Burning Bosom

Theology, History, Culture, Politics & Life from a LDS (Mormon) Perspective

In Relief Society, “No means No!”

Posted by Kerry on February 29, 2008

Like many other Burning Bosom Bloggers, my wife and I have both recently served in ward leadership positions. It was Elder’s Quorum Prez (EQP) for me and RS Prez (RSP) for my wife (still serving). I have to admit that we have both been absolutely flabbergasted, completely bewildered, and utterly SHOCKED at the behavior of some of our fellow active members of the church, regarding the acceptance of service from others.

It seems that when a person is first called to a ward leadership position, said person tries to fulfill every single service request at whatever cost, believing that “magnifying your calling” requires that. One common example would be spending an exorbitant (i.e a dozen hours) amount of time helping an unprepared family to move. Over time, however, even the sweetest of hearts becomes somewhat “hardened” and begins to understand that it is okay to say “no” to some inappropriate service requests.

Now of course I am not saying we shouldn’t serve…loving, charitable service is in reality “pure religion”. And obviously in some cases, spending an exorbitant amount of time serving someone is very appropriate.

The hardening that I mention above is the often slow recognition that as leaders, we need to be careful in asking our brethren and sisters to consecrate their time to serve – especially when that service is what I would call “inappropriate”. I would define inappropriate service as those situations when individuals knowingly take advantage of consecrated time from their brethren and sisters.

Here are some of my favorite inappropriate service stories (all true, as they happened to either my wife or me):

1. Sister A is pregnant and asks for meals to be brought to her after she has the baby (my wife thinks that many members simply expect this now, like we are somehow entitled to receive meals from sisters because the husband can’t boil some hot dogs or grab fast food). Sister A doesn’t ask if meals can be brought over, but instead asks “now how many meals do I get when my baby comes?” Note that Sister A’s family is financially stable. So, Sister B, a working, single sister with 3 small kids, accepts the service opportunity and prepares a meal. When she gets over to Sister A’s house, there is a herd of extended family members inside the house with a party atmosphere eating from a stack of fresh pizza boxes on the counter. Sister A asks Sister B to “put the food on the counter…I am sure it will get eaten”. 

2. Brother X has obtained a new high-paying job and is moving out of the ward.  He asks EQP (ridiculous, in my opinion. If you are moving, feel free to make an announcement on your own in EQ and call some helpers yourself) to find a team of helpers to move. Oh, and of course, the helpers will “only be moving the big stuff.” EQP finds half a dozen brethren (the same brethren who volunteer for everything else) who commit to leave their families for half a Saturday and end up helping Brother X’s family pack, load, move, etc. At the end of the move, Brother X mentions in passing to EQP that his new employer had actually given him a moving bonus of $10,000, but he wanted to pocket the $ instead and use the “free services” of the EQ. Brother X almost received a punch to the face that night.  

3. Brother Y is going to be working some extra construction jobs over the next 6 weeks and will be out of town. All sounds peachy, right? Sister Y then calls RSP and asks if RSP can assign some sisters in the ward to babysit 3-times-a-week while Sister Y runs errands and exercises. Why doesn’t she want to pay for a babysitter (Family Y is NOT poor)? Because Brother and Sister Y want to save the extra money they will be earning and “apply it towards their dream house”.

4. Sister M, a single sister with 4 young kids, is having a “voluntary operation” and requests a meal from the RSP for the night after the operation. So Sister P, who has 3 young children and whose husband is in Iraq, volunteers to prepare a meal for a family of 5. Upon arriving at Sister M’s house, Sister P is told that the kids are on a vacation with biological Dad, but Sister M still wanted a meal for her boyfriend, who was over at the house that night. Was boyfriend incapable of making a P&B sandwich for himself that night?

5. Countless other stories where financially-stable members ask professionals (accountants, auto mechanics, attorneys, etc) in the ward to offer their services for free. Like being in a ward together somehow means we are exempt from paying for professional services…usually the professionals are too nice to ask for proper payment.

Does anyone else have any favorite stories like these? I do not shed light on these stories to belittle certain members of the church, but to suggest that it is okay for local leaders to say “no”. 

I would like to know how the Savior Himself served. Did He ever do anything that the service-recipient could have essentially done him/herself? Is it appropriate to ask members under my stewardship to take time out of their schedules, their families, and sometimes even their work, and consecrate it for an individual that could have avoided the entire situation with some simple preparations? Should we only serve when it is a scenario where the service could NOT be done by the recipient?

Maybe I am way off base. Maybe I shouldn’t judge and simply ask those members under my direction to serve with love and a non-critical heart. I have always really liked how Elder Maxwell stated it:

“Part of discipleship should be to become high-yield, low-maintenance members of the Church.” [1]

I think it is appropriate to not only seek to become “high-yield, low maintenance members” ourselves, but to also encourage each other to become “high-yield, low maintenance members” by sometimes saying “no”.

[1] Neal A. Maxwell, “The Holy Ghost: Glorifying Christ,” Ensign, Jul 2002, 56–61

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34 Responses to “In Relief Society, “No means No!””

  1. Shawn L said

    Awesome post. It’s been a few years since I was released, but I’ve got plenty of sorry stories to tell. Here’s my favorite.

    We had a young family in the ward for a very short time. After much back-and-forth, they decided on a Monday that they were going to move and asked me (I agree — he should have made the calls himself) to help arrange a moving crew. It was an especially busy week. A beloved member of the ward had lost a daughter, whose funeral was set for Thursday, meaning we needed to help move chairs on Wednesday & Thursday. So, I told Brother X that we would be happy to help, but asked that he schedule the move for any night other than Wednesday. He called me back the next morning to say that he would be moving on Wednesday. Note that he did not have to start a new job until the following week, so this was simply a matter of personal preference. I gritted my teeth, and set about to round up a crew of Elders and Young Men (I needed them to fill in the ranks since everyone else was at the Stake Center moving chairs). The family was moving to a community approximately 1 hour away. Having been burned in prior experiences, I made clear to the family that we could help load the truck, but he needed to arrange with his receiving ward to help him unload. I even gave him the name and number of the new Bishop and told him to call ASAP.

    On Wednesday night, I was actually booked for a work meeting, so I showed up at the move as it was finishing around 8:00 p.m. Everyone had left but me, Brother X and two other Elders (again, the same ones who I saw at every move). Nobody moved when I said, “well, thanks and we’ll see you later.” Apparently, Brother X did not have car insurance, so he had wrangled one of these two elders into renting the truck for him, meaning this brother had to drive out to the hinterlands and back that night with the truck. Of course, Brother X had not called ahead. So, all four of us piled into our cars, drove out an hour, spent several hours unpacking his stuff, turned around and drove another hour home, and collapsed into bed around 3:00 a.m. Let’s just say I didn’t have charity in my heart that night.

    Now that I have vented, let me get to the larger point. I have no problem giving loads of service to someone who is in need. But it does chap my hide a bit to be taken advantage of. And that is exactly what happens when an active, able member of the Church forgoes any personal responsibility and foists it all onto his/her fellow ward members.

  2. ditchu said

    Point well made. However have you considered the “soft sell” approch to a no? How this works: Instead of just saying “No!” or “I can’t, won’t, Don’t” ect… Suggest alternitives. example:

    (3) “Sister Y then calls RSP and asks if RSP can assign some sisters in the ward to babysit 3-times-a-week while Sister Y runs errands and exercises.” the soft sell here is to not say yes or no but to say, “These are ladies in the ward who offer baby sittind services.” and list the people you think may babysit for her (they can work out payment, and you did your job.
    There are other cases where this works.

    About (1)”Sister A is pregnant and asks for meals to be brought to her after she has the baby…” I have had a baby recentlly and though we had to deal with getting meals our-selves or letting family get it for us I don’t understand when the dad if he is doing a good job of husband and father has any more time to boil water for anything but a bottle for baby, let alone make Dawgs.

    (2)the brother moving and pocketing the cash that was to hire movers is not only a hardship on the EQ volenteers, it is down right dishonest. You as a spiritual advisor being EQP would be fully justified by mentioning this and rebuking him for his underhanded deeds. although it would have been a great teaching moment it most likley would have put off the man requesting help.

    (4) Another example of poor choices. This is where honesty on the part of the requester and a bit of forwardness on the part of the church leader could have resolved the conflicts. I found out that our ward’s current RSP took it as a rule to ask about how many people and what ages (young children{1/2}, Teens{count as 2}, and adults{1}) there will be for the meal. this would have exposed the plans of the sister or made her lie. either way she would have made a choice before sticking someone to cook for her.

    And for (5)…
    I love this post for this.
    As a computer Technician I charge outside of my employment $50.00 per hour, this is the lowest rate I know undercutting the industry standard of $55.00 to $175.00 per hour. But people keep asking me to help with their computers. My issue is that it is not the Rich people who ask. In most cases for me the people I tend to help do not pay me anything. I do not ask for money for my services and take it as work done for God’s purposes and it has rewarded me beyond money, I have gained unending friendships with these people. This friendship I come to find out is sometimes the thing these people are after in the first place.

    All in all you have to ask what is their goal, if these “Richer” Members are after saving a few bucks than direct them to where they can save on the services ther are requesting.

    God Bless,
    D

  3. Mike L. said

    I agree that the cases you listed are way over the line in terms of taking advantage of church members. I have examples of this from my own experience along the same lines as those already given.

    But I also think that they are the exception, not the rule. In my experience, most people who ask for help really do have a legitimate need. In fact, some people are hesitate to ask for help even when they do need it.

    On a related note, during last halloween someone dropped off a bag of candy on our doorstep with a cheesy poem attached that basically said, “we served you, now serve someone else in the same way.” My initial thought was, “That’s not service! That’s a bag of candy!” I think in some ways we Mormons are over-anxious to serve, even in relatively insignificant ways. I called these types of experiences “practicing service”.

  4. Kerry said

    Shawn #1: What a great story! Hilarious. Hearing other’s stories makes me feel better, and in some weird way makes me not so angry about my own experiences.

    Ditchu #2: Yes, I agree with your points. Better to offer something and consider the job done.

    Regarding having babies, we have had 4 of them and I have had plenty of time still to make a meal for the family. Maybe I am being insensitive, though. I know every situation is not the same, especially if there are complications with the baby or other issues. Plus, I do realize that some sisters WANT to serve, and they find the act of making meals a good way to serve. Obviously we shouldnt take away the opportunity for them to serve. In the end, so much of the way we feel about the service is the attitude of the recipient (this is not a good thing. We shouldn’t decide how we feel about service by the attitude of the recipient). Some people that receive meals are so grateful for it and express that gratitude, while others act as if it is an entitlement to receive the meal.

    Mike #3: Yes, thank heavens they are the exceptions and not the rule. I enjoyed the post on your blog regarding candy and the family dealing with the cancer.

  5. Brother X mentions in passing to EQP that his new employer had actually given him a moving bonus of $10,000, but he wanted to pocket the $ instead and use the “free services” of the EQ

    I’ve been moving people like that. Makes me grit my teeth, especially when I’ve never seen them help anyone move. /Sigh

    The difference is what appears to be callous exploitation of the poor and weak by those with wealth and status. Otherwise I don’t think we mind at all, or shouldn’t. Heck, even the case you’ve mentioned, we all stayed and kept moving. Sometimes life just is what it is. Turned out they needed the money soon enough, so it was a good thing we had helped them.

    We just have people who haven’t learned how to live in a community.

  6. ditchu said

    community! That’s what’s missing.
    Great comments and again Great Post.

  7. Andrew said

    Great topic, Kerry.

    I spent a couple years in charge of ward moves, I mean as Elders Quorum President. And then some time as YM President. It changed my outlook on many things. I could give you plenty of stories about people mooching off the system and expecting boat loads of charity when they themselves did nothing to contribute to the community of Saints. But I’ve tried to bury all of that and, thankfully, with much therapy and counseling, I’ve been able to do so, so I don’t want to re-open old wounds. 🙂

    Instead, I’d just like to emblazon one message on the minds of every person who expects or asks other ward members to do something for them: Every hour you ask someone to spend helping you is an hour you are taking them away from their family, which is their #1 God-given priority. As important as you think you are, you are not more important than that person’s spouse and children. So if you are going to take one or a dozen men away from their families on a Saturday–their one and only “play day” with their own families–first stop and think whether you really “need” them more than their spouses and children need them. And if you truly do need them, you had better do everything you possibly can to at least minimize the time they have to spend away from their families, and at least have the common courtesy to reciprocate the service to someone else in the ward.

  8. Andrew said

    By the way, I have no problem saying “no” to a request for service if:

    (1) They can do it themselves; or

    (2) It would require me to sacrifice more important time with my family; or

    (3) They have contributed nothing to the ward community.

    I know it’s not politically correct to say that, but spend a few years coordinating every ward move and every random service project and you’ll see what I’m saying.

  9. Allen said

    A few months ago my neighbor had a baby. My wife decided she would like to take a meal to the family. The kids in that family had certain restrictions on the food they can eat, so my wife talked to the mother about bringing food. The mother graciously thanked my wife for her interest, and she explained that before the baby came, she had prepared a lot of meals for the family to use after the birth. My wife didn’t have the enjoyment of giving sincere service, but she did have the joy of knowing that her neighbor was doing all she could to provide for her family.

    Here is a link to an essay I wrote quite a few years ago about how much service leaders should ask of their members and how much service members should accept from their leaders.

    http://www.mormonsite.org/callings.html

  10. JB said

    It’s always been funny to me when there are more brethren at someone’s house to help them move than there are FRIENDS. I get it if they are new to an area and don’t really know anyone, but I always call on friends way before I call one anyone else. Granted, those friends may be part of the EQ but still, they are people that know I’m willing to do whatever for them and that I appreciate their willingness to help me as well.

    As for the RS, I kind of like how our ward “typically” does it. There is a sign up sheet, but from what I understand, the new mothers put down days that they will need it. So if family is there or the husband can’t help in time (heck, I can boil hot dogs, but really that’s about it!) then they opt out of some days. Plus, the new moms only get “ward lovin'” for the first few days after the hospital. Of course, as mentioned above, there are always exception to the rule and those who will abuse.

  11. ditchu said

    This thought hit me like a brick, and a verse relates directlly to this topic:

    Luke 6:30 “give to every man that asketh thee…”
    Also Luke 11:5-8 has something to add to this.

    The answer, Brothers, is not on the part of the giver (he or she who will say yes or no) but it is up to the reciever to ask for what they need, nothing more. A part of me wants to agree with you all on this issue, it is not right to abuse the aid and help of fellow church members, is it any less improper to ask friends?
    My take on this at current is this:

    Do what you can! If you need help ask for what you need and no more. If asked to help: (again) Do what you can!

    Simple, but most difficult to have everyone follow. We all know the people who always seem to help and never ask for help. If you don’t know any of them in your ward do the following to meet many of them:
    1.Go to a ward activity (especially if it involves food and some set-up/take-down.)
    2.Stay after to help clean up.
    3.The People working during this time are part of the group of people who always help.

    As always… God Bless.
    -D

  12. Great post – I can relate – I really can! Having served as EQP in a Branch level I remember a time I moved a poor sister by myself in the rain! Not to mention, she had to work that day so I not only ended up cleaning her house, doing her dishes and boxing things up..I’m not embelishing at all!! I remember doing the dishes and wondered…what the **** am I doing???? However, I do also recall feeling a sweet spirit that was only shared with me that I can’t described to anyone else during that move – I wouldn’t have had it any other way if I were to do it again.

    I also recall a Reginal Welfare person coming to our Stake to train all the PH Leadership on welfare issues. One example he used that continues to stick with me is that if the Bishop ask you to make an assignment to go mow the poor old sisters home who lives in the richest neighborhood and has a mansion and a yacht and real dimond on her finger that resembals those candy diamonds we use to suck on as kids – our response should be “what day and time” and to not ask questions. Only the Bishop knows the needs of those requesting welfare help.

  13. ditchu said

    spot-on. Thank you for validating my impression. I sometimes need help and yet even faced with bills unpaid and starvation I have a hard time asking from other people. It is my lesson to learn when to rely on the service of others.
    I have had a few experiences like you have discribed, however never by myself. I once helped a member moving through our ward. (devorced with a kid, renting temporarly) it was just The EQP and I, we hauled furniture and boxes and all sorts of stuff I didn’t think two people could lift. Up a flight of rickety stairs and then we set up a bed for the boy and helped to unpack food and dishes so they could eat. My heart hurt for this situation. If I has money at the time I’d have ordered pizza or something so the family could eat. The only people to show up were the EQP (gotta love the dedication) and a fire in the belly poor as dirt prospective elder. This was in the earily part of my second year of being a member.

    I still beleive in community. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Fifthgen said

    Anyone who has served as an EQP or RSP has multiple stories like these. My favorite: I arrangned for a service project to help a single mom with spring yard work (for the umpteenth year in a row). The elders showed up, having left their own yards, skipped soccer games, etc., to help. The two adult children who lived at the house rolled out of bed at about that time and wathced TV and ate cold cereal while we raked, trimmed and mowed.

    The situation (understandably) irked more than one of the service providers, including me. I had not lived in the ward long enough to fully understand how this family got to where it was that day, but it did help me resolve to be both a high-yield and a low-maintenance disciple that day. And I think I would have been prepared to ask the mother the next year what time we could come so that her family could help. So I guess it was “a worthwhile experience.”

  15. Marc L said

    I’m a Cub Scout leader in an extremely, grossly affluent ward. It’s safe to call a large percentage of the members millionaires, if not multi-millionaires.

    You would not believe the liberties these people take. We joke that “Cubs” stands for “Can You baby-Sit.”

    -Parents showing up 30 minutes late to pick up their kids (without even a phone call) because they were “playing tennis.”

    -NEVER RSVP-ing to a formal invitation to a “fancy” Cub dinner and then showing up and expecting to be fed because they were “in the area.”

    -Parents calling the Bishop when their son couldn’t get signed up for a scout event because the parent NEVER turned in the forms even after repeated personal phone calls, emails, cell phone messages, messages left with nannies, mailed reminders and announcements with CLEAR DEADLINES at every meeting. They told the Bishop their son “wasn’t being treated fairly” and I got the late night phone call from the Bishop the night before the event asking me to get the kid in somehow. Of course I had to.

    -Parents deciding not to drive to an outing (after they had signed up to) on the day of the event because they, “really needed to get to the gym for a morning workout instead.”

    -Asking my crazy-busy wife to sew patches onto the scout shirts of boys with mothers who pay for tailoring what I make in a month.

    -Sending their kids to summer day camp and deciding they’re not going to stay with them (at the very last second) and are going to “a luncheon and a facial instead because it’s such a beautiful day.” meanwhile I have to stay because there has to be a specific boy-adult ratio.

    -Sending their kids to all-day outdoor events with no food, no water, no jacket, nothing. Even after repeated phone call reminders. Meanwhile we have to figure something out for their children.

    -Having the gall to ask if we could order “Pick Up Stix” Chinese food for their kid…at a camp out and on or dime!

    These from people who make millions of dollars a year.

    I have a zillion others.

  16. ditchu said

    maybe I don’t want to be rich if that is what happens to people with money. But wait, inconsiderate people abound everyware. I know some that are considered low income that never can get their act together. It all comes down to caring about others and respecting that they have lives too. I appreciate all the people who give service and thoes people who recieve service and show consideration and gratitude by having things ready or at least being prompt.

  17. Matt Rasmussen said

    Great post. I agree that these are the exceptions not the rule. The best way to make these exceptions worthwhile to the service providers is to learn from the experience. Extra kudos to Ditchu for the “soft sell” method.

    We recently moved a mother and her adult son. First we loaded (and did a lot of packing because he wasn’t prepared) and took his stuff to his new apartment. Only to find that the the previous tenant was still living there, told us he had no intention of moving, and then got in his car to drive away so we couldn’t pester him. We were able to get the landlord involved and the tenant came back to move. Once we were FINALLY able to unload the son’s possessions, we had to move the mother’s stuff. What a day. I had my three boys with me, ages 7 to 12 and were real troopers, so we had a few discussions on how grateful we should be for our living conditions, family helpfulness, why planning is important, and such. They learned a few lessons that day that they haven’t forgotten.

    Marc L: You’re getting used. Time to ask the Bishop to step in or consider a different calling for you (if you don’t want to be confrontational.) If you’re up to some “tough love” tell the Bishop in advance that deadlines and agreements will be honored or the children will not participate. Then stand your ground. It’s time someone help those parents realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Just be sure to tell the Bishop first or you’ll be made to look like a tyrant. Good luck! =)

  18. ditchu said

    Listen up everybody! Matt Rasmussen has some great advice.

    He just told Marc L:”… tell the Bishop in advance that deadlines and agreements will be honored or the children will not participate. Then stand your ground… Just be sure to tell the Bishop first…”

    This is the best advice I have seen on this blog!
    You Bishop may have more insight into what is happening and if he doesn’t know you’re being used and abused, he needs to be told. There may be a reason the bishop asks you to hold back on some of these and he not only has a right to do this but will be correct if he so deems. Most Bishops will look to you being able to do a good job first and only interfear if he has strong reason to.

    Thanks for the awsome advice Matt.

    I do love this blog, thanks Kerry for posting it for us all.

  19. What about Bob said

    I recently left the Church because after 30 years I realized I just didn’t believe it any more.

    For the few good things there are…I found that there are so many other things that are just mind boggling.

    It’s particularly painful as my children are getting married and after being super dad, to sit on the outside watching as other who almost nothing to do with the raising of my children be permitted to attend the Temple and the weddings. (I’ve had two daughters marry in the past 5 months and have 6 other children) I’m so sad and discouraged from this, it’s like I’ve lost the light in my eyes and the joy in my soul. I don’t think families should ever have to endure such a silly doctrine and yet with 124 temples, every year thousands, even tens of thousands of people are left out of the most important family experience while the members of the ward family get to go.

    Meanwhile the Church will air yet another commercial about families or create a Proclamation on the Family. I guess there’s the public image and then what’s really going on.

    To a person, outside the Church, people find this idea of exclusion of loving parents from the weddings of their children as disturbing and evil. Of course, in an environment that doesn’t condone individual thinking or criticizing the hierarchy what would one expect.

    I just saw a program about Helmuth Huebener on BYU TV. Helmuth was an LDS 17 year teenager living with his family in Hamburg, Germany during the war. He had a radio that could receive broadcasts from England and knew that Hitler and his cronies were evil. He eventually was executed by guillotine for his treasonous activities of denouncing Hitler and spreading fliers. Of course most all of his branch were taught “to obey the laws of the land” and even his branch president was more concerned with their safety and was a Nazi supporter. Odd to me that Helmuth, I think a hero, but that the Church would try and use his courage to bolster their image. The fact is Helmuth and his friends were unusual young men and it’s odd that they were LDS. What they did was extremely dangerous and against Church doctrine. Most LDS people don’t do anything unless they get a “calling” from the Bishop. I think the Church ought to be embarrassed at such a story showing how clueless and spineless the rest of the branch was.

    For the most part Mormons are followers. And like Germany, people in the Church even today are taught to not criticize their leaders, to follow like sheep, and obey without question every thing the Church comes up with.

    How can one grow as a human being when we’re always praying for peace and safety?

    How can one experience what it is to be a leader when every choice that is made has an answer that comes from a “handbook of instruction”?

    With all the lessons, the questions are preprinted, the discussion is laid out, with the “right” answers printed in the book.

    It’s a very sanitized, artificial community to belong to. You have friends in the Church, not because you’ve had to work together and create friendships. One time I taught an Elders Quorum class and circled the chairs and asked them to just identify the person beside them and say what you know about them. They didn’t know anything or anyone.

    I know many people who stay in the Church even though they know it isn’t true, but continue because it’s the culture they’re most familiar with and they feel secure in it.

    I have wished for my own sanity that I could figure a way to square the sense of community I felt as a member. It can be so lonely not having a tribe to belong to. But in fact, it’s because I’m not in it any longer, I can see things I couldn’t before and because of these experience I’m even more certain that the Church isn’t what it claims to be.

  20. Andrew said

    Bob,

    You are certainly not alone in feeling like there are ways to improve church culture. And I am encouraged to hear counsel from church leaders urging us to abandon many of the same types of attitudes you lament in your comment above. Elder Ballard is particularly good about kindly calling us to collective repentance and improvement.

    However, despite all its seeming imperfections, I still find much nourishment to my soul through the church. It may seem Pollyanna-ish, but there is much truth to the old adage that you find what you’re looking for. If we’re focused on faults, we’ll find them in abundance. If we’re looking for reasons to stay, we’ll find plenty of those as well.

    In a previous post, I expressed what keeps me in the church: https://burningbosom.wordpress.com/2008/02/25/why-i-am-not-a-disaffected-mormon/

    Bob, there is one more thing. Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of your criticisms are correct, and that your perceptions are keen and accurate. It seems to me that gives you a greater responsibility than anyone else to stay involved in the church to help other church members. If we go to church expecting to be spoon-fed a spiritual experience, we’re going to be sorely disappointed. If we go to church because we’re wanting opportunities to love and serve others, we’ll find them in abundance.

    I hope not one word of this comment comes off as condescending or as a lecture. I’m simply trying to share what conclusions I’ve come to after feeling some of the same concerns you’ve expressed above.

    Take care.

  21. What about Bob said

    The part about “expecting to be spoon fed”, boy do I NOT want that! I’m not sure what inspired that comment. I used to see the Church as at best a scaffolding for my life, but be sure my life and my service didn’t wait for anyone. I thought for myself and I served regardless of what anyone said.

    I had a friend of mine, who’s gay and grew up in the Church and rather than challenge anything, he just decide to rejoin the Church and he goes along with things because The Church is just too big to fight against. One time he was in a SS class and someone was complaining about how hard it is to be LDS. He came back with, it’s easy to be in the Church…Think about it. They tell you what to do, when to think, what to think…you have ready made friends…a group to belong to. To be fending for yourself outside the Church is a whole different game.

    What happens though, in a group think culture like the Church is that you can get “a calling” rearranging the hymn books forever and think that by doing that you’re actually having a life.

    That you defer to “Elder Ballard” saying something wonderful about it, you’re doing the very thing I speak of…waiting to be told what to think and when to take any action…waiting to be called to do something. It would be more impressive to me and useful to those around you if you forget Ballard and the 12 and came up with solutions and ideas yourself.

    It’s the very same idea with government…or the police etc., We call the police thinking they’ll solve it for us…we expect the government to enact laws and thinking by enacting a law that something has actually occurred. In Katrina, rather than being responsible, folks were waiting and waiting for the “government” to save them and they drowned. Then they blamed the government.

    What I’m wondering is where’s your responsibility and those of the wards to think for themselves and decide…”This is wrong” or “This isn’t working” without having to wait for “The brethren” to do your thinking for you or to call you or encourage you (collectively) to do something.

    I’ve been going to Mexico for years building homes for the homeless. I help put on a dinner for 2500 veterans. I can’t tell you the number of Mormons who won’t go because it’s on Sunday. So instead of having an amazing, miraculous experience serving mankind, they’ll sit in the same lousy pew, listening to the same lessons. Another time, the hills in California were on fire…I’m out there volunteering with the Red Cross helping fire victims, and the rest of the quorum is having yet another unprepared lesson. I’m nobody special…but where do the members start thinking and doing for themselves without waiting for someone to tell them what to do and giving them permission?

    I say that you’re just as bright and smart and inspired as any of the oldsters in SLC if you allow it. If you had some courage and some vision, people in the Church could look and say, “there are things we’re doing that don’t work…that aren’t right.”

    Unfortunately in the structure of the Church there’s no place for that kind of thinking. They have strict procedures…an order as to how things must be done. It’s so sanitary and orderly and stale.

    You also said, “for the sake of argument that all of your criticisms are correct, and that your perceptions are keen and accurate. It seems to me that gives you a greater responsibility than anyone else to stay involved in the church to help other church members”

    I know what the Church does with people who disagree. They have no room for people that don’t want to walk in lockstep with those in authority. And for me the Church is just too big to take on.

    It just hurts me to no end and I’m so incredibly sad to discover that after all I did for my wife and children and years of serving in the Church (so what I don’t believe it now) that the rules are so cast in concrete and that no else who can think for themselves and feel that excluding me (and really all non-LDS parents and grandparents who have spent a lifetime raising their kids) out of the most important family experience is justifiable. Instead of it being a wonderful experience, I sit out in the parking.

    I find that thinking and behaviour inherently evil and clueless.

  22. Andrew said

    Wow, Bob, that was quite a comment. I hope it was a cathartic experience for you. I hope you will forgive me if, because I’m an independent thinker, I offer to agree to disagree with you.

    Best of luck to you and your family, and I’m happy to hear about your humanitarian service. I’m just sorry to hear you feel the way you do about a spiritual community that gives joy and hope to so many like me, and also sorry to hear you think our love and devotion to one another is an intellectual cop out.

  23. What about Bob said

    If I’ve come across too strongly, I apologize.

    As you can tell, I have some energy on this topic. I’m pretty angry and frustrated about my experience with the Church. I poured my whole heart and soul and money and time into it for almost all of my adult life only to discover that it wasn’t what I was taught it was.

    And now I find my life as it relates to my children and marriage that by leaving I’ve gotten myself into a terrible hole and I’m not sure what do about it? (And I’m a pretty creative person when it comes to solving problems)I still have 6 unmarried children so this heartache is likely to continue for some time.

    And so you know, I didn’t leave the Church for any other reason because I just don’t agree with the doctrine. I can see some problems with it and I left because my integrity wouldn’t allow me to continue and pretend. I just hadn’t thought that far ahead of the consequences of having some integrity.

    The way I see it,in many instances, it’s a lot like an artist stepping back from his work. When you step back you can see things you couldn’t see before. Forget about me being critical, forget about the general authorities and the bishop and what people might think…I invite you to step back for a moment and you notice whatever you notice and then judge for yourself. If you live in Utah or other area with a large concentration of Mormons, this is especially difficult to do.

    Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, suggest that we from time to time, “conduct an autopsy”… be clinical about it…as if you were watching the game tapes on Monday after the game to see how the team is doing.

    Then, I’d ask you to apply the same level of scrutiny you would as if you were buying a car or planning a vacation or any other part of your life. No wrong or right…just what can you see for yourself?

    Someone said, “Integrity is what you do when no one is watching”.

    If the Church wasn’t there, and no one was there to tell you what to do…who would you be? What would you be doing? What difference would your life make?

    I did wonder though, if you are such an independent thinker, as you think you are, then why you even feel the need to bring up a general comment by Elder Ballard at all?

    What would you do and who would you be without these men to refer to?

    Agree to disagree…that’s fine. I wish you well. I hope my comments have caused you to think and inspire you to live the life of your dreams. I appreciate that you took the time out of your life to make a comment at all, so thanks for your feedback.

  24. mom2boys said

    About the marriage:

    I’ve read this criticism a lot about temple marriages and I have an entirely different take on this. I’m a fairly new convert to the church and my husband is not a member. In fact he is Jewish and will probably always be Jewish. When he and I talked about our sons having a possible temple marriage some day he totally understood and here’s why:

    When we got married we got married in Vegas. Neither of our parents were supposed to be there. It’s a really long story on why but that is the way it would be. In the end our parents showed up because my husband’s parents majorily guilt tripped my parents. But his parents wouldn’t have gone if my parents stuck to their guns. And we would have gotten married and had our reception 6 weeks later (like we planned!)

    The fact of the matter is the marriage ceremony itself is only about 15-30 minutes. The day is supposed to be about the couple forming a new family. The guests are invited only as a celebration. But no one NEEDS to be there except for the couple, witnesses as required by law and the one performing the marriage.

    Even as a non-member I felt that far too much attention was paid to the wedding and not enough was paid to the marriage. IMHO, all marriages should be private, celebrating the new family, and then receptions for everyone a week or two later.

    I know this contrary to what so many say. But I also know that if my husband is still not a member when my boys get married that I won’t be at their wedding. I may not even wait at the temple. That is fine with me. I’ll celebrate with my husband, remember my own marriage. And then I’ll celebrate at their reception. I’ll do this because it isn’t about me at all. It is about my children and their new family that, at the moment of their marriage, becomes more important than me. That is the way it should be.

  25. Shawn L said

    Thanks for that perspective, M2b. I think you’re right. What matters most is the covenants we, as couples, make to one another and then to God. The rest is all window dressing.

  26. Andrew said

    Bob wrote: “I did wonder though, if you are such an independent thinker, as you think you are, then why you even feel the need to bring up a general comment by Elder Ballard at all?”

    Well, Bob, I suppose I cited Elder Ballard for the same reason you cited Jim Collins. It sounds like in your view, the mere act of citing someone you agree with indicates a complete abdication of intellectual integrity. Again, I’ll have to agree to disagree with that mindset as well.

    Good luck to you, Bob. You seem quite certain that all the problems are with the church and not with you. Your integrity and honesty in reaching that difficult conclusion is truly admirable.

  27. Todd said

    I stumbled across this blog today and am laughing uncontrollably at the stories. Unfortunately for my wife, she is nearby and has to listen to me read them all to her.

    Let me add two a story and some advice.

    STORY: When I was a teenager the ward arrived to help a family move out, but their house was completely unprepared. It was as though we had showed up on any other Saturday. The bishop surveyed the situation, pulled all the volunteers outside, and told the family that whatever volunteers could would come back in 4 hours. At that time, anything in a box would be loaded onto the truck. Everything else would be the family’s responsibility. The family’s name was XXXX. Well, about 10 years later I went back to that ward on vacation. During Priesthood meeting somebody mentioned that a family needed help moving out. Volunteers raised hands but the new bishop stood up and said, “XXXX rule applies, right?” (using that original family’s name). Everybody nodded and the meeting continued. That original family’s name had become synonymous with complete lack of self-reliance. It was hilarious (although sad).

    ADVICE: As an EQP, I created this flyer that we kept printed copies of in the clerk’s office. Whenever a family asked for help moving, we gave them a copy. It miraculously reduced the number of inappropriate requests. Feel free to make flyers for your ward, too.

    Moving assistance is friends helping friends
    Unlike official service projects, where priesthood quorums are directed by the bishop to help families in need, moving assistance is simply friends helping friends. Church members are not entitled to moving assistance, and priesthood quorum members are not obligated to help. But, if quorum members are available, we will gladly help.

    Members should be self-reliant
    1. The party most responsible for the move is the member moving. The member should do everything within his or her means to complete the move independently.
    2. If assistance is needed, the first request should be to immediate and extended family and friends.
    3. After that, the member could ask for help from his or her home teacher.
    4. If quorum participation is appropriate, the home teacher will coordinate with the Elder’s quorum presidency to announce the move and solicit volunteers.
    5. For local moves between wards, the member should directly contact the Elder’s quorum president in the new ward if help is needed unloading at the new house.

    Tips for members preparing to move
    • Get free moving guides from U-Haul and the Post Office. They contain discount coupons, change of address forms, and helpful information.
    • Rent the largest truck possible. The increased rental cost is worth reducing loading time—especially if helpers can only stay for a few hours.
    • Box everything before helpers arrive. Help is most valuable when loading and unloading, not packing boxes.
    • Disconnect and/or drain moveable appliances (fridge, washer/dryer, waterbed, TV, stereo).
    • Put your tools in an easy-to-find, out-of-the-way spot. They should be last on, first off the truck, so you can use them to disassemble and reassemble furniture.
    • A handtruck, blankets, plastic “shrink” wrap, and other moving supplies speed you up and protect your belongings. Rent or buy them from your local truck rental store.
    • If you’ll move large, heavy, or fragile items (piano, washer/dryer, king size or waterbed, refrigerator, weight machine), plan on extra time, helpers, and maybe special tools.

    Tips for moving day
    • It’s easiest to get helpers (whether family, friends, or quorum volunteers) on Saturday mornings.
    • Often, helpers can only stay for 2-3 hours. Make the most of their manpower by being prepared.
    • Small children could help pack boxes, but on moving day it’s best to babysit them out of harm’s way.
    • Have cold drinks readily available for helpers.

  28. Todd said

    Since I’m posting on a year-old thread that nobody will see, anyway, let me bore you a bit more.

    A few years ago as EQP I was asked to set up a moving crew. This was a sad day because we were losing one of our most active and hard-working quorum members, whose friendship we all enjoyed. So it truly was a “friends helping friends” move. Anyway, our small crew struggled with all the furniture and boxes down from a 3rd story walk-up. They even had a piano (oh, joy!).

    Finally, just as we were exhausted from the work and the heat, our friend realized that we hadn’t emptied the apartment’s outdoor storage closet. It turned out to be packed, floor to ceiling, with boxes of books. One painful box at a time, we carried those down.

    At one point I couldn’t move further and was in the truck pretending to strategize how to fit everything in. I was alone there with my very apologetic friend who, trying to explain things, pointed to the boxes of books and said, “My wife and I are pedophiles.”

    I was dumbfounded. I honestly had no idea what to say. Do I call the cops? I just stared at the truck.

    Suddenly his face brightened and he said, “Wait, no, what do you call people who really love books? Oh, it’s bibliophiles. We’re bibliophiles. Not pedophiles, because that means…” (and then he looked sick to his stomach).

    I was never more relieved. Although to this day I wonder what was in those boxes.

  29. Markus Malek said

    Funny stories, yet so sad at the same time. 😦

    I think Todd’s “Flyer” is excellent. Much of this has already been said but here’s my take on the “Elders Quorum Moving Company”:

    The elders quorum is not a free moving service.

    The relief society is not a free maid service.

    The elders quorum and relief society should be spending their limited available service time helping the sick, the poor, the widows, and attending to true emergency situations. Although, under certain dire circumstances, a move can be considered an emergency.

    The bishop and/or elder’s quorum president should be sure the assistance is actually WANTED. Sometimes the “help” is literally forced on a family that just wants to take their time and move a few pickup loads at a time.

    If a family that is moving just needs a hand with a couple of key items just grab your neighbor, a friend, your home teachers, or a nearby family member.

    However, families should do what they can to move themselves. That includes putting the kids, teenagers, and college students in the family to work (in my experience the kids tend to stand around and watch everyone else work).

    If a family needs help and can afford movers, then they should hire the movers. If the family needs help and can’t afford movers then they should ask their extended family, if any live within a 100 mile radius (well, let’s make that 150 mile radius). Then, if they need more help they should ask their home teachers. If the home teachers need help, the home teachers should talk to the bishop. If the bishop is sure the family needs help then the bishop should ask the elders to help out.

    If the family can’t afford a moving van, then it is fine to ask family; then home teachers; then the bishop/elders quorum to help with pickups, etc. But if they can afford a moving van they should rent one even if it is a local move.

    If someone needs help moving, then they should be prepared when the volunteers show up. As much work as possible should already be done so that only the heavy or awkward items that the family can’t move themselves are left to load. Things should be boxed and the boxes should be labeled clearly. The van should be open and waiting in the driveway. Small kids should be out of the way or even at a neighbor or family members home. Beds should be down. Electronics should be taken down and boxed and should not still be sitting in the cabinets all wired up. There should be plenty of blankets or other soft packing materials available to keep furniture from being scratched. Volunteers should have been contacted and be ready on the receiving end to help unload so the poor souls who are donating their time and gas to move out don’t also have to do the moving in.

    Once the volunteers show up, the movee should stop what they were doing and direct traffic. Otherwise, the volunteers will be forced to make decisions on their own.

    BEFORE volunteers show up, hold a garage sale, donate tons of stuff to charity, and DEJUNK. Nothing is more demotivating for a volunteer than hauling and loading countless bags and boxes of what appears to be nothing more than junk. Especially if the family is obviously well-off

  30. garden furniture…

    […]In Relief Society, “No means No!” « Burning Bosom[…]…

  31. Ice cream said

    As a new RSP and a mother of 5 I think I have found a beautiful balance with the service requests in our ward.
    New Mothers: We ask them when they will NEED meals. We make sure to explain that some mom’s don’t use the meals because their children/husbands are picky or because they have adults in the home that can help. And we let them know that some families don’t like meals every day because it creates too many leftovers. Explaining this really helps new moms think about it before asking for the fun free food. This has really helped us help the sisters as they really need it. We don’t have a standard 2 weeks. We custom fit to the family.

    In all other service areas I always ask for as much information as possible (unless I know first hand the real needs of the sister). When a sister asks for a ride to a place an hour away I ask why, I ask if she knows anyone she can ask personally, and then I let her know that we will offer the opportunity to our sisters but that we can’t guarantee things like that. Same goes for babysitting. We can arrange 2-3 emergency babysittings for a real need, but that is just so the person can have the time to find permanent babysitting.

    I offer our RS service opportunities, but it is not required and I do my best to stress to my sisters when a sister is really in need and when it is simply a good opportunity to get to know someone better

  32. I was the Bishop in a ward in Texas years ago. My first few days as Bishop I poured over all the meal orders and welfare given by the past Bishop. Our ward was $26,000 in the red for Fast Offerings and I saw that many of those helped were not really in need. I began asking the RS president to do a home evaluation before she did any food orders and some families were offended at that but the RS found hoards of powered soap powded in one home and the sister there said, oh we don’t like that soap so we save it and give it to my brother when then come to visit, another home was found a freezer full of hot coco mix that was “their food storage”, and another home the sister would hide all of her surplus food so she could get a “full order” and the RS president would then sneak over to this home unannounced and do the evaluation and find things that are being hoarded. One young couple came to me to ask for help but i told them to call their parents… she called me an A-Hole and they left….. they never asked for assistance again but were active members…. after 3 years as Bishop we were running $7500 in the black for fast offerings and we went from 11 families that had monthly food orders to 3 and from 7 families that “needed monthly help with rent and elect etc” to 4…. it was my opinion that a lot of members were running the system and did not want to dip into their savings, etc…

  33. Deneen Pond said

    May I share a different view on the “moving service” issue. I retired and moved to a community to be near my daughter and son-in-law. Six weeks prior to the move, my husband passed away. We had hoped he would live long enough to enjoy being near our daughter, but it was not to be.

    In our previous ward my husband and I were very active and helped serve our neighbors and ward members as often as possible. That included helping families move.

    I lived with my children for 6 weeks while I waited for my new house to close. I stored all of my household possessions in their garage. I had no furniture, just the basic household goods in boxes. Their EQ helped us move the boxes into their garage when I arrived from out of state.

    When the time came to move to my new home, I called the EQ in my new ward to ask for help. I explained that it would be a fairly easy move and would take no more than 2 hours. I was told that the EQ did not provide moving help. Instead, members were asked to make arrangements with ward members and friends on their own. Since I did not know anyone in my new ward, that avenue of help was closed to me. I also had not had enough time to build a cluster of friends in the community. So my daughter, her husband, and I planned to move things ourselves. By chance the EQ in their ward found out, and surprised us with a dozen helpers and 4 pickup trucks before we got our cars stuffed with the first load. They had me moved in 90 minutes.

    Now here’s the rest of the story. I was excited the next Sunday to go to church service in my new ward. I cannot tell you how hurtful it was to sit in Sacrament Meeting and hear testimonies from two recently moved-in families thanking the ward for welcoming them and helping make their moves so easy. Over the next year, this scenario was repeated several times. What’s the difference? I was a widow without a husband in the EQ or HPG. The others were families who had familiar contacts in priesthood quorums. It was 18 months before anyone from the ward came to my home or invited me to theirs. That includes VT and HT.

    I am now the RS president in that ward. I make certain no person who moves into our ward experiences the lack of welcoming that I experienced.

  34. Jennifer said

    I have more often seen the opposite side of this problem, where ward members are reluctant to serve. I have found that, too often, there are people want to choose who is “worthy” to be served, and whine and complain if asked to do something for someone they don’t think deserves it. I first ran across this when I was called into a RS presidency and started having sisters coming to me to complain in person about service they were asked to provide. I was horrified to find out how judgmental they were being toward each other (and it left me with a lasting resolve to never ask for help for myself!)

    That particular ward was unusually lazy, but I’ve seen this happen in other wards as well. In one ward, a new convert (single mother) was getting assistance from the ward because she was chronically ill and couldn’t work to support her two sons. The general opinion was that she had only gotten baptized to get the financial help and was simply too lazy to work. It was a shock to everyone when she proved them wrong – by dying.

    My husband shared his philosophy of service with me not long after we got married, and I’ve always found it to be the best way to handle situations like this. We live in an area where there are a lot of panhandlers. If someone comes up to my husband and asks for money, he shares what he can afford, if he has any cash on him. He doesn’t worry about if they are lying about their need, or what they might do with that cash. As he puts it, “What I do is between me and the Lord. What they do is between them and the Lord.”

    What I do for others is between me and the Lord! That doesn’t mean that I can’t say no, or tell someone that they need to do more for themselves. I am perfectly reasonable in considering my own limitations and only serving where I can. And sometimes the best service I can give is to insist on self-reliance when I know that such insistence is necessary. However, I don’t know what trials someone else might be dealing with that impacts on their need for service. What a comfort it is, then that it is not my job to determine their worthiness to be served. I am blessed for the love and service I give others and judged by the Lord on my willingness to serve.

    What others do with the service I provide for them (including lying about their need or being too lazy to take responsibility for themselves) is between them and the Lord. They are judged by the Lord on their own actions and inactions. It is entirely between them and the Lord, and none of my business, thank goodness.

    If I gift someone with my time and effort, then there is no theft of my time and effort. If I got the second mile and turn the other cheek, who knows what good my service might do in that person’s life? I can think of many time in my life when service given to me, that I didn’t deserve, had a lasting impact that blesses me even today, and I am grateful for those who treated me with kindness when I needed it most and was least worthy.

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