The Gospel Doctrine lesson #12 manual objective is “To help class members feel a greater desire to magnify their callings, be chaste, and invite others to come unto Christ.”
To understand how we magnify our callings — both the callings in which we are formally set apart to serve in and the calling of being women and sisters, or men and brothers, in this church.
I have spent a little over two years now serving as the Relief Society president in my ward. Before this, I had served in a variety of other callings of course — even a variety of other leadership callings. I had also supported my husband as he served as the bishop of our ward for five years. When I was called, I felt overwhelmed but I thought I knew what I was getting into.
In these two years, I’ve had experiences I never imagined or expected. I’ve rushed into a home, arriving before the police and paramedics, when a woman attempted suicide. I’ve sat with children while child protective services interviewed their sibling after a disturbing event. I’ve listened to women describe the deepest of heartaches as they have dealt with a spouse betraying them, clinical depression overtaking them, or death claiming a loved one. I’ve walked into homes with no food for the children to eat and homes where children functioned in alarming levels of disintegration and disrepair. I’ve seen suffering in its most raw form more than I ever had before. But I’ve also seen beauty in its most pure form, in the hours of quiet service offered by visiting teachers and friends, in the faith and hope demonstrated by those struggling, and by the miracle of watching a heart transform or heal.
In these two years, I have changed. How could I not? And the way I see the world has changed. I’ve been stretched to my very limit and I’ve been blessed in extraordinary ways. All of this has led me to ponder on things I never pondered before. And one of those is the centerpiece of this lesson: how do we magnify our callings? What does that really mean? I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but I have developed some thoughts on it as I have sought to magnify my own calling.
First, I’ve learned what Jacob teaches here in verse 19: to magnify our callings, we must first get our errand from the Lord. There are so many things we could do in any calling. To be effective, we need to select carefully which of these things we focus on. The Lord is the only one who truly knows what we can do to best reach and succor those in our stewardship
Next, magnifying a calling is not about the amount of time we put into our calling or even about the effort we exert. In fact, magnifying our calling isn’t about us at all. It’s about the people we serve, the people we have stewardship over. It’s about seeking to understand what they need to improve their lives and then seeking to meet those needs. Magnifying a calling can be hard and it can require us to do things that are uncomfortable for us. This is because it isn’t about what we want to do. It’s about what needs to be done — about what others need us to do.
Finally, and related to that, magnifying our callings is representing those in our care. Sometimes that means being their voice, speaking up in behalf of their needs and concerns. As a woman, I usually have stewardship either over other women or over children — whether it be as a Young Women’s president, a primary teacher or a visiting teacher. These people may not have a strong, recognized voice at church on their own. Being their voice — asking the whys, suggesting different ways of looking at something, or helping others see a situation through perspectives they aren’t used to — can make people uncomfortable and even frustrated. It can feel to others like we are “rocking the boat” and it can feel to us like we are “kicking against the pricks.” But if the errand comes from the Lord and if it improves the lives of those we serve, then we should “labor with our might” to do it.
We serve in various church callings throughout our lives, sometimes “big” callings and sometimes “small” callings. But I believe women also always have a “calling” as sisters at church, and as Relief Society members, just as men have a “calling” as brothers. And I believe we magnify this calling in the same way we magnify a calling given to us by the bishop in his office and accepted by the ward when they raise their hands to sustain us. We magnify our callings as women in the church by looking for direction for our individual life paths from the Lord, by focusing outward and doing what needs to be done — even when it’s hard, and by being willing to speak up for ourselves and for those around us — those in our care and those we care about.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
A Calling and A Purpose, Katie Jennings
It was a few years, a million tears, countless Mother’s Days hiding in the bathroom at church, doctor’s visits, medications, more tears, and lots of nieces and nephews before I understood that I was not going to be a mother in this lifetime. And even as I realized that, it was still a few hundred tears, a few years, and a lot of cookies before I could actually accept it.
And then I got a calling that saved my life and taught me my true purpose in this world. I was called as a Primary president in my ward. Heavenly Father gave me 60 kids to call my own and to love and to teach. I made the decision right then and there to throw all of the love, caring, and nurturing that I had in my heart and soul towards those 60 kids. They have returned it in a million different ways, which makes me love them all the more. I love them like they are my own. I count myself blessed to be part of their lives.
A Woman of Character, Susan Easton Black
I had an opportunity to speak at the Winter Quarters’ Visitors’ Center several years ago about the pioneers. Metropolitan Opera soloist Ariel Bybee had also been asked to be on the program with me. She was to sing “Come, Come Ye Saints,” a hymn that is so closely associated with our own heritage. How many times had I heard that hymn? But this time I actually saw the professional singer perform it. It was such a physical performance; you would have thought she was on the opera stage in front of thousands of people. There was so much energy and power in her performance. At the end, sweat was just pouring down her face like she had given it her all. I remember saying to myself, “I always want to be a teacher like that; I don’t ever want to go into a classroom saying I’m just winging it today or I don’t know much about this topic so don’t worry about taking notes.” I wanted to magnify the talent I had in the same way she magnified hers. It was the first time I’d seen someone who really put “might, mind, and strength” into what she did. It didn’t matter that we were in the basement of a visitors’ center with barely a hundred people present. It was phenomenal.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Rejoice in Every Good Thing, Chieko Okazaki
We don’t need a bishop’s assignment to be kind. We don’t need to sign up to be thoughtful. We don’t need to be sustained by our wards to be sensitive. Rejoice in the power you have within you from Christ to be a nucleus of love, forgiveness, and compassion.
Out of Small Things, Kathleen H. Hughes
Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Let’s simplify. The message of a good lesson comes through spiritual preparation. Let’s put our focus on the principles of the gospel and on the material in our study guides. Let’s prepare to create an interesting exchange of ideas through discussion, not through extra, invented work that makes us so weary we come to resent the time we spend in fulfilling our callings.