Callings – we’ve all accepted them, and we’ve all had callings issued to us that scare us to death. Should we turn down a calling if we don’t think it’s right for us? Meridian readers continue to share their experiences:

Although I do believe that nearly all the time we should say yes to callings because those extending the callings are inspired, I also believe that perhaps that inspiration may be for reasons other than filling the calling.  Perhaps it is so a leader, who may not be aware of a member’s particular life situation, can learn about some problems that may be going on in the life of the person being called.

I remember being a full-time college student, married, with a brand new baby, working full time, in the elders quorum presidency, and with only one car in the family that ran (barely) because our other vehicle had been stolen and stripped for parts.  My elders quorum president was gone with the military most of the time, and the other counselor had developed a drinking problem and stopped coming to church. This left most of the burden on me.  

It was at this time that my wife was asked to serve in the stake Young Women presidency, which would have required extensive travel around our very spread-out stake. With the vehicle situation, the new infant, strained finances, and all the other challenges, this would have been impossible.

We told the high councilman who extended the calling what was going on at the time and that we did not feel that this was the right time for the calling considering our situation.  He listened to our circumstances and agreed that perhaps the timing was not right.  

My wife and I have gone on to many other wonderful and sometimes challenging callings since then, and I’ve never felt bad about explaining our situation and my wife declining the calling.  My mind is often brought to the scriptures in Ecclesiastes 3, “To everything there is a season…” and Mosiah 4:27 “…it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.”  

Having been executive secretary twice now in our ward, I have seen on a few occasions very valid reasons that someone has said no to a calling, and had I been in their shoes I may have done the same. In most of those cases ward leaders were unaware of the strain a particular ward member may have been under at the time.  In the end, our decision to say yes or no to a calling is between us and the Lord.  

It is not my place to judge others as to the reasons they may decline a calling.

Jason Orton

Stratford, California

Jason, it never occurred to me before reading your letter that a calling may be extended in order to inform church leaders of a family’s situation, but your letter made perfect sense to me. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

I’m sure that there are strong opinions on this one. Having recently accepted a calling that puts me a bit out of my comfort zone, I can say that I have been blessed beyond measure for having done so.  I was blessed to be healed from a long-term illness so that I would have the additional strength and capacity to handle the requirements for this calling. 

I believe that if you are willing to be taught from on high, you’ll be strengthened in any way you need, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, and yes, especially spiritually to be made equal to the task that is asked of you. 

I love Nephi’s example of “going to the mountain” (1 Ne. 17:7). I love what he teaches his brothers in verses 50-51 of that same chapter.  Nephi doesn’t just take his direction from the Lord once and then leave it at that, though.  In chapter 18:3, we read that he went to the mount “oft.”    

After receiving this current calling, I told my sister that I’ve heard of stretching spiritually before, but at this rate, I was pretty sure I was going to pull a muscle.

We learn in D&C 6:14 that the Lord will give us whatever direction we need as often as we desire to receive instruction. With that said, Pam is still entitled to receive her own witness that the calling is indeed from her Heavenly Father, for her. 

I knew when I was called that there were easily five people who could take the calling.  All of them were far more qualified than I was. I accepted the calling still believing that I wasn’t qualified for it.  When I was set apart, I was promised that I would know that this calling was from our Heavenly Father for me at this time.  When I did receive that witness, it was a particularly sweet experience, and the tears flowed freely. 

Do I feel 100% in my confidence or abilities? No way, but I do trust in the Lord’s purposes for placing me in it at this time. I cherish the relationships I’ve been able to develop because of it, and most important, have come to love my Savior even more as a result.


What a sweet experience, Catherine! Thanks for sharing it with us.

I’ve been on both sides – accepting/declining callings and extending calls. This note is for those who would decline a call.

My hope is that we have faith that the process leaders us to identify those they call includes prayer, pondering, fasting and even temple attendance. When such is in place the calling issued is indeed from the Lord and it may be that there is a “bigger picture” that we don’t yet understand.

If there are life-issued that dissuade your accepting a call, please make them known. Request that those who extended the call ponder the call again, in light of new information.

As they return and report, please take the time to review with the Lord your reasons for rejecting the call.  Very few of us want to accept “opportunities” (we generally just want to be “left alone in our current state”).  Yet, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining who we are” (Max Dupree). 

Maybe the call is to stretch you or that the Lord desires to use your uniqueness as a tool to affect others.  The promise given is that the Lord will never challenge us beyond our capability and/or that He qualifies those He calls.

When you and your leader next meet, you will both do so having sincerely considered all aspects of the call and a wise decision will usually result.

Have faith in the Lord. Have faith in those who extend the call. Have faith that your special gifts are needed in the Kingdom.


West Jordan 19th Ward

Thanks for reminding us of the “bigger picture,” Bob. It’s so easy to forget the long view when we are nose to nose with a new and foreign experience.

Saying no to callings is one of those frequent happenings.  When I was called to be the bishop’s executive secretary, I was surprised but found that I could do it.  One of the biggest discussions in our early Sunday meetings was trying to fill callings and the selection of persons to do those callings.  There were always openings and people who said no.

When I was released from being the bishop’s executive secretary, I was then called to work in the nursery.  I definitely thought about saying no, but accepted the calling.  Imagine a senior guy called to watching a bunch of two-year-olds. Yikes! 

I eventually realized that working with two-year-olds actually made me think more like a child toward life, and this was a blessing in disguise.  Another blessing is that helped me cope with our toddler grandson. 

I did not know I had been released from the nursery calling and continued to go to nursery several more weeks after I had been replaced. 

My wife and I were called to the Family History Center.  One of the blessings, for me, was to find that my great-grandfather, on my mother’s side, needed temple work done on his behalf.  As a sideline, I was called to take care of a large fruit orchard for a senior member of our ward.  The blessing: being able to work and see the fruits of my labors and the happiness it brings to the owner.  Who knows what the next calling will be? 

Callings can be an adventure, bring blessings, and build character, and increase one’s testimony.

Steve LeCheminant

Carson Valley Second Ward

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Steve. Your spirit of adventure is refreshing, and something we can all emulate.

In all the years of church membership I have had many, many callings. They have been rewarding and learning experiences.

The Lord doesn’t call us for what we are but what we may become if we accept the challenges given us. Many blessings come from callings, even when we do not feel qualified or feel that we have the time.

Callings make us reach out beyond ourselves and learn things that otherwise we would never feel competent to try. We grow and develop in ways that are beneficial to our spiritual lives.

I am now in my so called “older years” and still am blessed to have callings that expand my knowledge and allow me to share that knowledge to help others learn. When the Lord asks us to do something He will provide a way unless we let our own apprehensions cause us to reject the blessings that come through service to Him.

Diana Elliott

Thanks for the reminder that our apprehensions can be a barrier to our progress, Diana. That’s something I often forget, and I’m sure others do too.

My husband and I have been in the Church since 1978 – we are both converts.  We have been called in desperation when no one would accept a call, and had bad experiences from that.  Since then, we always say we are going home to pray about it and then I nearly always accept – but this way, I can confirm that the call comes from the right source.

Mary-Theresa Dameron

I like your idea of going home to pray for confirmation, Mary-Theresa. I’ve never done that before, but I can think of one instance where a fervent prayer may have saved me a whole lot of heartache.

I agree with Charlotte that the Lord often uses callings to expand our experiences, knowledge and skills. He blesses us for exercising our faith and allowing him to help us grow.

But there are times when those making the callings are not aware of circumstances in our lives. It may be illness, family matters or time constraints, or any number of other things.

The best advice I ever received was that we have the privilege of personal revelation. Share with your bishop your circumstances. Ask him for a day or two and take it to the Lord. If the Lord confirms the calling, he will help you if you exercise faith and call on him for that help.  If not, the bishop will have the opportunity to become more familiar with you and help when you need and ask for his help.


You make good points, Janet. That conversation with the bishop could tell him some things that would help him and you and the ward. Sometimes the only way we have those discussions is when we’re called in and issued a new calling.

This is an interesting topic because we are taught in the Church to never say no to a calling. However, my perspective has changed over the past few years due to two things: my serving in the bishopric, and learning that even when it comes to callings we are entitled to a confirmation that it is the “right” calling for us at that time.

I know that there are people that will accept every calling that gets extended to them.  That is great.  I even did that when I was called to be the priesthood pianist, even when I didn’t know how to play the piano.  Why was the calling extended to me?  Because I know how to play the multiple brass instruments, so the counselor figured I should be able to play piano too.

 It had been 12 years since I had had any lessons and playing hymns was very difficult for me.  But because of how I had been taught, I didn’t say no.

My wife has always taken the approach that if a calling was extended to her that she wasn’t comfortable with, she would ask to have some time to think and pray about it before giving an answer so that she could receive a confirmation one way or another.  This ruffled some people’s feathers because their way of thinking is that if the bishop approves it, it is inspired.

After serving as a counselor in a bishopric, I have learned that sometimes the confirming feeling comes, even when the Lord knows it will be turned down, because the receiver needs the opportunity to accept or decline, and sometimes it is through extending the calling that the bishopric becomes aware of circumstances that they need to know about.  I now believe that saying “no” to a calling isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This really rang true just a month ago when a calling was extended to me and my wife to serve jointly. For the same reason, but because of different circumstances, we didn’t feel comfortable with accepting the calling.  We asked for a couple of days to think, ponder, and pray about it.  The conclusion we came to, based on what feeling we had in response to our prayers, was that we should not accept the calling.  We even explained to the counselor when he extended it the reasons why we needed time to consider it.  In the end, we felt very comfortable saying “no” and he likewise told us he felt good about our decision.  

This experience was a struggle for me because it came just three weeks after being released from the bishopric.  But while serving in the bishopric, I had received some promptings about where my wife would serve next, and I knew that she would still get that calling after we had turned down the one.  I also had received a very clear prompting about what my next calling should be, along with a spiritual reprimand because I didn’t want to serve in those two callings, the week after being released.  So when the calling I turned down was issued, I knew that it wasn’t right for me.  

Five days after turning down the one, I was called to the other two, and gladly accepted them.  One week later, my wife was called to the calling I had been prompted about while still serving in the bishopric, and it was all through patience and promptings.

We felt that the calling we had turned down was extended more out of logic than inspiration, and as it turns out, we will still be unofficially serving in that position because of our new callings.  And it all is working out better for the ward because we turned down the one position.  And the bishopric is also aware of a situation in our lives that would have been an obstacle.

I don’t think Pam or anyone else should feel an obligation to accept every calling extended to them.  

Sometimes the calling being extended is a conduit for other things to take place or become known.  If anyone else wants to be the giver of that guilt trip, let them and let it go in one ear and out the other because they don’t know everything.

Understanding Ex-counselor

What a great story, Understanding! It was neat that you knew ahead of time where you would eventually end up, and an extra bonus that you’re even serving by default in the calling you turned down.

I am an 81-year-old lady, born in the Church, who has said yes and no to many callings.  I will never forget the day a gentleman came to my house to call me to something I sincerely did not want to do.  I responded by saying, “Well, I will pray about it.”  (I would have, honestly, gone to the Lord.) 

He was so mad that he tried to command me to take the calling.  I told him to pray about it also, but his very demanding attitude determined me to turn him down.  I don’t really feel guilty about it!  Maybe I should.

Older and Wiser

You’re more tactful than I am, Wiser. I would have pulled out the Doctrine and Covenants and read selected parts of Section 121 to the offending priesthood holder.

I have a testimony that the Lord will qualify whom he calls, but with that said….

Several years ago a call was extended to me to serve as the Primary pianist. I had taken piano lessons as a child, but had not really played in 15 years and each time I attempted to play again, my hands were filled with such an agonizing pain that I could not continue.

At the time of the call, I was also a single mother who was already struggling to find the time to balance work and school while still giving my children the time and attention they needed. Sitting in that office, I knew there was no possible way I could accept, and was not receiving any inspiration in that moment to convince me otherwise.

I turned down the calling and got a very nice lecture from the counselor about the inspiration of callings, and about dusting off talents, not hiding our candles, about being willing to serve, and other things. I finally gave into the guilt, at least partially, and agreed to ponder and pray about it for a few days.

My prayers confirmed that it was not the calling for me. But I also received a strong confirmation that the counselor was right on another area. It was time for me to dust off a talent, just not that talent.

I know that the calling was inspired, just as strongly as I know that I wasn’t intended to serve in it. And I am forever grateful for the lesson I learned in that experience because in time, the talent I felt prompted to focus my efforts on instead led me to the amazing man I now call my husband and to countless other opportunities to serve, which I would not have had otherwise.

We have a responsibility to serve, and a duty to sustain and support our leaders far beyond simply raising our right arm, but we also have a right and responsibility to receive our own personal revelation in regards to accepting that calling.

  Sometimes that revelation can come before we even know what the calling is, sometimes it can come while we’re in the office receiving the calling, but sometimes it doesn’t, and we need to take that time to know if that calling is where the Lord wants us or if He has something else in mind, and to ask him to strengthen our faith in Him, no matter the answer.


Who would have thought, Ann, that the lecture that came when you asked to pray about a calling would bring such life-changing consequences? How sweet that you were humble enough to listen to the advice and learn the lesson you were supposed to learn from it. And your reward (that shiny new husband) was even sweeter!

When I was first married, we lived upstairs in my great-aunt’s house.  The Relief Society presidency of our student ward came to meet me, and I was downstairs in the parlor when they arrived, playing around on her old pump organ.  They apparently thought, “Oh! A piano player,” and called me to play for Relief Society. 

I accepted, (well, I first blurted out to the bishop, “I think they’re crazy!”), but I warned them that the hymns were the limit of what I could actually play well, and I would have to know the songs in advance so I could practice.  I had very good training, but I was not very advanced in my skills, and I could not just be handed a book and offer up an error-free performance.  They were not going to get fancy prelude music, but I liked to play the hymns and would be happy to work on it. They lived through my stumbles and may have wished that they had investigated more before submitting my name, but they were supportive.

I think with music callings you need to be specific about your level of skill.  You can state that it would be a disservice to the choir to try to be an accompanist if you don’t have the level of skill the director needs.  People who aren’t musicians don’t always understand.  Scheduling demands could be an issue, too.

In other situations, it can be a little more difficult.  I firmly believe in serving where the Lord asks, but I also firmly believe that you have a right to spiritual confirmation, and that it is appropriate to raise your concerns and let the bishop or counselor know what is going on in your life and what the challenges will be in adding this new responsibility.  Outside your apparent expertise or your comfort zone, it may indeed be the Lord’s direction. If it is, He will assure you that you should go ahead.  If not, He should help the priesthood leader see that.

Once we were dealing with some very difficult problems in our family.  I was teaching junior Sunday School (that will date me) and the stake president directed that I be released so that my husband was not alone in his attendance, with two babies to manage.  Forward a year and a half or so with the consolidated schedule, the toddler in nursery, and a new bishopric, and the bishop’s counselor asked me to come a little early and meet with him before church for a quick moment.  Turned out he wanted to extend a call to me in the Primary, and church started in ten minutes, where he expected that I would be sustained. 

It helped that we knew each other pretty well, and he did know that there were still personal issues.  I would have given the same answer, though, no matter if he were a relative stranger to me.  I explained the previous direction from the stake president, and that I could not give him an instant answer (unless it was no) because the circumstances were not really changed.  He responded that they would hold off on this until he could consult with the bishop, and I made an appointment with the bishop myself for later in the week.

On Thursday evening when I walked into his office, I sat down and told the bishop that I could not take this calling.  I had prayed and thought about it, and I had peace and a clear direction that the previous counsel to me still applied.  Burdened any further, my husband would stop coming. The bishop looked up at me and told me that he knew I wasn’t supposed to have this calling, and he had been worrying about how to tell me the calling was withdrawn.  We had a chance to talk about how things were going in our family and in my life, and it was helpful.

Now, in the coming years I would teach Primary, serve as both counselors, and eventually serve as president.  It wasn’t about Primary; it was about circumstances, timing and revelation.  I have had callings that felt completely out of my league (like Primary president), callings I had hoped for and loved, callings which were an immediate fit, callings where I tried and didn’t feel I did well enough in when all was said and done.  Most of us could probably say the same.

You have the right to know that your leaders have prayed about this calling and have been directed to you.  You have the right to heavenly help to carry you beyond your natural capacities (in fact that’s why we need some of those callings, to learn that reliance and blessing), and you are under no condemnation to be unable to take on a specific burden at a specific time because your family and your health have to come first. 

Make your situation known, trust that they care about you and not just ‘filling the slot,’ and rely on the Lord for direction in whichever answer, and it will all work out.

Signed, MJS in Washington

That was wise counsel, MJS, and a great way to end today’s column.

Readers, there are still a ton more letters on the subject, so please don’t send any more of them. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to comment on the next subject, whatever it is!

Until next week – Kathy

“A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him.”

Elmer G. Letterman


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