An event that occurred in 1951 deserves to be remembered as a lesson in obedience.
When President David O. McKay became the ninth president of the Church on April 9, 1951, he chose J. Reuben Clark Jr., as his second counselor. The unusual aspect of this call was that President Clark had previously been first counselor to both Presidents Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith.President McKay chose as his first counselor President Stephen L Richards, who had been an apostle since 1917. President Clark was ordained an apostle in 1934.
When asked by some about being "demoted" to second counselor, President Clark made a classic statement that should be remembered by everyone in the Church when he said: "It doesn't matter where you serve, but how you serve."
What a lesson! Service in the Church is not measured by position, but by our willingness to magnify whatever it is we are called to do.
The Apostle Paul taught this principle of service, not title, to the Saints at Corinth when he likened the Church to a person's body with one part not being any more important that another.
"And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
"Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary." (1 Cor. 12:21-22.)
There are many and varied opportunities in the Church to serve, but there are no "high" or "low" callings. Rank or title are false measurements in the Church. Those who may say "I am only a home teacher" or "I only work in the nursery" miss the mark of true service.
Sometimes missionaries are at first disappointed in their calls that are not to "far away places with strange sounding names." But the Lord knows best where and how each person can serve.
Such a lesson in obedience from Church history is the missionary call of George Goddard in 1861.
Brother Goddard had been a successful merchant in Leicester, England, but after joining the Church began to lose his customers, and finally went broke.
With his family, he came to Salt Lake City in 1851. Five of his eight children died during the arduous journey to Zion. Life was hard for him as he strove to build a new business, but by 1861 he had become one of the five leading merchants in the Salt Lake Valley.
Then came a call, a cherished call for missionary service, a call from the prophet, Brigham Young. But it was not a call to return to his native England, or to the isles of the Pacific. Nor was it to Canada, or even the Southern States. It was a call to gather rags from the homes of the Saints in order that the Deseret News could make paper on which to print its newspaper.
Of the call Brother Goddard wrote: "(The mission) was a severe blow to my native pride. After being known in the community for years, as a merchant and auctioneer . . . to be seen on the streets going from door to door with a basket on one arm and an empty sack on the other, inquiring for rags at every house, oh what a change in the aspect of affairs. When President Young first made the proposition, the humiliating prospect almost stunned me."
But it was a call, and Brother Goddard then wrote: "But after a few moments reflection reminded me that I came to these valleys of the mountains from my native country, England, for the purpose of doing the will of my Heavenly Father, my time and means were at His disposal."
Brother Goddard served diligently for three years, calling on homes from southern Idaho to southern Utah. His efforts saved the Deseret News by providing fibers from which paper could be made.
But amazingly, Brother Goddard became so well known to the Saints of the territory that following his mission his business flourished and his popularity as a merchant was even greater than before.
The Lord has His own way of rewarding our efforts, and it is not based on position or title, but on obedience to His call.