Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Contradictory revelations

A couple of years ago, President Faust and his wife separately made the same point during a Regional Conference in our area. They spoke of the fact that sometimes it is appropriate to turn down inspired callings. Sister Faust gave an example from her experience where she was inspired to call a sister to a position; this sister turned down the calling and was right to do so.

This seems to me to be yet another caution in how we interpret personal and institutional revelation (a theme that seems to pop up frequently in my posts), particularly with regard to their comprehensiveness and finality. In a case such as this, we have examples of apparently contradictory revelation to two different people, but both being inspired by God.

Are we willing and able to live with this kind of “messiness?” I must admit that it is difficult for me; I like to have things neatly resolved and reconciled. But maybe this “messiness” is inescapable, even in eternity, and that's part of what God is trying to teach me here...


  1. Nice comments, gh. Tough to implement in practice though. I can't imagine many Bishops saying, "Great. Glad you are doing the right thing by turning down the calling I've sweated over for three days before extending to you."

  2. True, Dave, but what do you suppose was the point of the Fausts' teachings on this subject?

  3. Is it really so messy? Two different people are given two distinct tasks. One to extend a calling and the other to accept or decline. The leader giving the calling has fulfilled their inspiration by offering the call. Their job ends at that point. The one being called has the task of choosing to accept or not and must go on their own spiritual journey with that decision.
    I don't see it as a contradiction, the Lord may want the caller to give the invitation for some reason, and according to Faust, the reason could be for something other than having that person serve in that calling.

    I wish I had heard that a few years ago when I was called to be primary chorister. I thought I had to accept so I did even though I didn't know how to conduct music and was painfully shy. The first Sunday I attempted to do it I just stood in front of the primary frozen until I started to cry out of shame. Then I turned it down. I don't know why I was given that calling and I felt horribly guilty for a long time afterwards for not having the faith to keep trying.

  4. JL,

    It's only "messy" because of the assumptions we bring to the table. Often we assume that if Bishop Monson or Relief Society President Taylor is inspired to call Sister Woolley to a position, it's because the Lord wants Sister Woolley to serve in that position.

    Would we feel comfortable making the same distinction you made with regard to "doctrinal" teachings? "Well, Brother Young was inspired to teach doctrine X, and by so doing, fulfilled his responsibility. But that doesn't mean that God actually wants the people listening to believe X; there may be some other reason why he inspired Brother Young to teach X."

  5. Grasshopper, you're right that we often assume that if something comes from inspiration that it's 100% correct. Inspiration does come from God, after all. But although we pay lip service to the idea that our leaders aren't infallible, it seems as though we sometimes forget that.

    I think JL could be right that there could sometimes be something to the actual offering of the call, and perhaps the peripheral revelation you talked about in a previous post factors in. And sometimes, of course, people -- even our leaders -- are just wrong.

  6. Logan,

    I think JL is right that there may be something important in the mere offering of the call. Sorry that wasn't clear in my response. In fact, that was the point Sister Faust made in her story illustrating the point. What I was trying to say in my response is that this may be another area where the implications of something like that may put us out of our comfort zone.

  7. Can we safely acknowledge then the existence of not only inspired callings, but also inspired rejection of said callings? Or is it too much of a leap to infer that 'appropriate' may mean 'inspired'?


  8. There seems to be an essential difference between doctrinal revelations and callings.
    Now that I think about it, there is a pattern of commands given that the Lord doesn't expect to be kept: The forbidden fruit, Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and probably more. What do you think about Abraham and the angel telling him to not obey that commandment? That is pure contradiction isn't it?

  9. President Faust is exactly right on my view. A calling must be extended, accepted, and sustained to be valid. Each of the three parties has divinely granted discretion over the matter. We should strive to gain a testimony of every calling, and accept if possible, counsel if advisable, and decline if necessary.