In Search of Vocation

Richelle Wilson is a PhD student in the Scandinavian Studies program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison with an emphasis in comparative literature. In addition to her abiding interest in contemporary novels, she has recently undertaken research and other projects focused on labor studies and public humanities. She is a Swedish instructor and a member of Dialogue’s editorial staff. Most revealingly, she loves moody jazz, watches a lot of films, and is intensely committed to the Oxford comma.

While Labor Day offers many of us a brief reprieve from our daily grind, it’s also an opportunity to consider the labor we and others perform. When you ask Americans about the work they do, you’ll almost always hear about what they are paid to do. But as I’ve researched labor studies over this past year, I’ve become increasingly interested in the work we do for free, or with minimal recognition: unwaged labor, be it emotional, intellectual, or manual.

In the Church, this uncompensated labor often takes the form of an ecclesiastical calling. And, it turns out, if you ask Mormons about their personal history with callings, they have a lot to say.

Let’s start with the Aspiring Mormon Women Discussion Forum on Facebook. It’s a space for Mormon women pursuing work and/or education to discuss their experiences, ask for professional advice, offer support, and generally celebrate the ambitions and achievements of women in the community. One conversation that has surfaced several times over the course of the five months I’ve been a member of the forum goes something like this: In my professional life, I’m an accountant, but my ward never asks me to use these skills at church. I wish I could have a calling or assignment that draws from my expertise.

In comments like this, I see these women expressing at least two specific desires: 1) they want their professional experience to be recognized and taken into account by their Church leadership, as is often done for men and 2) they want to be able to do meaningful work in their callings, or have callings that reflect their unique talents and abilities. Unsurprisingly, it can be demoralizing for a woman who is highly respected in her workplace to be called as a nursery leader year after year, with no official outlet to use her specific professional skills in administrative, teaching, leadership, or decision-making callings.

This professional life vs. church calling conversation has another side, however. Consider the following example (fictitious, but representative of comments I’ve personally heard): I’m a professional musician. As much as I love helping with music at church, I am constantly asked to play instruments, direct choirs, and organize musical programs for my ward and stake, all for free. It’s time-consuming, and this is work I am typically paid to do. Is it wrong that I feel a bit exploited by my congregation?

Here we have the opposite problem at play. Some talented folks are given only one type of calling for their entire lives because they are highly talented and willing to help. This can be especially true in smaller wards or branches with low turnover. In the rural-area ward my family attended throughout my teenage years, there was only one adult who could really play the piano. She has had exclusively music-related callings for the entire fifteen years the ward has existed. I can only imagine there are moments she wishes she could teach, serve in a presidency, or work with the youth. Instead, a huge burden is placed upon her to single-handedly sustain the music in the ward, be it for weekly Sacrament meetings or holiday presentations. For someone in this position, I can imagine he or she might wonder at times: is this a calling from God? Or is it just a product of logistical needs in the ward?

Of course, God and logistics can and do exist in the same space. What I have found to be most problematic is the clash between the traditional narrative of callings as the exclusive purview of Church leaders who receive divine inspiration (“God has chosen you to do this”) and the truth anyone who has ever been a presidency knows: a lot of times, callings are issued because someone needs something to do, or she is the only one currently qualified, or we just need this role filled and Sister Wilson is new and as-of-yet unclaimed by any auxiliary. Most of us know this, but it hasn’t really made its way into the official discourse about church callings.

On the ground, it’s a whole different story. Take, for example, the finding from Jana Riess’s Next Mormons Survey that “Nearly ¾ of Millennials feel it’s OK sometimes to refuse a church calling.”[1] Lest anyone be tempted to cast aspersions upon my fellow Snowflakes™, I would add my view that the 75% represented here are not all refusing callings on account of being too lazy, too selfish, or due to poor time management. They also aren’t rebelling per se, even as they might be staging a quiet revolution. In the stories I have heard, those who say no to a particular calling are willing to serve in a different capacity, or they may even have a suggestion as to another calling more befitting of their circumstances.

In a Millennial utopia, the woman in the first example would say to her bishop, “Listen, I’m really good with numbers and it’s something I love. Is there any way I could help the ward in this capacity?” and the woman in the second, “I love music, but I also feel inspired to work with women. Are there any callings in the Relief Society that I could fulfill?” This is not power-seeking; it’s a meaningful negotiation with leadership to express your needs, desires, talents, and perhaps even personal revelation you’ve received about the work you are to do. Most of us have some sense of vocation that exists outside our official callings. What role might that play in reconceptualizing our church callings?

This is where my summer research at the Maxwell Institute comes in. My working paper and Maxwell presentation ended up being something of an advocacy project to rehabilitate the concept of vocation in Mormon discourse. In the early Church, ecclesiastical calling and personal sense of vocation were more or less collapsed. Many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants issue multifaceted, individualized callings directly from God (think: all the amazing things section 25 invites Emma to do) or offer a divine response to someone’s pet project (think: the Word of Wisdom revealed in response to Emma’s disgust with the sticky tobacco juice on the floor of the School of the Prophets). I’d go so far as to say that the Restoration couldn’t have happened without Joseph and many others acting on their sense of intuition as to their personal callings. They didn’t default to waiting on an authoritative call.

My intention here is not to glamorize the difficult, life-consuming work done by the early Saints. (Though, admittedly, I do love some of the Romantic, ragtag characteristics of the nineteenth-century Church, before it curried the favor of the American public and streamlined its institutional structure.[2]) The reason I appeal to this history as a way of thinking through present-day callings is because: 1) these early callings seemed to rely at least in part upon what members felt passionately about and 2) given the fledgling nature of the Church at the time, the callings were simply much more imaginative and urgent than the majority of what we find in the org chart now. (And yes, there’s an org chart.) In spite of the oft-cited Mormon aphorism “It’s not where you serve, but how,”[3] it’s completely unsurprising that translating the Book of Mormon, organizing the Relief Society, or building the temple sound like much more compelling and significant work than the duties of “East Chapel Bulletin Board Coordinator” or “Third Sunday Hymnal Put-Awayer.”

Jokes about the infamous “made-up callings” aside, examples abound of when a member’s professed sense of vocation has little or nothing to do with their official ecclesiastical calling. And in these cases, it’s often true that the personal vocation is more ambitious, fulfilling, or simply makes better use of one’s unique talents than the official calling. Remember our Aspiring Mormon Women. Here I’m also thinking of people like Armand Mauss, who wrote in Sunstone in 1980 that he felt called to be an “alternate voice” in the Church—to make use of his academic training to respectfully offer valuable perspectives on Mormon culture and theology. More recently, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, author of the newly-published Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother, confessed at the book launch that she felt called to write the poems, which beautifully imagine a divine feminine that doctrine has left only to the imagination. You might be wondering: if there is such a rich culture among members of pursuing their extra-ecclesiastical vocational work, why does it matter that those same people sometimes have uninspiring callings at church?

The short answer is that institutional recognition and approval does matter, especially as it relates to members’ sense of trust. If local leadership mediates our relationship with God vis-à-vis issuing callings, we can develop a sense that it really is God who keeps ignoring our desires to serve in particular ways that either reflect our talents or give us opportunities to develop new ones. The God I have come to know through Mormonism gives us a lot of leeway in personal decision-making steeped in righteous desires. Why wouldn’t this also be true of our official contributions of time and labor to the Church?

When it comes to callings, the field is ripe and ready to harvest. My research revealed that there is little to no existing Mormon studies scholarship that specifically takes on the changing nature of callings and their relationship to vocation. As an academic, this discovery made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning (Wow! A book topic! Thanks, Dad!). And on a personal level, I’m convinced that this is important work to do. Everyone I talked to for my early ethnographic research had memorable and even profound experiences with their service in the Church: moments of revelation, disappointment, creativity, and collaboration. At the intersection of work and worship is our sense of spiritual identity.

So let us labor together to “make flesh the world of [our] imagination.”[4] With attentiveness to vocation, to the ways in which Mormons are “anxiously engaged” in the good causes to which we feel called, we can breathe new life into ecclesiastical callings and make more space for the unique desires, talents, and contributions of our brothers and sisters in this great work.


Notes

[1] Infographic available at http://religionnews.com/2017/07/18/listen-millennials-mormonism-on-radio-west.

[2] To get a picture of how institutional Mormonism developed in the early twentieth century, I cannot endorse highly enough the works of Kathleen Flake (The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004]) and Thomas Alexander (Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints 1890–1930 [Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1986]).

[3] J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report, April 1951, 154.

[4] George Handley, Home Waters (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2010), 111.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this Richelle! I for one would love a world in which we had a bit more say in volunteering for and “magnifying” our callings based on what we genuinely felt called to do.

  2. There is in the Church a practice, an ethic, of everybody (who will) having a calling. You hear it most often in the negative–“I/he/she is _only_ a visiting teacher/home teacher” with a tone of worry that something’s wrong. A calling for everybody means lots of boxes. Lots of boxes means finding someone to fill ach box. To break the cycle we might have to think seriously about not having a calling at all, for some people some of the time. After all, it would strain credulity to find a one-to-one mapping of vocations to callings.

  3. Call it my own limited experience, but I’ve spent the last 10 years in clerk and exec secretary roles. For every member who wishes that they had a calling that drew on their expertise, there are 2 who DON’T. Example – school teachers, people who play the piano or organ, financial clerks, IT guys, people who like to camp. It’s hard to criticize bishoprics for trying to “find the best person at that time” who will actually accept a call. An exception is that people who have choir experience are the first to volunteer for that.

    Now, if you volunteer to serve as a Cub Den Leader or a nursery leader, every bishop I’ve ever known will accommodate that. But not everyone can be a Sunday School teacher, and sometimes people without the background need a chance to thrive.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ll either decline a calling or negotiate about it if I have to. The only calling I’ve actually declined (twice) has been seminary teacher. I understand why it was offered to me; on the surface it would seem I’d be a natural. But I (over)prepare my lessons, which is hard enough when teaching a weekly class; teaching daily would have eventually killed me.

    The bishop asked me about my tenure as GD teacher. I told him forthrightly that I thought a change would be wise. I wasn’t burned out, but i had been doing it for six years, and I’m sure I was starting to repeat myself. So he released me, and called an excellent teacher (a sister who had retired after a career of teaching high school) to take the role (and she has been doing a great job). For several months I didn’t have a calling (which was fine with me; I’d be happy to go the rest of my church life without a calling), and then he finally called me to be 1C in the SS presidency, which I thought was genuinely inspired. I had told him I didn’t want a part-time job. (I’m a lawyer with a legal practice and I’m also the managing partner of our office, which is the equivalent of a part-time job already; I don’t need another one at Church.) Besides, I’ve already had most of those callings before. I had been SS President before, so I liked being 1C to support someone who was new in the role. And sometimes I have to step in and teach a youth class with no preparation at all, which not many people are comfortable doing but which I can handle in a pinch. It was a win AFAIC.

    My wife teaches Primary, she enjoys doing that and is very good at it, and she has zero interest in RS or YW. I’ve warned the last two bishops not to take her out of Primary, and since it can be hard enough to staff Primary anyway they wisely have left her there.

  5. “it can be demoralizing for a woman who is highly respected in her workplace to be called as a nursery leader year after year”

    I’m not sure where to start. What is it about our society that makes it okay to sneer at those who care for young children? Few children will have any distinct memories of their nursery experience, but it is one of the first places where they will feel loved and included at church, assuming the nursery leaders are doing it right. Being able to attend to the needs of young children in an age-appropriate manner can be a talent or a learned skill, or both. I watched one time as a friend with an advanced degree in early childhood development sat on the floor with my youngest after she had been working and traveling most of the day, and she made him feel comfortable and engaged. Unfortunately our society does not always give enough credit or wages to those who dedicate their lives to the care and education of children, and it’s a shame, because the earliest years have life-long consequences.

    Nursery, when done right, can be a gift to the children, a gift to their parents, and a blessing to those who get to spend time with the little ones. Particularly in the Mormon tradition where we have a clear scriptural mandate about the care and teaching of our little ones, the responsibilities of staffing the nursery and Primary should be given high priority in a ward or branch.

  6. There are so many models for staffing a ward (or other unit): The bishop genuinely needs people to do tasks A, B, and C. The satisfaction a bishop seems to exude when he announces that everybody in the ward has a calling suggests either that bishops are “encouraged” by stake presidents to do that, or at least that the bishop understands everyone who wants to participate needs an opportunity. And then there’s the model queuno mentions, that “sometimes people without the background need the chance to thrive” — but if that’s so, when will it be my chance to thrive in the kind of work I’ve done in the workplace but have never been allowed to offer within the Church, when you have to wait to be invited? I’m almost 60 and have missed my best years to make a difference. You’d think there would be a place for someone who does Mormon history 18 hours a day to make a contribution to the institutional Church, but you’d be wrong, in my experience. Any contribution I make has to be my own creation, outside the walls of the Church, either professionally or in a ward setting. There’s something very wrong with that.

  7. “Any contribution I make has to be my own creation, outside the walls of the Church, either professionally or in a ward setting.”

    I very much relate to this, Ardis. At this point I shrug at the church and help where I am asked, but don’t let myself too emotionally caught up in these things. I like tithing (so to say) my skills though, and so I do that by volunteering to other organizations. I find a great deal of satisfaction in this, much more so than my church services.

    I suppose part of this is that as a non-profit, the church is fabulously wealthy both in terms of dollar signs and volunteers. It just doesn’t matter if I volunteer my skills for the church or not. Nobody cares and it makes no difference. But the other groups I work for are often hanging on by a shoe-string and thus in volunteering there I truly make a difference.

  8. Aussie Mormon says:

    As everything finance related at the ward level is designed so that you don’t need to be an accountant to do it, which ward calling would an accountant like that would make use of their skills?

  9. Aussie Mormon says:

    In regards to the above, it wasn’t meant to be an attack on the accountant.
    In our ward we have 85 people in callings which includes YM/YW class and quorum presidencies, callings that still exist but are no longer used), double-ups (bishop is the priests quorum president, but they are listed as two separate callings).
    None of these callings require any accounting, legal, IT, engineering, or history experience for example. Would it be useful? Sometimes, but generally not enough that an accountant needs to be called.

  10. Aussie Mormon says:

    Ignore the first ) in that post.

  11. The key to the survival of an organization is getting people into jobs where they can do the most good and into jobs that can do the most good for the individual. These two goals can be conflicting, but who said being a leader is easy.

    The idea that all church job assignments come from inspiration (from God) doesn’t resonate with me. I was recently called into the Stake President’s office and asked if I would be one of the Ward secretaries. I’m frequently out of town, usually several months a year. Regular church attendance is not an option with my current regime.

    I don’t want to give up my volunteer work (my reason for traveling) to be a Ward secretary. That doesn’t make sense to me. So I turned the position down. I can’t believe that that was an inspired assignment. I told the SP that would consider anything that didn’t require regular attendance. I’ve told the home teachers the same thing. But I haven’t heard back.

    My spouse has had similar experiences with her proposed Church jobs. There needs to be some sort of a negotiation process. Otherwise, many of the membership’s talents will go to waste and the Church is the loser. And so is the individual.

  12. I second Amy T. on this, that was quite demeaning. Sorry high powered businessman/businesswomen/lawyer, your occupational work is really not that important in the grand scheme of things; the influence of a lowly nursery teacher will continue on long past when your power suits are eaten up by moths. If anything the stay-at-home mothers should have the chance to interact with adults during church and all the employed adults should be in the primary and nursery (like myself).

    On one hand, I have the same annoyance at not being used (or other similarly qualified people not being used) when I see people in the hierarchy make incredibly obvious mistakes that could have been obviated had they had a little professional experience in that area, read up on the literature, not been so darn insular or full of themselves, etc.

    On the other hand, I’m having a hard time correlating specific skillsets to specific callings. I don’t know how much an accounting degree would help with being a financial clerk. It’s not clear which academic training would make for a better sunday school teacher, for example, since in the end the nuances of Koine Greek just don’t matter for most people’s religious experience.

    Additionally, some people have specialized skills that would be useful at a higher level of organization. A ward member may be a great lawyer, but the Church has its own lawyers, and doesn’t need one at the ward level necessarily. Similarly, I’m sure Ardis’ work would be (and is) important on the church level. The leadership callings definitely have the most room for creativity and autonomy (according to the literature, the two relevant dimensions for work satisfaction), but the people in those positions can’t all be social workers/accountants/business executives/historians/psychologists/sociologists all at once, so the leaders are always going to have blind spots, and we’ll just have to cringe when the business executive Stake President who probably doesn’t read one non-LDS nonfiction book a year repeats the “milk strippings” story at Stake Conference.

    If there’s a “specialty” that the people who frequent blogs like this might have, it’s reaching out and interacting with people who are thinking of leaving over intellectual issues, and I wish we’d get assigned as home teachers to them instead of the multilevel marketing executives.

  13. richellejolene says:

    Tiberius, I actually agree with your critique. My nursery leader example was poorly chosen and doesn’t reflect my feelings on the matter. You can read more about my thoughts behind that in my earlier comment to Amy T.

    Perhaps my examples from the AMW forum do not make clear the actual thrust of my approach to this topic. I recognize that many professions don’t have a one-to-one ratio with any specific church calling, nor is it always desirable to give someone a calling that too closely resembles what they do day-to-day (I’m thinking here of the business exec stake president you mentioned). My purpose in using these examples is to show that Church members (women in particular) often feel a rift between their professional lives and church lives, and not always in a way that favors the latter. This could be because they have more autonomy at work, feel more recognized/appreciated, or have a stronger sense of making an important contribution there.

    I don’t mean to glamorize the workforce or give special credence to waged labor; in fact, I wish to shed light on and dignify unwaged labor. And because the (mostly unwaged) labor we offer to the Church is also categorized in part as our worship and service to God, it only stands to reason that we should feel more at liberty to negotiate with our leadership in determining what shape this service might take at different junctures of our lives. This could mean bringing professional skills to bear (or not), asking for an opportunity to learn something new, or (as you mention) suggesting why you might be a fitting home/visiting teacher for a particular ward member. It seems like a number of people are doing this in their own wards to some success, but we lack a broader narrative for it in the official discourse. In fact, all the GC talks I’ve read about callings still take the hard line of “Always say yes,” and one New Era article I read specifically undermined the idea of callings felt from within, claiming that callings can only be given by the stake president/bishop/other proper priesthood authority with little to no input from the member him- or herself (https://www.lds.org/new-era/2005/11/articles-of-faith-called-of-god).

    To restore a proper idea of vocation in both official Mormon discourse and our lived religion would, to my mind, address some of the frustrations and anxieties of those who are wishing to make a more meaningful contribution in their Church service. And in fact, I think most of the women represented in my examples (the accountant, the musician) were, at the core, expressing a desire to make meaningful contributions without feeling either overlooked (in the first case) or exploited (in the second). It seems that we agree on a lot of this, at least by light of what you said in your comment, but I felt to take a moment and clarify that my deeper interest is not in “Is everyone using their professional expertise at church?” but why so many people have stories of frustration and dissatisfaction with callings and what the history of callings and a theory of vocation could do to offer some insight on the matter.

  14. “Yes, I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
    I’ll serve you with all my might,
    But don’t ask me to go to do too much, dear Lord,
    Because I’m far too busy each night.”

  15. richellejolene says:

    [edit: It appears this didn’t post earlier upon my first attempt; sorry if there end up being duplicates] Thanks for all the great feedback and discussion, everyone! I wanted to first respond to Amy T.: I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said here about the importance of childcare and the callings related to it. Using nursery leader as my example was something of a careless oversight on my part because it is not at all my intention to denigrate important work that is already undervalued in our society. My intended purpose with that example was: 1) to question the idea prevalent in the Church that “women + childcare” is some kind of natural combo, especially when this is used to justify why women can’t/don’t serve in more leadership positions and 2) to emphasize the “year after year” in the sentence, the idea being that some people get the same callings again and again in spite of the fact that their service could be greatly helpful elsewhere. I’ve been a nursery leader and I didn’t feel at all like it was an affront to my other talents; on the contrary, I enjoyed it immensely. However, I would probably feel stuck if I were one of those people who kept that same calling for years on end.

    Anyway, you were right to call that out, Amy, and I appreciate it.

    Ardis, what you said really resonated with me, especially “when will it be my chance to thrive in the kind of work I’ve done in the workplace but have never been allowed to offer within the Church, when you have to wait to be invited?” That is precisely the kind of question I want at the center of our discussion about callings. You mentioned that your contributions have to be “your own creation,” and I’ve found this is true for many women. Because of limitations placed upon women socially, institutionally, or otherwise, we often have to be creative in our approach and do things outside the system, or without official approval. This can have marvelous results (I’m thinking of women I know who have essentially created their own callings), but it can also be really tiring and frustrating if you don’t have cooperative leadership or if you end up feeling ignored or on the margins. Not to mention, it doesn’t actually make sense to me how a Mormon researcher (much less a historian!) willing to volunteer their time and talents isn’t being put to work immediately.

  16. Also, a newly married friend was counseled by his single ward bishop to decline the call to be a primary worker that would likely be made in his new ward with his new wife. The second bishopric was thankful for the inspiration of the single ward bishop and they were called to another calling.

  17. My daughter has an MBA from Sloan (MIT) and experience with several businesses. She is also a mother of three now, in a very shared-effort marriage, and overwhelmed with trying to do everything. As a member of First Church in Cambridge (Congregational; UCC) which has local responsibility and authority for finances including a building of historic significance, and a small endowment, she was elected treasurer and was deeply involved in planning and executing a new capital campaign. I don’t think it’s necessary to spell out the several ways this ‘answers’ the OP and at the same time highlights ways that LDS practice is different.

  18. Sorry, I don’t relate at all. The only way my family is functioning right now is the fact that I’m being under utilized calling wise right now (despite having two).

  19. richellejolene says:

    @jader3rd Perhaps the examples I offered were heavy on people wanting to give “more,” but my own vision of making callings more personalized would include taking breaks or having seasons of minimal-effort callings when needed. Your experience fits right in!

  20. I’ve had a number of callings in which I often felt in search of a vacation (not a typo). I’ve also extended, and seen extended, a number of callings to which the answer was appropriately “no.” The best bit of advice I’ve heard of being extended by general authorities to bishops is, if you want revelation/inspiration, do your homework first. I would think that includes room for discussion of needs and desires and abilities between a priesthood leader and his “target.”

  21. we’ll just have to cringe when the business executive Stake President who probably doesn’t read one non-LDS nonfiction book a year repeats the “milk strippings” story

    Heaven save us from C-suite stake presidents who read too many books on business. God is the only shareholder the Church has to be responsible to, and too many businessmen think a Powerpoint substitutes for real thought and inspiration.

  22. FWIW, I’ve sometimes volunteered to home teach someone that I perceived as struggling with some aspect or another of church membership. And I know others who have done the same thing. IME, leaders are usually grateful. I’ve never had one turn me down. I know that some might perceive it as ambition to volunteer, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling the bishop, “hey, you may not know that I have these skills; I’d love to put them on the altar, and they are at your disposal for whatever sort of calling the Lord inspires you to give me.” Or even just “Bishop, I feel called to minister to this sort of person, and if you and the other priesthood leaders are struggling to find somebody to home teach anybody like that in our ward, please feel free to consider me.”

    We believe callings are inspired, but inspiration comes in a lot of ways, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the idea that the spirit might inspire you to volunteer for something. Also, inspiration works best when the person receiving it has the best information, so why not help bishops have the best information about the skills and desires of those they give callings to?

  23. JKC, if I were in the position, I would definitely prayerfully consider your offer, and my hat’s off to you for it. I was also thinking that couldn’t it be equally effective to rotate callings every few years so that people have a chance to do a variety of things and we can all learn and grow together?

  24. Great insight! Thanks for the article! I’m an attorney and executive, as well as an active, married LDS woman with no children (which pretty much puts flashing lights on my head when someone is needed for a calling). I live in New England and my managerial talents have definitely been used in abundance! Even to the point that I had to bargain that my 2 stake callings (in addition to hefty branch “assignments”) while working full time was simply too much- I bargained to do one stake calling or the other, but not both. As a volunteer who can walk out the door at any time, you have more leverage in negotiation than you may think! And I have found my local leaders more than willing to hear me out; they seem to really invite member input in making their callings, which is quite refreshing.

  25. @richellejolene says: I agree, although I’m curious about what the specifics would look like in practice (maybe due to a lack of imagination on my part), and I do think some gentle “just do it” pressure is warranted so that we can make sure that we fill all our ranks. I’ve talked to several Bishops that have mentioned that they have a hard time finding people willing to fill particular callings.

    “There’s surely somewhere a lowly place
    In earth’s harvest fields so wide
    Where I may labor through life’s short day
    For Jesus, the Crucified.​”

    @ New Iconoclast
    The point isn’t to dismiss the executives (heaven help us all when academics try to organize and get anything done:) , they have their own benefits, but they are particular benefits and other types and gifts that can also contribute, whereas right now, it only seems like the MBAs are put into positions where agency and creativity are used.

  26. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    There’s also the pernicious idea that Church callings are to be used to help a person learn an important skill. For example, someone might “need” to learn how to teach, or how to be a leader, or how to manage children, or some basic financial skills, etc. This is very different from thinking of a calling as a vocation. This is problematic because while teaching, for example, is a skill that can be learned, using the calling in that way ensures a steady string of classes that are poorly taught. The rest of the Ward suffers while someone learns something they might never use. Or, lacking basic leadership skills causes not insignificant problems for those who have to clean up the messes made by poor leaders. If you’re not good at managing children, you should be kept away from children, for their sakes, as well as everyone else’s. This approach turns the Ward into a training center. We like to pride ourselves on churning out capable members of society who can contribute in many spheres. That’s nice, but I wouldn’t mind sitting through a SS lesson that is well-prepared, well-taught, and meaningful. Also, I don’t like teenagers. Dealing with them is not a skill I desire to develop. So, don’t call me to YM just so I can learn something.

  27. Thanks for the clarification, Richelle. The Bloggernacle can be a tough crowd.

    On a different topic related to the OP, I recently saw some of the effort involved in changing an auxiliary presidency in a ward. It was a long and intense process, and I don’t envy anyone that responsibility.