R. L. from California wrote:

I just got called to the nursery and I'm considering apostatizing. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by much. I am new in this ward, have young kids myself, and now, even at church, I feel totally isolated. How can I preserve my sanity?

Tracy says:

Launch spit wads toward the pulpit?

Aaagh! Kidding! Just a little twisted humor. Please don't do that!

I think most sisters would probably feel the same way. The interchange and discussions during the auxiliary meetings on Sundays and sitting next to other sisters in Relief Society are how you get to know and feel comfortable with members of the ward. And let's be honest, you can't do that if you're spending two hours in the nursery. Personally, I've always felt that new members of the ward shouldn't be called to the nursery until they're pretty well established and have made friendships.

Also, let me be up front and say that I do not believe that every bishopric, in every ward on the face of the earth, sincerely prays about who should be in each and every calling, every single solitary time they call someone.

One example of many: I know a brother who was issued a very intensive calling the day before he was moving across the country. Evidently the bishopric didn't even know that this man's family was moving all of their belongings were already on there way across the continental divide. I mean, come on!

But, let's consider a few things.

First, is it possible that you received this calling without your name having been fasted and prayed over? Of course. Maybe they've been trying to fill that calling for months and then you showed up and they immediately thought you were an answer to their prayers.

But second, maybe you really are the answer to their prayers. Just because teaching in the nursery isn't the ideal calling for making friendships in a new ward, it doesn't mean that Heavenly Father didn't inspire someone to call you. Maybe you're exactly who the nursery needs. Maybe you're exactly where He wants you to be.

Unfortunately, it's pretty common in the LDS church to feel like the nursery is a Sunday day-care. Sisters often feel that they're just in there baby-sitting so everyone else can go to their classes. The fact that we even call it “the nursery” doesn't help. But isn't it really a matter of adjusting our attitude?

There are lessons to be taught. The lesson certainly doesn't take up the entire two hours, but a well prepared teacher, who's thoughtfully planned out her lesson can have activities, songs and games that go with the lesson that can take up the majority of the time, so that she's not just “baby-sitting” but teaching.

Considering that not all families are having family scripture study, family prayer, and Family Home Evening, it's likely that your lessons may be the only gospel teaching that a few of the children in your class will get all week.

Also, you mentioned that you have young children of your own. So think about this, every Sunday after church other mothers of young children will be coming to your classroom door to gather their children. This can be a good opportunity for you to get to know them and maybe begin some friendships. Make a point to talk with them about what you did in class that day. Maybe you could even arrange a midweek play date so your kids can play, and the moms can hang out and chat.

So even if you feel like you were called just because you were a “fresh body” to stick into the calling, and even though your new calling may require you to do a little extra work in beginning some new friendships, remember that other than their parents, you are one of the first teachers these children will have. If you serve them well, and with all your heart, they will one day “rise up and call you blessed.”

Alison says:

R. L., you sent this question some time ago and only now have I had to time to revisit and post it. When I looked it up, I didn't even remember the topic. My, how timely it turned out to be for me.

When we put our house up for sale last spring, I was released from my most beloved calling of Relief Society teacher and called, short-term, to teach Sunbeams. Don't get me wrong, I love the Sunbeams. They are dear and sweet and love unconditionally. It's sitting in Primary for two hours and teaching lessons like I Am Thankful for Fish that makes me want to come down with a fever and severe case of vomiting every (single) Sunday morning.

When our house went under contract just a few weeks ago, both my husband and I were released from our callings (Sam was the Sunday School President). I ran to find the Primary president, returned my binder, and (literally, honestly) skipped into Relief Society declaring, “I'm back!” with great joy.

I love Primary. I just don't want to be there. It's not that I begrudge doing my part in the kingdom, in giving of my time and resources, in serving others and making a contribution! It's that I so terribly don't want to miss Sunday School and Relief Society! Particularly now, when my entire life is consumed with my own little at-home Primary. Since I homeschool, I spend my days (and nights) with children ages 3 ?16. I don't work outside the home. I don't go to lunch or the gym with my peers. I'm not taking college classes to improve myself. I teach my kids, I drive my kids, I feed my kids, I clothe my kids. Then, at church, I spend the first hour and ten minutes wrestling with a feisty toddler and a bored six-year-old.

The last two hours, when my children are nestled all snug in their age-appropriate classrooms, are generally my only weekly adult interaction, group gospel study, and time to breathe and think clearly without someone tugging on my sleeve. So, after eight months being oxygen deprived, I was overjoyed to be back in the land of the living. And I'm one of those insane people who actually reads the Gospel Doctrine lesson (usually looking up supplemental material as well) and the Relief Society lesson ?with a highlighter in hand. I love every moment of gospel discussion and insight and see it as a profound opportunity to learn from the Spirit, to rejuvenate, to motivate.

But less than a week later, when we contracted with the soon-to-be owner of our house to lease it back from him as we built our new one, word spread that we would be staying in the ward a few months longer. We were duly warned by both the bishop and his counselors that the respite was not long to be.

Today, I was home with a sick child and my husband came home to inform me that I had been vicariously issued a calling in my absence. Setting aside the probable impropriety of such a move, I held my breath, waiting to hear the fate that I would endure for the remainder of my tenure in the Cedar Pass 1st Ward ?

Course 11 Primary Instructor

Then I did something I've never done before in such circumstances. I broke down and cried. Literally, I sobbed for almost an hour.

I've never turned down a calling, unless informing the second counselor who has just requested that I serve as Primary pianist that I actually do not play the piano at all constitutes refusal. Mormons accept callings issued, favored or not, ill-suited or not. “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”

So, R. L., today I feel your pain. With all the honesty I can muster in a public forum, at this point in my life I'd rather stay home and read the scriptures and watch BYUTV for the last two-hour block than sit in another sharing time full of noisy kids, playing some dumb, matching game on the chalkboard and requesting Book of Mormon Stories for the umpteenth time. I feel almost desperate for some adult interaction and communal gospel study.

What do I do? Do I just suck it up, go along with the assumed acceptance, put my heart into it, and hope to survive? Do I let the bishop know that I am willing to accept the call, but that I would like him to consider my feelings? Is doing so the same as refusing? Does it impugn me? Does it make me less valiant? How does it effect my standing in a ward where I am already a marginal character? Should I even care?

I wrote very practically (I thought), several years ago, about this topic in another Circle of Sisters article titled Is It Ever OK to “Just Say No”? But, I find, it's much easier to dole out profound advice when your own salvation isn't riding on the answer. Technically pioneer women could refuse to participate in polygamy, too ?so long as they were willing to rot in hell for it. So, just how important is my 42-year-old sanity in the eternal scheme of things? Should I follow my own advice?

Apparently I have no answer for you, R. J. It's too personal this week for me to be objective. Just know that I empathize.

Kathy says:

I think I would have served forevermore in the nursery in my Arizona ward if I had not moved to Idaho. But and this is a huge but, although it has only one “t.”

I was ready. My children were grown and gone and I was eager for tiny arms around my neck and sleepy heads on my shoulder. I fervently believe it is grandmas and grandpas who belong in the nursery. I was joined by another grandma, one of my favorite ladies in the ward. We loved every minute and did a great job. I would have been content to stay there for the rest of my second estate.

When you begin to get grey hair and jowls, it sometimes feels as if you have heard every possible iteration of every possible Relief Society discussion. I know. It seems impossible. When I was your age, I was the most passionate consumer of Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society lessons in the last dispensation. I was always sorry when the hour was over, and many times I believed we could have continued for another two or three hours without a squirm or a cough.

I agree with you completely. It is during those years of hunger and thirst that you need to be with the adults. The day will come when you will feel just as starved for the company of babies and toddlers.

So, for the love of all that is holy, why do our leaders wrest us from the bosom of our sisters when we most desperately need to be in Relief Society, then allow us to languish with the other grannies when we would love nothing more than to trot a baby, even a howling baby, for two magically fleeting hours, in a strange room scaled for occupants one eighth our size?

Wouldn't it be an amazing piece of probationary irony if Heavenly Father simply needs to remind us, as gently and tenderly as possible, that we were among those in a recent Sacrament Meeting singing “I'll go where you want me to go, Dear Lord?”

I'm not suggesting this is the case, mind you. I do not pretend to understand the will of the Lord, or even the motivation of the bishop. It's just a thought.