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The Hardest Job in the Church

A few months ago, I was traveling to a ward conference with a couple of other ladies who serve in stake callings. I was listening with interest from the back seat as the conversation went something like this in the front:

“This is the busiest calling I have ever had.”

“I know! The Relief Society president and I were comparing what we have to do in our callings and she even said we have a lot more to do than she does.”

I didn’t say a word, but inside I was laughing hysterically. Because, you see, if I had to list which of my callings has been the “busiest” or “hardest” this would definitely not be it. In fact, I think I have a very cushy job right now. 

I attend a lot of ward conferences, New Beginnings, and Excellence Nights. But, I have to do very little when I am there other than enjoy it and meet the great young women of my stake and their leaders. I welcome and orient new presidencies (with materials that the church provides and I don’t have to prepare much at all). I help plan a couple of really big events each year — but with a committee of at least several other people. There is little, if anything, I really have to do on my own. I have a lot of assignments but they are completely do-able. Most of the time, frankly, I am bored out of my mind and feel like I could do more.

I think back to when I was Primary president with over 200 children in my ward. Every quarterly activity was on par with a youth conference or a girl’s camp (number-wise, it was about double what we get out to a stake event in YW/YM now). Busy, busy, busy! I remember trying to find teachers for all those children, and worrying that everyone would show up on Sunday, and learning all of the children’s names, and making home visits to those who weren’t attending, and planning sharing times at least 12 times a year, and on and on. I remember doing all of this with 3 children of my own who were ages four and under. Now, if we are talking busy, stressful, emotionally draining, that was it for me. And yet, I loved it, and in hindsight it was the hard things about it that made it ultimately so rewarding.

So, this brought up several questions in my mind:

  1. Why do we always want to compare ourselves with others? Is there some badge we win for putting in more time or having a calling that takes up a lot of our time? Is it a martyr thing?
  2. What is it that makes “hard” callings “hard”?


I think these responses will vary greatly from person to person. For me, the hardest callings have been when I was a counselor…any counselor in almost any presidency (I can think of one exception where we truly had a fabulously functioning presidency all around).

Why? Because I am kind of a control freak, I guess! It is, admittedly, hard for me to take a back seat sometimes and watch decisions be made differently than I would have made them, and watch the repercussions as I then support the decision that is made even when it goes badly. For me and my personality, it’s just kind of a hard position to be in sometimes.

Then again, it is definitely a learning experience, which is something I am truly grateful for even when I might be grumbling under my breath. So, while I don’t consider my calling right now to be busy at all, or “hard” in the sense of stretching my intellect, creativity, or time. I do think it is one of the hardest callings I have had simply in terms of making a presidency work with different personalities who don’t always see things the same way. Does this make any sense?

Therefore, my answers to the questions posted above are: #1 I have no idea. Anyone? Why do we do this to ourselves? And #2: I think callings are hard when things don’t go our way or when we don’t feel like we are being recognized for what we are putting into it.

At least, that is how it has been for me. How about for you?

{ 39 comments… add one }
  • Pattyann August 23, 2011, 9:40 am

    I have discovered the hardest calling in the entire church is always the one that I don’t enjoy or don’t like. It doesn’t matter what it is. If I can’t (or won’t) put my heart into it, than it isn’t easy for me. I think we all want to feel valued and if we don’t feel valued it is almost like we need to “one up” each other to get the pat on the back that we are craving. I have had wonderful experiences with callings that people don’t like and I loved. But I had to put my heart in the right place first, than it was so hard to give up!
    Pattyann recently posted…What Question are You AskingMy Profile

  • Paul August 23, 2011, 9:58 am

    Great question, Angie! I was listening to our bishop in Sunday talk about yet another training meeting he’d attended on Saturday evening (after another meeting Saturday morning) and I thought, “How does he DO it? He visits the sick; he ministers to many ward members (including me); He goes to all those meetings; And he’s still smiling on Sunday morning.” I then think, “I could never do that!” And then I remember that I DID do that when I was a bishop.

    I think sometimes the Lord helps to lighten our burdens when we serve Him, and when he does, those callings don’t seem so tough.

    Your story about being the Primary president reminded me of a stake president I had in Venezuela. He was coaching bishops in how to extend callings. He counseled them not necessarily to call the “best” woman in the ward as RS president (making HIS life easier), but he should call her as Primary President because she’ll have more impact on more people over more time. Of course he allowed that bishops ought to listen to the Lord’s promptings, but he was trying to dispell some popular behavior in his stake.
    Paul recently posted…Mission Moments: Unexpected MeetingsMy Profile

  • Angie Gardner August 24, 2011, 5:20 am

    Patty, I agree. And your experience in a calling may vary greatly depending on many things including your life situation at the time and those whom you are working with. I’ve had several callings, in fact, that I’ve really loved under circumstances and later hated, or vice versa. I remember the first time I was called as a Primary teacher – I was 20 years old and absolutely hated it. I didn’t like the kids and I don’t think they liked me. I knew nothing about teaching children and was pretty much just handed a manual and said to go for it. I felt really unprepared and stupid and must have been doing an awful job because (thankfully) it only lasted a few months when they graciously put me in to play the piano in RS instead. But, about 10 years later when I was called to teach Primary again, I loved it! I was in CTR instead of Sunbeams, which was a much better age group for me. I was more mature and by then had a child of my own so I felt like I could relate a little more, perhaps. I had more training this time and I felt that I had more support from the presidency. I’m sure it was all in my attitude, but it was so much better and I actually loved it. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long that time either, as I was then called into the presidency – which started a nearly 10-year run in Primary leadership and music callings that I, overall, enjoyed very much. If you would have told me at age 20 that Primary would become my love, I would have laughed. Now that I’ve been out of a Primary calling for a few years, I miss it.

    Not that it’s all about me or anything. 🙂 In fact, quite the opposite. I think my attitude about callings has changed a lot. To paraphrase President Kennedy – now I don’t ask what my calling can do for me,I ask what I can do for my calling. 🙂 Which is probably why it’s a little hard for me to be a counselor sometimes. I don’t feel as autonomous as I do in other callings. Which is probably a good thing because I am learning things that are hard for me.

    Paul, I appreciate your comments and agree. Sometimes when we look back, or look at others who are doing it currently, we are amazed that we were able to pull something off. I hadn’t heard anything like that with the Primary president thing, but I have read several quotes that say your strongest people in general should be in Primary. Makes sense to me, it is a place of great influence. I love Primary.

  • June August 24, 2011, 6:28 am

    I think the hardest calling I have had was teaching a very unruly youth Sunday school class. Ironically, my favourite has been teaching Seminary. It was different because the youth were different. I was taken aback, as I had previously had good Seminary classes over a period of 4 years, and wondered what on earth I could do to make it right. I’m not sure I ever did. I had very few successful classes which depended on class dynamics. I also found it hard when I was Primary President and I had a staffing issue. It took forever for callings to be extended, and some people I felt strongly about being called did not accept the call, which was disheartening, or I was told by my leaders I could not have them.

  • Samantha August 24, 2011, 7:44 am

    I am Primary President right now and while I have thoroughly enjoyed being a counselor on several occasions, I find being the president is a whole different ballgame. Bringing a presidency together is by far the hardest challenge I have had, and I find it very difficult and hurtful when counselors do not lend support and do not counsel out of love but are simply worried about how something they don’t agree with (which was bishopric approved) is going to make them look. I’m all about counseling, but there comes a time when we support and love those we’ve sustained. As a leader, I need that support, but I guess leadership is lonely even in the church! On the bright side the kids are the best part (and easiest part) of this calling and I agree whole heartedly that Primary is a crucial time and if you can help a Primary child now, they will need less help as adolescents

  • Kaya Pace August 24, 2011, 8:06 am

    The hardest calling in the church is always the one in which I am serving because I am being stretched at that time in my life with the calling. Even when I “know what I am doing” I try to stay in tune with the spirit to see how he would like me to expand what I am doing once I am comfortable where I am in the calling.

    The best calling I ever had was primary chorister. I had so much fun with that calling! A person can be so creative and the children are so fun. Encouraging them to love music and singing is so much fun. It is so wonderful to be in front of the children when they are singing Holding Hands Around the World and they are all singing so beautifully and the spirit is so strong. It brings tears to my eyes every time. I would do that job the rest of my life if the Lord let me.

  • Jac August 24, 2011, 8:17 am

    How about early morning seminary teacher? I am currently serving in this calling for my second year. I love my kids, but how about preparing for a young women’s lesson or writing a talk everyday? I feel like I have to be a scriptorian just in case anyone asks me any off the wall questions. Plus, I need to make it exciting in some way so the kids will have an easier time being attentive. Which is hard enough, since they are teenagers, but also because it is early in the morning!

  • Bethany August 24, 2011, 9:05 am

    I think that it aslo has to do with the ‘fit’ between the calling and you, for lack of a better description.

    For example, I was the RS choirester. A cushy calling in my opinion. I had an 18 month old, and a 3 year old and was a single mother. So it gave me a chance to spend some kid-free time learning from the other ladies/mothers/grandmothers in the ward. When they released the Primary Choirester I KNEW with out a shadow of a doubt that I was getting that calling. When the 2nd Counsellor called me into a room after church and said he wanted to talk to me, I blurted out You’re calling me to be the Primary Choirester aren’t you?? He looked a little shocked, but when I admitted that I had been prompted for about a week that I could handle my new calling, and once they announced the releaseing I knew immediately in my heart that was the calling I would be recieving.

    Fast Forward to 18 months later. With a Primary of 5 kids, 2 of which were mine (4 of which had a single mother serving in the Primary), my calling was not a joy, it was not inspiration, I was no longer a good ‘fit’ for the calling. I wrestled with my 2 kids all Sacrament meeting, if a teacher didn’t show up (which happened frequently) I wrestled with one of my of 2 kids during class time, then I wrestled with during Sharing time, and during Singing time. Sunday became one of my most dreaded days of the week. My Primary kids needed a new/fresh approach that would come with someone different doing that calling.

    I waited another year while they promised week after week that they were working on finding a replacement, and if I would just give them a little more time. By then it was pretty obvious to the Primary leaders that I was burned out, and struggling to do justice to my calling.

    As I said in the beginning sometimes a calling just doesn’t ‘fit’ with you and your circumstances. I struggled for about 6 months because I didn’t want to go to the Bishop and tell him I needed to be released. It took several long talks with my parents, and my sister to realise that it is okay to out-grow, or no longer fit into a calling. That it was my responsibility to speak up to the bishop and let him know I needed to be released.

  • Melanie August 24, 2011, 9:42 am

    I have small children, so the hardest callings for me are ones where I have to leave them at home and fine someone to watch them. This gets tricky because my husband is on call 24/7 and I can’t rely on him to always be home when I need it. I served in the Stake YW and it was my hardest calling because of the effect it had on my family and the stress I felt to be at a million meetings where my children weren’t welcome. Primary President was much easier because almost everything I did, I could bring my children along.

  • AnnaLee August 24, 2011, 9:57 am

    A ‘hard’ calling is not bad it means that we are being stretched and learning to listen to the right voices. For me I view a calling ‘hard’ only when I have not held it before. The unknown whether trained or not causes us to fear rather than have faith. It can be challenging and rewarding all at the same time! There are downtimes when perhaps by our comparing ourselves to how someone else has performed our calling we don’t give ourselves credit for doing our best at that time in whatever capacity we are called to serve. I always felt bad for those who were called to Young Women’s given that the majority of my service has been divided between RS and Primary, until recently when I was called to serve as Young Women’s president and what an incredible experience; loved it! I always thought that given that it would be a busy calling it would also be hard because you are trying to juggle your schedule with your families and the Young Women activities. Didn’t know what I was doing and had to rely completely on the spirit.

    I believe that allowing the Holy Ghost to influence us for good helps us not only grow but those whom serve with us and whom we serve. He is truly the true teacher and leads us to do “A marvelous work and a wonder!”

    I totally agree with Pauls comments.

  • missy August 24, 2011, 10:19 am

    I think the hardest calling is supporting your husband in the Bishopric when you have tiny kids. Our Ward starts at 8:30 and we have four kids. I try to be supportive and not whine while my husband spends hours before and after church in meetings while I entertain the kids.

    Not grumbling or loosing my patience is the hardest calling to me.

  • Jeannie August 24, 2011, 10:34 am

    Thank you for your article; it was both interesting and supportive. I truly have enjoyed all my callings and feel that I am where I need to be, learning what my Heavenly Father wants me to learn at any given time. I have a lot to learn, so I look forward to new callings. Perhaps the only time I have had difficulty in a calling is when I have been part of the 20% doing 80% of the work. Primary and Young Women can be that way sometimes, but I always try to remember that it is for Heavenly Father and his chidren that I am working and I am not in it to please or out do others. Oddly enough it has been working moms like myself (b/c of need not by choice who have been the most supportive and consistent in spending their time, talents and resources to help along the way. They are usually the most organized and reliable which is probably because they have to be! Hence the expression: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person!”. Thank you for your perpective and insight.

  • Dean August 24, 2011, 10:50 am

    The first time I served as a Primary teacher, I hated the stress and isolation from my priesthood quorum. The second time, I loved watching the children learn and grow. The first time I served as a clerk, I hated the sense that I was counting beans instead of saving souls. The second time, I loved the feeling of clearing the bishopric’s path and supplying them with pristine data so they could minister. The first time I served as bishop, I found it constantly stressful and emotionally exhausting, with a few wonderful rewards scattered like rare gems among all the heartbreaking trials and bad choices that I was powerless to fix. The second time I served as bishop… well, okay. That didn’t change.

    Because I can never be a Relief Society or Primary officer, I will never know the most stressful job in the Church (though I suspect it is either “parent,” or “single Mormon not by choice”). I do know that different people bring not only different skills to each calling, but different attitudes as well.

    I have had callings that involved a four-hour drive just to get to the stake center. That was extreme, but in any other area I’ve lived in as an adult, Sunday travel times of 2-3 hours round trip were routine for a stake calling. It would be hard for me to sympathize with complaints about the travel required by a stake calling in much of the American west. But that doesn’t mean the stress isn’t real to someone who isn’t used to it.

    As for wanting to compare ourselves with others, I have observed that we subtly and unwittingly, but relentlessly teach this dubious “skill” to our sisters in the Church.

    Pay attention in Young Women and Relief Society lessons and activities and you will see what I mean. There is an unfortunate tendency to reward all the wrong efforts (“The centerpieces were so lovely!” instead of “You made all our friends feel so welcome!”). And the temptation to gossip about sisters’ superficials is far too powerful for some of us (“Don’t be hard on her; she dresses as well as she can on her husband’s salary.”) Don’t think only the sisters do these things to each other; the brethren can be just as (or more) guilty on both counts. But whatever the offender’s gender, the targets in my experience are far more likely to be of the XX persuasion, chromosome-wise. And the insidious message that bubbles up and lodges in the back of our poor sisters’ minds is “The prettier/more organized/better groomed/showier decorations-making/ sister is better than me.”

  • Lola Merrill August 24, 2011, 10:53 am

    I am always grateful when my calling fits my loves, my strengths and gifts the Lord has given me. It’s then that I feel I can do the most good… and what is the absolute funnest calling in the world to me can be another’s dread (like 4th year girls’ camp leader for backpacking trips). I don’t notice the “hardness” of a calling when it’s so rewarding.

    As far as some of our tendencies to “one-up” and be a martyr… Is it too bold for me to say that it’s about pride–putting ourselves above or below another?

    Angie, I appreciate your Kennedy paraphrase, and especially your recognition that it’s not about you or me… I am reminded of President Uchdorf, “Lift where you stand.” It really isn’t about us or what we bring to the calling, or even which calling we have. Service in any calling is a privilege and should be approached with gratitude and diligence, not heaping glory upon ourselves, but recognizing that service in callings is part of the sanctification process and our token for the grace and mercy of Christ. The Lord gives us the abilities and strengths to fit the calling, and allows us and others to make mistakes in that calling for our growth and learning.

    Many of us must have that “control freak” streak in us that makes it seem easier in some ways to be in charge… or at least maybe those of us who leave comments like this. I know I have been in those situations where it would have been easier for me because of my experience or whatever to just do it rather than allow another the growth and leadership experience. However, after a very busy stake leadership calling for several years and being “in charge” of a lot of things, the most refreshing thing for me was to be called shortly thereafter to be a counselor in a young women’s presidency to a president who’s first experience it was to be “in charge”. It was so nice just to focus on supporting her in her stewardship and truly being a counselor to her. We ended up the best of friends. Although we both made our share of mistakes, she was a great example to me of how to rely on the Lord and His Spirit in her calling and humbly and lovingly serve Him and those in her stewardship. It was not at all about her–just about the young women she served.

    I hope we can have an attitude of gratitude for those who serve us and those we love, both as leaders to us and as support to us in our leadership roles, and that we appreciate every opportunity we have to serve!

  • Layne August 24, 2011, 12:48 pm

    Last night I spent some time with a member of the stake presidency in a stewardship interview in regards to my calling, which has caused me some reflection. As I read through these comments I was overcome by a sense of gratitude that for the most part everyone takes the opportunity to serve in one capacity or another.

    I don’t know that we will ever feel like we did everything we should have done in a specific calling and we will all experience a time in that calling when we feel it was the busiest calling we have had. It seems that the important part is that we find joy in in the journey and in the lessons learned from each calling; that we made a difference in at least one person’s life.

    I am convinced that regardless of all the programs and training we go through that the most important thing we do in a calling is to touch individuals. Even with all the amazing technology and media tools that the church has, we still teach the gospel one on one in the homes of individuals and families. The message is taken to individuals, in large part, by our sons and daughters who are busily engaged 24/7 in the work of inviting individuals to come to Christ.

  • Joan August 24, 2011, 2:25 pm

    When I was first called to be Nursery Leader (and I refused the first time, until I was racked with guilt 2 months later), I thought, this is going to be the worst calling ever – borrrring. 4 years later I was in tears for days when they released me. There is nothing like having someone else’s little children love you even though you only spend 2 hours a week with them. I’m now a Sunbeam teacher. I hate to say this, but this is the boring calling. Don’t get me wrong – I like these kids (I had them in nursery) but they change when they get older. It’s painful to try and fill 50 minutes in class time, and even worse sitting through sharing time with a heavy kid (I’m only 5′) sitting on my lap in the always-roasting Primary room. We’re in the front of the room of course, and it’s so embarassing when they won’t sit still or start crying for their moms. It’s hard for me to sit still, let alone a 3 year old, so I feel for them. I’m also painfully shy and refuse to stand in front of anyone…I’m already dreading the Primary program and it’s August!! I refuse to have a teaching partner for fear of looking like an idiot trying to teach a lesson, so I’m sick to my stomach each week about preparing a lesson. Ugh…I’m done complaining, but I think it’s hilarious how people think the nursery is the worst room in the building – I had the freedom to walk around and talk for 2 hours, and enjoy those funny kids having so much fun (well, most of them, anyway).

  • Christine August 24, 2011, 2:46 pm

    I connected with your feelings immediately. I am currently the Compassionate Service Leader . I am struggling because I want to rush in and make it all better. The hardest part for me to do is gather the most correct information and then pass it along to the RS Pres. She can then confer with the bishop, HT, VT, priesthood while I”m sitting waiting (which I do not do well with) I’m waiting and I keep thinking I could have had the situation resolved already. However, I am learning that if I did it my way I would do all the work so it wouldn’t get messed up (my interpretation) and have given not another person, most especially those who I am in service to, the opportunity to go and do as the Lord would have them do. For me the Lord knows all too well that sitting on the side is by far the hardest lesson I need to learn.

  • Audrey August 24, 2011, 2:48 pm

    I have served in Stake Primary Presidencies in 2 different Stakes. While it was very busy I was much busier day to day, week to week when I have been a Ward Primary President or Couunselor or RS President. Other then a lot of travel (sometimes driving 1 1/2 hours one way to a different Ward) it was a breeze compared to a local leadership calling.

  • Karen August 24, 2011, 4:50 pm

    I’m pretty new to the church. They all seem kind of hard but the way I see it, a calling is only what you put into it. You’re only as much a member as you make yourself. Your dedication is a personal experience. Why beat yourself up over your own level of dedication? You’re doing it to yourself. Nobody making you devote yourself on such a level you can’t stand it. Why not just do your best and enjoy it? It’s only as spiritually rewarding as you make it. Love God, enjoy the family that is your church and know they forgive you your shortcomings as families do (we hope) Seems simple to me.

  • jennycherie August 24, 2011, 5:39 pm

    1. Why do we always want to compare ourselves with others? Is there some badge we win for putting in more time or having a calling that takes up a lot of our time? Is it a martyr thing?

    I feel like this is human nature, especially when we lack self confidence. Most of the time, when people play the one-upman-ship game, it has more to do with their feelings about themselves than about anyone else.

    2. What is it that makes “hard” callings “hard”?

    Depends on the circumstances! As a new convert, primary was difficult for me because I knew nothing about children OR the gospel. My first family ward calling was as a Sunbeam teacher, while I was pregnant. Sometimes, I just sat on the floor and tried to keep them from killing each other. Other times, we’d have a nice, sweet prayer and one of the kids would yell, “that’s not right!” to the other! For the most part though, the callings that are difficult for me are the ones that pull our family in different directions. About two years ago, I was called as Primary Chorister and LOVED it SO much. I really fell like that calling was a gift – at a time when I cannot stay home with my kids, at least I could hang out with (the younger ones) them on Sunday! It didn’t last for long, but I loved it.

    My favorite calling so far has definitely been teaching Gospel Doctrine. I learn SO much when I am teaching and I really loved preparing those lessons. I wish I could have kept that long enough to teach the Old Testament!

    At the moment, I feel super busy, but the biggest challenge, is not my specific calling, but just making sure I balance everything – that I say no, when I should and make time for what is most important (like family and personal worship).
    jennycherie recently posted…Fear 101My Profile

  • jennycherie August 24, 2011, 6:01 pm


    “I think the hardest calling is supporting your husband in the Bishopric when you have tiny kids.”

    I know just what you mean! I find it difficult to be supportive any time the calling REALLY cuts into our family time. His current calling has a tendency to divide our family up a lot and takes a lot of time and money. It’s difficult to plan things around so many of his activities and it is hard not to be resentful of that!
    jennycherie recently posted…Fear 101My Profile

  • jennycherie August 24, 2011, 6:06 pm

    “Pay attention in Young Women and Relief Society lessons and activities and you will see what I mean. There is an unfortunate tendency to reward all the wrong efforts (“The centerpieces were so lovely!” instead of “You made all our friends feel so welcome!”). And the temptation to gossip about sisters’ superficials is far too powerful for some of us (“Don’t be hard on her; she dresses as well as she can on her husband’s salary.”) ”

    Dean, I am happy to say I have NEVER experienced such a thing. I can’t even remember the centerpieces. . . ever. And I’ve never heard ANYone comment on another woman’s clothes, unless it was complimentary OR unless it was a modesty concern. Do adults really do that? Maybe it’s just where we live?
    jennycherie recently posted…Fear 101My Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith August 24, 2011, 5:19 pm

    We have had a lot of new readers comment on this post. Just want to throw in a big welcome to you! Thanks for sharing your opinions and thoughts.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…House Full of Children – Elizabeth BarkleyMy Profile

  • Seanette August 24, 2011, 6:48 pm

    I think for me, the most difficult possible callings would relate to teens. I don’t relate well to adolescents, and didn’t when I was one (longer ago than I’m exactly delighted by). Between that and being a hard-wired night owl, and knowing that God has a sense of humor, Seminary would probably be the toughest of the bunch, not helped by not having had the experience of attending (I joined the Church at 24, and Angie (comment 3) was one of my missionaries. Hi, Angie!)).

    I’ve been a Primary secretary, Nursery assistant, and Sunbeam/CTR teacher. Enjoyed all three, but Nursery was physically tiring (after herding a half-dozen two-year-olds for two hours, I needed a nap as much as the kids did!), and I found the short attention spans of the Sunbeams and CTRs challenging. I’ve also been a ward librarian, which was fine (biggest problem I had was a balky copier), and an RS teacher, which was intimidating, especially the day I was teaching, the bishop was sitting in, and Sister Chip-on-the-Shoulder was “correcting” just about everything I said.

  • Angie Gardner August 24, 2011, 8:40 pm

    Wow, I was away all day and look at the comments. Thanks everyone, and welcome to those who are new to this blog!

    Seanette, you pointed out what must obviously be the most difficult calling in the church – missionary! How did I miss that one? And yet, it was also by far the calling that stretched and grew me the most, and was absolutely rewarding and something I would never trade for anything. I mean, how amazing is it almost 20 years later that you and I find one another again on Mormon Momma? Warms my heart. 🙂

    I really appreciate everyone’s comments, so much wisdom here. Missy, (and others who mentioned this as well) I feel your pain. I think the role of a bishop’s or counselor’s wife – or anytime your family is really stretched thin or in different directions as Jenny mentioned – is a calling unto itself, really, and it is a TOUGH one. Not only from the standpoint of how busy they are and you are on your own so much of the time with the children, but in how you can see the emotional burdens your spouse is carrying so much and yet unable to do a whole lot to help him.

    I think one think we have all agreed on is that Primary chorister is the best calling in the church…at least for a while! I have done it twice, and absolutely loved it. However, by the time I was released the second time, I have to admit I was really hoping to go a few years without getting it again. That calling is a kick, but it is also so much work. I liken it to Gospel Doctrine, with in-depth preparations (including posters and games!) every week. I adore it, but don’t really want it again anytime soon. 🙂

    And, if I didn’t mention it before, my dream calling? Seminary teacher! I am a morning person, I love the scripures, and I love the youth. My perfect combo. But probably because I want it, I will probably never do it.

    Another calling I would love to have sometime and never have is as a secretary. In fact, if women could be the ward clerk I think I would apply for that one!

  • Martin H. August 24, 2011, 11:14 pm

    I belive the hardest calling in the church is the calling that i do not have,why? Cause i will not know how those who use to hold that calling felt and experienced.It’s hard for me to complain or decide which is the easiest calling.

  • michael August 24, 2011, 11:20 pm

    As a man I will never know what its like to be the Primary President or the RS President. But short of those callings and Bishop I’ve done everything else in the ward and may Stake callings.

    For me the hardest callings are the ones I’ve had to do alone, in one case I was a 1st counselor in a large Branch that covered 100s of miles with an absentee President a distant Stake, and an inactive councilor (our average attendance was around 220, similar to many wards). There is nothing worse for me than to do a calling that is designed for team work alone without the support of the members called to serve.

    Sure it can be hard to make yourself do a calling you don’t want or like but as long as you have the support of others most of us can get through it.

    I once had a Bishop who clearly did not have the support of other ward leaders or his own counselors, He did everything and was a wonderful and caring man, But we wore him out without the support of leaders and counselors who should have been there to help him carry the load.

  • MB August 25, 2011, 8:38 am

    What makes a calling hard? For me it’s whenever the organization I am working with is seriously understaffed (and I expect myself to do the work of two or three people) or whenever the people I count on being there to help bless those we serve fail to show up.

    It can be those Primary callings where teachers fail to let you know they will not be there that Sunday, or Camp Director callings where half the chaperones/helpers call you the week before and tell you they won’t be able to make it, or the calling that’s usually done with an assistant or a counselor or two but the ward or branch can’t muster one, or working with young people who have yet to figure out personal responsibility and stewardship when you thought they had, or being a Mom that is used to having Dad home a lot and then suddenly he has a calling that requires 40 hours of his time a week, or working under the direction of someone who expects more from you but is unable to provide the support or resources you need from him or her in order to do so, or anythings else similar.

    All of these experiences have schooled me in fine art of winging it with good cheer and the good habit of having back-up plans in my back pocket. And they have completely convinced me of the truth that the purpose of my church work is not “getting the calling done” or following the program as outlined, it is strengthening relationships, loving who you are with where you are, and enjoying the journey.

    Also, anytime I, for whatever reason, reasonable or not, am unable to regularly fill my spiritual reservoirs outside of my church calling and the three hour block of meetings, my calling gets hard. I have learned that if I depend on Sunday church activities as a main source of refilling my reservoirs, they will definitely start to get low. My callings usually require me to pour out the living water in those reservoirs to bless others. It is essential that I refill them during the week.

  • Joni August 25, 2011, 1:14 pm

    Jac is right. While most church callings are challenging, nothing else that normal church members do even comes close to teaching early morning seminary.

    Early morning teachers have to prepare five separate fifty minute lessons every week of the school year (180 lessons a year). The curriculum is spread across four years, so they can’t double-up on lesson prep until the fifth year; in other words, they prepare more than 700 lessons before they can use lesson plans and materials from a previous lesson. Teachers attend required monthly inservice meetings that take up an entire Saturday morning. They also complete a significant amount of paperwork each month keep students records up to date. They are a ward’s seminary’s instructor, president, and secretary all rolled into one job. There’s also a significant amount of work to do during the summer to prepare for class and get organized for the new year. Teaching seminary is especially difficult for instructors who don’t have previous teaching experience or those who need to spend hours each week reading the scriptures just so they can learn the material required for teaching classes.

    Teaching early morning seminary is equivalent to a half-time uncompensated job–even if the instructor is only doing minimal work without anything extra to make the class a positive experience for students. The students are usually sleepy and often completely exhausted during lessons, so it’s difficult to prepare for and teach a class that will keep them engaged in learning throughout the entire class period. Most instructors have to deal with meeting the needs of at-risk students. For me, that included a student going to and then returning from jail, a student who was addicted to illegal drugs, students with learning disabilities, students who weren’t fluent in English, students with inactive or non-member parents, a student with a mentally ill single parent, a sophomore who became pregnant, and another student who ran away from home for a month before returning to class and then running away again. And I taught in the “good” ward in my stake because the majority of my students came from active, two-parent families. Some instructors in my stake taught entire classes of at-risk students.

    When I taught seminary, just teaching the class and driving to and from the Church took at least 10 hours each week. I had to spend at least a 10 hours of additional weekly work for lesson prep, meetings, and other required work–and that was when I was just doing the minimal work required to keep the class functioning in a basic way. For some weeks, I spent up to 30 hours on seminary in addition to caring for my family and going to work. I had the added benefit of having already taught institution and mutliple gospel doctrine courses, and I am a professional teacher. I can’t possibly imagine what teaching seminary is like for inexperienced instructors who aren’t already completely familiar with the standard works (which is the reality for most seminary teachers in my stake).

    Early morning seminary teachers do all of this at 6:00 in the morning. They are often chronically sleep-deprived because of the “early morning” part of their calling and because there just usually isn’t enough time in the day to balance teaching, family, and work without going to bed late.

    Teaching seminary blesses the lives of instructors in incredible ways, but they make enormous sacrifices that other church members probably don’t even begin to understand unless they have done something similar themselves.

  • sis t August 26, 2011, 2:36 pm

    thank you so much for the inspirational comments that are given when i moved to my current branch i met a shy elderly lady who seemed to have it all now the ward was small but it seemed to me that she would never say no to any calling given to her she was called as nursey leader in a tiny room there were 10 children for her to enjoy, then they called her to clean the building and she did a great job and enjoyed it so much while taking care of a sweet grandfather in law and yes they called her to do VT so she did that too and then wanted her to do the magazines to do you think she said no that too was added then i went to get a gun permit at the sheriff office yes she was there as an greeter , then i went to the library and she was there too and i saw her going to the dog pound carring a large black bag yes her car was full of bags then i don’ t know how she did it all and besides being a greeter on sundays and work as an assistant in the church library then she was called to be sec. to rs she also help with senmary for 4 yrs . then after 10 years she went on a mission and loved it looking forward to seeing her again i love the shy spirit she has and so often give to others and then i think i have it hard no not me i think of others who do for others o she also sang in choir

  • Tracy Keeney August 26, 2011, 4:04 pm

    Interesting article and discussion!
    Funny that the sisters in the car thought Stake callings were the busiest. I think of my calling in the Stake YW as one of the easiest and most enjoyable that I’ve had. It was “busy” and certainly required alot of time gearing up for Youth Conference and Girl’s Camp. But most of the year it was just a once a month presidency meeting and hitting a few ward conferences and YW in Excellence meetings. And like someone else already mentioned, when you have others you’re working with, and an entire committee of youth, you’re splitting up the work.
    I think alot of what makes a calling “hard”, (apart from one’s own attitude toward the calling) is whether or not the calling requires the support of others, and whether or not it requires OTHERS to do THEIR callings.
    The 2 most difficult callings I’ve had were Primary President and Compassionate Service Leader.
    When I was Primary President, it was in a small, country ward in South Carolina, and I in there ALONE several times! Yes– alone. I couldn’t even count on my counselors to show up. Teachers were unreliable, and NEVER ONCE called to let me know they weren’t coming. I’d end up having to keep all the kids in the Primary room for both hours, winging sharing time, and leading the music while playing the piano for singing time. When I tried to call more “active” people to teach, the Bishop kept giving me names of inactives, saying teaching primary was the perfect calling for inactives who needed the primary’s basic gospel principle lessons themselves. And I was like— “uh— no– I need teachers I can COUNT ON to be here, and the KIDS need teachers with TESTIMONIES who can teach with the spirit, not teachers that aren’t even convinced or truly converted themselves!”
    Compassionate Service was “hard” for 3 reasons. One, because it was often hard to find people who could or would fill assignments and I ended up doing alot of it myself, when I couldn’t really AFFORD to do it myself. Two, because in all honesty, sometimes it was REALLY HARD for me to “give service” when I PERSONALLY felt like they were just taking advantage of the church. People who would call and ask for meals, help, etc when they wouldn’t bother coming to church. There was even one sister who was attending a different religion’s services but would call US whenever she needed something. And it seemed that often, the people who were having to put meals together and deliver them, help clean, etc (myself included) were being put out ALOT MORE than the people who were being helped. In other words, it would have been easier THEM to do it THEMSELVES, than it was for me or someone else to do it FOR them. An example: One sister called for meals because her husband was having surgery. (One of the people who hardly ever showed their face in church.) I had had a horribly busy and frantic day and came home to two of my kids throwing up. On top of everything else, I was taking this woman dinner. But my husband was working the night shift and wasn’t home when it came time to deliver the meal. So I had to pack my kids in the car, buckets in tow– and take this woman dinner. When I got there, I found out that her husbands surgery was at 7:30 that morning and this woman and her two ADULT children had been home all day following the surgery. They’d been HOME since 10:30 in the morning.
    Another time, a sister (again, completely inactive) had had a baby and the RS was suppose to take in dinners for a few days. I couldn’t find anyone to do it that first day, so I ended up doing it myself. She was being released that afternoon, and I called to find out what time she thought she’d be home, so I could take her dinner. I’d been very busy all day and had some place to be that night, so when she told me “around 5″, I knew I’d have to drop it off on my way to my other engagement (and now I don’t even remember what it was). What I DO remember, is that I got there and no one was home. I called her cell several times, but no one answered. So I sat in the car waiting as long as I could, until finally I HAD to leave so I could get to where ever it was I needed to be. So I just knocked on the door of a neighbor, and asked them if I could leave the meal with them. Later that night, she finally called me back and apologized for not being home– they’d decided to GO OUT TO DINNER on the way home from the hospital.
    The other ”hard” part of the calling was the emotional and spiritual stress. There were several things going on– we were dealing with a sister who was a hoarder–trying to help her clean out her dumpster of a house so she wouldn’t lose her son to DFS. There was a sister with cancer– I’d been taking her to her chemo treatments, sitting with her during them, then taking her home. When they realized it was useless, she chose to die at home, but she had no family to take care of her. So we arranged for RS sisters and 2 of her friends, to go and sit with her in 3 hour blocks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week , watch her, give her her meds, etc, for the last 3 weeks of her life. That a few less “severe” things were all going on at the same time and the “weight” of other people’s problems, illnesses, struggles, etc was really weighing on me. I was standing at my sink washing dishes one night and just broke into tears– I felt completely overwhelmed and “burdened” by other people’s burdens. It was then that I realized how hard it must be for Bishops. I knew that what I was dealing with, in regard to other people’s problems, sins, etc was NOTHING compared to what Bishops must feel. Then I thought– I’m overwhelmed with grief over the problems of 4 or 5 people, the Bishop has the ward– and if just 4 or 5 people makes ME feel this “burdened”, then it’s no wonder than dealing with the burdens of the WORLD would make the Savior bleed from every pore. That was the reason I had that calling– to teach me that lesson. And I probably should have learned to give more freely and not worry about whether or not “I” thought people deserved my help or not. I don’t think that’s sunk in yet. 🙂 I don’t have a problem helping or giving, — even when it’s a real sacrifice of energy, time or money to do so– when I know that the help is really needed. But when I feel like people are just mooching or could easily do for themselves, I have a really hard time with it.

  • Angie Gardner August 28, 2011, 10:22 pm

    This has been a really interesting discussion – I had no idea how varied the responses would be – very cool!

    Joni – it’s still my dream calling. 🙂 One question – aren’t the lessons already outlined for you? I realize there would still be a lot of preparation, even with a lesson plan already in place – but I can’t even imagine starting with nothing. I have subbed a few times and the teacher has given me an outline which looked like it was something official from the church – no?

    Tracy – while seminary teacher is my dream calling (and that’s what you are doing now, right?) I would have to say that compassionate service leader would probably be the one I would fear the most. In fact, I think a scouting calling and CSL would probably be the only 2 callings I would seriously have to think and pray about before accepting. Not only is it a calling that is demanding of your time, but admittedly I would have some of the same problems you did. If I was having a hard time finding someone to help, I would just do it myself because it’s easier – which could get stressful and expensive! And, I’ll also admit to having some of the same feelings about those who require a lot. I have been through some hard things (at least things I feel are hard) and yet it would have been WAY harder for me to admit I needed help than it would be just to do it myself even if I was feeling awful. That probably makes no sense, but sometimes my pride can get the best of me. Just in the last little while I have accepted assignments to help other people and when I have received the call to help I have wanted to say, “But really, I need service more today than they do!” but instead I just say, “Sure!” and go and clean someone else’s house while mine suffers, or cook someone a nice meal and then order pizza. I hesitate to say too much because I use my real name here, but there is someone in my ward struggling with something that I once struggled with as well (without too much detail…chronic illness). I truly admire her for not suffering in silence as I did – the ward is arranging everything from childcare to housecleaning to meals for this family – and yet, I must admit that when I get called to help I sometimes grumble and wonder why if I found a way to do, why can’t she? Or why can’t her husband or other family members step up as mine did? To this day I am not sure anyone in my ward even knew of my struggle, other than a few close friends. And yet, I do admire this woman for being humble enough to accept the help. Maybe there is a fine line there between humility to ask when you need it and being self sufficient? I don’t know all the answers, I can just see that it would be very hard for me to pass judgments, even though I know I am not supposed to do that. I’m only human…and a very self reliant and you might say prideful human at that. You could say that it would take a lot for me to allow anyone in to clean my house, I really think I would be humiliated by that (and my house is pretty clean, really). Anyway, I know it’s wrong to feel that way so before anyone calls me to repentance I’ll just say that I already to call myself to repentance over this issue, but I would still rather be a seminary teacher than a CSL – and certainly, please, do not EVER call me to work in scouts. That could be a very bad outcome for all of us. 🙂

  • Jenny Darling August 29, 2011, 4:17 pm

    When I first clicked on this link I thought this article was about Being a Mother being the hardest calling in the church. So I was slightly dissapointed that it was about callings in church.

    I think that quiet often we as Mormon Women forget that our FIRST calling in in the home. It is before any calling we have at church. Church callings consist of very little time when we really look at the whole picture. And yet raising our children in the gospel is a FULL time Years Long calling, that we can Never be released from. A calling given to us by Heavenly Father. I think that this is by far the hardest calling that the Lord has ever given me. I know there are many days that I know that I didn’t give Motherhood my full ability. There are days that I feel like a complete and utter failure. There are days that I really question my sanity. And then there are days that I see my children shine and I know that even though I can’t see it all the time my efforts are making a difference in my childrens life.

    I do admit that my perspective may be curved by the fact that I have 6 very individually minded independent souls that call me Mom. Maybe a mom with 2 has a different opionion as to the hardness of this particular calling. But I do believe that being a Mother is the absolutely hardest calling that the Lord has ever trusted me with.

    Currently I am a nursery worker.
    Prior to that I was The Bear and Wolf Den Mother
    Prior to Prior I was the Music Conductor in Primary (Which I do have to say is a Job of an Entertainer =) . )

  • Anonymous August 31, 2011, 4:24 pm

    It is interesting how we compare ourselves to others in every aspect of our lives. It does not matter if it is in or out of the church. I think that is one of the characteristics of the natural man.
    Anonymous recently posted…The New NormalMy Profile

  • Tracy Keeney September 2, 2011, 9:59 pm

    Yes, Angie– I’m teaching Seminary now and I love it!
    It IS alot of work– and of all the callings I’ve had, (Primary Presidency-twice, YW presidency-3 times, Stake YW presidency, Gospel Doctrine teacher, RS teacher, 15-17 yr old Sunday School teacher, Choir director- 4 times, Compassionate Service Leader, Den Mother) it certainly IS the most time consuming, not just the hour of teaching every morning, but hours of preparing the lessons–but I love callings where I get to teach, and I love working with the youth. So it’s my two favorite things rolled up in one. I also LOVE really digging into the scriptures and really “studying” as opposed to reading. I know it’s not the most “important” part of the day, but Gospel Doctrine is my favorite part of the Sabbath. I really do think, as someone else already pointed out, that alot of what makes a calling “hard” is you’re attitude toward it and whether or not it’s a good experience. Like I said, being Primary President was a really hard one for me, but it wasn’t the CALLING that was hard, it was the CIRCUMSTANCES– I had little to NO help or support 80-90% of the time.
    Jenny– I can see why from the title, you thought the article was about motherhood. But I think your post STILL goes right along with what several people have said. Motherhood certainly IS a fulltime calling– and a very sacred one at that. But even though it’s all day, everyday, and incorporates a little of just about every job/career there is,(teacher, nurturer, nutritionist, nurse, lawyer, prosecuter, judge, financial planner, secretary, taxi driver, math tutor, janitor, interior decorator,etc, etc) I wouldn’t say that it’s my “hardest” calling. I’d say that for me, my calling as a mother, is very much like my calling as teaching Seminary. Even though teaching Seminary requires more time and work than any other “church calling” I’ve had, I don’t think of it as “hard”. And maybe it’s just what different people MEAN when they say “hard”. To me, “busy” and “alot of work” aren’t necessarily equal to “hard”.

  • Angie Gardner September 6, 2011, 6:45 am

    Jenny, sorry to disappoint. 🙂 Since most of those who read MM are parents and we talk about that a lot, I thought it would be fun to talk about another aspect of our LDS lives, which is our church callings. How we work those two things together is a huge part of what we are navigating every day. Our church is unique in the fact that almost every organization is led by parents who are doing it on a volunteer basis along with not only raising children but some working outside of the home as well. It’s busy!

  • Erica September 15, 2011, 12:50 am

    Anyone who is a mom is already doing the hardest job there is. Each woman on here is pouring her heart, soul, sweat and tears into her life. We should respect ourselves and respect others for that fact alone. There is no room for judgment.

  • jennycherie September 25, 2011, 6:14 am

    Thought of this thread while listening to President Uchtdorf last night! He mentioned how we have a tendency to compare ourselves. He was specifically speaking about us having patience with ourselves – that we tend to compare out worst with another’s best – but it brought me back to this thread where we also talked about comparisons!
    jennycherie recently posted…Fear 101My Profile

  • Stacy September 25, 2011, 11:31 am

    The love of mother for her child is beyond any doubt. A mother does what all she can for her child and she never expects anything, what can be more beautiful than a mother-child relationship.
    Stacy recently posted…Medical AssistantMy Profile

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