Bishops and counselors often pray long and hard over who they should call to serve in their wards. But what happens when, after your own prayer and counsel with the Lord, the answer you feel prompted to give is “no”?
It’s a word that can be extremely difficult to say, especially in a religion that often values service before self and expects a lot of its members. We don’t want to disappoint our leaders, and we especially don’t want to disappoint the Lord. Saying “no” feels like admitting we don’t trust the plan the Lord has in store for us, especially when we feel like we need to say no to an assignment as important as a Church calling.
Let me pause here and explain a little more about myself: I really struggle with children. I have a hard time interacting with them, and I have always dreaded a calling in the Primary. Being a young, active, LDS married woman, I know that getting called to the Primary isn’t a question of if, it’s a question of when. And when that day does come, answering “no” is an option I feel I need to at least consider, if only for the sake of my sanity and the sake of any potential future posterity I might one day decide to have.
But what should we do when we feel uncertain about accepting a Church calling? Here's what I've found works for me--and I hope it works for you, too:
Ask for time.
It's hard not to feel pressured to accept a calling immediately on the spot, even one you're uncomfortable with. But I believe the Lord wants us to love and magnify our callings—which means we need to be on board with it. It’s entirely acceptable to ask for a week to pray and study about this assignment. There are many factors that need to be considered since some callings, especially time-consuming ones, can drastically alter a family’s schedule. They can be physically or emotionally demanding, as well. Taking time to come to terms with these potential changes will help us serve better in the new calling.
Pray and study about it.
As the person receiving a calling, I believe we are eligible to receive revelation about the decision. Pray about this opportunity. Ask the Lord for help understanding what He has in store, including what things there are to learn from this experience and how He can help bear this burden. Temple attendance is also an appropriate way to seek revelation about any potential new calling.
Counsel with the bishop.
Bishops are one of the greatest resources when it comes to understanding why the Lord has extended a specific call. The bishop can explain why he felt inspired to extend this call and also help work through any individual concerns about the ability to magnify a calling he is extending on behalf of the Lord.
Come to a decision.
After taking the time to pray, study, and counsel about the calling, it's time to make an informed decision. If personal revelation is received that this is the correct path, even if it appears difficult, accept the calling and continue to work with the bishop to resolve any concerns. However, if after study and prayer the feeling remains to turn down the calling, I would hope we would know not to feel guilty. The Lord may indeed have something different in store—doubtless another calling!
For example, I know one woman who turned down the initial calling extended by her bishop to serve on a stake committee. The calling in question would take little time, and there were no obvious reasons why she should not accept it. But after prayer and counsel, it felt wrong to her. This woman is now a fantastic gospel doctrine instructor—and I can’t imagine her doing anything else! I’m sure she would have done a great job on the committee, and that perhaps another member could serve just as well as a Sunday School instructor, but things worked out differently. Sometimes the truth is, there’s more than one distribution of callings that will work well in a ward—and we shouldn't feel guilty if we receive revelation relevant to ourselves and our place in that distribution.
Now, there is one final circumstance I have yet to mention: after fasting and prayer, there may be no answer at all. In this instance, instead of taking too long to answer the bishop, trust him and the Lord, and accept the calling. Receiving no concrete answer often lets us know that we should move forward with our current path, and things will work out in ways we could never foresee.
Have you ever had to turn down a calling? What advice would you give to those who are considering it? Take the poll below, and then comment your answer.