We Need Some New Callings

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Over time and through some painful experiences, I have learned to keep my skills as a “computer geek” secret from members of any ward I live in.?Ǭ† I even act dumb when asked?Ǭ† if I know anything about printer drivers so they can print home teaching reports, etc. if I happen to be passing by the clerks office.?Ǭ† I have found that if “They” ever find out about my superpowers, I’ll get roped into a “computer related” calling and be stuck there until I move or die.

I was talking to a friend about this.?Ǭ† His profession is in finance and investing.?Ǭ† Because of this, he was shackled to the financial clerk chains for many years, even though he knew nothing about accounting.?Ǭ† His leaders always commented that they were grateful that they had him because someone with his experience made things go so much smoother in the ward.?Ǭ† He would always joke to me that he had zero experience before he took the calling.

I believe we have others who are typecast into certain callings.?Ǭ† Of course this won’t be 100% of the time, but it is very common in my experience.?Ǭ† I was in a ward where a lady worked as a head librarian at a city library… bet you can guess what her calling was.

To me, the odds of this being “inspired” 100% of the time is pretty small.?Ǭ† I believe these are callings of convenience.?Ǭ† To me, it was disheartening to have to do my computer job all week long, and then in my spare time have to tend to the computer needs of the ward and the family history center.?Ǭ† I never got a break.

Locally, (again, not 100% of the time) my experience is that the leadership callings of the ward and stake are reserved for the “professionals”.?Ǭ† High councils are mostly full of doctors, dentists,?Ǭ†and lawyers.?Ǭ† Bishops are dentists, lawyers and doctors.?Ǭ† And I can see why, it’s because there is no calling in the gospel that coincides with their profession.

This leads me to think that we need some new callings in the church.?Ǭ† We need to have the ward doctor, the ward, dentist, the ward lawyer.?Ǭ† They would then be on call 24/7 and be able to use their professional expertise to help the members of the ward FOR FREE, just like I do when I use my computer skills in a calling.?Ǭ† Who knows, maybe we’d see more convert baptisms if people knew they had access to those types of resources as a result of being a member of the church!

36 thoughts on “We Need Some New Callings

  1. I’d love to go back to being a ward clerk and using my day-to-day skills. I have no idea why they keep putting me in leadership positions. I am certainly no leader.

  2. Don’t you think the doctors, lawyers, dentist thing also has to do with those being probably a lot more flexible time-wise than other people’s jobs? And because most of the time, those are the folks (who, if they’re still active in the church) won’t rock the boat too much.

    I’d really like to see a bishopric that was, like, a professor of literature, a ceramics artist and an hourly blue-collar worker. I bet the activities and program coming out of that ward would strike a very different tone.

  3. My husband is a lawyer and beleive me, he gets treated as the ward lawyer. I know your post about this is a little tongue in cheek, but they usually get to do their normal calling plus provide free legal services, free medical services (our Stake Pres. is an ob/gyn, but I know plenty of times he gets to do all the scout physicals and call in prescriptions on weekends) and our last Stake President was a Dentist who did tons of free dental work for the indigent members of the stake. :)

  4. I think we should have a ward massage therapist. Free massages once a week :)

    I think in Lethbridge there are so many doctors and lawyers who are members of the church they don’t get called on to show their expertise lol.

    I don’t know though, I am the Activities Chair and let me tell you, there was never a person less suited to that calling, especially at this time in my life. No calling has stressed me out more than this. And the Christmas party will only get worse. So I don’t think all callings are typecast.

  5. JM, I love this post! This has been my beef for a long time. Musician speaking. It would be a significant decrease in time I would spend if only the “indigent members” of the stake used my musical abilities. There is completely no comparison to actually having a calling. LOL

  6. But let me say, kudos to the doctors and lawyers who are sharing their talents with the ward and stake. They sound like good people.

  7. One of our Bishops in Regina was an artist. Does that count? My husband is a child at heart, mind and soul, but he never gets called to work in Primary.

    As he has been in construction for 35-odd years — let me tell you — in Regina. I don’t think there was a member alive that didn’t have Keith’s DNA in their house with rumpus rooms — out here they are called family rooms. Why? I have no idea — driveways, decks, additions, etc. All for free to boot! And of course always after all the hours he puts in at work. We figured once we moved here and never told anyone, he would be safe! WRONG! I think it is called bartering: talent for talent. We have a friend who is a mechanic. Keith built bedrooms in their basement, and he kept our cars running. Tit for Tat, I guess.

  8. When I returned from my mission, the bishop was a back-hoe operator. It helped that his father-in-law was in the Stake Presidency. ;^)

    I’ve heard it said that calling come three different ways: inspiration, relation, and desperation. We’ll attribute that to J. Golden Kimball since it’s funny and cutting at the same time.

  9. alea,

    I don’t know about the free time thing. I have found that with:

    Doctors – they are always busy doing rounds, scheduled for surgery, or away for a month on vacation.

    Lawyers – they are always due in court, working on an important case, or busy ripping you off. I should clarify that last comment. I once asked a lawyer in the stake a question about a legal matter. He was a good friend of our family. He gave me about 15 minutes of his time. The result of our conversation was that he wasn’t in the right type of law and gave me the name of another lawyer that could help. A few weeks later I got an invoice in the mail for $150. :-(

    Dentists – again, busy at work (although I don’t get that since their office is only open from 9:00–3:00) or they are away at some exotic location at some conference for a few weeks. Probably one of those things where they spend a day in a meeting and the other 6 on the beach.

    However, like others have said, there are some really good ones from all these categories who do give a lot to their ward/stake/community for free. Good for them.

    But I’d still like to see the official calling given. ;-)

  10. Carol,

    I feel for the musically talented in our wards and stakes. Isn’t that why they invented those fancy organs that play themselves and have all the songs programmed in?

    Funny thing in our ward, they have a hard time getting a primary pianist. Only a few people know how to play in the ward. You would think that they would have that fancy organ in the primary room so they could just call someone to tap on the key and have it play any song they want. But instead the organ is in the relief society room because the very talented RS organist thinks it sounds better than a regular piano.

    A buddy of mine is an Elders Quorum President. He’s also musically trained in many instruments and in choir. Their stake music chair is always picking on him come stake conference to assemble a choir. So, on top of his job and his regular calling, he needs to spend a couple of months each year doing a choir as well. Poor guy!

  11. I’d play for Primary. Most of the songs can be done without left hand accompaniment and are in simple keys, which fits with my abilities perfectly.

  12. Regarding the fancy organs, yes! I find that a very interesting development in the Church. I think they can see that what people like I did in my youth requires unusual dedication and resources with subsequent exploitation and very possibly burnout for the lot of us. I am 37 and I keep thinking ‘Where is the next generation of piano and violin players? When do I get off this ride?’ I am grateful for the gifts God gave me and they have brought me and others a lot of joy, but in the last few years I have just looked around at the free pass most others have and wonder what that must feel like. Oh boy, to have $10 a minute for my work within my vocation within the church!!!!!! Let’s see, I started accompanying special numbers when I was probably 12, choir pianist at 15, ward organist at 16, violin obligatos and solos since I was probably 9…

  13. From my previous message, some might think that I should attribute my training to the Church, but I can assure you that vastly more time was spent in symphonies, competitions, classical ensembles, lessons and practicing. Thousands of dollars was spent on my lessons, instruments and music. The Church pays for none of that, not one lesson, sheet of music, or pat of rosin. And at this point in my life, I have no time with family and church to join a symphony.

    I sound a little bitter! Sorry!

  14. I think though, we need to remember that we are supposed to give our talents to service in the church. I don’t see that I am using my own talents, in my callings however.

    Also, in and outside of the church, I have given my own training as a Nutritional Consultant, much advice, and even nutritional analysing for free. I would like to barter those services, and would be happy with that.

  15. I do take breaks. I tell the right people that I am taking a month off here or there, or “not available for Christmas this year” and the people wait for my return or do something else.

    Seriously, there does not seem to be an end in sight to the demand. I can think of only a handful of serious young musicians of any kind in my stake, but growing up there were many in my ward alone. Sometimes I picture myself 65 years old, up there playing my violin quarterly, wondering when someone is going to spell me.

    Last night a girl from the stake brought over some music for a stake meeting. She wanted a violin part added to it. After hearing it one time and complimenting her on her voice, I ad libbed a violin part on the spot, at least as nice as a published one you can buy. She left without one word of thanks or praise to me. It was really sad to me.

    You guys do not even know me and I appreciate your patience. If you want to be done with the topic now, I can’t blame you. :)

  16. Carol, I feel for you.

    I’d love to solve this “problem” church-wide. But I don’t know how to stop the tide of unappreciativeness that our leaders have in these situations.

    Sure, they give the token thank-you, but do they really appreciate what us “talented” people do? The only real solution I can think of is to give them a calling that involves their skills / talents / professional services.

    I know when I walk a mile in someone elses shoes, I get a very new appreciation for the situation they are in and I’m less likely to take them for granted. How can we make them really see what it’s like?

  17. Well, the way I look at it is this: one could get the pats on their backs, the highest praises now on earth, or they can get their blessings for willingly serving when they get to the celestial world.

  18. “those fancy organs that play themselves and have all the songs programmed in”

    Coming from you JM, this description strikes me as incredibly funny (not that the term ‘fancy organs’ isn’t a gut buster on its’ own).

    I think the primary issue you’ve alluded to, though, is a sense of entitlement by church leaders. “You can play the piano? Why aren’t you playing it in church?” or “Good brother Johnson is an accountant. Why wouldn’t he want to have a similar calling at church?”

    I vote for mandatory hard term limits on callings (as if I have any say in the matter).

    Besides, everyone knows that ‘hard’ skillsets like accounting, doctoring or computer skills require more thanks than ‘soft’ skillsets like musical ability, no? :P

  19. Sally,

    That’s not really the point. Being taking advantage of, issuing calling sans inspiration or anything more than a passing thought on the matter, and suffering from years of burnout are the point. Couple that with the heart-wrenching guilt trip by saying no to a calling, and you’ve got something to consider.

    I mean, really, should someone be punished for having a special talent or skill? Sharing it is one thing, even offering it freely, but folks like Carol are being taken advantage of. I bet if there was any inspiration involved, the Lord would want to broaden her horizons and give her some different serving opportuinities in the church, don’t you think?

  20. “Coming from you JM, this description strikes me as incredibly funny (not that the term ‘fancy organs’ isn’t a gut buster on its’ own).”

    Like I said above, I have no problem playing dumb when it serves me well. If there is any inspiration involved at all, the Lord will see right through it and inspire the bishop to offer me the call without knowing my background.

    Specified terms would be great! If both parties were in agreement, you could always extend for another term, but sometimes knowing there is no end in sight is disheartening.

    My wife was actually considering moving out of our ward to get out of a calling! I pointed out the financial benefits of just saying “no”. We went with “no”.

  21. “I bet if there was ANY inspiration involved, the Lord would want to broaden her horizons and give her some different serving opportunities in the church, don’t you think?”

    JM, yes, thank you for understanding and this really is the point. I have other talents, too, but I get “reserved” for the musical needs. I have felt the same for those in serial clerk and executive secretary jobs.

    Thank you all for the responses. I really needed that.

  22. This was my experience as well. However, I remember many bishops with professions in the legal, financial and business backgrounds, but not so much in the medical and science related fields; although I did have a doctor I worked with who was a Mormon bishop. I have my own reasons for believing this may not be a coincidence. I will say that I remember a bishop who was also a dentist (and a great guy by the way) bare his testimony about the literalness of the Tower of Babel leading to the creation of world languages, and I was very disappointed.

  23. I just found your blog and I have to agree. At a friend’s church in the US they have total ministries for their members. They have doctors, nurses, car repair clinics, a group of men who meet on a Saturday and do basic household repairs, painting, car fixing for widows, single women and couples where there is illness or incapacity. They have made a community beyond attendance, and that is so important.

  24. Katie,

    That’s an interesting concept. I’m afraid it’s one we won’t see in the LDS church anytime soon.

    With the nature of callings and our LDS culture, we tend to put the calling blinders on and focus on our micro-responsibilities. I know it’s not suppose to be that way, but it just works out that way. Callings are an obligation, a necessary thing we have to do, so we do the minimum.

    I bet in an atmosphere where the assistance being provided is completely voluntary, you have people not only serving for the right reasons, but they freely give their all, no questions asked. In addition, they do it as often as their circumstance allows. That would be something to see!

  25. If both parties were in agreement, you could always extend for another term, but sometimes knowing there is no end in sight is disheartening.

    Even when there is an end in sight, it can be overwhelming at times.

  26. Whenever I tell people that I’m a lawyer, they always want free legal advice whether they are a member of the church or not. I find that non-members want advice on setting up corporations, whereas members want advice on divorcing their spouses. Because I’m the only lawyer in the ward, I get numerous phone calls for advice or referrals.

    I feel the most sorry for piano players. They are stuck in that calling no matter what else they can do, especially if the ward has no other piano players.

  27. I got legal advice from one of our high councillors for a legal matter. When I bought my house a year later, I was sure to go through him for all legal matters regarding the purchase.

  28. DPC,

    How then would you feel if that was your calling in the church? How would you feel if no matter what ward / stake you lived in, you always got that as your calling? How would you feel if you never had a change for 20 years straight?

    Just think of the possibilities!!! On your ward’s night to have the building, you would have your own little office in the church where members could come and take advantage of your skills and knowledge. And on Sundays, in addition to all the classes and quorum meetings, you could sit and give legal advice as well! You’d never get a break and everyone would just expect it.

    So when you’re a bishop, please consider giving those stuck in a “calling rut” a change of scenery. :-)

  29. Rick

    You think music is a “soft skill”? :) I assume you are being facetious. (I think everyone should be thanked for whatever).

    A musician may not be in as high demand as a lawyer, or require the same university education, but it often takes harder work and much more time to perfect those skills, and lots of use. I am a trained singer. That, I kept up (though I don’t use it as much anymore as I used to, one day I will again, for the time being I practice and sing in church) but I didn’t keep up my piano playing and so that suffered and I barely play it now. Musicians of all types have to work so very hard at their skills, from my point of view, anyway.

  30. Mary, here here! Music is obviously a difficult skill with a limited window of opportunity–very few people who try to learn the piano in adulthood end up being able to do so. Contrast that to law school, medical school, or business school. People of all ages can successfully complete these degrees. I am not trying to diminish those skills, just trying to show that whatever the drive shown in adulthood, successful musicians probably showed unusual drive and discipline in their youths.

  31. And being a good musician is usually indicative of having other abilities, which goes back to #30!

  32. I have had many music callings over the years, but I have also had many good bishops who saw my leadership skills too. I have benefited from both type of callings.

    Recently I was called to play piano for Primary… if more Bishops took this approach the above issues might go away… he figured it was a calling that I could use to grow with.. SINCE I DID not really play the piano.. but had the desire to learn how. (After trying for 40 years…with not much luck.. 2 yrs later I am now able to play with both hands and can even play some of the harder Primary songs….. because I have the calling.

    Too bad more Bishops don’t look at what the person needs to learn instead of which one would be able to do the calling perfectly already? Of course that would take patience on everyone else’s part with those who are still learning…. wouldn’t that be ideal!!

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