The following narrative is absolutely, 100% true. I remember the events like they happened yesterday. I learned a major life lesson from this and I have tried my hardest to never repeat this misfortunate experience again.
Let’s flash back to the previous century…
Remember the 1900’s?
(Inigo acts like the 1900’s was more like the 1600’s… “Mom, were you really alive in the 1900’s? What was it like back then?”
I always try to respond, “Well, I remember back when dirt was just being created….”)
Let’s not make it sound like it was that long ago. Flash back to the last decade of the 20th century. Specifically fall of 1994.
Max, Buttercup and I were living in Portland, Oregon. Buttercup was a darling little 2 year old.
(Yes, she was a true “Princess.” )
We were incredibly lucky that we lived only 10 minutes away from the Portland Temple and equally lucky that we had a new church house built just up the street from our rented townhouse. That meant that we could actually walk to church! We were so excited!
Our ward boundaries were quite large and we had a fairly young ward. There were many young couples with young children. So many in fact, that there were TWO NURSERIES with about 20 kids each in them.
I felt very lucky to have a lot of friends in that ward. One girl, Margie was a particularly good friend (sadly, we’ve lost touch). I remember one day we went to lunch together, and on the way home it was just the two of us, and we were talking about church callings.
Here is where I made my fatal mistake and learned my life lesson:
I said (out loud): “You know, I think I would be able to accept any calling in the Church, except being a Relief Society Teacher. ESPECIALLY, THE SPIRITUAL LIVING TEACHER!)
(They don’t have that specific calling in Relief Society anymore)
Margie agreed and we shuddered together at the horrific thought that that calling brought to our minds.
Margie dropped me off at my townhouse and I went on with my life. I didn’t think about that conversation again for about 3 weeks. AND THEN IT CAME BACK TO HAUNT ME!!
One day I was at the church. I don’t remember why. It doesn’t matter. I was standing in the meetinghouse library when someone came up to me and said, “Valerie, the bishop would like to speak with you.”
Now I found that interesting. Never in my adult life had I been issued a call from the bishop (I had always served in the Primary) so I wasn’t nervous. Maybe I didn’t realize that the Bishop could actually extend a calling to me.
I went like a lamb to the slaughter.
“Sister Valerie, we’ve discussed this and we’d like to ask you to be an instructor in Relief Society, specifically the Spiritual Living Teacher.”
For the love of….. WHAT!?!?!?
All of a sudden my conversation with Margie came crashing back down on me. How in the world did the Bishop know? Was he hiding in the back seat? Did he pay the Elder’s Quorum to secretly bug her car? Was Margie a secret Bishopric informant?
Nah. It can’t be. surely this was a joke!
But the Bishop’s not laughing.
In fact, he almost looks serious.
My heart jumps out of my chest. Tears fill my eyes. I realize HE IS SERIOUS!!!
My breath starts to come in short, rapid bursts. NOW I am crying.
For the love of everything good in the world, PLEASE DON’T ASK ME TO DO THIS!!!
I will admit, it got ugly. I began to beg. Yes, I groveled. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the way it was. Do you know what I begged for? Instead of a Relief Society calling, I wanted to be the Nursery Leader. It would have been so much easier for me to be in charge of 40 toddlers than to stand in front of a room full of my peers trying to teach them a spiritual lesson.
The bishop was cruel and calloused. My tears did NOTHING to affect him. He was a cold-hearted man. He insisted that it wasn’t HIM that wanted me in this calling, but that Heavenly Father wanted me there. And that he believed that I was exactly what they needed and it was exactly what I needed.
He sent me sobbing out of the door to my home. And believe me, I cried buckets the entire walk home. (I even remember that I was wearing a denim jumper. That’s how vivid this memory is.)
As soon as I got home, I got on the phone and called the only person I could think of that could help me. My mommy.
My body was wracked with sobs. The big gulping kind. My face was red, my nose had swollen up to approximately the size of a grapefruit, my red eyes were now puffy slits in my face.
I remember that my brother, Googenheimer, answered the phone. “Googen (gulp) heimer (gasp), is mom (sob) there?” I remember that I heard him run frantically to get my mom (those were the days when we still were tied to a phone with a cord.)
My mom came rushing to answer my call. I could hear the panic in her voice as she said, “Val, are you okay? Were you in a car wreck?” (Googenheimer, thought that my panic was so severe that surely someone has passed away in a car accident.)
“No, Mom. But I have some equally terrible news.”
“Val… what’s wrong?”
“MOMMY!!! THEY ASKED ME TO TEACH RELIEF SOCIETY!!!”
That pronouncement was met with stunned silence for about 10 seconds. Then, instead of the compassionate sympathy and empathy that I was expecting, I received an earful of laughter.
Oh no!! My mother’s against me too?!?!
She lovingly explained to me that everything would be okay. That the calling really is an inspired calling and that she believed in me. She calmed my sobs down and quieted my hysteria. I still didn’t want the calling, but she made me think that it would actually be okay.
Flash forward a couple weeks to my first lesson.
I was so nervous. I was a wreck. Remember, I had spent all of my married life – all 6 1/2 years of it– teaching Primary or being Primary pianist. I had no idea how to engage the class or how to lead a discussion. My experience was, “Johnny, stop hitting Steve!” and “Marsha, please use a tissue not your finger.” Or, “If you can be quiet and we can finish the lesson, I promise we’ll play a game of hangman!”
Because of this, my first lesson ended 15 minutes early.
(You should have seen the look of panic on the Relief Society President’s face when we looked at the clock and realized what time it was!)
Thankfully, this calling was short-lived. The poor sisters in that ward only had to endure about 3 of my lessons and I moved with my family to the Coast, which is where I began my career calling in the Young Women organization. Whew!
I’m sure the Relief Society wasn’t too sad at my departure.
The preceding has been a true story. It has not been embellished or dramatized in any way.
I tell it for a reason.
I have been able to avoid Relief Society for the past 16 years. I have only had to teach one other lesson, in a Homemaking Class (another program that is gone) and I remember it as being a dismal failure. (I was asked to teach on how to mark scriptures using color codes… It’s a system that still confuses me.) That lesson was at least 8 years ago.
But now, Relief Society has come back to haunt me. Tonight I have been asked to teach a lesson/class for… what do they call it now? It’s not Enrichment, it’s not Homemaking… is it mid week MEETING? I have no idea, but I’ll be teaching one of the classes.
I guess I’ve grown up a little, I didn’t cry when they asked me to teach. But I’m seriously stressed. I can teach kids. I can teach teenagers. But teaching women is seriously scary business!! Thank heavens it’s only one class and one night.
The class is only supposed to be 15 minutes long. It makes me think of my first Spiritual Living lesson… it would be BAD if I ended this one 15 minutes early!!!