What Of Titles?


Yesterday was Thanksgiving. I have many wonderful memories of this holiday. Family, food and friends. I have great memories of playing football games on Thanksgiving Day. The memories go back as far as I can remember.

Several years ago I played with my ward family and felt those same warm feelings come back. I was particularly amused by one incident that occurred. I lined up wide as a receiver just before the ball was hiked. One of the other team members noted that I was uncovered. He yelled out to his fellow players, “Whose got the President?” The opponent closest to me was not a member of our church. When he heard the line, “Whose got the President”, he started to laugh and turning to another player said laughingly, “Whose got the President, whose got the President!”. Then he started to laugh openly and say, “I got the President!”. It was clear that he thought I had been given the nickname of “President”. He said it over and over with a chuckle, thinking my”nickname” was humorous. To him it was equivalent to being called the “Admiral”, the “General” or the “Colonel” or some other rank!   I smiled to myself at the comedy of it all. He didn’t understand “titles” of the priesthood. It gave me pause to think. Why do we use titles. Elder Oaks had this to say on the subject:

” When I was young, I learned that great respect was owed to those who held the office of bishop. As a sign of that respect, we always addressed our bishop as “Bishop Christensen” or “Bishop Calder” or “Brother Jones.” We never called our bishop “Mr.” or by his first name, as we did in speaking to others. With the bishop, we always used an honored title.

When I was seventeen, I joined the Utah National Guard. There I learned that a soldier must use certain words in speaking to an officer. I saw this as another mark of respect for authority. I also observed that this special language served as a way of reminding both the soldier and the officer of the responsibilities of their positions. I later understood that same reasoning as explaining why full-time missionaries should always be called by the dignified titles of elder or sister, or the equivalent in other languages.

In my legal training I became familiar with the formal language lawyers use to address judges during court proceedings. After graduation I worked for a year as a law clerk to the chief justice of the United States. We always used the formal title of his office, Chief Justice. Similarly, communications to our most senior government leaders should be addressed in a particular way, such as Mr. President, Your Excellency, or Your Majesty. The use of titles signifies respect for office and authority.

The words we use in speaking to someone can identify the nature of our relationship to that person. They can also remind speaker and listener of the responsibilities they owe one another in that relationship. The form of address can also serve as a mark of respect or affection. ( Dallin H. Oaks, “The Language of Prayer,” Ensign, May 1993, 15).

There is great wisdom in what Elder Oaks said. I was particularly impressed by this last paragraph and the line that says, “they can also remind speaker and listener of the responsibilities they owe one another in the relationship. I had never quite looked at it that way. When I was called “President” I should have been reminded of my responsibility to the people for carrying that title. We also know that most “titles are temporary and we are given stewardship over them. Some titles are not temporary.

“Brethren, when we stand before the Lord to be judged, will He look upon the positions we have held in the world or even in the Church? Do you suppose that titles we have had other than “husband,” “father,” or “priesthood holder” will mean much to Him? Do you think He will care how packed our schedule was or how many important meetings we attended? Do you suppose that our success in filling our days with appointments will serve as an excuse for failure to spend time with our wife and family?The Lord judges so very differently from the way we do. He is pleased with the noble servant, not with the self-serving noble”. (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Lift Where You Stand,” Liahona, Nov 2008, 53–56)

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