I am considering asking to be released from my calling, and I thought I’d see what sort of reaction my readers might have. Generally, I think asking to be released from a calling is perfectly ok. I don’t necessarily believe anyone received divine inspiration to give my my current calling, and I don’t necessarily think God cares if I continue in my calling or not. But in the spirit of pragmatism, my personal belief that having a calling that challenges me is a good thing, and the frank reality that someone has to fill some positions they don’t really like or else nobody would do anything, I don’t take asking to be released lightly.
Ultimately, I believe that asking to be released is an act of selfishness – it’s putting your own needs/desires/wants ahead of those of the community. But I also believe there are some really excellent reasons and situations when selfishness is necessary and should be encouraged. The trick is recognizing those situations.
I’m currently serving as 11-year-old co-scoutmaster and have been serving in this capacity for one year. Because there are relatively few youth in my urban mpls wards, our scout program has been combined with two other wards, and our meetings have been held at the stake center, about an 11 mile bike ride from my home. I have always been annoyed that I had to travel so far via bike each Wednesday evening for meetings while my own meeting house 2 miles from home sat empty, but it wasn’t really a big deal since the stake center just happened to be in the same direction as my office where I was cycling every wednesday anyway. The whole round trip (home-work-scouts-home) was only about 5 miles further than my typical daily ride (home-work-home). In addition, the high-quality bike trail network in that direction is well-developed so it was actually a very enjoyable ride each week.
But the stake boundaries have just changed and the wards we were previously combined with are now in a different stake. Our stake and ward leadership have made it clear that combining with these wards is no longer an option and is arranging to have our scout program combined with another ward in the stake. I anticipate that the arrangement will be for us to meet with a new ward at their building (mine will remain empty each Wednesday), which is about 12 miles from home in the opposite direction – the suburban hell direction with no bike paths or lanes, high-traffic 6-lane arterial roadways, shopping malls, and general bicycle unfriendliness.
Here’s the key – I can handle the bike ride. 12 miles isn’t that far and I’m an experienced cyclist prepared to kick the tail lights out off any vehicle that passes too closely. My wife and I even own one of them new-fangled automobiles that I could use if I wanted. But I don’t want to. I chose to locate myself in south mpls because I like being near things, including the ward meeting house 2 miles from home. I chose to locate my employment near a major regional bike trail because I desire to contain the majority of my daily/weekly tasks within an area that is easy for me to get to via bicycle. Plain and simple: I’m thinking about asking to be released just because I don’t like the new meeting location because it would require an unpleasant bike ride each week. And the idea that I might be traveling to a chapel 12 miles away when there’s one 2 miles away drives me nuts.
This strikes me as the ultimate selfish reason to bow out of a calling. I am perfectly capable and willing to perform all the tasks the calling requires, I’m just committed to an idealistic world view (and an unrealistic world view given the spatial arrangement of American metropolitan areas) where people shouldn’t drive great distances to reach things – especially if that same task can be performed closer to home. I even recognize that the only realistic alternative to combining our youth program with another ward is to not have a youth program at all – which is certainly a poor option. Either they travel a long distance to my building so I can travel a short distance, or I travel a long distance to their building so they can travel a short distance – or we don’t combine (not my decision to make). Or I quit and the bishop assigns someone else to travel a long distance so I don’t have to. With my world view and the great distances between mormons in mpls, this is a Lose-Lose-Lose situation.
So what do you think? Is quitting in this situation the ultimate in selfish decision making? Of course it is selfish – I stated as much in my second paragraph… but does the burden in this situation meet the threshold where selfishness is acceptable? (go ahead and tell me if it’s not – I can take it)