Editor’s note: This post is part of a collaborative effort of Mormon bloggers who are reading and writing about General Conference talks. We call it the General Conference Odyssey. This article at Meridian Magazine explains more about the Odyssey, and includes some thoughts from those of us participating in this project.

One of the things I appreciate about being a part of this effort is to read the words of my fellow brothers and sisters. Their perspectives and experience enrich my experience engaging the words of the prophets. Of course, we don’t want our posts to replace the words of the prophets, but we hope perhaps this project will inspire you in some way, as it has us.   

The other posts from this week’s reading, which focused on the Friday Afternoon Session of the April 1971 General Conference, are at the bottom of the post. 


It’s so interesting to see how the “What should I write about?” process works each week with the General Conference Odyssey. This week, rather than feeling drawn to the patterns in the talks, (which were definitely present — commandments was a key theme), I was drawn to the one talk that was completely different in focus and voice, which ended up opening up a pattern I observed in my personal sphere.

S. Dilworth Young began his talk thusly:

It is my desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord in what I say. The wards and branches of the Church have been organized to give activity to a large number of the members, the great majority actually. Yet there are many with no official position or no specific responsibility that calls them to do formal acts for the organization. They belong to the Church; they belong to the stake; they belong to the ward. They are invited to attend various classes and meetings designed for their instruction, but at the conclusion of a meeting they go home, having no particular appointment to arouse them to organizational activity. Many of them feel that they are being left out, that their talents are not wanted. Others do not want to accept any responsible calling.

I have struggled with health issues for 13 years and for several years, my health has affected my ability to hold Sunday callings. I have been active; I attend Sunday meetings every week. My issues relate to sleep and fatigue and migraines; mornings are a challenge. But I didn’t want to miss church, so I have attended other wards. (I have such a testimony about how much God cares about me getting the sacrament; I can’t tell you how many times He woke me up just in time to get the sacrament. Amazing.)

My calling for I-don’t-know-how-many-years has been ward tech specialist. As passionate as I am about the benefits of technology, the work I can do in this calling is fairly limited. And sometimes, as Elder Young describes, I have felt detached and sometimes discouraged when I’ve heard repeated talks about the importance of filling a calling. I also felt self-doubt about the things I have been able to do in spite of health issues — like running this website and doing other online volunteer work.

Without a formal calling, though, there have been times I have wondered if my offerings were acceptable to the Lord because my work wasn’t necessarily part of a calling for which I was set apart.

(I also read Elder Young’s words and think of women who may equate a differential in leadership callings between men and women as a sign that we are less needed, so I hope some of what I share here will be helpful.)

I love what Elder Young had to say — something that I’ve felt the Spirit tell me, and yet, it was still refreshing to hear it so clearly articulated “over the pulpit.”

Each of us has the same general calling. Each of us has the same responsibility as a result of entering into the waters of baptism and making the covenant. The Lord will not hold us blameless if we allow organizational responsibility, or the lack of it, to interfere with this special calling….

He then quotes numerous scriptures — too numerous to list here — that underscore the calling we all have to help the children of God who are in need. It seems obvious, but again, who doesn’t need to hear that our personal service to the one really does matter. In a world where accolades and position and resumes often measure the worth of work, it’s refreshing to be reminded that the Lord doesn’t work that way.

All about us are those in need of encouragement, assistance, and help—help of a kind we can all give, not money, but time and attention and personal encouragement, especially to those who must bear great responsibility for loved ones and who cannot pass it to others for the simple reason there are no others to whom to pass it.

I think of the women from years ago who I called my “stay-at-home sisters.” They were women who had older children but still chose to stay home. That was where they felt they should be. They filled their time serving others. These women helped me at a time when my health issues first started and I had three very young children. Some of my dearest friendships came out of that period in my life when I was in such want and women stepped into that role to help me over and over again.

I think of my friend who came over and read to my children when they had a two-week stomach bug and my husband was out of town. I think of friends who have spent hours with me walking and talking, helping me face the inevitable cycle of discouragement that swings around with chronic pain.

These are the kinds of examples of “helping the poor and needy” that Elder Young invites us to embrace as our covenant responsibility and opportunity. When we don’t have a formal [or “big”] calling, it’s all the more a chance to reach people who can’t be reached otherwise.

I know that home teachers are responsible for these needs, but often those at home conceal the needs from them. I know there are visiting teachers, but still there are many who hide their needs from them. I know the priesthood is expected to be alert, but this responsibility goes beyond the organized priesthood. This is a personal obligation that no living soul who loves the Lord can dismiss. It is one to which we must ever be alert.

Those with no [or “smaller’] ward assignments have more time to pursue this great work of the salvation of souls. Let us not sit back jealous of those giving attention to the stake, the ward, the auxiliaries [or sit back and wonder if our informal service matters to God], but seek our salvation where the Lord appointed us, among those who, weak in spirit, weak in body, or weak in desire, need to be encouraged, need to be raised up in the kingdom of God on this earth….

This echoes what James said: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27.)

One last word from the Lord to us in this day: “And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.” (D&C 52:40.)

I think of the conversation I just had on Sunday with the wife of a bishop of a young adult ward. Oh, how I wish every Mormon woman could have heard her and her husband talk about how they work together! She has not been set apart in her role as “just the bishop’s wife.” But there is no “just” in her service, and because she doesn’t limit her view by her lack of formal calling, she is channeling heavenly power in the lives of these young adults. That power was palpable.

Another conversation with a friend allowed me to bring up this talk by Elder Young, and reminded me also of President Russell M. Nelson’s recent Plea to [the] Sisters. How much the Lord needs us as women to understand how power through covenant living can and must be unleashed in these latter days as we prepare for the Savior’s Second Coming!

If ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work. – Doctrine and Covenants 4:5-6

It is easy to think that being called means being formally called. I am grateful for this talk by Elder Young and all that happened in my world this week to remind me that God’s work is everywhere and the needs of His children are all around us. Our calling to serve is never-ending, not bound by formal callings alone. I desire to serve. I pray to be open to where He calls me to help, every day.

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Other posts from this week’s General Conference Odyssey can be found below:

This is What the Gospel Is http://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2016/01/26/this-is-what-the-gospel-is
No Easy Path http://www.jrganymede.com/2016/01/26/no-easy-path/
LDS Conference October 1971 – The Mysteries of Being Righteous Aren’t So Mysterious http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/lds-conference-october-1971-the-mysteries-of-being-righteous-arent-so-mysterious/
Football, FHE, and Sacrifice https://symphonyofdissent.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/football-fhe-and-sacrifice/
Obedience, Sacrifice, and Love http://goodgazette.blogspot.com/2016/01/obedience-sacrifice-and-love-october.html
Choose the RIght. Why? http://patheos.com/blogs/soulandcity/2016/01/choose-the-right-why/
Battle of the Wills http://www.ldswomenofgod.com/battle-of-the-wills/
Practicing (Obeying) Virtue (the Commandments) http://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2016/01/26/practicing-obeying-virtue-the-commandments/
Love and Sacrifice http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com/2016/01/love-and-sacrifice.html