During his address at the Priesthood session of the recent General Conference President Uchtdorf asked the questions “What can I learn from Alma? … How am I like Amulek?” The first he directed to “all past, current and future leaders in the church of Jesus Christ”.
I understand the sentiments he expressed here:
“For whatever reason we as leaders are reluctant to find and ask our Amuleks [for help]. Perhaps we think that we can work better by ourselves. Or we are reluctant to inconvenience others. Or we assume that others would not want to participate.”
I’ve been there. I’ve been the RS counsellor responsible for teaching, who didn’t have any teachers and taught the lessons myself. Perhaps I should have had teachers called and nurtured them. I was young. Back then, nearly 20 years ago, I didn’t feel capable of the necessary people management that would have been involved. I needed to feel I had some control. Age and experience helped. I did a better job of caring for and nurturing my teachers when I served on the primary presidency a few years ago. Much to my surprise I found I enjoyed it. My people skills had improved in the interim.
President Uchtdorf continued:
“Too often we hesitate to invite people to use their God-given talents and engage in a great work of salvation.”
An interesting choice of words in a church where our callings, outside of perhaps those involving music, often seem to bear no relation to the talents we possess, and where our very gendered organisational structure considerably restricts our talent pool, and the talents we can use.
“Think of the Saviour. Did he begin to establish His church all alone? No. His message was not stand back, I’ll handle this. Rather it was come follow me. He inspired, invited, instructed and then trusted His followers to do the things which ye have seen me do. This way Jesus Christ built up not only His church, but also His servants.”
I especially appreciated the emphasis on trusting. I’ve been in a calling where the levels of micromanagement signalled an unjustified absence of trust. Where I wondered why I’d ever been asked to do it, if they wouldn’t trust me enough to just let me do the job. I found it a wholly demoralising and disheartening experience, not one that built me.
It is in this next section that it becomes clearer that President Uchtdorf is addressing those who hold Priesthood office. This is the Priesthood session after all:
“In whatever position you currently serve, whether you are a Deacons Quorum president, a Stake President or an Area President, to be successful you must find your Amuleks. It may be someone who’s unassuming or even invisible within your congregations. It may be someone who seems unwilling or unable to serve. Your Amuleks may be young or old, men or women, inexperienced, tired, or not active in the church. But what may not been seen at first sight is that they are hoping to hear from you the words the Lord needs you, I need you. Deep down many want to serve their God. They want to be an instrument in His hands, They want to thrust in their sickle and strive with their might to prepare the earth for the return of our Saviour. They want to build His church, but they are reluctant to begin. Often they wait to be asked.” [emphasis mine]
This is where my heart hurt. Yes he acknowledged that their Amuleks may be women, but that’s pretty much as far as it went. I couldn’t help but think of the women of Ordain Women, who yet again organised an action signalling their willingness to serve, but who were yet again ignored. Women who deep down want to serve their God, want to be an instrument in His hands, want to build His church. Women who after long years have tired of waiting to be asked, many of whom who have left as a result. If only our leadership could bring themselves to regard women as their equals they may well be “surprised to discover a valiant servant [or two or three or many, many more] of the Lord who would otherwise have remained hidden”.
Addressing the Amuleks of his second question President Uchtdorf said:
“The Lord sees in you what he saw in Amulek: the potential of a valiant servant with an important work to do and a testimony to share. There’s service that no-one else can give in quite the same way. The Lord has trusted you with His holy priesthood which holds the divine potential to bless and lift others. Listen with your heart and follow the promptings of the spirit.”
When will we hear these words will addressed to women?
NB. Quotes are taken from my own transcript. Official transcript unavailable at the time of writing.