Put your hands together, brothers and sisters. It’s time once again to play your favorite after-church guessing game . . . Guess That Calling!
Cue cheesy game-show music.
And heeeeeeeeere’s your host.
HOST: Thank you, Mr. Announcer Voice. And welcome, everyone, to today’s show. Our three lovely contestants, Ted, Pam, and Gidgidonni, all have their buzzers ready, so let’s jump right in and begin round one. Ted, you’re our returning champion; why don’t you pick the first category?
TED: I’ll choose “Bishopric” for 200 please.
HOST: And the question is, “Brother Jones, the second counselor in the bishopric, announced today that he and his family are moving out of state. Who will the bishop call to take his place?”
TED: Brother Williams?
HOST: Oh, good guess, Ted. Brother Williams is a spiritual guy, but the bishop will actually keep him as the high priest group leader.
PAM: Brother McKenzie?
HOST: Oh, sorry, Pam. Brother McKenzie will stay as the ward financial clerk. Gidgidonni?
GIDGIDDONI: Sister Adams?
HOST: Uh . . . no, Sister Adams is a female, Gidgidonni. Only brethren can serve in the bishopric. The correct answer was Brother Clark, who no one thought of because he’s been teaching in the Primary for the past few years and no one notices him. OK, Ted, you still have possession.
TED: I’ll take “Young Men” for 300, please.
HOST: And the question is, “Brother Smith, the Young Men’s president, was just called to the stake High Council. Who will the bishop call to take his place?”
PAM: That new guy in the ward?
HOST: Judges, can we accept “That new guy in the ward”?
HOST: That’s correct, Pam. And for your information, that new guy’s name is Brother Hilton. He and his wife just graduated from BYU. Aren’t they cute? OK, Pam you’ve got the board.
PAM: I’ll take “Stake Presidency” for 1,000, please.
HOST: And the question is…
BING! BING! BING!
HOST: Oh, it’s today’s Daily Double. Pam, how much of your earnings would you like to wager?
PAM: I only have 300 points.
HOST: All righty, then. I’ll take that to mean you’re putting it all on the line. The question is, “This November will be ten years since our stake presidency was called. In all likelihood, a new stake presidency will be sustained. Can you name at least two members of the new stake presidency?”
Tick Tock Tick Tock TIck Tock BING!
HOST: OK, Pam. What’s your answer?
PAM: Uh…I’m going to go with Bishop Peterson of the Second Ward and Brother Gregory from the High Council.
HOST: That’s correct! Good eye, Pam. That discernment could win you the game.
HOST: Uh oh. That sound means we only have time for one more question. Pam?
PAM: “Mission Calls” for 400 please.
HOST: And the question is, “Brother and Sister Hanson just put in their mission call. Where will they be called to serve?”
TED: South America?
HOST: Oh, sorry, Ted. Brother Hanson has a weak stomach. He specifically requested a no-bean-eating mission. South America is incorrect.
GIDGIDDONI: The Relief Society?
HOST: Um…I don’t know how to respond to that except to say “Incorrect.”
PAM: Historic Nauvoo?
HOST: Yes, that’s correct! And that means you, Pam, are our new champion.
Cue cheesy music and applause.
OK, did I get carried away here? Probably, but if you’re like me, you play this game all the time. A family announces that they’re moving, and immediately you begin to wonder who will be called to fill their vacancies.
This happens most frequently with the changing of the guard. Say for example the bishop has been serving in that capacity for a full five years now and next week is ward conference. What’s the first thought in everyone’s mind?
Yep. The bishop will be released.
And what’s the second thought in everyone’s mind?
That’s right. Who will be the new bishop?
Everybody speculates. Everyone’s got their theories.
My wife and I are already betting on our next bishop, and our current one still has eight months to go. It’s not that we don’t like our current bishop. It’s not that we’re eager to see him go. He’s a great guy. We just love playing the guessing game.
Turns out we both have our chips on the same guy. We’ll see.
And what’s my point? Am I saying that we shouldn’t do this? Do I think it’s bad to guess ahead? No. Personally I think it’s kind of fun. Whenever I guess right I can’t help but feel “in tune.”
Because the decision is the Lord’s. All callings are made by direct revelation. The speculations of ward members won’t change the decision one iota.
Which is great. Because it discourages us from seeking callings. We don’t study to be the bishop. We don’t vie for position in the Primary presidency. They come directly from the Lord. I know of no other religious organization that does this.
I’m not faulting ministers of other faiths, of course. It’s wonderful that they dedicate their lives to the Lord. My wife’s uncle is a Presbyterian minister, and if you met him you’d agree that he’s a humble, devout man of God. I have nothing but respect for him and others like him.
But in the LDS church we do things a little differently. We don’t wake up one day and decide, “You know, I’m gonna be a bishop in the Mormon church.”
In fact, the only sure-fire way to NEVER be called bishop — or Relief Society President for that matter — is to WANT the calling. If you’re power hungry, the Lord knows that. And he’ll take humility over ability any old day. Count on it.
I remember an incident on my mission that my mission president told me about. In an interview, one of the missionaries asked him, “So, President, when are you going to make me your assistant?”
You can probably guess what the mission president’s response was.
So seeking after callings won’t win you any points or land you any positions. And that’s why it’s fun to speculate about filling vacancies. We make our guesses based on character instead of trying to determine who works hardest to impress the bishop.
And because our leaders work by direct revelation, we can be sure the right person is called.
I love it when a calling surprises me. “Oh wow. That guy? Yeah, he’s awesome. He’s perfect. I never would have thought of him, but he’s perfect.”
You’ve no doubt heard many similar stories in General Conference. In every story a general authority goes to a stake to call a new patriarch or something and he does all these interviews, but he just can’t find the right guy. So he goes home and prays and the next morning he goes to the meeting and in walks this little old man who no one notices and no one thought would amount to much and the general authority says, “That’s our guy.”
I love these stories. They’re proof that revelation works.
I can’t imagine how difficult a decision it must be to fill a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The prophet has to understand the Lord’s will completely.
Because unlike the bishop of a ward, who has a very limited pool of people to choose from, the prophet can call any member of the church throughout the world.
It’s unlikely, of course, that the Lord will choose someone who hasn’t had some experience in church government, but the possibility exists.
Consider President Howard W. Hunter. When he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles he was serving as a stake president in California. He wasn’t a seventy. He wasn’t an area authority. He was a stake president. Wow. President David O. McKay, who called him, must have clearly understood the principle of revelation.
I’ll admit that I’ve already speculated on who will be called to fill the current vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. But I won’t share my theories here. Suffice it to say that whomever the Lord calls will be wonderful, capable men. Of that I am sure.
And I don’t think our speculation on the subject is at all disrespectful of the deceased. In that regard I think we should grieve for the departed, pray for comfort for their families, thank the Lord for their examples and service, and then look to the future.
We don’t forget them. We hold their words close to our heart. But we do so with our chins up and faces forward.
And to respect other men’s honor and character and to hope to be led by them is, in my opinion, not offensive to the Lord.
So be it apostle or bishop or young women’s president, I say speculating on who will be called is harmless meditation. Just keep in mind whose decision it will be. And while we wait, let’s thank the Lord for knowing all men and women far better than we ever can.