be sustained, the only power which the assembly has is to vote, by uplifted hand, either to sustain or not to sustain.

    “Obviously, neither the body of the Church, nor any of its members can propose that other men be called to office, for the calling of men is the sole power and function of the presiding authority.

    “Therefore, all debate, all proposals of other names, all discussions of merit and worthiness are wholly out of order in such an assemblage.” (Conference Report, October 1940, pp. 28–29.)

    Our presiding authorities at all levels of Church government present to us the Lord’s choice; we then have the opportunity to cast our vote with the Lord. President Spencer W. Kimball confirmed this principle at the time of the calling of President Harold B. Lee as the Lord’s chosen to be prophet, seer, and revelator:

    “It is reassuring to know that President Lee was not elected through committees and conventions with all their conflicts, criticisms, and by the vote of men, but was called of God and then sustained by the people.” (“We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” IM, July 1973, paragraph 7.)

    We have, then, a sacred responsibility to manifest our sustaining vote according to correct principles as taught to us by our presiding authorities and as witnessed by the Spirit.