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Today one of my friends, who is serving as a counselor in a bishopric for a Mormon Church, told me he couldn’t hang out this weekend because of his schedule with a church assignment. I jokingly told him that the main reason I keep moving around is to avoid getting a “big” church calling. I’ll explain.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) are assigned jobs, otherwise known as church callings. The callings are assigned under the inspiration of the local minister, or bishop and his leadership team. From my experience, callings usually last no more than 3 years and can range from working in the nursery with kids during church, being the humanitarian representative in the community or even being a Relief Society President (for women) or Bishop.
I have been an active member of the LDS church for a number of years. Just to give those of you who are not familiar with Mormon callings an idea, I’ll list some of the callings I’ve had over the years along with a brief description of what the job entailed:
Home Teacher: Visiting an assigned group of families within the congregation once per month and sharing a spiritual message with them along with making sure their needs are met.
Deacon’s Quorum President: As a 12 year old boy, the Deacon’s president functions under the supervision of the Deacon’s adviser who is an adult. He mainly organizes youth activities and makes sure the sacrament (communion) is passed out accurately each week.
Teachers Quorum President: This is very similar to a Deacon, except the boys are 14 years old.
Priest’s Quorum 1st Assistant: Same as Deacon and Teacher, except the Priest also blesses the communion during church.
Elder’s Quorum President: The Elder’s Quorum President is responsible for seeing that all the Elders (usually males in the congregation 18-50 years old) are being spiritually in line with the Lord, making sure their needs are met, assigning home teaching assignments, receiving feedback on how to help members in the congregation with various needs, working with the bishop to help new members move out or move into the “ward” (i.e. congregation).
Elder’s Quorum Instructor: Teaching a spiritual lesson in Elder’s quorum class on Sunday.
District Leader: Leader of a group of 4-10 missionaries. Can also be a leader of Elders in a large Elder’s quorum.
Zone Leader: In a mission, the District Leaders report to the Zone leader. Usually about 2-4 district leaders to each zone leader.
Substitute Primary Teacher: Primary is Sunday School for children ages 3-12.
Executive Secretary to the Bishop: Note-taker and organizer for the bishop to keep him on track with all his duties.
Ward Missionary: Works with the full-time missionaries to teach investigators (people considering being baptized into the Mormon Church)
Gospel Principles Instructor: Teaches investigators and newly baptized members basic gospel principles each week in Sunday School.
Youth Instructor (ages 16-18): Teaches youth each week during Sunday School
Sunday School President: Responsible for calling all Sunday School instructors and ensuring they are properly taught on how to best teach.
There are also “callings” mentioned frequently over the pulpit from our church leaders that are things assigned to us as being disciples of Christ such as being a good neighbor, parent, spouse, etc.
The culture within the Mormon church is that it is sort of taboo to turn down a calling. I’ve heard people say that if you turn a calling down from a leader, you are turning down the Lord. Since the leader is (ideally) receiving revelation on who should be called to what position, that may very well be the case, but my purpose in writing this article isn’t to debate turning down a calling. I mention it, just to let those of you unfamiliar with Mormon culture in on the mind set many members of the Church have when asked to do something.
Personally, I have turned down a calling on a couple occasions, but I usually accept the calling, even if I don’t necessarily want to do it. I have found that in most cases I learn and grow a lot from the various callings I have been given.
That being said, I will rank my favorite callings (being a father and husband are my number one callings that I thoroughly enjoy, but I am referring to callings that are formerly issued) as well as my least favorite.
Favorite Church Callings
1. Elder’s Quorum Instructor: I loved this calling because I only taught once/month and had a whole month to dive deep into the lesson plan and scriptures. The conversations and discussions with the Elders in church were very inspirational for me and I learned a lot from them and mostly from the Holy Spirit. Plus, I love teaching.
2. Zone Leader: I remember on my mission as a zone leader thinking if I could find a job that was like that, I would love it! I am a Regional Manager in sales now, which is very similar to what I did as a zone leader. The upside now is that the product I sell isn’t as hard of a sell as religion was!
3. Sunday School President: As I oversaw all the instructors in the congregation and made assignments, I felt I had the best of both worlds in teaching as well as administrative tasks. It was an enjoyable calling.
Least Favorite Church Callings
1. Executive Secretary to the Bishop: I absolutely hated this calling. I do not do well with organization and being the executive secretary was nothing by trying to keep the bishop organized. I also do not do well with taking orders and this calling is nothing but taking orders from the bishop. I will admit that I didn’t have the best attitude while I had this calling and so the experience wasn’t as good as if I had humbled myself more…or just not said I would do it.
2. Elders Quorum President: This was a love/hate calling for me. There were aspects that I completely loved about the calling. The group of men I served had 92 elders in it. It was a massive group. I had 3 counselors and 1 secretary along with 5 district leaders (I divided the group in to 5 districts with nearly 20 men in each district). I loved visiting the men in the group, teaching them, praying with them and for them, etc. The only part I didn’t like was how draining it was on me emotionally and time consuming. I was in graduate school at the time and working full time as well. This calling took about 15 hours/week. After about 2 years I asked to be released because I just couldn’t emotionally keep up with the demanding schedule and something had to give.
I think from my experience that I have learned that I do best in a role that gives me some flexibility to “call the shots” such as with teaching, or in some leadership roles. My preference is that of teaching because I don’t have as many people who are reporting up to me and what I have to worry about is making sure what I am teaching is in line with what the Spirit is leading me to teach.
If you are a Mormon, what have your favorite and least favorite callings been and why?
If you are in a different faith, what is your understanding of being “called” to something and what callings have you had?