Pressing forward diligently down the straight and narrow and spiritual busy work.
We live in a day of spiritual busy work. There are many callings that are of no particular spiritual moment. We live in an age of big bureaucracy and we think the church should follow that pattern. We have fleshed out the programs of the church to bulge at the seams of what a large ward can support. We have a calling for practically everything, and we love our programs to death.
But we generally gain only a very poor spiritual return on our immense investment when our church callings are mostly not much better than spiritual busywork, and when our programs are not weighed in the balance and that which is found wanting is not discarded in each particular ward.
Many of us think that when D&C 84 speaks of magnifying our calling, it means our church calling. That is, frankly, weird. Because the word “calling” appears plenty of times in the scriptures and nobody reads it that way in any other general usage of the word: “there are many called, but few are chosen”, “by his own voice is he calling you”, “the calling and election of the house of Israel”, “make your calling and election sure”, and the list goes on. Everyone knows we aren’t talking about church callings in all those other scriptures. Everyone knows that they have been called by Christ to come follow him, and that when we say a man’s calling and election may be made sure, we are talking about that calling to follow Christ.
Now, sadly, some people are going to read that and think to themselves that reading D&C 84 and not misconstruing the word “calling” would destroy the church. They think to themselves, “if people didn’t think that magnifying their calling referred principally to their church callings then how could we maintain all these lovely programs – what would happen to the young mens, the young womens, the primary, the special activities, the activity days, the scouts, the campouts, the myriad sunday school classes, the atheletic competitions, the library, the super saturdays, … the whole great heap could not be supported without everyone thinking that they are saved, they are progressing their best down the straight and narrow path, precisely by doing those church callings.”
And that is the problem. Our programs have become an end unto themselves. They are not weighed in the balance of spiritual benefit, but in the balance of bureaucracy and tradition.
We think of these callings as so important that we give them out IN DIRECT CONFLICT with people pressing forward down the straight and narrow path.
There is great spiritual work to be done in the church. That work is saving the souls of men. It is preaching the gospel. It is saving our members. It is saving our dead. It is saving our families. It is administering saving ordinances and teaching saving doctrine. At a secondary, Aaronic, level it involves caring for our poor.
And we have so lost the vision of that as being our work that we will commonly supplant doing that work in order to maintain a bureaucratic tower of babel at the ward level. For that is what it becomes at times. It becomes a tower built to get to heaven, which actually stands in competition with the road Christ laid out.
I am not, by any means, saying that church callings all stand in competition with the road Christ laid out. But I AM saying that in some cases they do. Absolutely. Particularly when the calling is something that is spiritual busy work, and there are great needs in the home of the person being called which that person was anxious to attending to before their calling.
In some wards, the family is considered a secondary matter. They will take a mother of many children and give her some big church calling, when she already has her calling as plain as day from God her father. Anyone can see it. She has a calling for eternity that has 1000 times the spiritual moment of whatever church program she is assigned to devote her time to. It is a ludicrous reversal, where the church programs become a tower of babel. The programs become a tower of babel because they begin to directly compete with the most saving work that the members can do in the church. They become a competing path to heaven placed in the mothers road laid for her by a bishop who lacks vision, and frankly isn’t familiar with the Holy Ghost. They become a tower to climb to heaven that stands in competition with the work of saving souls that God has placed at her feet. In eternity, it will not matter how she bolstered up the young women’s program, or how great the activity she organized is, or how wonderfully she was able to contribute to “important” meetings like PEC and Ward Counsel. In eternity all of that will fade into the background as she faces the overwhelming matter of her children. The rest will all amount to nothing. It will be obvious then that those callings actually stood in competition with God’s work for her.
The church is not a beehive of callings. The church is about saving God’s children. It is a family affair. It is about exaltation.
What best brings about exaltation to God’s children is the ONLY RIGHT MEASURE of what work we ought to be about.
But that is not even close to the rod we now measure by. That is nothing like our measuring stick. We host weekly activities for our youth which are 95% just for fun. When they are spiritual, they are spiritual fluff. We don’t feed real doctrine, real scripture. We don’t feed them real missionary work, or saving our dead. We don’t feed our youth the things that will save them. But we LOVE our young men and young women’s program and KNOW they are so important in saving our youth. We don’t have the faith to recognize the power of the Holy Ghost is what must save our children, and to be saved by it, they must be introduced to it in potent ways. We think we can offer a dry cracker worth of real spirituality and save our kids.
And we put enormous effort and strain on families to accomplish this dry-cracker effort, all in the name of D&C 84 and its promise to those who will magnify their calling.
Look, every place else we see the word calling in the scriptures used in a general sense we read it as meaning something different: “calling and election made sure”, “there are many called, but few chosen”, “calling and election of the house of Israel”, “a Savior is calling you”. But we have frankly railroaded that scripture into a distortion to provide false impetus for efforts by the members to do nothing more than spiritual busy work.
Even when it hurts.
But we don’t care when it does, because we have become disciples of the principle. We have become engineers for the tower. Our young men played soccer and built camp fires. And our young women
And our younger girls made some crafts. And our cub scouts did exercises and tied knots. And at least two of these groups had a fluffy spiritual thought with some inspiring quotes and a scripture was tossed out into the wind for a moment in one of them and fluttered around without ever being considered as being a crucial truth or an eternal principle. But an inspiring and trendy phrase quickly followed and everyone felt content to have been spiritually fed.
All at tremendous strain on families.
And we look on our handiwork and muse to ourselves with a smile “Isn’t it wonder to see the work of salvation progressing?”
While there was not one jot of it that required the Holy Ghost to do.
Where did the principle that if we are not teaching by the spirit we shall not teach go?
There is more to that principle that we let on. It is not just a measure of the teacher. It is a measure of what is being taught. It is a measure of what is worthy to be taught in a church setting.
Let me say that again. If our program does not require the Holy Ghost to accomplish – if it does not require the presence of the Holy Ghost to properly present – then we would do better to heed the scripture and know better than to bother with that which the Holy Ghost will not attend.
If our work does not require the Holy Ghost, or does not prominently bring the Holy Ghost forward, it is, spiritually, a waste of time. Period.
If what we are offering is what every church offers its youth, its children, and its members: socials, gatherings, parties, fun times, cook outs, cook offs, good company and good friends, with a scripture thrown in good measure, then we are not saving anyone, because we are not offering the Holy Ghost to our members. We cannot be offering the same thing found in other Christian churches, even the best of them, and be saving anyone, because none of the other churches has the Holy Ghost.
In branches and small wards, the programs of the church have become a horrible burden that the members think the Lord wants them to carry in order to prove they will “magnify their calling”. Whenever a new family moves in, the Bishop often doesn’t even consider the family circumstances. He’s just glad to have more shoulders to put to the wheel. It is the massive wheel of making sure that full set of programs is filled. He knows that it is massive. He knows it is a burden. But he thinks that the local ward bureaucracy which has been filled out to the limits of what a full size ward can endure is the test, the crucible, that the ward members must accomplish. They must put their shoulders to the massive wheel and make sure they have all the programs running.
So they can save people.
Or perhaps that last phrase never crosses his mind.
Which would be too bad, and far too common, because it is the only phrase that counts.
Our job is to save the souls of men.
If we are having our members engage in that work, then Holy Ghost will come into their lives in a miraculous way. They will be transformed as will those they seek to save.
And if we are keeping them from doing so, by filling their time with tasks that are less than what they really need to be about, then we are driving the Holy Ghost out of their lives.
If the work we require of our members connects them prominently and directly to the Holy Ghost then we are doing the work of salvation. And if it does not, then we are wasting their time, and selling them short, making them hope and sacrifice for exaltation in what amounts to no more than spiritual busywork.
And we must keep that dichotomy in mind in the making of callings and the running of programs in our wards.