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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Calling Disqualifiers (And No, It’s Not Because You’re Unworthy) » Calling Disqualifiers (And No, It’s Not Because You’re Unworthy)

Calling Disqualifiers (And No, It’s Not Because You’re Unworthy)

Rusty - March 4, 2009

“Are there experiences or qualities that tend to disqualify people for certain callings?”

This was asked on this BCC thread. A good question. As someone who participates in the discussions which lead to the extension of callings, I am in the awkward/uncomfortable position of making judgments on a member’s potential participation in a calling. (This shouldn’t be a newsflash to anyone, but determining who should be called to what is almost always much more perspiration than inspiration. I blogged about this in more detail here, but the short version is that I believe the Lord calls people because there are those who need to be served, not because you need a certain calling). I’m uncomfortable with this for many reasons, most of which revolve around the fact that I don’t like that my personal views and prejudices can potentially affect others, often to a great extent.

With that said, there are some things which, and I want to be perfectly clear, aren’t AUTOMATIC disqualifiers (which can be and have been discussed elsewhere), rather they put us in a difficult position for determining a prospect’s suitability for certain callings:

Never going to pre/post-3hr-block meetings: I’d like to believe that these people are doubling up their service in the calling rather than coming to the meetings but in my experience if you’re not coming to most of your meetings then your engagement in the calling itself is likely less than optimal.

Drama creators: There are people who can create drama out of little or nothing and seek to sustain it when it should have long since disappeared. The funny thing about this one is that nobody ever considers themselves a part of this category.

Happy face to the bishop, sad face to everyone else: These are those who won’t communicate their struggles/boundaries/needs to the bishop(ric), but complain to ward members that we overlooked such things.

Easily offended: When your default is set to “they did it on purpose” then little service can happen.

Abrasive/harsh/”I just say it like it is”/offensive: This can be a good quality in certain instances, but in a church setting those instances are far, far outnumbered by the cases in need of tact and holding one’s tongue. (Why do people brag about how they are the kind of people who just say it like it is? You mean your social skills haven’t developed beyond those of a 6 year old? Brilliant.)

Those with Pets: not animal pets, but pet issues they talk about in every testimony and in every lesson.

Just plain busy: what can I say about this one? People need to be served, even by those who are busy. This is a tough one.

Like I said, these are not automatic disqualifiers, they are just issues beyond worthiness that add to the complexity of extending callings. I’m sure there are many, many more I’m overlooking.

41 Comments »

  1. Rusty, this is very informative. What about lack of TR? My impression is that not holding a current TR disqulaifies you from many callings. True or False?

    Comment by MCQ — March 4, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

  2. True, but that falls into the category of automatic disqualifier which is a whole different discussion.

    Comment by Rusty — March 4, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  3. Ok, but most ward callings do not have that as an automatic disqualifier, right? The callings for which that IS an automatic disqualifier would be a faily short list. including:

    Bishopric
    HPGL
    RS Pres
    EQ Pres

    Are there others?

    Comment by MCQ — March 4, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

  4. I’m uncomfortable with this for many reasons, most of which revolve around the fact that I don’t like that my personal views and prejudices can potentially affect others, often to a great extent.

    Oh, it all comes out in the wash. Our ham-handed attempts at divining the Spirit (or hunches) should be taken seriously and reverently, but whomever is chosen will be of benefit to someone in the membership, and the callees will benefit as well. It’s not like deciding who gets to go on the lifeboat and who doesn’t.

    Comment by David T. — March 4, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  5. David, I agree that there’s probably far too much hand-wringing over who gets what calling, but I think it’s good to be worried about the problem Rusty articulates: i.e.: Are we listening to the Spirit or getting in its way? We need to make sure that, when we are involved in making these decisions, we keep our own views to a bare minimum and make sure we are open to God’s views.

    That said, I think God expects us to use all the information and reasoning ability we have to arrive at the best solution we can, then seek his input. No one ever said it would be easy: I’ve been involved in meetings on this topic that took forever, because we just couldn’t get that confirmation until we changed things around several times.

    Comment by MCQ — March 4, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

  6. I agree that it is a very fine line –where does logic and the Spirit meet? Sometimes logic is completely thrown out the window and miracles happen. And yet, at the same time, sometimes the Spirit doesn’t say much, but logic dictates the answer. I’ve seen it both ways many times, and sometimes I’ve had to re-think my “impressions” when the Bishopric would come back with repeated “Nope, pick someone else’s” over and over.
    Luckily, it never made me angry –although sometimes I would get frustrated.

    Once, I submitted a name wouldn’t get accepted, but logic dictated I submitted it (this was for my 2nd counselor). The Bishopric came back with the expected “No” and gave me some names to pray about. Of course, none of the names was the person I knew I should have submitted. I repented (embarrassingly) and submitted this off-the-wall-there’s-no-way-they’re-going-to-give-this-calling-to-this-widowed-now-newly-divorced-woman –but they came back immediately with “YES!!!”

    So, yeah. You never know.

    P.S. Biggest pet peeve: Ooh, we know nothing about this brand new newly-wed couple in the ward. Stick ‘em in the nursery! But then, on the flip side –what if they needed that calling for something we would never know about?

    Conundrum, indeed.

    P.P.S. Rusty, I totally like your list. It makes sense. And the more we know about an individual, the easier it may be to hear what the Spirit is telling us about them, eh?

    Comment by cheryl — March 4, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

  7. And the more we know about an individual, the easier it may be to hear what the Spirit is telling us about them, eh?

    Or just the opposite.

    Comment by MCQ — March 4, 2009 @ 7:23 pm

  8. MCQ-
    Good point.

    Comment by cheryl — March 4, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

  9. Thanks for this list (to help my avoid callings) 8-)

    Comment by ed42 — March 4, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  10. Appreciate the list I would add grows facial hair after they have been asked not to and I have never seen anyone that wears dark colored shirts on a regular basis get much of a calling.

    I would also disagree with your statement that
    “I believe the Lord calls people because there are those who need to be served, not because you need a certain calling”

    Most of the Bishops I have had were extremely unwilling to really try to connect or really serve when first called. This is something most grow into.

    Comment by Jerry — March 4, 2009 @ 10:16 pm

  11. Abrasive/harsh/”I just say it like it is”/offensive: This can be a good quality in certain instances, but in a church setting those instances are far, far outnumbered by the cases in need of tact and holding one’s tongue.

    This is why I would make a terrible Mormon.

    And it’s not that my social skills haven’t developed past those of a 6 year-old. They did, and I spent years being tactful and patient. Then I got bored and cynical and decided the 6 year-olds were onto something.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 4, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  12. Jack, I hate to break it to you, but you are actually very Mormon. Sorry.

    Comment by MCQ — March 5, 2009 @ 12:31 am

  13. MCQ… why would you say such terrible things? WHY???

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 5, 2009 @ 1:10 am

  14. Rusty – I think you have a good list of the issues that bishoprics have to consider when extending callings. The paradox is that every active member should be given a calling whenever it is possible to help their growth and progression in the church. Depending on the ward activity level, it is sometimes hard to find callings for everyone but, of course, the tytpical rotaion of callings should provide the opportunity for most or all members to have a calling at some time or other.

    As to the issue of dealing with those issues you have highlighted, I think the bishop and/or counselor who is extending the calling has the obligation to spend time with the person they are calling and explain what is expected of them. If there is a particulary “prickly” person, the bishop should probably take the opportunity to counsel with that person and discuss some of the behavior you describe. No, it isn’t an easy thing to do, but it will probably go a long way to improve a situation – but it isn’t a guarenteed.

    “I’m uncomfortable with this for many reasons, most of which revolve around the fact that I don’t like that my personal views and prejudices can potentially affect others, often to a great extent.”

    My experience is that the Lord really helps out with this circumstance. Looking back, I can honestly say that when I served as bishop I was way more tolerant, sympathetic and thoughtful than I was prior to that call. As proof that this came about because of the Lord’s blessing and the prayers of the ward members, I can honestly say that now 8 years after my release I am comfortably back in curmudgeon mode – too easily offended, too intolerant of others views, too set in my ways. I guess now I’m the bishop’s problem rather than it being the other way around.

    Comment by lamonte — March 5, 2009 @ 6:39 am

  15. lamonte,
    I fully agree with your first paragraph. But before my list I suggest that these are issues a bishopric must consider for certain callings, not all. And I’d also add that some of these issues are non-issues for some callings. I created this list to suggest that there are more subtle issues we have to keep in mind than just, “he doesn’t pay his tithing.” or “she drinks martinis, so she’s out.” Those are easy line-in-the-sand issues that anyone can determine whether or not they are doing. It’s a little more difficult to self-reflect and wonder whether or not you are a drama creator.

    Your idea in the second paragraph (bishop approaching the person) is one of the biggest reasons I hope to never even be considered for that calling.

    And I agree that the Lord helps us with this. I guess I just take that as a given, or default and then discuss from there.

    Comment by Rusty — March 5, 2009 @ 7:47 am

  16. Jerry,
    Facial hair and colored shirts isn’t even on our radar. Perhaps on the Wasatch Front, but not in Brooklyn.

    Comment by Rusty — March 5, 2009 @ 7:48 am

  17. The facial thing doesn’t work, take my word for it. It didn’t stop me from getting a veil worker’s recommend, being called as a HPG 1st Asst., HPGL, or most recently, a ward exec. secretary.

    I might add, though, that another effective way to NOT get a calling– but it’s as tricky as nitro; you have to play it just right– is obnoxiously auditioning for lofty positions. Bear long testimonies full of dramatic pauses, heavy sighs, put-on voice-cracking and lots of pontification. Go on demonstrative quests to seek out people with “problems” so you can conspicuously counsel them in the halls. Volunteer to go on splits with the elders and repeatedly interject your profound two cents on doctrinal points. Raise your hand a lot in classes and make long comments, insinutating detailed personal experiences. I know, this seems like an exhaustive battery of exercises, but if you want to avoid getting called for something lame, if you do it right, this is like garlic to a vampire.

    Comment by David T. — March 5, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  18. If the ward is small and the selection limited, not a single thing on that list would represent even a small speedbump in the way of the bishopric’s rush to extend callings of all kinds. Such considerations are luxuries in many parts of the world.

    Comment by Peter LLC — March 5, 2009 @ 8:51 am

  19. Other issues that have nothing to do with worthiness that I know affect callings.

    1. Same-sex attraction. I know a guy who is tr worthy that struggles with ssa and due to this, basicly he is off limits for most callings.
    2. Being single. Single men are just not considered for certain callings.

    Comment by matt w. — March 5, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  20. I don’t know about that Matt. Silus Grok on this very blog holds at least a couple callings. Sadly they are probably left out of being able to work with the youth or primary, but I think they can hold most other callings. Now, if you’re talking about many bishops’ prejudices then, well, you could be right.

    And I don’t think being single keeps you from much either. Aside from bishop (bishopric?), what else? Single men can’t work in primary but neither can married men without their spouses (so it’s a numbers issue, not a married status issue). I can’t think of anything else that we wouldn’t consider a single man for.

    Comment by Rusty — March 5, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  21. I’ve known a single guy who was called to the bishopric, so it does happen.

    Comment by MCQ — March 5, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  22. Re: Singleness as a disqualifier

    We just had a young(ish) single man called into our EQP. He’s new to the ward and I’m hopeful that he feels that he’s a part of this very married ward and that he has things to contribute.

    Then again, this guy is still in his 30s. I wonder if he would get the same calling if he were single but in his 40s . . . Didn’t good ol’ Brigham have something to say about the value of an man who remains unmarried into his 30s?

    Comment by Hunter — March 5, 2009 @ 10:28 am

  23. I think personal problems can be a disqualifier. Some might say – He/She can’t take care of themselves, let alone a calling.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — March 5, 2009 @ 10:28 am

  24. As a divorcee, I learned that I’d have to be married to my existing spouse 20 years before I’d be eligible to be called as a bishop. This November is my 20th anniversary. Light a candle for me.

    Comment by David T. — March 5, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  25. The phrase “Bishop Tedder” sends an ominous chill down my spine.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 5, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

  26. David, I have known other divorced bishops, so you could have been called earlier. You probably weren’t called for one of the reasons in Rusty’s post.

    Comment by MCQ — March 5, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

  27. So, based on the post, church callings are a lot like secular jobs. An individual can have a close relationship with Jesus and walk in his path and yet still not be able (physically, mentally or otherwise) to perform a specific calling. If you can’t do the job then it doesn’t really matter how righteous you are…

    Which leads us to the reality that leadership callings have much more to do with a persons ability/talent to lead than a gauge of their holiness. (Holiness is like a base requirement)

    Its no coincidence that both my mission presidents were millionaires and leaders of corporations – not because righteousness = money but because the had a talent for leadership.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — March 6, 2009 @ 8:07 am

  28. ”Which leads us to the reality that leadership callings have much more to do with a persons ability/talent to lead than a gauge of their holiness. (Holiness is like a base requirement)”

    CJ,
    Are you saying this is a bad thing? Or are you just stating an observation?

    ”So, based on the post…if you can’t do the job then it doesn’t really matter how righteous you are…”

    I actually never mentioned righteousness (or worthiness or holiness) on purpose, nor did I ever suggest that the above issues mean people can’t perform a specific calling. I raised those issues to merely point out the complexities of callings considerations beyond just worthiness.

    In my very limited experience in doing this I think the most important quality is actually not “leadership ability” or “managerial skills” (I don’t think those qualities ever even come up in conversation), but rather simple willingness (to do the calling, not just accept it) and it’s a huge bonus when that is coupled with enthusiasm. Those two things can overcome most other issues.

    Comment by Rusty — March 6, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  29. Rusty,

    I think I’m talking around your post here – thinking about the post you linked to (BCC) and trying to come to some conclusions (even if they don’t directly relate) about how we think about callings in the church.

    So…in a round about way, I read your post as re-enforcing the idea that an individual can be worthy to be called, but also possess one or more of the attributes that you listed – thus disqualifying them from certian callings…

    And no, I don’t think this is a bad thing at all – in fact I think it should help us all remember that callings are based on more practical issues and not necessarily a reflection of our standing in the eternities.

    I could also be making no sense…

    Comment by CJ Douglass — March 6, 2009 @ 10:49 am

  30. I don’t know –the more I think about this post the more I believe that most callings happen because of what it can do for the individual. I mean, haven’t we all heard the stories about accepting callings we thought were out of left field, only to be “so grateful” for having had the “experience”? Yeah, I’m betting a lot of it can come from logic (and even what CJ said about leadership abilities), but I think for the most part, inspiration is there for several reasons:
    1. Individual growth (as I said)
    2. Be able to serve in ways we never thought we could
    3. Being to someone else what they need at that moment in their lives

    However, I know I’ve made many decisions in my life without specifically praying for it –or the answers came but I didn’t recognize it as the Spirit. Who’s to say that clarity of mind or the logic part ISN’T the Holy Ghost telling us what to do?

    Maybe we don’t give Him enough credit in that regard. I don’t know…

    Comment by cheryl — March 6, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  31. I went a year (in a really really small ward) without any calling at all. The Bishop and I had a personality clash (close in age) which escalated into several non-church related disagreements. I was released from all responsibility and remained so until the Bishop moved away. Frustrated and angry at the time, but now I look back to those Sundays longingly.

    Comment by TStevens — March 6, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

  32. ”most callings happen because of what it can do for the individual. “

    Cheryl,
    I disagree. I think that’s an added benefit, but not the important part. It makes me uncomfortable to think that my service is about me. In fact, that’s what makes me so uncomfortable in these discussions about callings is that everyone talks so much about how callings are good for them or not right for them or whatever and rarely does anyone mention those who are being served. I don’t serve so that I can benefit, I serve so that whomever I serve can benefit. Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone spoke of their calling in terms of the recipient of the service rather than its effect on their own lives?

    ”callings are based on more practical issues and not necessarily a reflection of our standing in the eternities. “

    CJ,
    I completely agree with you if by “practical” you mean “the best way by which people can be served.” My feeling is that our eternal standing is a reflection of the kind of person we have become, not whether we’ve figured out how to manage the home teaching numbers effectively.

    Comment by Rusty — March 6, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

  33. Yes, but Rusty, serving others IS good for the individual. Always. And when I’ve been pushed into an arena I where I have no experience and am terrified (like having never held any kind of Primary calling and then being called to be the Primary President), I end up learning the most. I would never dream of accepting a calling for self-gratification, but I have never NOT benefited and grown from a calling. For sure we should be focused on the service invovled, but honestly? It’s usually the individual with the calling who grows and learns the most –which I think is part of the point. If we don’t learn and grow in our experiences and are given opportunities to do so, then where does that leave us? Service in the church teaches us how to love each other and serve –but we can’t help but be blessed in return.

    I’ve had several leaders and teachers that have helped me and inspired my life –but I’m betting they learned and grew from that experience 10 times more than I did.

    Comment by cheryl — March 6, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  34. Cheryl,I agree with that 100% but I think Rusty is talking about the things that are discussed by those who are trying to decide on who gets what calling. In that situation, I think Rusty is saying (and I agree) that it rarely is an issue whether the person who is called will benefit from the calling. We all hope and assume that will happen, but we call people mostly because we hope and believe that they have the skills and spirit that will actually benefit the people they will be serving.

    It’s easy to lose sight of that when we second guess callings. We forget that, first and foremost, stuff just needs to get done.

    Comment by MCQ — March 6, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  35. I have no argument that service is good for the individual. Totally agree. But why do we always insist on framing the discussion (of callings) in terms of how it affects us rather than the people we are called to serve? I think the result of that inward focus is all of these discussions (plenty in the bloggernacle, but also between members/friends/spouses/etc.) about whether or not a calling is “right” for them. Isn’t it “right” simply by virtue of the fact that you have been called to serve others?

    Comment by Rusty — March 6, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  36. MCQ,
    Exactly. Thank you.

    Comment by Rusty — March 6, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  37. MCQ and Rusty –
    Good points. I think I forgot there for a moment that I had to make those very decisions –on what was best for the Primary kids. Flip side PoV! Extending versus accepting.

    Isn’t it “right” simply by virtue of the fact that you have been called to serve others?

    Yes! And that’s why I can’t seem to wrap my head around discussions (like you mentioned that seem to be found everywhere) where people are constantly refusing to accept callings. I think it combines what I said about blessing our own lives, and with what you said, about blessing those we will serve. It’s a combo and –to me –a perfect package (and another reason a lay clergy totally rocks).

    Comment by cheryl — March 6, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  38. The only really good reason not to accept a calling is if you think you just can’t physically do it. Better to say no than to do a poor job because you just can’t be there when you need to be.

    I’ve never said no to a calling but there are probably a couple I should have. Looking back, I wasn’t able to do a very good job and if I had been honest with eveyone, maybe someone else would have been called that would have been better.

    Comment by MCQ — March 6, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

  39. So, based on the post, church callings are a lot like secular jobs.

    That is exactly what I was thinking when I first read this post. This is a good list, but I would say that it’s hardly Mormon-specific — all of these can be phrased to relate to an ordinary workplace.

    The one downside of the list is the one-sidedness. Yes, there are a lot of dysfunctional employee-types, but there are also a lot of dysfunctional boss-types. And the one-sidedness of the list makes it feel sexist in this context because (in Mormonism) the only people authorized to make these “bad-employee” judgments are male.

    Ultimately, in a secular job, if you have an irreconcilable problem with your boss, at least you can quit!! In a Mormon ward, well, I guess you just have to suck it up…

    Comment by C. L. Hanson — March 7, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

  40. And the one-sidedness of the list makes it feel sexist in this context because (in Mormonism) the only people authorized to make these “bad-employee” judgments are male.

    No. Callings may be extended by a bishop, but many calling decisions are made by women in the organizations they preside over: RS, Primary, YW.

    Comment by MCQ — March 7, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  41. #20 – Just FYI, but an un-married man CAN be called to Primary, as well as a married man. A married man doesn’t have to be called to Primary with his spouse either. Many wards do that as a convenience. You’re just not supposed to have an individual man in the classroom alone with the kids. So, 2 men could be called to be co-teachers, regardless of their marital status.

    Sorry, I realize this is way off the current topic, but I didn’t want it to slide by.

    Comment by JES — March 7, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

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