During my five years as Bishop, I extended a lot of callings to people. Once in a while people would tell me no, but most of the time they would accept, sometimes begrudgingly. I didn’t always follow the accepted method for issuing calls (which will surprise nobody who has been reading my posts). First of all, I instructed my Executive Secretary to always tell the people why I wanted to meet with them. He would tell them the Bishop has a calling he would like to talk to you about. Second, when I would meet with new move-ins, I would always ask them what calling they would like to have, and which ones they did not want. I would them try to accommodate them (what a novel concept!) It turns out people do a much better job in a calling if it is something they want to do!

One thing I would never say is “The Lord has called you to……” That felt very presumptuous. I would sometimes say “We feel inspired” to call you to such and such, but inspiration can come from common sense as much as it can from a higher power. More often than not I would just say “ We’d like to call you as the new Primary President” This was in stark contrast to what we were taught to do. Pres Boyd K. Packer laid out exactly what should be said in this 1997 conference talk

Leaders must learn how to issue calls. When I was a young man, I heard Elder Spencer W. Kimball speak in a stake conference. He said that as a new stake president in Arizona, he left his office in the bank to call a man to be stake leader of the young men.

He said, “Jack, how would you like to be leader of the young men in the stake?”

Jack responded, “Aw, Spencer, you don’t mean me. I couldn’t do anything like that.”

He tried to persuade him, but Jack refused the call.

Brother Kimball went back to his office to brood over his failure. He knew the stake presidency had been inspired to make the call. Finally it came to him: he had made a terrible mistake! Of course, Jack would not respond.

Perhaps he recalled what the prophet Jacob had said when he “taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord.”11

President Kimball now did as Jacob had done in ancient times. He “obtained [his] errand from the Lord.”

He returned to ask Jack to forgive him for not doing it right and started over: “Last Sunday the stake presidency prayerfully considered who should lead the young men in the stake. There were several names; yours was among them. We all felt that you were the man. We knelt in prayer. The Lord confirmed to the three of us, by revelation, that you were to be called to that position.”

Then he said, “As a servant of the Lord, I am here to deliver that call.”

Then Jack said, “Well, Spencer, if you are going to put it that way …”

President Kimball replied, “I am putting it that way!”

Of course, Jack would not respond to a casual invitation from Spencer, but he could not refuse a call from the Lord through Stake President Kimball. He served faithfully and with inspiration.

Pres Boyd K. Packer 1997 Conference Address

Even the General Handbook says “When a leader extends a calling, he explains that it has come from the Lord.”

It is clearly intimidating to hear that “The Lord” wants you do do something. How do you say no to the Lord? But then that presupposes they you, the person in charge,  always gets the correct inspiration from the Lord. What if you make a mistake? Years ago a friend of mine had just been called as Ward Mission Leader, then a week later he was called in by a member of the SP and asked to be a counselor in the EQ Presidency. He was told that the Lord wanted him for this calling. My friend said that if the Lord wanted him, he would accept even if he was just called as Mission Leader.  The SP member was a little confused, and then realized he had called in the wrong person. Oops! So much for the Lord making the call. Yes, this was just an innocent mistake, the Lord got it right, but the SP member misheard the name. But when you couch everything as revelation and inspiration from the Lord, it leaves you little wiggle room when you do make a mistake. (look at the POX mess as a good example).

What has been your experience with receiving callings? Have you turned down callings when they come “from the Lord”?  Have any of you been on the “calling” side? What did you say when calling somebody?