Jedd asked whether some of our blogging couldn’t focus on more day-to-day challenges. I’m sympathetic to his request. It made me think of my own experience, a time when I could have used advice.
Janice and I were living overseas for a year’s research leave. A little while after moving into our ward I was called to be the high priest group leader. No one could have been more surprised than I, especially when I found out that for a while I would be the only Melchizedek priesthood leader in the ward. The elders quorum president had been released and a new one had yet to be called. I could think of many reasons I shouldn’t have been the group leader, my poor non-church French and the fact that I knew almost no one in the ward being at the top of the list. But the counselor in the stake presidency was insistent, and I took the job. Within a few weeks I went to the bishop and told him that I felt strongly that this was a mistake: “I don’t think I can really do anything that needs to be done,” I said. Since I hadn’t been able to do any of the things he had assigned me, I was not exaggerating. The bishop showed me a list of the high priests in the ward and the positions they held. I was the only one who didn’t have a calling when they needed a high priest group leader, and there was no likely candidate to replace me. “You point out the person whom I should recommend and I’ll do it,” he said. I went back to trying to figure out how to do the job.
A month or so later, a new elders quorum president was appointed and my job got a lot easier. After that it consisted primarily of attending weekly priesthood executive council meetings and occasionally limping my way along as the one conducting in priesthood opening exercises. However, one of the first things I had to do was help train the new president, which was relatively easy because he spoke English and was both bright and organized. But one of the things we had to do was figure out home teaching. When I saw the lists of possible home teachers and of those needing to be home taught, I was stunned. It wasn’t just psychologically impossible, it was actually impossible. There were far too many members for twenty or so teachers to visit, even if we ignored the fact that because of the distances and the need to use public transportation, most visits require two hours or more per visit.
We prayed and we went to the bishop with our plan: triage. We would decide who could survive without home teaching and who probably wouldn’t respond to home teaching and simply eliminate them from the plan. We would not assign home teachers to them, but we would communicate with them monthly via a letter from the bishop. Then we would focus our efforts on those for whom it was clear that home teaching could make a difference. It sounded to me like heresy, but it seemed like the only possibility. If we had given an elder twenty names and a recently-baptized new member as a home-teaching companion and said “Together visit each of the people on this list once a month,” failure was certain. It would have been built into the plan. The bishop agreed and we went forward knowing full well that the best we could do with our plan was perhaps visit twenty percent of the families in the ward.
My experience isn’t a model for anyone else. But I learned from that experience that it is possible to plan for radically different results from those given to us as goals or guidelines and not only to feel good about those results, but to feel that the results we intend are acceptable to the Lord.
Does anyone else have experiences or suggestions that bear on the question of how to respond to particular “ordinary” problems of life in the Church?