I have friends who are receiving help with depression, but they’d rather go inactive than deal with the stress of holding a calling due to depression OR telling the bishop no. There is so much pressure to accept a calling. Is this doctrine or a cultural thing? Missionaries don’t have to serve missions due to depression. What about holding callings when it makes a person’s life miserable and unhappy and they’d rather quit the church? I’ve read Elder Hollands talk but it doesn’t answer this
This is really more complicated than it seems on the surface. There is really not “one” answer, however, I will do my best to share some thoughts.
First of all, the “pressure” you speak of may be real or perceived by the person receiving the call. I think a lot of it is perceived rather than real. Human beings are wired for connection. We want and need to “fit in.” In our church, callings are something we do, so not accepting a calling feels somewhat rebellious and the person turning down the calling feels as if everyone is judging them. Remember that Bishops (and their counselors) are kind men who truly wish to help. Most often they do not have training in mental health issues, so they might need a little help understanding the situation. I believe all Bishops would be very understanding if someone said they can’t accept a certain calling right now due to depression. It may surprise you, but people turn down callings all the time, and not for depression. Some people simply turn down callings they don’t want to do. Cub Scouts is a difficult calling to fill for this reason.
The other side of the coin is the belief that service will help with the depression. Again, this is more complicated than it seems on the surface. Yes, service is helpful, but sometimes those who have not experienced depression can over-estimate how much someone who is depressed can do, or how much of a difference it will make. It is a very individual thing. A friend of mine says the widow’s mite applies to service as well. Sometimes we are able to serve in a grand capacity, and sometimes our ability to serve is very limited, but the Lord accepts our best efforts whatever they may be.
For some the right calling can be helpful. For example, one friend of mine who was struggling with depression had a difficult time with Sunday School and Relief Society. Her wise Bishop gave her a calling in the library. My friend found great relief in this as it “excused” her from attending Sunday School and Relief Society for a time. It also gave her a bit of interaction with ward members, but not too much. Remember just because one does not feel up to teaching a class, does not mean there is not some small way they can serve, some way to offer their widow’s mite. If they truly cannot serve, the Bishop will understand. One sister told me she did not have a calling. When she asked her Bishop about this he said, “Your calling right now is to heal.” As I said, there is not ONE right answer.
It is the natural man, or Satan that encourages people who are depressed to just stay home. Please advise your friends to hold to the Iron Rod, sit down and talk to their Bishops. I have had many Bishops over the years, and though not a single one was perfect, they were all loving and tried very hard to do the Lord’s will. Give them a chance to help, and hopefully both will be benefitted.