There was once a time when I felt fairly good about myself regarding local church leadership. I had moved to a small town in Michigan which had a small and spread out ward without many resources. I had been born of goodly parents, served an honorable mission, married in the temple, and was a heck of a guy. Over several years I had served as a cub master, Elders Quorum Instructor, Young Men’s President, and Ward Mission Leader. I was then called as the Elders Quorum President. I felt that it was only a matter of time before I was called into a bishopric and maybe even bishop. I would not have ruled out being called into a High Council or Stake Presidency someday.
I do not really enjoy being in charge of people, or being in front of a group. I would naturally prefer to sit in the back and observe. I consider myself a better follower than a leader, and perhaps not all that good of a follower. I would say I was a better counselor than a president in an organization. But with the circumstances I was in, and still am in, I thought additional leadership callings were inevitable. I would simply accept them and do what I felt I reasonably could. Then certain events happened which changed my view of local church leadership and of myself.
Two members of our Stake Presidency worked for the same large company. The company was going through some down-sizing and this would effect both members of the presidency. One was given an early retirement deal which he gladly accepted. He put his house up for sale and would soon move to another state. Our Stake President was going to be transferred across the country. So everyone knew that in a few months we would get an entire new Stake Presidency.
At about this time we had a Stake Priesthood leadership meeting which I attended as the EQP. Our Stake President gave what I considered a sad and a bit disturbing talk. He told us that in the seven years that he had been the Stake President that nothing in the stake had changed. Same number of members, same activity, same number of priesthood holders, same number of temple recommend holders, etc., etc. You could tell this really bothered him. I felt this was a shame because I considered him to be a very good man who had done a very good job in his calling. It was not necessarily his fault that the stats had not improved. Why should he feel so bad?
I had had many opportunities to be interviewed by this Stake President. He had told me a few times that my Elders Quorum was probably the best quorum in the stake. But now things changed. The interviews became much more – aggressive. Accountability and stewardship became frequent key words. Results were being expected. Every presidency in the stake was instructed to have planned, formal presidency meetings every week. And the results of these meetings were to be reported to the stake.
I was in a difficult position with these instructions. One of my counselors worked a night shift, and the other counselor I knew was working many extra hours – he also had a newborn son who was having health issues. I simply did not feel good about burdening them with these extra meetings. I agonized over this decision. I prayed and I fasted. I felt that I received subtle answers to my prayers and that the answer was not to have the extra meetings. I discussed this with my counselors and they both felt the same way. So we decided to stick with our monthly presidency meeting routine and agreed to communicate with each other as needed.
I should probably say that I am not meeting averse. I like meetings much of the time. It gives me a chance to rub shoulders with some of the best people I have ever met. I have had callings where I needed to attend PEC and ward counsel and missionary correlation meetings without a bit of complaint. If it were just me I would gladly participated in weekly presidency meetings, but it was not just me.
The Stake President was not pleased when he heard that we were not having weekly presidency meetings. He had a high councilor attend our ward and talk with me every week about these presidency meetings we were supposed to have. Every week there was a follow-up interview regarding this issue. In addition the H.C. did not like one of our instructors, who taught once a month, and recommended that we release him. I continued to pray about these two issues and felt that I should continue as I was. The H.C. didn’t like my decision.
One week my wife was ill, and so I took our four boys to church without her. Our youngest at the time was just old enough for nursery. Sure enough, the H.C. was there and wanted to speak with me after church again. I told him that my wife was sick and I had all four boys, so our interview would need to be short. He assured me it would be. So after church we found an empty room and started again.
We went over the same stuff again and again. The H.C. telling me I should obey the instructions of the S.P., and me saying that I was trying to follow the spirit in leading the EQ. This interview lasted for about 45 minutes. I eventually told him that I did not feel that additional meetings would result in better results. He then gave me a sly smile and said something like. ‘We will never know will we’? I was fed up. I stood up and declared that this interview was over and headed for the door. He leaped out of his seat and held the door closed. He began apologizing and brought me back to my seat. We discussed the same issues again. I was going nuts. My four boys were somewhere in the church doing who knows what, and my wife was sick in bed. We finally closed the meeting and I barged out of the church.
I sent the SP an e-mail relating this experience. He wrote back telling me that he was sure I was the right person to be the EQP in the ward and thanked me for my patience through all this. Within a couple of weeks I and the HC were both released from our callings.
Through this, I have lost a level of trust and good feelings regarding local church leadership. I have questions about the proper role of accountability in the church. I have a distaste for statistics as a method for evaluating people in their callings. I am more sensitive to what I perceive as unrighteous dominion by local church leaders.
I realize that all of this says negative things about myself. I am just a simple guy trying to get by in life. As far as I am concerned the gospel is just as true as ever, and the church is true as it is administered properly. I may not be cut out for church leadership after all. I suppose that is fine. I don’t expect the stake to call me to anything soon, but time will tell. Sorry for the downer post.