Monday INTERLUDE: Zion and the Nerve-Wracking Experience of Setting Apart for the First Time

[Alternate titles: Monday Is a Personal Day, “Did He Get EQS? Good for Him!”, There Needs to Be a Mormon Magazine Called EQ]

On a personal note…

Yesterday I was set apart as the secretary in my elders quorum. I immediately had to assist in setting apart a newly called EQ teacher and three new district supervisors. That was a fun new experience at first—the first time I ever helped set anyone apart.

And then there was the fourth person to set apart. And I was the brand new fourth member of the EQ presidency. And yes, I was asked to do it.

I have never given any kind of public blessing before. Where a congregation of fellow priesthood holders with probably a lot more experience is listening, and right after listening to the EQ president and counselors do their setting aparts and blessings. I can write books well enough, but I’m not a public performer. Some people like John Bytheway can do both; I can’t. Suffice it to say, it was a nerve-wracking experience.

Rest assured, I feel perfectly comfortable giving blessings, at least to people I know. At least, that is, to my wife. The words come easy and I know her very well and we’re one on one, so it’s no big deal. And yes, any blessing is supposed to be a spiritual experience, with the words ultimately coming from the Spirit. But let’s face it: in a situation like that, to a guy like me who’s entering his first priesthood quorum presidency since early Aaronic priesthood days when there were only four or five of us in a quorum at any given time—by which I mean someone who is not used to receiving and vocalizing revelatory language for others in a public setting—it’s largely a matter of performance.

The words did eventually come, but only after stumbling through the actual setting apart part, and having a big moment of silence afterward as I searched for where to begin. Honestly, I felt more like I was being set apart by the quorum for my inexperience, though that was probably only me doing it to myself. Our second counselor was also new to the game, having as little experience in such matters as myself, but I didn’t notice a single hitch in his blessing. Still, he was just as nervous as I was, as I found out afterwards, and we sympathized with each other a bit during the proceeding lesson. I think we’re going to be good friends.

Truth be told, and all embarrassments aside, I already love all my fellow presidency. They’re people I’ve already looked up to a long, long time and now I get to work with them and learn from them—and contribute to them. Because that’s the real point: we’re here to contribute, to be agents of change. Change in ourselves, change in our brethren, and change in the world entire. That’s Zion.

So it doesn’t matter if I’m a little embarrassed at stumbling through a setting apart blessing; if anyone holds my inexperience against me, that’s not Zion! We’re all here to learn and get better, and to HELP each other learn and get better. So we’re all going to be embarrassed from time to time, but guess what? The lesson turned out to be on President Benson’s talk, “Beware of Pride,” so embarrassment itself is a thing needing to be done away with, because it implies a certain amount of pride. I’m embarrassed because I haven’t turned out to be as amazing at giving blessings in public as I think I should be? Pride. I thought I was better than I was. Pride brought low. Humbling. I have to accept, then, that embarrassment, with the realization that probably no one really noticed or cared that much except for me.

On the other hand, expectations of others is also a kind of pride, and not letting your expectations be tailored to the subject at hand and their own level of experience I consider to be unrighteous judgment. Such things just heap on shame, which only further quashes the desire to try again or to attempt to think any higher of yourself than your lowest point.

The same goes for expecting higher things of yourself than you’re currently capable. A balance needs to be struck in understanding your own capabilities so that you don’t think too highly of yourself, but not too lowly, either. Don’t hate yourself, but also know that you can achieve higher things than you probably are right now. Again, the same goes for how we treat others. We all need to be engaged in understanding those around us and letting them develop at their own pace and supporting them as they do so, helping them see their potential and loving them all the way. I sure need that from my fellow elders, and knowing my quorum as I do, I bet I’ll get it.

And that’s Zion.

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