The Daily Dilemma Of A Lay Church Leader


Over my lifetime I have given unnumbered hours in service to the church. I have done so willingly and without reservation knowing that the time was well spent. Some critics of the church have charged that members are encouraged to serve in the church at the expense of their families. That the church, which preaches so much about family, is hypocritical in asking so much of its members, in particular of its local priesthood leadership. It is true the church does require much time and effort on the part of its members. However, the direction given by the leaders of the church has been very clear in this matter. Not many years ago President Gordon B. Hinckley said to Bishops:

“I know that the work is hard at times. There are never enough hours to get it done. The calls are numerous and frequent. You have other things to do. That is true. You must not rob your employer of the time and energy that are rightfully his. You must not rob your family of time, which belongs to them. But as most of you have come to know, as you seek for divine guidance, you are blessed with wisdom beyond your own and strength and capacity you did not know you had. It is possible to budget your time so that you neglect neither your employer, your family, nor your flock.”

On occasion I am sure that some local leaders and members, in righteous zeal, forget this counsel and make an error in judgment regarding this directive. In my experience, this has been the exception, not the rule. We need to remember, that in serving our family, we are also serving the Lord. A few years ago I recall one occasion when my then teenage daughter was upset about something that was happening at school. I passed her room as I was leaving the house for an evening church meeting. I could see she was crying. I stopped and asked her how she was doing. She began to pour out her heart to me. As I listened I began to feel upset because I knew I was going to be late for the meeting. I glanced at my watch and then, the still small voice whispered to me, “This is your daughter; she is seeking guidance and love. She is your number one priesthood responsibility at this moment, not your meeting.” I stopped worrying, and became calm as I listened. I’m not sure I said anything the entire time we were together that night.  After we finished she hugged me and said, “Thanks for taking the time to talk with me”. I remember thinking, “I didn’t say anything at all”. But I did listen. She might not remember this incident, but I do, because I was instructed by the Lord as to my priorities for the night. And so, I arrived at the meeting uncharacteristically late, but I knew I had chosen wisely.

Clearly one can’t consistently “shirk” his or her church responsibilities.  I believe if someone finds themselves in a consistent position where their church calling is clashing and causing problems with employment or family needs,  it might be time to reassess with the Lord and local leaders our priorities. I was so impressed with the insight of Elder Dallin Oaks when he delivered his masterful address called, “Good, Better, Best” at the October 2007 General Conference. He said:

“We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”

Every church member should use this talk as a standard in understanding good use of time management.  All of us must make choices of how we use our time “wisely”. We must listen to the spirit as it leads us along. Our lives are ever-changing and our priorities may change as we travel life’s dusty road. But I think we will find that the Lord will prepare a way for us to accomplish the three-fold mission of a member, “God, Family, and Job”. We certainly need to be responsible in our church callings, but we also need to heed the words of President Hinckley. The Lord will give us the wisdom, strength and capacity to accomplish all of our duties in an acceptable manner unto him if we but seek his guidance.


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