“Called to Serve”: Regardless Where or When

“Called to Serve”: Regardless Where or When May 3, 2023

Called to a new place
Richards/Wikimedia Commons

When I was called as a mission president to Chile, I was thrilled because I had served my mission in Chile as a young man, though not in that particular mission. When I learned that my former mission was also getting a new president, I started to complain, “Why didn’t they send me back to my own mission?  Couldn’t they see on the papers that I had served there?”  Then I got rebuked in a big way. I felt like the Spirit slapped me across the face—“You know you are going exactly where you are needed. Now knock it off.”  Like many others, I have learned that we are called to serve where and how we are needed.

Called to Adapt

I renewed my commitment to go wherever I was called to serve.

The Full Picture

I found out I was to be the fifth president in less than a year in my new mission. One president’s wife had died; the next president’s wife had developed a tumor.

The third president, a Chilean, was suddenly transferred to replace the north American mission president in Venezuela when the government there asked all North Americans to leave.

The mission was then overseen by a member of the area presidency until my wife and I arrived. Clearly the missionaries needed stability. I knew I was called to where I was needed, not to my more comfortable place.

A Prophetic Revelation

 As with my Chile call, many of us can be surprised if we can’t see the full picture, which may be much bigger than we realize. Elder Ronald A. Rasband told of receiving his call as a young missionary.1 His father, brother, and brother-in-law had gone to Germany, and he wanted to go there also.

But he was called to a different mission for a different destiny. “I[was] called to the Eastern States Mission, headquartered in New York City. I was disappointed . . . and opened my scriptures for comfort.”

He read Doctrine and Covenants 100:3, “Behold, and lo, I have much people in this place, in the regions round about; and an effectual door shall be opened in the regions round about in this eastern land.”

These words, recorded by Joseph Smith in 1833, were Elder Rasband’s  “revelation”: “I knew then I had been called to the exact mission the Lord wanted me to serve in.“

He did not realize then, of course, that much of his later church service would be in the eastern states.

Both Elder Rasband and I are grateful to have not been called to a place that might feel more comfortable.

Remember that Matthew must have been quite comfortable in his familiar seat as a tax collector, but he left immediately when called  to become an apostle—from a worldly employment to a sacred calling.

Called to Pioneer

 Some are called outside what they bargained for.

A Startling Diversion

One of the most striking examples I recall  was a senior missionary couple who in 1992 were called to do specific charitable work in India, for which they were well suited.

With typical world instability, India shut down the opportunity for this couple to come, but Mongolia opened up to missionaries. So they were one of a few senior couples called to open up a country they knew little about, with a language none of them spoke, and legendary bitter cold.

What an adventure!—21st century pioneering at its most “primitive” and unpredictable. This was a very difficult assignment, but the Lord had called them and they went.

Other missionaries came over the years; by 2015, 11,000 Mongolians were Church members. Sister Neill F. Marriott, who visited Mongolia, reported,

The youth in Mongolia are the hope . . . This is a first-generation church, and . . . their lives are the anchor that . . . the Church is going to build on. And they are steady.2

A Pioneering Pandemic

Pandemic missionaries were also pioneers. Dieter F. Uchtdorf put their challenges in perspective:

This virus did not catch Heavenly Father by surprise. He did not have to muster additional battalions of angels, call emergency meetings, or divert resources from the world-creation division to handle an unexpected need . . . even though this pandemic is not what we wanted or expected, God has prepared His children and His Church for this time.

Elder Uchtdorf mentioned that with traditional gospel sharing unsafe, those called to serve found “new and more creative ways of reaching out to the honest in heart.”3

When sister missionaries in Washington, D.C. had to get off the streets, they found a creative way of working from their apartments. Many were gifted in the visual arts and/or creative crafting. So they made gifts for those they had been teaching, attached notes for what they wanted to say, and engaged in “doorbell ditching”—putting gifts and notes on doorsteps, ringing doorbells, and running off.

Missions via technology—including social media and zoom—emerged as more were called to missions during the pandemic. Gary E. Stevenson told of Brother Wisan in Thailand who shared his developing Book of Mormon testimony with his brother, Winai. Though Winai was not interested at first, a copy of the Book of  Mormon and virtual lessons with his brother moved his “truth-seeking spirit.” A few months later he asked for baptism.4

Is such unexpected and innovative service limited to our turbulent times?  Not at all. Remember that Saul of Tarsus was called to convert and serve the Christians he had hated and sought to destroy. As Paul he developed the literary epistle to high and holier forms.

Those called to serve God are blessed and sustained by God, no matter when or where they must go.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!