By Mel Borup Chandler.
In most churches, people volunteer for a particular ministry or cause. They work underneath a paid clergy, who are professionally trained or educated, or who have established a ministry based upon their charisma or spirituality.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes erroneously called the Mormon Church) has no paid clergy, but is manned top to bottom by people “called” to perform needed tasks and offer leadership. The organization of the Church is supervised by Jesus Christ and is modeled after Christ’s ancient church, with 12 apostles called from their worldly pursuits, seventies, and all the other offices described in the New Testament.
Some critics of the Church point out that the prophet, his counselors, and the twelve apostles are paid. These men have relinquished their worldly pursuits to serve the Lord full-time for a modest subsistence. No one in their right mind would look at Mormon apostleship as a way to get rich. Most of these men were successful before they were called into the ministry, and rely on their own accrued funds to get them through — their callings are for life. Mission presidents, called for three years to lead the missions of the LDS Church, take that time away from their vocations. They receive help with room and board.
Mormons’ Church Service
Serving is part of membership in the Mormon faith. Mormons do volunteer to do extra service, such as disaster cleanup or welfare projects, but they do not volunteer for nor do they aspire to positions in the LDS Church. They are “called” to serve by revelation to those who administer leadership over them.
The fifth article of faith, states: “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”
Once a Mormon is called to a service role, he or she can accept or refuse the call. Family is paramount, and family considerations can lead a person to refuse a call, but most active Latter-day Saints accept callings given to them. Not to accept a calling is bad form, but occasionally there are acceptable reasons. All but the highest leadership positions in the Church are temporary, and there is no guaranteed or typical progression to more and more responsible callings.
All the Lord requires of us is our availability. After accepting a call, a person should prayerfully seek the Lord’s help in magnifying that calling. LDS Church members are not perfect, but they are working on it. It is the gospel learning curve. The Lord does not require that we are perfect, but we must be in the process and seeking purity.
If a person is called to serve, he or she will be consecrated to do his or her particular calling or job and the person’s name will be presented to the congregation for a sustaining vote. This is not an election, wherein members vote for or against a person called to a position. Instead, it is agreeing to sustain or support that person in his or her calling. Dissenting votes are called for, but they rarely appear. Someone who dissents can privately express his concerns to leaders, and action might be taken, if there are good reasons not to move forward with the calling.
For many church members these callings help them learn and develop new talents, and their Mormon church service serves as a training ground. Additionally, they learn how organizations work and often become more valuable to employers in business and education as a result of their participation in the Church. We are all expected to assist in building God’s kingdom here on earth. One important aspect of the gospel is to stretch our faith and these callings are an opportunity to exercise and stretch out faith with action, even when we are not comfortable. In some respects church service is similar to The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-28), wherein the wise servants use their talents and thereby multiply them with the Lord’s help.
Most Mormons have served in many capacities in the Church. Nearly every church member has some type of regular assignment and opportunities abound to serve in the Church. Sometimes, it is as a Sunday school teacher, or to set up chairs in classrooms or even working periodically on a church farm harvesting or processing food for the needy. But whatever it is, God and the Church have need of willing hands. Usually members end up with callings because someone in the bishopric decides your services are needed and asks if you would be willing to serve. Even the Bishop (like a pastor) is a volunteer. He essentially works two full-time jobs, one in his worldly vocation, and one as an unpaid pastor. Most everyone continues to work their regular job and completes whatever their “day job” is, as usual.
Mormon Paid Workers
There are people whose professions are within the workings of the Church. The LDS Church has an educational system with paid teachers (the pay is notably low); there are grounds keepers, accountants, IT experts, etc., who work for the Church.
Mormon missionaries pay their own expenses when they serve. Many young Mormon missionaries begin working and saving as children to afford to serve a mission. It can cost thousands to supply a Mormon missionary for service, and as of 2011, the monthly expense was $400/month. Some Mormon families have more than one missionary out in the mission field at once. The LDS Church has a missionary fund members can contribute to in order to help less affluent missionaries afford to serve. The Church also has a “Perpetual Education Fund designed to enable “returned missionaries” from poorer cultures to go to school so they can get a better or professional job. Once they are employed, they pay back the amount so others can also avail themselves of the same opportunities they had.
Mormons Serve Happily
Most church members are exceptional people who are happy to be in the Church, happy to volunteer when called and are ideologically driven because they love God and the gospel. They try very hard to abide the teachings and precepts and appreciate the guidance the Church offers. They are in the process of becoming perfect, and it is no easy task. Notwithstanding, they are not perfect, and they are the perfect example! Finally perfect! Now that is an accomplishment.