I remember reading a blog post in the ‘nacle about how teaching is a professional skill that must be practiced and requires at least a little bit of training, and yet many people treat it so lightly in the Church. He made the example that you would never call someone to be an organist or pianist when they’ve had no training and expect them to play even decently the next Sunday for the whole congregation. So why do we do the same for teaching?
And why do we do the same for counseling, for that matter? I appreciate the great deal of work that bishops and stake presidents and branch presidents put into their respective flocks in making sure things run properly. They do it with little training and expertise, and for the most part they pull it off pretty well. But I know of many people in the Church personally who have been traumatized by a leader in the Church who, to give them the benefit of doubt, lacked any training in counseling of any sort and proceeded to advocate horrible ideas for any kind of psychological healing or closure. Sometimes they felt more committed to saving the Church face than addressing legitimate concerns, and other times they might have simply not known that their ideas or methods are outdated or can have disastrous effects on a person’s psyche.
I do believe that a person can be directed by the Spirit of God if that person is in tune. However, I do not believe a person should be subjected to have to perform miracles every day when it would be so easy to have someone trained in it step into place. For example, I believe the Spirit can, in incredible circumstances, inspire a person to perform some medical action that person might not have known about otherwise that saves a life. I do not believe, however, that person should then go into medicine and practice it on a day to day basis. If the Prophet needed open heart surgery, would the brethren get together and pray about which lay member should perform open heart surgery? No, they would find someone trained in open heart surgery (the best of the best, member or not) and have that surgeon perform the procedure. Even if that lay member has the possibility to be inspired by the Spirit to do the right thing, we shouldn’t take unnecessary chances in life. Even worse, suggest to a surgeon that it’s possible for a regular, untrained member of the Church to perform such procedures all the time under the direction of the Spirit and they will be livid. But when a counselor or teacher raises the same objections to the argument, suddenly they have no faith in their fellow brothers and sisters, nor in God. It doesn’t follow.
So why do we feel that counseling is the same thing? Counselors go through schooling in psychology and sociology, are updated on the most recent knowledge in the social sciences, and now even learn chemistry and biology to understand how our physical bodies can affect our mental well-being. And while I respect all leadership in the Church for the great people they are and the sacrifice they provide for helping out in their roles in the Kingdom of God, I can’t help but wonder that, as a Church, we take unnecessary risks when it comes to delicate matters such as counseling and teaching. We have people who have received minimal training at best to play an important and difficult role, whereas in the world, such matters would require years of training and schooling before they are allowed to take on these roles. It’s as if we’re tempting God unnecessarily.
We require some form of training when it comes to playing the organ or acting as a lawyer representing the Church. Maybe we should start requiring some form of training for counseling and teaching as well.