Quitting: too selfish?

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)

16 comments to Quitting: too selfish?

  • Not to be Debbie Downer or anything, but if you get released as co-scout dude, then you'll be available to do something else. Which may end up with more bike miles, more time, more energy, etc. Not that the fantasy of no longer being RSP hasn't made its way into my brain many times over the past couple of years, but it's been my experience that things are always difficult and for our good. So I'd say don't do it. Actually, I'd say "SUCK IT UP LOSER" but that's not very Relief Society President of me. Just kidding. Love ya, Reub.

  • Maybe I am suggesting something that you have no power over, but it is possible to switch off each week where you meet? That way only half of the leaders/boys have to travel a longer distance. I don't think that this is an ideal situation, but at least everyone involved would be traveling about the same distance.

  • I basically agree with you that its a selfish reason to asked to be released. I would say a lot of people sacrifice a lot more than driving/biking to the burbs once a week for their callings (SIDENOTE- this particular burb is the WORST, he's not exaggerating). I also think that some people suffer needlessly through a miserable calling because they don't want to be associated with a stigma of "asking to be released"- there are surely times when this is acceptable. So I don't think its unreasonable for you to ask for a release and I'm sure most people would be understanding, so if this was for any other calling i wouldn't really worry about it. However, considering what this calling is, I think you should think twice before asking to be released. I thought working in the scouting program is actually something that you enjoy and want to stay involved in- granted this isn't exactly the situation you would want to work with, but its still scouting. Perhaps I'm overestimating how much you enjoy the calling. And as Rachel pointed out, they could always ask you to serve somewhere else thats on sundays and in our chapel and therefore more convenient, but would be much less rewarding to you personally.

  • I think Melanie's comment is very wise. Actually all of the comments are great.

    I've asked to be released from callings two or three times in my adult life, and the bishops have always been understanding, and accomodating, and each time it's been a good thing for me spiritually.

    But having been in singles wards for a decade, I'm actually jealous of your calling, and it sounds worth the sacrifice…

  • I asked to be released from the relief society presidency and felt great about it…it is about personal reasons and if you feel justified and wont feel guilt about it then you should do it…

  • Kat

    I don't think you should asked to be released, but I do think your concerns are valid and should probably be expressed to our leaders because I think a lot of the youth and their parents have the same concerns about always having to go so far to the other meeting houses. I see the pros of meeting with another ward, but it has it's difficulties as well. And I haven't really been around enough to know how much different the youth program is now that we meet with another ward.

  • you selfish bastard! jk. i have had my fair share of "askings to be released"isms. i do believe they receive revelations as to "whom should hold what" however, i also believe they are "men" and make mistakes and sometimes "forget" that people need a change. perhaps your time is now. change is good. what would be funny is if they released you but gave you a calling to work in the temple or something ridiculously further away. in which case i would secretly be laughing a diabolical laugh each time we passed in the hallway. anyhooter, you could always just suck it up and take it like a man. buuuuuuut you could also just carpool. i dunno. ask lee. he's a great problem solver. me? not so much. 🙂

  • If you really like the calling, I would talk to the bishop or bishopric member in charge of scouting about your situation. You may be able to work something out for the transportation or building selection.

    Even if they don't have an immediate solution, it wouldn't hurt to let them know about your difficulties. There may be some changes made.

    Take that for what it's worth.

  • Rachel, you're right – and with the EQ Presidency being reorganized, this is no time for not having a calling.
    Katie, Kat, & Nate, I probably should at least mention it to the leaders to see if a compromise can be reached before I storm in demanding to be released. That's quite reasonable.
    Raina, I am quite certain that a temple calling is not in my future, but I do enjoy working with the youth…as Melanie said.

    Thanks everyone for the advice. I think you've all convinced me that I need to give things a shot. Plus, I could always drive the scooter down there – that's always a treat and almost as good as cycling.

  • I agree with prior comments. Your concerns are valid and should be addressed with an understanding that someone at some point will most likely have to travel farther to meet up. Callings usually require sacrifices, but the growth you gain and the service you give more than outweighs the sacrifice.

  • Sarah: "Callings usually require sacrifices, but the growth you gain and the service you give more than outweighs the sacrifice."

    …sometimes…

  • P.S. I was asked to be released from a calling (Ward Bulletin Coordinator) several years ago. It didn't go over well (meaning they said that I wouldn't be released), but I felt justified in the action because I wasn't being supported in my calling and the calling they gave me was already being done by someone else (the bishopric called my CO-CHAIR rather than me for announcements). Basically, I didn't like being in a calling that I wasn't able to fulfill. They listened to my concerns and chose not to do anything about it. I did my best to try and fulfill my calling until the end of the semester when I moved out of the ward.

  • lee reminded me that i can be a bit of a "sass", i.e. bitch, sometimes soooooooooo i wanted to apologize for my insincere comment in regards to this blog. i'm sorry. 🙁 but i have no further advice regarding the matter because it all involves complete & utter sassiness. please forgive?

  • Yea. Lee tells me about your bitchiness all the time, so I'm not surprised when it comes out. It's ok. Forgiveness granted.

  • uh, thanks? i guess. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    On the more practical side – and being more concerned about your personal safety given your choice of preferred mode of personal transportation – perhaps a calling that would result in a situation closer to your habitat would be found in the future and would prevent a tangling of bicycle and hrududu in an unfriendly biking environment. You may be willing to kick ass out of too close taillights, but some times idiot drivers don't take too kindly to "pests" on "their" roads. Drivers in Tucson have been known to actually run down bikers on purpose. I doubt the desert has a hold on these kinds of nuts. Auntie G.