What follows is my Sacrament meeting talk I just gave. I hope you enjoy it, and find it instructive.

Service in the Church and to Our Heavenly Father

One of the things I’ve always found curious are the people who do not affiliate with any organized religion. They often say things like “My religion is in my heart” or “I go into nature to get close to God.” Some seem to find it entirely in meditation, mindfulness or pursue mysticism and obscure religious traditions. Some may identify with a particular religion but do not attend for whatever reasons. Some do attend and affiliate but pick and choose what they believe, even if it is at odds with their so-called faith.

I’ve heard this referred to as religion à la carte, or cafeteria religion. I like to call it Burger King religion: Have it any way you want it.

I’ve thought a lot about these religious beliefs and rationales over the years as well as the people who espouse them. I’ve decided that they all have at least two things in common:

1. They receive all of the benefits and blessings we normally associate with religion. They feel close to God. God supposedly blesses them and so forth.

2. Their belief system never requires anything of them. There are never any responsibilities or obligations. They don’t really have to do anything. The blessings of religion simply accrue to them.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we make a lot of covenants and promise to do a great many things. We have tons of responsibilities and obligations.

However, I don’t think we are completely free of these notions.

When I lived in Virginia, our General Authority Seventy for a stake conference once was Elder F. Enzio Busche. Elder Busche was the first native of Germany to be called as a General Authority, even before Elder Uchtdorf. Elder Busche was placed on emeritus status in 2000 and died in 2020.

He told us that when he joined the Church, he made two stipulations about becoming a member. First, it was under the condition that he never have to serve in a calling and second, that he never have to give a talk in church.

You can imagine how that all turned out.

Serving in Callings in the Church

Being a member is all about serving in callings and speaking in church.

I’ve become aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult for church leaders to get people to accept and serve in callings as well as to speak in church. I find this very curious. Growing up in Utah in a slightly different era, saying “No” to a church leader’s request to fill a calling or speak in church was simply not done.

I’ve lived in somewhere between 35-50 wards and branches total. I’m not certain of the exact number. So, please consider that my impressions come from more than just this ward given the number I’ve been in.

Be that as it may, even if people do accept callings, there always seems to be an assumption on the part of local leaders that people cannot be relied on to do their callings even if they do accept them.

Brothers and Sisters, if the Lord’s Church doesn’t deserve our best efforts, what does?

Service in the Church is the most obvious avenue to serve others and the Lord. It’s an opportunity afforded us because of our membership. It blesses us as well as others. We learn and grow as we serve.

One of the things that has troubled me lately is why are we losing so many of the youth in the Church. Surely, part of the answer to this perplexing question has to be the conflicting messages we send with our professing to embrace the gospel and our Church but then exhibiting such uncommitted and lackadaisical efforts to serve in callings or fulfill the other responsibilities we took on when we joined.

I’m not blind to the fact that many of you find these obligations difficult or frightening if not terrifying. Let me share some thoughts from an article in the February 2020, Ensign entitled, “My Willing Heart, My Bishop, and My Schizophrenia By Sarah P. Hancock.

Her mental health diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder bipolar type with catatonia due to toxic encephalopathy. This is how she explains what she suffers from:

I experience symptoms of schizophrenia (the brain plays tricks on all five of my senses), bipolar disorder (dynamic shifts in mood), and catatonia (a shutdown of my ability to interact with the world around me) when the toxic encephalopathy (toxins agitating the brain) is flared by my dietary choices or by infections.

She wanted to get past the stigma of this disease, especially in the new ward she and her husband had moved into. She wanted people to get to know her as a person before they learned of her mental illness. She describes her initial experience in this new ward:

Soon my husband and I were called to be leaders over the 11-year-old Scouts. I readily accepted the calling. Every talk and lesson I’d ever heard about being entitled to the Lord’s help while serving on His errand reverberated in my heart. I knew that “whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”1 I reveled in having been considered able and worthy to serve. I’d lived for several years in remission and felt ready to move forward with life.

Arriving at church for our first night of Scouts fully prepared, I felt cautiously optimistic about enjoying an evening with just three boys. But within the first 10 minutes, my acquired sensory processing disorder (a high sensitivity to input from the senses) was so overstimulated that it rendered me speechless. I was more focused on the rule requiring two leaders in the room than on the reality that if I didn’t get out of the room, I would become progressively worse. Consequently, surrounded by excited Scout chatter, I quickly deteriorated. By the end of 60 minutes, I found myself rocking in the corner with my fingers in my ears, humming to calm my brain.

After it was over and as her husband was helping her out of the room, they encountered the Bishop who was extremely distressed at her condition and released her on the spot.

In a later interview with her, she explained his loving understanding and sensitive advice to her: She says,

He went on to explain that because I knew of my illness and accepted the calling anyway, my sacrifice was akin to the sacred widow’s mite, for “of [my] want [I] did cast in all that [I] had” (Mark 12:44). He said that my acceptance of the calling was more important than my actual ability to fulfill it, because the Lord understood my illness. He lovingly explained that part of the reason he’d been inspired to call me as a Scout leader was that the Lord wanted the bishop [him] to understand how willing I was to serve.

I want to tell you a story about a girl named Christine. Christine was a friend of mine years ago when we attended the same young single adult ward. Christine was somewhat challenged. She and her twin were deprived of oxygen in the birth canal. This deprivation had life-long implications.

Christine’s twin was institutionalized since birth. Many people believed Christine belonged in there with her.

So, when I walked into Relief Society one day and realized Christine was the teacher I groaned inwardly. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting much.

However, something really wonderful happened. Christine was prepared and she was sincere. As a result, she had the Spirit with her.

In fact, I consider her lesson that day as one of the most powerful I have ever experienced. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was about but I always tear up when I think about it.

The Spirit she had cultivated in her preparation and her delivery made up for any trait or ability that Christine lacked.

Those “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”

Getting something out of church

One of the comments you hear all the time or may even express yourself on occasion is that you don’t get anything out of church, or else you didn’t get anything out of it on a particular day.

If we are all trying to “get” something out of church, who is doing the giving? The only way any of us are going to get anything out of church is if at least some of us do some giving.

Trying to “get” something out of church means you are wholly on the receiving end. May I suggest that this is a selfish way to approach things.

I participate in an online support group owned by my doctor. The problem is that almost no one ever contributes anything to it, except my doctor and myself. It’s like everyone simply sits back and expects to be spoon fed. No one seems to feel any responsibility to contribute.

This sort of behavior and attitude is getting more and more prevalent, even in church. It is very much an entitlement mentality.

Our beliefs and faith are not passive. They require things of us. Heavenly Father expects us to be actively engaged in our faith and actively engaged in a good cause.

Action is not optional and passivity is not acceptable.

Speaking in Church

I freely admit that I am not one of the people who is frightened of speaking in church. Even as a child it never really held any terrors for me.

It may partially be due to the fact that I’ve been speaking in church my whole life and was gradually acclimated to it. However, it is not accurate to say that others with this training lose their fear of it. Plenty of lifers like myself who grew up in Utah are still struck with terror when asked to speak.

Having made my living teaching, any reluctance or residual fear I had dropped away.

However, most of you are not in my shoes. I know that. Let me suggest some things to you though.

We are commanded to strengthen each other, to open our mouths and share the things of our heart. Being well-versed in public speaking techniques is not on the menu. In fact, when I encounter a polished speaker in a church setting, any church setting, I tend to be really leery of them.

Words from the heart, however inexpertly expressed, accompanied by the spirit, have real power.

Having been a member from birth, attended Seminary, BYU, Institute, the works, there is almost no doctrine I’m unaware of. I really look forward to hearing the words of converts, especially their conversion stories, what drew them to the Church and especially their faith journey. I always find these stories interesting and empowering. Your testimonies have real power.

I have faced many audiences over the years. Some are hostile, some are neutral, some are passive. Today, you as an audience are composed of my friends, acquaintances, fellow church members and so forth. You are not a hostile audience and there is no reason to fear you.

Many of you are smiling and encouraging. We don’t eat up speakers and spit them out. As we all sit here in the audience, we want people to do well. As a speaker, there is no reason to fear a church audience.

There is no reason to fear anything.

One of the problems I’ve suffered from that I never expected to find an answer for in the scriptures was my insomnia. I’ve always suffered from it, even as a little child. After my husband Greg died, it got a lot worse.

I was so consumed with worry and stress about how I was going to be able to do things that Greg had done for me.

Finally, I had an epiphany. I was consumed by fear and fear is the opposite of faith. Faith can replace fear. I finally told myself this strongly enough that I was able to go to bed and sleep like a baby, at least that night anyway.

One of my favorite stories that illustrate this comes from a little-known incident that occurred in 1993. President Howard W. Hunter was the featured speaker at a Church Educational System (CES) fireside being held on a Sunday night at the Marriott Center. President Hunter was President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at that time.

The Marriott Center is the huge arena on BYU’s campus. It holds about 20,000 people. There were about 15,000-17,000 people there that night.

As President Hunter was speaking, a man rushed onto the rostrum and basically took President Hunter and the meeting hostage. He had a briefcase that he claimed held a bomb and he was holding a detonator type device.

The broadcast was cut off at that point and the remote viewing and radio audience did not know what was happening. However, events continued to unfold in the Marriott Center.

I think my family and I were listening to it at home and didn’t know what happened when the broadcast went dead. My brother then got a call from his professor. He was a broadcast journalism major at the time and that weekend was some sort of holiday. My brother was the only broadcast journalism student left in town that day. The professor ordered my brother to get down to the Marriott Center and cover the event. It was only then that we were made aware of the seriousness of the situation.

As a result, my brother had access to video and audio that was never made public. Some of this he shared with us.

The deranged man attempting to hijack the meeting had ordered President Hunter to read a three-page document declaring him to be the true leader of the church. President Hunter refused.

Because of the possibility of there being a bomb in that briefcase, church security was unwilling to rush this man and subdue him. They positioned themselves close to President Hunter and assured him that they would protect him.

Fear was seemingly everywhere, except with President Hunter. He simply waited patiently and exhibited no fear whatsoever.

Eventually, the man was subdued and carted off to the funny farm where he remained for a long time. There was no bomb and no detonator.

After all this was ascertained, an unflustered and unfazed President Hunter resumed delivery of his talk.

I’ve heard other examples of how our top church leaders never seem to exhibit any fear despite extremely serious situations where others around them are terrified.

Fear is the opposite of faith.

Your fear of serving in the church or speaking in church can be conquered by replacing your fear with faith. It is very appropriate to pray for the faith you need.

Poignant and personal example of magnifying your church calling

We often talk about magnifying our callings in the Church. It means living not for ourselves, but for others. It involves how we can bless others’ lives and how we can assist the Church in its divine purpose. The following story comes from my life. This is how my father sought to magnify his church calling.

As a small child, my father had a series of local church leadership callings. However, he seemed most comfortable and well suited to being executive secretary. This is primarily a support position to bishops and bishoprics. He organized a lot of bishoprics.

One of the ways he organized them was by setting up a system of local ward statistics.

This was long before digital tools, so only paper tools and other hard copy resources were available. The system needed to be useful, transparent, easy to maintain and easy to access. In effect, it was an engineering problem. Since my father was an engineer, he was well suited to address the problem.

What he developed was unusual for the times. Although chalkboards were common, whiteboards were not. He had some familiarity with them because of his engineering profession. Instead of special magic markers, grease pencils were used on them at the time.

He obtained a large whiteboard, somewhere between 5-6 feet high and about 10-12 feet long. He intended for it to be mounted to a wall in the bishop's office.

He wanted the bishop to be able to look up, gaze at the board and know exactly where the ward was statistically, now and in comparison, to the past.

The whiteboard was thin and had to be mounted on some sort of wood. He thoroughly researched his options, as well as the best glue to make them hold together properly when mounted. By the second or so bishopric he assisted, he had the system perfected.

My father had worked out a grid type structure for the whiteboard. He carefully measured and drew in all the boxes by hand. Space was reserved for all the different priesthood quorums and auxiliaries' statistics. The boxes had to be drawn with permanent ink while the contents had to be erasable.

Since this even preceded basic calculators, he computed in his head or by slide rule. He carefully put the computations into boxes and indicated which box needed what computation. He filled in the statistics himself, but someone else could have done it using his system.

After moving to a new area for his professional work, he was again called as executive secretary to the local bishopric. He immediately started setting up this system for the bishop's office.

My father worked at a trona mine. Potash is another name for trona. Mined like coal, it has many industrial uses. My father was a chemical engineer and the supervisor of environmental control for the company.

One day he was checking the waste water stream coming out of the plant. He had to check the flow in the middle of the stream.

He was standing on a riser of his own design and construction. The stream was only supposed to be a foot and a half wide and about a foot and a half deep. However, erosion had taken a toll and the stream was about two feet wide and three and a half feet deep. The riser gave way and he fell in. He was totally submerged.

The water had some chemicals in it and it was extremely hot, about 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit (82-87 Celsius). He was able to crawl out and yell for help. The chemicals were washed off but the hot water had burned him badly. Over 90 percent of his body had second- and third-degree burns. Only his palms and the bottoms of his feet were not seriously burned.

He was taken to some local hospitals but was quickly transported to the Burn Center at the University of Utah, the only hospital capable of dealing with such serious injuries.

People normally do not die from burns; they die because their bodies are overwhelmed and cannot cope with such serious injury. Most vital organs shut down until death finally occurs. It took my father four days to die.

After his accident, but before he died, he was giving instructions from his hospital bed for how the whiteboard project at church needed to be finished.

Imagine being on your death bed and being concerned about doing your calling. How many of us would do that?

For years I did not know what to call his project or how to describe it. The official name for what he did with his clumsy hard copy and non-digital tools was a spreadsheet. We now call the boxes cells and we can input our numbers as a function and have our statistics automatically computed by the software.

Only in hindsight can I fully appreciate the vision and effort my father put into magnifying his calling. I will never forget this lesson.

A tribute to a leader magnifying their calling

I want to read a Facebook post from a guy I knew many years ago. This Facebook post is a tribute to a young men’s leader named Jim. The guy that wrote it is my age and I went to school with him. He was also in my ward so I went to church and church activities with him as well. I can attest to the accuracy of how he describes himself. This is what he says:

Jim, one of the most influential men in my life passed away on Christmas Eve. I just found out from a friend of mine from the young men's quorum of my youth.

I am still a member of the LDS church largely because of Jim. At a crucial time in my youth, my strongest connection to the gospel was this: I knew Jim loved me and I knew he believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That was enough. He was the first person, outside my family, who loved me for and in spite of who I was --and at that age, it was a challenge to tolerate me. I owe him a great debt and have freely admitted that to him since.

I might add, that although I was most certainly the worst of the young men, I was not alone. I belonged to an unruly, irreverent and mischievous quorum of young misfits who were notoriously difficult. (OK, I admit that their contribution to the chaos was usually laughing at what I said and did.) We went through adviser after adviser. One brother became so frustrated at my constant disruption that he threw his janitorial-sized key ring at my head; they hit the wall next to my ear. Without the sense to cower, I asked, "Were those priesthood keys?" To his credit, he let me live.

Jim could tame us, but not without great effort, love and patience. We were so wild that the bishopric moved Jim up each time I advanced from deacon to teacher and priest.

Instead of humiliating or intimidating us into submission as many of his predecessors had tried, he laughed generously at our jokes, then redirected our attention. He was a skilled teacher. He often started his lessons by saying, "This lesson is to be discussed and I am your disgusting leader." Bless him.

Jim, you blessed my life and I have tried to honor you in my service to the young men of many wards over the years and not a one was as hard to love as I was. I loved you then and I love you still. The world was better because you were here. Till we meet again, my dear, dear friend and brother in Christ.

It is my hope that we will truly catch the vision of church service and that we can all merit such a tribute at the end of our lives.

In the name of Jesus Christ,


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