We still have letters on what to do when a calling is issued that doesn’t seem like a good fit for us. Everyone who has had a calling has a story, and that means all of us. Without further ado, here’s today’s crop of letters.
Although I usually accept callings, even when I feel not quite prepared, I have turned down callings as well. This is when the calling is one I cannot, because of my crazy on-call schedule and odd hours, really do.
The person doing the calling, the Relief Society president, had no idea what my work schedule was nor even what I did for a living.
I believe that some callings are really inspiration. When this is so, praying about it lets one know that this is a calling to accept. Some callings are made out of sheer desperation and, when one prays about it, one does not feel guilt about saying no.
That’s good advice, Joyce. If you want to know whether a calling was inspired, pray about it. Nobody needs your answer today. Everyone is entitled to spiritual confirmation.
I have received several callings that I felt were far away from any of my capabilities, one of them being a seminary teacher. The seminary calling and the others all taught me several things:
- I can do more than I thought.
- The Lord will help me immensely.
- I love knowing that the Lord is helping me, and many times it has been very obvious.
I wouldn’t give up any of the blessings or things that I learned from each of these callings. Each “out of my comfort zone” calling has brought my fondest memories!
Just try doing whatever you’re asked and you’ll see!
A Sister in Oregon
It’s true, Oregon. We can do more than we thought. I always remember Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”
As someone who has sat on “both sides of the desk” with regard to callings, it has been my experience that when people turn down a calling it is not necessarily due to feelings of inadequacy. I describe it as the “Why Me?” syndrome (in the context of, “Why can’t somebody else more qualified do it?”).
People think that “only the qualified” are called, and that is not the case. Callings are often growth opportunities. When a calling has been made, if it is made properly, it has been done after a lot of prayer. Members tend to see the people making the callings and forget the callings are coming from the Lord. If Christ came to you and said, “I really need your help on this,” how many of us would turn Him down?
You make good points, Dale. I used to have a bishop that refused to call anyone who was qualified into a calling. In fact, once somebody got qualified, that person was released. Bishop Marsh said callings were meant to teach us, and once we were taught we needed to pass the calling onto someone else that needed to learn. I thought that was good advice.
My mom is a wonderful pianist and organist, and held a calling as the ward choir accompanist. Our bishop, trying to build the choir, issued calls to a number of people in the ward to come and sing with the choir.
When he called upon my father, Dad explained the difficulties: with several small children and Mom already at choir practice (this was before the block program, and choir practice was held an hour before sacrament meeting), it would be very difficult to have both parents in the choir. “But,” he continued, “If you still want me there, we’ll make it work.”
Dad later explained to me that sometimes leaders don’t have all of the facts, so there’s nothing wrong with helping them to understand a situation they didn’t fully appreciate. Once they do, though, if they decide that the call is still appropriate, it’s time to exercise faith and do your best to magnify that calling. Plus, there are no insignificant callings – even singing in the choir! Every call deserves our best efforts.
For the record, once our bishop understood Dad’s situation getting all those kids ready by himself each week, he withdrew that calling.
My father-in-law once gave us a printout that hung on our refrigerator for years: “If you will make yourself Available, the Lord will make you Capable.” Feelings of inadequacy are normal when faced with a new calling. (I’ll bet that if we had to wait until someone felt qualified to accept a challenging call there’d be lots of wards in limbo, without bishops or Relief Society presidents!) Accept the call, and then trust in the Lord to help you develop the skill sets and abilities needed to fill it.
I like that refrigerator advice, Shon. Somebody should make a magnet out of that!
When my husband was serving as bishop, they had a policy that they would only extend a calling “SFI” (Subject to a Favorable Interview). In other words, a sister really may be the best candidate for the new Primary president. However, they may not be aware that she had recently taken in her invalid parent, or had taken on a second job, or had gone back to school, or a number of other reasons how the new calling may put her over the top.
I believe that each person has the responsibility for her own personal stewardship and should counsel with the priesthood leader regarding her current circumstances. Then if the priesthood leader still feels inspired to extend the call, she can accept it and feel comforted that the Lord will bless her to be equal to the task.
Kay Lynne McDougal
I’m sure a lot of people are going to adopt that “SFI” principle, Kay Lynne. What a great acronym!
I served as a Stake missionary for 15 years, and I was thrilled and honored to. Then I was a ward missionary for another ten years, by that time I was looking forward to being released. Which I was.
When our ward got a new ward mission leader, I could see and feel he was excited that I didn’t have a calling at that time. I knew he wanted to ask me to be a ward missionary, but I didn’t want to be a ward missionary again. I wanted to do something different!
I prayed about it, and then I discussed it with my husband.
He understood how I felt, but didn’t think I (or anyone) should turn down a calling. Through many tears I prayed about it again, telling my Father in Heaven how I felt.
Sure enough I got a call to meet with our bishop. When I met with him, he was hesitant, almost embarrassed to ask me: “You have served as a ward missionary for many years, but we still would like to call you….”
I interrupted him. “Isn’t there something else I can do? I don’t want to be a ward missionary again!”
He seemed relieved to hear me turn down that calling, and so was I. It was the first time I had turned down a calling.
Wow, Kathy, being a stake and ward missionary for 25 years must be a record. You must have been really good at it! Even so, there comes a time to do something else. Now you’re doing it, whatever it is. Good for you!
Are we really comfortable in any calling we are asked to do at first?
Some things that I think about when I get a new calling (no matter what calling I have):
- Oh my goodness – sometimes even “EEEEKKKKK – can I really do this?”
- What do I need to learn from this calling?
- The Lord wants me to do this calling, so He will help me, and He will qualify me.
- I am not alone in this calling. Someone had it before me, someone will have it after me, and other people in other stakes have this calling.
- Training – where can I go for training? Church websites are a great start.
Never forget that you can turn to the Lord – he will always be there to help and guide you.
I know when I was called as the Seminary teacher; I honestly thought I could not do it. I am not a morning person. Having to get up at 5:00am to teach the youth at 6:00am? No way! But it was the best four years of my life. I loved working with the youth. I cried when I was released as a teacher, but rejoiced when they called me (seconds later) to be the stake seminary supervisor (where I served for two and a half years).
I tell you I sobbed (not just cried) when they released me as the supervisor and called me to be in public affairs.
I love the youth, and I was comfortable being in seminary. After a few weeks of being in public affairs, I told the director that I was not the person he really wanted and that I needed to go back to seminary, where I knew what I was doing. He reassured me that I was the person he wanted and that I would be great, as I like talking to people and I was friendly.
I was totally confused at the first meeting. I had a mild panic attack and really thought I could not do this. Then the stake president and my husband set me apart and it all changed. I felt confident and knew I was not alone, that the Lord was with me.
It also helps that the director of public affairs for our stake has full confidence in me. He’d better have; he is my husband.
I plucked up the courage the other day and delivered a flyer for our stake self-reliance day to one of our local politicians. I just drove up to his office, spoke to his secretary (the politician was sitting in Parliament), told her what it was basically about and told her there was nothing he needed to do. I just hoped he’d come along and see what we had to offer our parishioners and others in the community. I said I hoped we’d see him there. I said my goodbye, went back to the car and rang my husband, to let him know how it went. I was so proud of myself for taking the leap and just doing it! I’ve done it once now, so the next time will not be as scary.
It’s just like teaching a class, or giving a talk. Once you have done it the first time, it is easier the second and third time.
I honestly think we are the ones that let ourselves down. We lack the confidence in ourselves that other people and the Lord see in us.
Isn’t courage invigorating, Lyn! Congratulations on your new calling. It sounds as though you’re well on your way to doing a great job.
Having been on “both sides of the fence,” I can honestly say that I still do not have a “one answer fits all” response to this issue.
Having served in three bishoprics I can tell you that callings do come from our Heavenly Father. I have been inspired to make these callings, but they did not always come (to me) in the same way. Most of the time I have had that sweet, still small voice tell me that a particular person that I have prayed about is the person for the job. It’s such a wonderful experience to tell someone about a “call.”
Does that mean that person was the only one that Father approves of? Not necessarily. Often it is the circumstances of the time that may have brought the name into consideration, such as having recently moved to the ward or having recently been released from another position. Perhaps it is that circumstance that the Lord orchestrated in order for them to be there and available at that time. It’s possible though, that there were others that were just as worthy and would have been approved of by our Father.
I have had the occasional experience where I went to Him first, telling Him that I needed extra help on this calling and His will literally exploded into my thoughts. It doesn’t happen very often, though.
Also, on very rare occasions, I have not received a particular name, just that sweet, small voice again, this time telling me to use my best judgment and He would support whoever was chosen. Remember, “Whether it is by My voice or the voice of My servants, it is the same.”
Now, should we accept? That is a decision that all of us have had to make, hopefully while walking with our hand in His at all times. But, there are times when there are extenuating circumstances that may not be known by those presiding. On these occasions we should use our best judgment and inspiration when making a decision.
Does the fact that the person(s) calling not having all that information make it an uninspired calling? No.
Although God will always know everything about us, sometimes His intent is to open a door to needed discussion (or confession) that may not otherwise have been opened. His methods and reasons are not always so easy for us to understand.
In the end, we are responsible for ourselves. That is why they are “callings” and not “orders.” The main thing to consider is WHY we are turning down a calling. If we trust and walk with our hand in His at all times, whether we accept a calling or not, everything will be fine.
David Fidjeland (Currently between callings!)
Eureka, California Stake
Thanks for your input, David. It’s always refreshing to get comments from someone who has been on both sides of the fence. I hope your next calling is a terrific one!
We need to remember that when we are asked to accept a calling, we still have agency. No one is forcing us to say yes. That being said, it’s important to take it to the Lord, when offered a calling we don’t feel good about.
Sometimes when we don’t feel up to the task, we need to simply apply faith and trust in Heavenly Father, that He’ll help us accomplish the work required of us. Then there are other times when we really shouldn’t accept a certain calling. Maybe the bishop is unaware of issues we might be facing, which would keep us from serving in that capacity.
It’s always up to us to make the final decision. When we involve prayer in our decision to accept or reject callings, we have a better chance of feeling peace of mind and avoiding unnecessary guilt.
Thanks for reminding us, Trish, that we have the option of saying no. If we don’t take that option, we are committing ourselves to do the best job we can do. We don’t help anyone when we accept a calling we don’t want and then don’t do it. We don’t grow, and the service we need to give isn’t given.
I had an interesting experience a few years ago when I was called to be a Cub Scout den leader. Believe me, it was the last thing I wanted to do at the time, but I didn’t say no.
I carefully explained to the bishopric member my schedule. I had seven children at home at the time, I was running a large business out of my home and the afternoons were one of the busiest times of day for me, which is the same time the Cubs were required to meet. I told him I would be willing to accept the calling, but that this was my current situation.
He told me that he would get back to the bishopric about it and they decided not to follow through with the call. I am so appreciative of their sensitivity. Somehow I would have figured it out if they had extended the call, but I think they figured I was already stretched to capacity at the time.
That being said, three years ago, I was called to be the Relief Society president in a Spanish branch. I had been sort of “hanging in the fringes” in the branch because I wanted to learn Spanish and my husband had a leadership calling there.
I was stunned because I did not speak Spanish at the time. However, I accepted the calling. My circumstances were different. I had one older child at home and was not working so much. The Lord has blessed me immensely although it has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. I truly have a testimony of the gift of tongues.
I think each situation is different, the Lord knows each of us and we have no right to judge another person. If we have a willing heart He will bless us. Hope this helps Pam out.
Marilyn in Arizona
Marilyn, that was a great story about being called as a Relief Society president in a ward where you didn’t speak the language! That really is a testament that the Lord qualifies those whom He calls.
When talking about accepting or declining callings, there really is no hard and fast rule. I remember a time when I was called to be the ward music director. Now, mind you, I am not a musician and had no training, could not sustain the beat through a whole song, and I struggled with singing in the choir. In other words, I was completely unsuitable for the job.
But something inside me told me to accept this calling and do it to the best of my ability. I did and gradually I learned to keep time and I sang more with my heart than my voice and loved the three years I was in that calling. I believe that the Spirit whispered to me that day that He wanted me there.
When I was released, many people for months afterward told me how much they missed my smiling face directing the congregation.
Another time, I was approached to be the Primary chorister. Such a feeling of dread and anxiety filled my being. I prayed about it and the feelings intensified. I knew that calling was not good for me and that the Lord had something else in mind for me. I explained to the person who was going to issue the call my circumstances and feelings in the matter, and he chose not to extend the call. Again, it was following the Spirit.
So my advice is, follow the Spirit. The Lord knows you better than anyone and He is the only one who can confirm the calling for you. Even if you have had no training (or musical ability), if He whispers to you to take it, then do it. If you get a bad feeling that intensifies when you pray about it, then let your leaders know your situation and your feelings on the matter.
It is better to call someone else to a position than to have someone in there that is miserable. Trust the Lord to guide you.
What a great letter, Peggy! I especially liked your last paragraph. We really are supposed to find joy in service. If that isn’t possible, we need to be doing something else.
Readers, that’s it for this week. We have enough more letters on the subject to go for one more week, but then we’re moving on, so please don’t send any more comments. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to comment on the next subject, whatever it is!
Until next week – Kathy
<h1 style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.
<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />0001pt; text-align: center;” align=”center”>“Failure is the tuition you pay for success.”
Want more Kathryn H. Kidd? Visit www.planetkathy.com to read her blog , get free stuff, and participate in the new Ask Madame Kathy forum. Kathy also has a weekly column at the Nauvoo Times (www.nauvootimes.com).