In a recent Priesthood class we discussed what it meant to magnify your calling or priesthood. I have been thinking about this and about the symbolism in the verb ‘to magnify’. The word ‘magnify’ literally means ‘to make big’ hence a magnifying glass makes what we are looking at appear to be big. So, perhaps we are to understand that we regard our calling as a ‘big thing’.
President Monson seemed to have in mind the image of a magnifying glass when he said:
“What does it mean to magnify a calling? It means to build it up in dignity and importance, to make it honorable and commendable in the eyes of all men, to enlarge and strengthen it, to let the light of heaven shine through it to the view of other men.’ (The call of duty, General Conference, April 1986)
We also use a magnifying glass to study things closely, in detail and, similarly, we should study the duties associated with our calling. The Encyclopaedia of Mormonism warns however, ‘magnifying one’s calling does not mean to enlarge it beyond one’s stewardship or to make it appear great in the eyes of others, although there is a need to give one’s own calling appropriate personal importance.’
The 1829 Websters Deictionary includes amongst its definitions of ‘magnify’ ‘To extol; to exalt; to elevate; to raise in estimation.’ Jeremiah 48:42 has a salutary warning that We should seek to magnify, or raise in estimation, the Lord not ourselves : “And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against the Lord.”
In 1989 Gordon B Hinckley taught us that our attitudes and the way in which we act can either magnify or diminish our priesthood:
‘All of you, of course, are familiar with binoculars. When you put the lenses to your eyes and focus them, you magnify and in effect bring closer all within your field of vision. But if you turn them around and look through the other end, you diminish and make more distant that which you see.
So it is with our actions as holders of the priesthood. When we live up to our high and holy calling, when we show love for God through service to fellowmen, when we use our strength and talents to build faith and spread truth, we magnify our priesthood. When, on the other hand, we live lives of selfishness, when we indulge in sin, when we set our sights only on the things of the world rather than on the things of God, we diminish our priesthood.’ (Magnify your calling, General Conference, April 1989)
Henry B Eyring observed that as we magnify our calling the Lord will use our calling to magnify us:
‘Just as God called you and will guide you, He will magnify you. You will need that magnification. Your calling will surely bring opposition. You are in the Master’s service. You are His representative. Eternal lives depend on you. He faced opposition, and He said that facing opposition would be the lot of those He called. The forces arrayed against you will try not only to frustrate your work but to bring you down. The Apostle Paul described it this way: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.”1
There will be times when you will feel overwhelmed. One of the ways you will be attacked is with the feeling that you are inadequate. Well, you are inadequate to answer a call to represent God with only your own powers. But you have access to more than your natural capacities, and you do not work alone.
The Lord will magnify what you say and what you do in the eyes of the people you serve. He will send the Holy Ghost to manifest to them that what you spoke was true. What you say and do will carry hope and give direction to people far beyond your natural abilities and your own understanding. That miracle has been a mark of the Lord’s Church in every dispensation. It is so much a part of your call that you may begin to take it for granted.’ (Rise to your call, General Conference, October 2002)
A Church News article from 1997 gave some very practical guidance on how to magnify your calling:
– Accept callings willingly. By accepting Church callings, we keep our covenants, build the Kingdom of God, grow spiritually and learn practical skills. Recognizing these blessings of service helps us develop an eagerness to serve and avoid the prevalent “someone else can do it” attitude.- Catch a vision of the calling. Understanding how a calling helps accomplish the mission of the Church increases our commitment to it. Looking beyond the meetings, reports, lessons and activities (the programs), to the people who are ultimately blessed by our efforts elevates our perspective. We then see the calling as the Savior sees it.
– Take more responsibility for training/transition. In the scriptures we are counseled to “learn [our] duty and act in the office in which [we are] appointed in all diligence.” (D&C 107:99.) Taking a more active role during the transition into a calling – learning the duties, gathering material, meeting with leaders, meeting with the person who previously held the calling, etc. – gets us started on a positive and productive note.
– Follow the brethren. Inspired Church leaders have produced numerous manuals, handbooks, guides, bulletins and videos to assist Church members in official Church callings. Utilizing these resources and correlating with local priesthood leaders maximizes our effectiveness.
– Be reliable. Following through on assignments and performing all the duties associated with a calling make us successful and help us avoid placing additional burdens on other members. If a change in circumstances hinders our ability to perform a calling, we should counsel with our Church leaders, who will help us find an appropriate solution.
President Monson put it succinctly: ‘And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.’ (The call of duty, General Conference, April 1986)