Why Have a Calling?

January 12, 2014

_I gave this talk in Sacrament Meeting today and thought I’d share it. As is usually the case, it was a spiritual buoy for me to write this week. _

            I’m going to start with a question: what things does Heavenly Father ask you to do that you don’t think you can do? And one more question: why don’t you think you can do them? 

            Be thinking about how you’d answer these questions as I speak to you today.

            Two weeks ago, Brother Radmall  had a couple of questions to ask me: would you speak in Sacrament on the 12th and why do we have callings in the church?
The easiest answer to that last question is that the church would cease to function without the help of the members – we’re its manpower, essentially. But as I started thinking in depth about it, I realized something important: the question isn’t why are there callings in the church but why do we have them? What’s so great about us? Scripturally, we’re fed a big slice of humble pie by King Benjamin, who says (in Mosiah 2:25), “Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were acreated of the bdust of the earth.”

Who are we? By this definition, who are we to do the Lord’s work? Who are we to do home teaching or lead the Relief Society or serve a mission or clean the church or sing in the choir? What is this quintessence of dust? As Shakespeare’s Hamlet would say. The truth is that to the Lord, this “dust” means everything.

I love the story of Enoch in the scriptures because it brings up the same question I just posed – why am I called to do this? In Moses 6, Enoch is asked to “prophesy unto this people and say unto them – Repent.” But Enoch, being human and having weaknesses, is afraid. He says, “Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all of the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?”

Enoch’s questions should be very familiar to us, because every one of us uses the same kind of logic in our lives. Every single one of us feels overwhelmed by our weaknesses and our lack of qualifications at some point. We live in a world where weakness is costly, where the perfect job is lost to someone who happens to be stronger in one area than we are, where we’re stuck in the middle of a final wondering, “How on earth could he ask that of me? I don’t know how to do that,” where we are constantly manipulated by the media and by unfair comparisons. Maybe that’s why we’re so surprised when the Lord asks us to do things that we know we’re not good at. Sometimes we get quite upset about it, wondering how on earth He expects so much from someone as unqualified as we feel we are.

At this point, let me introduce you to Dennis Brimhall.

Brother Dennis Brimhall was called to be the managing director of the LDS Family History Department and FamilySearch.org in 2012. Last semester, he came to speak up at the Logan Institute. In talking with Brother Blake, an Institute instructor who had the chance to meet with him, I learned that Brother Brimhall had spent about 40 years in management and leadership positions in the healthcare field. He had very little experience with computers, feeling like he really knew nothing about them, and was extremely uncomfortable with accepting any sort of calling in the Family History Department. Imagine his surprise when he got the call to not only be the director, but to oversee the largest free online Family History database in the world!

Brother Brimhall, when asked if he’d be willing to accept the call, said no. He said no a couple of times, actually, stressing that he’d have no idea what he was doing. Finally, after multiple rejections, he was invited to sit down with Elder Bednar and one other apostle. Within thirty minutes, he had accepted the call.

Now, how can a guy who knows nothing about computers do any good in a position that focuses almost entirely on technology? Let me read you a letter Brother Brimhall posted on the FamilySearch blog.
“From time to time, I get emails from some of you asking why FamilySearch is going through so much change. I’ve thought a lot about that question and know from personal experience that sometimes change can be difficult. This is especially true with the tools and services that are so dependent on technology. It can be very difficult for those of us who didn’t grow up using the tools of technology to keep up with this ever-evolving revolution.

“Because one major component of the FamilySearch strategic vision is to make family history more engaging for greater numbers of people, we’ve outlined several changes we need to make, including:

  • Make family history centers a place of discovery for the whole family
  • Enable family history experiences that don’t require access to technology
  • Create engaging new online experiences for all skill levels

In the context of that strategy, you’ll continue to see changes to FamilySearch.org and to FamilySearch operations worldwide.”

Since Brother Brimhall’s call, the following changes have been made to FamilySearch: over 250 million indexed records and images have been added from countries around the world; a new booklet has been developed in 22 languages to help in beginning the story-gathering process through questions and ideas to create a living history for those who don’t have access to a computer; a family tree portrait pedigree has been added where you can easily upload and see pictures of your grandparents and great-grandparents; a fan chart was added that makes names and records easy to pull up; a location search bar has been added where you can sort out where your ancestors came from; what’s new updates will be sent out to every user to make them aware of changes; you can upload photos of the living; site navigation has been made simpler; MyHeritage and FamilySearch came together in a strategic partnership, allowing even more families to participate; and overall, FamilySearch is easily one of the most dynamic and rapidly evolving websites on the Internet today.

            In an August interview for Church News, Brother Brimhall said, “The heart is what motivates people. It’s how people feel about things. … People’s hearts get engaged when they think about their ancestors. The more we can get people to think about the person—not about the name, but who the person is—the more successful we are going to be. … They’ll get to the chart later on.”

I love this story, because it is the story of a man who considered, and probably still does consider himself to be very dust-like, very weak, but whose perspective has been invaluable to the FamilySearch program. I’m reminded of the scripture in Ether 12 which says, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Because Brother Brimhall had weaknesses, his calling was not only a way for him to bless the lives of people around the world, but to become better himself. Imagine what would be lost had he chosen not to accept it. Imagine what is lost when we choose to not accept our own callings, great or small. We like to say in the church that every calling is important, including the guy who hands out the hymnbooks. And maybe it’s important because it’s a service to others, but I also like to think it’s important because that man is learning how to serve and learning that service isn’t always grandiose, but little and impactful.

In D&C 84:33, it reads: “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” It doesn’t matter the calling. If we magnify it, we are made sacred. That’s what sanctification means. How do we magnify a calling without overwhelming ourselves? President Monson has said, “Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.” It’s okay to be afraid, but it’s even better to cast all those fears aside and simply serve.

I’ll be honest: one of the main reasons why I love the story of Enoch and the story of Brother Brimhall so much is because it makes me feel like I’m not the only one getting picked on. I have learned that the Lord gives us callings that we do not want and do not feel qualified for. One thing you should know about me is that I’m deathly afraid of singing karaoke or solos. I can’t multitask, I don’t have a strong voice, and my legs shake really bad when I have to stand up in front of people. The Lord, knowing all of these things full well, called me to lead the music in sacrament meeting when I was first in this ward. I was PETRIFIED.

Sometimes I’d mess up really badly, unable to lead and sing at the same time. I had no idea where the prelude started and ended, I couldn’t read music at all, I’d get so nervous that I’d gulp more than I sang, and sometimes, I wouldn’t sing at all and the organist would be on edge. In spite of these things, the Lord trusted me to do it. After the fact, I can say that I love the hymns and I love that I can follow the music. These are new talents I never knew I could earn. Now that I have them, I cherish them.

Another thing you should know about me is that I get really nervous, almost to the point of passing out sometimes, when I’m standing in front of people and talking to them. You’ll notice that I’ve written up my talk simply because I can inflect my voice while reading better than I can wing it. I prefer being at home and reading to going to social events 8 out of 10 times. I’m much better at writing than I am at speaking, and the idea of having to direct or entertain a crowd makes me want to vomit. The Lord, knowing all of these things full well, called me to be part of an Institute council where I get to lead congregations of 500 or more students, plan activities to entertain 500 or more students, lead committees of (thank goodness, not 500) but quite a few Institute students willing to help. 

And you know what that calling has done for me? It has helped me to apply the Atonement in ways I haven’t before. It has made me realize that I am incredibly selfish and that there are human needs everywhere that I, personally, can address and in fact, want to address. I have sat back at activities that a group of us have planned and have just marveled at how much Heavenly Father loves his children, how much I love them because I get to serve them and see the joy on their faces when they walk into the Institute building and realize that they are not alone, that someone cares about them and what they’re interested in and who they will become. I am far from perfect, but I have a calling, and that calling changes me for the better every single day.  

You and I are weak, it’s true, but, as King Benjamin said, we “cbelongeth to him who created” us. We are and can become noble and great simply by understanding who we are and living up to that by being obedient. We can serve in far off places, we can talk in front of crowds, we can organize things and beautify them and we can care for other people simply because the Lord knows we can. I asked you why you don’t feel qualified at the beginning of this talk. President Monson has answered that. “Now, some of you may be shy by nature or consider yourselves inadequate to respond affirmatively to a calling,” he says. “Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”

_Talk to me if you have questions about what I believe. [: _

What a Small Idaho Town & Disney Characters Taught Me About Christmas
Fun Day Friday
All is Calm, All is Bright