I remember a time on my mission when my zone leader was about to return home and therefore the mission president would have to call a new zone leader in the area. I was the district leader, and I had promptings I would naturally fill the role as the new zone leader. I punished myself mentally with feelings of disappointment in myself for being so prideful to expect such a calling. I discussed these feelings with another missionary, who was a close friend. I explained to him that I didn’t want to be a missionary who desired such a call, but I wanted to be the missionary who would be the obvious choice because of my faith, diligence, and the example I set to those around me. The mission president bringing someone else into my area to be the leader was a vote of disapproval from the Lord–so I thought.
Transfer calls came and–sure enough–they transferred a different Elder into my zone to be the leader. I was humbled and was taught a valuable lesson I still cherish today.
I’ve heard of many instances where people say they received “promptings” about being called to a leadership position, and then ended up not being called.
Clayton Christensen in his book How Will You Measure Your Life? talks about such an experience:
I was driving to work early one morning when I got a sudden and very strong impression that I was going to receive an important new assignment from my church, which has no professional clergy and asks every member to shoulder important duties. A couple of weeks later I learned that a particular church leader in the area was going to leave. I put two and two together and concluded that this was the opportunity that I received the impression about.
This realization, which occurred nearly fifteen years ago, guided me every day to seek opportunities to help people in ways tailored to their individual circumstances. My happiness and my sense of worth has been immeasurably improved as a result. (How Will You Measure Your Life? p. 202)
When I read this, it resonated with my soul! What I would give to go back to my missionary days and simply serve the individual through the teachings of Jesus Christ with all my heart, might, mind and strength, and not worry about silly missionary leadership positions.
Serving as a bishop is a blessing. To be on an individual level with people and to help them, through the power of Christ’s atonement, to overcome so much. To be the person that gets to sign the check that will pay rent or feed families. To carry a mantle so heavy but so uplifting is an amazing blessing. BUT…no bishop, no stake president, and not even an apostle has special license to do more to help an individual than any person in the Kingdom of God. To have an impact on the lives of others does not require a title.
Being a leader simply means you still have to serve the individual while being distracted by a lot of paperwork and administration. I look forward to the day I can serve as a simple primary teacher or ward missionary and still have the same impact I am having as a bishop.
So the next time the prompting comes that you are on deck for the next leadership position, remind yourself that whether you are calling or not, you can still impact mankind on the same level by your day-to-day service.