No Calling vs. Hard Calling: Message to Those Wanting More (or Less!) Calling

A year and a half.

That’s how long I went without a calling.

For much of this time, I felt unneeded, unwanted, and out of place. I so much desired to share and to serve, but I thought God didn’t want to use me.

If I’m being honest, it really all turned out for the best; for much of that time, I was deathly ill while pregnant, then recovering through a long and awful postpartum journey. Now I see that I would have been of little service to anyone and God actually knew what He was doing. (Shocker, I know.)

More than anything, I think He taught me that His work doesn’t always look the way we think it will.

To my foolishness, however, I still prayed and hoped for a chance to have a “real” calling!

Right as I finished up the bulk of my postpartum journey, my husband graduated from college, we moved away, and we began attending a Spanish ward.

A couple months ago, and just a few months after moving in, I was called to serve as the president of the Young Women.

Yikes.

When I told a friend about how overwhelmed I felt, she smiled and said, “You said you wanted a calling!”

She was right. I asked for it.

And God likes to give us what we ask for!

Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;

Doctrine & Covenants 88:64

From the last couple years, I have some takeaways for people in either of these circumstances:

  • People with no calling. (I will also include people who have a calling that they feel doesn’t meet their desire to share, grow, and learn.)
  • People who’ve been called to a calling that seems overwhelming or impossible. (If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it probably will soon.)

Let’s get into it.

An aside: If you don’t know what the word “calling” means, no worries. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, almost every member of the Church has or will at some point receive a calling. They are special volunteer jobs or assignments to which a person is called by God to do a certain task, such as to teach Sunday school classes or to play the piano. Typically, the bishop (leader) of the ward (congregation) prays to know who to ask to take a certain calling, gets an answer from the Lord, then privately asks that member to receive the calling. If they accept, they will receive a special blessing, called a setting apart, to have divine assistance in fulfilling the calling.

Part 1: Not enough calling

You might think I’m crazy, but while I didn’t have a calling, I desperately prayed for one. For a year and a half, God didn’t give me one; instead, He taught me a couple lessons. Here are the cheat codes so you don’t have to take as long as I did figuring this out. You’re welcome.

Magnify your assignment

While bishops are encouraged to give every member a calling if possible, Relief Society and Elders’ Quorum presidencies must give every adult member of the Church a ministering assignment. Even youth should now have assignments as well. (If you do not yet have one, talk with your Elder’s Quorum or Relief Society presidency.)

After some time of bitter feelings every time I heard the phrase “magnify your calling” (Magnify Your Calling, Gordon B. Hinckley), I felt the Lord tell me something else:

I can magnify my assignment!

I started to truly understand how to lift where I stood and to magnify and even enjoy my assignment as a ministering sister. (To learn more about that story and how to get started ministering, visit Ministering Despite Anxiety: How to Start Ministering.)

I encourage you to study the doctrine of ministering like the Savior does as you try to follow Him in ministering to those to whom you are assigned. Surely, at least one will need your help—and perhaps you will need them, too.

My husband and I received another assignment as well, a short-term assignment to facilitate a self-reliance class for the stake, “Find a Better Job.” We worked together to get to know our group; we felt that we were able to love and serve them as they did the same for us. It was much more of a spiritually-strengthening and even joyful experience than I had anticipated.

Plus, because of the principles we were practicing, my husband used the strategies each week to land several job interviews and eventually a good job to begin upon graduation just a few weeks later.

Another assignment we did get and that you might get is to speak in church. Although I have social anxiety, I find speaking in church a very enjoyable experience, at least for the week leading up to it while I focus my study deeply in just one area of the gospel.

It’s possible that you won’t receive another assignment besides ministering. Either way, you can rejoice in your assignment and prove to the Lord that you will take this job seriously to bring Him glory.

You don’t need a calling or assignment in order to serve God

These words from Jesus Christ, along with prayer and the Holy Spirit, changed my outlook entirely:

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

“Verily I say, men [and women] should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

“But he [or she] that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.”

Doctrine & Covenants 58:26–29

Did you hear that?

We can’t wait around until God tells us exactly how we are supposed to do His work. You don’t need a specific calling to do the work!

But you still want one, you say?

Well guess what?

You also get your own calling!

The Lord says:

“…if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;”

Doctrine & Covenants 4:3

Boom! There you go! If you want to serve God, you have a calling.

(If you don’t want to serve God, I don’t really know why you’re reading this, but I’m happy you’re here! I recommend studying His Word and praying to understand His love for you and why you should want to serve Him.)

But what is “the work” you are called to?

Don’t let the vagueness of the phrase overwhelm you. According to the Come, Follow Me Manual for Young Women and Aaronic Priesthood, the work is defined as such:

“God invites all to come unto Christ and assist in His work by 1) living the gospel of Jesus Christ, 2) caring for those in need, 3) inviting all to receive the gospel, and 4) uniting families for eternity.” (numbers added)

The good news: This is kind of a choose-your-own-adventure moment! You have four main areas to choose from, and you can get more specific from there.

The other (but also harder) good news: You’re going to have to do some extra practice learning how to receive personal revelation. (A great resource to help you out is this talk from our prophet.)

Think about which of those 4 areas most speak to you right now. Try to choose just one or two areas and/or ideas. As you consider what to pursue, you might want to think about devoting more time to the Lord in scripture study or identifying your little missions. (We Should All Be Gospel Scholars…, On Little Missions…)

Take your choices to the Lord. Pray to know His will for you. He will either encourage you to continue in your chosen calling, or He will help you make another choice.

Make a plan for how you will fulfill your calling. Choose how and when you will achieve your own goals.

For me, this blog became my new calling. With it, I increased my daily scripture study time and intention and filled my Sunday hours with learning and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All Things Have Their Seasons

Just because you don’t have a calling now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. Just because you have a busy calling today doesn’t mean you will tomorrow.

God knows what we’re ready for. I quickly learned that being pregnant and recovering from childbirth was a full-time job for me, the way it affected my mind and body. (The Truth About Pregnancy) It was not a time for other people in the ward to depend on me.

Pray to understand His timing and His will for you and your life. It is rarely what we expect or hope for, but it is what is best for us.

Part 2: Too much calling

If you think your calling is overwhelming, I’m right there with you.

The Lord called you and will help you

Here I am, a person who hadn’t had a “real” calling for a year and a half, assigned a very time-consuming calling that, to me, seemed very difficult. I’m supposed to be a leader to all the young women in the ward, but I barely have more than 5 years of adulthood under my belt myself! I hadn’t attended a family ward or been around young women since my mission—if that really even counts.

It also seemed to have come at a terrible time, too. My business was picking up, I had just gotten a promotion at the nonprofit I volunteer at, and my nanny had just quit. (Plus, I was just starting to bring life to my dreams with Spack Chats, and this calling was going to take up most of my Sunday blogging/podcasting time!… Don’t worry y’all, we’re still going. 😉 )

My calling feels very difficult a lot of the time. I feel very inadequate, unqualified, and unsure of what to do. I’ve already messed up more than once. I stress myself out about all the things to remember and do.

The funny thing is, though, that I also know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I know God put me here.

I’ve felt it as my husband has given me blessings of counsel, in which I’ve heard the Lord’s assurance and confidence. I’ve felt it as I’ve prayed to know whom to call to help me lead the Young Women; in a ward where I knew nearly no one, names on the ward list jumped out and lingered in my mind. I’ve felt it as I’ve gotten to have experiences with the youth and the leaders as we’ve had and shared critical spiritual experiences together.

I testify that God is doing a “marvelous work,” and He enlists us to help Him. Callings are one major way we help in His work. If we accept His call to “embark in the service of God,” He will strengthen us: (Doctrine & Covenants 4:1, 2)

“…for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:88)

If you accept the call to do His work, the Lord will not leave you alone. He will be with you every step of the way, and He will make possible and successful what seems daunting and difficult.

Have some faith

Some people turn callings down. In fact, it’s a dirty little secret that many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turn down many or all callings or inform their bishop that they will only take a select list of callings.

This is shameful.

We are members of Jesus Christ’s Church! We have promised to follow Him wherever He asks us to go. We have promised to serve Him.

The exceptions

That being said, there are times when a calling recipient may need to let the bishop know about very special circumstances (for instance, health concerns that would restrict calling fulfillment, or moving away soon). If you think this may be the case, you should counsel with your bishop. You may both need to go home, pray about it, and listen for an answer before coming to a decision.

If you tell a bishop new information that makes them decide to call someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that calling was incorrect or not inspired. In fact, if you present new information to the bishop that leads him to choose someone else for the calling, God probably led him to your name so that he would find out that important information.

I felt prompted to choose a certain woman from the ward list to serve as a Young Women leader, but when the bishopric reached out to her to extend the calling, they found out that she had moved. I firmly feel that I was led to her name so that the bishopric would find out about her new situation and be able to get her support in her new ward.

Don’t be ashamed if any of these situations have happened to you.

The rule

But before you get too excited, remember: everyone has special circumstances. You aren’t unique in having limitations.

The bishop probably won’t know about everything going on in your life or about all of your limitations—but the Lord will. It is between you and the Lord to determine if your special circumstances are such that you cannot accept a calling.

Each person who is asked to receive a calling has a responsibility to pray to the Lord for confirmation that this calling is truly for them. Whether you feel apprehensive about taking the calling at first or if you accept immediately, it will serve you well to have a personal witness and testimony that the calling has come straight from the Lord.

I am concerned that we, as a whole, as members of the Church, more often turn down a calling for reasons of personal preference, fear, or pride instead of special circumstances.

Where is our faith?

We are God’s chosen people, saved for these latter days! But each of us gets to decide what we will do personally.

Will we be like Nephi? Who accepted the Lord’s call to build a boat, even though we had no tools or knowledge to do so? (1 Nephi 18)

Will we be like Joseph? Called to be a prophet, even though he had never seen one before or had any real training or abilities? (Joseph Smith History)

Or are we like the young rich man? Called to sell all that He had to follow Jesus, after keeping the commandments his whole life, but did not accept the call? (Matthew 19)

No matter your calling: drop the pride, catch the vision

You are more than the calling you do or don’t have. We mustn’t let our pride get in the way of doing God’s work.

If you turn down a calling because you don’t want it, you’re putting your pride before your discipleship to Jesus Christ.

If you only do your calling halfheartedly or to the bare minimum because you don’t think it’s an “important” calling, you’re allowing your pride to get in the way of your own growth and the blessing of others.

If you are proud of how “important” your calling is, your pride is getting in the way of doing Christ’s work out of love, which will hurt yourself and those around you.

Catch the vision. Your calling (or lack thereof) is about so much more than yourself.

It’s about all the people around you and bringing about the salvation and exaltation of our brothers and sisters.

It’s about the Lord Jesus Christ, honoring and following him back to our Heavenly Parents.

Join the chat

What situation are you in, with Church callings? What encouragement or advice would you add to others?

Tell us in the comments below—or tell us in our new community on MeWe, “Doctrinal Discussions for Christian Women (LDS)“.

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