Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle
This talk was given on 26 Feb, 2006. (It was supposed to be given on the 12th, but church was cancelled due to a snow storm.) I was asked to speak about how the Savior chose people from humble surroundings who then went on to become great leaders.
The title of my talk is "I can't do that!" and it deals with receiving church callings that you know you can't handle. I would like to start by saying how grateful I am that I am able to talk on this subject. It has been one of my favorite lessons for me to learn in the Gospel, even though I keep learning it over and over again.
When Brother Argondizza asked me to speak, he asked me to address the issue that Jesus would pick people from humble circumstances who would then grow into great leaders.
I would like to start out by reading from the Book of Mormon:
This scripture has a really comforting and beautiful message. The Lord gives us weaknesses so that we can turn to the Lord for help. Those weaknesses make us humble, which in turn makes us more receptive to help from the Lord. The more we ask the Lord for help, the more blessings we receive, and the stronger we can grow within the Gospel, and the closer we are drawn to the Lord.
So the more we know we can't do something, the more we need to depend on the Lord for help. And the more we depend on the Lord for help, the better we become at the very thing we thought we couldn't do.
An excellent example of this can be found in the Old Testament in the book of Judges, Chapter 7. The Israelites had gathered an army of 32,000 men led by Gideon to fight against the Midianites. The Lord said that Gideon had too many people, and he was to tell anyone who was afraid to go home. 22,000 people went home, which reduced the army to 10,000, but that was still too many. So the Lord told Gideon to take the men down to some water nearby and tell them to drink Now there are two ways to drink water out of a stream or lake: you can put your head down to the water or you can dip your cupped hand in the water and bring it up to drink. Of the 10,000 men, only 300 cupped their hands to drink. The Lord told Gideon that those were the ones he was to take. So, his army started out with 32,000 and got cut down to 300. And of course, they went on to win the battle over the Midianites.
Now, the reason the Lord insisted on such a small army was quite simple. If the Israelites had defeated the Midianites with a large army, it would be easy for them to think they had done it because they were big and strong. But, if they only had 300 people, it would be very clear that the reason they won was because the Lord had helped them win.
This is much the same as with callings in our church. I have found that I do better in callings that I'm not qualified for, because that means that I will have to rely on the Lord when trying to magnify my calling.
Someone once commented that in this church, with the exception of pianist and organist, the capabilities of the person being called aren't usually considered. The general assumption is that if the Lord wants a person to serve in a particular calling, then the Lord will make sure that they do well in it.
Let me illustrate this by telling you about my first few callings in the church.
When I first joined this church, I was, like many converts, a very different person than I am now. The church changes most of us, sometimes quite dramatically, and much of this change is done by our callings.
When I first joined the church, I was very quiet, and didn't like crowds. I could talk one-on-one to a person I already knew, but I hated being in a large crowd - like a party or something - and having to talk to a lot of people. I was scared to death of walking up to a stranger and introducing myself. So, the first calling I got after I joined the church was Activity Committee Chairman. At this time, the church was starting the family history name extraction program, which had people reading microfilms and listing the names that were contained on the film. If you have used the Family Search website, you have taken advantage of the name extraction program. Anyway, the Bishop told me that my first duty would be to talk to every person in the Ward to ask them what languages they knew, and if they would be willing to help with the name extraction program. That meant that I would have to go up and introduce myself to tons of strangers, which was exactly what I didn't want to do. Surprisingly, after the first few attempts, I didn't mind introducing myself to strangers any more, and today I think nothing of introducing myself to people.
The next calling I received was Deacon's Quorum adviser and Scoutmaster. I was told that the scout troop had problems, and I was to help rejuvenate it. Now, up to this point, I had only been in charge of a few organizations, and in every case that organization fell apart shortly after I was put in charge of it. Here was an organization that was already having problems, so I was afraid to think of how bad I would do. I spent a lot of time praying for help with this calling, and as a result, did fairly well, The troop grew and became very active. The only problem I had was with all the administrative paper work. I hate paper work, so that was the next thing for me to learn.
When we moved to the Philadelphia area in 1980 (we joined the church out west ... in Pittsburgh), the Bishop of our new ward was Roland Brown, who some of you know as Patriarch Brown, and may have gotten your Patriarchal Blessing from him. Anyway, my new job had me out here a month or so before my family could join me, so I spent a lot of my free time at the Bishop's house. At one point I mentioned that I hoped he was thinking about giving me a calling, and he smiled and said he had already been thinking along those lines. He then said: How do you feel about administrative paperwork??? I was called as his Executive Secretary, which involves tons of administrative paperwork
Well, eventually I got to the point where I could deal with paper work. I still don't like it, but I can put up with it. One of the good parts of that calling was watching new leaders being called, and listening to the Bishopric discuss the needs of the ward, including calling people to leadership positions. The one thing I was unsure about was getting inspiration asking the Lord for help making a decision. I marveled how newly called leaders could come up with names for counselors or other callings. Well,you guessed it, that was the clue for my next calling.
I remember this calling very well. My wife and I were asked to go to the Stake President's office. I hadn't a clue what was going on. President Temple began to speak, and at some point told me that I was being called as the next Elder's Quorum President. I just froze. I was in shock. He had expected me to say something, but when I didn't, he talked a bit more, waiting for some reaction from me. Finally, my wife leaned over and punched me in the arm, which broke me out of my daze. I was scared silly! This calling would mean I would need inspiration on a regular basis. How was I going to do that?
Amazingly, it didn't take very long. As soon as I started to think about who to call for counselors, two names popped into my mind. The same with the secretary. As I have said before, if the Lord wants you for a calling, the Lord will help you do well in that calling.
So, what is the secret of doing well in a calling? Quite simply: faith and obedience. If you have the faith to believe that the Lord will help you, He will. If you have the faith (and courage) to obey the promptings of the Spirit, you will do fine in your callings. You just have to keep reminding yourself that you aren't doing well on your own, but rather the Lord is helping you do well.
I should emphasize that this lesson isn't limited to new members. As I suggested earlier, I'm still learning this lesson over and over again. Also, if you look in the scriptures, you will find that when the Lord calls a prophet, the most common response is: "Who, me?? You can't mean me!? I can't do that!".
Recently during Sunday School we talked about Enoch's reaction to being called as a prophet, which is recorded in Moses 6:31: "I'm too young, everybody hates me, I'm slow of speech." Likewise, in Exodus 3 and 4, we read that Moses argued with the Lord about how he was not eloquent and slow of speech. The same things have happened with modern day prophets. President Spencer W. Kimball is one of my favorite modern-day prophets, because he was prophet when I first joined the church. When President Kimball was called to be an Apostle, he was in shock and disbelief and reacted something like: "Oh no, not me! There must be some mistake." And, of course, he went on to be one of the greatest prophets of modern time.
All of us have the opportunity to serve the Lord. Sometimes those callings are very challenging, and sometimes they are not. Regardless, if we continue to pray for help in magnifying our callings, we can continue to grow in the Gospel.
In many ways, the more unqualified you think you are for a new calling, the better you will do, provided you remember to rely heavily on the Lord for help in your calling, and have the faith to follow up with the promptings from the Lord.
I want to tell all of you how happy I am to be back in South Philly. I am very happy to be working with the youth, including many of my former primary students. When Linda and I got our Patriarchal Blessings many years ago, we were both told that we would have many opportunities to work with the youth. As much as I enjoy working with adults, I have found that working with the youth has been lots of fun and extremely satisfying. Exhausting, but satisfying.
As I frequently tell people, I have found that I am much happier if I concentrate on doing what the Lord wants me to do, rather than try to talk the Lord into letting me do something that I think I want to do. I hope and pray that each of you learn to trust in the Lord so that whenever you get a calling and are tempted to say "I can't do that", that instead you will say: "I'll do my best." After all, that is all the Lord wants us to do: our best.? As long as we are trying, the Lord will be helping us.
I know that the Gospel is true. I know that our Heavenly Father loves us, and Jesus loves us, and both of them will do whatever it takes to help us get back to them. They want us to return to them, which is why they are so willing to help us succeed. I leave these words with you, in the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.