There is an aspect of LDS culture that offends me: the culture of calling competition.
The idea that what calling you hold somehow equates to your spiritual worthiness before God.
Sadly, there are times when someone feeds into this cultural misconception with an example of a long-inactive member of the Church returning to activity and the story ends with the happily-ever-after, “… and then he was called to be bishop.” As though, somehow, the calling and election has been made sure through a calling to leadership. Worthiness is not determined by a calling. The wonderful joy we feel when someone grows spiritually could perhaps better be expressed through their worthiness to make temple covenants, rather than what calling they hold.
Over the years, I have studied the scriptures specifically regarding this idea that a calling equates to worthiness. The truth is quite the opposite. The scriptures and the temple are replete with examples of our equality before God.
Romans 2:11 — For there is no respect of persons with God.
James 2:8-9 — If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
Acts 10: 34-35 — Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
We do a disservice to ourselves and our leaders to think there is any competition when we are serving God.
This mentality has caused me much anguish over the years. When seeing individuals serving in leadership capacities knowingly and openly choosing to not follow the Lord’s commandments, I have struggled with wondering why God loves them more than myself. Not recognizing that perhaps they are serving in that capacity because a loving Father in Heaven is trying to reach them and show them a better way. I am serving in a capacity that will best help me become the daughter God wants me to be. The Lord perfectly places us where we can best learn how to be like our Savior.
There are different lessons for each of us. There are different lessons for different seasons of our lives. And if we are so focused on the unfairness of where we are serving, we will miss the eternal lessons the Lord is trying to teach us, where we are.
I have seen individuals in leadership callings fall away, becoming inactive or even excommunicated. Does this mean the assigned calling was not from God? No. Perhaps the calling was to help that individual to see on a larger scale the impact of living God’s law. Perhaps a loving Father in Heaven is trying to teach His struggling child!
One of my girlfriends was called to be the ward Relief Society president for a few years. During this time, she learned about the many, many acts of quiet service done by different ward members. Often, she would find out that a need had been met before she was even aware that a need existed! These countless acts of quiet service caused her to reevaluate her own behavior.
Now, years later, she is still impacted by that experience as she, too, contributes her own acts of quiet service. As a Relief Society president, she had many opportunities to serve and bless others, but this temporary calling of leadership was of more worth to her than her worth to the calling. It changed her perspective and opened her eyes to the service happening all around her.
Callings change all the time. If there is one constant in the Lord’s kingdom, it is that there is no constant. We believe in living revelation and a Church that is led by God’s prophet … this means change is always in the air!
With this cultural misperception, any outgoing leader must now view themselves as a failure! After years of sacrifice and service, if they are moved to a calling of lesser responsibility, they have now failed? How hurtful! What an unkind repayment for years of service! How very … worldly. You see, it is the world that tells us we are in constant competition with each other for a limited amount of resources.
The Lord, however, tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.” He is a God of Plenty. There is more than enough room in His house for all of His children. There is no hierarchy of callings. That is our carnal, natural interpretation of the Lord’s kingdom, but NOWHERE in scripture is that validated.
The world teaches that someone in a position of responsibility deserves red carpet, white glove treatment. The Lord teaches that those called to lead have a responsibility to serve. The Book of Mormon is teeming with example after example of leaders serving alongside those they lead. For instance, King Benjamin’s words in Mosiah 2:10-19 share his insights into being called to be king and his focus on serving God, not seeking for riches and power.
In Alma chapter 30, the anti-Christ Korihor attacks Alma and accuses him of using the gospel to gain power and to subjugate the people to his selfish will. Alma’s response in verses 32-35 calmly and humbly destroy the false accusations. Leaders in the Lord’s kingdom may well echo his words in verse 34: “And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?”
In the Lord’s kingdom, we all serve where we are, not for the notice of others, but to serve God. We love Him. We love Him when we loving wrap our arms around the children in Primary. We love Him when we lovingly teach gospel truths to the youth. We love Him when we counsel and sit in counsel with one another, seeking to know His will regarding His kingdom. Everything we have is His. Everything we are is because of His tender love for each of us.
There is no competition. Our Heavenly Father has love enough for all of us. He has work enough for each of us. Let us serve where we are and joyously join together. There is no competition. There never was. There is room enough for all of us.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.