Originally from Idaho Falls, Idaho, Cory Omanson served a mission in Santa Maria, Brazil, graduated with a degree in accounting from Idaho State University, and lived in Boise, Idaho before settling in Pocatello, Idaho working as the CFO of a local credit union. The father of four, Cory has served as Elders Quorum counselor and President, Young Men’s counselor and President, Ward Executive Secretary, Primary Instructor, Ward Mission Leader, Bishop, and currently serves on his stake high council as the Young Mens President.
I am going to say something that is likely not popular with this group. I don’t like ward (or stake or organization) vision and mission statements.
There I said it. I understand the reason to adopt vision and mission statements is to help a group focus on a goal and desired outcomes. Much ink has been spilled in modern business literature around the need for and impact of vision and mission statements, and while I agree they help organize a group of people to achieve an end, I feel they are less useful in the church setting.
The Eternal Life Mission Statement
Let me elaborate more. I have sat on councils and led councils where we were asked to formulate a ward or organization vision and mission statement. Every time I have tried this exercise, I have come to two conclusions.
First, I have been unable to elaborate a better mission and vision than God did when He stated his work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. That seems to be a really concise and all-encompassing statement.
I feel our roles in the gospel are to work inside that mission and vision.
Second, and this one ties back to the first, is that the gospel at its heart is individual.
The ordinances are received individually. Conversion is a uniquely personal experience. The Spirit speaks to us individually. And each of us finds ourselves in a unique place along the path to eternal life. This fact makes it hard for other vision and mission statements to encompass everyone in the ward or organization. It feels that invariably someone will be overlooked or not receive attention and focus.
Our Role as Leaders
I know for many I will sound like a lost leader, or someone incapable of helping focus the efforts of the ward I used to lead. That may be true, and I fully accept that.
In my formal leadership roles, I have tried to ask myself if our activities, efforts, and focus are helping bring individuals to Christ and eternal salvation. If the answer is yes, I feel the action is worthwhile. If not, then maybe we should look for better options.
I also fully recognize that many actions will fall within that broad aim. Is an organization goal to read the Book of Mormon within the year going to help bring others to Christ? But what of the people and families that are not to the point in their discipleship to commit to that yet?
The same goes for group missions or visions of everyone with an active temple recommend, or finding names to take to the temple. None of these are bad or without merit and all have been a huge blessing to many who have pursued them. My argument is that the leader of any group in the church is going to have members that are not at the stage in their spiritual development to benefit from these during the group’s focus for a stated period of time.
The Savior taught about leaving the ninety and nine to find the one. The shepherd went to the individual where they were, met them there, and brought them along until they were gathered with those already gathered into his flock.
When I listen to President Nelson urge us to increase our ability to hear the Spirit and receive revelation, I hear him saying we need to work individually with the Lord to find our own personal mission and vision statements. To ascertain where we are and let him help us see where we want to be and how to get there. That expands even more to partnering with him and discovering what we can do to help each person we interact with.
Ministering With Purpose
A great elders quorum or Relief Society president will work with their ministering companionships to help craft a vision of how their visits will help each person and family progress toward eternal life.
A bishop helps his ward council focus on the needs of the various members and families in the ward.
Doing this leads to the inspiration of activities and actions that will bless individuals. Maybe that involves a broad organizational push, like finding enough names to take to the temple to equal a ward on the other side. Maybe that means using organization committees to focus on several things that will attract and benefit those of varying spiritual development.
Varying Spiritual Needs
I guess what I am saying in the end is that God has provided us a perfect mission and vision statement. If we will take that as our guiding principle, and seek ways to help achieve that, we can receive inspiration that takes us away from seeing the group as a congregation of people to seeing unique, valuable, and worthwhile individual children of God who are all developing at varying speeds and have varying needs.
In the end, doesn’t that capture the wonderful paradox that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement? It covers all, but at the same time covers each and every person individually.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ was carried out by one for all, and while the effects are incomprehensible and eternal, they are also deeply personal and individual.