Callings, Part 4
There wasn't originally going to be a part 4 to my post about callings--I thought I was basically done--but then I remembered there was one last part to the tale I'd forgotten to include.
One day last month, I checked my phone messages on Sunday morning to find a call from a member of the Elders' Quorum Presidency asking me if I'd teach the lesson in the priesthood meeting that Sunday, and requesting that I call him back to confirm. Well, he'd made the call on Friday (and apologized for its last-minute nature), but I hadn't checked my phone messages and found out about it till that morning--so it seemed pointless to call him back now. On not hearing from me, I assumed he'd have found someone else by then.
But when I got to church, the president of the Elders' Quorum came up to me and asked me if I was ready to teach the lesson. I told him, truthfully, that I hadn't gotten the message until that morning, and while I'd read through the lesson just in case I really hadn't had time to do any preparation. As it turned out, though, he hadn't even read the lesson, so he still asked me to teach it, reasoning apparently that I was still better prepared than he was.
A lot of emphasis is put on the church on teaching by the Spirit. The inspiration of the Holy Ghost is supposed to be present while you teach, and you're supposed to be guided by its promptings. Church members invariably claim to be able to sense when the Holy Ghost is present and when it isn't; "I really felt the Spirit during your talk" is a common compliment. Naturally, the gift of the Holy Ghost is only available to those who ask God for it and who are faithful and believing. Which means that, if that doctrine were true, then as an atheist (even if I hadn't admitted to it and those at church didn't know about my atheism), I definitely shouldn't have had the Holy Ghost with me, and my lesson should have been completely uninspired. The fact that people still told me afterwards what an effective lesson I'd given, and complimented me on my insight, and that not one person remarked on the absence of the Spirit that was supposed to be such an important part of the process, is then perhaps rather telling.
The president of the Elders' Quorum asked me afterwards if I'd be willing to accept a calling as a regular instructor. Well, obviously I wouldn't really feel comfortable in such a calling, given that I don't believe in what I'd be teaching--but then again, as callings go there are worse ones (after all, I'd only be "teaching" people who already believed in this, anyway, not trying to persuade people who didn't), and it seemed unlikely I'd be left long without some calling (and while I could turn it down, that would be unusual enough that it might raise too many questions), so I agreed. So far, though, for whatever reason the calling hasn't officially happened yet, so I guess maybe I'll be left without a calling after all. Although I have to say there's some amusing irony in the idea of the ward unknowingly having its priesthood lessons taught by an atheist...
(A note about the previous post: There've been a couple of replies regarding the ethical issue of coming forward with my atheism after having been Young Men's President, saying that there really isn't any ethical dilemma involved, and that regardless of the trust the parents and church leaders of the ward may have put in me when I was in that position, and although it would have been abusing that trust to use my position as Young Men's President to try to sway the kids toward atheism, now that I'm not in that position and have no official jurisdiction over them there'd be nothing unethical about coming out as an atheist even if I do still have some unofficial influence over them. I've given the matter a little further thought, and really...they're absolutely right. As I replied:
Yeah...on further thought, you're right about the ethical issue. I guess I was just kind of clinging to that as an excuse; the truth is it's less about there being any real ethical problem than about my concern that the parents and church leaders might feel like I betrayed them--but I really ought to not be so concerned about what people think of me.
Still, realizing I shouldn't be concerned about it, and actually not being concerned about it, are two different things.
In any case, in time it ought to be a moot point...I suppose the Young Men will forget about me eventually. I certainly have no recollection of who was in the Young Men's Presidency of the ward I grew up in. Still...I guess I'm just kind of grasping at excuses, when at base the main reason I'm reluctant to come out as an atheist is for fear of the reactions of the people I know at church, and of my family. As I said, I know I ought not to be so concerned about what people think of me...but it's hard not to be. I do fully intend to go public with my atheism eventually...but it may be a while before I really feel ready for that step.)