Chanelle Neilson is the host and creator of the Moms Who Know Podcast. She is the author of Parenting with Purpose, which has been translated into Chinese. She has worked in the fitness industry for 20 years and is a certified yoga instructor. She loves sunshine, healthy living, and dark chocolate. Chanelle is the mother of 5 kids and married to her best friend. She loves helping moms take care of themselves and grow so they can take better care of their families.
I had just finished teaching yoga to the youth. I’d led them through the poses and talked about healthy eating. I was in my element. This was what I loved to do, especially because the Beehives I taught every Sunday were there.
Before the sweat had even dried on my workout clothes, the Bishop asked me to meet in his office.
I started wondering what this could be. A new calling? I had been in Young Womens for a while…
The Bishop said, “We’d like to ask you to serve in a new calling. We feel really strongly that the Lord wants you to serve as our Primary President.”
I had never served in the Primary in any capacity—not as a teacher or a music leader or in a presidency.
I had heard people say they weren’t Relief Society president or Young Womens material. I had thought, there is no such thing. We don’t have to be a certain way to be called. “There is no one type of person that gets called- whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies, right?”
But in the aftermath of getting this calling—which I accepted—I was pretty sure I wasn’t Primary president material.
Recognizing that I needed some experienced help, I felt inspired to keep the counselors and secretary that were already serving. They showed me how Primary ran, and the secretary had everything mapped out and printed. They thought of and implemented fun ideas. Primary was a well-oiled machine.
But why was I there? Any of these women could do this better than me.
I realized it wasn’t enough to just accept the call. I needed to learn what the Lord wanted me to learn from this experience.
Involve Heavenly Father in Your Quest
I began to really wonder, “Why?” I brought my question to the Lord. “Father, why am I in Primary? Clearly, it’s not for my experience or my organizational skills. So why?” No immediate answer came.
I kept serving in the Primary, but wondering why I was there. The answer came slowly through an experience with one little boy.
Open Your Eyes
When I drove my kids home from school, I often saw an 8-year-old boy from our Primary walking home. He had to cross a busy street to get home, but instead of using the crosswalk, he ran across, dodging the cars as they drove past.
I talked to his parents and they talked to him, but he didn’t listen. In fact, he didn’t listen in a lot of situations. In Primary, he would get up and wind himself up in the curtains. He would stand and rearrange the magnets at singing time. He would hide under the podium and refuse to go back to his seat.
I tried to get through to him. I sat by him in Primary and asked him questions (which he didn’t answer). I prayed for help. “Heavenly Father, how do I help this boy?”
Open Your Heart and Follow a Prompting
The answer came: give him a ride home from school.
So, one Sunday, I asked him to come out to the hall with me. I told him that I often saw him crossing that busy street and I was worried about him. I told him that anytime he wanted, he could knock on my door and I would drive him home.
That week, he didn’t knock.
Follow Up On Promptings
I have learned that there are times that we receive a prompting and the results don’t always come in the time or way that we expected. So at church the next Sunday, I reminded him that he could get a ride anytime he wanted.
The week went by, but he didn’t come to my door.
But finally, one day, he knocked. “Do you want a ride home?” I asked him. “Okay,” he said. He started coming to my door several times a week. At first, he was quiet, but then on our car rides, he started telling me about his day and showing me things he had made in school. At church, he started answering questions. He started to say “hi” to me.
One day, after dropping him off, I drove across that busy road that he hadn’t had to cross that day. The Spirit whispered to me, “You are saving his life.”
Open Your Heart
Anyone could have given this boy a ride home. And really, any one of several qualified sisters could have been the Primary president. But the Lord knew that this calling would open my eyes. It would allow me to see the needs of one little boy. My calling opened my heart to show me how I could help him.
One day, this sweet boy said, “My dad said maybe I’m bugging you when I get a ride, and maybe I shouldn’t ask you.” A flood of emotions washed up. A previous version of myself might have been annoyed about him asking for a ride home. But those feelings had been replaced by gratitude, and I meant it when I told him, “I like giving you a ride home!”
A New Perspective
Being the Primary president wasn’t about my skills or my ability; it was about giving me a new perspective and the ability to see as the Savior does, the needs of the one.