Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Campaigning for a Calling

"In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how." (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., CR, April 1951, 154)

"Sometimes men and women in the Church aspire for office. This is unfortunate. It becomes the very reason why they should not be granted such office." (Gordon B. Hinckley, Keep the Chain Unbroken, Talk given at BYU, 30 Nov. 1999)

"And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers... I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed." (Abraham 1:2,4)

I might use this collection of quotes to begin a post on women and the priesthood, but I will save that for another day. Today I'd like to talk about callings in the Church. Quite naturally, there are some positions in the Ward and Stake that will appeal to us more than others. Since we are both human and diverse, there are different reasons why this might be so. Perhaps our talents align closely to a particular talent, such as ward organist. Perhaps we enjoy working with one age group more than another. Maybe we yearn for a calling that will be challenging, such as Gospel Doctrine Teacher. Or conversely, we might desire something that takes little to no work (Sunday School President :) ) Some members enjoy power, high visibility, and leadership, while others prefer to build the Church behind the scenes.

As an LDS member, I enjoy teaching, public speaking, and scripture study and interpretation. My favorite age group is youth, and I enjoy being in the limelight. Therefore the callings I most earnestly desire are: Youth SS Teacher, Seminary Teacher, YW Advisor (teaching the Sunday lessons), and yes, I love the calling of Gospel Doctrine teacher also.

According to Gordon B. Hinckley, above and in other places, members should not aspire to callings. But the quote from Abraham can be read as a righteous aspiration for a priesthood office. Look at the things that Abraham desired as he sought for the High Priesthood:

1. the blessings of the fathers
2. ordination to administer blessings
3. great knowledge
4. to be a follower of righteousness
5. to be a father of nations
6. to be a prince of peace
7. to receive instructions
8. to keep the commandments of God

Some of these things sound very humble, and others sound, well, aspiring. Is it OK to seek a calling if one's motivations are as lofty as Abraham's? How should we seek for the appointment? Is it appropriate to pray for a calling? Shall we let the Bishop know what callings we most enjoy?

I'll be the first to admit that I have campaigned for callings. This has manifested itself in the following ways:

  • When moving into a ward and having my first interview with the Bishop I have mentioned the callings I have had in the past, telling him the ones I've enjoyed and conveniently neglecting to mention the ones I do not wish to repeat. (Except, sometimes I'll mention that I've been in the Nursery five times already.)
  • I've successfully been called to Gospel Doctrine teacher twice by letting the regular teacher know I am always available to substitute. I'll prepare the lesson each week and accept with alacrity even when asked 15 minutes before the Sunday meetings begin. I think this technique works for almost any calling. Just make the offer that you would be willing to "help out" any time you are needed. Then be sure you are Johnny-on-the-spot when someone else falls through.
  • Part of campaigning for a calling is not appearing too anxious to step into the calling. A deep show of humility and just a touch of hesitation is essential. Don't step on anyone's toes!
  • Several years ago, DH reached the age where he was uncomfortable remaining in the Elders' Quorum. He hesitated to aspire for the calling of High Priest, but I read him the above quote by Abraham, and encouraged him to fast and pray for it. Not long after, he was called to be the HP Group Leader.

Where do you stand on campaigning for callings?

--It is completely wrong to aspire to any calling. You should be totally open to the Lord's will in the matter, and accept the callings extended to you.

--It is acceptable to desire or seek for a calling, as long as you do it with humility and a desire to build the kingdom, learn, grow, and serve.

--Everyone has callings they are better suited for, and there is nothing wrong in making your desires known to the leadership and/or placing yourself in a position advantageous to be noticed for these callings.

What types of "campaigning" are kosher?








Dr. B said...

I responded to this post on my blog.

...Every leadership meeting Russell Ballard would tell us "if you keep your noses clean" you will all be bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, and a few of you even general authorities...

Read more here.

SilverRain said...

I think there is a difference - subtle, but distinctive - between aspiring and desiring. One seems to have a more acquisitional feel to it. The other seems to be accompanied by a desire to serve well.

Ann said...

I tried to do this earlier and it was broken.

When I was easing my way back in to engagement, I went to my bishop and asked him for something to do. I told him my constraints and why, and he asked what I'd like to do. "Do you need anybody on the activities committee?" Boom. I was the new activities committee chair. The kinds of callings I have volunteered for (activities committee, helping with cub scouts) are not things that could be considered "aspiring" to. My experience has been that bishops are thrilled when you tell them what you want to do.

Janell said...

After three years of having a different calling every three months - and all of them in the Relief Society - I, perhaps not thinking, said in a prayer, "After all this experience, you'd better make me the secretary." My next calling? RS secretary. Lol =)

Really? I'd much rather be a teacher (of just about anything) or a Sunday speaker. Despite telling various bishops, "I love to teach. I'd love to speak on Sunday," I have yet to ever actually teach or speak. =C

LaurieSue said...

I was YM Pres and someone "campaigned" to become the new YM Pres. He got it. The interesting thing is when I fist met this man (remember I was YM Pres) I knew that he was going to be in the YM program soon (I needed a new couns). A few weeks later I was released and he was in. I found out that he had "campaigned" to get the calling. He seemed happy at first and then not so happy.
I'm 42 and an Elder. I've been Ex Sec x 2, CTR x 3, YM Pres x 2, WML x 2 and EQ Pres. I've never "campaigned" for a calling. However, a few months ago I noticed that all the other men seemed to be getting callings and I was left alone in Primary (which I love!). I fasted and prayed and then had an interview with the Bishop. He assured me that I was not being passed over and the next week I was interviewed to be his Sec.
I think there is a subtle difference--like silverrain said--between aspire and desire. I do desire certain callings but would never campaign for them. I would fast and pray and then remember that the Lord loves me and that whatever calling I have I should be serve with zeal.
(I'm using my wife's account right now).

Horebite said...

About a year ago a member of the bishopric took my wife and I aside and asked us what kind of callings we would like. I find it hard to answer this question, mainly because I'm afraid if I say I want a particular calling and then end up getting it then I can't really say I was "called". It's also hard because I'm indecisive and don't really know if I want something hard but rewarding or something less demanding.

We did mention that my wife had never been in the primary. She was baptized as a teenager.

We were called as primary teachers.

Bored in Vernal said...

DH, loved your post.

SilverRain, I think you're right. Do you think if the feeling is "desire" to serve well, rather than "acquire," it is OK to let your desires be known?

Ann, Many bishops say it aids in inspiration when they have information such as what callings their ward members have previously served in, what they would like to do, what they have time for, etc.

Janell, Volunteering doesn't always work, sad to say. And volunteering to speak in Church works much, much better in small struggling wards and branches out in the "mission field." Aren't you in Utah County? lol.

Laurie's DH,
Interesting, in writing this post I didn't consider the feelings of the person who was already in the calling and would be displaced. In my own experience the calling was usually open or the person doing it had been in a long time and was tired. I wonder if I would be more cautious if I knew the person already in the calling loved it and wanted to stay there?

Do you think if you have let your desires be known regarding a calling, that the call is then somehow less inspired or less valid?

C. L. Hanson said...

I've contemplated Mormon ward structure at length, and this post kind of makes it clear how a Mormon ward can be officially authoritarian yet somewhat democratic in practice, and stronger for it.

Whether it's inspiration, observation, or campaigning, an effective bishop can find the right person for a job. Why not demonstrate you're capable of doing a given job? It's a strategy I learned by observation as a Mormon and have used elsewhere...

SilverRain said...

BiV - yes. I think there is no harm in righteously desiring a particular calling.

I was thinking about this more deeply, and realized that one big difference between aspire and desire is that if you aspire, you are looking at the object of your aspiration as something above or better. If you desire something, you are longing, hoping or wishing. It is a more lateral emotion. Since all callings are equal in the Lord's eyes, looking at any one calling as something better than or higher than another calling is intrinsically prideful, either from the bottom up or the top down. Pride is, beyond doubt, an evil characteristic. Therefore, whether you get the calling or not, whether you "campaign" for it or not, you are sinning when you view any calling as above or as of more worth than another.

Horebite said...

BiV, I don't feel that way, although my subconscience disagrees with me and causes me to be uncomfortable about the situation of being asked what callings I want. If I think about how revelation works, it's normally that we study something out in our mind and then ask for confirmation. Assuming the process of callings works the same way, then it makes sense that Bishop should consider factors such as employment and family demands, and also what kind of callings the person wants before making a decision and seeking confirmation.

Tanya Sue said...

Ann "My experience has been that bishops are thrilled when you tell them what you want to do"

Ahh, that only works until you have a bishop who is controlling, then he won't give it to you because you have expressed interest in doing anything but being a greeter after 3 years of handing out programs....then you get called to turn on the VCR in the nursery in Enrichment every not kidding.

I really think it depends on the bishop. Some welcome knowing that you are interested or your talens, etc. Some take even that expression as aspiring to a calling.

Eddie said...

Interesting topic. I have recently had feelings that a new calling is on the way for me. If it's the one that keeps coming to mind (a teaching position), I'm worried. It'll help me grow, but somehow I'd rather stay in my current leadership calling... it almost seems easier (which is probably why I'll get a new calling).

Téa said...

I'm struggling with this subject in my life right now. If I'm not supposed to seek/campaign for one, what do I do with the heartache from not having a calling? What's the take-away from being worthy to serve but not called to do so?

(I started a long response detailing my situation and grief but thought I'd better use my own space for all that emotional vomit)

Ann said...

Tanya Sue, 20+ years in the church and I have never had a bum bishop. Maybe that's the norm; maybe I'm lucky. I like to think the control freaks are anomalies.

Téa said...

I finally finished writing up my recent experiences with this topic--Coveting Calling Parts I and II .

I've never felt so whiny...

Téa said...

D'Oh! bad links! Second try is the charm?

Part I and Part II

Stephen said...

Biv, I decided to look through your blog. Very interesting!

I think it's wrong to covet or "campaign for" any calling. Howver, I think it's perfectly right -- in fact, I think it's good -- to let your bishop know of your strengths and your desires. Nothing wrong with telling him how much you enjoy teaching Gospel Doctrine. You aren't forcing his hand or trying to manipulate him behind the scenes, after all.

As for the Abraham quote, there is a vast difference between aspiring to a calling and desiring the blessings of the Priesthood. Abraham did the latter, which is righteous. Any man can and ought to desire to hold the Priesthood of God so he can bless his loved ones. Not the same at all as aspiring to a Church calling. Like desiring to be a spouse or parent, to desire the Priesthood is to desire an eternal station of service. No Church calling, be it SS President or Church President, is eternal in nature. Aspiring for such things is simply an exercise in vanity, which is shameful indeed.