Valerie Walton: What I know now about the power and blessings of fulfilling callings

After her husband’s hospitalization for depression, Valerie Walton finds strength and blessings from a surprising source: accepting a calling as a Sunday School teacher

There is nothing quite like driving your husband to the emergency room to make everything that really matters in life come into sharp focus.

Earlier this year, as his doctoral studies in chemical engineering neared completion, my husband, Kenny, suffered a severe mental health crisis requiring hospitalization. While my personal emotions were nothing compared to the turbulent darkness that had been churning through his mind, I felt terrified and lost. While he was admitted for inpatient treatment, I was left alone to find my own way — out of the ER, around medical bills and insurance, and through care for my husband.

In this process, I learned that supporting someone with depression requires leaning on a tribe — and is essential for both parties. One of the best tribes to rely on is a faith community.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I, a Church News employee and returned missionary, had fallen inactive by the comforts of idleness — choosing to watch sacrament meeting on Zoom rather than attend in person, and skipping Sunday School and Relief Society. If I did manage to go in person, I didn’t interact with anyone. I’d been in my ward for two years and barely knew anyone’s name.

The Sunday after my husband became ill, I met with my bishop and explained my husband’s health struggles and demanding educational obligations, and how lonely and disconnected we felt from the ward after joining it during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic. I knew that my husband and I needed to make friends in this ward somehow.

Then while counseling with my bishop, the Spirit gave him an answer I wasn’t expecting. My bishop asked how I felt about accepting a calling. I promised to do whatever it took to become an active Church and ward member again.

While still needing to consult with his counselors and the ward Sunday School president, the bishop asked if I would consider teaching.

My instincts said, “That’s a hard calling you’ve never done before. Don’t do it.” But the Spirit we both felt in that office gave us peace and confirmation that overcame my fears. I knew I would accept a calling to teach Sunday School, if he extended it to me.

It would be a few more weeks before I was officially called and set apart. But being set apart and fulfilling my calling has brought remarkable blessings to my life.

In her essay on accessing priesthood power through being set apart, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon wrote, “In the simplicity and frequency of a setting apart, we may miss the significance of this priesthood ordinance — an ordinance that quite literally sets us apart from the world and designates us for the Lord’s work. ...

“When we are set apart and act diligently on the privileges and responsibilities bestowed upon us, God can and will create in us a more Christlike mind, a purer heart and a nobler spirit.”

As I read President Cordon’s essay some months after becoming a Sunday School teacher, I felt a nudging from the Holy Ghost, reminding me of the Spirit my bishop and I had felt in his office many months before — as well as the multitude of blessings my family has seen since.

My husband and I have begun to build friendships as we’ve gotten to know ward members. The Spirit has been stronger in our home as I’ve prepared lessons and studied the gospel with Kenny.

Most important, my husband’s health has vastly improved, evidenced by his overall cheer and decreased isolation. He even felt comfortable enough to come with me to the Conference Center to participate in the Saturday morning session of general conference in October.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my husband’s mental health treatment and improvements, a bishop who listened to me and the Spirit, a ward that gives me strength and love, and being a Sunday School teacher. Cherishing these blessings now means that as my husband begins his job hunt next year in a workforce affected by the pandemic, I take on more responsibilities at the Church News, and whatever else comes our way in the future, we will draw upon the priesthood power that we are promised when we’re set apart for a calling.

— Valerie Walton is a writer for the Church News.

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