Resigning

November 20, 2010 | 59 comments
By

I started this semester as a seminary teacher. Two months in, I realized that it wasn’t going to work. I was tired and miserable, useless to my family, and unproductive at work. So, for the first time in my life, I asked to be released from a calling. No, that’s not quite accurate. I didn’t really ask; I informed them that I could manage for about two more weeks and then I’d be done.

Now it’s been a week since I stopped teaching, and I have no doubt it was the right choice. The entire experience of teaching seminary was humbling. It’s a calling I had wanted — in fact, when we moved into this ward, the bishopric asked me what calling I’d like to serve in, and I told them that it’s always been my dream to teach seminary. (Contrary to popular belief, I’ve found that telling your leaders what calling you want to serve in is usually a good way to get that calling.)

A long time ago my mom served as Relief Society president in her ward. After three or four years of service, she told me that she was going to ask to be released. My sister was a teenager, and my mom wanted to be able to be present in her life. At the time, I was a recently returned missionary who believed that every church calling represented the will of God in the most literal way. (My experiences in PEC meetings as an elders quorum president helped change my perspective on that.) That was the first time it had crossed my mind that a person even could request to be released from a calling. In retrospect, I believe it was the right choice.

So tell me about your experiences in callings you’ve asked to be released from. Or callings from which you consciously decided not to ask to be released. How did your leaders respond? Would you do it differently if you could do it again? What did you learn?

59 Responses to Resigning

  1. Keri Brooks on November 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    A few years ago, I was the ward bulletin person. I asked everyone to have announcements to me by 7 pm on Thursday. I would do the bulletin Thursday night. Then on Friday morning, I would go to work. Fridays after work, I would go to my second job as a caretaker of developmentally disabled adults, where I would work a 34 hour shift that would end just in time for me to get to church on Sunday mornings. (I could sleep when my clients were sleeping, so it wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds, but it was bad.)

    I realized after a few months that this particular calling was not a good fit for my schedule. I couldn’t make last minute changes to the bulletin because I was incommunicado from Friday evening until Sunday morning. If the person scheduled to relieve me was late, I had to stay until she arrived, making me late to church. I told the bishop that I was willing to serve in a calling, but that this particular one was a poor fit for my schedule, and I explained why. I was released the next week, and I haven’t been given a substantial calling since. I also used to be asked to speak in sacrament meeting frequently, but not since I was released. (About 3 years ago.) It’s a small ward with staffing shortages, so I don’t know what the deal is. It’s like I’ve been branded as unwilling.

    I don’t regret asking to be released, but I wish I could pull my weight in the ward. I almost feel like I’ll probably never have a calling again as long as I live in this ward. (I’ll probably be moving within a year anyway, so oh well.)

  2. Keri Brooks on November 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    (Oh, and I don’t have the caregiver job anymore, so that wouldn’t stop me from having a calling.)

  3. DavidH on November 20, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I think the addage that we should never decline a calling or request a release is harmful and untrue. When I have served in leadership positions, I have appreciated honest feedback from people who declined callings or who expressed when they can no longer serve.

  4. Ardis E. Parshall on November 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    For something like 25 years, between the end of my mission and my moving into my current ward, I never really had a calling. I’d get put in one of those made-up unnecessary jobs that are created just so the bishop can say he’s given everyone a calling. Once, for instance, I was an “assistant Primary librarian” which really is a sort of a calling, except that there were like 7 or 8 of us, tripping over each other looking for something to do and practically trampling each other to be the one who got to give out chalk and erasers. I resigned from that merely by stopping going to the library on Sunday morning. Nobody noticed, I’m sure, and I was never formally released.

    In my current ward I was called to teach a family history class, alternating with another ward member. There was no manual (I didn’t know then that there *is* a manual, but that the class is only supposed to last for 6 or 8 weeks); the class had really been created as my co-teacher’s dream job. She would regale the class with stories of her research successes — interesting stories, except that they were very particular to the English parish she specialized in and were useless if your family didn’t come from there. On my weeks, I was supposed to do whatever I thought needed to be done. I taught basic research techniques; I tried to get class members interested in writing family or personal histories; I taught lessons on photographs, and creating displays, and interesting kids, and everything else I could think of. It was a popular class, and had been running for years … but in the 10 months or so I taught it, I was unable to get even one person to come to the library with me (the Salt Lake FHL is in our stake boundaries, for cryin’ out loud!) or to follow through with even the most basic one-paragraph writing assignment. The class members were there only to be entertained, as a diversion from Gospel Doctrine.

    So I told the co-teacher I wouldn’t be able to teach anymore. I had just made an appointment to tell the bishop — a brand new bishop — but he disbanded the class as one of his first acts, I think because he realized it was not productive and not part of the established program.

    I still count that as a resignation, though, because I had already decided I couldn’t go on any longer as the ward get-out-of-Gospel-Doctrine-free storyteller.

  5. Dane Laverty on November 20, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Ardis, I love your assessment, “a diversion from Gospel Doctrine”. My wife and I moved to Springville, Utah when we got married. The Gospel Doctrine teacher there — Bro. Parker, I think his name was — was the best Gospel Doctrine teacher I had ever had. An older gentleman (in the best sense of the word), he would come prepared with a big flip chart on an easel that contained all his lesson notes (Powerpoint vintage 1950 :) ). When we got to the lesson that included the Savior’s birth, he had the whole history of “Jesus’ birthday is April 6th” lined up to share with us, and gave the arguments for both side. I was pretty impressed. Anyway, I guess his teaching style didn’t work for everyone, because the ward opened a second Gospel Doctrine class (something I’ve never seen done before). The second class was taught by a much more emotion-based teacher, so ward members could choose whether they wanted the emotional or the intellectual approach to the gospel. Hmm…now I can’t remember why I started telling you this story. Anyway, it had something to do with your “a diversion from Gospel Doctrine” phrase :)

  6. Dane Laverty on November 20, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Keri, I’ve actually been worried about the scenario you described. I’ll be curious to see when/if I get another calling, and what it will be. That said, I understand that my accepting a calling and then leaving it two months later indicates that I’m not entirely reliable (and I can’t argue against that), so we’ll see what comes.

  7. MainTour on November 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    As a manager in both I greatly appreciate it when people with idle time on their hands informs me that they are free and willing to handle greater assignments. Sitting around idle to me would be quite boring.

    Members have the opportunity several times a year to meet with a member of the bishopric and inform them of their desire to either change callings or ask for increased callings. They do not have a perfect crystal ball that tells them every little detail about the spiritual lives of the members. Our leaders are not perfect and divine inspiration only go so far.

  8. Kevin Barney on November 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Seminary teacher is the only calling I’ve declined. Twice. I did a stint as a substitute once. But I have a long commute by train into the city, and I can’t always control what time I come home. Having to prepare a lesson every day after a long day at work would be extremely stressful to me, and there is just no way I could do it.

  9. ESO on November 20, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    My best advice for people resigning is to submit notice. It doesn’t have to be written, but to indicate the last date you can do the calling is helpful. Unlike the other people on this thread, I have always seen bishoprics very slow to replace people who were not moving out of the ward.

  10. Matt W. on November 20, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I have never resigned from a calling, but I have been on the other end of it a time or two, where someone resigned without giving notice and without communicating upstream there was a problem, and suddenly the Bishop is asking his clerk, secretary and councilors where to find a seminary teacher or YW President or whatever. Those are hard days. So I agree, it is important to give notice.

  11. Course Correction on November 20, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Once I walked out of a class and handed my manual to the SS pres and said “I’m through.” We were new in the ward and for some reason, new people always get called to the classes nobody else wants–like this class of 13 year olds. I might have been able to handle it at another time in my life, but I was under a lot of stress financially at that time. I tried if for several weeks and one Sunday morning I realized that none of the kids wanted to be there and I sure didn’t either–and I left.

  12. Deborah on November 21, 2010 at 12:05 am

    The first time I asked to be released was from my first calling after I got married–Primary chorister, in a ward with 200 kids. I realized one day that the thought of going to church was making me cry. However, when I went to the bishop’s office to ask for a release he beat me to the punch by releasing me from that calling and calling me to two others.

    Several years later I had another experience where I needed to be released, and again approached the bishop with trepidation. Now I no longer remember if it’s 4 or 5 times that I’ve told the bishop things needed to be adjusted. I found that sometimes if you’re suffering in silence the bishop just needs to be told.

    Sometimes I’ve gone with a switch in mind. “My schedule just doesn’t work for being the achievement days leader, but I happen to know that your son’s primary class doesn’t have a teacher and I’d be willing to do that” amazingly got me just what I asked for.

  13. Jared T. on November 21, 2010 at 12:24 am

    When first married, my wife and I elected to attend a local Spanish ward. I had previously served there as a missionary, so I was well known and quickly targeted for callings. I had only been in the EQ presidency for a short time when a young men’s president was needed, so I was called. I struggled in that calling because the Stake wanted to emphasize scouting, which I had never liked growing up. Plus, one counselor was AWOL from the get go and the other practically absent. I petitioned over and over for new counselors. Each time it turns out my suggestions were rejected or already taken, but no one bothered to tell me so so I could submit new names. Only after an extended wait period and a new inquiry on how the process was shaping up did I find out that the names had been rejected. And on top of it, it was near impossible to motivate the boys to do anything but want to play basketball (and hardly show up). I was getting extremely stressed out at school and my wife was expecting our first. I mulled my options and with great effort decided to resign the calling. I felt a great deal of guilt because of the old adage that we should never refuse callings. Shortly after, we moved to the English ward. We got settled there and it turned out to be a wonderful experience and I can say that the people I met in that ward (one of whom was Steve Sorensen) helped shape the course my life has taken in a way that couldn’t have happened otherwise. I came to understand that the decision to resign and move was inspired.

  14. Ed Goble on November 21, 2010 at 1:59 am

    I think it is better to first tell the Bishop that you feel your circumstances are such that you feel the calling is not a good fit for your situation rather than asking to be released, and to leave it up to the Bishop first to make the decision. If the Bishop doesn’t act and release you, and the situation is just absolutely not going to work, then I think one is justified in asking to be released.

  15. WJ on November 21, 2010 at 3:06 am

    I’ve never rejected a calling, and wouldn’t change anything in the future. The closest I’ve come was a few years back when a bishop called me to a relatively time intensive calling just before I was to travel out of the area for an extended period of time (which he had no way of knowing before issuing me the calling). I explained that my absence would put a rather large burden on those serving with me, which I didn’t think was fair to them. But I noted I wouldn’t reject the calling if he still wanted to issue it to me, but thought he should know the back story before moving forward. He discussed it with his counselors and called me to a different and less time intensive calling.

    My experience has been that leaders are usually (not always, but usually) willing to accommodate people’s challenges when people are sincere and up front about their circumstances. But people are often reluctant to voice their concerns. And I think its definitely better to be up front at the outset (when possible) than to back out later and leave leaders in an unexpected lurch to find a replacement.

  16. tisheli on November 21, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I haven’t asked to be released, but when we moved into our current ward four years ago the bishop asked to meet with us. We had a lovely little, ‘getting to know you’ chat, and then the bishop asked if there was anything else I wanted to tell him. I said, ‘Yes. Don’t call me to the primary. Don’t call me to the nursery. I’ll say no.’

    I had a newborn and worked in a preschool. I’ve since gone from preschool to elementary, and with my students and my own children, the only break I get from kids all week long is the two hours my kids are in primary and I’m not. I won’t give up that break so that the bishop can put a second teacher in the sunbeams or a third nursery teacher. Not willing.

    I didn’t get a calling at church for a long time, but that might have had more to do with the fact that I didn’t go to church for two years. Silly rotating church schedule conflicted with naptimes.

  17. Elizabeth on November 21, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Shortly after my younger baby was born, she ended up in the hospital for 9 days with pertussis. My three year old got it, and then so did I. What people don’t know about whooping cough is the cough can last up to three months. We were all not sleeping well, and I was just plain tired. I was in YW at the time, and had been in that calling a year.
    Looking back, I asked to be released because I was tired emotionally and physically, and just having to get to church every Wednesday was more than I could do, or could envision doing–I asked for the release within a week or so of baby coming home from hospital. Could I have stuck it out? Probably. And I feel a little guilty, even now. But, within about a month, the bishopric asked if I was ready to get back to work yet, and I said I was, and I was made a RS teacher.

  18. queuno on November 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

    1. I had a stake calling that required evening hours during the week. I was also taking grad school classes and had generally been able to work around things. But after 4 years, I couldn’t anymore. I gave the high councilor two options: Move the stake night to a different night or else take a “leave” for 4 months. The next thing I knew, the stake president had me in his office to apologize for the dilemma and to release me with his thanks for 4 long years.

    2. I was once a Cubmaster and it was a terrible, terrible fit. I think after 6 months I released myself. I’m sure one reason was that I had not ever been trained and at that time, had no opportunity to be trained without skipping work.

    3. My mother was (well, is) one of those saints who never turned down a calling ever. She was the ward RS president over a ward with terrible trials (frequent funerals, welfare orders, etc.). At the same time, she was going back to work, my father was ill, she had children at home, etc. She practically begged the bishop for a release (she’d been RS president for 3-4 years) and he kept saying, “we haven’t found anyone to replace you). This all came to a head after a temple recommend interview with the stake president. One week later, she was called to be the stake YM president, a much, much easier calling and one she was very well-suited for…

  19. L-d Sus on November 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Adris- I would gladly do a writing assignment or research trip if it meant listening to your stories instead of Sunday School.

  20. Jeremy on November 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    While my experience is my own and may not apply to everyone, I would never refuse a calling when I know it comes from the Lord. I have now been called as an early morning seminary instructor twice; once while nose deep in law school, and now as a practicing attorney. Any lawyers out there know how time constraining law school and the practice of law can be. Couple that with losing several hours of sleep each morning and several other hours each week preparing lessons, and you practically have a recipe for meltdown.

    After serving as executive secretary in a large Ward, I came to realize that some callings are simply fill-in callings, and not inspired, per se. That said, I made sure to ask the Bishop extending each call whether it was from the Lord or just from him to fill a need. With the assurance that the Lord wanted me in each calling, and not just the Bishop or the youth’s parents, I happily accepted them.

    I currently work 12 hour days at the office and teach a seminary class of over 30 students. Nonetheless, I still find time to prepare lessons and spend time with my 2 kids and wife. I know that when the Lord calls me to the field, he will make up the difference where I physically (or mentally) cannot. I know that I am much more capable in life when I am doing what the Lord has asked me to do.

  21. anon on November 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    It’s interesting to hear some of the bad stories about this. Thankfully, we had a good one.

    When my wife and I moved into a new ward a few years ago, we got the obligatory new-move-in-primary calling. After a year of it, I was released and put somewhere else, but she stayed in primary. After another year, she realized that she really didn’t know anyone in the ward over the age of 7, so she asked the bishop if he could put her somewhere where she could get to know people. He was great about it–seemed totally understanding, and a few weeks later, she was teaching RS.

  22. Jenn on November 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I requested release as Stake Primary President when my then 6-yr-old daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. My husband was working very long hours, and was gone from the home from 6 am until 9 pm. We were very financially stressed at the time, and this new anxiety filled development just made it impossible for me to put in any kind of valuable emotional energy into my calling. Never regretted it or felt the least bit guilty. It was what was needed by all of us at the time.

  23. Paul on November 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I’m sorry for you, Dane, only because it’s tough to leave something we really wanted to do. My sister was in a similar situation. After a few weeks of falling asleep at work she finally gave in an had to be released from teaching early morning seminary. My SP told me he had agreed to sub for a week and after three days he couldn’t figure out how anyone could do it. A very tough calling, indeed.

    When I was a bishop a number of years back, I was so happy when people were up front with me about their preferences on callings (what do you want to do? What’s working? What isn’t?) I appreciated most the people who could come with an issue, but not a demand to be released. Very often we did release them, but I hope it made them feel better not to have to ask.

    This is one of those examples of inspiration coming as a result of counseling together, I think.

    (The flip side is also true. My first round as bishop, I was about to release our YW president. I got partway into the interview, and she figured out what was going on and fell apart totally, thinking she had failed. (It didn’t help I was trying to do all of this in Spanish.) The spirit hit me upside the head and told me NOT to release her, so I back tracked and we retained her. It was a hugely humbling experience for me as a bishop.)

  24. Rosalynde on November 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Dane, I of course take your word that asking to be released was the right choice for you, and I have no desire to heap guilt on you or any other commenters in this thread. I myself let it be known when I was expecting my fourth that I wouldn’t be able to continue in my calling after the baby was born.

    But something about the tone of this thread bothers me. It would be nice to acknowledge that while your life is now significantly easier, the bishopric’s is now more difficult as they struggle to fill a demanding calling—and even more importantly, the kids’ seminary experience was disrupted. Yes, sometimes we can’t meet our obligations, and there’s no need to punish ourselves for our weakness. But at the same time, we’re not doing ourselves any psychological or spiritual favors by minimizing the consequences.

  25. KevinL on November 21, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I have only refused one calling in my life– my wife and I were asked to put together a roadshow in four weeks while I was in residency and spending every third night in the hospital, and at least ten hour workdays. It just wasn’t going to happen, even though I (a little bit) and my wife (a lot) had the talents to be able to do a roadshow under other circumstances. I have always used my musical talents whenever asked to, other than that instance, because I think I owe it to the Lord and the Church. And now I’m trying to teach my kids the same lesson.

    From the other side, I spent several years as a Cubmaster/Cub Committee Chairman over three wards, and was very frustrated that we were almost never able to fully staff our dens because people would simply refuse to work with cub scouts. For one thing, it’s an easy and fun job that requires very little preparation and time. let’s be honest, you can entertain 8 year old boys with a couple of sticks or rocks of you need to. But I felt bad for the burden that put on our very faithful leaders who didn’t have the help they deserved.

    I’ve never loved a calling instantly; it always takes a while to work into it and understand the calling. But I have always loved my callings by the time I am released. Let’s be honest– church work is very rewarding and I’m not sure what would take the place of it in my life if I didn’t have it.

  26. Rob on November 21, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    I asked to be released from teaching seminary last year, for roughly the same reasons. The end came after it became abundantly clear (with one student shouting in anger, and other sending surreptitious texts to warn the really late students away) that enough of them would never do what I asked them, no matter how I packaged it or phrased it.

    I had asked them to come on time each day. Instead, a little over half of them would come in up to 30 minutes late.

    The Seminary coordinator called it “a difficult class.”

    I’ll never teach Juniors or Seniors at that hour again.

    I discussed it later with a couple of people, including a bishopric member who revealed that the same thing had happened to him.

    @Rosalynde (24), in my case, the Stake had a backup teacher already called. The kids in that class burned him out in five months.

  27. jks on November 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    I asked to be released once soon after I had been given a calling. I have regretted it. Some of the circumstances that were difficult changed just weeks after I was released, so if I had just been a little more patient things would have worked out I am sure.

  28. Dr. Horrible on November 22, 2010 at 12:20 am

    I had been a YM’s president for about two years when I realized that I was burnt out and not giving the boys my best anymore. For those of you who have had that calling, you know what a time-intensive calling it can be. From weekly activities, boyscouts, weekly lessons, Youth Conference, Scout Camp, High Adventure, etc… it is a MAMMOTH of a calling. I mentioned it in conversation with my bishopric counselor, and I was released within a month.

    I felt bad at first. Even though I didn’t ask to be released, and emphasized to the Bishopric that I would gladly continue and work on finding the spark again, the Mormon guilt still crept up and I felt that I was doing something wrong. Now? Not at all. I don’t think about the upcoming Wed nights and get nauseous.

    When my wife and I moved into our first FAMILY ward, I remember my wife politely told the Bishopric member that we didn’t want a calling in the nursery. We had nursery-aged children and had been in the nursery in our last ward. We knew that going in there meant that we wouldn’t get to meet adults for quite some time. the next week the Bishop called her into the nursery…we freaked out the Bishop, because my wife broke down crying. Didn’t change the calling, tho!

  29. Anonymous on November 22, 2010 at 1:07 am

    I live in California. My daughter is a lesbian, married to a wonderful woman, and they have a beautiful child. As the Prop 8 campaign unfolded, I pretty much sat on the sidelines at Church and watched incredibly as the Church aligned itself with an organization that perpetrated lie after lie and distortion after distortion. I shook my head as I watched entire sacrament meeting programs and third-hour lessons devoted to pro-Prop 8 propaganda under the direction of the stake presidency. On election day, two of my kids voted for Prop 8, and four of them voted against it. The sense of betrayal was palpable, and my family was torn apart. My daughter and one of her brothers, who had shared a close personal and business relationship, immediately stopped talking to each other.

    Two days after the election, I sent a letter to the stake president asking to be released as first counselor in our bishopric, and sent copies to all my kids. The stake president was very sympathetic, but asked me to reconsider. As a matter of principle I couldn’t. Over the last two years, the rifts among my kids have slowly begun to heal, but there’s a long way to go. There’s also a tear in my heart that’s just starting to mend.

  30. Alison Moore Smith on November 22, 2010 at 3:02 am

    I haven’t asked to be released from any callings. But I’m happy to let people know if/when a calling is NOT my preference. Like now. I’m the Primary chorister. We just had the Primary program today. Shoot me.

    OK, it’s not that I really hate being the chorister. I’m a singer and have enjoyed directing swing choirs and stake choirs. We have generally great kids in the ward — even some fabulous singers — and the program went really well. Kind of gratifying. But I homeschool my kids and I’m a stay-at-home mom (23 years and counting). My LIFE is Primary and Sunday is generally the ONLY regular adult contact I get. Primary is like a social death sentence and accepting such a call is preceded by much crying and tearing of clothing and beating my head against a door. And the presidency all knows how I feel. I’m hoping it may, at some point, nudge the spirit of release in their direction. As long as I don’t get moved to scouts, I think I’d be happier just about anywhere.

    Yea, I have a bad attitude. Whatever. I still do my job most of the time. Just wish that when they’re “counseling” women to stay home with kids, they’d give us a reprieve on ONE day of the week and let the guys handle them. :)

    The first time I served in YW I was released, not by request, but due to excessive vomiting during every meeting and activity with my third pregnancy. Is that a mercy release?

    My favorite callings? Probably, in this order: (1) Home & Family Education Teacher (no longer exists, so substitute any RS teaching position and I’m elated), (2) Education Counselor (wondrous and amazing), (3) RS President (busy but so nice to get to know so many amazing people), (4) Gospel Doctrine teacher (done this five or six times, I think, and had this calling just before being banished to outer darkness, so I’m not holding my breath for this either).

    Oh, wait, a few years ago I declined to accept a call as Primary pianist. Well, I didn’t actually decline. I said, “I’ll be happy to accept as long as you know that I do not play the piano.” They reconsidered. And, no, I did not submissively accept, sign up for piano lessons, and practice 24/7 to fulfill my obligation. My bad.

  31. MEM on November 22, 2010 at 10:34 am

    About 6 years ago I was a medical resident and nearing the end of my second pregnancy. I was a primary pianist and had been in that calling for about 18 months. I requested to be released after the primary program (about 1 months in advance). The reason I gave was that I wanted to hold my baby during church instead of giving it over to somebody else to do my calling. I missed holding my babies during the week and really needed that time. The counselor told me that the bishopric really felt I should stay in the Primary but I refused. So, of course I still feel guilty. Just one more thing to feel guilty about, right? Ugh.

  32. Slivka on November 22, 2010 at 11:05 am

    My spouse is actually in a similar position right now. She’s not really as interested in the church as she once was but goes out of guilt most days. Our toddler burns her out everyday and she needs a break from him because he is highly active, as are most kids at that age.

    We moved to our new ward and she started to like going to church again. After a few weeks she got called into nursery because apparently not many people are willing to do it here. The Bishop’s wife had been doing it for years and she needed to move on. Babysitting our own kid plus other people’s children has pretty much killed any desire she has to go to church now. I’ve told her she should ask to be released but I think she will feel even more guilty. We are both worried whether it would affect our ability to adopt through LDS family services as we have an approved home study. Based on some of the comments here, I will tell her that it’s not as uncommon as she thinks and the Bishop should be reasonable.

  33. Jim Donaldson on November 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Speaking from my own experience, I think most bishoprics want people to be reasonably happy in their callings (at least as happy as everyone else). Bishoprics don’t have omniscience and oftentimes lack critical information. I’ve initiated lots of calling interviews where it became obvious that the missing information was important and ended the interview thanking the interviewee for his or her time and information and advising them that we’d be rethink the decision. That’s why we do the interviews, not simply announce callings from the pulpit. I think bishoprics are often starved for information about people’s relation to their callings and folks suffer unnecessarily because even bringing it up is perceived by some as unrighteous and disloyal. Your calling, in most cases, shouldn’t make you suffer. There are lots of other things (like the tempo of most hymns) to do that. Sacrifice is one thing. Suffering is another.

    We also used to tell people who were called as YM or YW presidents that they were demanding callings based both on the time consumed and emotion expended. When I was the bishop I thought the YW president spent more time doing church related work than I did. We told those folks that we anticipated calling them for around 18 months, six to learn (by doing) what it takes, and a year to ‘leave it on the field.’ Most people perform better if they can pace themselves. We told them we’d talk to them about it then, that we anticipated that they’d want to be released then, but we would be flexible if they were in love with it or there was a good or inspired reason not to. We also thought it good to give the girls exposure to a variety of competent spiritually-mature women as YW presidencies, because the girls need a variety of role models. One size does not fit all.

    That worked well for us. There weren’t hidden expectations and people could give thoughtful committed assents. In most cases, transparency improves the experience.

    We also tried to rotate nursery callings every few months and tried very hard not to call mothers with young children at home to the nursery for the reasons here stated. They need and usually want adult contact at church because they often don’t have it abundantly elsewhere. There were some exceptions and we tried to to accommodate those.

  34. Alison Moore Smith on November 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Spot on, Jim. Sam and I were interviewed almost three years ago about Sam becoming the bishop of a student ward. They asked a bunch of questions. Then they asked how old our kids were. At the time the oldest was 20 and the youngest was 4. When they heard about Caleb, the response was a big, “Ohhhhhh!” And that pretty much ended the interview — and no calling was extended.

    My dad was the bishop of a married student ward during the end of my junior high and all my high school years. I am the youngest kid in my family and even then it was divisive having dad always gone and mom going to two wards (so she could go with me as well). Now if it had been a SINGLES ward, I would have LOVED it. ;) But hanging out with young married couples…not so interesting.

    FWIW, I think it’s the eighth deadly sin to call any mother of young children or stay-at-home mom to be in nursery — unless she absolutely BEGS for it.

    Sacrifice is one thing. Suffering is another.

    Genius.

  35. Paul on November 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    32 Slivka, of course in the church it would completely appropriate for YOU to speak to your bishop about your wife’s calling, provided she is comfortable with your doing so. I don’t know your bishop, but I wouldn’t be afraid to tell him what you’ve told us here.

  36. Manuel on November 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    “…my first calling after I got married–Primary chorister, in a ward with 200 kids.”

    Hats off to you Deborah. God bless.

    I have never had a problem declining callings I know I would not be able to acomplish well for whatever reason, whether that point in my life is a stressful one, whether I don’t have that excitement spark for it, whether I would hate to serve the calling in question. I can say no with much ease and zero guilt. I don’t praise this attitude though.

    I admit if everyone was like me, some important callings would probably never be filled. So, God bless all of you who trully sacrifice in order to serve in demanding callings.

    For now, I have decided that in my position it is most fitting to simply appreciate every effort done by others in their callings and be grateful for them. This has allowed me to be less judgmental and to be able to view people serving in the Church with a much more loving and understanding lens; which I feel I need very much.

  37. Michelle Glauser on November 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Oh my. The bishop called me to be that Relief Society “music time” lady, meaning I would also pick and lead the songs. I told him I don’t lead and I don’t believe in leading. He made up a deal where I could just announce the song and then sit down and sing with the others, because I convinced him that leading isn’t necessary anyway, though I warned him that our RS is pretty conservative and might not like my way of fulfilling the calling. He also said I could switch off leading and playing the piano with the pianist. The first week was great. Just as I suspected, no one had any trouble being led by the piano. Then the pianist told me she never wanted to switch off and the Relief Society President said she really respected the pianist (making me feel like she was belittling me) and that the women really needed someone to lead. I picked songs for the next week, and they had one of the Relief Society Presidency members lead. I ended up just telling the bishop it would be a lot better if they found someone else. So I was released two weeks after I was put in. When I talked to him, he wanted to make sure I wasn’t offended and he apologized for not realizing that the “Relief Society women” would want things a certain way. Not a surprise to me . . .

  38. document on November 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I’ve only asked to be released once. I was the ward organist for quite a while, with two perfectly adequate organists in the ward. I have four small children under the age of 5. My oldest is on the autism spectrum, creating issues in the pew every week. My mother was in the ward and would sit with my wife during Prelude, postlude, etc. When my wife became pregnant with our fourth child, morning sickness came. At the same time, my mother moved out of the ward, leaving my wife with a 4, 2, and 1 year old in the pew. I asked to be released. The promptly did and called another organist.

    My in-laws found it to be the scandal of the century. I found it a relief. I was immediately called to be a music teacher in the stake. I now go from ward to ward and teach pianists who are called as organists organ lessons.

  39. Carol on November 22, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    To anyone who has ever resigned or refused a calling for a good reason, please do NOT feel guilty. Even President Benson sheltered his wife from time-consuming callling when he was serving as a GA. Bishops and stake presidents are not mind readers. They try hard to follow the spirit, but even then may not know you special family/medical/psychological/spiritual needs. Sometimes it is helpful to let them know, and when you do, they should listen to you. My husband has served in many bishoprics and as bishop and he never once objected when someone was unable to accept a calling or needed an early release.

  40. Raymond Takashi Swenson on November 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    We know enpough about revelation to know that it often comes in response to a question we, or someone else, asks. If you have a problem with your calling, and you don’t go talk to your bishop or other leader about it, you are depriving him or her of an opportunity to get revelation about the issue. Besides, just because there was inspiration in your original call does not mean that you are supposed to be there permanently. Only certain callings, such as for full-time missionaries, are for set periods of time. People are released because they are needed for other duties, and we know that the most important duties we have are in our own families. Doing a “tag team” with a succession of shorter-term teachers for a difficult class isn’t any less honorable than rotating missionaries among different cities or neighborhoods to spread the burden of more challenging locations.

  41. J.A.T. on November 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I worked as the ward/stake organist for about 15 years. Musicians often get type cast into music callings for a very long time. This causes two problems. First, they never experience a teaching calling and never experience the growth that comes from trying new things and being called to new positions more frequently. Second, it never allows other musicians (even beginning-intermediate ones)from developing.

    So, now that I’ve moved and no one knows me (ha ha ha) I have opted to NOT tell people I play the piano and organ. I’ll sit on my hands and watch RS sing a capella before I rush to the bench. I think I’m helping the bishop make more inspired or creative choices rather than just plugging the holes. If I feel inspired, I’ll come out of the closet. If that day comes, I’ll have a chat with the bish and wheel a deal that I’ll play IF it is a side calling only.

  42. jimbob on November 23, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    “One week later, she was called to be the stake YM president, a much, much easier calling and one she was very well-suited for…”

    I’m assuming that the stake she was living in was really out of options if they made your mother the stake young men’s president.

  43. LWB on November 23, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Dane

    FWIW when I was asked to be the early morning seminary teacher I was told quite firmly that seminary was NOT a calling and I should feel free to say no if I wanted. (I was classified as an ‘unpaid employee of the CES’)

    Just saying…

  44. Hans in California on November 23, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I have requested to be released twice. The first time I asked to be released as Ward Choir Director after serving 35 years in that calling (several different wards at different times with no breaks). Since I also taught choir in two high school districts, I felt pretty burnt out.

    The second time was as Ward Organist after serving 42 years. But this was because I had a stroke that took out my left side, especially my left hand and fingers.

  45. Jim Donaldson on November 24, 2010 at 12:22 am

    “FWIW when I was asked to be the early morning seminary teacher I was told quite firmly that seminary was NOT a calling and I should feel free to say no if I wanted. (I was classified as an ‘unpaid employee of the CES’)”

    Not that it matters that much, but this is no longer true, starting with last year, I think. Seminary Teacher is now a stake calling, called by a member of the stake presidency or high council, and set apart (at least I was) by my bishop. I was never sustained that I know of. You still sign one year contracts, though.

    It was part of the CES –> Seminaries and Institutes reorganization.

  46. Dane Laverty on November 24, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Jim, that sounds like what I understand, except I didn’t sign any contract.

  47. John Hamilton on November 24, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    My sister got around the “never turn down a calling” teaching by explaining her typical busy weekly schedule and then asking the bishop where he thought she could fit her calling in. He said, “Oh, my! We weren’t aware. We’ll find somebody else. Thanks for letting me know.” She didn’t actually turn it down—just provided more data input for the decision makers. She told her bishop she would do it if he really thought she should. Just couldn’t guarantee how good a job at it she would be able to do.

  48. Rob on November 24, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    When I was called as a seminary teacher, a Stake Presidency member issued the call after a high councilor made sure I thought I could do it. That high councilor set me apart, after I was sustained in ward meetings. That’s a calling, no matter what anyone else says.

    There’s no contract any more. In my case, as well, the workload to file for milage and materials reimbursements was so high, and the reimbursement ceiling so low, that when piled on top of lesson prep work, I just didn’t file.

    What happened during my year is that CES supplied a lot of teaching material in the form of PDF files and PowerPoint slides, but the classrooms were not equipped to display them. The monthly training was very good, but it was led by people who already had the equipment, years of teaching experience, professional training in teaching, and the preparation time to make every lesson excellent. But almost nothing about classroom management. For me, that was the issue that loomed largest.

  49. Chadwick on November 25, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    My first response to this was that I have never turned down a calling. Then I remembered I kind of did. When I lived in Costa Mesa, CA my wife and I had our first kid and had no family there at all. My wife and I alternated playing the organ in sacrament meeting. I should caveat that neither of us plays the organ, but we both play the piano, so we both just ignored the foot pedals and tried to sustain the notes with our fingers. We took turns while the other one watched our daughter. Then we taught ten six year-olds in Primary, one with Down’s Syndrome, with our daughter in tow. Then I accompanied the ward choir.

    I finally went to a counsellor in the Bishopric and told him I needed help, but left the solution up to him. I also told him this was not a plea out of Primary; on the contrary, though it was difficult having 10 kids and a baby, we really enjoyed teaching. I secretly hoped he would just let me out of ward choir, which is exactly what he did. Our newborn babe could hardly handle a 4-hour block to accommodate ward choir and it was a blessing in disguise.

    A few years later I was tempted to ask to be released as EQ President. But I felt some need to be patient and sure enough, I was released about six weeks later.

    I also remember as a missionary asking to have my final zone be a specific one, and it was granted. Sometimes you have to let Leadership know the circumstances you have; doesn’t mean they accommodate, but it has made a lot of difference to me overall.

  50. bryanp on November 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

    In our ward there is the tendency to have a person with 3 callings. Even though I’ve found now that people are not allowing that to happen to them anymore. My wife and I served very actively as the food storage specialist. I was also a assistant to the High Priest Group Leader and was also the ward employment specialist. The latter calling involved a lot to where it was a lot of time, mileage and meetings. I guess because I knew I couldn’t give my all, realizing the true importance of that position I asked to be released. I was not doing the calling justice. I’d rather be asked to be released when I know I can’t give my all. I guess some would say that I’m not trying hard enough, but then we can’t judge others situations.

  51. bryanp on November 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

    John Hamilton #47
    John, I’m sure the Bishop was very grateful for your sisters way of approaching it. I’ve learned to be more upfront and honest because Bishops may be inspired, but they don’t have a crystal ball. They need information and appreciate it.

  52. John Hamilton on November 27, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Thanks bryanp. I don’t know if every calling is necessarily given as a full-fledged direct revelation to the bishop. Sometimes there are just positions that need to be filled and such. So, giving your leaders more information is helpful, as long as its done with the right spirit—always at least willing to serve. I like how some have let leaders know of their talents or interests and then “miraculously” got the calling they wanted. It doesn’t hurt, and like you say, I’m sure bishops and others appreciate the feedback.

  53. grego on November 28, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I agree with most of what has been written here.

    I’ve learned that “callings” and the interviews are not just for extending callings.

    I’ve turned down two callings that I can remember (not including eternal ones, even “inspired” ones…!).

    The first was for SS class president. I was assigned to the wrong SS class at the new year, and I kept telling the bishopric counselor and the adults, but no one would listen. So when I was called as class president the next week, I said ok, but…I’m in the wrong class. I had their ear then, so I explained, they took a look and verified it, and I got sent to the right class; seems like it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t have gotten the calling interview. Inspired? I have no idea. An answer to a plea in prayer? Beneficial? Yes!

    The second was for a ward missionary (because I taught with the missionaries once–I guess no one else would!). During the interview, I had this growing feeling that I was in the wrong place, and knew for sure by the time of the asking. I declined the calling, but thanked the bishopric counselor for the interview. Inspired? I have no idea. The answer to my prayers? Beneficial? Absolutely!

    I have an idea that when leaders serve, even if they are not always feeling or doing things by “inspiration”, the Lord takes care of even that for his sheep, in inspiring ways.
    I’ve had a bishop keep his forgotten appointment for a needed and inspired blessing when he came to my apartment looking for my roommate who wasn’t at home.
    I’ve had an angel show up at my house in answer to dire prayer because he “was hungry” and wanted something to eat.
    (I’ve even seen and heard of this type of situation in cases where bishops were “excommunicable”, but it hadn’t come out or around yet).

  54. Tim on November 28, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    In one of my BYU singles wards the second councilor in the Bishopric called me as the “ward date box coordinator.” (Don’t ask–BYU wards can be quirky.) I accepted despite the fact that I was pretty sure I wasn’t the right person for the calling.

    I returned home and five minutes later got a phone call. “Uhh…we extended the wrong calling to you…” I think the second councilor heard my loud sigh of relief.

    The job went instead to my very social roommate.

  55. Cheryl on November 29, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    @Jim Yes the Seminary teacher is a Stake Calling. No, we do not currently sign a contract. That ended 2 years ago. Yes we are sustained and when released that is releasing is announced as other callings are handled from the podium. We are also set apart currently as well. Being a seminary teacher is a tough calling. It takes a commitment whether it is a calling or was an assignment, just as many other callings.

  56. Jim Donaldson on November 29, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    We are still signing contracts, though it is called “Qualifications and Duties of Those Called as Stake Seminary Teachers, Supervisors, and Institute Teachers.” It has the Seminary and Institutes Logo and the church’s print date for the form was 5/2010. My stake coordinator wanted me sign it and return it. I did, as I have for the previous three years.The local folks at least treat it like a contract. Maybe it is just an extra commitment ritual here.

    No seminary teacher in our stake (there are 8 of us) that I am aware of was sustained by anyone. It was also a little weird that my bishop (last year) would set me apart for a stake calling. But I just did what I was told. And I agree that it is far too much work to get reimbursement for the nominal amount of gasoline and expenses.

    Just goes to show how the church is the same everywhere (wink).

  57. Cheryl on November 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Ha, Ha Jim! Love the (wink)!. I do think that the inservice training from CES could certainly focus more on classroom management than the overabundance of “inspriation”. Maybe then they wouldn’t lose so many teachers.

  58. Jim Donaldson on November 30, 2010 at 12:25 am

    ‘I do think that the inservice training from CES could certainly focus more on classroom management than the overabundance of “inspriation”.’

    Oh so true. In fact, I call them ‘pep rallies.’ After three years, if I have a commitment problem, they should just release me.

  59. Bill Rieske on December 4, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    I have been lurking here for some time enjoyingthe posts, but I have to speak out on this one.

    In February 1989 we purchased our first PC with a 32 megabite hard drive which at that time was a $500 extra. The following Sunday I was called as the ward membership clerk. After the meeting block the Bishop came over to the house and installed a membership tracking program which required a hard drive on our computer.

    For the next two years I served as membership clerk until the week a new computer with a hard drive was installed in the ward clerk’s office. The following Sunday I was released and replaced with someone “more suitable for the calling”

    How do I feel about church callings; To paraphrase an old saying “callings are 90% desparation, 10% inspiration”