Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Aspiring to Missionary Callings

This is a response to DW's post on Campaigning for Callings.

When I was a member of the church for one year I desired to do something good so I went on a mission. I was called to the Rome, Italy mission. As a missionary I desired to baptize thousands so I worked hard and fortunately was assigned my first area with an Italian companion who was very dynamic and successful at baptizing. In our mission it was very competitive we had a weekly published statistical booklet so everyone could see who were "the best missionaries." Every week for three months Del Pazzo/Bruno were first in discussions, placed book of mormons, baptisms. Every time I heard from my mission president he would say you will one day be my assistant. Due to some problems prior to my mission and the fact my ward did not send me money for four months I was unexpectedly transferred to the Toronto Canada mission. Even as I left in the air port my president said it was very sad that I wouldn't be his assistant.

When I arrived in Toronto Canada to serve under M. Russell Ballard the first thing I heard was what did you do to be sent here. You must have done something bad. I was treated different as though I was a failure rather than a success. I was treated by every companion as a screw up rather than as a faithful dedicated missionary.

Every leadership meeting Russell Ballard would tell us "if you keep your noses clean" you will all be bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, and a few of you even general authorities. Even though I had problems with companions speculating about what my problems were and why they had to put up with a screw up like me I knew inside that I was not anything like what they said. I always thought Ballard would one day realize that I was one of his best.

On my mission I never once attained any position other than junior companion. Elder Ballard had a hard rule if you couldn't pass of the discussion one hundred percent word perfect you would live and die a junior companion.

I could never resolve in my mind how in one place I was to be a leader and in the other a loser. Elder Ballard equated position with righteousness. His missionary assistant even married his daughter.

After my mission I lived my life for many years with the thought if I was of any value I would have callings. I tried to serve the best I could whereever I lived. Whenever I would go to a Ballard reunion he would have everyone go around the room and tell what they were doing in the Church. Several in a few years were bishops. After ten years a few became members of high councils and stake presidency. After twenty years a few became mission presidents.

When I was 37 I was still an elder in the elder's quorum. I callings amounted to things such as financial secretary, ward clerk, elder's quorum secretary, and my highest calling Sunday School President. My wife read me Abraham 1 because I was so depressed that most men from my field were high priests and I was living and going to die as an elder. I always remembered Bruce R. McConkie's talk which priesthood leaders would throw in my face if I questioned why I was still only an elder.

I went to the Lord and prayed that I could be a great high priest like Jesus Christ. In Hebrews it said that if I wanted to be a joint heir with Christ I needed to be a great high priest. I moved to Indiana to do my doctorate degree before I was 40. I bore my testimony about my love for temple work and Ezra Taft Benson. The new called High Priest group leader who was a former bishop was so touched that he called me to be his second assistant. Now whenever I move into a ward they naturally think of me for some leadership calling. I have held callings like ward mission leader, high priest group leader, stake executive secretary, young men's presidency. There is nothing different about me other than the fact I am now a high priest.

If I could really aspire to a calling I wouldn't want to be a bishop or stake president or even general authority. I would want to be a stake patriarch so I could bless the lives of others. I would be a mission president again to show Russell Ballard that I can baptize thousands.

When I was young I actually assisted a Prophet of God in compiling his teachings book. As an elder I assisted in blessing Ezra Taft Benson when he had a cataract operation. He even prophesized and had me write in my journal that one day I would be a bishop and a stake president. On one occasion he told me I would be a mission president. I doubt as the years go by that I will be any of those things. I am now a short middle aged man with greying hair, high blood pressure and diabetes. I don't look like any of those things. About five years I had a catharsis I realized finally it didn't really matter where I served but how I served just like J. Reuben Clark said. Even if a prophet of God's prophesy doesn't come true I lived the best I could.

We can not all be leaders. In fact as the years roll by the chances are lessening. In a man's life he only has five to ten chances for any of those high powered positions. As I approach old age and possible death I am glad to just have held the priesthood.

1 comment:

SilverRain said...

Wow. I really appreciated that.

I find my thing is not so much that I want specific callings as that I want to feel useful and needed. I want a calling I can feel I contribute in. I've come to understand that is its own form of pride, and one I find very difficult to release.