Imagine if you sat on the board of directors for a large Fortune 500 company that needed to find a new CEO to improve the dismal progress of the company. You are not allowed to conduct any formal interviews. You can only choose from people that live in a specific geographical neighborhood (about 350 people). To top it off, you have to make your decision in only 2 weeks.

Filling callings in a ward, quorum, or group can feel just as daunting. Most companies would think it was crazy to simply hire someone because you know the person (somewhat) and they seem like they could handle the task. This isn’t like the secular world, where it would require a series of interviews and reference checks before making an offer.

Thankfully, in any ward or branch people are working under priesthood keys held by a quorum president (i.e. bishop, stake president). Special inspiration comes through these keys and it is remarkable to see the right people chosen for the right callings. Of course, this isn’t always the case since humans are involved in the process.

It is beneficial to compare the more secular hiring process with the church calling process because though they are different in their approach many of the same mistakes can be made.

I recently read a book by called The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else by George Anders. When I first saw the title of the book, my curiosity was peaked because I have spent many late nights with bishoprics going through lists of ward members simply trying to find “exceptional talent” for a vacant calling.
In this book Anders shares his research on how large and small companies have found new ways of finding extraordinary team members to take their organization to the next level. Just like my example above, not all of the content of the book can be related to an LDS ward or stake but many hit the nail on the head.

Compromise on experience; don’t compromise on character

When pondering over who should serve as the next elder’s quorum president or high councilman, it’s natural to look at one’s previous church experience. Have they served in a leadership calling before? Did they serve a mission? Anders writes, “The difference between growth and stagnation comes down to finding people with bold, fresh approaches, who can create opportunities that no one else saw before.” (p.237)
Even with a lengthy church leadership resume, the individual’s values may not match the values the quorum needs. I’m not talking about moral values or whether the elder quorum president has a felony on his record. Rather, do they value characteristics that the quorum or group needs? Choosing the elder that is always positive and friendly might not be the best choice when the quorum needs organization and consistency.
The bottom line from the quote above is having someone with a fresh approach is sometimes all the position needs to succeed.

Seek out “talent that whispers”

Take a moment to analyze the process you go through to determine who is a “valid candidate”. It doesn’t matter which calling you are trying to fill because the process is most likely similar. Choosing an auxiliary leader may feel like a can’t-make-a-mistake decision since so much responsibility comes with the call.

Whether looking for a new CFO for a company or seeking a new gospel doctrine instructor for a ward—the reality is, people are often overlooked for silly reasons. It is easier to call someone to a certain position that you know will not make a mistake, rather than having to release someone later who has created a disaster. However, sticking with the “safe choice” sometimes makes you miss the “extraordinary choice”.

Ask “What can go right?”

Yes, you are right!  There are a million reasons why Brother Snorezenclass shouldn’t be the next high priest group leader. He wears a pocket-protector, has hair coming out his ears, and doesn’t quite know how to use a typewriter—let alone a computer. Instead of making a list of reasons why he probably wouldn’t be a good fit, force yourself to ask what could go right?

Draw out the “hidden truths” of each calling

An Elder’s Quorum President isn’t someone that is really good at organizing home teaching routes. A compassionate service leader isn’t someone that makes a mean chicken casserole. Often times, we see a relief society that needs a sincere individual that can love, and we default to the individual who has done the calling before and is most organized. Over time we create misconceptions about church callings which leads us to choosing someone that won’t produce the desired outcome.

The church handbooks give us basic job descriptions about various callings. These descriptions are not overly specific because they are written for a very diverse international church. It may be helpful to determine focus points for each calling to really understand what that calling fulfills for your ward.

Thank goodness for inspiration

There is no set of secrets that will produce the perfect call every time. Individuals within a ward need to be somewhat active, worthy, and not to mention willing to serve. There are many things to consider when trying to make the best decision for a calling. LDS leaders are taught “a person must be called of God to serve in the Church…seek the guidance of the Spirit in determining whom to call. They consider the worthiness that may be required for the calling.” (Handbook 2 19.1.1) The reality is, we should do our best to follow the will of the Lord and seek his guidance through prayer. By being sincere in the process and making the best decision possible you won’t make any BIG mistakes. It will all work out as it should in the end by choosing individuals that will grow from the sacrifices they are asked to bear.

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