Church Callings and Coping with Being Released

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Sustaining

When an unexpected release from church callings comes, there are quite a few emotions that may come with it. Here are some of the possible emotional responses to getting released and some ideas for putting them in the proper context.

1. “I didn’t do Enough with My Church Callings”

Woman kneeling at Jesus' feet

This feeling often afflicts the conscientious. If you are feeling this, friends and family may assure you that you “did great.” This social support may help temporarily, but ultimately you will still have the internal doubt to deal with.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell once taught about this issue. He divided Church members into three categories: 1. Those actively involved in gross sin. 2. Those who are coasting along at their current level. 3. Those who sense the gap between their current selves and their potential selves, and who are striving to improve.

Congratulations! If you feel you haven’t done enough, Elder Maxwell suggests you’re on the right track.The trick is to understand the other aspect of Elder Maxwell’s talk: namely, God’s grace, which “flows not only to those “who love [Him] and keep all [His] commandments,” but likewise to those “that [seek] so to do” (D&C 46:9).”

If you are unable to accept the idea that you can be fully happy and yet still need improvement, you probably don’t understand God’s grace. Amulek taught: “if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:31, italics added).

There is no time-delay; as soon as we fully change our hearts through deciding to repent we are in God’s grace, and we need to learn how to be happy there, no matter what we may have done or failed to do in the past. As we continue to improve, our joy will get deeper, but our contentment and basic self-worth are not dependent on how far along we are in that process. 

2. “What a Relief”

celebrating after graduation

“Its over! What a relief! Now I’ll have more free time!”  (said the newly-released Sunday School teacher who was about to be called into a bishopric)

This emotional approach has a few hazards. The most obvious is that we may soon be disappointed by another calling even more demanding than the first. Feeling “relieved” sets us up for negative emotions when that new calling comes.

It also has a tendency to re-frame our past service experience through the lens of that relief. If I am relieved to be out of a certain calling, the natural corollary is that I wish I hadn’t been in that calling. This limits my ability to see the good that came to me through my service.

A better approach would be that suggested by President Uchtdorf last General Conference: that “we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.”

In other words, while you are in the calling, be thankful for the experiences of the calling, and while you are not in the calling, be thankful for the extra time. There is no need to judge one condition to be better than the other.

3. “I Feel Useless Now”

sad from being released from church callings

After a release, you might feel the emotional drop-off that comes from no longer feeling needed in the same way. If you were in a church calling involving committees, coordination or conducting you probably felt like an important center of attention, activity, or decision-making.

Kind of like the hub of a bicycle wheel, all the different elements of the organization you led went through you and then back out.  Sunday may have been a bit hectic, but it felt like you were accomplishing something.

Now, stripped of your position, you realize how impersonal it can feel to sit in Church as a mere observer. You could leave a class, and perhaps only a few people would notice. You may struggle to get something out of Church when you are not simultaneously giving something.

Therein lies the key. The Lord said, “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things…Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-27).

Now is your chance to claim the blessings from serving of your own free will! Such service is probably more important than the service we do by virtue of our church positions.

Find your own way to serve without needing to be commanded or asked to do so. Make friends. Prepare for lessons and participate. Sustain your leaders and help them fulfill their responsibilities by volunteering whenever they ask for help. You could even ask your leaders if there is something you could do to help! They will probably say yes.

4. “I am Truly Grateful for the Chance I had to Serve”

relief society members serving in their church callings

If you feel this way, you should probably take advantage of the clarity of the moment before it passes. Take some time to write in your journal about why you are grateful, and what you learned from your service experience.

While you are enlightened by the spirit of gratitude, ask the Lord what other things you could do to serve Him. Don’t let the feelings pass before you have acted on them in some way.

The Benefits of the Calling & Release System

Jesus Calling the 12 apostles

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” -John 15:16

A final step to coming to terms with an untimely release is recognizing the benefits of the system the Lord has established.

Because we do not choose our church callings, we are spared the contentious and divisive aspects of competition or politicking

Because we do not know the duration of our church callings, we learn to treat every assignment “as for years” (Doctrine and Covenants 51:16-17). In other words, we learn to give tasks our best effort no matter how much or little time is left.

Finally, we learn not to think too much of ourselves. Although our contributions are unique and valuable, we learn that the Lord needs the contributions of many different people in His work!

He frequently changes people out not because He doesn’t value what we can do, but rather because we ourselves are not the only element He needs. We learn to accept that we are not the only “true and living” teacher, or Scout leader, or Bishop, and that different times and situations call for different talents and gifts, and that this does not diminish our contribution or value in any way.

What amazing things we learn from church callings! What have been your hardest releases? How have you come to terms with them? Let us know in the comments below.

Jesse is a twenty-something student of Arabic and the Middle East at Brigham Young University. He enjoys writing, hiking, fantasizing about world travel, and deep discussions. He is a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and served a mission for the Church in South Korea. Jesse speaks Spanish, Korean and (some) Arabic. He can be reached at [email protected]