First, we do know Sam was righteous. When Lehi said that his family were leaving their wealth behind to become homeless, he went—and there is no record of complaint. When Lehi sent the boys back to Jerusalem on an errand, Laman and Lemuel whined and Nephi excitedly gave a speech about how willing he was to do God’s will. Sam just quietly packed his bag and headed out. And then we see what happens when an angel announced that God had chosen Nephi to become the family’s leader after Lehi died.
Well, that is an interesting story and people often fail to notice one curious part of it. Generally, in those days, the oldest son became the leader when the father died. Now, it makes perfect sense that God would skip over Laman and Lemuel, who had no testimony and no desire to be righteous. But, why did he skip Sam? Sam had a testimony. He did what his father told him to do and he did what God told him to do. When Nephi revealed his vision to his brothers, Sam alone believed him.
I always wonder how Sam felt when the angel just skipped right over Sam’s testimony to give the job to Nephi, the younger brother. Was he initially hurt? Did he wonder if he wasn’t as righteous as he thought? Did he feel discriminated against or neglected?
We don’t know what his initial reaction was, other than that he congratulated Nephi and went on to become one of his most devoted followers. And so, Sam interests me. He helps me to remember that just because I didn’t get something doesn’t mean I wasn’t worthy of it or that God was mistreating me in some way. It might just mean He has other plans.
I have been teaching Primary for most of the last 37 years or so. I’ve been in presidencies and several times was called as a counselor with the specific instruction to train the inexperienced president. I’ve only been president once, and then only briefly because I was moving. Does that mean God doesn’t appreciate the work and knowledge I’ve gained over the decades? Does that mean He doesn’t respect my work as a Primary teacher?
I have thought it over a lot. I have always accepted my calls to leadership, but I’ve always preferred being a classroom teacher. When I get sent back to the classroom, I always feel I’ve been promoted, so admittedly, my feelings aren’t hurt by this, but when I was younger I still sometimes wondered. Not actually wanting a calling doesn’t mean you don’t want to feel you deserve it. However, I have been told in priesthood blessings that God values the work I’ve done as a teacher in the Primary, but no blessing not related to being in a leadership position has actually mentioned being one. It helps me to understand something important.
God’s church is different from the world. In the world, I might have been gradually promoted up the ranks because I have a lot of experience and I’d now be spending all my time doing what I don’t love best. In God’s kingdom, it doesn’t work like that. We are placed wherever God needs us and the president is not more important than the teacher. The president has authority over more of the program than the teacher, but in God’s eyes, the value of the work is equal. It seems to be that in general, God wants me in the classroom. I believe He gave me just enough leadership experience to make sure I understood how my beloved Primary really works and what my leaders are up against each week. It’s made me a better teacher. There are sometimes, even in the Church, people who think I’m not important because I’m not in a leadership position, but I know they’re wrong—I’m important in God’s eyes. I don’t need a leadership position to make a difference.
There is no such thing as an unimportant job in God’s kingdom. I was once in a ward that called a new member to be the Relief Society greeter. She asked how to do that and was told it was up to her to decide the best way to greet people. She could do it any way she chose. There were two doors, so she chose one for herself. As each person entered through the door, she threw her arms around the woman and said with intense enthusiasm, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here today! Welcome!” Quickly, women began to ignore the unoccupied door and happily lined up at her door, patiently waiting their turn to be hugged. Many women noted that the enthusiastic welcome they received was the highlight of their entire Sabbath. While many might see a greeter as unimportant, this sister made the job matter by her commitment to it and her love.
It can be difficult to move between the world’s vision of what success or equality mean and what God’s vision of them are, especially when we are facing both versions in the same week or even in the same day. However, when we are doing God’s work, we must see things God’s way. No specific job or office is more important than any other. What matters is that we are where God has asked us to be. What difference does it matter at all which calling, office, or assignment God sends us to? All we want to do is to serve God, right? And if God asks us to do something, it must important. If He doesn’t send us somewhere—no matter how badly we might want to be there—then that’s okay because it isn’t really about us—it’s about God’s plan and our love for Him. It’s about serving Him wherever He needs us most—and trusting Him to make that decision.
So, I trust God and wherever He puts me, whether it’s where I want to be or not, it will become where I want to be. Every time I get a calling, if I do it correctly, I end up loving it because I discover what God had in mind for me. And the callings and offices I don’t hold? They’re not a problem. I’m sure someone else handled them quite well.
The running of the Church—it’s not about me, really. I believe that whatever I get is what I deserve—and it’s always a privilege.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.