This question assumes a certain definition of “failing” in a calling given by church leaders, presuming also that the calling has come from God, but let’s break things down a little further.
In this post where we addressed what God authorizes and allows an individual to do, and whether or not an individual can do what Latter-day Saints do on their own, we said we would address the issue that not all things that the Latter-day Saints do are approved of God. This ties into the opposite concern about what God does not authorize someone to do. The obvious answer to this concern lies in what he has revealed we should not do, contained in all of the “thou shalt not’s” that we are familiar with in the commandments.
Of particular importance to this post are the commands to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to “not do any work” therein (Exodus 20:10), and to “not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).
The LDS Church claims inspiration from God in callings given to members. The command to not take the name of the Lord in vain presumes that an authority figure CAN make a mistake in claiming that a particular call has come from God. It certainly may be inspired, but it also may be for personal motives, or to get a job done, or to gather like-minded individuals into quorums and presidencies to affect a personal agenda they want to implement. Whatever the reasons, it is evident that some of the motives for calling individuals are not of God.
The 5th Article of Faith accepted by the LDS Church says:
“We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” (Articles of Faith 1:5)
What most LDS members don’t understand is that the prophecy inherent in the call in this verse is to the individual as much as it is to the authority figure making the call. The authority figure’s prerogative and right is addressed in the prophetic call being confirmed by them, as it says: “by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority”. This allows for the authority figure(s) to have a check against imposition from calls that are not from God. But in the case of a legitimate call from God to service, the prophecy comes to the individual: “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3). The subject that receives the desires and the call is the individual. It does not say, “if the elders of the church have desires for you to serve God, ye are called to the work.” If you are to take the position that the desire comes to the individual and the call comes from the authorities upon their notice of an individual’s desires, then you still need to account for the inspired desire that God says must be in the individual. There are many individuals who receive a call who don’t want to do it at all. It is one thing to want to serve God at first and then change your mind after, but it is another thing to not have any desire to do what a leader proposes in the first place. There must be a balance.
It is entirely possible that lacking a desire to do as a leader asks is not an indication of laziness or insubordination at all. It may be your conscience telling you that what they are asking of you is not inspired by God, and that they are using the name of the Lord in vain. As a member of the LDS Church, you not only have the obligation to consider what the leaders ask of you, but you have the obligation to your God according to these scriptures to consider whether or not God has inspired in you a desire to do that particular task as well. If after cleansing your heart from impurity, the inspiration and desire still doesn’t come, don’t do it. Don’t sacrifice your conscience in the name of obeying a leader.
With the clarity of purpose for the commandments that Jesus expounded in his Sermon on the Mount, no one has any excuse for not understanding what God asks of us and what God forbids. In the Sermon and elsewhere, he has commanded that there should be no priestcrafts, which are that someone sets themselves up for a light to get gain and the praise of the world (2 Nephi 26:29). Any agenda in a church meeting fitting this description is forbidden by God. We are not authorized by God to support meetings or individuals when they cross this line. We can support them in good endeavors, but we must have our own moral compass to make a stand against unrighteous and vain endeavors.
The definition that the Lord gives of the church that we covenant to support is the same as his doctrine: “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church” (D&C 10:67-68). We are authorized to build up this definition of the church, especially within the LDS Church if we can. The two are not necessarily synonymous, though, because as soon as any agenda in any church meeting runs contrary to helping people repent of sin and come into Christ’s presence in this life, that meeting is not a meeting of Christ’s church as defined by him. On the other hand, even outside of the LDS institution, where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, there he will be also, and there is his church (Matthew 18:20). If one were to draw a Venn diagram, the LDS Church and the Lord’s Church might have some overlap, but it would still be a Venn diagram nonetheless, with the definition of the Lord’s church necessarily encompassing a much broader scope than what an earthly institution can offer.
Therefore, we are not authorized to labor on a Sunday, especially if that labor is a vain meeting imposed on us by a calling or assignment not from God. Contrarily, if a calling or assignment is from God and requires legitimate service to your fellow man, you will be filled with righteous desire and can confidently offer up your vows on the Sabbath or any other day, even if a church leader disagrees with your behavior. One only needs to skim the New Testament to see that the Lord Himself contradicted his own church leaders on what he decided to do on the Sabbath or in any other context (see Matthew 9:11, Matthew 12:2, and Matthew 12:12-13 for instance) and what he refused to do even when pressed by authority figures (see Luke 22:67).
Because some have mistakenly equated the institution as synonymous with the church of Christ in every moment and every circumstance, they have been led astray by language in secret covenants that imply complete devotion to the institution. Much vain labor, and even wicked practice, has been indulged in “for the oath’s sake” (see Moses 5:50), and without regard to whether or not it was a righteous thing to do. If the definition of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is taken to mean those who repent and come unto Christ as outlined in D&C 10, and referring to those of us today who are or who are attempting to be Saints in these latest days in contrast to those Saints of former days, then the covenant can be fulfilled without regard to any earthly institution, even institutions claiming to protect or be the true church of Christ. One only need to concern themselves with the words and their meaning as opposed to an organization putting those words together as its title.
Interestingly, David O. McKay summarized (or directly quoted) the covenant in question in a speech to departing missionaries as “I will consecrate my life, my time, my talents to the advancement of the Kingdom of God,” (Anderson, Devery S. editor, The Development of LDS Temple Worship: 1846-2000, A Documentary History, Signature Books: SLC, 2011, p. 268), suggesting that the language of the covenant may’ve been altered some time after this 1941 speech to include the name of the Church. Since many LDS members and leaders view the “kingdom of God” as synonymous with the LDS Church as well, this may be a moot point in persuading them to look at the scriptures differently. Regardless, it can be seen that definitions matter in how one perceives if they have “failed” in their callings, and whether or not those calls to service are from God or not. Failing in an assignment that was vain to begin with, might very well be doing service to God as you fill your time with more meaningful purposes.
An institution that believes it is the sole provider of authoritative ordinances from God and continuously regards itself as being the only true church upon the face of the whole earth, irrespective of its shifting doctrines and irregardless of whether or not it actually is built upon Christ’s Gospel at any given moment in time (see 3 Nephi 27:8), will definitely have agendas from time to time that are not of God. In such instances of departure from Christ’s Gospel, these institutions will more likely resemble a corporation trying to retain employees that makes them do unauthorized labors on the Sabbath day, all while claiming in vain that the Lord instructed the false service and sacrifice they have demanded of you. Refusing such impositions is not failing in your calling or your obligations to God at all. Realistically, it is honoring the institution you belong to just as much as it is for a child to refuse to do wrong even if their parent tells them to. When an institution fails to meet up to its own standards, honor the best version of that institution instead. If it really does claim to be of God, they ought to thank you for that if and when they come to their senses. Honor God.