Last week, “Concerned Mom” wrote in to ask how Meridian readers help balance the demands of time-consuming church callings with the needs of their family members. (Read that column by clicking here.) Meridian readers were quick to come to the aid of this beleaguered mother. Let’s see what they had to say:

I felt inspired to give my thoughts on this. If it can help any one — great!

I have four children and a husband that seems to be continually called to time-consuming callings. He was either in a bishopric or the bishop for the past 15 or so years. In that time I was put in a presidency for Relief Society once, Young Women twice, and Primary once. During all this my children were growing up and we were trying to get them ready to serve missions, go to college, develop talents, and do other things — you know, all the things we do to help equip our children for life.

I know that my oldest two children had a few resentments and issues about their dad’s church service because neither my husband nor I got the message across to our children that they were the most important people in our life. I’m not sure that they got the impression that my husband and I were that important to each other. We learned to express, in our actions and words, that our marriage and family were our top priority. We learned to let some things go and use the spirit more to tell us what things to really spend time on and what things to not pay attention to. It took discipline, but here are the things that helped us:

1. We had to constantly remind ourselves and our family that the work we were doing was not our work, but the Lord’s work. God would not expect us to set aside our family responsibilities in order to serve others outside the family.

2. This was a family service, and they were all reaping the blessings that come from service — not just mom and or dad. We even pointed out specific times when blessings came and “blamed” our time-consuming callings for those tender mercies that often came to different members of the family.

3. The Lord compensates his children for the service they give in building up His kingdom. You will be compensated for what you might be missing because your dad or mom is gone and not able to help at the moment.

4. We learned to put our egos aside, didn’t worry about looking irresponsible or lazy when we had to miss an activity or cancel a meeting for a family responsibility.

5. We realized that we always have a choice, and we involved the family in helping us decide where and how our time was spent.

6. We had family night without fail (even if it had to be for only 15 minutes on a Sunday evening before going to a fireside together).

7. We had date night for my husband and me without fail (even if it meant a visit to someone in the ward followed by an ice cream cone and a rented movie that we would fall asleep watching).

Our children more than survived. In fact, they have grown up with strong testimonies. They are prepared to build up the kingdom by being good parents and spouses and by serving in whatever calling the Lord calls them to.

It all really goes together. Families and church — it’s all one big calling. I know there are some wonderful families out there who may be less active or not members, but I believe that as a covenant people, we need to see the big picture. I think our callings in the church can help us raise our families and our families can help us keep those callings in their proper perspective so that we accomplish the Lord’s will. And He has a much better plan specific to our life than we can ever imagine for ourselves.

Carol Peacock

Thanks for a great letter, Carol. I particularly liked that you and your husband saw that your children and your marriage were suffering and were wise enough to change your course to accommodate your family as well as your callings. What a good idea — to let the whole family know that your callings were sacrifices to be shared by all family members, with the blessings being afforded to all family members as well!

I am the Relief Society president right now in a ward that has 97% activity.


We are in the smallest (geographically) stake in the world, so no travel for me. While I was growing up in Holland, though, it was a different story.

My mom was the stake Relief Society president or ward Relief Society president while I was growing up, and she was always gone. She had to travel hours one way just to meet with the ladies. She would always say, “Here I go, serving the Lord.”

I loved it, but my sister couldn’t handle it. She is not active in the Church right now.

It is hard to balance both worlds, but with the help from God anything is possible. I wish that my sister would open her eyes and see that her mom was serving those that needed help from her hands at that time. I also wish that Mom had involved her more with baking, so she would have learned also to serve.


The neat thing about your letter, Hollander, was the last paragraph. Your mother could have made the situation better, perhaps, by involving your sister in the service responsibilities, but your sister had the choice of embracing her mother’s sacrifice or rebelling against it. There’s responsibility on both sides.

My husband and I have been married for almost 37 years. In that time we have both been in leadership positions the majority of the time. For 30 years we have lived in a needy ward where I have served as president of all auxiliaries, and counselor in all auxiliaries, and my husband has served as bishop and counselor in the bishopric, twice.

We have three children who are all married in the temple and who all, also, have been serving in leadership positions for most of their short married lives. I admire them for their service and am thankful that they did learn to love the Lord and his church and were not resentful of the time we spent serving.

Through the years I have learned that one must seek balance. Good enough is often good enough! There are times in our callings when we will spend an intense amount of time on a specific activity, or on a specific person that needs a large amount of our time, energy, and excellence. But at other times, doing an ok job is ok.

One can never humanly do all that is expected in a calling. There are just not enough hours in a day. On the other hand, one of the reasons we expend so much time and energy is that not enough support people taking on responsibilities. We try to delegate, but there are many who will just not be delegated to, who increase our burden. Oh, if only we all shared the work load!

There are so many people who seem to never give thought to the most simple things such as who it is that turns on the lights and makes sure the building is the right temperature, who cleans up, who locks up, not to mention all of the more meaty parts of what goes on in a ward. They just come and take it all for granted. But I digress.

I remember when I was 30 years old, had a four-month-old nursing baby and two older children. I was called to be Young Women president and held that calling for five years. We ate frozen pizza every Sunday for five years because my husband fixed that while I was at meetings. (He was in the elders quorum presidency at the time.)

When my daughter was two and I would be going out the door on Tuesday nights, she would scream and hang onto me. I ripped myself away and left her behind. She seems to have survived, but also wishes I had played more with her when she was little.

Now that I am older and wiser, I would have done things differently. I would have prepared earlier in the day so that all was in order and I was not rushing out the door. I would have planned some extra time for the kids before I had to go. And I also know that listening to the spirit is critical. The spirit will tell us when it is ok to leave the crying baby with Daddy and when we need to stay for a few extra minutes and let counselors know we will be late.

There are times when we need to let counselors take over and miss an activity all together.


We also need to rely more on the Lord and make him a true partner in our calling. When we do that, miracles happen. Time expands, our capacities increase, our children are comforted and we receive wonderful blessings that do compensate for the sacrifices we make.

We do have to make compromises. Sometimes that means taking children with us to meetings. Sometimes it means letting things go on our homes and yards. Sometimes one spouse has to pick up the slack in many areas while the other serves. It also means working more efficiently and delegating as much as we can in order not to neglect spouse or kids.

How blessed we are to have modern conveniences: the cell phone to communicate more efficiently when we are delayed at home. Caller ID! My husband would not pay for that until I was called to be Relief Society president. I insisted on it and it has been a huge help. You do not need to answer the phone every time it rings. Again, the spirit will tell you when. There seems to always be several people that call several times a day wanting your time and attention and at times you must focus on family and return a call later. Use these helps but also don’t abuse them.

What I also know is that as we have willingly served we have been blessed. We have grown in wisdom and experience and knowledge. I also have times when I am weary — times when I just want to stay home and clean closets and scrapbook and write in my journal. But I remember the joy that comes from service and that I want to wear myself out working for the Lord. It is the least I can do for all he has done to bless my life. I would not trade that for anything for the world.

Jeannie from Missouri

What a wise letter, Jeannie! There are so many nuggets in it that it’s hard to single one out. I do know first-hand about conserving energy when we can, though. Last night we had a high priest scripture study class. I usually worry all week about coming up with a new recipe for the dessert. This week I was swamped, and Clark made a double batch of brownies out of a box. The only thing I did was to throw together some mint frosting to go on top. The brownies were just as enthusiastically received as the homemade things I worry about. (They were perhaps even more successful, because not all the recipes I find taste as good as advertised.) It made me wonder why I go to so much effort.

And as for modern conveniences, don’t forget the crockpot. That little miracle appliance has dinner ready and waiting for you after you get home from a long round of church meetings.

I am currently the Relief Society president in our ward, and our situation is made interesting by the fact that my husband and three teenage step-children are not members of the Church. In order not to alienate them and make them feel that my church life is more important to me than my home life, I include them as much as possible in the service facet of this calling:

First, if I’m making a meal or treat to give to someone in the ward, I ask one of my kids to help me make it. While we’re preparing the food, I’ll mention that, “We’re taking this over to the Smith family because their mom is sick in the hospital right now. Why don’t you come with me to drop off the food, then you and I can catch a movie/get an ice cream/or some other fun activity.”

It’s a way of bringing them into the act of service, helping them to see how the Church does things, and giving my children of my time in a way that’s also rewarding and fun for them.

Also, when I’m preparing a meal/treat to take to another family, I always try to prepare two — one for the other family, and one for my family. As I give it to my family I’ll say something like, “I was making brownies for the Smiths, but I thought we’d like some too.”

Additionally, when I have to make personal home visits or phone calls (which can be very time-consuming) I try to do that while my husband is at work and children at school — not at night when they are all home and need my attention.


Ward members are very understanding if I let them know that evenings are our “family time,” and it also shows my family that time spent with them is very important to me.

I always try to keep my comments casual and conversational, instead of “churchy” or preachy. Hopefully, these things help my dear family see that the gospel is a wonderful, happy way of life that is woven into everything we do.

Jennifer Gibbs Kambourian

Lomas Ward, Chapultepec Stake

Mexico, City, Mexico

You have such practical suggestions, Jennifer! Your children can’t possibly resent church service when you make the same treats for them as you make for other families — and you even involve them with rewards such as movies or ice cream if they help you in the delivery.

But it’s just as important that you’re doing this with joy instead of being preachy about it. You’re being an excellent example of the Church at its best.

This is a subject that hits home. I struggled mightily with it as a young mom, and often I resented church callings that I felt took me away from my family. At one point it dawned on me, however, that while I absolutely must put family first, it would also benefit my children to see me and my husband give church service a high priority.

I served in Relief Society about twelve years ago and the entire time felt it was pulling me away from my young children. I don’t know what I could have changed, but I was so much happier when I was made Primary president and even though it was more work felt that it was something that I did alongside my children and was doing for them.

I find myself once again in Relief Society and am again a bit torn, though not as much this time. One thing I have chosen to do is focus Relief Society activities on things that build up the families in our ward. Rather than organize endless socials, I have tried to concentrate on the things that will help make the families, marriages, and individuals in our ward stronger.

When we had a class on “parenting,” I changed the title and invited aunts and sisters, grandmothers and neighbors, as well, as they can play such a crucial role in the development of all of the children around us. I have also realized that our children all benefit if there is a community of people knit together surrounding them.

In the book Bowling Alone, the author, Robert Putnam, who spoke at a BYU Forum several years ago, cited research that suggested that in communities where individuals are highly connected there is less crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and so on. I realized then that our activity in the Church gave my children a support system that supports the work we are doing within our family, even if it sometimes takes me away from them.

I also realized that I am part of that support system for the children around us, outside of my family, and that I have a responsibility to build them up as I build up my own children (and my children will benefit, not be hurt, if I do that).

I like this quote from Joseph Smith, “We covenanted with each other, in the sight of God, and the holy angels, and the brethren, to strive thenceforward to build each other up in righteousness in all things.” (History of the Church 2:352-54, emphasis added). I think that was amazingly forward-thinking of Joseph Smith, and evidence of the inspiration he received as a prophet.

I used to make lovely, time-consuming gifts for friends. When we had children, I decided that they deserve the best that I have to offer. I decided to make the first gift for my family and if I had time, I would make the same thing for a friend.

My family is happy when I cook food to give away, because I always make at least two — one for us and one to give away.

Wanda in Columbia, Maryland

Wanda, I was struck by your comment that your family deserves the best you have to offer. I learned that soon after our honeymoon, when I found Clark lying in bed reading, with a bowl of pistachios resting precariously on his — well, gut. The bowl was a wedding present made of lead crystal, and it was one of the most expensive things we owned.

I ran forward to rescue the bowl, asking him why in the world he was using that bowl for pistachios.

That bowl was only for company!


Clark looked up at me and calmly asked, “What company would we have in the house that would be more important to you than I am?”

Boy, did that hit home! That bowl was immediately designated Clark’s pistachio bowl, and it has held only Clark’s pistachios ever since.

I don’t know if this qualifies as a busy calling, but it was. I was in our ward Young Women presidency for about two years and then called to the stake Young Women presidency for another 2 1/2 years, so for nearly 4.5 years I was busy serving the Young Women in our ward and stake. My youngest was about four at the time when I had these callings. I was very busy with each of these callings, girls’ camp, youth conference, dances, firesides, Mutual, and everything else that goes with them.

When I was in the stake we were told to not let our church callings get in the way of our families. We tried to live by that principle as a presidency. There were enough of us in the APYW for the big activities, and everyone did what it took to take care of everything. If someone couldn’t be there, that member would do her part and would make sure it was taken care of, delivered, made, whatever it was so she could be with her family wherever it would be. We did the same thing as a stake Young Women presidency. Those who didn’t have the younger children at home helped those who did.

I also had my youngest help me over the years. She would help make things, run to the store with me to gather whatever was needed for either camp, dances, Youth Conference, and other things. Because she was involved she understood a little bit more of why I was gone and what I was doing.

One the biggest helps was to have my husband there. He was like a counselor in the presidency. When he wasn’t there, he was the one who took care of our daughter.

Karla Held

Columbus, Ohio

Thanks for writing, Karla. It’s so important to think of church callings as a team effort. Any church calling really does require cooperation from the whole family, so it’s nice to see — as you have done — when one spouse gives credit to the other, and when parents credit their children, for any successes they have achieved.

I am currently serving as the ward Relief Society president, and my husband is on the high council over facilities and Primary. I think it really has to be about balance.

I try to take care of most of my obligations during school hours and to involve my kids when possible. They can always go with me to deliver a casserole or to help clean, though I find that delegation is a key as well.

We have a strong compassionate service leader, so I give her the space to magnify her calling. This eases the pressure on me. During those seasons when I need to leave my family to do my calling, I try to do so with a good attitude and if I hear grumbling I remind them that they each sustained me in the calling and I could certainly use their support.

If I feel overwhelmed and guilty about what I am not doing in my calling, I just remember that Heavenly Father called me to this position, and he knew the ages of my kids and the life situations I would find myself in.

When my husband received his calling, the stake presidency asked if we had any questions. We had already been told about the twice-monthly mandatory meetings, and I wondered what the protocol was for children’s band concerts and such. I was told that family is first; just let them know and you are excused without question.

On the most positive side of things, our testimonies have increased as more opportunities to serve and love our ward and stake family have presented themselves, and somehow our time has managed to stretch to allow that which is needful to be accomplished.

Michelle Eyring

Thanks for the reminder, Michelle, that the Lord knows our circumstances when he issues the callings, and He really doesn’t expect us to do more than our best. You wrote a compassionate letter.

Our last letter today is an especially good one. Let’s see what this anonymous writer had to say:

I served as Relief Society president twice and Young Women president four times. My husband has served as a bishop, elders quorum president, and Young Men president.


My father was either branch president, bishop or in the stake presidency the whole time I was growing up, and my mom served as Relief Society, Young Women and Primary president in addition to stake callings. That being the case, I believe I have some experience with so-called “heavy-duty” callings.

The key is balance. Always place time with your family as your number one priority. If you think of your calling first, then that will come first and your family will suffer. Here are some examples of things I have done or seen observed by others that help maintain balance:

1. When you make a meal or a treat for someone, always make a double batch so your family can enjoy as well.

2. Set aside time each week just for your family and instruct people in your ward that this is family time during which you will not be answering the phone or responding to emails. (This is especially important for bishops.) You can make exceptions for real emergencies, but those should be few and far between.

3. When other people in the ward are magnifying their calling, it makes the job manageable for those in leadership position. When people are not fulfilling their callings, it makes things very difficult for those in leadership positions. Sometimes people don’t fulfill their callings because they are lazy or just don’t care, but I’ve found that is rarely the case. Often people need understanding and encouragement and most importantly communication from those in charge about expectations for their calling. Spend lots of time up front training and you will find your calling is way more manageable and often very enjoyable.

4. Listen to what others have to say, let go, and let them magnify their callings. If you micromanage, you get burned out. People have wonderful ideas and often need just a little direction or feedback. Allow them to fly!

5. Explain to your children what you are doing and why. When it’s appropriate, allow them to accompany you when you are fulfilling duties related to your calling. I remember traveling with my dad to various wards and branches on Sundays while he fulfilled his duties as a member of the stake presidency. It allowed us to have some one-on-one time, and I understood better what Dad was doing when he was away from the family. My kids often accompany me when I provide meals or when I stop in to visit people especially during the day when I have no one to watch my preschooler.

6. And last, but not least, pray for guidance on how to manage your responsibilities. The Lord has promised that when he gives us a commandment (or calling in this case), He will provide a way for us to do it. When we are responsible for a major church calling in addition to our calling to take care of our family, He will provide the inspiration we need to keep it all in balance.

I’m sure there are many other things one can do to avoid burnout. Hopefully these are helpful to someone.

Been There, Done That

Thanks for a great list, Been There! It was the perfect ending to today’s column.

We have just enough letters for one more week on this subject. Then we’re off to another topic of your choosing.

Until next time — Kathy

“When a woman stops working full-time for hire,

she starts working full-time for the Church for free.”

Lynne Van Atta, as quoted by Daryl Gibson