Campaigning for a Calling

By: Bored in Vernal
February 20, 2011

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?

  • 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 c (62%, 42 Votes)
  • 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. (29%, 20 Votes)
  • 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. (9%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 68

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What types of "campaigning" are acceptable? (you may choose more than one)

  • Volunteering (82%, 45 Votes)
  • Praying (65%, 36 Votes)
  • Fasting (60%, 33 Votes)
  • Asking (53%, 29 Votes)
  • Hinting (47%, 26 Votes)
  • Other (11%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 55

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22 Responses to Campaigning for a Calling

  1. Ginger on February 20, 2011 at 2:51 PM

    I’m not sure I agree with a person trying to get a leadership position, although I guess that is because I would associate their desire as being a prideful thing, rather than humble. Maybe that is just me.
    But I don’t think there is anything wrong with letting those in leadership know you would be willing to serve in a specific calling, especially if it is a calling that is hard to fill.

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  2. allquieton on February 20, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    I’m a a single adult in a family ward and I’ve been laying low. But I was approached today by an elderly couple I sort of know and they brought up callings out of the blue and asked if I wanted one. I said sure and they said how about with scouting?

    I have to admit it made me a bit uncomfortable, just b/c I had the feeling they were trying to decide where I ought to serve.

    It seems like a lot of times the attitude is I’ll put people where I want them, then run it by God. Which takes away from the meaning of a calling (from God) the way I see it.

    Anyone ever thought it strange that you have to fill out an application to get a calling as a missionary? I guess it could be used to argue in favor of Bored in Vernal’s suggestion that it’s okay to seek a calling.

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  3. Dan on February 20, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    Or conversely, we might desire something that takes little to no work (Sunday School President )

    hey, I resemble that remark!

    In the new ward we moved to last fall, I asked and received a call to be the gospel doctrine teacher. It has suited me very well, as well as the ward.

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  4. BrianJ on February 20, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    The poll only allowed one box to be checked.

    I don’t see anything wrong with campaigning for a calling, just so long as the “campaigning” part is kept to a minimum. For example, you’ve gone too far if you’re placing signs on neighbor’s lawns…

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  5. philomytha on February 20, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    Best bishop I ever had had everyone in the ward (BYU ward) fill out a survey where you ranked callings in order of preference. And he really did use the surveys to give people callings they’d enjoy. That’s inspiration for you.

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  6. adamf on February 20, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    I think it’s important to let the leadership know of your talents, experience, abilities, etc. and also be open to different things. For example, I’ve been called to scouts before (which I wasn’t excited for in the beginning), but I have also been called to teach the marriage class (which I was called to do after talking with the bishop about my experience/education). If I were in a leadership position, I would CERTAINLY want to know about the experiences, strengths, challenges, etc. of ward members in considering a calling. I have NEVER received revelation in a vacuum. Maybe some do, but I don’t.

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  7. raedyohed on February 20, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    BiV – I really like your four bullet point examples. With the right attitude these all seem like good ways to get callings that will really help bless you and bless people you serve in them.

    I think that it’s more about petitioning the Lord more than petitioning the bishop. I think about the scripture you quote in Abraham. That’s a little different, and you are supposed to actively seek advancement in the priesthood. Even a young Elder is supposed to be actively seeking for the office of High Priest, it’s just that it takes a while for the Lord to move the right people to make it happen sometimes.

    The calling my wife aspires to? Temple organist. Too bad the closest is four hours away!

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  8. hawkgrrrl on February 20, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    Aside from loving teaching callings, I really just want to try new things. But after 20+ years of being an active adult member, there’s not a whole lot of new stuff left to do. That’s why they call it enduring to the end I guess.

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  9. Last Lemming on February 20, 2011 at 8:54 PM

    My wife volunteered both of us to be family history consultants despite my warning that it was not appropriate to campaign for callings. We were called the next week. So much for not campaigning.

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  10. Mike S on February 20, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    (THREADJACK: #7 raedyohed – Based on your tag I assume you’ve already downloaded and listened to their new album that came out this weekend – http://www.thekingoflimbs.com I’ve listened to it through at least 5 times already.)

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled program

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  11. Mike S on February 20, 2011 at 11:18 PM

    I spent a lot of time with my mission president, and we talked about this quite a bit. He related a story when he was on the High Council for a BYU stake. There was a bishop who had been in around a year who asked to be released. Here’s why:

    When he was first called, it was the beginning of the school year. As he prayed about various callings, he felt inspired for many of them. As he learned more about the members of his ward the subsequent year, he found that most of them fit the callings exactly.

    The following year, he was going through the same process of filling callings. He didn’t have the inspiration like he did the year before, so felt there must be something wrong in his life. He therefore felt like he should be released.

    The stake president then gave him an example. Suppose you ran a business and had a new employee, would you initially answer all his/her questions? Absolutely. Now, picture the same employee asking the questions after they had worked there a while. Would you want to answer the questions as quickly or would you expect the employee to know some of the answers?

    The stake president said this was the same thing. The first time, the bishop new no one. Because God can help us with our weaknesses, He inspired the bishop for essentially all of the callings. The next time around, the bishop knew the members of the ward, knew their strengths and weaknesses, knew what the ward needed, etc. God is there in times of need, but expects us to at least make an initial go of it.

    I think callings are much the same way. For the majority of them, perhaps there isn’t necessarily inspiration. There may be multiple people who would all do fine in multiple callings. If it doesn’t really matter, then the bishop can choose who he wants. Occasionally, however, there may be a specific person who should be in a specific role. This is when I see the role of inspiration.

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  12. To protect the guilty on February 21, 2011 at 4:39 AM

    I know one brother who campaigned actively to be called as bishop. The thought he was the best suited and frankly he liked the lime light and adoration. Long story, short. He committed adultery with a sister he was councelling and now they are bothe ex-ed.

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  13. jmb275 on February 21, 2011 at 6:12 AM

    I couldn’t agree more with the message in the OP. I’ve often thought it is ridiculous to automatically label those who “aspire” to callings as prideful, or arrogant. Some people wanna do something because they could do the job well, help others, etc.

    Certainly some who aspire should NOT be given the opportunity, but I don’t think we should judge based solely on who aspires. Perhaps using revelation (or surveys ;-) ) is better.

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  14. Paul on February 21, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    There’s value in remembering that aspiring to a calling is different from aspiring to hold the priesthood (which is a covenant and commitment to serve). We teach our young men all the time to aspire to hold the priesthood.

    I agree generally with the comments that the aspiring that Pr Hinckley is concerned about are those who aspire to lofty positions

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  15. Paul on February 21, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    Meant also to add that I’ve had many bishops seek my input about callings I might be interested in, and I’ve done the same as a bishop. But in the end, we share thoses thoughts recognizing that the Lord may have other ideas, and we’re willing to serve wherever called, even if it’s not in our “favorite” slot.

    (BTW, I still haven’t gotten to serve in my chosen spot of Primary music leader, except for a three-week substitute gig when I was released as bishop a few years ago…)

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  16. raedyohed on February 21, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    {#10 Mike S – Better believe I’m listening right now! It took a while to get into it but I’m hooked, as per the usual. Just about the only track I’m not in love with are 1 & 4.}

    FWIW I think that anyone who “aspires” to the calling of Bishop, RS Pres, Stake Pres, Mission Pres, or heaven forbid anything “higher up” than that is smoking crack. Those callings would kill me.

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  17. Jacob S on February 21, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    My sense is that when the church counsels against aspiring for callings what they are really saying is that we shouldn’t aspire to *leadership* callings out of a sense of pride. I see no reason why it would be bad to aspire to teach GD if you love to teach, or aspire to be a ward missionary if you love missionary work. Those are things a good bishop would love to know and accommodate, I would imagine. As long as you humbly submit to whatever calling you are given.

    But aspiring to be a bishop or high councilor because you think it would be a feather in your cap is the situation Pres. Hinckley might have been referring to in the quote above.

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  18. Martin on February 21, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    BiV,

    You didn’t reference 1 Tim 3:1:

    “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”

    I think there is nothing wrong with aspiring to any good thing, as long as the motives are right. Though anybody who would aspire to as tough a calling as bishop for only the right reasons is probably close to being translated.

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  19. Jacob M on February 21, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    I say if you’re stupid enough to aspire to be bishop, you should be granted the opprotunity to show everyone else how stupid you really are. Reap what you sow! :)

    (also have downloaded album. love it. have you seen the video for one of the songs? Thom Yorke dancing in skinny jeans makes me laugh repeatedly.)

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  20. raedyohed on February 21, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    best. video. ever.

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  21. Douglas on February 21, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    I’d say that I’ve campaigned for NOT to have a certain calling…I’ve made it very clear, no “Boy Scouts”..I’ve raised my boys and don’t want to deal with everyone else’s brats. Other than that, I’m open as to what calling comes down.

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  22. Peter on February 21, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    I was a bishop for 5 years. I liked being a bishop though there was a subtle ongoing stress associated with it. I enjoyed one on one interviews. I do admit that there is a certain glory that goes with it for me and probably for almost all men. But the calling as bishop was the first time that I realized that I could not do it well without the Lords help. So it was humbling for me.

    I know people who love to teach and find a certain glory in that.

    Years ago a 7o came to our stake. In the priesthood leadership meeting he suggested that the bishop place people in callings that are best for that person. Several times as a bishop I prayerfully went through the membership list mentally placing people in positions that would be best for them. Each time I did this, all but maybe one of the positions were filled.

    As a bishop, there is a certain spirit that goes with selecting people for a call. People are chosen for calings that provide growth or faith or help them become committed. As people mature, their reasons for service become more pure. At times I have called people to positions that they like so that they would stay active. I see no problem with calling a person to a glorious position or one that they identify with if that will cause them to rise to the occasion. In doing so, they learn how to serve.

    I am now 60 years old and the older I get, the less important the position becomes. If a person is looking to be recognized, a position will not do it. People are respected for the kind of person they are, not the position they hold. If you think about it, you know this is true. True joy comes from knowing that you are serving the Lord by serving your fellow men. And there are many ways to do this.

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