I play the piano. I am not fantastic, but I can sight-read most of the hymns without too much practice. For me, one of the best callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to serve as a pianist. I do not play the organ!
My dad was a ward and stake organist for many years. His service led me to think, “If I learn to play the organ, then that will be my calling for the rest of my life.”
As a result, I avoided learning to play the organ. About 10 years ago, one of my previous bishops asked if I would try and learn to play the organ. After that casual invitation, I pretty much avoided the bishop and that subject. He never followed through with a formal call.
“Whom the Lord Calls, the Lord Qualifies”
Then, one of the counsellors in our new bishopric asked me for an interview and extended a calling for me to serve as the ward organist. My initial thought was, “Oh, no way man!”
Before I answered, I remembered what President Thomas S. Monson taught about how we should respond to Church callings: “Now, some of you may be shy by nature or consider yourselves inadequate to respond affirmatively to a calling. Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies” (“Duty Calls,” Ensign, May 1996).
Of course, I said, “Yes, I will accept this calling.” I was sure hoping that the Lord would help me out. The counsellor went on to tell me that his wife was a piano player too, and she had learned a few tips that made it easier to play the organ. I went to the church and tried her suggestions, and they helped me.
After I was sustained by ward members and set apart by the bishopric, I felt like I could at least give it my best shot. After about a month, I didn’t worry so much about making a few mistakes here and there. Accepting the Lord’s errand for me was not as bad as I feared it might be. Once someone changed the organ stops, and I was in trouble for a while. All in all, though, I was actually enjoying being the ward organist.
Organist Failure and Christ’s Grace
In our ward, we play and sing all the verses for the sacrament hymn. I also have to turn my head around to check to see if the priests are standing and breaking the bread, and I need to play longer. If they have finished and are again seated, that is my cue to wrap up my playing the organ, providing that the congregation has completed singing all the hymn’s verses. Since I cannot sing and play the organ at the same time, I also have to pay attention to each verse we are singing.
On a recent Sunday, I turned around just as the boys were sitting down and thought it was perfect timing because I had just finished what I thought was the last verse. So, I stopped playing.
The chorister and the congregation, however, continued singing. I looked at the chorister, and she looked back at me. I completely drew a blank. I thought I had forgotten to play the chorus, so I started to play it. That was not the verse that the congregation was singing. I finally had to ask for someone to tell me where we were. The bishopric members all turned around and told me I still had the last verse to go. By then, there were some chuckles throughout the congregation, but then the chorister guided all of us in unitedly singing the last verse of the sacrament hymn. During the administration of the sacrament, I worried, “Oh, boy! That was a mess.”
In an effort to make me feel better after the meeting was over, one of the bishopric members told me that I did not mess up enough to get me released. I continued feeling bad about disrupting the sacrament hymn, but then I suddenly felt a feeling of peace. The following thoughts came into my mind: “We all make mistakes. We are only human.”
I remembered that Moroni worried, “when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words” (Ether 12:25). The Lord comforted him by saying, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27). I suddenly felt Christ’s grace dispelling my guilt and individually strengthening me.
Member and Heavenly Support
My ward members were also very supportive after the meeting. They let me know that they cared for and encouraged me. They were reassuring in ways similar to an incident where four young women in a ward left their seats to support a struggling 12-year-old youth speaker at sacrament meeting: “Through participation in church, they knew each other and were aware of each other’s needs; they had learned to give and receive service; and they were actively developing the ultimate virtue of charity” (Kate Holbrook and Samuel Brown, “The Gift of Participating in Church,” Ensign, Mar. 2020, 38-41).
I am so grateful that I have both a supportive ward and a Heavenly Father who loves us no matter how we mess up, whether it’s something small or something big. As members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, we need to try and sustain each other. We also need to have faith that Christ is there to help us. He wants us back. In the words of Sister Reyna I. Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, “To reach our sublime destiny, we need each other” (“With One Accord,” Ensign, May 2018, 78).