“And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” -Hebrews 5:4
In the Latter Day Saint movement men and women are called of God as “apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth” to help move individuals, congregations, churches, and the kingdom forward in Christ (Doctrines of the Saints 3b:6). These men and women “must be called of God by inspiration and the Spirit of prophecy and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority” (Doctrines of the Saints 3b:5). What does this mean and how does this work?
Called as was Aaron
“…and the Voice [of the Lord] said: Is not Aaron, the Levite, thy brother? I know that he can speak well… thy spokesman he shall be unto the people; and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth…” -3 Moses 4:27
In Exodus 7:1-2 we read that Aaron is called by God through Moses to assist Moses as he leads Israel. The same is true in 3 Moses from the plates of brass. There is a need, and Aaron is called to fill this need. However, there is more to the story, as we read in plates of brass:
“And it came to pass that not many days before Moses was in the presence of the angel of YHVH, in a flame of fire within the very center of that bush, that the angel of YHVH did come unto Aaron, the brother of Moses; and the angel of YHVH did say unto Aaron: Go ye into the wilderness to meet thy brother, Moses; for unto thee is given a call, even to be the mouthpiece of thy brother…” -3 Moses 6:1-3
Here we can see that there are two parts to this call from God. It is not merely God telling Moses, then Moses demanding that Aaron do as he, Moses, tells him as the mouthpiece of God. The Lord told two people of the call: Moses (the one with the need) and Aaron (the one filling that need).
This is important to remember as people are called of God. If one feels called, but the one the Lord has called has not received a revelation, then perhaps they are called but it is not yet their time. Likewise, if there is a need and God tells the person seeking to fill that need to call a person, and that person does not receive a revelation that they are called, then they are called but not chosen. This is the dual nature of one being called of God. The person calling and the person called must know by the power of God or they are not called.
Accepting the Call
“Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying: Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD…” -Jonah 1:1-3
There may be times, like in the case of Jonah, where one is called and they run from the call and the Lord chases them down and convinces them to accept the call. But we should understand that Jonah was not fully called until he accepted, and that he had the choice (and the consequences) of continuing to run away. Jonah did eventually choose to heed his call. But we cannot force anyone to accept a call. God will help them become ready, or God will choose someone else.
Sometimes the call is so important, as with Moses and Jonah, that Go will not call someone else. Other times, the Lord will call someone else. This doesn’t make the next person less called. Rather, the Lord already knew that the first person would not accept. But the Lord new they needed to hear the call as a part of their own personal development.
The point here is that we cannot force a call on anyone. Even if God tells them they are called, by revelation, they are not fully or truly called until they accept on a deeply personal and spiritual level. This is more that saying “yes.” It is embracing their call, making it a part of their identity. This is how we can know someone is fully called. They embody the spirit of their calling.
Sustaining the Call
“A Preface or instructions upon the Book of Commandments, which were given of the Lord unto His Church through him whom He appointed to this work by the voice of His Saints, through the prayer of faith…” -Doctrines of the Saints Section 1 Header
The final part of being called of God is having the confidence of the people. We should understand that this will not always happen. Mormon had the people’s confidence in leading them into battle, but not unto the words of the Gospel that would have saved their mortal position and their immortal souls. When the Lord is calling those that would help facilitate the growth of the Saints, those Saints will be moved by the Holy Spirit to sustain them. If this does not happen it can be because the Saints are unwilling or unable to listen, the person called may be called to work other Saints, or because the timing of the call is not right.
When we look at James Strang, we know he was called as Joseph called him (9 Joseph 1:6). However, history shows that he was kept out of town and not allowed to speak when Young and Rigdon were asking the Saints to vote on who they wished to follow. Rather than uniting the Saints, this divided them and the fractured church became the Churches of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with everyone moving in their own directions. Because the Saints refused to be one, the Lord called more than one to lead them. The Holy Spirit moved men and women to follow and build the fractured kingdom.
In this we know that all of those called were truly called as they were truly sustained, they had followers. Strang, Young, and Rigdon continue to have followers to this day. Therefore, this is the seal that unites the first two parts of the call. Even Mormon, rejected in his time, has today been sustained by every Latter Day Saint that studies his abridgement of the records of his people. We cannot assume that one is called merely because they have followers. At the same time, we also cannot reject one claiming they have been called merely because they do not have followers (or do not have enough followers in the world’s eyes). We must ourselves go to the Lord, every time, and seek our own personal revelation. We are after all, to be a prophetic people.