Mormons Learning to “Just Say No”

Mormons have been taught not to refuse a church calling. Whether you are called to the position of Relief Society President or home teacher, you just say yes. After all, your Church leaders are inspired.

A post on the Mormon blog bycommonconsent.com suggested that, in some cases, the answer should be no. The author argues that family should come first, then Church. Particularly, for a “family-friendly” church. She turned down her most recent calling.

While some agreed with her, one commenter argued that the “just-say-no” strategy places unnecessary burdens on the Bishop and potentially overloads “yes” members. The response to this comment was that the Church has too many make-work callings.

A year or two ago, I had my most recent “no” moment. I was called to be some sort of secretary. (As background, I hate paperwork.) I spend 2 months a year in Africa. I also volunteer monthly in the Navajo Nation. One of my sons and his family live in Washington D.C. I love my volunteer work and I love to travel. The calling seemed less than inspired and I turned it down. Why would the Stake President call me to a position that would cause serious disruption to my chosen retirement activities? Besides I hate paperwork.

My wife had a similar experience. She was teaching the Sunbeams (4-year-olds in Primary). A job she loves. The Bishop wanted to release her and call her to be the Relief Society secretary. My wife was devastated. The Bishop asked me if I could support him? I replied that this was problematic. I should have said “Hell no!” Luckily the Bishop reversed his decision. My wife still teaches the Sunbeams.

What I am as a humanoid is defined by my (non-LDS) volunteer work. Would a loving deity really want to disrupt that? My wife enjoys teaching the Sunbeams, it’s an important part of who she is. Would a loving deity really want to deprive her of that joy?

There are all kinds of reasons to “just say no.” Family responsibilities, interference with job (paid or unpaid), make-work callings, or person preference. And I’m sure there’s a myriad other reasons.

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9 Responses to Mormons Learning to “Just Say No”

  1. shematwater says:

    There are legitimate reasons for saying no, but do we really want to question God simply because he is asking us to do something we don’t want to do?
    No, the leaders are not always inspired, but if our basis for believing them uninspired is simply because we don’t like the calling being offered, then aren’t we trying to project our opinions and desires onto God rather than letting him lead the church.

    The reason for saying no should never be that we don’t believe God would issue the calling, but that our current situation prevents us from fulfilling the duties properly.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Should I give up my volunteer work in Africa so I can be s Ward clerk? That doesn’t make sense.

      Church leaders too often consider member’s time an unlimited resource for them to use as they please. One of the ways members can encourage change in the organization is by saying “no.” If enough members say “no” to make-work positions, maybe the leadership will be encouraged to streamline.

      • shematwater says:

        If it is what God wants you to do than yes, it makes perfect sense. Now, I will readily admit that not every calling is given through direct inspiration, but just because you don’t like the idea isn’t proof that this is the case.

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    I’m the best judge of what is best for me. And being a Ward clerk at the expense of much of my volunteer work was totally unacceptable. Saying “no” was easy. Besides I hate paperwork. Call my decision to say “no” personal revelation or inspiration if you like.

  3. shematwater says:

    It was never my intention to speak on specifics, but generalities. Yes, I believe that God does call people to do things they are not good at, and that they do not enjoy. I also believe that He asks them to sacrifice things they enjoy and want to do in order to serve in His church.

    Honestly, anyone who thinks they know better than God on anything has a serious problem. The leaders may not be inspired, but God always knows what is best for every single one of us, and if He is asking us to give up what we love to do what we hate we should trust His judgment and do it. Nothing bad can come from doing what God commands us to do.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I don’t think I know more than God, I think I know more about me than my Stake President.

      My heart and conscience (call it “the light of Christ”) tell me I made the right decision.

  4. shematwater says:

    It was never my intention to say otherwise. I was speaking about a general attitude that I have seen creeping into the church. Your decision may or may not have been right, I am not in a position to say. That is between you and God.
    However, I do think the attitude you are espousing is a dangerous one. The ward and stake leaders may not be inspired with every decision, but it is dangerous to assume that they aren’t simply because what they say is not to your liking. Honestly, it seems to me that you are encouraging that all members assume that their leaders aren’t inspired at all, and that attitude scares me.

  5. bretberger says:

    Wish some of the assistant scoutmasters who agreed to help me with scouts but never show up had said no.

  6. Susan says:

    “Activate the Inactive” “Hasten the Work” are a few unwritten slogans that come to mind. Callings made through “perspiration” not “inspiration.”

    I used to play the piano in Relief Society. Each week, it became more and more difficult. Over time, the bishop “relieved” me of my calling and I was put in primary, where I have played the piano for at least 10 years. The bishop was well aware of my disillusionment with RS in which, I might add, others had also expressed difficulty. I now have the best calling in the church. An escape mechanism? You better believe it. Yet I’m much more blessed in primary versus RS. The bishop is happy, I’m happy.

    Keep doing what you are doing, Roger.

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