Because the Church lacks intensive formal training for its officers, many within the Church seek to find alternative ways to articulate how a person’s life has prepared them for service. While most Latter-day Saints would eventually argue, ‘He whom God calls, He qualifies’, few would argue that the Spirit of God frequently fills a vacuum—rather, it seems more likely that the Spirit of God moves man through subtle ways to prepare him or her for divine service throughout his or her life. Examples of this fill the scriptures, Samuel, Nephi, Sampson, Alma, the Sons of Mosiah, Paul, Mormon, and Moroni spring to mind as men who were prepared by the Spirit through training and experience for their vocations to divine service. The early days of the Restoration were no different; Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, the Pratt brothers, and others bear testimony to God’s continuing providence and suggest that the miracle by which God qualifies those whom He calls, though on occasion sudden and dramatic, is more often gradual—the result of dedicated study, commitment, and training.
Given the Church’s lack of a formalised and intensive programme of study for the training of bishops, stake presidents, and general authorities, how are these people prepared for their ministries? One has only to give a cursory glance to the biographies and profiles of Church leaders to see the disproportionate influence of commercial training on those men and women who serve in leadership positions. While commercial experience can be very rewarding and inculcate leadership, administrative, management, and organisational skills, the primary purpose of a business is to make money—a goal not shared by the Church of Christ: whose ultimate goal is to be the vehicle by which God brings to pass the eternal life and salvation of mankind. But wait! Surely the skills of a business are transferrable? If souls were equated to monetary gains, then might not a businessman make a good under shepherd and steward in the earthly manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven?
I suppose it depends upon how successful the businessman was. If he made a profit, if he saved a business from financial ruin, or if he managed an efficient department, then perhaps his business acumen will be a hinderance to him. The Kingdom of Heaven, due to its very mission statement, is unconcerned with efficiency or finance. Christ set the pattern by which a priesthood holder or church leader is to undertake His ministerial mantel; urging them to set aside the ninety-and-nine to seek after the one, to take no thought for tomorrow, or what they should eat, or how they should clothe themselves. His ministerial commission, the commission which every ordained member of the Church of Jesus Christ should be most concerned with, is one of pastoral care. Take for example, the bishop, when he identifies spiritual dangers facing his flock, when he calls flawed individuals to fill callings, when he assigns speakers, or hears confessions, what will serve him more? Training in the hiring and firing of staff? Risk and opportunity analyses? Financial literacy? No! Instead, he must be qualified by a commitment to living a holy life, patterned upon that of the Saviour. He should be a good listener, an ardent defender of Truth and Righteousness, a compassionate healer—to whom sinners can apply for relief—and a scholar of the Scriptures.
There is a place for businessmen and women within the Church; she needs people to manage her assets, organise her charitable programmes, and oversee her auxiliary bodies which provide her resources that she might fulfil her divine charter. Other education and training is needed for her priests. They might have felt more comfortable as business administrators, but now theirs is a higher calling. In the pictures above, they should identify less with the image of spreadsheets and conference tables; instead preferring the calling of a Heavenly inspired shepherd in the image of Christ.