Print   |   Back
May 29, 2014
The Real Issue
New Calling, New Insults
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


Two weeks ago, I was called to be the new Primary president in our ward. Since then, at least two parents of Primary children have come to me and said, “I was so surprised when you were called to be the new Primary president. I didn’t think it was going to work. But I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided that it’s going to be okay.”

What the heck! Why do people think they can approach me and say things like that? And what am I supposed to say back?


Sometimes, a person in your ward gets a calling that you did not expect. “Interesting,” you may think. Or, “Yikes.”

Fortunately, unless you have a worthiness-level objection that should be brought to the bishop’s attention, you don’t have to decide whether the person was a good choice. That decision has been made. As a ward member, your decision is simply whether or not you will sustain the person.

So, if you have a problem with the person who has been called, you don’t get to say so. You don’t get to “just be honest” about what you think. You get to keep your opinion to yourself.

Honesty is no excuse for deliberately hurting someone’s feelings or gossiping. It is not right to grumble about the person amongst ward members or to approach the person with your objections. Such conversations can only divide the ward, injure the person and make it more difficult for him to fulfill his new calling.

If you must, you can talk privately to your spouse or an out-of-town friend about your concerns. But if you cannot sincerely say to a newly-called ward member, “Congratulations,” “You are going to do a great job,” or “I look forward to working with you,” you should not say anything at all.

In your case, of course, you were on the receiving end of the insult. There are a number of appropriate things you could have said or done. You could have blinked in surprise, waited a beat and said, “Thank you.” You could have said simply, “Okay.” You could have stared at the person without saying anything, at a loss for words. You could have said with a smile, “Janet, you say the darndest things.”

In these situations, what you choose to say or do depends entirely on what you can manage without being snippy, snappish, huffy or sarcastic. You must be sincere.

Even if the person deserves to be set down, you must resist. Not only is it rude to snap back at someone, it is not kind. And as the whole point of church is to teach people to do what is right no matter the temptation or provocation, you should set an example of returning an insult with mildness.

Further, this person has just identified a problem between you. If you insult him or put him down, you will escalate the problem. Even if the problem is not of your making and is totally unjustified, you should not make it worse by being rude.

A kind and mild response may do nothing to change this person’s opinion of you. But you will have done what is right, and that has its own rewards.

Now for the question you didn’t ask. What are you going to do as a result of this criticism? I suggest three things.

First, don’t let these people knock you off your game. You are going to be the best, most dedicated Primary president the world has ever seen. You will knock their socks off with your awesomeness and prove — to yourself, at least — how badly they misjudged you.

Second, consider your behavior and deportment and honestly ask whether they need to improve. Think over your language, clothing, attitude towards sacred things, church attendance, visiting teaching record, online posts, what you read — do you do things that would give someone pause? Does your public behavior give a wrong impression of who you are?

This should be a personal, introspective process. Do not force your friends or family to suggest ways you could improve. We’ve all seen sitcoms where that happens, and it never ends well.

However, you may choose to consider suggestions for improvement that have been offered in the past by people who love you. If your loving mother has always suggested that your jokes are not ladylike, you might choose to weigh her opinion more carefully now than you have in the past.

You cannot say, “Well, the bishop apparently thinks I’m good enough or he wouldn’t have called me.” Receiving a new calling is not a divine pronouncement that you require no further improvement. Indeed, a new calling often requires personal improvements specific to fulfilling that calling.

Nor can you complain that people should accept you as you are. While that is true, it is a guide for their behavior, not yours.

Third, forgive the people who insulted you. Perhaps they lack social graces. Perhaps they are professional kerfuffle-causers (most wards have a few of those). Perhaps they really thought you’d be grateful to know they support you despite their personal misgivings. No matter why they did it, forgive them freely. Instead of holding a grudge, file their behavior under “Can you believe it?” and let it go.

That said, you should remain wary of these people. If you have good reason to believe they will give you trouble in the future, you should develop a kind, patient and firm strategy for managing any commotion they try to cause.

Copyright © 2024 by Cyndie Swindlehurst Printed from