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Callings help us learn skills
By Orson Scott Card April 22, 2010

The seminary teacher started the math lesson. "Let's say your average age is 16. How much time have you already spent in church meetings?

"Assuming your parents brought you almost every week of your life, and you've gone an average of three hours a week -- and assuming that activities and extras make up for sick days and traveling -- you've spent 2,496 hours, or 312 eight-hour workdays."

"Three years of seminary by age sixteen has to raise that total," said one of the kids.

"I'm three-and-a-half times your age. My callings have often made me spend a lot more than three hours a week doing church work. In my 56 years, it must have added up to the equivalent of five years of workdays attending meetings and doing church service."

"Being Mormon is a fulltime job," said one of the kids.

"Obeying the commandments certainly is," said the teacher. "But since we have to make a living and take care of our families, actual church work rarely amounts to a fulltime job. Still, it's a lot more than a hobby, isn't it?"

Later, my wife and I talked this over. We thought of all the callings we'd had. Ultimately, we always found out that someone else could do that calling just fine. Nor was there any pattern to the callings -- we just did what we were asked, went where we were needed.

You couldn't even call it a career. If we wrote out our church as a resume, it would look chaotic. "Brother Card, you've been an elders quorum president, a high councilor, a bishop's counselor -- but you've also taught every Sunday School class and a couple of Primary classes, sung in and led the choir, been chorister in priesthood meeting, taught the priests, and ... cultural arts director? In most wards that calling doesn't even exist!

"Brother Card, why can't you hold onto a job? Why do your callings shift from administrative to educational and back again? Do you call this a career?"

Obviously, the answer is no.

Yet the amount of time -- the years -- we spend in church service have a lot of benefits in this life, as well as rewards in the years to come.

It's long been a joke that we Mormons are a middle-class church.

That doesn't mean we proselytize only in the middle class. Far from it! It is often the poor who are the most receptive to a gospel that requires sweeping changes.

But there's no way to be an active Latter-day Saint without holding callings and fulfilling them.

Thank of the real-world skills that these callings confer on us.

1. Dependability. You soon learn that if you don't show up to do your calling, somebody else has to cover for you. If you don't even bother to warn people you're not coming, things get thrown into chaos.

2. Preparation. Once you've stood in front of a class or a congregation and run out of things to teach or talk about way before your allotted time is over, you catch on that it's better to prepare beforehand than try to wing it.

3. You learn how to get a meeting started, get through an agenda, and get home.

4. You've had the experience, at least a few times, of standing on your feet and speaking extemporaneously on topics that are very important to you and everyone present.

5. You've learned to speak an "insider" jargon, and you've mastered a shared fund of experiences, from home teaching to reading the scriptures, from setting up chairs in the cultural hall to cleaning up after a ward supper.

6. You've learned to value the people who come early or stay late to pitch in and make everything run smoothly, regardless of who gets the credit for it -- and you've become one of them.

7. You've learned to accept the fact that some people will disagree with you and others will criticize you and you just let it roll off your back and don't quit just because of it.

8. You do all that you do with minimal supervision. Once you accept an assignment, you perform it, only asking for help when you need it, taking suggestions and following instructions faithfully.

This isn't even a complete list -- but certainly you can recognize that these are definitely the skills of the middle class!

By attending meetings and doing their callings faithfully, converts to the Church who lack education or training, who are rising from the depths of poverty, soon find themselves able to function as leaders and managers, or as team players who can be counted on to fulfil their assignments.

And when you think about it, we're all converts to the Church, because even lifers like me begin as unskilled and uncivilized barbarians (a.k.a. "babies"), who then gradually learn all these skills, along with acquiring gospel knowledge and a testimony.

Our years of church experience are some of the best training in the world to become entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, or just responsible, self-supervising workers.

When you live like that and have those skills, you won't remain in the lower classes for long -- nor can you live happily as one of the "idle rich." People who live an active Mormon life are changed in exactly the ways that make them, and the community they live in, more prosperous and successful by the world's standards as well as the Lord's

Copyright © 2010 by Orson Scott Card

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