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Dennis B. Horne. Salt Lake City, Utah: Eborn Books, 2001. Hardbound, 6x9", 224 pages.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Needle
The subtitle of this book is “Spiritual experience, doctrine, and testimony from Church leaders reveal how God chooses His servants.” Wow! Quite a statement! You’ll have to pardon me if I’m something of a skeptic when it comes to callings and divine guidance. Legend has it that General Authorities pray over each missionary assignment, and follow God’s leading as to where to send each of the missionaries. Is this just faith-promoting legend? Does this really happen? I can’t imagine this to be the case — there are too many missionaries and too few GA’s to accomplish such a task.
While in Utah this last August, I had the great pleasure of having lunch with a descendant of George Q. Cannon. She was great company, and really had some interesting stories to tell. At one point, she related an incident where her parents were called away on a mission. She wanted her parents to say, “No,” but then she said, “But how do you say ‘no’ to a prophet?” I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t think I’d have a problem telling anyone that I didn’t want to do something. But, then again, as one of those stiff-necked Jews, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Dennis Horne takes the whole issue of divine callings very seriously. This intriguing book looks at statements made in scripture and by general authorities that enlarge our understanding of how God foreordains individuals to certain offices, while leaving it open for those individuals to become unworthy of their calling and losing the blessings.
Many of these callings, he says, originate in the pre-existence. In particular, those who would serve as Prophets would receive their callings before entering mortality. Joseph Smith made specific mention that he may have been called to be the Prophet of the new church in the pre-existence. Was this just wishful thinking, or were the heavens really opened and did Joseph actually catch a glimpse of an eternal verity not heretofore understood?
Horne certainly admires those who have been called to office, and who have served with distinction. He recognizes the Lord’s guiding hand in the lives of these people. This is an intimate and believing view of how God calls each person to his or her role in the development of the kingdom of God on earth. Is God closely involved in our lives? Does God have a pre-ordained pattern that He pursues in the lives of His children? Horne believes this to be true, and, in fact, celebrates this as validation of the divine nature of the Restored church.
Chapter Nine is titled “Callings in the Future.” Here the author explores the idea that callings don’t end in mortality, but that there are assignments given in the next life. Vicarious baptisms will continue during the millennium. Other callings will be issued. Some, he says, who filled lower roles here on earth, may be elevated to higher callings in the kingdom. How this all works, he admits, we don’t really know. But he presents a good amount of documentary evidence that Saints throughout the years have taught these very things.
But Horne has a more insidious motive — he wants Saints to recognize their callings and take personal responsibility for them! He insists that we must join hands with God in moving the Kingdom forward. He wants each Latter-day Saint to pursue the direction in which he or she is led, and to bask in the knowledge that they have been destined to do the work they’ve been assigned. Personal responsibility? Yeah. Gratitude and praise? Yup. It’s the whole package. It’s insidious because many want to duck their responsibilities in order to accommodate other interests. Horne wants each believer to know that these assignments, in effect, come through inspiration, from God.
As a non-Mormon, I’m not sure I can accept Horne’s premises. And I surely know some Mormons who also reject his wide view of God’s preordination and planning. But the author makes his case very well. He cites his sources well, and stays clear of fanciful interpretation. I’m sure many will enjoy this book. I enjoyed learning of the views of so many early and later Mormon writers and authorities. And if Horne is correct, then the afterlife is going to be more exciting than many have imagined.
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