I’ve been thinking about callings: the sort that heroes and prophets receive. An obscure boy or girl, going about their ordinary life, is suddenly caught up in a quest to save their nation or the world. They are joined by companions and a mentor, are attacked by evil, whether in the form of mythical beasts, metaphysical powers/magic, or human enemies. Although at first they feel and seem very ordinary – perhaps even being one of the least in their community, often having some lack that sets them apart – they faithfully fulfill their mission. They grow immensely during their journey, discovering hidden abilities, becoming a symbol of hope to their people and accepting the great tasks required of them, until they embody what was prophesied of them: true heroes, saviours of their time.
As we’re studying the Old Testament this year in Sunday School, I’ve been revisiting the stories of Eve, Enoch, Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Joseph (of Egypt), and Moses. Last week and the Sunday before, I performed in an Easter musical presentation about the last week of the Lord’s mortal life, where the struggles and testimonies of His companions such as Peter, John and Thomas were put to beautiful and moving music. We also looked briefly today at the lives of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, latter-day prophets and martyrs. Later, I was reading about Nephi being called as a prophet and leader, although still young and in his parents’ household. The authors of the commentary I was reading, Reynolds and Sjodahl, describe the experience of being ‘called’:
There comes a time in the experience of every servant of the Lord when he, often after an intense spiritual struggle, becomes conscious of his special mission in mortality and his relationship to God. The crisis is sometimes described as a “new birth”. It is a complete and actual change in the conditions and circumstances of the person involved. It is as if one were passing from death to life. It is an unconditional surrender to God. Such an experience was that of Jacob at Bethel, where, after the dream of the ladder, he dedicated himself to the service of Jehovah…. It was the experience of the boy Samuel, that caused him to exclaim before the Lord “Speak, for thy servant heareth” (Sam. 3:2-14). See also the vision of Isaiah, who said: “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:1-8); and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:4-10); and Saul, who, trembling and astonished, in perfect submission, asked: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:1-8). The boy Joseph Smith passed through a similar crisis in the “sacred grove”, where he had the glorious theophany of the Father and the Son. From that day he was another boy, with a new outlook upon the present and the future. It was such an experience the boy Nephi had. And he returned to his father’s tent with new responsibilities [(1 Ne. 2:16-24)]. (Reynolds, G. & Sjodahl, J. 1973. Commentary on the Book of Mormon. P. Reynolds (ed.) Salt Lake City: Deseret Press).
I like fairytales (except the gory parts) and speculative fiction – a lot of which tells these sort of stories. Stories of heroes, originally ordinary folk but with a special destiny to save the world from evil and destruction; stories full of adventure and discovery, friendship and laughter, tragedy and hope. I read them (or watch them as movies or TV shows) and am inspired, encouraged and entertained. I want to be like one of these heroes; to have some special destiny awaiting me, and to achieve it with the aid of powerful and loyal companions; to be a part of something great; and especially, to have those qualities that make them heroes.
Then I remember that I also have a special destiny – a calling as great as any – to be a “saviour on Mount Zion”, a daughter of the latter-day house of Israel, to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. To live so that I can remain pure from the evils of the world and have the power necessary to fulfill this calling. I, too, work with noble companions to achieve such a vision – I am among those of whom Joel prophesied:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit (Joel 2:28-29)
and of whom Zenos spoke in his allegory of the tame and wild olive trees (Jacob 5:70-75). I live in a day of prophecy – a time that has been foretold for thousands of years. Paul teaches that the faithful saints of times past looked forward to our day and rejoiced. I am a recipient of the blessings of that glorious day of promise when the Saviour rose from the tomb and poured hope into the hearts of His disciples, having overcome sin, sorrow and death. I have the powers of angels and the Holy Ghost to help me in my mission; I have a testimony of truth and a firm hope in the promises of eternal life and the goodness of the Gospel. I know of the saving power that comes through faith and repentance, love and forgiveness. What greater destiny do I need, to go forward and become, myself, a heroine like those I read of? As Snow White keeps saying in Once Upon a Time, everyone deserves their happy ending. I not only get to live towards my own, but help others find theirs. Mine is a beautiful calling, even though it isn’t the same as Enoch’s or Joseph’s, or the heroes of fiction. It’s my very own – which is just how it should be.