Are these simply assigned, or are things like an individual’s personality and abilities taken into consideration? Being “given” a calling makes it sound like they are randomly assigned.
It’s basically both. But some of the callings dont require a great deal of skill. Those of leadership are giving to those who tend to have had previous, lower level leadership…
IE before a man is called to be stake president he most likely has served on the high counsil and have been a bishop…
I spent 5 years in an LDS bishopric as executive seceretary, spanning two bishops, and attended a lot of meetings where the bishop and his counselors discussed members and callings.
The bishop did his absolute level best to understand a member’s needs and abilities, and match them to a calling which would best serve them. They tried hard to find out where individual members were in their lives, their stresses, issues, desires, and hopes.
Occasionally, they’d say something like “I think Brother X may be ready for the challenge of calling Y - it might stretch him a little, but I think he’s ready for it.” Also, there was a lot of “I don’t think sister Z would be ready for that calling - she told me last week [personal details], so she’s under a lot of stress right now. We should ask again in 6 months.”
These meetings always ended in heartfelt prayer for confirmation or further guidance from the Spirit. Sometimes, a bishop would want to ponder and pray a little more on this or that calling, and occasionally would end up going on a totally different direction than at the meeting. I once floated an analogy - the Spirit had veto power over their decisions. They agreed, and also said the Spirit would also just prompt out of the blue.
Sometimes, extending the calling resulted in additional unknown details or even a flat out refusal. Additional details often made perfect sense (I work Tuesday nights, so can’t make it to Boy Scouts), so something else that worked was found.
Once or twice, a calling would offend someone, or cause conflict, or basically end up as just a bad situation. The bishopric would try to correct those. In a few cases, the bishop would talk with folks, decide to let it go a while, and the individuals involved would work through the difficulties on their own.
The best meetings started with a big plate of cookies from the Primary President - the cookies always came with a list of her open callings and a list of her top suggestions. She made great cookies, but the bishopric often knew more details about the individuals, so she sometimes struggled with how few of “her picks” were extended callings.
The standard LDS in-joke is “Some callings are from inspiration, some are from desparation”. I’ve witnessed more of the former, and less of the latter, but anyone in church leadership will still chuckle at the joke.
I will say that most bishops do they best they can in filling callings. But, to give you some perspective on the other side, it can be extremely frustrating with how certain bishops operate.
I was in a leadership position and was instructed by the bishop to pray about sisters to fill callings underneath me. He was supposedly giving me the responsibliity of selecting the people prayerfully myself. I was told no with every single name. It went on for months. He ended up filling the callings by his own inspiration because, apparently, mine wasn’t good enough. I get your point with the primary president and her suggestions. However, where in the world is the inspiration when the bishop instructs someone to prayerfully select people for callings and then undermines the inspiration he was asking for? I was being obedient, yet my obedience was treated like garbage. If the bishop knew more than me, then he should have just done it himself instead of wasting my spiritual energy. And no, I did not leave the LDS faith over this incident. This happened years before I ever researched and considered leaving.
In my last ward, the bishop was generally a good guy but only put his friends in leadership callings and just rotated them around the different organizations. It worked out fine for me because I was eventually released and didn’t have a calling. He also woefully neglected the nursery which was my last calling. We had 15+ kids and 3 adults. We were already telling the primary president that we needed to split the nursery. Then chaos ensued. One nursery leader had her baby and was informally released. At the same time, the other leader had abdominal surgery and was out for 2+ months. That left me. I had a rotation of substitutes, but nursery just got more and more chaotic. They did finally call one other lady and finally the other returned from surgery. The calls to split the nursery continued to be ignored over the course of about 6 months until I told the bishop that he had 2 weeks to split the nursery or I was gone and I would be sending all the children to their parents’ classes. The result was I was released (yeah!) and they sort of split the nursery. The bishop was too occupied with reorganizing the presidencies of other organizations that had only been in place for less than 2 years and functioning fine and putting his friends into leadership positions than to pay any attention to a real problem. Very poor management skills on his part.
My experience is you get a mixed bag with bishops but I do think most do the best they can with sometimes limited resources.
I, too, was part of those meetings as a member of the bishopric. While we tried very hard to fit people with skill sets into callings, very seldom was any praying done. It was more like a board meeting where we looked at needs, looked at the people we had and tried to match the positions with people we felt were best qualified.
One Sunday while in church there was a discussion about the missionary program. It seemed to be the consensus among returned missionaries was that those missionaries which were related to the hierarchy of the Church were called to more significant jobs than those who were just the run of the mill missionaries.