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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My First Calling

by ldsbishop (bio)

General Authorities sustaining themselves in their callings during General Conference.
Notice how Elder Christofferson is flashing the peace sign. Right-on Brother.

Almost 11 years ago I was baptised in a large semi-rural ward in Utah. Living in a town where 80% of the population were already members and those remaining were unlikely to be so in this life, I was the ward's only convert baptism for years.

After a few weeks of me being a member, the bishop was prompted to open a dusty, seldom used drawer to pull out a New Member Checklist. The good bishop was determined to ensure I had the three things each new member needs: a friend, a responsibility and nurturing with "the Good Word of God". The friend bit was easy: I was engaged to another member of his ward (she was very friendly!). The nurturing with "the Good Word of God" is a humorous story for a coming month. The calling bit was the challenge that dragged on for many weeks.

One Sunday, after the church meetings were over, I was asked to stay behind and have a meeting with the bishop. This was to be my first one-on-one meeting with him and the expectation was that I would receive a calling. Back in 2002, the church was then releasing stake and ward websites for US based units with calendars, meeting times, etc. The bishop knew I was a recent computer science graduate and I expected that my first assignment would be to administer the new ward website.

After going through the niceties which included questions asking if I was getting a bit too friendly with my friend/fiancée, the bishop asked if I knew much about computers and the Internet.

"Yes, I'm probably more qualified than most," I replied and sat back, ready for my first assignment.

The bishop's reply wasn't what I was expecting. "Thanks for that. I'm looking for a calling for you but I'm not sure yet. I'll see you again in a couple of weeks when I've given it some thought."

I wasn't disappointed at all but I was curious why he wanted to see me. Maybe he just wanted to make sure I wasn't giving my fiancée multiple [redacted] on a regular basis. Either way, he seemed satisfied with my answers and let me go.

A couple of weeks later I got called in for my expected second interview with the bishop. The same chastity questions as previously followed. The man was certainly concerned for my libido. After the awkward questions, the bishop once again moved on to the subject of my calling.

"How much do you know about scouting?" he asked.

I was previously a member of the scouting organisation in the UK, and while there are some similarities, the US system skewed a lot more towards Native American themes, something we don't have much of where I come from. I told the bishop that while I didn't know much about how scouting is run in the USA, I was sure I could pick it up and help with the activities in the ward.

The bishop replied, "OK, thanks. I'm still thinking of a calling for you. See me again in a few weeks."

Three weeks later I was called in for my third interview with the bishop. Making sure that the only time I had "eaten out at the Y" was when I visited Cougareat at BYU the month before, the bishop once again moved on to my possible calling.

"What do you know about music?" he asked.

The reply to this question was easy for me: "Nothing at all, bishop. I can't play a musical instrument and can't read music. I'm not a great singer. I have poor rhythm and I don't much like performing in front of people."

"OK, thanks for letting me know that", the bishop said, "I would like to extend the calling to you of Priesthood Chorister."

"The what!?" I coughed out.

"The Priesthood Chorister. I want to you pick the hymn and lead the music during Priesthood opening exercises on a Sunday. Will you accept the call?"

I meekly replied affirmatively, but I'm pretty sure my internal monologue was saying, "Sh*t noooooooooo!"

Somebody gave me a book entitled something along the lines of "Learning Mormon Music for Latter-day Dummies" and sent me on my way.

Over the coming week, between bouts of severe anxiety and enquiring about the price of plane tickets out of Utah, I attempted to learn about the time signatures of music, how to wave my hand about and which of the LDS hymns were the easiest to conduct. I chose a hymn and prepared for Sunday.

The day arrived and I was stood in front of the 200 or so men and boys that made up the Priesthood body of my ward. I was conducting the hymn (I can't remember which one), trying my best at keeping time. I was feeling very self-conscious of my hand waving around and was probably turning a deep shade of red. Why were there only a few singing? Many at the back were still in a conversation about their weekends. Nobody was looking at me. Had I been given the most redundant calling in the church? Those that were happy to sing, did so without needing a conductor. Many others didn't bother to sing at all.

This pattern would continue. I would choose the hymn, stand up and conduct it. Some men would sing, others wouldn't. Nobody took the slightest bit of notice of me. I might as well have been stood completely still, doing nothing; I doubt anyone would have noticed.

A short few months later, I moved out of the ward, married my fiancée and moved back to the UK. As far as I know, I was never released.

There is the saying that "Whom The Lord Calls, The Lord Qualifies." Did He qualify me? True, I now know the theory behind the basics of leading music and I genuinely did try my best to do it correctly. I can't say my musical ability has improved at all. I was never really good at it and it isn't a skill I have had to use since. I do feel sympathy for the people who lead the music in our meetings, standing there waving their hand around, being ignored by 90% of the people in the room.

I, of course, shall never know if the bishop was inspired to give me that calling or if he was scraping the bottom of the barrel of available callings in a busy ward. I do know that if I had an opportunity to run screaming from the church, never to return, that was it. One good thing about certain callings is that you'll be released from them eventually (or you just move to get away from it).

Do you remember your first calling? Did The Lord qualify you? Were you called by inspiration or desperation?

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