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What Happens When We Don’t Do Our Calling

Rusty - April 10, 2007

Either 1) the burden is transferred to someone with more responsibilities than us (if it must be dealt with now) or 2) nothing (if it can be dealt with later). What DOESN’T happen is that the burden disappears.


  1. But usually that “nothing” translates into opportunities being missed (i.e. service on an emotional level, strengthening somebody’s testimony, being an influence in a child’s life that desperately needs a positive influence, making that one phone call that could change a person’s decision to be baptized, etc. etc. and the list goes on forever) that sometimes is not recognized until further in time, and usually, by then, it’s too late.

    Comment by Cheryl — April 10, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

  2. Counter Examples:

    Fast Offering collection is a false burden here in SLC wards. Out in the “mission field” Deacons did NOT go door-to-door asking for F.O., but here in SLC it is part of the considered (by the S.P.) as part of their calling.

    Priesthood Pianist. The one’s with more responsibilities can’t play so 1) is out. It won’t be dealt with later (2) because it is time bound – the week the pianist is gone they sing without the piano.

    Ward Greeter is also a time-bound ‘burden’ that can’t be dealt with later.

    The teacher’s responsibility to close the chapel doors during the sacrament is also time-bound.

    SOMETIMES someone with fewer responsibilities will step up and perform the ‘burden’ (see above).

    Comment by ed42 — April 10, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

  3. Cheryl,
    That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but you’re right.

    True, you got me. I guess the level of burden depends on the nature of the calling, some of which a member with fewer responsibilities can take over. But in my experience it’s usually those with more responsibilities that perform the ‘burden’ rather than those with less. And in things like closing the doors and greeting aren’t quite as heavy burdens as other tasks.

    Comment by Rusty — April 11, 2007 @ 5:29 am

  4. Being in the EQ Presidency is like this. At least a couple times every month you end up filling in for someone who either can’t or won’t do what they were supposed to.

    Oftentimes it’s not really their fault and a certain amount of it can’t be helped, but it really does wear on you just the same.

    Comment by Seth R. — April 11, 2007 @ 6:45 am

  5. Sometimes when you don’t do your calling, you provide the necessary negative feedback needed to initiate a long overdue change.

    Comment by JM — April 11, 2007 @ 9:27 am

  6. That’s also true.

    Comment by Seth R. — April 11, 2007 @ 10:25 am

  7. ed42-
    Yes, but the burden is still there. Just because it passes doesn’t mean it isn’t needed again. And again. And again. A time-restrictive calling is still needed week after week, and if the one called consistently doesn’t “do” their calling, then the burden remains. True, it can’t be dealt with after the meeting is over, but still something is/was/continues to be missing.

    That’s what annoys me (along with my first comments) about those unwilling to do their callings. It’s not just the things they themselves miss out on, but it affects a heck of a lot more people than they realize.

    So are you saying that if we feel there’s a need for a change, we just stop doing our callings…? :)

    Comment by Cheryl — April 11, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  8. No, I think what you are implying is too vague.

    There are times when local church affairs are grossly mis-managed. Sometimes for years and years. Often in these situations, picking up ‘calling slack’ just masks the real issues and lets bad leadership continue along a wrong path.

    Sometimes, in these situations, the only way to initiate change it to stop supporting the faulty infrastructure.

    I’m positive that if more of us excercised our right to ‘oppose’ rather than blindly sustain and hope for the best, we would have less headaches at the local level.

    Comment by JM — April 11, 2007 @ 11:35 am

  9. I mostly said that as tongue-in-cheek, because I doubt people readily stop “doing” their callings just for the sake of spite.

    In the issue of those people having to pick up the slack, however, perhaps more change would readily occur if the issue was brought to the attention of leaders through conversation, rather than a blatent refusal to help when others fail to do their callings.

    I’m positive that if more of us excercised our right to ‘oppose’ rather than blindly sustain and hope for the best, we would have less headaches at the local level.

    I vote for neither.

    Comment by Cheryl — April 11, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  10. Yeah, I’m with Cheryl on this one. As someone who is in the position of extending callings and releasings regularly I can attest to the fact that we often have no idea when are where there are problems. Communication is good. ‘Opposing’ in order to teach us a lesson or get things done the way you prefer them is, well, not quite as good as talking to us about it.

    Comment by Rusty — April 11, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  11. Rusty,

    That assumes that we are reasonable people.

    Comment by Seth R. — April 11, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  12. For the last time, I AM SORRY for not showing you how to set up the projector! How many months has it been and you’re still holding on to this grudge! Sheeeesh! I just forgot ok? I’ve finally forgiven myself, why can’t you?! Why must you torture me?

    Comment by cj douglass — April 11, 2007 @ 6:06 pm

  13. I think there is a prevailing misconception that our local church leaders operate in a vacuum of infallibility.

    Although leaders have the right to receive inspiration for callings, this doesn’t guarantee that they actually do.

    I remember Pres. Monson once saying “Information precedes inspiration.” It has been my experience that many times, callings are extended with little or no information made available before hand. By Monson’s definition, these cannot be inspired callings. In my opinion, it would be foolish to sustain such a call.

    I agree with Rusty that communication is good. Often, this is my first course of action. However, when such communication falls on deaf ears, there needs to be other courses of action.

    In Rusty’s own words, he is at times unaware of problems that would affect his decisions about extending callings and releases. I can only assume that any callings and releases he offers under those circumstances are uninspired. That being the case, would it not be his duty to have all the facts before acting?

    It is lazy leadership like this that can at times require a little well placed negative feedback in order to set things straight. By no means should such an approach to problem callings be the norm, but clearly there are times when drastic measures may need to be taken.

    Comment by JM — April 12, 2007 @ 10:20 am

  14. But how does that take into account inspiration overriding information?

    I want an example, JM, of what you would think drastic measures would be –I’m not saying you are wrong; I understand your point, I really do, because I’ve been in a place where calling a pregnant sister with 3 little children to the nursery is just cruel. But I would still like to see some examples instead of the rhetoric.

    Comment by Cheryl — April 12, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  15. I think a drastic measure would be to raise your hand in opposition, in a meeting like a sacrament meeting, to someone being called to a calling.

    I think another drastic measure would be to decline a calling being offered to you.

    Other drastic measures that I have seen would be to move out of a ward / stake to avoid a calling / responsibility, or because one didn’t agree with a certain leader.

    Comment by JM — April 12, 2007 @ 10:25 pm

  16. Sorry, I missed your first question.

    Honestly, I don’t understand it. When does inspiration ever override information?

    Comment by JM — April 12, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  17. JM,

    Ofcourse you’ve heard of/experienced situations where God will lead you in a direction that makes no sense at the time right? In fact I can’t even count the number of times in which the guidance of the Spirit has trumped my own common sense. Surely this applies to callings.

    Comment by cj douglass — April 13, 2007 @ 12:01 am

  18. CJ,

    Your point?

    Comment by JM — April 13, 2007 @ 4:11 am

  19. CJ,

    Your point?

    Inspiration overrides information when information is not available or is not understood correctly. I don’t see this idea as much of a stretch. Isn’t it pretty fundamental to our earthly experience?

    Comment by cj douglass — April 13, 2007 @ 5:17 am

  20. Inspiration overrides information when information is not available or is not understood correctly.

    I think what CJ said is exactly right. I agree with your Monson quote but I don’t think Monson is saying that that’s the case in EVERY case, I think he’s saying that that’s ideal. But Monson more than anyone would likely admit that inspiration can often come without any information. Half his stories would suggest this.

    But what is interesting to me is that you seem to have some way of knowing when your leader isn’t inspired and when he is. Where do you get this power? Is the Spirit telling you this? What about the times that the Spirit doesn’t tell you that someone else doesn’t have the Spirit, how are you supposed to know then?

    Comment by Rusty — April 13, 2007 @ 6:56 am

  21. Honestly, I don’t understand it. When does inspiration ever override information?

    Nephi was commanded to kill someone. Very extreme example, but inspiration definitely took over information in that case.

    Here are others that affected me personally:

    A brother, with absolutely no background in music, is called to be the choir director, even though other musicians (yours truly) abound. Unity and miracles ensue.

    Two sisters (one being me) are called to be in a Presidency together even though there is terrible feelings and a bad background. Forgiveness and friendship ensue.

    Two sisters are called to work together. One does not do anything (we all figured she wouldn’t in the beginning, but she was called anyway) and the other has to pick up the work/slack. After months of this, the “other” finally vocally assaults the “one” and lectures her on responsibility. Bishopric and I watch, with trepidation, to see what happens: The slacker starts to do her calling.

    In all reality, it bothers me when members –even with great intentions –feel the need to ignore faith and trust for more tangible and/or obvious solutions. Moving, protesting, etc. can be effective, but where is the room for Faith?

    The one thing I’ve learned (ironically through blogging) is to never assume one knows what is going on behind closed doors, what is going on inside a heart, and what is going on inside a prayer. We may think the person is unqualified, the information has been ignored, etc. but seriously, do we really know?

    P.S. JM –if one knows of a person who is unworthy, then it should be communicated to the leaders of the ward or stake. Moving seems to be cowardly to me. But then, I’ve never had to do it yet, so…

    Comment by Cheryl — April 13, 2007 @ 9:52 am

  22. “Where do you get this power?”

    I never claimed to have any such power, nor do I now.

    Nor does it involve having the spirit point anything out.

    A simple illustration may help explain.

    A priesthood leader chooses to administer a certain portion of his calling using method ‘X’. The Church Handbook of Instructions specifically points out that method ‘A’ should be used. For the case of this illustration, we will assume that the handbook is very specific and leaves no wiggle-room for interpretation or variation.

    JM, knowing the handbook for this situation has a problem with the way the priesthood leader is administering this portion of the calling, specifically because it impacts JM’s calling. Being concerned, JM decides to have a PPI with the priesthood leader to go over his concerns.

    In the PPI, JM points to the necessary portions of the handbook that outline the priesthood leader’s error. The priesthood leader agrees that the handbook dictates method ‘A’, but the priesthood leader’s leader (let’s say the stake president) has asked him to deviate from the handbook and do method ‘X’.

    JM approaches the stake president about his concerns. JM is told that the stake president only considers the handbook a suggestion and decided to try something else. JM points out that the handbook leaves no room for interpretation. This falls on deaf ears. JM feels uncomfortable going agains the handbook and method ‘A’ which is the approved method by the bretheren. JM wonders why is it acceptable for the stake president to ignore direction from his priesthood leaders when he (JM) is expected to follow his without question.

    JM declares to his priesthood leader and the SP that if they continue with method ‘X’, he will refuse to do his calling, seeing as how he would be going against the direction of the bretheren by not following method ‘A’.

    Personally, I don’t feel I should ever be forced to choose between the bretheren and a local priesthood leader. Following one should mean following the other.

    In an extreme case like this, it may be necessary to provide a measure of negative feedback by way of not doing a calling, not sustaining a leader, etc. to initiate change.

    However, you may have a better suggestion for handling such situations. I would be interested in hearing any.

    Comment by JM — April 13, 2007 @ 9:53 am

  23. Cheryl,

    Although those are unfortuinate circumstances you had found yourself in, I wouldn’t consider any of those to be serious enough to warrant not doing a calling. Nor was I implying in post #5 that not doing a calling should be the only, or default course of action when one is frustrated with their current calling situation.

    I think your scriptural examples are perfect for many such situations. However, there are times when that approach doesn’t fit. For an example, see my illustration in #22.

    Comment by JM — April 13, 2007 @ 9:58 am

  24. Awesome. Okay, that makes more sense. I’m glad I asked for the example, because I don’t know who you are and I didn’t want to write you off as one of those “Oh, that guy is now the Bishop? Forget it! We’re moving!” type of people.

    I wish I had some suggestions for how to better handle your situation, but I don’t.

    BTW-What happened when you stopped doing your calling to oppose method “x”? I’m morbidly curious…

    Comment by Cheryl — April 13, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  25. To be determined… It’s too soon to tell.

    Comment by JM — April 13, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  26. I just wish people who have no intentions of fulfilling a calling/assignment (teacher, home teacher, building cleaning assignment, cannery, etc.) would just tell me upfront. That would make life so much easier for me and others.

    Comment by Eddie — April 13, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

  27. JM-
    When it does play out, I would be very interested in hearing what happens…

    No kidding! That’s why my former RS presidency would ask each sister if they wanted –honestly –to be a VT before assigning her sisters to visit. And many women were very honest about not wanting to do it. Of course, that gave the rest of the RS several women to visit, but at least it got done.

    Comment by Cheryl — April 13, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

  28. I wish they’d do that more often Cheryl. Both ask if someone wants to visit, and if someone wants to be visited. If people had the guts to say up front that they don’t plan on fulfilling their calling would we even be having this conversation?

    I actually did this once. I was called to be assistant scoutmaster. I told them I’d do what I could, but I had certain hours I had to work and sometimes had to work weekends. The Scoutmaster insisted on holding scouts at 4:30 p.m., and there was no way I could get out of work and be to scouts on time. I talked with him about it some more, tried to find a compromise, and explained I couldn’t fulfill the calling at that time. He refused to budge and I went back to the bishop to tell him I was refusing the calling and he’d have to find someone else.

    Everyone in the situation was upset but me. I didn’t get it, would they actually have preferred I accept the calling and then never show up?

    Comment by jjohnsen — April 14, 2007 @ 9:15 am

  29. jjohnsen, possibly. my husband is a counselor in a presidency and works a random schedule. he hasn’t been to church in months and is unable to attend any activities or meetings (his free time is weekday mornings when everyone else is working). he made all of this unbelievably clear when he was asked to fill this role and everyone was fine with it. makes it easy to magnify your calling, i guess.

    Comment by makakona — April 15, 2007 @ 5:30 pm

  30. Follow up:

    I’ve been told I have a pride issue and my testimony is at stake…

    The plot thickens.

    Comment by JM — April 16, 2007 @ 5:55 am

  31. JM-
    I’m intrigued. What is your calling?

    Comment by Cheryl — April 16, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  32. Well, I have many. Not that it really matters since we are taught that no calling is more or less important than another.

    Comment by JM — April 16, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  33. Yes, but a calling of leadership, I would argue, holds more accountability (such as a Stake President or Bishop)since it involves, well, leadership.

    Comment by Cheryl — April 16, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

  34. I would agree with that. However, for the situation in my illustration, it doesn’t matter.

    Comment by JM — April 16, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

  35. JM,
    If we knew your situation, I think it would make for a great discussion. It sounds like your getting a raw deal but I would be really interested to know which of the instructions in the Handbook your Stake Pres thinks he can disregard. I also understand anonymity though as well.

    Comment by cj douglass — April 16, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

  36. The problem I have with sharing any specifics beyond the illustration I mentioned above, is that the issue then becomes about how “important” this part of the handbook is rather than just doing what the brethren and the scriptures dictate, no matter how big or small someone interprets the direction to be (which is the reason why I’m in this situation to begin with).

    What if it was something as simple as the stake presidency asking wards to clean the building on Monday nights? What if their direction was to have families come to the church and clean the building for their family home evening activity?

    What if there was high school basketball tournament game on a Saturday night, the same Saturday night of the general conference priesthood broadcast, and many of the young men in the stake were going to be involved. What if the direction over the pulpit was that the stake should support the young men and attend the tournament instead of the priesthood meeting?

    What about an elder’s quorum president who is trying to hold regular PPI’s. In his efforts, he is making appointments with members of the teachers, priests, and high priests quorums, and holding them accountable. He is doing this under the direction of the stake president.

    None of these is my current situation; however I have been involved in all of them.

    The metaphor of the ship being a fraction of a degree off course comes to mind. It’s not a matter of the ship being 0.000001 degree off course or 45 degrees off course. The fact is that it is off course and will not reach its destination.

    Continuing with the ship metaphor, if the poor ship hand who stokes the boiler refuses to do so until the ship is back on course, I can see one of two things happening. 1) The captain may re-evaluate the course and correct things 2) the sailor gets thrown overboard.

    So, I ask myself, are my loyalties to the captain or to the owner of the ship? The owner of the ship wants me to help get the ship to its destination. That should be the captain’s goal as well. But, if it isn’t, then I’m being asked to serve two masters.

    I agree that there is the issue of whether or not the ship hand has the authority to question the captain’s actions. But in a priesthood context, I believe that he does.

    Can someone throw me a life preserver?

    Comment by JM — April 17, 2007 @ 4:37 am

  37. I just want to know how this plays out! I’m so invested now…I can’t help it.

    I can understand what you are saying. But my biggest concern regards deatails: Sometimes, we are instructed to do things that go against our better judgement. And sometimes, our better judgement is in the wrong.

    For example: We moved to another state just recently, and because of my husband’s job and other circumstances, we arrived on a Monday night. We were concerned that because it was a Monday, nobody would be willing to help us move our stuff into our house and we’d have to do it ourselves. Considering that our youngest child (of our four) was only 3 weeks old at the time, it was a very large concern (how was my husband and non-lifting FIL supposed to do it alone?). But our Bishop and EQ Pres. assured us that we would have help. Eight men (about) left their families and came to help us. I have a feeling that the Lord was happier to see those men serve a family in an immediate need, rather than refuse in the name of FHE.

    There can be exceptions to rules. Not always, not often, but sometimes there are exceptions.

    And perhaps, by not doing your calling as asked, you are being the exception. A good one. But I’ll just have to take your word on that one, because, obviously, I don’t know the details. :)

    Good luck! And let us know what happens…

    Comment by Cheryl — April 17, 2007 @ 8:35 am

  38. “And sometimes, our better judgement is in the wrong.”

    I struggle with this daily.

    Perhaps you could give some advice that could help me out.

    When the scriptures, brethren, and church handbook of instructions say one thing, and a local priesthood leader asks you to do another, what should you do?

    Comment by JM — April 17, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  39. Ha! No advice from me. I apologize if I make it sound like I know what I’m talking about. :)

    When the scriptures, brethren, and church handbook of instructions say one thing, and a local priesthood leader asks you to do another, what should you do?

    Pray, listen, and then act. I’m assuming you did this –and then just keep repeating the pattern.

    That’s actually pretty good advice. I should follow it more often…~sigh~

    Comment by Cheryl — April 17, 2007 @ 11:58 am

  40. For a good example of how priesthood leaders start to ignore the brethren and do their own thing, see this thread.

    Comment by JM — April 20, 2007 @ 1:00 pm

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