Having Problems with Management? Go to the Owner

August 8, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 12:47 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation,Theology

A few years ago President Faust said something in conference that had a major impact on me:

No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creator… We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and any place. (James E. Faust, “The Lifeline of Prayer,” Ensign, May 2002, 59)

In other words if we want to meet with our Bishop we must set up an appointment that fits his schedule through the ward executive secretary. The same is true for our Stake President, Area Authorities, Area Presidency, etc. If we felt like meeting the President of the Church for an interview we would almost surely be out of luck. But we have a standing personal appointment with his Boss. Each of us can talk with the highest authority in this church any time we feel like it and He will attentively listen and respond.

Why is this important? — Because it is further protection against our own falling away. Those that talk with the owner of the organization at least have someone in power to turn to when the management of the organization fumbles. And yes church leaders often screw up – nearly as often as any person does in any other part of life.

Let’s say you have a bishop that pulls some boneheaded, foolish, lame, or otherwise highly offensive move. What are you to do? Well, I think the best solution is to march into the owner’s office and complain about it. The owner (God) will listen intently and will then try to figure out the best way to solve the problem for you (you have the advantage of being related to Him after all.) Here’s a hypothetical conversation you might have with the owner about this knucklehead bishop of yours. He’ll check the important questions first:

God: “Have you been keeping the promises you made to me?”
You: “Of course!”
God: “And this bishop has not done anything to unjustly prevent you from participating in sacrament or temple ordinances has he?”
You: “No, but he is such an intolerable jerk.”
God: “Yes, I know he can be difficult at times. Perhaps you would like me to have you do his job instead?”
You: “Uhhh, no. I’m not saying I want that…”
God: “You are still in good standing with me; you still participate in sacrament and temple ordinances so what is the problem?”
You: “The guy is just a jerk — and worse than that he is as dumb as a doorknob”
God: “And you are never a jerk?”
You: “Well, no I never said that… But he treats me like dirt and gives me crappy callings.”
God: “So you think I care what calling you have? Haven’t I told you that I don’t care about that? I only care that you show up often for these interviews and that you keep the promises you made to me. You aren’t gunning for callings are you? Who are you trying to impress?”
You: (Sheepishly) “Well no, it’s not like that… You are mainly the one I want to impress… I just don’t want to associate with him.”
God: “But you promised to take the sacrament and help out in the ward and so did he… Are you planning to break your promise to me?”
You: “Of course not!”
God: “And do you want him to break his promise to me?”
You: “No I guess not…”
God: “Don’t worry about it. I know the guy is a yutz sometimes but as you know I tend to be pretty lenient on yutzes…” (grinning)
You: (Grinning and wincing) “Oh yeah – I know that…”
God: “Buck up little camper – I’m still in your corner. This will pass like all the other annoyances. Just keep coming back for your interviews. I really love our talks together.”
You: (Feeling comforted) “Yeah, I do too.”

And you’ll leave the interview feeling a little sheepish. And after that you’ll have to decide if you want to talk with the owner again or not.

Those that do come back to talk with the owner are called His sheep – also known as the Elect.

12 Comments »

  1. FYI,

    I’m gunning up to expand my Shepherds and Hireling’s into a series which will deal somewhat extensively with church callings. I’m hoping to get this material into shape for next years Sunstone Symposium.

    My worry with the classic “callings don’t matter” line is that we certainly act like callings matter a lot. We insist that the bishop eat the sacrament first, we all stand for some leaders to enter the room, we thank and praise them in song, speech and prayer. It seems the saying “callings don’t matter” is just a line which isn’t true, but is a necessary fiction in order to keep the sheep in line and prevent “campaigns.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 8, 2005 @ 1:34 pm

  2. Interesting point Jeffrey. I have not claimed that callings don’t matter to most members (including leaders). I think that in the minds of the vast majority of members callings do matter a great deal (whether we admit it or not). My contention is that they really and truly don’t matter to God himself. That is why real dialogue with God is so important — to verify whether this is true or not.

    Interestingly, actually believing God does not really care about callings often does have social consequences in the church. Some of the most devoted and righteous people I know are not considered leadership material largely for actually believing God doesn’t care about anything but our promises to him and our dialogue with him. They are completely committed to the owner of the organization and He to them, but much of the management look at them with fear and suspicion. They are seen as peculiar people and potentially dangerous loose cannons.

    Because of the occasional shameful treatment they receive they are forced to rely more and more on God himself for approval. In some ways I suspect it is spritually helpful to break away from some of the social tractor beams. That is what Lehi and many others did after all. Nibley called it the Rekhabite principle.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

  3. Jeffrey,
    I think callings do matter–a whole lot–but that doesn’t contradict anything Geoff is saying here. We still have access to GOd directly. What Geoff’s post points out is that what we don’t realize often enough is that callings are important precisely because they come from the boss–and yes, I sincerely believe that.

    Comment by Steve H — August 8, 2005 @ 2:11 pm

  4. Oops. My comment posted about the same time as yours did, Steve. So let me clarify that I don’t think our callings have any impact on our standing before God. Nor do I believe that they are any indication of our standing before God. But I think deep down inside most members don’t really believe that (yet).

    I make that assumption because despite my lifelong outward protestations I have sort of believed very thing until just recently. We don’t want to believe it but almost all of the social evidence indicates that it is the case. Leaders are held up as th most righteous members to our children. Parents want their sons to become bishops, stake presidents, etc. Families are often thrilled and congratulatory when someone is called to a prestigious calling. In other words, we (as members) really do care. I just don’t think God does care.

    I do agree that God sometimes intervenes and insists that certain people be called to certain positions. But more often God has turned the keys over to current management and lets them run the show. He only intervenes to prevent disasters (and not always even then.)

    I have no problems with this state of affairs. God knows what he is doing. I can’t control any of that anyway. So I focus on the things I can control — keeping my covenants and keeping my dialogue with God open. As long as He is happy with me then I am satisfied (whether I have no calling or am called to be a stake president).

    But the key to it all (getting back to the post) is the open dialogue with God, the owner of the organization.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2005 @ 2:31 pm

  5. Just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to argue against Geoff, only point out a related tendency which Geoff seems to completely agree with.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 8, 2005 @ 2:52 pm

  6. Good dialogue example, Geoff. You’ve had two lately. Are you a seminary teacher or something? I’d steal this if I was one. The dialogue being open I think is the primary step in keeping and/or regaining a testimony of the gospel. Sometimes it’s the ONLY thing we have and if we don’t utilize it, there goes all the promises and blessings.
    On the callings thing, I feel it’s the most important thing to get the calling of hymnal coordinator more then any other>:p

    Comment by Bret — August 8, 2005 @ 3:36 pm

  7. Bret,

    I did teach early morning seminary for a couple of years back in San Diego. I liked the teaching but hated getting up that early.

    Hymnal coordinator huh? I can see you have a taste for highly prestigious callings!

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2005 @ 4:40 pm

  8. Wonderful discussion, one of the best for me since I’ve been blogging. I’m coming back tomorrow to study it. Insomnia tonight, feeling punch drunk, so tired. And my eyes will not close.

    Comment by annegb — August 9, 2005 @ 12:24 am

  9. Hi Geoff, nice idea in the post, except that often in my struggles lately, the conversation with God goes something like this:

    Me: God, are you there?
    God: silence
    Me: Are you there?
    God: silence
    Me: Are you there?
    God: silence
    Me: Are you there?
    God: silence
    Me: Are you there?
    God: silence
    Me: Are you there?
    God: silence
    Me: Are you there?
    God: silence
    Me: Are you there?
    God: silence
    Me: Are you there?
    God: silence
    ….

    And since I’m having a hard time getting in touch with the owner directly, I’ve been trying to work through his “employees.” Guess I need to accept that sometimes his employees haven’t been very well trained, and just keep trying to contact the owner directly again.

    Comment by terry — August 9, 2005 @ 7:39 am

  10. Ha! Nice example, Terry. If it helps — I think the problem you describe is pretty common among the saints. Someone called me out for saying we ought to focus on our dialogue with God without explaining how to engage in that dialogue. As a result I wrote a how-to post of sorts on getting that dialogue with God fired up. I don’t know how useful it will be but maybe it would be worth checking out…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 9, 2005 @ 8:23 am

  11. Geoff, what made you change your mind about God’s attitude towards our callings?

    Comment by annegb — August 9, 2005 @ 8:56 am

  12. That’s a good question Anne. I thought I had better pause a bit to think before answering it.

    I guess it has been coming one for a few years now. I think it has been in since I launched this blog last December that I finally bought the idea completely. Why did New Cool Thang help? — Well I think it was partly because I have learned so much and have been so immersed in gospel study as a result of blogging. I learned enough to push me over the edge I guess.

    One of the things I learned is that being a leader is not a pass into an inner circle of doctrinal “knowers”. Apostles have differences of doctrinal opinions too. I posted on that several months ago. So that realization took some of the unwarranted mystical charm off of leadership callings for me.

    The second thing blogging did for me was prove that I could try to do some religious/spiritual good in the world in roles other than my church calling. Up until I launched a blog the only place where I could teach or discuss the gospel was in a calling or assignment (like early morning seminary teaching). Yet discussing and teaching the gospel is one of my favorite things to do in the world. One reason for that is that I don’t suck at it (ok, stink at it if you prefer). Another is that it is very spiritually rewarding to me — I learn a lot better in such settings. So before blogging I knew that the best way to ensure that I could teach the gospel was to be in leadership (like when I was an Elders quorum president I ended up teaching the lessons most of the time). My favorite calling in the church is Gospel Doctrine teacher and I did that for several years. I see my blog as a gospel doctrine class all week where we can even talk about things that are too much for some people in the ward (because no one is asked or expected to show up here — it is truly a voluntary thing to show up).

    Those things combined with the clear teaching we are given that callings don’t matter (plus other life experiences that I won’t bore you with) finally allowed me to believe it to the core.

    And of course an occasional real dialogue with God sealed the deal for me. (I think that the dialogue I wrote in this post is a pretty accurate depiction of His thoughts on the subject).

    Comment by Geoff J — August 9, 2005 @ 12:55 pm

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