The Same 10 Families

With the exception of student wards, every ward or branch I’ve attended seems to rely on a few families to fill all of the major callings. We’ll call them “the same ten families.” In our Long Island branch, there were about six families that carried the load. The branch president was married to the young women’s president. The young men’s president was married to the Relief Society president. The Elder’s quorum president was married to the primary president. We weren’t president level material there: my husband was a counselor in the young men’s presidency and the gospel doctrine teacher while I was a Relief Society counselor. Even so, we were exhausted by church and looked forward to moving away just to get a break on Sundays. (It was hard to leave, and we still miss the people of our branch.)

So we moved to Provo. We thought that here, in the middle of happy valley, we would be extraneous and possibly ignored. We looked forward to settling down into an anonymous calling like nursery leader. But it turns out that by purchasing a home in an area that is mostly occupied by students and renters, we got fast tracked into the same ten family status in our new ward.

As soon as our records arrived, I got called to be the primary president. A year later, my husband was called to be a counselor to our new bishop. He’s over primary, which is both convenient and frustrating. I have a much better sense of why it can take so long to get callings through the spiritual confirmation and administrative hoops, and he can see exactly how much stress the primary president feels when classes have substitute teachers every week because the previous teachers had a baby or moved away and the new ones haven’t been sustained yet. One of the happy bonuses of our callings is that we get to sit together during ward council meetings. It’s the only time we’re together at church.

But I have to wonder why, in a solid family ward with good attendance, are there still a just a relatively few families that are considered strong? Why does the work of serving in the church fall so heavily on them? I can remember exactly which families did most of the work in the small ward I grew up in in East Texas. The same people rotated through all the auxiliaries, every few years being reshuffled into one presidency after another.

I’m not surprised I’ve ended up in one of those same ten families. While we don’t aspire to leadership callings (especially not now that we’ve been in them), we do come to church regularly and are reliable and competent in fulfilling our callings and participating in other church activities. (In other words, I think the bar for inclusion in the same ten family club is pretty low.) Sometimes I’m even inspired or creative in my calling. I’ve been in for a few years now, so I know all of our children and I’m confident in my ability to serve them. But I have to admit that I am getting tired.

I was raised with the stories of pioneer ancestors. You put your shoulder to the wheel, work until you’re exhausted, and then work some more. You have to endure to the end. So I go to church, and I work. I’m glad to be able to serve. But unless all of us in the ward share the load, those same ten families are going to get burnt out. Some days I feel myself charring around the edges. So what can we do to spread the work around, to give everyone a meaningful opportunity to serve and let those who are already serving have a break once in a while? How do we break past using the same ten families?

90 comments for “The Same 10 Families

  1. It’s your problem, Rachel — you guys in the “same ten families” need to start sharing responsibilities with the rest of us — you’ll be surprised at how well we can do, if you’ll give us a chance.

  2. I’ve seen the same phenomenon.

    It can be just as frustrating to want desperately to serve, to be more than just a pew warmer, to take on more responsibility than chief-folder-of-ward-bulletins, and not to be given the opportunity. At least a Big Ten ward member could legitimately turn down a heavy calling if s/he’s burning out, but to ask for such a calling when you’re consistently overlooked is absolutely verboten. Am so grateful now to have a substantial calling for the first time in … well, ever.

    No idea on how to correct that. As a perennial outside-of-the-same-ten-families pew-warmer, it’s not likely I’ll ever be in a position to help solve the problem.

  3. The quickest way out of same ten families status is to get divorced–I was released from 4 callings when my marriage ended, and I don’t expect to ever have a heavy-lifting job again. I’m still as competent as I ever was (no snide comments from the peanut gallery, please!), but demographics seem to be the biggest factor in how those tough callings are distributed.

  4. Interesting question. My current ward usually has 20 men show up to the hp group on Sundays. We have a surplus of people and do not have your condition.

    I would also note that my last ward had a single, divorced woman as relief society president. She was eventually released and called as gospel doctrine instructor.

    So it varies, but often there is just a shortage of reliable people who socialize well.

  5. Average ward (U.S.) = 450 people. Figure two-thirds are under 25 or over 65. Figure no more than 50% of the adults are full tithe payers. Allow for some divorces (sorry Kristine, but it is a real limitation in practice, although I know exceptions), some couples where only one is a member, some couples where one is “less active”, and you probably have 20 to 25 one-man-one-woman-both-active-tithe-payer couples in an age range where service is likely, in a typical ward. So when thinking about how we could “break past using the same 10 families” consider that the reasonable or likely possibilities are limited. (Furthermore, in my experience, the wards ranging toward 25 instead of 20 couples are prime pickings for stake callings!)

  6. ji-There probably is some aspect, conscious or not, of hogging the callings or only extending them to people who have proven themselves reliable in the past. I submit names for primary and cub scouts. I’ve often suggested names of people I don’t know well personally because of the nature of our ward. Some of them have never had callings before (young married students) and magnify their callings so well that I’m filled with happiness and gratitude whenever I think about them. Others seem to accept the callings without any real intention of serving; I much prefer those people who decline the calling at the outset, or who let me know about any problems serving so that I can try to help them or replace them.

    Ardis-It is strange that we can’t volunteer to serve or even talk about potential callings with each other. About the only exception I’ve seen is with people who make it known that they really love to work with Scouts; they tend to get that calling. I would love it if I could just talk to people, ask them if they would enjoy serving in primary, what ages do they think they would enjoy working with. And it would be good to know who absolutely detests children, or is worn out from taking care of their own all week and need a break on Sundays. But that falls outside of our standard operating procedure.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to serve. I think when I get released, I’ll feel lost and aimless for a while. It’s happened before. After a too long a time without a calling, I really get into making comments in gospel doctrine. In my case, that’s not always good.

    Kristine-Any way out other than getting divorced? Not that I really want out; I just want the group of ten expanded to include most of the ward. I can understand that at some times we each will be carried by the efforts of others, so not everyone must be serving all of the time. But it is crazy to me that we struggle to make up meaningful callings for our members and at the same time tend to despise the real but not high-profile callings in primary. So many people don’t want to teach the children’s classes, when those are often the only classes in church where you as a teacher can personally know all of your students, and if you do your job, they will love you for it. I’d much rather be Sunbeam teacher than serve in any presidency.

    S Marsh (Ethesis)-No surplus here; we moved into the wrong part of town for that. Our branch had a single, divorced woman as relief society president when we moved in. She was wonderful. I believe our stake primary president was a single mom too.

  7. Chris Kimball-Does one have to be a full tithe payer to have a calling? or a certain class of calling? In both NY and TX, we had women serving as presidents or in presidencies who were married to non-members. But they all had good and supportive husbands. Our branch in NY had a few of our people called to the stake level; we felt their absence acutely.

    I remember when I was the enrichment leader, and the RS counselor over enrichment and I were trying to find out what to do to include the older sisters in the activities. We just couldn’t get them interested in coming out. One retired sister in my ward in San Diego explained to me that they had already done their years of serving in the church, and were enjoying a well-deserved break, and please don’t worry about trying to make them more active. So I guess I could age-out of the load-bearing group.

  8. As several have suggested, my perception is that the phenomenon is one of perceived reliability. The people making the callings want to install people who will actually do the job, and not give them an ongoing headache by not performing. Of course, in reality lots of people in the ward *could* do a given job well, but the person making the calling has limited personal experience with and information concerning the people in the ward.

    And yes, the stake callings that suck out the top talent from the wards, often for little reason, are a factor here.

    If I were a bishop, I would let people suggest where they think they might be most useful, not as a guaranty but as information to take seriously. And I would let the Primary and other presidents suggest who they wanted in various callings, and absent a conflict (which will indeed come up fairly often) I would do everything I could to honor those requests. Which is probably why I’ll never be a bishop. (Thank goodness!)

  9. I think it is totally about reliability. We have the same people rotating through callings, because they can be counted on. We have part member, re-activated members, single, married, divorced or widowed. Their status doesn’t matter so much as their reliability.

  10. i agree totally with #1, #2 and others. I have ranted about this for 30 years. We called it the Ward Quorum of the Twenty. I have been on many sides of it. i know what it feels like to think the whole ward is resting on your shoulders alone and that everyone else is a flake. I know what it is like to watch other leaders flounder and not ask for help. I have been burned out and at other times felt completely underutilized. I have smugly sat back and thought I told you so, if you only had listened to me. I have volunteered and been rejected or had my motives questioned.

    There is more going on here than meets the eye. I may be totally wrong (not the first time) but I think some kind of primitive herd instinct dealing with pecking order kicks in to keep a close community down to a small size best adapted to nomadic neolithic challenges of the ice ages or something like that. We contrive superficial but seemingly rational excuses to justify more deeply motivated subconscious behaviors that effectively push others out of the center of the community. I bet the Q of 20 pays about 80-90% of the tithing, but that is just another wild guess.

    One suggestion that might help. More open lines of communication. We need to modify the current system where volunteering or informing leaders of talents and desired callings is discouraged. Where every calling regardless of how absurd is to be accepted without question because it came by priesthood revelation. More negotiation and vetting for callings would help. More fitting callings to people and their talents instead of trying to force people into narrow calling boxes.

    We need to realize that when people get passive aggressive it is because leaders have dominated or controlled them too much in the past. Not that they are weak, faithless or lack valiance. Unrighteous dominion is the key ingredient in flaky Mormon casserole. I have also noticed that about the time your kids leave the nest they often push you out of the Q of 20, just when you have more time and might actually know how to do a challenging job. Youth with its inherent relative incompetence and brashness is favored That is unless you are one of the ward “big cheeses” being groomed for the next level. I guess it is easier to keep younger guys under control, except that wasn’t true for me.

    I don’t have the answer.

  11. Full tithe payer? Not necessarily. But the premise is “major callings” and for those callings tithe paying is a pretty significant requirement or indicator. One might also look for a temple recommend, but my understanding (anecdotal, not statistical) is that there is a very high correlation between full tithing paying adults and temple recommend holding adults.

  12. I’m surprised that taking information on preferred callings and experience isn’t routine. We seem to do it here. Not that you’re guaranteed to wind up in YW if that’s what you say you like, but they ask and it’s taken into consideration.

  13. Sorry for a double post, but it’s too late to amend or edit . . .
    In my experience (limited, constrained, etc etc), for the major callings for adult men, tithe paying and temple recommend are mandatory. Offhand I can’t think of exceptions, except in the Young Men’s/Scouting program and then we might quibble about what’s a “major calling”.
    I’ve seen more variations in calling women (and there is a reasonable debate whether that’s a good thing or suggests/reflects/perpetuates a lesser role and status for women and women’s callings).

  14. I am a lifetime member. Raised in the Church, married and active in the Church 54 years, 73 years old. I have seen this discussed before, but I have never been aware of it in my Church experience. Interesting.

  15. Meldrum, the square peg in the round hole doesn’t fit. What is the purpose of callings besides to fill the position? Every person that has a calling has the right and definitely should use knee mail to guide them. How many people will seek the guidance of the Lord to be an effective leader? Truth is in the scriptures, many are called but, few are chosen. Every living being has callings according to the Lord, many just do not follow His guidance and hence the same people get chosen time and time again because of their willingness to serve.

  16. Have served in positions of responsibility for 25 years. Willingness to serve and over all reliability are huge factors. When we think about a position to be filled we usually go though the whole ward roster and consider almost all active members. My advice for those who really want to serve? Go tell your bishop. Tell him you are willing to serve in any way, shape or form. And then faithfully magnify your calling. You will be surprised how grateful your bishop will be to have someone who expresses a willingness to serve.

  17. I think a lot of it depends on the ward culture that the bishop is aiming for. Also I’ve seen that similar to the workplace, past experience and your ‘church leadership resume’ seems to heavily dictate what callings you are considered for.

  18. Meldrum-wins for best line: “Unrighteous dominion is the key ingredient in flaky Mormon casserole.” I agree that a strong authoritarian structure can lead to passive aggression.

    Chris Kimball-Interesting. I wonder if that also reflects gendered stereotypes where women are not the ones earning the money, and therefore are not held to be the responsible parties for paying tithing.

    Linda F the cousin-You’re right that some callings are just positions that need to be filled. Not all service is glamorous or even appreciated. Some people are called to positions not because they would do the best job at it, but because it would be good for them to be doing it. Some are called because they have something in particular that is needed by the people they will serve. And some people are just warm bodies filling a spot so the organization can keep on functioning.

    Steven-I love your advice.

    One of the best things to remember about callings is that they don’t last forever. Our primary and nursery teachers generally serve for a year or less. Even if you think a calling will be challenging for you, you can give it your best for a few months. After that, you either have figured out what to do and be starting to settle into it, or you’ll know it’s not going to work, despite your best efforts, and you can ask for help or to be released. As a primary president, I am as concerned about my teachers as I am about the children they teach. I try to check in with each of them frequently, and I always appreciate it when they are honest with me about how they feel they are fitting into their calling. I can’t always fix things immediately, but at least I know what needs to be done.

  19. I always thought it was because the same 10 families also happen to be the same people who never say no. That’s the way it is here. Also, a friend was serving in the primary presidency before she moved. The new ward asked her to serve in the same position. Any chance it’s written on your record all previous callings? Would explain why the same 10 end up being the same 10 no matter where they live.

  20. @ Stephen (16),

    I agree. I think that family members kind of share a level of faithfulness/sacrifice/willingness. They reach an equilibrium, if you will between spouses and it usually extends to the kids. I think the reason your experience happens is because sometimes, there are fewer families at the desired level of willingness/reliability.

    My anecdotal experience has actually ben contrary to yours, Rachel. I’ve lived in 4-5 wards over the past 10 years, although not with the geographical diversity you do.

    I think one of the things that made Joseph Smith great was not necessarily his aptitude, but his willingness to do -anything- that the Lord wanted him to. Most of us have artificial lines of sacrifice we won’t cross, either because of fear or laziness, but the few who don’t or are close to not having them are usually the ones who get called to make those bigger sacrifices:

    D&C 4:3 “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;”

    D&C 64:34 “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.”

    D&C 97:8 “Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me.”


  21. This “ten family” thing is the fact in my ward- and to larger extent, my stake as well. There are plenty of people I think would like to serve as more than pew-warmers, as Ardis said. But… like Kristine, I was almost immediately released upon my divorce.

  22. This is the first time I have ever heard of this term and I feel lucky to be apart of stronger wards with many strong families. I wonder if they deal with weaker wards or more wards with larger extended families? Personally I feel that Utah members may have this problem from members born into the church versus spiritual found by the church. I mean to say low in testimony and born into the gospel.

    Side note: There is something as having one person doing too much are having too many callings and missing family time.

    I do find it funny regarding the angry comments or strong worded comments like the first. Those tend to show personal insight to why maybe your not called. Don’t be fake but try to be positive. The world has enough negativity and rude people. The church needs those who can rise above the clouds and be happy. Negativity wears down the soul.Negativty is not a great quality to have.

    From my experience, Heavenly Father tends to call those who can handle callings or revelation reviels those who are usually perfect for the callings. Waiting for a calling or feeling like you dont have to do your best until you get a calling is a weak argument. Those who get called are usually doing their best within the church already and shine, doing your best IE magnify your church ward member responsibilities. .

    Get out there and be great members. Don’t wait for a calling to be great, callings need those who are already great to help others. Don’t be one of those who thinks callings make weak members stronger. Lame business strategy so my guess its not so great in church life also.

    Cheers for the story.


  23. (Do I know you, Joseph Hurley?)

    I can attest to the fact that being off the wall, or weird, or a Democrat, won’t factor in to whether your family is called to stuff a lot in a ward. All the “outed” Democrats in my ward are in ward leadership positions… ;-)

  24. We’re never in that group of families because we move all the time. In nearly every ward I’ve lived in, I get my standard nursery calling and my husband gets his standard calling to teach High Priests because the longest we’ve ever stayed in one ward was two years, and that was an accident. Apparently HP groups are always desperate for new teachers and I’ve never been in a ward that didn’t need someone in nursery. We’re willing to do something different, but since we can’t commit to serving in any calling long term, we’re not an option for many callings (except when we lived in a student ward).

    I probably should feel more guilty about this, but if you want to get out of the same ten families mode, you have to look to people who might not fit the traditional standard as so many have pointed out in the comments. I have seen a few wards that did that and unquestionably they were stronger for it.

  25. Good points by many and an interesting read.

    I can’t tell if the author is honestly speaking from the heart or a typical self absorbed person speaking from the ego. They might not even know???

    Joseph your comments were spot on and classic. Happy people rarely are the ones posting here…. Your Utah vs the world members observation is something I heard in many states.

    Rachel I also liked your comments and your spot on.


  26. Joseph (no. 22) — You shouldn’t read my comment as angry — it wasn’t — but really, if there is any truth in the “same ten families” proposition, and if meaningful responsibility is to be shared beyond them, then they are going to have to do the sharing. Right?

  27. Some of you may know Clayton Christensen. He has alluded to this problem in the past and he calls it the “STP” syndrome, for “Same Ten People.” It seems that a small club of people tend to run the ward, and even the stake for that matter. He challenged Bishops and SPs to look outside the box, and take a risk on someone who may not be an “obvious” choice for a calling.

    It is sort of like raising children. The easiest way to get the dishes done is to do them yourself. But you have to let your kids do them, even if the kitchen is messy, or they put them away wrong, etc. In the same way, we need to let people grow into their callings. I have seen, on occasion, a ward collectively say “Huh? Him?” when someone is proposed for a certain calling, only to learn later that they did a great job. But it takes a bit of faith to call someone on the fringes. And like your kids with the dishes, they may occasionally fail.

    We also don’t consider everyone: single people are often overlooked, and so are elderly people.

    Finally, one way to get people into heavy callings is to call someone “outside of the box” as a President and recommend for them a counselor with more substantial experience. It allows mentoring, which is important in the church.

    It takes real effort, though, to reach outside of the STP. Those in leadership positions must constantly remind themselves that calling the STP is the easy way out, and that the ward, stake, and individuals may grow more if we draw our callings from a much larger pool.

  28. “often there is just a shortage of reliable people who socialize well.” I hate to say it, but this is a huge factor. It happens time and again that a new family will move into the ward and immediately be tapped for leadership when there are others available who have been serving quietly for years and who will never be seen as leadership material. It is not that they are not well enough known as much as they are too well known. The new people who come and who are “instantly” in are the ones who are gifted socially. They know how to recognize the power structure and get close to it.

    I have often thought the best way to spread the work around would be to post a list of openings and ask those interested to supply a resume. That won’t happen because that would be encourage the seeking of callings. But, to some degree it is happening anyway because socializing is really important and only a few people are actually exceptionally good at it.

  29. We have moved somewhere around 17 times since we got married eight years ago (no, that’s not a typo). I’d say at least half of our wards gave us a questionnaire to fill out (or had a verbal discussion with us), asking what callings we’d previously held and where we would like to serve. My husband always says young men, and he has been in several YM presidencies. I say wherever, but I usually get called as ward organist or choir director.

    So yeah, that’s my advice if you want out of the really time-consuming callings: learn to play the organ. As a bonus, the bishopric may even consider the fact that you are playing the organ, and call your spouse to some calling where he/she can sit with the kids during Sacrament Meeting.

  30. >So yeah, that’s my advice if you want out of the really time-consuming callings: learn to play the organ.

    Didn’t work for me. I still ended up in Primary for three years.

  31. Good comments, everyone.

    Newly Housewife-I know that for working with children, our bishopric checks in with the previous bishopric before extending a primary calling to newly moved in members. That adds on to the time it takes to call someone, but I wouldn’t want to skip it. I don’t know if any calling information is regularly transmitted with records.

    Cameron-I’m glad this is not universal. I wonder what factors make this more likely? Geographic size of a ward? LDS concentration in the population? Demographics of a ward?

    Tracy M and Kristine-Do you think you were released because of divorced status or because the leadership felt like you needed a break on Sundays because they assume your life outside of
    church is more stressful and demanding? Because one seems just wrong, but the other might be compassionate.

    Joseph Hurley-It is true that people who are doing a good job in the callings they have are considered for more demanding callings. I’ve heard the phrase “underutilizing” used to describe such members, and when the time is right, they are moved to new positions where they can serve better.

    Rob Perkins-In our branch, our politics didn’t matter because there were so few people who actually came most Sunday. We thought being politically left of Provo would exclude us. Turns out we landed in a diverse little ward where is our willingness and ability to serve is valued more than our political leanings.

    Amira-I have had teachers and counselors in primary who were only here for a few months. They were wonderful and I was happy to serve with them, but it is stressful to have to go through the calling process so frequently.

    Lord Maxwell-I’m sure I am self-absorbed to some extent. I can only hope that conversation with others will draw me out of myself and help me see the world from others’ points of view. :) I’m glad you’re enjoying the conversation.

    YvonneS-The only problem I can see with posting a list of openings is that it could undermine the person currently filling a calling but who needs to be released for one reason or another. But it sounds like a great idea for vacant positions.

    Stephen Hardy-Thanks for the reference to Clayton Christensen. And I think your mentoring idea is great. I feel like I have learned so much from the other people I have served with. When I was given my current calling, I kept one of the counselors from the previous presidency because I was so new to the ward and the calling, and I really needed the guidance of someone who knew what they were doing. And I honestly believe that all the choristers and counselors I’ve had (7 in 2 1/2 years-some moved, one called pulled to be a RS president, and 2 had served for abut a year and were worn out and needed a change) would be excellent at my job. I have no doubt that many of those sisters will go on to be presidents at some point and place.

    Sarah Familia-That is a lot of moving. Playing the piano and organ is a special case. I know some talented people feel trapped by those callings and others who love them. My husband was the primary pianist for 6 years in San Diego. He loved it. He’s been somewhat disappointed since then that he hasn’t been tucked back behind the piano and forgotten.

  32. In the wards I’ve been in, you can absolutely volunteer for callings.

    But the 10-family thing is real, and its mostly a phenomenon you see in other non-LDS organizations too, even in employment. There is a core of people who do most of the work, probably because their marginal productivity is higher. This doesn’t mean the rest are incompetents, just that their willingness or their time/energy or their experience are lacking and the bishop or whomever doesn’t want to take them on as a project.

  33. I live in a very Bishop-centric ward. It seems that He (a very good man) has all the reins firmly grasped. Very tough on him , but he is the super-reliable, class 1 type. I just read in the Handbook how we are supposed to focus our Ward council on seeking out the “lost sheep”. What is the best way to get them, and keep them active? Worthwhile, fulfilling and necessary callings. Ward Council should, of course, focus on the members and their needs, but especially on bringing the lost sheep back into opportunities to grow and progress. Thus relief for the core families, and growth in the kingdom.

  34. Some years ago, when I was in a singles ward, I attended a Sunday School class on Personal Relationships. This was not an official church class, but something the bishopric felt would be good in a singles ward–to help get us all “unsingle,” I guess. Anyway, it was a great class. When I moved and began attending another singles ward, the bishop called me in and asked me if I could have any calling I wanted, what would it be. I mentioned that class in my former ward and said I would love to teach such a class. He said, “Consider yourself called,” and I taught that class for about a year (although it never helped me end my single status). But that is the only time I have been asked what calling I would like. In my current ward, I do not see that “same 10 families” phenomenon. We seem to constantly be rotating the callings among various people in the ward. Most people are HTs or VTs as well. I currently have 2 callings. I’m a VT District Leader and I’m the ward choir accompanist. I kind of fell into that last calling. There was no choir accompanist and I was having some vocal cord problems and couldn’t sing, so I volunteered to play and, after doing it for awhile, they made it an official calling. I know our bishop tries to extend callings to as many people as possible (and I’m one of those who feel there are no insignificant callings–all are important). We even have 3 choristers in Relief Society, and a couple of them started out having no idea what they were doing, but are learning. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a “same 10 families” ward.

  35. When I was EQP in a Same 10 Families ward, I was generously complimented by the Stake Presidency for calling an older member as counselor who had not previously had leadership callings. Last I heard he is now in the Bishopric. I think that many leaders are hoping that this happens, but do not want to micromanage the quorum and auxiliary leaders.
    In my current ward, I am currently far from leadership, but get other nods like repeat calls to speak in Sacrament meeting on Holidays. We have way more than 10 capable families here.

  36. Welcome, Lane. One of the most important things in leadership callings is learning to delegate, to hope and trust others to do the work. In my case, that means planning ahead and asking people to help rather than procrastinating and end up doing more work myself.

    Sharee Hughes-I love that your bishop asked you what calling you would like, and that you had an answer for him. Maybe part of the issue is that we are accustomed to being told where to serve and don’t allow ourselves to think too much on what we would like to be doing, much less volunteer that information when talking to the bishop.

    Home and visiting teaching are very important callings as well. We recently got a new stake president who is very committed to having everyone do their home and visiting teaching. He went so far as to recommend that men who are not doing their home teaching should be released from their other callings. I’m still not sure what I think of that.

  37. Rachel, probably a little of both reasons. But I’m a lousy case study because I don’t fit the profile of a woman who gets called to those positions anyway.

  38. #3 Kristine – too true. I used to be part of the “10 families.” Then my wife left me, and I haven’t received even a basic calling in the few years since then.

    After I got remarried, I did move into a different ward, but I had to rely on church welfare for a couple of months. For some reason, using church welfare also disqualifies you from callings.

  39. I feel like one of the same 10 families, but I’m almost never in a presidency. I don’t think I am in a “typical” ward. I do now that many people turn down callings, but I never do.
    I was a RS secretary once, and in the YW Pres. once. I did NOT find these callings to be burdensome. Both of these callings were easy to go on vacation. When you are are a Primary pianist and you are required to find a sub and there aren’t any people to choose from it becomes easier to go to church sick than find a sub and it becomes a burden to go on vacation.
    Teaching a lesson week after week after week can be a lot of work. Why is going and hanging out in Ward Council and having Presidency meetings that much more work?
    I actually LOVE to sub in primary classes. But being there week after week feels very trapped. Being in a Presidency gives you lots of freedom during the block. You can get up and go to the bathroom or take a walk to check on your kid in nursery any time you like!!!! And you only have to do sharing time once a month. What’s the burden?
    What amazes me now that I am required to find someone to give a disabled person a ride to church ever week was for 7 years someone else did this and I didn’t even think twice about it. No one was giving them credit as a Same Ten Families, but they were doing a big job. It is frustrating to find rides for this person who can only go in certain kinds of cars. I would rather do it myself every week but if I do it means that my kids sometimes have 5 hours of church which is a lot to ask of them.
    Anyway, I get frustrated with the people who complain and refuse to step up. But I also realize that many, many people are in the background doing things that we don’t even know about. I also see that sometimes I have been underutilized which is frustrating and sometimes I do a little too much because it is easier to do it myself than to delegate or ask someone else.

  40. I live in a stake here in Canada that has it going on and certaintly yes new people get sucked up into callings instantly. I have sat in bishopric mtgs for years as an exec. sec and when figuring out callings, it would come down to do they have experience? but if they do then they would most likely get the calling but if not. My complaint was how are you supposed to get experience if not given the opportunity to get it? In Wpg here we have at least 4-6 guys who have served as a Bishop twice now-because they have experience. Plus one of out stake pres. is in his second time and he is totally in the STP group but he is so burnt out, tells the same recycled stories and isn’t motivating.

  41. I like 27 and especially 28 — there is real truth there for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear.

    This discussion raises a good question regarding whether we do a good job in our wards and branches in helping to grow and broaden our members. Cutting-edge businesses make real investments in employee development, but we sometimes make essentially no investment in our members.

    For example, how often do the STPs openly and freely socialize with others? If we’re in a presidency of some sort, do we sincerely try to help those “under” us to be successful in their callings, or do we simply expect them to be successful on their own, and leave them to fail and then whisper about them afterwards? What about mentoring? If a new Primary President has an idea that we see as problematic, do we quietly share our thoughts with her, or do we say it’s her calling and her inspiration and I’ll be quiet and then whisper about her afterwards? If one perceives he or she is in a “same ten families” or “STP” ward or branch, and if that person perceives him- or herself as on of the STPs, then that person has a wonderful opportunity to change — otherewise, he or she perpetuates the problem of which he or she is a part.

    Here’s an example: A man has a standing assignment to teach the lesson in his high priests group every second Sunday. A new member Primary teacher, or a socially weak Primary teacher, or any Primary teacher at all for that matter, asks the man to substitute for her in her Primary class on the upcoming second Sunday. The man could say “no” because he already has an assignment — or he could say “yes” and find his own substitute for his high priests group lesson. The man may find that he has more social ability or clout or standing in his ward than the Primary teacher does, and he wants to be helpful so he takes the Primary assignment as a kindness and help to his neighbor (the Primary teacher) and finds his own substitute for his lesson.

    And later, maybe he invites the Primary teacher and her family over to his house to let the kids play together and have a meal. Or maybe he sits at their table at the ward potluck. He helps the Primary teacher grow stronger socially and widen her net of contacts and increase her confidence.

    Or, he says “no” and the Primary teacher feels frustrated because she has a very small net of contacts and little confidence, and the Sunday comes and she is away and she feels bad and other ward members whisper about her and about how she doesn’t magnify her calling and she is not reliable.

    We need to help all of our members to grow and broaden. This happens more in some wards and branches and less in others. I hope no one ever feels like they’re in a sink-or-swim situation in a church calling — a church calling should be a wonderful opportunity!

  42. jks-I think being a counselor in a presidency is a great. While you have to be ready to fill in at a moment’s notice (a couple of Sundays in NY, a RS teacher didn’t show up, and one Sunday there was confusion about the teaching schedule, so no teacher was prepared. So I got to teach the lesson. It gave me a whole new motivation for doing the reading before class.) there is the kind of flexibility during church that you mentioned. As a president, I feel more responsibility and constraint; it hurts me when I see one of our classes go without a steady teacher for months because I know those children need that stability. I feel responsible for all of our children and our teachers. And people expect me to have answers and be able to make things better. I try, but some things are out of my hands. As far as extra meetings go, I try to keep that to a minimum. I go to ward council, and I hold a primary presidency meeting once a month. The primary meetings follow an agenda and last one hour.

    ji-The whispering you talk about sounds like the most destructive practice that could exist in any social group.

  43. Rachel (no. 42) — You’re right — it is destructive. It’s something we all need to be careful about. When we use words like reliable and dependable to describe “us”, we are essentially though silently using words like “unreliable” and “undependable” to describe others. When we say something like “unless all of us in the ward share the load”, we are silently separating “us” from others.

    Your posting has generated good discussion. Some of your posters said, in essence, that those others need to become more reliable and more dependable. But I’m suggesting that “we” need to work harder to help build and strengthen and broaden every member of our ward or branch.

    I don’t know the particulars of your Long Island branch, but it is easy to imagine that the STPs in your branch were all ethnically and socially similar — all from the mountain west, maybe even all from BYU — maybe that contributed more to your being among the STPs than your reliability or dependability. I’m not saying there is anything bad here; after all, you served honorably and faithfully where you were called. But it is sometimes easy to imagine Adam or Luke (using male examples) from BYU getting a leadership calling in a far away branch than Manual or Treyvon from the local community.

  44. I would love to have an answer to this. My sister moved into my ward a few years ago. She said one day, “I finally realized why you and x and y and z and a and b and c and d are such good friends. You guys are the ones who show up for everything.” on the rare occasion that I give input for a calling, I always suggest the people who stayed after an activity to clean up unasked. My husband and I joke that there is an epidemic of “if I flake it isn’t flaking as long as I do it with a smile” in Mormonism. I think showing up consistently and helping out seems to be a good (terrible) way to move into that same ten people realm. Not always. I’d personally be happy to

  45. My experience with the church is from outside the United States but my mission took me to Utah.

    I get the sense that the church might have stronger families in smaller numbers but honestly you want the strongest families in high stress callings not weak members. I have heard a lot of the arguments and still think many posts are great reads. They are very insightful to how they interact with others. Many people make such posts that are clear indicators they need to focus more on Christ. I get the feeling that a few people think they are ready for callings but they need to own the calling if they get them. It’s not easy.

    I want to direct you to Joseph’s post or Cameron’s.

    They are classic posts that should cause you to think or continue on a “negative thought-process”. Many people don’t realize how they react with others until they stop and listen to what they say.

    JI how else would anyone take your first post? Its not constructive, its a typical angry but insightful pust. Wanted to use you as an example of how your comments express a point.

    Joseph: sorry i really like your post but as a note the world is not a positive place. Yes negativity is a drag but a real world view is 90% of the population faces trials the United States does not regularly see. The fact your reading an article about this verses sitting in an unpaved village shows your only viewing a small world picture. Still not attacking you, just wanted you to know that many members find it easy to be angry at someone else than truly rise above pettiness and grow as a person. This is why your post is so good, maybe they will grow from it? Make sense?

    Cam: Your scriptures do a great job expressing simple but powerful truths. Honestly I have found them a great comfort and they invite the spirit of truth. Thank you for reminding me that with all our talking, the scriptures can cut right through it with the truth.

    Rachel: thanks for the comments and article. I like the feedback you have raised. I have run into many wards with 10 families.

    Many people need growth and callings can do that but that’s a disservice to the ward. You need leaders who will listen and learn not underdeveloped members. Sadly many individuals focus on the wrong thing and get lost in the fact, they need to step up to the plate before demanding the plate.

    You’ve written a great post and I hope others read the comments.

  46. We once had the STP issue in our ward. But we got exhausted. I confessed my tendency to vote for Democrats. It didn’t work. I thought maybe I should wear a black Harley-Davidson t-shirt to church.

    But then we had a Bishop called who believed in spreading out the priesthood responsibility and workload. I prayerfully called two counselors into the EQ Presidency who are not “traditional” Mormons. The Bishop called a menagerie of personalities into the “ward council” callings.

    It worked. Pluralism really works in the church. Attendance in EQ tripled. Sunday School doubled. Sacrament attendance doubled. We still have our issues, but a community of ten families can never be Zion. And I’d bet money that those ten families are similar culturally and socioeconomically. They certainly were in our ward. If the church can’t hang get people to serve each other and get beyond stereotypical differences, we’re doomed.

  47. Rachel Whipple — a real frustration is people who would get up in fast and testimony meeting and talk about how they so wanted to serve in the primary — that will get you called in a heartbeat, often — but who turned down callings to work in the primary almost monthly as well.

    status doesn’t matter so much as their reliability. Amen.

    Steven let me add that if you want a calling:

    (a) start showing up early to meetings and if chairs need to be set up or other things done, do it.
    (b) volunteer and cheerfully pitch in to clean the building, set up and take down chairs.
    (c.) show up to every ward activity. come early and pitch in to help with last minute set up, stay late and help clean up.
    (d) be cheerful.

    “often there is just a shortage of reliable people who socialize well.” I hate to say it, but this is a huge factor.

    So (e) be social and friendly, listen to people while you are cleaning up and be social about it.

    My current ward? Heck, we have a handful of people teaching the HP group, a librarian with an assistant (I am the current assistant librarian, the prior assistant was finally released to be the HP group leader), I’d say half the HPs have no callings at all other than home teaching.

    But in a normal ward — a-e above will result in your receiving callings.

  48. We have a lot of married couples in presidencies in our ward, too. To a large extent, though, that’s because, when the ward was formed 2 years ago, we had 70 people (including kids) a week in Sacrament meeting. That meant that, other than various teachers, almost everybody had to be in a presidency of some sort, and several presidency callings went unfilled.

    What I’m saying, I guess, is that, if you want to break into the STFs, you coud always come here; it may take a little while, but you will get a calling, and it won’t be hymnbook-passer-outer (that’s one of the informal duties of our one young man!).

  49. When my wife and I were married less than a year I was called into an EQ Presidency and she into a RS Presidency. We were 22 and 20 respectively. For the next 8 years at least one of us were in those positions at any given time. When we moved to Arkansas into a small branch (about 50 at sacrament each week) I was expecting that we would be put into presidency callings again since no presidency in the entire branch was full. I ended up as the branch mission leader though and she as the branch PR person and a once a month RS teacher. We both feel a bit underutilized now after having been in the STF roles in full functioning Utah wards. Cest la Vie.

  50. I find it interesting that so many here seem to want callings, but cannot find them. I have served in both the Sunday School Presidency and the Elders Quorum Presidency. The main problem I had in extending callings was getting anyone to say “yes”.

    Having exhausted the list of members who actually show up on Sundays, I have reached out to those with less that 50% attendance. I have had Secretaries who never came to Church, but made some telephone calls from home during the week. They were not the most effective– they did not “own” their calling, nor were they very proactive– but at least they accepted the calling, when others simply said, “No, thanks”.

  51. We’re not a part of the Big 10 because one member of the Bishopric, who has served for 7+ years, isn’t a fan of our family. We live in a ward where there are a large number of capable and willing families, and yet – the same 8-10 are consistently in Presidency callings.

  52. I heard an apocryphyal story sometime back. It appears this man and his family moves into a ward. He was asked what he did for work and he said he worked for the garbage company. he and his wife get asked to sub. for primary when the regular teachers didn’t show up. Months go by and her VT go by the house and turns out they own a mansion and it’s bigger then anyone else’s house. When asked what the husband does for the garbage company, the wife responds, “he owns it”. it no time flat they are both serving in the bishopric and RS Pres.

    I can see where people already in a ward don’t know newcomers and don’t know what their interests are but I hope God does and he and not the mind of men calls newcomers to the appropriate callings

  53. Well this is near and dear to my heart and has caused me and my family considered pain the past few years. The short of it is that both me and my wife have always been active and usually have had leadership positions. We were in the “10 families” and even been acknowledged as such in other terms. When you are one of the 10 families you likely will not even think that there is a group of 10 families, and even if there were, it would be because they are the ones most willing to serve. That’s what the 10 families tell each other.

    What’s really happening is typecasting. It doesn’t matter much which people are initially called into leadership callings in a ward, after a few years it will be “understood” who the stalwart ones are and who are the ones that the wards relies on. It can be subtle or not so subtle but I’ve seen it a lot in leadership meetings.

    When you lose your status as one of the 10 families then this dynamic is more apparent. I think my wife and I lost our status because we had too many kids and we were seen as “those kinds of mormons” (old fashioned, embarrassing to the “cool” members) and then were excluded, although people would be polite, just not sincere.

    After losing status we were confused and talked to our people in the ward and found out a lot (I mean A LOT) of people are shunned and labeled “not of the 10” and are ostracized and start wondering what’s wrong with them. Tampering with someone’s self-indentity, especially regarding spirituality, can do serious damage, and it is in my opinion a real problem in the church.

    Like they say about missions: everyone had a “weird” missionary they had to server with, and if you don’t think you did, then it was you. If you don’t think there is a “10 families” in your ward, then you’re probably one of them.

  54. Sam Brunson,

    I recently moved out of a ward just like that (70 in sacrament meeting was an extremely good week). Lots of people doubled and tripled up on callings, and lots of callings were left empty (like Sunday School President and sometimes the Executive Secretary, etc.) Most people with a spark of reliability were placed in presidencies or ward council positions. I remember one young family moved in, and within weeks she was the YW Pres. and he was the Executive Secretary. The STF there basically made up the entire ward.

    They’re still hurting (and I believe they’re again lacking an Executive Secretary). Lots of opportunities out there to serve, if you’re willing to move for them.

  55. NewlyHousewife (#19): “Any chance it’s written on your record all previous callings?”

    Ken Sez: No, it’s not on your record. Unless some action has been taken against your membership (i.e.,, disfellowshipment) the Individual Ordinance Summary you get (or at least, that you’re “supposed” to get) at tithing settlement every year contains the same information that’s on your record. (Or, for example, if someone has a conviction for molestation, the record will say, “Call 1-800-453-3860, extension whatever …”)

    To the point of the opening post, maybe I simply have a “weird” bishopric, but when they’re considering someone for a calling, nobody says (either consciously or subconsciously), “OK, brethren, let’s have another look at the ‘Top Ten’ list …” ;-D. (I just got an annoying vision of David Letterman: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for tonight’s Top Ten …” “Top-Ten Reasons Latter-day Saints Turn Down Callings (or Reasons Why they Should) …” LOL! ;-D Anyway …)

    If someone were to be tempted to fall into the “Top Ten Trap,” it’s very likely that someone else would point that out: “I think it’s important that we not get tunnel vision about who can serve where …” Maybe I’m naïve, and I certainly don’t want to discount those who are wilting (or have wilted) on the vine because they feel underutilized and underappreciated, but I can say that members of my bishopric don’t get “Top Ten Tunnel Vision” when considering people for callings. They usually consider several people, along with the multitude of varying circumstances in which those people find themselves (both positive and challenging) when considering to whom to extend what callings. While “Sister [X] has done [Y] (or something similar) before …” may factor in, it’s not the sin qua non.

    And, as I said, they do try to be sensitive to varying needs and circumstances. And they don’t extend callings simply on the basis of who “schmoozes” well: “Oh, you think you’d make a good [x] in the ward, huh? Well, we’ll see what the Lord says about that …” (One of the things I like best about the Church of Jesus Christ is that there always seems to be a way of ensuring that nobody gets too big for his britches: where else could one be a stake president one week and a nursery worker the next? ;-D) As for new people getting callings in short order, that seems to be a no-win proposition. If such callings aren’t extended, those folks are being allowed to “wilt on the vine,” while if they are, it’s simply further proof that the faithfulness of the well-established is being ignored. It’s been a real eye opener for me to observe how my bishopric operates. I hope my bishopric’s not just an exception.

    YvonneS: “I have often thought the best way to spread the work around would be to post a list of openings and ask those interested to supply a resume. That won’t happen because that would … encourage the seeking of callings.”

    It also won’t happen because God qualifies the called, rather than calling the qualified. (I know; I’ve been hopelessly unqualified for at least my last three callings … ;-D) Yes, I know we get frustrated about things like being allowed to wilt on the vine and/or being underutilized and the like, but I’m still naïve enough to think that the Lord is in charge: if He weren’t, I think “qualified people” would run this organization into the ground inside of five minutes. ;-D

    Twiceuponatime: “I did move into a different ward, but I had to rely on church welfare for a couple of months. For some reason, using church welfare also disqualifies you from callings.”

    Huh. While I’m unsure if he ever called upon Church resources—it wouldn’t surprise me if he had—the current second counselor in our stake presidency was unemployed for a time. I would dissent from any deliberations over a member being considered for a calling if, “He’s not qualified; he’s on Church welfare” ever were invoked in the discussion. Conversely, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if your leaders were to say something such as, “He’d be great in that calling under normal circumstances, but his wife/neighbor/friend tells me he’s under a lot of stress from being unemployed. Maybe finding a job needs to be his only job for awhile.” Or maybe the bishop would say, “Yes, I know he’s unemployed, but perhaps he could fill calling [y] instead of calling [x],” or “Perhaps calling [x] is what he needs right now, even though it is a high-stress calling because it might help him develop skills which will be useful in his employment …”

    Maybe you could give your leaders more of the benefit of the doubt.

    Jks: “Why is going and hanging out in Ward Council and having Presidency meetings that much more work?”

    It wouldn’t be … if people only “hung out” there. Meetings get a bad rap in the Church: “We believe in meetings, we hope to have more meetings, we have endured many meetings, and hope to be able to endure all meetings. If there is any meeting which is virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these meetings.” And yes, leaders need to do less AD-ministering and more ministering. But the ministering wouldn’t be very effective if there were no AD-ministering to plan it. There’s hardly any “hanging out” going on in the meetings I attend. There IS, however, a lot of planning, delegating, returning and reporting going on. (Maybe my ward is just “strange” …) And whether the meetings are more actual work or not, they do require more time …

    Whizzbang: “I have sat in bishopric mtgs for years as an exec. sec and when figuring out callings, it would come down to do they have experience?”

    Wow. Your experience is completely different from mine. One of my bishopric’s mottoes is, “Give people an opportunity to fail.” ;-D They could hardly do that if they were merely calling the qualified, rather than letting God qualify the called.

    Suleiman: “We once had the STP issue in our ward. But we got exhausted. I confessed my tendency to vote for Democrats. It didn’t work. I thought maybe I should wear a black Harley-Davidson t-shirt to church.”

    Reminds me of something my cousin did when he was called into the stake president’s office once. He put a few items of Mormon “contraband”—things such as a can of beer, a can of chew, a pack of cigarettes—into his briefcase. He pulled them out at the crucial moment and told the stake president, “I don’t use any of this stuff … but I could.” He was called as a bishop anyway. ;-D (That must’ve been some stake president …)

  56. Re #38 twiceuponatime: Receiving church welfare assistance does not disqualify anyone from being called to any level of position. In my ward it’s quite the contrary, as the bishop expects full and sometimes quite demanding participation from those receiving help.

    Years ago when I was a Primary pres, my counselors suggested a less-active woman be called as pianist. I didn’t even know her. The bishopric called her, and she was delighted to be asked to serve because she loved to play the piano. She came every Sunday and brought two sons with her to Primary. It was wonderful.

    Recently as RS pres I was acutely aware of the STP syndrome and worked very hard to include everyone. I saw that many people would say no because they lacked self confidence, even though they were very reliable.

    Here’s my take on callings: 1. Callings are temporary. A calling or lack of one is not a commentary on my value as a person. 2. Every calling is filled by nonprofessional, unpaid people, so I will be kind. 3. A whole lot—maybe the majority—of the work in a ward is not done via callings. It’s done by volunteers who set up, clean up, sign up, and show up. I don’t need to be called to be of significant help. 4. I believe the most important calling is VT and HT. This is the real work of love. My predecessor as RS pres asked to be released so that she could focus on being a VT to several sisters in need. (She did not announce this publicly, just to me, so that I would please not change her VT route.) Her example really made me think about my role while I was in leadership—to remember those in the most need.

  57. I get the impression this happens with the apostles too. When you hear someone like the Prophet talk about having an apostle as his home teacher etc.

    It seems to me that a lot is to do with who you know and who you impress.

    My wife and I were RS president and HP group leader but then we upset the Bishops wife and although we were in a small (60 members) ward we both had no callings for a couple of years.

    At a Temple recommend interview the Stake Pres asked why we didn’t have callings. A couple of weeks later my wife was called to Visiting teaching rep and I as PFR which is organsing chapel cleaning by members.


  58. I know a lot of people have criticized #1 above, but I personally can relate to it. It’s hard to feel like you can give more than is asked of you. Being a piano-playing accountant by day does not mean I love counting tithing receipts or playing the same hymns year after year to people that don’t seem all that interested in singing them. It becomes especially irksome when people say things like “Oh it must be nice having that built in calling; you never have to worry about what it’s like to be ward mission leader.” Bleah.

    I’m actually moving next month out of state and am very tempted to tell people that I’m not a CPA but am an elementary school teacher, as my two-year stint in Primary was the most fun I’ve ever had at church (7 year old are old enough to have fun but young enough to not have attitude).

    As for leadership callings, I’ve given up on those. I tend to always be in leadership at the office but for some reason I seem to make a great secretary at church. Go figure. And to be honest, from where I sit, I do just as much good as a secretary without all the hype and meetings associated with being the President.

  59. i think in addition to all the great comments, we underestimate the “power” of no. one may say “no, thank you”….what is often heard is “NO *%$@ YOU”…say it once, it’s a long time before you get another request to serve. say it again, you’re not getting a calling. maybe ever. like section 121, maybe we need to remember “decline betimes with reluctance, then show afterwards an increase in being there, lest the caller deem thee invisible”

  60. I’ve never been in a ward where welfare was a bar to “important” callings–but accepting callings, Word of Wisdom issues, and reliability were. There is some overlap, but its not complete overlap.

    I also agree with those people who say that reliability is a real concern, not some self-satisfied tale that some kind of Mormon elite tell each other. By reliability I mean (a) showing up to do your calling most of the time or (b) most of the time calling someone to let them know if you can’t show up.

    Obviously experience varies, but at least in mine the number one consideration in making calls isn’t getting someone from the insider group, its been desperately trying to find someone, anyone, who will accept the calling and at least do a half-arsed attempt at fulfilling it.

  61. It may be too far downstream to bring this up now, but the OP spoke of “major” callings going to the STF. By this I supposed she meant priesthood leadership positions, auxiliary presidencies, clerks, and perhaps teachers, and perhaps a handful of other callings. Much of the discussion, however, has been about any old calling whatsoever.

    I’d just like to say that many of us have probably been very reliable in filling minor assignments, very willing to serve, and do not feel “too good” to stack chairs, work in the kitchen, fold programs, pass out whiteboard markers, pick up hymnbooks, or do any of the other hundred things that need to be done all the time, but that don’t feel in any way like “major” callings, like assignments that require any real effort or thought or personal contribution. Much as people have liked to say in this discussion that consistency and willingness in those little assignments lead to callings of greater responsibility, no, they don’t, not always, or at least not for years on end. Very good people who are reliable and willing and who yearn to serve are overlooked for those “major” callings because we’re quiet, or single, or divorced, or look funny, or talk funny, or dress badly, or don’t drive, or have had to move too often. We don’t look like “major” material, or the STF think we’re unqualified or wouldn’t enjoy the chance to demonstrate what we could do, because we’re so unlike the polished extroverts who inspire confidence and callings, and who sometimes then complain about having to carry all the burden alone. Look around. We’re here. You’d be astonished at how much more we can do than pick up trash and change the numbers on the songboard.

  62. Might I suggest the best way to be noticed is to magnify your calling as a home teacher or visiting teacher?

    Finding meaningful ways to serve those you’re called to look after and report back often. Suggest ways that the Presidency could help them, etc. Organize a quorum or relief society project to help them with whatever their latest need is (garden, painting, construction, clean up, meals, firewood etc).

    When President Benson said that being a Home Teacher should be considered the most important call in the church, I suggest we take that to heart and find ways to magnify it. How intently do you plan your lessons you teach for Sunday School (or would teach if were called)? How much thought do you put into your talk, or what you’d say if you were the RSP, HPQL, etc.?

    If you put that thought and that zeal for service into an area where you are presently called to serve (HT or VT), regardless of what “happens” I’m pretty sure you’ll feel you’ve done the right thing. And it’s pretty likely the Lord would take notice of you being faithful in the little things…

  63. Ardis (no. 62) — You’ll find your answer in no. 63. You need to work harder.

    Even if no one else does, I appreciate your thoughts.

  64. Ardis, you are fantastic.

    We’ve been in this ward for almost three years. I sincerely hope that my husband and I both having leadership callings is a fluke, that we’ll be released when we’ve served out our term and fade back into quiet supportive callings. The level of work and worry I have right now is exhausting; I don’t think I can sustain it indefinitely.

  65. Ardis

    No, you do not need to work harder. I have rather enjoyed following this discussion because to me, it speaks to why I finally left the LDS faith. I was ordained a deacon at 12, and in the intervening 39 years (BYU grad, RM, temple recommend the whole time), held a grand total of exactly ONE leadership calling, a first counselor in the EQ for 2 months in the 80’s. My wife and four children were similarly overlooked, although my wife, to be honest, did serve as a primary counselor for 3 months in the early 90’s.

    Callings, or at least the “major” callings serve multiple functions in the LDS universe. They act as incentives for those who seek such things, they serve as a very visible “reward” for fidelity and they serve as an information content tool; they provide a separating equilibrium signal. It is quite clear at the end of the priesthood opening exercises when they say “Everyone who has ever had a leadership role will now go into the other room while the scrubs can stay here.” Of course the language is coded, and they say “We will now separate into our Quorums” but the message is the same.

    The LDS like to partition. Active vs. inactive, temple recommend vs. none, RM vs. no mission, leader vs. rank-and-file.

    I asked 2 Bishops and 1 Stake President about this. I was told in essence, “We will run the ward/stake how we please, the Lord has not made his will manifest for you to be a leader, and by the way, you should not aspire to callings, it is prideful and a sin.”

    Once I thought about this, I came to the only conclusion that made sense. Either Jesus hates me-I don’t think so-or there is something about me that the makes the institutional church reject me. Maybe, to use Ardis’ language, I don’t look like “major” material. I know this isn’t true either. I concluded that the power of discernment is virtually zero, and that people like to “call” their friends.

    Among those called, I tend to see one or more of the following: pioneer stock, Utah raised, salesman, executive, well-off, right last name, toady. I am not saying that other things are not considered, but my experience (virtually all outside of UT) has been the same.

    Some can find solace and accept their role as bench warmers, even through the hurt of knowing that they are capable of contributing much more, but never are in the “in” STP crowd. I know I concluded that the hand of God is largely absent from “callings” and correspondingly the rest of the LDS experience, and voted accordingly. Some will say I took “offense” and dismiss me as a bitter apostate whiner. So be it; the reality is far more nuanced.

  66. I think both sides of this debate need to stop insisting that their experience is normative for the whole church. Or even that our attitude towards calling (on the one side, that they are a dutiful and not very welcome burden; on the other, that they are a reward and a form of status) is necessarily the correct one.

    I continue to insist that this idea of faithful hardworking and capable members being excluded from important callings is not part of my experience. And its not because I’m hiding the truth from myself to preserve my elite Mormon status, complete with paramilitary uniform and decoder ring. My wards have been what they are.

    But I admit that Mormonism is big and there are a hundred different authentic Mormon experiences.

  67. It will be interesting to see the final judgment between those ten families and those who did not actively take part in building up the kingdom of God on the earth. The Lord certainly takes notice of this and will reward those who have served Him and hold back a reward for those who have not stepped up.

  68. Please, STOP! Please stop associating those who don’t hold “major” callings with those who do not “actively take part”! There isn’t a universal causal connection between these groups — some overlap, sure, but not universal.

  69. Sean, I have to hope that any final judgment will be on our hearts and attitudes, not only on the callings we serve in, especially because we usually cannot chose our callings. As some commenters have said, they are willing to serve when called, and do serve, but still feel underutilized or excluded in some way. And some people in leadership positions seem to enjoy the status and authority a little too much to get full credit for being a humble servant of the Lord. And the kingdom of heaven cannot be reserved only for those who work hard and contribute to the building of the kingdom of God on earth. That would exclude too many people we believe will get an automatic pass in because of the atonement (like small children).

  70. Thanks, ji. In my dream church, we could all actively take part and there would be no major callings. We’d bear each others burdens and they would be light.

  71. Rachel W.,
    your #71 sounds reasonable, but its really only just one perspective that you are recognizing. The other point of view is invisible.

  72. Rachel Whipple, my comments have nothing to do with the callings themselves. We know the Lord doesn’t care whether one is an Apostle or one is a Nursery Leader. It’s all the same. However, the so-called ten families are those who serve in numerous positions because of their willingness to serve. This was my point. Their willingness to serve the Lord and not just letting others do the work makes a big difference. We have had a difficult time filling primary positions in our ward because the members simply say no. When the so-called ten families are asked, the positions are filled.

  73. Adam G.and Sean-That’s fair. I was just worried that #69 could be read as only those same ten families are worthy of exaltation, and I wanted to temper that idea. Carry on.

  74. There are only so many significant callings in the LDS church. For those callings, a reliable person is highly desired. If you have a track record of reliability and dedication and you clearly seem to uphold the main correlated doctrinal tenets of the church, expect to get called to do lots of things.

    In my mind it is somewhat problematic and somewhat of a disincentive to be super reliable when it comes to voluntary church callings. The reward for doing an outstanding job at a calling is more responsibility. I don’t know, maybe some people like this, but I certainly don’t.

    So my advice to those who are trying to dodge callings and relieve themselves of being seen as the go-to person for callings, become a liberal Mormon. Adopt a John Dehlin or Joanna Brooks approach to Mormonism. Say liberal somewhat unorthodox things during class. Propose unorthodox ideas during meetings such as doing away with Sunday School or tossing correlated curricula for classes. By being the “different guy” at church I have managed to still be considered a member in good standing but at the same get leadership to think twice before asking me to do a responsibility-laden calling. It’s great, I don’t want to have my time eaten up by church callings. Of course it is easier for me since I am by my nature a liberal Mormon and very unorthodox in my thinking.

  75. Years ago, I got disgusted and tired of a certain interminable church calling and quit. I felt like I should not just sit on my arse but try and do something of equal or greater value. I struggled with what to do.

    One day a flyer on my door announced that a distant neighbor was dying of leukemia and needed an unrelated bone marrow donor. He was encouraging everyone to register. I thought what if I am the 1 in a million donor he needs? (I wasn’t and he soon died.) But this led me to the blood donor center and the answer to my prayers for a new calling.

    For a couple of decades I willingly had a large needle put in my arm for platelet donation (it used to be two large needles) every week or two. Plus a quick unit of blood donated every 56 days. The platelet donation lasts a couple hours and makes me jumpy and it does hurt a little. But it was something I would rather do than that cursed calling. Over the years I have donated half a thousand times and have small needle tracks in my arms to prove it. Recently the medication prescribed because of a cardiac event released me from this calling.

    I noticed on the Sunday before Christmas, the pews at every church were full. What songs and sermons were heard expressing the highest in the Christian faith. The blood donor center was empty that afternoon and the next few days. The blood center workers were dragging in their own teenage children and friends trying make their quotas. This so that those who might be seriously injuried during holiday travel or otherwise afflicted with conditions requiring blood might not suffer the consequences of not enough for transfusions.

    Sean, me boy, can ye measure for me which calling I will be blessed fer and which one cursed? The one at the LDS church I hated and quit? Or the other one where I actually felt needed and appreciated?

    Is it not the height of arrogance to assume the LDS church is the only volunteer organization with significant value? If y’all look at what the people not in STF are doing with their spare time, you might notice some are performing WORTHWHILE service. Shocking! Your reliability argument and your capability argument will also evaporate into thin error, exposing your ward leaders as the clannish dunces that they frequently are.

  76. If you have a track record of reliability and dedication and you clearly seem to uphold the main correlated doctrinal tenets of the church, expect to get called to do lots of things.

    As Rachel points out in the OP, that’s not necessarily the case. She became Primary President as soon as her records arrived, long before she had the chance to establish reliability and dedication (which is not to say she isn’t reliable and dedicated, just that she wouldn’t have had time to do it yet).

    And that corresponds with some of my experience, too. Both my wife and I have received significant callings within weeks or months of moving to certain wards. In other moves, we’ve received less high-profile callings just as quickly (or, at times, slowly).

    I’m sure that reliability and dedication play into callings, at least sometimes. But sometimes, showing up at the right time or in the right place play a part, too. Frankly, though, I value reliability and dedication more in Nursery and Primary teachers and youth Sunday School teachers than in Elders Quorum Presidents, for example. The EQ will run whether or not he’s there, but it’s hard to fake a lesson that’s worth teaching for kids.

  77. This has been a very interesting discussion. I’m currently serving as Primary president and was put in just one week after my dh was released from the bishopric. And I’m losing a counselor shortly and so choosing a new one is currently on my mind. So I started to worry a bit and ponder about whether Same Ten Families might be a problem in my ward. I took a glance through our ward list and decided to count the number of families where at least one member has served in a leadership/presidency or more prominent stake calling during the time I’ve lived in the ward, and I was pleasantly surprised that the number totalled about 40 families in the past 8 years.

    This is my first time serving in a presidency of any kind, and I’m in my early 40’s. I did choose counselors with much more experience…two of my presidency members had gone into their current callings straight from other leadership callings. I felt I needed that kind of experience to back me up, and also the circumstances of my life are such that I really needed people I could trust and rely on to carry their weight. The counsel my bishop gave me in choosing counselors was to go through the ward list and first write down all the people who could do the calling, then from that list take the people who would do the calling, and lastly narrow it down to who should do the calling. I spent time fasting, praying, and attending the temple in making the decision, and I feel confident that those I selected are those the Lord wanted, whether they had significant previous church experience or not.

    I will say in general that it is an interesting process learning how to discern when it comes to submitting names for callings. And it is definitely a process. In Primary we get LOTS of practice at this, probably more than any other organization. The number one thing I’m looking for is reliability, and my sense is that that is what our bishopric is looking at too. I’ve submitted names of people who haven’t been reliable in the past, in an effort to give them another chance and keep them involved, and the bishopric often vetoes those names. Another major thing I’m looking for is the ability to get along with people, and people who have had issues in the past with contention, who are difficult to work with, are generally passed over for callings.

    Most of the time, for me, confirmation about names doesn’t come in the form of dramatic revelation or even a “burning in the bosom”. It’s more a feeling of peace or rightness and a clearness of mind, kind of an “a ha, that makes perfect sense” kind of experience.

  78. Re Brad #76: I’ve done all those things. Hmm, it seems I’m still in the EQ Presidency.

  79. Ardis #62 said: “People are overlooked for those “major” callings because we’re quiet, or single, or divorced, or look funny, or talk funny, or dress badly, or don’t drive, or have had to move too often. We don’t look like “major” material, or the STF think we’re unqualified or wouldn’t enjoy the chance to demonstrate what we could do, because we’re so unlike the polished extroverts who inspire confidence and callings, and who sometimes then complain about having to carry all the burden alone.”

    It would be interesting to see a chart comparing these characteristics and leadership callings. Here’s how I would rate myself: I am quiet, introverted, almost never bear my testimony publicly, did not serve a mission, have children with major and visible problems, pretty inarticulate, pretty disorganized, fairly lazy, dress pretty badly, decidedly unattractive, have had to move pretty often–thus definitely not what I would consider polished. I am married (husband had major problems in the past), I do drive, I was raised in the church and have always been active and temple worthy. I love God and take my covenants seriously. I am pretty good at listening to and working with others. I have never said no to a calling. I am happy, optimistic, reliable, and try very hard not to gossip. Just recently at age 55 I have become comfortable giving lessons in RS.

    I have been a Primary teacher, chorister, counselor, president, pianist, stake Primary board (music specialist); YW secretary, president; RS teacher, counselor, president, stake RS counselor; ward activities chair. These were held in five different states (including Utah) and two foreign countries, over 35 years. Looking back I see that about one third of my adulthood has been in leadership callings. Is that a lot? If so, to what would you attribute that? I sure can’t figure it out.

  80. wowbagger #67: Everyone who has ever had a leadership role will now go into the other room while the scrubs can stay here.” Of course the language is coded, and they say “We will now separate into our Quorums” but the message is the same.

    Wow, I didn’t know I was supposed to take umbrage at the simple act of going to Elder’s Quorum. Color me enlightened! I’m currently the Executive Secretary in my ward. I’m often overly challenged by it, I’m not very good at it, and I would’ve had had it even for this long (it’s only been a few months) if my bishop weren’t endlessly patient. Maybe it lacks the prestige you’re seeking because it won’t involve an advancement in the priesthood, but if you’d like, I’d be happy to recommend you for it! ;D

  81. Which one fo the brethren was explaining a nonmember’s perspective a few years ago, and the nonmember asked him if it were true that every calling above a bishop in the Church is all talk, while every calling from a bishop and was all work? LOL!

  82. “… fo” is supposed to be “of,” of course! My executive secretaryship for an edit button! LOL!

  83. 1. I’ve a
    Heard of stf in biz literature as ‘stop’ (same ten old people) management. We suffered through it in our last ward. My husband and I were both reliable RMs with burning testimonies who were ready to work. The bishop’s wife held 8 major callings in addition to having 3 companions and 32 sisters on her vt route. Did I mention she was also yw president? Meanwhile, we twiddled our thumbs year after year after year. We never sought any callings, but told the bishop and later the sp we were willing to help. We tried volunteering and praying for the vision to see service opportunities. By year six we felt very unwelcome. The frustration and ostrization led me to depression, and we by necessity stopped attending our ward. (We attended a family member’s ward instead). Being visitors, we don’t have callings there either. I just read a bloggernacle recommended article ‘community of Abundance’ and very much desire to see and participate in that vision of Zion – a community where there is room for all and all who seek Him are welcomed. I have always experienced this growing up in the church and believe it to be the norm. This has just been a very odd experience.

  84. Ji sorry about the misunderstanding. When I read it’s your problem, it side tracked me as a negative comment.

    Just a thought to readers, why do you need a calling? Do you like grey hair, balding, large amounts of stress, missing family time, being at work late and then going to church, or having members argue with you about callings? Are you into pain, stress, long long long meetings, and having the weight of the ward on your shoulders?

    I feel that every calling is huge. I absolutely hate nursery, I hate it. I have been called twice because I won’t say no when heavenly father has asked me to step up into dirty diapers.

    We may think we are better “pride” or we feel “underutilized” in a church calling but that does not mean we can’t magnify our member calling.

    I would say doing your best shows the ward your a good person if you feel you need slaps on the back. Doing your best shows god your trying to pay your way back and lighten Jesus Christs burden for your personal sins.

    It’s funny to read some of these posts and enlightening. This is a new perspective for me and being in my younger 30’s, I must have been sheltered.

    Higher callings does not equate to prestige. I mean some bishops wear polyester suites and like like 70’s movie actors. I’m not standing in line for their approval.

    Don’t ever do anything for someone else’s approval, do it your you. Don’t let your thoughts turn negative because it shows. Many don’t want to be around negativity, not because You don’t have a calling. Come on that’s just silly.



  85. Wow. As a newbie to this forum, it is fascinating and sad to read many of these comments. During my life in the church I have served in many callings both “big” and “small” and I can say that for those who long for leadership positions they are way more glamorous from the outside looking in. The mantel is heavy, and it is only through putting in lots of knee time that those in leadership positions manage to fulfill those callings.

    That said, there are a few things that come to mind after reading all the comments. I am saddened that there are people who feel underutilized or overlooked and that in turn they feel unimportant or unloved or unworthy. We need to work towards cheerfulness and self-worth in the knowledge that we are true spirit children of our Father in Heaven. Anything else is contrary to what He wants for us. Of course I realize that life is complicated and that answer seems a little trite and simplistic. But as many have pointed out, any service to others is doing the Lord’s work and worthy of our time.

    As far as being the “type” to get the “big” callings, when I was called to be the RSP, my husband had been inactive for 15 years, my son was having drug problems and routinely getting into trouble with the police, and I was a full-time high school teacher-talk about your visible flaws! We live in a large family ward in a major metropolitan area (not in UT). I’m sure there were people who might have thought I was the wrong person for the job, but I served and grew in that position for almost 5 years. During my tenure as RSP, and in other leadership positions I have held, we have discussed the STF issue and fielded criticism from some members of the ward who complained loudly about their lack of significant callings. Almost to a person, when given callings they either turned them down or accepted them but weren’t reliable. In any organization, and the church is an organization, 90% of success is just showing up. The reliability factor can’t be emphasized enough. Without reliable people the church couldn’t function.

    The STF phenomena is not just in the church. When my children started school I volunteered in their classrooms. I did anything the teachers needed from organizing class parties to holding drives for school supplies to attending PTA meetings to listening to 1st graders read. As they grew, I drove the soccer carpool, was the team parent to organize snacks, end of year parties, coaches gifts, etc. We helped with all sports, cheerleading, food drives, scouts, PTA, after-prom, book drives, neighborhood watches, organizing meals for a neighbor with cancer, block parties, road-side cleanup, and fund-raisers for everything imaginable. Here is what I discovered early on: no matter what the organization, event, or circumstance it was the same few people who were there doing all the heavy lifting. The same people were at the HOA meeting and registering people to vote and the community garden and the parent meeting for (fill in any activity).

    If you want to be involved, there are endless opportunities for meaningful service all around us. I think we need to expand our view of what service means. If we see having a “major” calling in the church as the only important service, how will we ever be a light to the world? How will we ever spread the gospel if we only associate with our friends in our ward?

    Sorry this is so long, but here’s my last thought. The church is made up of people. The gospel is true and perfect; the church is not. It is just like any other organization dependent on us flawed people. The difference is we have the Lord on our side making up the difference. We are all in the same proverbial boat, so we need to start rowing and cut each other some slack.

  86. I agree with the above poster who says flakiness and passive-aggression are results of prior micromanagement by leadership. I am a sucker who falls for the “God is pleased when you tell the bishop yes” pressure to accept callings. I’ve had some doozy bishops and quietly try to slide out of the radar now, rather than risk a direct confrontation with someone who has so much authority over me and my family.

    Me, I don’t want a calling. I have 6 kids, including some with special needs. I homeschool them. My husband isn’t active and we are both working doubletime at addiction recovery. I am medicated for anxiety, including social anxiety. Right now, putting our house in order and trying to learn how to be a healthy, happy family IS our calling; but sometimes we have bishops who disagree.

    I can’t tell you how many leaders have pulled, pushed, prodded and pressured us into various callings. Usually with a phrase like “get out of your comfort zone”. I can tell you right now as a recovering victim of sexual abuse that having a male authority figure tell me to get out of my comfort zone for something he wants me to do is really, really destructive. I hope none of you ever use this phrase on someone else.

    I personally am not surprised by the STF phenomenon. The church is an organized hierarchy; people who tend to be more organized and hierarchical fit in better and do better. I have some Type-A friends who love structure and being in control; they complain about being the ones in charge, but if they weren’t in charge they’d be going nuts because nobody else would be doing things “right”.

    Making suggestions on how some of us–and I’m told Jesus loves me anyway, even though I’m a square peg–can better pass for “reliable”–normal, desirable, all those things my husband and I simply aren’t right now–this isn’t fixing anything. What if we actually tried to accept people where they’re at? What if callings were less burdensome? I’ve been told before that I shouldn’t homeschool or have babies if such things prevent me from contributing to the ward. When did putting our families first become irresponsible?

    I know, none of you have said this. I’m just reacting to past struggles with other bishops and ward members. But maybe there are other people like me out there, and those are the people who you’re thinking aren’t “stepping up”. Well, if I didn’t have my family or marital issues, I could devote much more time to the church, but something tells me that’s missing the forest for the trees.

  87. If you get the wonderful opportunity (and I really mean that) to “just” go to church and worship, meditate, socialize, etc without a formal calling, see it for the blessing that it is and enjoy it!

    Any unit I have ever attended would have been thrilled to have folks that regularly attended and were willing to serve, but were not limited to regular callings. Substitute teachers that care, and prepare a good learning experience? How awesome would that be?! Active members that volunteer to “sit in” with their kids’ Primary classes, help out during activities, etc!? Fabulous! Unofficial “assistants” who make themselves available to the Ward Mission Leader for last minute exchanges with the missionaries, helping with transport issues, providing support and fellowship in the Gospel Essentials class, etc. The great possibilities to serve formally and informally, which are still very fulfilling are endless!

    Enjoy your situation!

  88. God does not begin by asking us about our ability but only about our availability and if we then prove our dependability he will increase our capability!
    Neal A. Maxwell

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