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The purpose of this blog is to help pianists learn to become true organists. Many individuals believe that if you play the piano you can play the organ, but the instruments differ greatly. While this blog is specifically geared towards members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much of the information shared can be utilized by all. I hope that the information I share here will help you become an effective organist in your ward, stake, or other congregation.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Seeking a Calling vs. Hiding Under a Bushel


I love to play for worship services!  Choosing effective prelude that prepares the congregation for worship, deciding how best to reflect the text of the hymns, and choosing registration that will support the congregation, but also reflects the hymn are things that I love to do.  There's a beautiful science and spirit about preparing adequately to accompany worship services.  It's my passion and I love it!

That said, I am not currently serving as ward organist, have not held that calling for over six years, and have only served in that capacity for a cumulative total of three years in my (almost) 20 years as an organist. As stake music chairman, I did accompany some stake meetings, taking care to also ask others to play as well.  (I'm a big believer in spreading the opportunities throughout the stake members as much as possible.)  I also took this opportunity to focus on my personal development through taking organ lessons, completing a level of BYU Organ Certification, serving in my local American Guild of Organists chapter, starting this blog to help others learn to play the organ, and preparing for AGO Certification.

However, I really missed having the opportunity to accompany on the organ on a regular basis!

After inquiring through as many sources as possible, I learned that temple organists are considered volunteer temple workers.  All I needed to do to be considered to play the organ in the temple was to meet with my Bishop and have him fill out the form he uses for volunteer temple workers!  I immediately did this, and after the necessary signatures were in place and it was sent to the temple, I was contacted by the supervisor of organists and put on a waiting list.  After almost a year, I was given a shift!  I play every-other week for an hour and a half, and I love it.

I was extended a release from my stake music chairman calling last June, and began playing in the temple the beginning of July.  It's been wonderful, and it has been my only church calling for almost a year.

Although I have longed to play the organ in my ward for years, I've contented myself with thoughts of:

"I shouldn't seek after a calling."
"I have all of this time to learn more about the organ without the stress of learning and preparing multiple hymns, preludes, and postludes each week."
"Those serving as organists in my ward might need this push to develop their talent, while I work on mine without a calling."
"I need to practice seeing the good in those currently serving as organists."
"The Lord knows what he is doing, and I really need to learn patience."
"I appreciate the rare opportunities I have to play more than I ever would if I was currently serving as ward organist."
"I now get to play in the temple and prepare patrons for temple worship, the crowning gift of mortal life. I never would have pursued this position if I were serving as ward organist."

After presenting at Super Saturday last month, and sharing so many great ideas on beautifying hymn accompaniment, I felt like I needed to stop hiding my light under a bushel and had the greatest desire to play the organ for worship services again!


Image Source

This situation leads me to a question I've pondered for years:  As members of the Church it is common understanding that we do not seek after callings; It is also scripture that we should not hide our light under a bushel.  In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where callings are extended from Priesthood leaders to those whom the Lord qualifies, not man, sometimes members with specific skills are not chosen to serve in callings which go along with their chosen field, developed talent, or greatest interests.  While I understand and accept this practice, we have also been told that our candle should not be placed "under a bushel, but on a candlestick; [so that] it giveth light unto all that are in the house."

As trained musicians in the Church, how do we reconcile these two seemingly conflicting beliefs?  What are your thoughts or experiences?

7 comments:

  1. If you've ever sat in on a meeting where callings are discussed and who should do them, often times it is based on logistics -- who can actually do it? You might be surprised that sometimes leadership don't even know you hold a particular talent or they simply forgot because it has been so long. No harm in letting them know you are available to play for baptisms or when an organist is sick.

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  2. This REALLY hit home for me. As a priesthood holder who has been in various leadership positions over the years, I really miss being a ward organist. In our ward, the position is rotated among four organists to give more people an opportunity (my wife is one of them even though she also has a stake YW calling). I am currently the ward mission leader and even filling in for my wife occasionally cuts into my responsibilities to greet investigators and new and returning members as they come to church. So I have contented myself with playing for stake conference (thankfully I am still asked regularly) and funerals. Our temple has a shortage of organists. Many times I have gone and the organ is on "auto play". I have considered volunteering at the temple, but didn't know how to go about it. I also teach 2 of our youth organ lessons as a service (no charge) to help promote organ playing in the rising generation. But if I could have "the wish of my heart" (sorry Alma), it would be to be the Ward Organist every week.

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    1. To play in the temple, just meet with your Bishop and have him complete the volunteer temple worker form for you. He'll send it on the the Stake President, who will forward it on to the temple.

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  3. When I served as bishop, I frequently asked people who just moved in "If you could have any calling, what would it be?" Very often, the calling they wanted was exactly the calling I had been struggling to fill. Inspiration for callings comes in many ways. If someone came to me saying they would like to serve in a certain calling, on occassion the Spirit would confirm. Having those other options brought forward can be just the thing that is needed. That said, I would recommend that you go about it the right way. Don't bypass the music chair or the counselor of the bishopric (if the music chair is not functioning) and go directly to the bishop. Allow the music chair to consider and pray about your request, who will then take it to the counselor in the bishopric who should do the same before taking it to the bishop.

    Of course, I bypassed all that. When I was bishop, I frequently mentioned in bishopric meeting that the calling I wanted more than anything when I was released was to be ward organist. As one of my counselors was called as bishop upon my release, he knew of my wishes and took it to the Lord. Was that aspiring to a calling? I think not--we all have places we would like to serve and are thrilled when given the opportunity. There is no problem with that. It is when we think we know better than those the Lord has chosen to lead us or when we refuse to grow where we are called to serve as we pine away for the perfect calling that we get into trouble.

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  4. I concur with the sentiments expressed by Seth. President N. Eldon Tanner often said, "Inspiration is based on good information." (I heard him say it first hand several times, but I have looked and looked and can not find it in any published material.) Let your leaders know your righteous desires, while making sure that you express your willingness to serve where you are asked.

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  5. Ward pianist/organist is my typecast calling. Just before I turned 12 I was approached by a priesthood leader that they wanted to call me as the priesthood pianist. They prepared me extremely well. They assigned me the hymn well in advanced. The priesthood chorister worked with me and taught me the fundamentals of hymn playing along with following the person leading the music. Fortunately my last piano teacher was also an organist and played for her congregation and got paid for it. She introduced to me the organ. Not LDS, she was surprised to findout that we were not paid for our services in money. That same time I held the calling I played the organ for my cousins wedding. Lucky we had a organ in our chapel. This was where I took advantage of the organ and practiced whenever I could. The next two wards I was in I was the ward pianist. We did not have an organ in the buildings. I moved to America 4 years ago and took up organ lessons again. I've been in 2 different wards. In both I was called as ward organist and currently have the calling. Last year I requested to my Bishop for a assistant organist because I was the only one playing for over a year. I wanted to give someone else an opportunity to play, plus whenever our kids got sick my wife would have to stay home with them. It couldnt be me. I'm greatful the my Bishop considered my request and soon after they called a assistant organist.

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  6. These insights are exactly what I needed tonight. Our ward organist was just called on a mission and I could see that there was not an obvious replacement. Several months ago, I started going to the chapel several times a week to practice the organ. (I had never even turned one on.) When I finally told the bishop at tithing settlement what I had been doing, he actually gasped. He said, "When some bishops leave their offices and start down the hall to Sacrament Meeting, they wonder if they will have bread for the sacrament table. I worry whether or not we will have music. This is exactly what I have been praying for." Now.... that said, I am not yet an organist. That will take time and lots and lots of practice. I am a pianist who is learning. Thank goodness for BYU podcasts and great sources of information like this blog! But I have been worried that I was "seeking" a calling by telling the bishop that I had been "sneaking" in to practice. I have been the Gospel Doctrine teacher for more than 4 years and can pretty much do that with my eyes closed. This new calling has required a greater leap of faith than any calling I have ever had, and I have had lots of very scary callings. I read on another blog complaints about organists who were obviously not organ performance majors from BYU and what a disservice it was to have an organist who was less than perfect. But I appreciate comments and entries that can see the good in willing servants who serve when and where the need exists, even when it is out of their comfort zone. As I have considered the Law of Consecration and measured my willingness to give everything I have to the cause, I try to consider my still-not-perfected skills as a part of that equation.

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