Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Unchosen

I once met a twenty-year-old man with a strange story to tell. This man's parents and siblings were active in Church service, one of the few families in his area who were. He loved missionary work, having converted to the restored Gospel of Christ when he was a child. When he was eighteen, he filled out and submitted his mission papers, eagerly awaiting his call. Surprisingly, the letter he received in return did not state the area in which he would serve. It said, rather, that the missionary board had received no inspiration to where he should serve. He was told there would be a six month waiting period, at the end of which he should submit again. Again, there was no call and the letter suggested he wait another six months. Shortly before I met him, he tried a third time. This time the letter came back stating that he was fully worthy to serve, but that it was clear the Lord wanted him to serve in his home town. He was ward mission leader.

I found it interesting when reading Alma 31 that Helaman, the one to whom he would give the keeping of the records, did not go on the mission to the Zoramites. Alma left him home. For whatever reason, he was called to serve quietly while his (perhaps) less worthy brothers went to reclaim the apostate Zoramites with their father. I have often felt this way, left behind while others claim blessings and give service in which I long to participate. Not all the places in the garden of the Lord receive as much sunlight as others, but I believe every place has a purpose and adds beauty.

Sometimes it's hard to be asked to wait. It can feel lonely, as if the Lord has no need of you. But I have been promised that the Lord has need for every hand willing to till the earth, no matter how unskilled or inept. Whatever our own personal weaknesses, whatever our private pain, the Lord needs us. We may not all be bishops or Apostles, but the mothers and sisters, fathers and sons, ward greeters and hymnbook-retrievers can all bring beauty and joy to the Lord's kingdom.

That twenty year old man who wanted little more than to serve a mission was one of the best ward mission leaders in that area. His efforts brought more of his friends and others to the gospel of Christ than the missionaries did. He was truly called to serve at home as an instrument in the hand of God, and many were "brought to sing redeeming love" among the disciples of the Most High God.


  1. I love the thought by Neal Maxwell when he says that sometimes we are called not to be called. We may feel under-utilized but there is much to be learned by serving in the background.

  2. A sister living in North Carolina in the 1970's was approaching her 25th birthday and had no prospects for marriage. She went in to her bishop to discuss serving a mission. He said he did not feel inspired to call her at the time. She thought surely this meant that she would be married soon. A year later when the groom had not appeared, she spoke with her bishop again, desiring to go on a mission. Same result. This happened one more time, and, approaching her 30th birthday, she went back to college for some additional schooling. She thought that if she could not be a missionary in the field, she would do as much member missionary work as she could. She said that she looked around campus to see who would make the best Mormon. For some reason, the person she chose was me. I was baptized, and a year later served a mission. I always felt that part of my mission was hers, the people I taught were her converts, and the large family of children I raised in the Church were due to her faithfulness. I'm glad she gave service where she was called. Thank you for reminding me of my friend today.

  3. There is a feeling, a feeling that you are more than you are now. A feeling of potential, like your purpose in life is pushing from the inside wanting to get out. The problem is that this feeling exists long before the skills are acquired to acheive it.

    For many years I felt under-utilized and left out of the action at church. I was so very willing that I annoyed others with my over-involvement in simple callings. Those years were important in my development as a servant of Christ. I needed to be a good yw advisor before I could be a good yw counselor. I needed to learn how to be a good personal progress leader before I would be a good president. There are abilities that are best learned in the field and this is definately the case with service in God's kingdom.

    So for you Rain I will say that all those years of bursting to serve were worth it to finally arrive at a calling that I knew I had been prepared for. My previous callings and experience matched what was required so well that I have no doubt of the Lord's hand in my preparations. It is a priviledge to be a part of God's work.

    But it goes full circle, I've been released from that calling and am now being prepared for something else because I feel like bursting again.

  4. I have been sitting at the organ for 19 years, wondering when I will be needed somewhere else. I appreciate all the comments about how my music sets the spirit of the meetings, and how the people love to sing the hymns when I am on the organ. But I sometimes wonder if that is my only place in the church. Was I called there simply because I have musical talent? If others had practiced as much as I had while growing up they could perhaps play as well. Yes, I know, I feel the music in a very personal way. I love the hymns and I love setting the spirit of the meeting with the prelude music. But more than 18 years in the calling? I'm not complaining, but just wondering if there is any other need for me? I hear people say how their family is blessed because of what they have learned in their callings as.....(fill in the blank.) What blessing are coming to my family because I come early to sacrament meeting and start prelude music 10 minutes before church? What growth am I receiving? I don't need to practice because I can play the music by feel. I don't see any spiritual growth. What do I need to learn? One young returned missionary said, "So many things in our ward have changed while I served my mission, but Sister Labrum is still on the organ!" I just have one request, when I die, don't have any prelude music. Maybe people will notice that I am gone.


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