The Weak Will Be Made Strong, One Calling at a Time

Two things to know about me: I love fiction, and I dislike Church books.  I try to keep an open mind when some well meaning friend gives me the latest Deseret Book on faith or discipleship, but I rarely make it past the intro. Way too didactic. And boring. But when friends gave me a copy of For All the Saints by Kristen Smith Dayley, I knew I had to read it. The book is based on hundreds of interviews of Boston saints, many of whom I know, and many of the interviews I personally transcribed for what was then a High Priest project. So reading the book was like visiting old friends.

The theme that resonated with me is how tempting it is to deny people growth opportunities in the church. It is so much easier to call competent, experienced people than to train newbies. How many times have you said, “this will be easier if I just do it myself.” But as I reacquainted myself with these Boston saints, I was inspired to make a few changes in how I did my calling with satisfying results.

As the homemaking/enrichment counselor, putting on the RS opening social is my job. I have a lovely little committee and had assigned each to do things I thought were within their comfort zone. One sister, whom I’ll call Salma, is a very shy convert with amazing organizational skills. As we were welcoming almost 20 new sisters that night, I had tasked Salma with emailing the visiting teachers to make sure each new sister was given a personal introduction. Totally in her skill set. But right before we were to do the intros, I thought about the book and realized that I needed to have Salma be in charge of welcoming the group and facilitating  the introductions.  She started to protest but I insisted she could do it. Salma looked terrified as she stood in the room of more than 50 women, and I felt awful for making her do something that would have been nothing to an attention hog like me. But she rocked it. Salma shone that night like I’d never seen before. She was the perfect MC: witty banter, silly observations, great transitions from sister to sister. I just basked in her awesomeness and wondered that it had taken so long to see this Salma. I overheard many women praising Salma and she glowed. She seems different now. People treat  her differently now.  They can better see her depth.  She could serve in any calling and succeed.

I now know that while my job is to arrange RS events, my calling is to take the women on my committee and help them blossom. It’s not just about comfort zones and getting things done most efficiently. One of my favorite exchanges in the book was two men discussing the pros and cons of calling “the weak.” One brother wondered if he had called the right person because he felt he was having to spend too much time doing follow up. The other one relied, “if you don’t need to check up on them, then you haven’t  asked the right person.” I look back at the callings I have held and see where I was fostered along the way. Some jobs have been a natural fit, but others have stretched me.  Like the one I have now. We are supposed to focus on emergency preparedness.  Tomorrow night’s event is all about 72 hour kits and all I can think is how many cans of Diet Coke can I fit into a backpack? But as it says in Ether 12, if we have faith and are humble, the weak will be made strong. So as I am trying to be less snarky about making ready for an apocalypse. And as I am given assignments, I try to be prayerful about which jobs to give to my committee.  I have learned that while doing it myself might be easier, but it is not necessarily better.

What callings have stretched you? Have you seen people transformed by their calling?


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10 Responses

  1. MB says:

    “I now know that while my job is to arrange RS events, my calling is to take the women on my committee and help them blossom.”

    I can imagine Jesus, “I know that while my job is to effectuate the atonement in the plan of salvation, my calling is to love each brother and sister and help them blossom.”

    I believe that this mental switch from “getting the job done and done well” to “loving others fully and lovingly and untiringly encouraging and fostering their sense of success and skill in goodness” is key in any role we play.

  2. Rachel says:

    I had a remarkable bishop when I lived in Vienna, Austria, and one of the things that made him remarkable is because he trusted those he served to put him in the growing/stretching kinds of callings you are talking about. He knew that allowing them to serve in capacities that were a tad bit uncomfortable for them would be the very way that they would learn. And he didn’t just rely on lifelong members, or members from North America for leadership positions. He trusted the new convert from Africa, just as much. And that was the beauty and the strength of the ward.

    In another ward, this time in America, I learned that the Sunday School president requested that I be the sole Gospel Doctrine teacher, to provide a unity in teaching. The bishop turned him down, explaining that if we were a business we would want that, but as we are an organization (among other things) to help people grow, he wanted to give others the opportunity to teach, and grow, as well.

  3. Caroline says:

    Heather, I love this post. You always have such great insight.

    “I now know that while my job is to arrange RS events, my calling is to take the women on my committee and help them blossom. It’s not just about comfort zones and getting things done most efficiently. ”

    What a great attitude. I’m all for growth opportunities and stretching people. Though I will say that the one area where I would favor calling skilled people is teaching, since bad teaching can be really detrimental to an entire group of people’s experience at church.

    • Heather says:

      I hate to admit it but I am with you too. It can be painful to be the audience of a teacher in training. Not sure how to get around that.

      • Rachel says:

        My first impulse is to to say that “teachers in training” can be assigned over other, non-Gospel Doctrine classes, But: children, teens, investigators, and new members need good teachers too….

      • MB says:

        I don’t think there is. Go way far back enough in any good teacher’s life and you’ll find the early era when he/she was an awkward and sometimes cringe-worthy teacher in training.

        Heather’s point about the importance of nurturing the efforts of those you call to do things that are hard for them, “helping them blossom” is important. If you have or call a newbie, awkward teacher it behooves you to provide supportive training too.

        All too often it’s the lack of teacher support and hands-on training on the part of others that makes struggling teachers’ lessons hard to listen patiently to for months on end.

      • Em says:

        To me the key is to call brand new teachers in rotating teaching callings. So they teach one Sunday a month, or every other Sunday. This gives more time for that teacher to prepare, regular opportunities to see other ways of approaching the calling, a support system amongst the teachers, and relief for the audience who may be struggling. One of the best callings I had was teaching the 14-15 year old Sunday School class. I had them every single week, but part of what made it great was the woman who taught 16-17 year olds. She was really laid back. If she had to be out of town, I just added her kids to my class no question, and vice versa. Or if we looked and saw we had only one kid who would hate being in a one-kid class, we combined at the last minute. We never had teaching meetings, but I felt like I could call on her and immediately rely on her.

        I’m always a little leery of teaching in service meetings, I suppose because I am a snob and think I have nothing to learn from them. That sure speaks to MY humility. It just feels like the blind leading the blind — someone whose real life job is being a lawyer happens to be the Sunday School president so he will do some workshop from Teaching No Greater Call, but doesn’t have any real life experience or ideas of how to make it all more effective.

  4. Naismith says:

    Wow, great reminder

  5. diane says:

    My last calling in the church was teaching seminary, (I literally volunteered myself) I have a new found respect for teachers of any kind, a successful teacher is only as good as the support she/he has from the community, that means, the kids, the adults all need to come prepared to class and actively participate. If people come to any class with preconceived notions that they can’t learn anything from the person facilitating than the teacher, as well as the class will be doomed. And its really not fair to the teacher, or anyone else for that matter

  6. EmilyCC says:

    I’m ordering that book! (That means I will have purchased 2 books from Deseret Books in less than a month…that’s amazing. Good on you, DB!)

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