by Marsha Ward
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we don't have a paid ministry. Our clergy is called from among the members of the local congregation to serve until they are released. Likewise the leaders and teachers of the auxiliary organizations for the instruction of the children, youth, and women's and men's groups are called to serve from the membership.
I live in a small congregation known as a branch. We've had about 60 members, mostly retired people without children or teenagers. During the summer, our locality is a destination for camping, hunting, and hiking. We would get children and youth among our visitors. We had teachers who were called to give gospel instruction to this segment of our visitors.
Very soon after I moved here from the big city, I was called to be the Young Women President. My only duty was to prepare a lesson for the girls between the ages of 12 and 18, when they came.
All this changed in October. Members of our branch were invited to attend a joint meeting with two other congregations, both "wards," that is, larger congregations of the church. The geographical boundaries of our branch were extended to include Star Valley, a town outside Payson, Arizona. This bumped up our membership numbers to 224, including children and youth. We're still a branch. We must have 300 members to become a ward.
The duties of my calling as Young Women President changed overnight. A full service president is in charge of the spiritual growth and achievement goals of all the girls, plus holding weeknight activities, plus girls camp, plus . . . the list is pretty long. Not having a need to do so, I have never learned the ins and outs of the full program, nor have I worked in a Young Women position before, except as a teacher for a short time soon after Noah landed in the Ark.
I was stunned at the magnitude of the responsibilities that lay before me. Where was I going to find the time to do all of them, let alone learn about them? A two-hour phone call with the "stake" leader who has oversight of my branch consolidated my anxieties as I learned of conflicts between what I already was committed to do in my professional life and upcoming Young Women activities. I expressed my concerns about my time to the leader, and she said to talk to my branch president (a branch's equivalent to a ward's bishop).
My nature is to be a nurturer. I hate conflict and confrontation. I knew what the branch president was going through in having to get our adult branch staffed for the changes in demographics. He had said there were not going to be changes in existing positions. I didn't want to approach him.
Some wise friends buoyed me up, and today I went to church with a mental list of why I was too snowed under to continue serving in this altered calling. I was one sentence into my preamble. Then the loving branch president told me that he had been praying about the position of Young Women President. He said a name had come to him as one who had more time available and would welcome the calling, and that as soon as he could talk to this woman and offer her the position, and as soon as she accepted, I would be released from my responsibilities. It happened today. The weight of the calling has been lifted from my shoulders.
I believe in continuing revelation from God. I believe this man was humble enough to seek for answers and to listen to inspiration. I believe that God knows my circumstances, and as a loving Father, he is concerned that I not be distraught at my inability to function in the capacity of a full-service president. I have other callings that I can fulfill. I am so grateful for humble, receptive leaders and for a Heavenly Father who knows my name. I testify that He does. He knows your name and loves you, too.