Handbooks and Callings
30. Callings in the Church


“30. Callings in the Church,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).

“30. Callings in the Church,” General Handbook.

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Church attendance

30.

Callings in the Church

30.0

Introduction

Heavenly Father gave Jesus Christ a sacred mission to fulfill (see Luke 4:18–19; John 6:38; 3 Nephi 27:14–16). During His ministry, the Savior trusted His disciples with important responsibilities (see Luke 10:1–9). Likewise, the Lord calls men and women to serve in the Church today through inspired invitations from His servants. These opportunities to serve are known as callings.

Callings give members opportunities to feel the joy of serving God by serving His children (see Mosiah 2:17). Callings also help members increase their faith and draw closer to the Lord.

It is not appropriate to aspire to specific callings in the Church (see Mark 10:42–45; Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–37). Nor do Church members “advance” from one calling to another. After serving in one calling, they should not expect to receive a calling of greater responsibility or prominence. Serving faithfully in a calling is more important than what the calling is. The Lord honors the dedication of all who serve in His Church.

This chapter describes how members are called to serve in the Church and how they are released from their callings. It also includes a Chart of Callings that gives information about issuing specific callings, sustaining members in their callings, and setting them apart (see 30.8).

30.1

Determining Whom to Call

30.1.1

General Guidelines

Those who serve in the Church are called of God (see Hebrews 5:4; Articles of Faith 1:5). Leaders seek the guidance of the Spirit in determining whom to call (see also 4.2.6). They also consider:

  • The member’s worthiness (as determined in an interview).

  • Gifts and abilities the member has, or could develop, to bless others.

  • The member’s personal circumstances, including his or her health and work.

  • The impact the calling may have on the member’s marriage and family.

Each calling should bless the people who are served, the member who serves, and the member’s family. Callings also give members opportunities to grow.

Members are blessed for sacrifices they make to serve in the Church. However, a calling should not place undue burdens on individuals and families. Nor should callings make it difficult for members to fulfill their employment responsibilities.

Generally, each member is called to serve in only one calling at a time, in addition to being a ministering brother or sister. Exceptions should be rare and prayerfully considered. Not every potential position needs to be filled.

When extending a calling to a married member, leaders ensure that the spouse is aware and supportive of the calling. Before extending a calling to a young man or young woman, leaders obtain approval from his or her parents or guardians.

Before a calling is extended, the bishop carefully reviews the person’s membership record to verify that it does not include an annotation or formal membership restrictions. If the calling needs to be extended before the membership record is in the ward, the bishop contacts the member’s previous bishop.

Before a stake leader extends a calling, the person’s bishop is consulted to discuss the member’s worthiness and other circumstances that could influence his or her service (such as those described above).

30.1.2

Callings for New Members

Opportunities to serve help members grow spiritually. Serving together can also help members build close relationships. This is especially important for new members.

Ward leaders give new members opportunities to serve soon after they are baptized and confirmed. New members have a variety of abilities. Leaders prayerfully invite them to serve in ways that will help them grow personally and bless others. Some members are ready for callings right away. Others might prefer temporary assignments that help them prepare to receive callings. See also 23.2 and 23.5.1.

30.1.3

Callings for Those Who Are Not Members

People who are not members of the Church may be called to some positions, such as organist, music director, or a calling to help plan activities. However, they should not be called as teachers, as quorum or organization presidency members, or as Primary music leaders.

A person whose membership has been formally restricted or has been withdrawn may not have a calling (see 32.11.3 and 32.11.4).

30.1.4

Confidentiality

Callings and releases are sacred. Because of this, leaders keep information about proposed callings and releases confidential. Leaders share such information at a time and in a setting that is consistent with its sacred nature.

For example, a person who is being considered for a calling is not notified until the calling is issued. This helps avoid embarrassment if the call is not extended.

Additionally, only those who need to know, such as a spouse and an organization presidency that has responsibility for the position, are informed before the person is presented for sustaining.

30.1.5

Recommendations and Approvals for Callings

The Chart of Callings indicates who may make recommendations for each calling and who gives approval (see 30.8). In some cases, quorum and organization leaders make recommendations to the stake presidency or bishopric. They do so prayerfully, seeking inspiration about whom to recommend. They may also counsel with the bishopric or stake presidency.

Bishops and stake presidents carefully consider each recommendation, recognizing that it has been prayerfully made. The bishopric or stake presidency has final responsibility to receive inspiration about whom to call. When needed, they may request another recommendation.

If a bishop or stake president feels inspired to call someone other than the person who was recommended, that does not mean the recommendation was not inspired. It may be that the bishop or stake president had information that was not available to those who made the recommendation.

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Teaching Children

30.2

Extending a Calling

Receiving a call to serve should be a meaningful spiritual experience for a member. Callings to serve the Lord are sacred and joyful opportunities. Leaders communicate this by the way they extend a calling. They should not extend callings in a casual manner.

The Chart of Callings indicates who may extend each calling (see 30.8). After receiving the necessary approvals, the authorized leader counsels with the member to understand if the member’s circumstances allow him or her to serve. The leader also seeks to understand if the member is worthy and willing to serve.

When a leader extends a calling, he explains that it has come from the Lord. If needed, he may give the member time to prayerfully consider the calling, seeking his or her own spiritual confirmation.

The leader may also:

  • Explain the purpose, importance, and responsibilities of the calling.

  • Help the member focus primarily on the people he or she will serve. (As applicable, the leader provides a list of these people from Leader and Clerk Resources.)

  • Encourage the member to seek the Spirit of the Lord in fulfilling the calling.

  • Testify that the Lord will help the member and will bless him or her for serving faithfully.

  • Tell the member who will provide training and support for the calling.

  • Tell the member who to report to on his or her efforts.

  • Inform the member of any meetings he or she should attend and any resources that are available.

  • Help the member know approximately how much time commitment the calling requires.

  • Discuss any special concerns or challenges of the calling.

  • Answer questions the member may have.

If the member is married, the leader invites the spouse to be present when the calling is extended.

If the calling includes working with children or youth, the leader explains that the member will need to complete the children and youth protection training. This training is available at ProtectingChildren.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. The member should complete it within one month of being sustained and every three years thereafter.

30.3

Sustaining Members in Callings

Those who are called to most Church positions should be presented for sustaining before they begin serving (see Doctrine and Covenants 28:13; 42:11). By sustaining those called to serve, members pledge their support and willingness to help.

The Chart of Callings indicates whether sustaining is needed and who participates in it (see 30.8). The leader who oversaw extending the calling, or a priesthood leader he authorizes, presents the person to be sustained.

The person who conducts the sustaining first announces who was released from the position (if applicable). He invites members to give an expression of thanks for the person’s service (see 30.6).

When presenting a person for sustaining, an authorized priesthood leader invites him or her to stand. The leader may use wording like the following:

“[Name] has been called as [position]. Those in favor of sustaining [him or her] may show it by the uplifted hand. [Pause briefly.] Those opposed, if any, may also show it. [Pause briefly.]”

The person who is being presented should participate in the sustaining. If more than one person is being presented, they may be sustained as a group.

If a member in good standing opposes the calling, the presiding leader or another assigned priesthood leader meets with him or her in private after the meeting. The leader seeks to understand why the member is opposed. He asks if the member knows of conduct that could disqualify the person from serving in the position. If the opposing member does not know of such conduct, he or she is encouraged to sustain and support the person in the calling.

Only members in good standing may participate in the sustaining. However, if a nonmember or a member who is not in good standing has concerns about the action, he or she may share them with the bishop or stake president in private after the meeting.

30.4

Setting Apart Members to Serve in Callings

Those who are called to most Church positions should be set apart. The Chart of Callings indicates who may do the setting apart (see 30.8). This generally happens after members are sustained and before they begin serving.

To set apart a member to a calling means to give him or her the authority to act in that calling (see 3.4.3.1). A setting apart also includes a blessing and promises guided by the Spirit. For more information, see 18.11.

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Setting apart

30.5

Length of Service

As much as possible, leaders allow members to serve in their callings long enough to establish strong relationships with those they serve. Members may also need time to learn and grow in their responsibilities. This can be especially important for leaders of youth and children as well as presidents of the Relief Society and elders quorum. The ideal length of service for leaders varies, but two to five years are often sufficient.

30.6

Releasing Members from Callings

In most cases, members are released from callings when the Lord inspires their leaders to release them. Some members, like stake and mission presidents, are usually released after an established period of time. A person could also be released for other reasons, such as personal and family circumstances.

When a president or bishop is released, his or her counselors are released automatically. Others in the organization, such as clerks, secretaries, and teachers, are not released automatically.

Releases from Church callings are made by someone with the same level of authority as the person who extended the callings. For example, if a bishopric member extended the calling, a bishopric member extends the release.

Extending a release is an important opportunity for a leader to express gratitude and to acknowledge God’s hand in the member’s service. The leader meets with the member personally to inform him or her of the release before it is announced publicly. He may choose to invite the member to share what he or she has learned by serving in the calling. Only those who need to know are informed of a release before it is announced.

An authorized priesthood leader announces the release in the same setting where the person was sustained. The leader may use words like the following:

“[Name] has been released as [position]. Those who would like to express thanks for [his or her] service may show it by the uplifted hand.”

The leader does not ask if anyone opposes.

30.7

Calling, Ordaining, and Setting Apart Bishops

The stake presidency recommends brethren to be called or released as bishops. Recommendations are submitted to the First Presidency through Leader and Clerk Resources (LCR). A member of the stake presidency, a clerk, or the executive secretary may prepare the recommendation. However, only the stake president may submit it.

A bishop’s responsibilities are significant (see 7.1). They require a man of integrity, moral cleanliness, spiritual maturity, and faithfulness to the Savior. The stake presidency seeks confirmation from the Spirit about whom to recommend. When recommending a man to serve as bishop, they carefully consider 1 Timothy 3:2–7. They do not ask for suggestions from ward members. Additional information about the qualifications of a bishop is given in LCR.

Before the stake president can call a new bishop, he must receive written approval of his recommendation from the First Presidency. With this approval, the stake president may ordain and set apart a bishop after ward members have sustained him in a sacrament meeting. Approval of the First Presidency is also required before a stake president may release a bishop. The stake president may not delegate these responsibilities.

If a man called as bishop is not a high priest, the stake president ensures that he is ordained a high priest before ordaining him a bishop. If the man was ordained a bishop previously, he needs only to be set apart as bishop of the ward. If men called as the bishop’s counselors are not high priests, they are ordained high priests before being set apart.

After the First Presidency has approved the recommendation of a man to serve as bishop, they authorize the stake president to ordain him and set him apart. The stake president:

  1. Calls the man by his full name.

  2. States that he is acting by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  3. Ordains the man a bishop (unless he was previously ordained).

  4. Sets him apart to preside over the ward and to be the president of the Aaronic Priesthood and the priests quorum, emphasizing his responsibilities for Aaronic Priesthood holders and young women in the ward (see 7.1.2).

  5. Confers on him all the keys, rights, powers, and authority of the office of bishop, referring specifically to the bishop’s duties as a common judge in Israel and as the presiding high priest in the ward (see 7.1.1 and 7.1.3).

  6. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.

  7. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

An Area Seventy or General Authority may also call, ordain, and set apart a bishop with approval from the First Presidency.

30.8

Chart of Callings

The following chart lists selected ward and stake callings. Other callings and service opportunities are described elsewhere in this handbook.

A ward or stake does not need to fill every calling listed in this chart. Leaders determine which callings to fill based on the needs of the unit and those available to serve.

Note: Sealers in a temple are called under the direction of the President of the Church. For this reason, active sealers should not be called to serve in bishoprics or in branch, district, stake, or mission presidencies.

30.8.1

Ward Callings

Calling

Recommended by

Approved by

Sustained by1

Called and set apart by

Bishop

Stake presidency, using LCR

First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve

Ward members

Stake president after receiving approval from the First Presidency (see 30.7)

Counselors in the bishopric

Bishop

Stake presidency and high council

Ward members

Stake president or an assigned counselor

Ward clerk (and assistant ward clerks if needed)

Bishopric

Stake presidency and high council

Ward members

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor

Ward executive secretary (and assistant ward executive secretaries if needed)

Bishopric

Stake presidency and high council

Ward members

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor

Elders quorum president

Stake presidency (in consultation with the bishop)

Stake presidency and high council

Ward members

Stake president

Counselors in the elders quorum presidency

Quorum president (in consultation with the bishop)

Stake presidency and high council

Ward members

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor

Other elders quorum callings

Quorum presidency

Bishopric

Quorum members (presented in a quorum meeting by the quorum president or an assigned counselor)

Quorum president or an assigned counselor

Ward organization presidents (Relief Society, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School)

Bishopric

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop

Counselors in ward organization presidencies

Organization president

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Other ward Relief Society callings

Relief Society presidency

Bishopric

Relief Society members (presented in a Relief Society meeting by the bishop or an assigned counselor)

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Other ward Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School callings

Organization presidency

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Ward mission leader (a member of the elders quorum presidency may fill this role; if so, he does not need to be called, sustained, or set apart separately)

Bishopric (in consultation with the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents)

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Ward missionaries

Bishopric or elders quorum and Relief Society presidents

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Ward temple and family history leader (a member of the elders quorum presidency may fill this role; if so, he does not need to be called, sustained, or set apart separately)

Bishopric (in consultation with the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents)

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Ward temple and family history consultants

Bishopric or elders quorum and Relief Society presidents

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Assistants to the priests quorum president

Bishop (as the priests quorum president)

Bishopric

Quorum members (presented in a quorum meeting by the bishop or an assigned counselor)

Bishop

Teachers and deacons quorum presidents

Bishopric

Bishopric

Quorum members (presented in a quorum meeting by the bishop or an assigned counselor)

Called by the bishop or an assigned counselor; set apart by the bishop

Counselors in the teachers and deacons quorum presidencies and quorum secretaries

Quorum president

Bishopric

Quorum members (presented in a quorum meeting by the bishop or an assigned counselor)

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Young Women class presidents

Bishopric (in consultation with the Young Women presidency)

Bishopric

Class members (presented in a Young Women meeting by the bishop or an assigned counselor)

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Counselors in Young Women class presidencies and class secretaries

Class president

Bishopric

Class members (presented in a Young Women meeting by the bishop or an assigned counselor)

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Ward welfare and self-reliance specialists if needed

Bishopric

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Ward resource center specialist if needed

Sunday School president

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Ward music coordinator

Bishopric

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

Other ward callings

Bishopric

Bishopric

Ward members

Bishop or an assigned counselor

  1. In rare circumstances, a ward member may need to begin service in a calling before he or she can be sustained. When this happens, a member of the bishopric presents the person for ratifying as soon as reasonable. He adapts the process described in 30.3. This includes providing an opportunity for ward members to oppose the action.

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Youth

30.8.2

Branch Callings

Calling

Recommended by

Approved by

Sustained by

Called and set apart by

Branch president

Stake, mission, or district presidency

Stake presidency and high council or mission presidency

Branch members

Stake or mission president (or the district president if assigned)

Counselors in the branch presidency

Branch president

Stake presidency and high council or mission presidency (or, when authorized by the mission president, the district presidency)

Branch members

Stake, mission, or district president or an assigned counselor

Branch clerk, assistant clerks, and executive secretary

Branch presidency

Stake presidency and high council or mission presidency (or, when authorized by the mission president, the district presidency)

Branch members

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor (for branches in stakes); district president or a priesthood leader he assigns (for branches in missions)

Elders quorum president

Stake, district, or mission presidency (in consultation with the branch president)

Stake presidency and high council or mission presidency (or, when authorized by the mission president, the district presidency)

Branch members

Stake or mission president (or the district president if assigned)

Counselors in the elders quorum presidency

Quorum president (in consultation with the branch president)

Stake presidency and high council or mission presidency (or, when authorized by the mission president, the district presidency)

Branch members

Stake or mission president or an assigned counselor or high councilor (or the district president or another priesthood leader if assigned)

Other branch callings

See 30.8.1, substituting branch president for bishop and branch for ward.

30.8.3

Stake Callings

Calling

Recommended by

Approved by

Sustained by1

Called and set apart by

Stake president

An assigned General Authority or Area Seventy

An assigned General Authority or Area Seventy

Members in stake conference

An assigned General Authority or Area Seventy

Counselors in a new stake presidency

Stake president

An assigned General Authority or Area Seventy

Members in stake conference

An assigned General Authority or Area Seventy

New counselor in an existing stake presidency

Stake president, using LCR

First Presidency

Members in stake conference

Stake president after receiving approval from the First Presidency

Stake clerk (and assistant stake clerks if needed)

Stake presidency

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor

Stake executive secretary (and assistant stake executive secretaries if needed)

Stake presidency

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor

High councilors

Stake presidency

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor

Stake patriarch, including a patriarch who was already ordained in another stake

Stake presidency, using LCR

Quorum of the Twelve

Members in stake conference

Stake president after receiving approval from the Quorum of the Twelve; or a member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve

Stake Relief Society president

Stake presidency

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president

Stake Young Women and Primary presidents

Stake presidency

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor

Stake Young Men and Sunday School presidents

The stake presidency calls high councilors to fill these positions

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference (they should be sustained both as high councilors and as presidents of these organizations)

Stake president or an assigned counselor (they should be called and set apart both as high councilors and as presidents of these organizations)

Counselors in stake organization presidencies, secretaries, and others if needed

President of the stake organization (in consultation with the stake presidency or the assigned high councilor)

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor

Stake auditors

Chairman of the stake audit committee (counselor in the stake presidency)

Stake presidency and high council

Not sustained

Stake president or an assigned counselor (the stake president determines whether setting apart is needed)

Stake seminary and institute teachers and supervisors if needed

Stake presidency (after counseling with the bishop and the seminary and institute representative)

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor

Stake welfare and self-reliance specialists if needed

Stake presidency

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor

Stake communication director, assistant directors, and specialists

Stake presidency

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor

Other stake callings2

Stake presidency

Stake presidency and high council

Members in stake conference

Stake president or an assigned counselor or high councilor

  1. When, as an exception, new stake officers need to begin their service before the next stake conference, they should be sustained in sacrament meetings. These sustainings should be kept to a minimum. A member of the stake presidency or high council presents the sustainings.

    In rare circumstances, a stake member may need to begin service before he or she can be sustained either in a stake conference or in sacrament meetings. When this happens, the person is presented for ratifying as soon as reasonable, adapting the process described in 30.3. This includes providing an opportunity for stake members to oppose the action.

  2. The stake activities committee chair (if needed) and the stake building representative are assigned by the stake presidency from the high council. They are not called, sustained, or set apart.

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Interviewing

30.8.4

District Callings

Calling

Recommended by

Approved by

Sustained by

Called and set apart by

District president

Mission president

Area Presidency

Members in district conference

Mission president

Counselors in the district presidency

District president

Mission presidency

Members in district conference

Mission president or an assigned counselor

Other district callings

See 30.8.3, substituting district president for stake president and district for stake.

30.8.5

Military Service Member Group Callings

Calling

Recommended by

Approved by

Sustained by

Called and set apart by

Service member group leader

A Latter-day Saint chaplain, the director of Military Relations, or the outgoing group leader

Bishop or branch president and the stake or mission president (in the member’s home ward or branch and stake or mission)

Group members

Stake president or mission president or a designated representative (may function without being set apart if necessary)

Assistants to the service member group leader

Group leader

Bishop or branch president and the stake or mission president (in the member’s home ward or branch and stake or mission)

Group members

Stake president or mission president or a designated representative (may function without being set apart if necessary)