The past several weeks, readers have been responding to “Pam,” who wanted to know if it was ever okay to decline a calling. This week ends the topic, and, as usual, the opinions are all over the place. Here’s what Meridian readers had to say:
In answer to Pam: Years ago a young mother in our ward was called to be the chorister for our Primary. This sister had never done anything musical in her life other than sing a hymn in church as part of a congregation. She had never played a musical instrument, didn’t know how to read music – you name it, she hadn’t done it. Still, she believed that her bishop and the Primary president had prayed about issuing the call to her, so she said, “Yes.”
For many weeks after accepting this calling, this sister practiced leading music in front of a mirror in her home – tears streaming down her face as she did so. Over time, this sister became the best Primary chorister I have ever witnessed (and I’ve spent years in Primary – including being Primary president twice, a counselor twice, a Primary pianist, and a teacher of nearly every Primary class, as well as being on two separate Primary stake boards, so I’ve witnessed a lot of Primary choristers.)
Also, perhaps when we’re called to do something out of our comfort zone, it’s to teach us a new skill – one we may even need to support ourselves and our family in the future.
Another sister was asked to put together a Relief Society enrichment activity on organizing your home. She had never done anything like that before either, but she took up the challenge and came up with an amazing presentation – which she was then asked to repeat for a stake Relief Society activity.
Several years later, when this woman’s husband unexpectedly left her to fend for herself and several young children, her bishop asked her if she had any skills or talents she could turn into a business for herself. The only thing she could think of was her slightly developed “talent” for organization – spawned by that first request to put together an activity for Relief Society. This sister turned that idea into a successful business that supported her and her family for years.
You never know what the Lord sees ahead for you in your life. I’d trust Him, as well as his servants.
Thanks for sharing those stories, Observer. When you let the Lord lead you, even in places that may seem crazy at the time, you’ll always end up where you’re supposed to be.
When I first joined the Church I was asked to teach in the Primary. Having come from a Catholic background, I did not even know the Bible, let alone The Book of Mormon. So it was a learning time for me as well as the different age groups I was given in the year and a half that I served.
By the end of my tenure I was teaching the Sunbeams and getting frustrated each Sunday because I couldn’t tell if I was getting through to them. Through this I had learned that I was the kind of teacher that needed class feedback that I couldn’t get from four-year-olds.
Five years later we moved to another state and when my first calling interview was for Primary, I explained that it is not my forte, that there are special people that are better at teaching children than I am, and respectfully declined. I was then called to be a teacher in Relief Society and accepted that wholeheartedly because that was a group of adults that could give me wonderful feedback.
I now teach family history in my ward and am assistant director of a family history center and having great successes in that teaching capacity. The Holy Spirit was instrumental in helping me to see my teaching strengths and weaknesses.
GW in New Jersey
Thanks for reminding us, GW, that the Holy Ghost will give us specific counsel for individual situations. Just because we receive an answer on one occasion, the answer could change for a similar circumstance at a different time.
After a calling in which I was miserable, I stopped thinking I was obligated to accept every calling. Instead, I believe the following:
- We have both the right and the responsibility to share our misgivings with theMaybe he is already aware of the potential problems and is working on solutions. Maybe the whole reason he was inspired to ask you was so he could learn about your circumstances. Maybe he needs to learn that just because you are _____, doesn’t mean you want to do ______ (or would be good at it!).
- We have both the right and the responsibility to seek our own confirmation from the Lord, especially if we don’t want a calling, or don’t think we can doPostponing the sustaining for a week to get your own answer probably won’t make the ward fall apart.
- If after #1 and #2 we still don’t feel good about a calling, we have the right to turn it down.
- We have the right not to be guilt-tripped if after honest contemplation andprayer we decide that we cannot or should not accept a calling.
I’m always a sucker for a good list, Been There. Thanks for providing one for this topic!
I think Pam is making a very valid point. It reminds me of one time when I was Young Women president, and I needed to recommend someone to be called as girls’ camp director. I tried to use my mind and my
heart and prayer to make a good decision, but I did not have all the information needed until the women were talked to about the calling and gave us feedback.
It took until the third try before we found our camp director, and I am so glad the first two women were honest in their limitations (not having much knowledge or love of camping). It was so wonderful that the third person whom we called was someone who did love camping and had a lot of energy and focus for the calling. That was the right person. It ended up being a process, and not just one-sided.
I firmly believe that people should share their honest feelings about a potential calling and whether they have the skills or the bandwidth for it at that time in their lives. I know that it is possible to grow through being challenged by callings we are not perfectly ready for, but there are times when a calling is a definite
I firmly believe that the person receiving the call is entitled to her own personal revelation about whether it is right just as much as the person extending the calling.
Thanks for bringing up this topic; it sure is a tricky one.
You make a good point, Rachel. Readers, if you’re ever issued a calling that makes you uncomfortable, share your honest feelings with your priesthood leader. You may still accept the calling, but if you do it will be with full awareness that your priesthood leaders are aware of your situation.
I was recently called to be gospel doctrine teacher, sharing with another teacher, alternating weeks. I first felt I might throw up and said so; to me it was like being called to be bishop. I am caretaker of my handicapped husband, and I have power of attorney for a 99-year-old woman that I visit three times a week for several hours, and pay her bills, and take her to doctor appointments.
I am stake media specialist, ward family history consultant, and first captain in my DUP Camp. I also am the leader of our monthly book club, not to forget visiting teaching. I am the mother of six grown children and 16 grandchildren (who are involved in sports and other activities that grandmothers must attend) and two great-grandchildren. I have also worked from home as a travel agent since 1979.
I was told my name had come up and they all felt this job was for me and to take a day and pray and ponder. I accepted that time to think about it and after a less than a day, I had the feeling that the Lord knew that scripture study was one of my greatest weaknesses and that this calling was to help me appreciate and know the scriptures.
I accepted the next day, and though it is the most difficult calling I have had to undertake, others say I am doing a good job and they really enjoy my lessons. I am learning and growing in an area I never thought I could.
The Lord does know what we need and when we need it. So if you ponder and pray about it, you may come to the conclusion that it is just what you are meant to do.
Wow, Busy! Your letter made me so tired I want to take a nap. You must have the gift of energy – either that or forbearance. Good for you, for accepting such a frightening calling on top of everything else.
I’ve only ever said no to one calling. It was Scouts and they traditionally meet on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, in our ward. I work both nights – Tuesday until 9 and Wednesday till 6.
I have done this calling before and I know how much preparation and energy it takes. I didn’t want to say no, but I did. I felt guilty because I firmly believe in accepting callings, even the ones that make your jaw drop with shock. Also, I had two other callings at the time (we have a new ward) and I just didn’t think I could do it.
Things turned out fine. Another sister took the position, and she does great in it.
Sometimes when someone turns a calling down, things don’t turn out so great. But I believe you have to evaluate what you can and can’t do and with a help from the Spirit, make up your mind.
That was wise counsel, Cindy. Thanks for sharing your experience.
My rule of thumb is that I need to pray and feel good about the calling before I will accept it.
I once refused a calling because I didn’t feel good about it. The bishopric looked a little harder and called an inactive sister to take the calling. She did a nice job.
There was also the experience where my husband was first asked if he’d support me in a calling and he said, “I’ll support her, but you need to know what is going on in her life right now.” He proceeded to explain my current obligations. The bishopric response was, “Oh, that’s why we didn’t feel good about calling her!”
For whatever reason, callings are not always inspired by the Lord.
I have to admit to once not being able to get an answer to my prayers because I so badly did not want the calling. My husband finally suggested that I go with his inspiration, which was that I should take the calling. I did so and finally felt peace about it – not that I ever enjoyed that calling.
I know bishoprics try hard, but sometimes the callings are desperation – not inspiration.
Judy in Colorado
I really appreciated your last experience, Judy. Even when a calling is inspired and we know we’re supposed to take it, we may never come to love that calling. That’s the way life works.
Explain to the bishop that you feel that this calling is beyond you, and give him your reason. Then tell him you’ll accept if you get some help/support. If you can’t manage it after a few months you can talk to him about if you should continue. But you might surprise yourself and do well in a calling that you never thought that you’d be able to handle.
Take the opportunity for personal growth. A calling wouldn’t be offered if the bishop didn’t think that you could do it/needed to do it.
Vim makes a good point. Nobody is expected to accept a calling forever. If you accept one and give it your all but it doesn’t work out, you’re always able to ask to be released.
One of the most precious experiences of my life was serving in a Primary with 120 children, half of whom were neighbors of members, in a very poor area. We were inspired to issue teaching and serving callings to inactive couples and men and women, each of whom had a testimony but did not attend regularly.
We spent the time fasting and praying (and not a little convincing priesthood leaders to go along) and were in a position to tell each person that as inadequate as they personally felt, it was Heavenly Father’s will and that means He trusted them and they would be entitled to help from us and help from heaven if they would simply commit to doing their very own personal best.
It was a wonderful blessing for the entire area, with most going to the temple within two years. Among this group was a woman who despite no music training of any kind, who accepted a calling as Primary chorister. We really didn’t understand that choice at all until several months later, when she saw how her creativity in art had helped the children learn the songs better than I’ve ever seen it done.
The question shouldn’t be whether we are inadequate, but whether we can get a testimony that this calling has Heavenly Father’s approval. There is no need to feel guilty about that, since we are entitled to (and have a duty to) confirm that inspiration. We also have every right to ask the leader if he can tell you with certainty because he has asked and listened hard, that Heavenly Father is choosing this.
As for seminary teaching, it is not a calling like other callings. It is sort of a part-time job for which you don’t get paid. But again, whenever our leaders ask us to contribute our talents, if it is of God and we ask with open hearts, it will be confirmed to us, which means we can be successful. Nevertheless, it is our personal agency to step up to do what we are asked to do. And if we do not receive that inspiration, then asking the leader to fast and pray with you so you can both get it is a reasonable request.
Finally, I have learned that when I pray to ask to be released if it is consistent with His will (and for second wind if not), I am sometimes released without having mentioned it to any mortal. Other times I am given second wind.
That was a great example, NRP, of thinking creatively. Think of the lives you blessed by not calling the same old people to fill your Primary positions!
The answer is straightforward: “In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we do not seek, nor do we decline, callings that come from God through inspired priesthood channels.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Faith of Our Father , April 2008 General Conference).
I believe that sometimes God inspires priesthood leaders to extend callings to individuals in order to reveal something to the individual or to the priesthood leader. I have seen people grow spiritually through the process of meeting with their bishop to discuss whether a calling could be accepted.
I believe it is acceptable to respond to a calling while expressing concerns, such as, “I am willing to serve in this calling, but I cannot attend meetings on Tuesday evenings because of work,” or “I am willing to serve in this calling, but my family is really struggling right now,” or even, “I am willing to serve in this calling, but I am not sure if I am worthy.”
As someone who has had to extend a number of callings, I would much rather hear those responses than have someone decline a calling, because the former responses are indicative of faith.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Kansas. You’ve shown an excellent way to present your concerns without actually declining a calling.
A dear friend once told me that it is our responsibility to seek a confirmation of a calling, our own testimony that it was indeed extended by Heavenly Father and not just the bishop.
There had just been a change in ward boundaries and I ended up in the ward where I was originally baptized as a convert about 10 years earlier. The leadership of the ward was anxious to have everyone feel included by finding callings for them as quickly as possible.
I was called to be the Primary chorister for the third or fourth time. I thought, “If we are given callings so that we can grow, I must really be a rotten chorister.” I prayed about the calling and just didn’t feel right about it.
I called the member of the bishopric who had interviewed me and said, “I totally respect your priesthood, but this is how I feel. I’m asking you to pray about this calling one more time. If you have me sustained on Sunday, I will serve to the best of my ability, but if I am not sustained on Sunday I will know you received the same answer I did.” I was definitely stepping out on faith. I don’t know how I would have felt if I had been sustained that next week.
As it turned out, this dear brother called the other two members of the bishopric and they all prayed about my calling and I was not sustained that Sunday. A few weeks later, I received a call to serve as the ward compassionate service leader. I applied the same principle of praying for a confirmation or testimony that this is where I was supposed to be. It was a good thing, because the calling was very challenging, but I could always reflect back and know that Heavenly Father had entrusted me with this responsibility and would help me to fulfill it.
There is nothing honorable about saying yes to a calling if you don’t prayerfully seek to serve in that calling to the best of your ability.
Scioto Ward, Columbus Ohio Stake
I really liked what you said, Lynn, about there being nothing honorable about accepting a calling if you don’t intend to do your best to do it right.
I have faith in my leaders that they have prayed before extending a calling. But I always reserve to myself the responsibility of going home and praying if I don’t think I can say yes immediately. 99.9% of the time I come back and tell them yes, but I still reserve that responsibility for receiving my own answer from the Lord.
The .1% of the time that I have returned and told them no turned out to be a blessing in disguise as things happened to prove that I gave the correct response – or, there were circumstances that the person extending the call told me that if they’d have known those circumstances perhaps the Lord would have been able to direct them more clearly.
I absolutely will not say no to a calling unless I have prayed and feel that I have received that directive from the Lord. And if I do feel that the Lord doesn’t want me to accept it, I hold firm. But, in my lifetime, I’ve only turned down two callings.
Thanks for reminding us to be humble, but then to hold firm if we’ve received our spiritual confirmation. That’s good advice, Bruce.
Okay, people, that’s it for this discussion. Look for a new topic next time.
Until next week – Kathy
“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my
successes and my talents, and I lay them both at his feet.”
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).