Saturday, November 22, 2008


by Anna Jones Buttimore

Our Stake Conference is being held at the end of this month,and those of us who have our ears to the ground suspect that there will be some major announcements. A new Bishop for our Ward, and a new Stake President, for starters.

I'm really happy for our Bishop. He's a very dedicated and energetic man, and I have no idea how he finds the time. He has six children under 10 and it's high time he got to spend the evenings at home with them. I imagine he will welcome his release. Unless he gets called as Stake President, of course.

For many people, release means relief. The prisoner, on being released, naturally finds cause for celebration. A friend recently told me that his wife’s 90-year-old mother had been suffering considerable pain from an illness, and that when she died they were happy that she – and her carers – had found release. On the other hand, there are those who dread being released from callings they love. A month ago I counted myself as one of these, but then I was unexpectedly released as Young Women President, and after a few minutes standing in the Young Women room thinking forlornly about how much I would miss all the girls, I discovered I was OK with it. I get to spend Tuesday nights at home, and Young Women in Excellence, the annual Ward Christmas Dinner for the Elderly, and our miniscule budget are no longer my problem. (And I love my new calling in Public Affairs.)

Hubby Dearest served his mission in St. Petersburg and told me that the church in Russia has an unusual problem. Because of its communist heritage, where you were assigned a job which reflected your status in society, and which you did for life, members faced major problems on being released from callings. Their background led them to feel that release equalled rejection, or that they were being released because they had served badly in some way, or done something wrong. Large numbers of people who had served faithfully in auxiliary presidencies, bishoprics and even stake presidencies became inactive as soon as they were released, because they felt they had lost status, or that they were no longer important or wanted. It is still a problem, and releases need to be handled with considerable care in Russia and other former communist countries.

I hope we understand that our callings are not what makes us important within the church community, or what makes us in any way more necessary or needed than anyone else. Our callings are, in many ways, for our own benefit. I am still grateful for the time I spent as Gospel Doctrine teacher, teaching the lessons on the Old Testament, because the hours of study and preparation taught me to have a new understanding and appreciation for this book of scripture. I don’t know whether any of the class learned anything from my lessons, but I certainly did.

Yesterday I had to explain how the system of callings and releases works to my nonmember parents. And I found I was really inappropriately proud of the fact that we have a lay leadership, and that everyone gets to take part. For anyone who doesn’t know, lay simply means non professional or unpaid. My father is a Lay Reader in the Anglican church; that doesn’t mean that he reads the Bible in a prone or supine position, but that he is an unpaid minister.

My ex-husband was also a minister in the Anglican church. It was a very well paid job, and came with a large house and generous expenses. He was also pretty much unsupervised, and able to spend much of the day in the local pub. When he lost his job, we lost our home and income and he, it seems, lost his faith. One week he was leading services from the pulpit of a thirteenth-century church, the next he was an atheist. As far as I am aware, his final Sunday as Vicar of Bethesda was the last time he went to church. Which rather begs the question, was he only doing the whole religion thing because he was paid for it? I am thankful for the fact that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no one is doing their calling for the money or the glory.

At the beginning of the book of Alma we encounter Nehor, who has been brought before Alma to be judged. He has been “declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labour with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.” Such is Nehor’s conviction that he, as a priest, should be admired and paid by those he ministers to that he kills the faithful Gideon when challenged. It’s interesting that he is seeking what many of our fellow men are seeking – popularity and money – and sees religion as a way to get it. Religion is emphatically not about gaining personal followers or respect, Christ told us again and again to be humble, like little children. Alma 1:26 tells us that all people are equal. Whatever our callings, we are servants of Heavenly Father, and of the brothers and sisters among whom we labour.

I do miss the Young Women. It's not easy to have a calling which takes up so much of your time and emotional energy suddenly snatched away. But I had learned what I needed to learn and I am grateful for what those amazing young people taught me. I'll never forget Beth, for example, coming back from EFY and telling us "Scripture study is awesome!" I agree with her. I also feel that being called as Young Women President two years ago was awesome, but being released is also awesome.


Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Anna, what a great post. And it's interesting to read about your husband's experiences in Russia.

In my family, releases have usually been a relief. My dad has served in many capacities and as kids, it was always nice to have him to ourselves for a bit before he was called up again.

When he was released from nine years in the Stake Presidency, he said that while it was a nice break, at first he felt like he'd been shoved from a speeding train.

You know, I'm also proud that we serve in the church on a volunteer basis. Makes the whole of it so much more about love.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Sympathies\congrats on the release. =) And I agree, getting released offers a change of pace, since we're usually recycled into another calling somewhere else.

Two years ago when I was released from serving in the stake R.S. presidency, I met with my bishop for tithing settlement and he told me to enjoy my brief break, informing me that they had big plans for me.

A couple of weeks later, I was called to serve in the YW yet again, this time as the president. ;) Never a dull moment. I will dread getting released, but I'm sure wherever I get called to serve next, I'll enjoy it just as much as any other calling I've muddled through in the past.

Great blog, Anna. =)

Jennie said...

I enjoyed your blog, Anna. Most of my releases have been welcome or came at the same time as a new calling/challenge. Some came as the result of moving to another ward, but only two callings, one from the Stake Primary presidency and one from teaching the CTRs who were turning eight were difficult to let go of. It's kind of funny, I've held a lot of different ward and stake positions which I thoroughly enjoyed and a few I didn't, served in every auxiliary,spent a year as Activity chairman,even been a den mother, and absolutely loved teaching Relief Society, but I've never regretted being released any more than I've regretted accepting those positions in the first place.

It was interesting to hear of your husband's experience working with the Russian people.

Jeri Gilchrist said...

What a wonderful post, Anna. It was so interesting reading about your husbands experiences working with the people in Russia.

I think sometimes when we accept a calling we don't realize just how much we can learn/gain from serving in that position. As we try our best to magnify that calling, the blessings are poured out upon our families and ourselves. We also learn to love those we serve. That is why being released can be difficult.
But in no time, the process starts all over. There are always new callings to grow and learn from.
Don't get too comfortable. :)