They’re So Popular!

About three weeks ago while I was in Finland with my wife’s family for Christmas, I visited with a old friend of mine–a man whom I consider to be one of the greatest I’ve ever met, and who has taught me more about the gospel than nearly anyone else in my life. After exchanging the requisite pleasantries about what has happened in our lives since we last saw each other (it had been over 5 years), we sat back on a sofa in his living room in silence for few moments before my friend turned the discussion to some of the struggles he has observed in his ward. This wise old friend of mine then asked my opinion on why, in Jesus Christ’s church–where we believe and preach that every soul has equal worth in the sight of God–certain people receive preferential treatment. The charismatic, the well-dressed, the physically attractive, the eloquent…the leaders.

Last Saturday, like many Saturdays in our large LDS ward, there was a call for help in moving a family within the ward boundaries. These are the worst, naturally, because they require people to help on both ends–there is no “new” Elders Quorum on the receiving end to help out. However, much to my delight, there were nearly 20 strong, able-bodied men present to help on both ends of the move and, honestly, we often had a bottleneck on the stairs because there were so many people helping out. This morning (Saturday), there was another, almost identical, call for help in moving a family to a new home within the ward. Everything was the same as last weekend–both moves were announced in identical fashion: first in Elders Quorum meeting, then through email–except that there were only 5 people helping. Consequently, the work took much longer and was much more difficult.

Actually, there was one other small difference–the first move was for a very high-ranking leader’s family, while the second was for a lesser known, rank-and-file member family.

Wretch that I am, I have no standing to judge a single person in my ward, nor do I desire to. Indeed, in the interest of full disclosure, and before I am accused of patting myself on the back, I confess that my presence two weekends in a row exactly doubles the number of times I’ve shown up to help over the past year. But as I made my 900th trip up the three flights of stairs and as morning became afternoon, my conversation with my friend in Finland kept rising into my mind, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the number of volunteers who showed up had more to do with who we were asked to help than what we were asked to help with. I believe that it goes without saying that we tend to help people we know more than strangers, and naturally, EQ Presidents, RS Presidents, Bishops, and other high-visibility members of the Church know more people in the ward. This may explain the disparity, but it does not excuse it.

Every single soul in this world shares the same great value before God, yet we share another attribute in this world: We are all beggars. Some of us beg for money to buy bread, others beg for a ride to Sacrament meeting, and others silently beg for someone to sit by them in Sunday school. Yet, do we allow a focus on callings, outward appearances, wealth, intellect, or charisma to distract us from our covenant to mourn all those who mourn, to comfort all those in need of comfort, and to move all those in need of moving? How can this change?

________________________

They're So Popular!

Comments

  1. I would like to believe that it was more a function of having to move folks two weekends in a row. That would be tough for most volunteers.

  2. Wonderful post. I have also observed the same phenomenon. Indeed, how can we change this?
    Excellent food for thought.

  3. It is very prevalent. Here along the Wasatch Front, the people called to leaders are generally the “polished”. Fortunately, that means I get to sit back and relax.

  4. nr,

    I should have clarified–my ward has like 650 people in it. We have moves nearly every weekend. Two weeks in a row is the norm, not the exception. (which makes my 4 appearances in a year look even more pathetic)

  5. awesome post, Scott.

    I think one big reason why we more readily show up to help high-ranking leaders is that we feel a debt of gratitude for those leaders’ service, and we’re motivated to sacrifice for them as they’ve sacrificed for us.

  6. I agree, KLS. My question is whether or not, in expressing that gratitude and love for them, we unwittingly expose our ugly lack of concern for others.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    The phenomenon you describe definitely exists; we’ve all observed it.

    My sense of it is that we all sort of have a goodwill account. It’s invisible and not explicit in any way. But if someone asks for help who never helps himself, it’s human nature to be a little bit slower to sign that list making the rounds in EQ. It shouldn’t matter, but it does; it’s human nature, I think.

  8. I would also emphasize that this not just about helping some one who is moving–far from it. This is about which people we say hello to at church, which folks we look for a seat next to on a pew, and which people we avoid because of appearances.

  9. I’m just saying that while we definitely help popular people for base reasons (sucking up, scoring points), we also help them for good reasons. It satisfies our sense of justice. And yes, that sense of justice can keep us from serving the less-deserving (or clearly undeserving). It’s so easy to forget that our salvation hinges on gifts given to the undeserving, and that each person in our lives represents Jesus and therefore deserves everything we could possibly give them.

  10. might it have had anything to do with the three flights of stairs?

  11. StillConfused says:

    Were they both announced the same way in Relief Society?

  12. “It’s so easy to forget that our salvation hinges on gifts given to the undeserving”

    It’s also easy to forget that we are rarely, if ever, in a position to determine who is and is not undeserving, even if our salvation didn’t hinge on it.

    AB

  13. Scott, maybe it’s just So. Cal. ;) When I was in a singles’ ward there, I had an EQP explicitly tell me not to expect home teachers to show up, because only the cute girls usually got visits.

  14. Are you suggesting that we have a “pecking” order culture? That should be no surprise to a faith that exalts authority and position….the quote below is meant to be funny but revealing, ie, “the proper order of things”…

    Notes from Kuna Idaho Stake Conference
    March 21, 2004
    L. Tom Perry quote

    “We are certain to follow the order of the Church in our meetings and in all we do. This has been clearly established. For example, I would never think of going through a door before Elder Packer. He is the President of our Council…”

    “Every week the Cummings Chocolate people send us a 3 lb. box of chocolates. In our meeting, we follow our order and President Packer picks first, then I choose, and so on. Poor Elder Eyring has never had a light chocolate yet! Perhaps if he lives long enough!!”

  15. While kissing-up definitely occurs in the church, I think there’s also the element of helping people we’re friends with. An EQP, perhaps solely because of the friendships his calling forces him to make, has more friends in the ward than someone who’s just moving in.

  16. Kristine,

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. In SoCal, all the girls are good looking. And the children above average.

    Tim,

    Sure–that is more or less what I said in one of the paragraphs in the OP; however, like I also said, it is an explanation, not an excuse, in my view.

  17. Also, again (AGAIN!!), this is not about moving. This is about how we treat everyone on a weekly basis in our wards.

  18. Sorry if I’m missing the point of your post.

    Yes. Even though we know better, we tend to ignore dumb, ugly, and/or untalented ward members. But Scott, some of us see the good in you.

  19. It’s true. Whenever someone shouts, “Hey! Stupid!” I totally turn around.

  20. Scott B.—Yes we get it, it’s not about moving but Tim’s reasoning still makes sense. Those with “higher” callings are more likely to be known, more likely to be out going thus more likely to make others feel comfortable. Sticking with your example, I would be more willing to take time out of my schedule to help a family that I knew well, a family that I knew would help me in turn. I would also be more likely to talk with the same family on Sunday.

    It’s also about my comfort level. I’m that lesser known (or not known at all) ward member that has gone through the whole 3 hour block without talking to anyone.

  21. I’m at a loss here. Mostly because I have never experienced or witnessed this phenomenon. I’ve lived most of my life in the middle of Illinois, but I served my mission in So Cal and I spent nearly six months in Australia, and never noticed members of the church being more willing to serve (through service projects or just saying hello) those in leadership positions than otherwise.

    I will point out that the only leadership position I’ve held was as my Teachers’ Quorum President (unless you want to consider serving as a presidency secretary a leadership position…) I wonder what has made my experiences so different from those being described?

  22. This is actually fairly common in all human societies. That we don’t escape this anthropological trait it is not surprising. The powerful often control resources in a society and it is to your advantage to court the favor of those with the resources. I’m not saying people think, “Hey, here’s a leader, I’ll get something if I help.” But we are structured by some deep biological and sociological traits that are hard to escape. Helping the powerful is probably part of our makeup. That Mormons are human should not cause us pause. Not that this is the right thing to do of course; ‘is’ never can be used to argue ‘ought’ but it’s not a surprise.

    So Kristine I take it that your HTs never missed a visit.

  23. Sterling Fluharty says:

    I’m guilty too of being selective in the amount of effort I put into fellowshiping others. How likely is it that our retention rates for new converts are related to this popularity phenomenon you describe? I suspect that we do the best job of keeping active the new members who are most like us, notwithstanding the convenants we made at baptism to not be discriminating in who we serve and support.

  24. You’re very kind, Steve. Actually, I never even found out who they were.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    Kristine neglected to mention that her Cal. EQP was blind. (Obviously)

    You know, Scott, I feel perpetually embarrassed when I go to church, because I only know a handful of people (the real old timers). I recognize lots of faces, but I don’t know their names. Some of the names I’ve heard before, but they haven’t stuck in my head. It’s hard nodding and shaking hands and trying to avoid calling people by their names, which I don’t know. (I’ve lived in my house a long time, but we were merged into this ward just a couple of years ago.) I really wish we had a picture directory so I could study it or something.

  26. I showed up to one of the less popular/active moves – it was just the EQP (who left after 15 minutes), the family and me (another ‘nobody’) and there were several who had said they would help the previous Sunday.

    I’m still miffed

  27. thought on this post says:

    I”ve seen plenty of people help those who aren’t leaders or who have the other qualities you mentionned.

    Sometimes publicity needs to be improved for people to “help”- if everyone isn’t notified of the need to help w/moves or other service needs, there might not be as much help. Of course some service needs are private/confidential. But if it is something where they need lots of help, then efforts should be made to ensure all who could help are invited to help.

    I do think some people either don’t ask for help or decline offered help, ie me:

    as a single person, I have never had church help for moves or for meals. Yes several times I’ve been invited to someone’s home for a meal. One time someone came and helped me w/my yard.

    In a former ward, people have offered to help me move, I declined help. Likewise w/the yard, several offered to help but I had (pride/embarassment that I was in trouble w/my HOA for a messy yard) I declined.

    I do agree people might serve due to wanting to thank a leader or other friend. Also if a greater need is perceived (ie someone enduring a horrible crisis such as critical illness or death) people will probably be more likely to want to help, to do something.

  28. pinkpatent says:

    As the daugther of a bishop (twice), I can say with certainty that the best way to help your bishop, and thank him for all he does, is to help and serve the very people Scott is talking about. Most bishops spend hours on their knees praying for, and out on visits trying to make these very people feel loved and welcomed in the ward.

    In other words, pay it forward folks.

  29. The disparity in that particular instance could also have been that so many people showed up the first week that everyone rationalized staying home the following week by saying, “oh, there’ll probably be so many other people there that I’ll just be in the way”.

    For myself, I think I’d be tempted to sit next to one of the more well-known members of the ward just because they’d more likely talk to me and make conversation. I’m not very good at talking with people I don’t know, so I shy away from sitting next to one of the “lesser” rank and file members b/c I haven’t seen them conversing with lots of other people and so I assume that we’ll have a stilted and awkward conversation.

  30. “I had an EQP explicitly tell me not to expect home teachers to show up, because only the cute girls usually got visits.”

    There are so many things wrong with that I can’t even think about it. Please tell me you’re making that up, Kristine.

  31. Wendy,
    Tim didn’t say anything I didn’t already say–almost word for word in my post. You don’t need to convince me of the logic of my own thought!

    My point is that the attitude you’re describing is not exactly a Good Samaritan kind of scenario–quite the opposite in fact!–and is antithetical to how Jesus lived his life. I believe that, on the judgment day, it will matter far more how we treated the folks we don’t know, don’t like, and would frankly rather not bother with, than how we treated our buddies.

  32. Kevin,
    don’t you worry. As a Chicago Bears fan, you have many more embarrassing issues than not remembering everyone’s names. ;)

    MCQ,

    What Kristine failed to mention was that the EQP had already classified her as “lovely” and “radiant” and “beautiful,” so by that point “cute” would have been insulting.

  33. They were likely just worn out form the first move. But I wonder what the results would have been if the dates of the moves were reversed.

  34. Natalie K. says:

    Scott, I definitely get what you are saying here.

    I think it helps to remove the discussion away from examples of service. More generally, how do we perceive others?

    An attitude that discourages me (disclaimer: I am not saying this is ubiquitous, nor that there aren’t an abundant of exceptions to it) is that those who fit a certain mold are considered to be stronger/more faithful/more capable of serving. Often, this mold is the clean-shaven guy with short hair, the beautiful woman who wears very stylish clothes and has great make-up. He’s in a suit, she’s in a skirt. They’re the power couple. EQ Pres, YW leader, etc, and often the center of social life.

    Now, I don’t have any problem with this “group”. It’s fantastic if that style of dress and communication is what fits for you. But it does bother me when we perceive those people to be more faithful or important than others, and that others respond to their calls of need moreso than others.

    So yeah, it’s dangerous to heed “the popular” more than the masses. :)

  35. Antonio Parr says:

    Scott B has obviously hit on something that is more than a mere coincidence. A quick look at the highest ranks of Church leadership reveals a curious link between worldly success and callings to lead the Church. Not a single fisherman or carpenter to be found, but ample MBA’s and JD’s. Obviously, we shouldn’t despise people for their weaknesses or regard them for their strengths, but we as a people don’t seem to be immune to the trappings of idol worship . . .

  36. I think just bring it to people’s minds is a start…the post sure got me thinking about my current ward .. we have the added small town family relations power groups.

  37. This is actually a good argument for small wards. It’s hard not to know almost everyone when the average attendance is around 80, even with a lot of turnover.
    A family recently moved out of this ward; they had been in the ward for less than a year, and had not had high-profile callings–and yet the move-out support they got was the best I’ve seen in a long time.
    Contrast with a big ward–we announce we’re moving, and we do it in sacrament meeting because we’re asked to give the talks on our last Sunday there (although, admittedly, we don’t announce the date or time). We’d been there a year, with lowly primary callings. The EQ doesn’t seem to care we’re moving. One LDS neighbor sees us in the process of moving and comes to help (God bless him).

    In the big ward, we were almost entirely ignored (partly our fault, I admit–I should have joined the choir, and both of us should have been more social). We moved to the small ward, and, before we even moved in, I’d already spent more time talking to the new Bishop than I’d ever spent talking to the old Bishop. We were quickly given callings, made friends, etc.
    Basically, almost everyone in our tiny ward is a high-visibility person, and so no one gets ignored.

  38. I don’t necessarily mind one way or the other if certain people in the ward are more popular than others. That is likely inevitable and cannot be avoided.

    What concerns me is that if those people become the leaders or if they exercise unusual influence in a congregation – what are the personal qualities and characteristics they have that wield influence and how does that impact the ward for good or bad?

    Sometimes, if we are fortunate, the popular ones also happen to be gifted with kindness, charity, wisdom … in other words, their popularity translates into blessings for those who are influenced by them or who draw close to them – in one way or another … and they aren’t deliberately exclusionary of others who are less popular.

    But sometimes those who are popular are cliquish or have negative traits that end up causing a negative dynamic or vibe.

    That is when it becomes a problem.

  39. GatoraideMomma says:

    We have so many church meetings, temple trips, training sessions on our Saturdays that we don’t have time to the yard work and can’t afford to hire someone. Some of these meetings arrive as e-mails one or two before to tell us a wonderful opportunity that is considered mandatory for “leaders/teachers/etc.” to attend. We’re getting worn out from meetings and it’s cutting into our service opportunity time.

  40. GatoraideMomma says:

    PS, sometimes a call to help move on Sat am is a welcome reason not to attend a meeting of some sort. But you can’t help move if you’re out with the scouts, commited to driving to the temple with the youth (5-6 hours occuppied that day.), Hosting a Primary breakfast, etc.

  41. aloysiusmiller says:

    Well the rank and file are not welcome here at BCC. We are not suave and sophisticated enough and we don’t conform to the BCC image well enough.

  42. mark steed says:

    I don’t think this is true in our ward.

    We just had a single sister move out (divorced in our ward) with two young children.

    Her apartment was small, but we had the best turn out we’ve had in years to help her.

    The best part was that the RS came, too. It was awesome.

  43. Sempervirens says:

    There is no requirement that a ward, elders quorum, relief society help with a move.

    More often than not the person who is moving could do it themselves and pay for help instead of expecting the church to step in free labor and service. For those wards that are large and have a lot of moves in-and-out, it can become a joke.

    The church was not set up to move people. Unfortunately the people who really NEED the help with a move don’t get it because people are burned out on all of the other moves.

    Our ward/stake has essentially determined that if you need help with a move you should come to the bishop to ask for the wards help (ie: the EQ to come out and help) just as if you didn’t have enough of to eat that month you would ask the bishop.

    For those who have been a bishop or elders quorum president it can be draining on being gone every weekend. Every ward is different, but people who ask for help from the ward need to think about the consequences.

  44. Sempervirens says:

    Tim,

    First of all, if you’re letting people know only a week before you plan on moving – that is too late!! Most people have previous plans, and to expect them drop everything for you…that is expecting a lot.

    I’m not sure why there is an expectation that the ward/elders/relief society is expected to help people move in/out of a ward. Call your friends and get some cheap labor.

  45. #42, that’s the other side of the coin.

    We give people in obvious and compelling need extra attention, too (as long as they seem deserving). As gratitude and attention-seeking compels us to help the Bishop, so does sympathy/pity and attention-seeking compel us to help “the least of these.”

    Similarly, an all-star super-popular kid gets a lot of attention, and so does a severely disabled one. Those who are most ignored are those who are “below average” intellectually and/or socially — the slow learners who don’t qualify for special ed, the clumsy and inept, the awkward, homely, or annoying.

    It’s fitting that we flock to help (or talk to, or sit next to, or otherwise pay attention to) ward members in obvious crisis. It’s also fitting that we jump to serve people who have served us. But in the process, it’s all too easy to overlook a lot of other people in genuine need.

  46. When my wife had thyroid surgery last year, the outpouring of love and support from the sisters in the Relief Society and the from the ward in general was amazing, even overwhelming. We’re not in the “in crowd”, and we’re certainly not too “attractive” in the worldly sense.

    However, Jodi is very involved in people’s lives. Her calling as the Compassionate Service Leader facilitates that, but, frankly, she’s been involved in helping with babysitting and bringing people dinners even when that’s not been her calling. She just loves to serve.

    So, when she needed help, there were many in our ward whose lives she had touched in many ways. People were jumping to help out. We had to decline many of them, because, frankly, how many dinners do you really need?

    My point is that it’s not always selfishness and cliquishness that causes the phenomenon.

  47. Fwiw, the following is from a post I wrote just yesterday:

    [One meaning of "suffer" is "tolerate; allow".

    "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:14)

    This verse clearly indicates that part of charity is "suffering" things that one would rather not "suffer" - tolerating those whom it is hard naturally to tolerate (like little children in a setting often associated with worship or teaching or any other setting where they might disrupt attention and lead to feelings of irritation) and allowing those situations to continue (or even encouraging them). By extrapolating a little, I believe it is valid to extend this meaning to ANYONE with whom irritation is natural - to those who see or believe differently, those whose personalities are different, those who are socially awkward or lack interpersonal skills, those who are blinded to their own irritable character traits, etc.

    My main point about this type of "suffering" is NOT that we merely tolerate those who are different and allow them to stick around us, but rather that we strive to see them also in such a way that we can say "suffer (them) to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven". It is developing a feeling inside that allows a place for them in our own lives, both here and in the here-after - that allows them to be themselves and still be loved and accepted - that allows them to be loved without condition or requirement of change - that allows them to continue to irritate and distract without being condemned or kept from our company. (This also has critical implications about how we treat members of our own religion and congregations whose views and beliefs about some things, even Gospel principles, differ from our own.)]

    As Scott says, moving help is just one manifestation of this deeper issue of being truly charitable.

  48. Cynthia L. says:

    #28 pinkpatent: Very profound, thanks for making that point.

  49. #14. (That should be no surprise to a faith that exalts authority and position…)

    That’s so very true. Isn’t ironic how most people turn out to help those who probability have the means to get help and ignore those who DO truly need it?

    VERY prevalent in the Church.

  50. Kathy (45),
    Your comment captures exactly what I was thinking–there is absolutely nothing wrong with rushing to serve our friends, or leaders, or those in dire and obvious need. Indeed, we must serve those people, and I hope I haven’t unintentionally appeared to be indicting anyone for doing so–rather, I just worry about my own soul here, because I had a moment of realization yesterday at how often I _only_ serve those groups.

  51. don't get it says:

    i have a question. why is helping someone move part of the gospel anyway? esp if the family has the means to pay movers? i also don’t like getting calls to take folks to the airport, when i know they have the means of getting there and there are lots of transportation options to/from the airport in our city. just saying it’s kind of weird (the things we think we have to do for each other. they’re really random! moving for the guys/meals for the ladies/& rides to the airport). AND, if the folks that could afford to take care of themselves did, they we’d all have more time to not ignore the ones who can’t afford to move/eat/ride.

  52. Scott and his friend are right. That’s the trend, not what happens every time.

    And, as has been mentioned, it’s a universal human trait, probably related to basic survival.

    But, we are supposed to buck the natural trend, to put away the natural man. It’s true, as well, that the “average” people often get ignored, because the “special needs” ones get the attention left over from sucking up to the popular ones.

  53. Scott, I’ll strive to use my mind-reading powers for benevolent purposes only, but I can’t promise anything.

    I’ve spent years being proud of myself for caring for “the least of these,” when in reality I’m only motivated to serve friends, people I admire, people I’m indebted to, people I feel sorry for, and people I directly empathize with. To be frank, there are big psychological points to be scored in these cases. But when it comes to those who need attention most–meaning, those who are least likely to receive it–my butt stays parked on the couch (or, more accurately, the swivel chair).

    The only way I get past this is by reminding myself how counterintuitive true charity usually is, and deliberately choosing to do the exact opposite of my natural inclination, a la George Costanza.

  54. Frex: true charity in your case is to be patient with the threadjackers. Good luck.

  55. #51: “why is helping someone move part of the gospel anyway?”
    Maybe because carrying someone’s furniture and boxes is a literal application of the principle of “bearing one another’s burdens”?

  56. Natalie K. says:

    “I’m not sure why there is an expectation that the ward/elders/relief society is expected to help people move in/out of a ward. Call your friends and get some cheap labor.”

    Um, how about because we are a community of saints? And are supposed to be, you know, one and all.

    People moving don’t always have “friends” they can call. When we moved to our new city, in a new region of the country, we had no help whatsoever, because we didn’t know anyone in our new city. Our multiple emails sent to the ward’s “moving coordinators”, per the ward website, went unanswered. We had a really long couple of days, wandering around the town, in a rented U-haul, completely lost. Didn’t exactly make us feel welcomed with open arms. Not that people in the ward were malicious or uncaring…. we just couldn’t get anyone’s attention (from afar). Having people go out of their way to greet us would have been a remarkable difference.

    (Just a disclaimer: We’ve since met several people in the ward who are outstandingly kind, and go out of their way to serve.)

  57. don't get it says:

    wow, how in the world do non-mormons move? oh wait, they call a moving company!

    that said, if someone doesn’t have the means then yes, let’s “bear each others [literal] burdens.” BUT, i thought this post was about why some folks get all the help and others get squat. could be popularity, could be burnout. if we concentrated on helping the folks who really need it and can’t afford to do it on their own and let the folks who can afford a moving company get one, there would be less moves, more EQ to help with said moves, and then no one would feel bad because the popular (leadership) folks got help while they needy folks didn’t.

    full disclosure…. we’re prob one of the popular folks in our ward, & my DH is always on hand to help others move, but because we can afford it he would NEVER ask anyone to load our furniture/belongings into a truck since we can afford movers. it’s just how he is.

  58. pinkpatent says:

    This post is NOT about moving people in or out of the ward. It is not about taking in meals to a sick member. It is about the failure, OUR FAILURE, to treat all of God’s children equally, including the members of our ward.

    I don’t need help moving. We don’t ask, we hire movers. What I do need is friends. My DH is disaffected and I attend most meetings alone. I would love to have someone come and sit by me in GD class, rather than me always having to ask….”Can I sit by you?”.

    Ray hit the nail on the head, we are to suffer our brothers and sisters; those we adore and those we do not. Sometimes that means moving their furniture. Sometimes it means holding their hand. Sometimes it means ignoring an inappropriate outfit, tolerating bad breath, or just moving your darn scriptures off the empty chair next to you so that someone will feel comfortable sitting there.

  59. It’s hard to know who can afford to pay for help, and who has enough friends in the area to help provide support. That goes for many things in life, not just moving. I think the safer move is to help anyone who’s in need–or at least ask people if they’d like help.
    A lot of people, especially those who have just recently moved in, feel alone. Attitudes like some of those exhibited here are part of the problem, and sometimes contribute to depression and inactivity in the church.
    If a couple of moves a year burns you out, perhaps you need to build a little more endurance.
    Hopefully, we’re aware of the needs of our ward members. Hopefully we do our hometeaching and inform the EQ president or other leader when one of our hometeachees needs help. Hopefully we try to be a community, bear one another’s burdens, watch out for one another.
    I love my current ward. We often find out a family’s moving in before they arrive, and we arrange to have people there to help them move in if they wish. It’s an unofficial welcoming committee. When they move out (sometimes after only a few months), we’re willingly there to say goodbye and help them move out. Our service for them is a symbol of our love for them.

  60. don't get it says:

    i agree pinkpatent. completely. moving was just the example. i guess my question should more accurately be why do we think we have to do certain [random, imho] things for everyone instead of feeling the Spirit and letting that help us discern who needs service (a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a meal, an impromptu visit or call, or even moving, etc.)? maybe it’s because it’s easier to just say, i’m giving service if i help this person move and can check it off my list and it’s easy (& it’s even easier if it’s someone popular that i like!), instead of asking the Lord who really needs service.

  61. pinkpatent says:

    #60-don’t get it-

    Perhaps we should be doing both. Perhaps the call to service by the EQP prepares us to hear the call to service that comes from the holy ghost.

  62. As a general rule, members of the church should take care of themselves. Generally, if a member needs help beyone his or her needs, he or she should ask his or her friends. Any expectation or demand that “the church” will handle a routine move is misplaced. And any help that is offered, however paltry, should be graciously and sincerely appreciated.

    Lots of possible explanations have been offered for the varying turnout at the two moves described in the original posting — many of these do not point to a failing of church members to be charitable to the stranger. But, it is probably normal to more willingly help one’s friends.

    We’re told to cast our bread upon the waters — when we do, we have a hope of receiving more later.

    In all inquiries such as this one is better served by asking “do I …?” or “should I …?” rather than “why doesn’t ___ …?”. Whenever another church member doesn’t show up at a move, we should probably give that person every benefit of the doubt. In other words, I should look on the teachings of the gospel as a tool to help me become better and more Christ-like, rather than wondering about whether other members are progressing adequately.

  63. J. Michael says:

    It occurs to me that the temple offers some assistance in this matter, if we’re thoughtful. Temple worship is a wonderfully democratic experience – for a couple of hours, there are no distinctions among us, no way to compare dress styles, no titles to indicate where one is placed in the hierarchy (unless you’re attending a special ward or stake session). I perform service for a deceased man, and I do not know or care how cool or uncool he was. After reading this post, I’m going to try harder to transfer my temple attitude to my daily life.

  64. ji,
    It is a close tie between you and “don’t get it” for making a comment that most egregiously misrepresents what the OP says and implies.
    Walk proud, man! (or woman)

  65. ji, that was a joke, right?

  66. Didn’t some wealthy families buy the first presidency a jet a few years ago? Maybe I’m to cynical. but I doubt they would have spent that money on the poor.

  67. Yeah, Kristin, you’re cynical.

  68. Natalie K. says:

    Kristin, it’s cynical, but cynicism isn’t always misplaced.

    I think the jet is great. It’s helped them bless a lot of people. But I’m really, really, really convinced that the money might have been able to more greatly help a lot more “less popular” people.

  69. J. Michael says:

    Re #66

    The church doesn’t own a jet. The Huntsman family business made one of their jets available for President Hinckley’s travel – I assume it’s still available for President Monson. It isn’t dedicated solely for his travel – it’s one of several corporate jets the business uses – but it’s a tremendous help in preserving the stamina of the president when he travels.

  70. There was no joke in my earlier posting. As a servant of Jesus Christ, I find that my time is better spent questions such as “should I [do something]?” rather than asking “should [someone] else [do something]?”. The original posting wondered why Latter-day Saints seem to like to help the “popular” but don’t like to help the “normal”. It used moving as an example. Several persons offered comments explaining why turn-out at the second event might have been lower than the turn-out at the previous, but it seemed to me the theme generally returned to the idea that Latter-day Saints are not good people because they don’t [fill in the blank].

    If it were me, I hope I would be appreciative of any help that I received in my hour of need, rather than being disappointed in knowing that some ward members didn’t come. If it were me, I hope I would be able to arrange my affairs and line up all the help I needed — I would prefer doing this work myself rather than shifting my burden to a bishop or elders quorum president to recruit the help I seek. If it were me, I hope I would give the benefit of the doubt to any ward member who did’t come help in my hour of need — perhaps they were appropriately tending to other needs.

    Knowing that unrealistic expectations often result in dissatisfaction, one wants to keep expectations reasonable. I know that I have no right to demand a free move from my ward members (or plumbing services or anything else). When I do need help, I am most appreciative for whatever help I can find or finds me — and in this, again, I hope without questioning the goodness of those friends who didn’t help.

    As far as me helping others, I cannot help everyone — but maybe somewhere along the way I can help someone. I hope no other Latter-day Saint thinks less of me for not showing up to help in an hour of need.

    Latter-day Saints generally are, in my opinion, good people who try to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The next time there is a call for help, each of us individually should ask “can I help?” rather than asking “why didn’t Bro. or Sis. so-and-so help?”.

  71. Hmmm. Okay, then. Instead of wondering why Scott wrote a misguided post (in your opinion), maybe you should wonder why you wrote such misguided comments.

  72. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    RE: # 14
    I’m still wondering why Elder Boyd K. Packer doesn’t offer the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve the first chocolate. I think that might be what the Savior would do.

  73. Kathryn (no. 71) — I don’t think Scott’s post is misguided — he made a fair observation and asked a reasonable question. I offered a thought in response to his posting and the general tenor of the posting, which seemed to me to be trending in the direction of how Latter-day Saints aren’t good Christians because EVERYONE doesn’t help EVERYONE else. I see great good in members of the church, and wanted to share that positive perspective. I consider it a valid perspective that should have place in a forum of ideas.

  74. trending in the direction of how Latter-day Saints aren’t good Christians because EVERYONE doesn’t help EVERYONE else.

    Not close. No.

  75. More often than not the person who is moving could do it themselves and pay for help instead of expecting the church to step in free labor and service. For those wards that are large and have a lot of moves in-and-out, it can become a joke.

    If you own a 60-inch TV, you can afford your own movers.

  76. #75 I’m going to quote you on it; I only got the 42 inch – an 18 inch cushion from guilt when I call the Elder’s Quorum President to place my order.

    Nice post, Scott. I too think this is an effect of being human and very nonspecific to the church. Still no excuse, definitely time to eradicate this tendency from my life.

  77. Having been in the organizing end of moves (as in EQP) as well as the one receiving help (totally unable to pay for my own movers), I would say that we probably should try to use the capacity of our units less for helping those, who could help themselves, and more for helping those, who have nobody to ask for help from.

    The latter is more difficult, but I think I should probably use that insight in allocating my own scarce resources. Help, again, naturally being many different things, depending on one’s needs.

  78. We just had a discussion relating to this in BC yesterday. A sister asked that we , as families, take turns sending cards to another sister who is a shut in. Someone objected because we are a small branch and if we tie everyone up giving service to this particular sister, then others who are less-active may not receive any contact. One of the EQ Pres responded that the shut in sister is a sister-in-law to a former counselor in the Stake Presidency, as if that somehow made her more valuable than your typical shut-in.

  79. ji, the argument that Mormons are often good Christians would indeed be valid if the OP stated otherwise.

    The OP encourages us to peel back the layers of motivation and intent that surround our good Christian heart. Perhaps the truth hurts?

    In any case, the real irony comes when you piously correct Scott for his alleged holier-than-thou approach, whilst employing the same approach yourself. (Before you protest, I suggest you read aloud the mini-sermon at the end of #62.)

    Seriously: you’re doing the exact thing you’re accusing him of. Classic!

  80. As further proof that am a cultural aberration, I am more likely to introduce myself or befriend someone new or who I perceive to be a “nobody” than someone “popular.” But my rational is not at all Christlike, I assure you! My thinking is probably more along the lines of “President Z doesn’t need any more friends and they are probably way too cool for me but Sister K doesn’t know ANYONE so she’ll just be happy to have someone sit by her in RS.”

    I cannot tell you how many times I have befriended someone initially who is then befriended by the cool kids/leadership families, and then I feel like that new person who had no friends before I came along is too cool for me! I am usually right.

    I think the phenomenon discussed in the OP is a bit like service karma. Perhaps we all show up to move the Bishop (metaphorically speaking) because we know that HE goes and visits the “nobodies” and the “unloved” in our stead.

  81. ESO, I know what you’re talking about. We try to do that.

    I think we’re fairly good friends with all the new members from last year at least; one of them is our daughter-in-law.

    We try to invite newcomers to our home so they’d see that we live almost normal lives here…

  82. Peter LLC says:

    41: we don’t conform to the BCC image well enough.

    Nonsense. Anyone with a unibrow, pimples and/or BCGs is welcome here. As long as they are well read.

  83. If “well read” means “I can discern the main idea of a given post,” then yes. Although exceptions are made for limited liability commenters (LLCs).

  84. queuno,
    It’s easy for you to sit in your ivory tower and judge, but did you ever stop to think that maybe I can’t afford movers BECAUSE I bought a 60 inch TV? Oh crap. I think I may have just made a point about provident living.

  85. Ron, my family actually had a LOL moment with that.

    See, that’s what I said about the comment, that I thought was sarcastically pointing to the fact that we should live within our means.

    Especially, when our son’s 32″ TV looks huge, since I usually just work with 17″ or 20″ LCD monitors.

  86. This is intersting. I know I am late here but I think there is some validity to this.

    More popular families get more help with moves. I ahve seen this play out for years

  87. Wow — 86 comments and still going. Evidently Scott B. is “so popular” . . .

    Kidding aside, great post and discussion. Thanks.

  88. Popular, Hunter, but misunderstood. Certainly, it’s my fault with the example used in the OP, but I have tried multiple times in the comments to get people to realize that the post is not about moving, but it just keeps on coming back to it.

  89. Kathryn (no. 79) — I made no accusations against the author of the original posting — indeed, I offered that he made a fair observation and asked a reasonable question — but I did express a concern that the thread was tending in a direction suggesting Latter-day Saints aren’t good Christians, and I offered some thoughts to help strengthen faith — for examples of the trend, I read “ugly lack of concern for others” (no. 6), “sucking up/scoring points” (no. 9, yours), “pecking order culture” (no. 14), “kissing up” (no. 15), and “dumb, ugly, and/or untalented ward members” (no. 18, yours) — and let me stop there — I didn’t make my first posting until no. 62. I don’t think these postings are fair reflections on Latter-day Saints generally.

    I will again offer here that I think Latter-day Saints are, generally speaking, a wonderful and helpful people who are trying to live Christ-like lives in a difficult world — that message may not fly well in this forum, but it is still true. I will also again offer that misplaced expectations often result in disappointments, and we do ourselves a favor by realistically managing our expectations.

    I apologize for angering you.

  90. ji, your talent for misreading everything from a post to a comment thread to an entire forum is both impressive and amusing. I wish you well in the bloggernacle.

  91. Steve Evans says:

    Scott, what do-it-yourself moving company do you most recommend? Clearly you have thought a lot about the logistics of moving, or else you would not have written this post. Also, I note that your post’s thread has resulted in persecuting the humble, meek commenters who are only trying to point out that LDS people aren’t good Christians.

  92. SingleintheCity says:

    :) I was just discussing this with a few guys in my ward a week ago. A new “hot” girl moved into the ward. With only 2 days notice she was able to round up a ton of guys to move her into her new place. Although most of the guys had not met the new girl, word was out about her looks. My guy friend let me know that if the girl was not attractive, less people would have shown up. There was even a guy who showed up just to meet her even though he didn’t have time to help her move. Ugh. Gotta love the singles ward meat market.

  93. Do-it-yourself moving is the only way to go, Steve. Anything else makes a mockery of the principles of self-sufficiency. In fact, “don’t get it” and “ji” have inspired me now, and I shall apply this principle to other walks of life. Henceforth, I shall not hold a door open, nor say “Gesundheit!” to anyone who is physically capable of a) holding the door/saying “Gesundheit!” themselves, b) hiring someone else to hold the door/say “Gesundheit!” or c) at the very least, asked all other friends and family members to hold the door/say “Gesundheit!” before they ask me to do so.

  94. Antonio Parr says:

    Steve’s sweetly sarcastic sidenote superbly strikes a valid chord. Compartively speaking, Mormons are remarkable in their service. Any criticism of the manner in which that service is meted out should start with the premise that Mormons roll up their shirtsleeves as well as any group of people (religious or not) in the world. That being said, there is a cultural undercurrent that at times shows favortism towards a select few, and we as a people (as remarkable as we may otherwise may be) can do better.

  95. Antonio Parr says:

    (Caveat to post 94: My comments come from a total hypocrite when it comes to moving assistance. I do a lousy job, and am far behind even those who limit their service to the popular, rich and famous. I should probably repent before attempting to offer any observation on a topic on which I am very substandard.)

  96. At least where I live, the factual assumptions in this post may be misguided. There is an enormous amount of assistance in every ward I’ve been in coming from the “popular” leaders to the less popular and less visible. The struggling are the ones who get visited, get spiritual and financial help from fast offerings and the bishop, etc. In my ward, quiet behind the scenes assistance to the struggling and ordinary far outweighs in number of hours and dollars the more public service given to the “popular.”

    I understand the sentiment in the post, but I think some might be surprised how many of the people at, say, a former EQP’s move are serving someone who spent a whole lot of time and effort serving them. Our leaders often sacrifice a great deal. Maybe it’s ok that sometimes wards come together and give special service in return.

  97. Of course it’s okay to give our beloved leaders service, hbar. I’m not saying that–although a whole lot of people seem to think I am saying something completely different from what I did, so perhaps I need to work on my communication skills.

    What I _am_ asking (as if anyone will listen to it at this point) is whether or not we serve/fellowship/love people in different amounts/frequency because of perceptions we make based on health, wealth, and stature. For example, do we say hello to everyone we sit down next to in PH/RS meetings, or only say hello if we already know them?

  98. Scott, you have answered your question very well, there are just all these people (me included) who want to sound “profound” or then just “funny.”

    Often it’s hard to guess which the intention really was…

    But yes, we are humans, we have different attitudes toward people, who can not help us. But Jesus told us to serve the very people, who can’t “pay back” our service.

  99. Scott (#97),

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say you need to work on your communication skills.

    In seriousness, for all of the complaints about people “not getting” (quote marks not intended to imply this was a quote from you) your OP, there are a great many comments thus far that are precisely on point, even if some of them do happen to borrow your own example. The first paragraph of hbar’s #96 comment, for instance, while offering a counter, was superbly “aimed” (possible pun on hbar’s moniker) at your OP.

  100. I think perhaps the ambiguity is in the “we” referred to. No church leader doing their job, no matter how popular, is getting nearly the attention and help they are giving (at least by earthly accounting). Perhaps some of the misunderstanding comes from people who have really sacrificed to lead in the church and may see a pretty big disconnect between the hours they have spent serving and the idea that they may be somehow priveleged in attention and service.

    However, I understand what you (Scott B) are saying better now. Every decent leader hopes that people will greet and help each other regardless of status and that less of the assistance to those of low stature will come from the leaders and more from the ward in general. And it is often an uphill battle to make progress in that regard.

  101. From what you’ve said in your post-post comments, there are roughly as many move-ins/move-outs in your ward as there are Saturdays, correct.

    I think the most relevant issue to you is why you’ve attended so few. I think you can only really answer the question for yourself. What is your motivation for being so sporadic in who you decide to help? I’m not putting this forward as a criticism, because I don’t have a stellar record when it comes to service, and very few of us really do. We all have our reasons, and if I refrain from offering assistance it could be for a number of reasons, laziness being the primary one.

    Looking for broad trends that tell us something about our society and culture is interesting and worthwhile, but it is almost always highly speculative and uncertain. I’m sure you’ve done this and continue to do it, but identify within yourself why YOU don’t help as much as you could, that’ll be infinitely more beneficial to you then theorizing why humans do what they do.

    In all sincerity I commend you for helping two weeks in a row, I’m afraid I would have considered myself “off the hook” for round 2.

  102. ^ I should’ve read more comments before I posted my own. Many people basically already said what I said.

  103. Rick says, “I think the most relevant issue to you is why you’ve attended so few [move-ins/move-outs].”

    Yeah, Scott, why are you such a lazy arse? I think Rick is right. This post shouldn’t be a place to discuss the ethic of blind charity, it should be a chance to talk about how lazy you are.

    Awesome, Rick.

  104. I think the most relevant issue to you is why you’ve attended so few. I think you can only really answer the question for yourself. What is your motivation for being so sporadic in who you decide to help?

    Rick,
    Come on, man. Read the OP! I already addressed that–it’s because I’m a wretch.

  105. Late to the discussion, but I have seen this play out in wards where I have lived in the form of “open houses” at the church building for certain families when they move after many years, and others in the ward barely get noticed when they leave. It has made me feel uncomfortable when this happens.

    I think everyone is trying to be nice, but it’s easier to be nice to your good friends than the folks you don’t really know as well. The old adage seems appropriate: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

    Scott, good perception on your part, which should help to offset your general laziness and wretchedness. If you lived near me, I’d help you move, if for no other reason than to help you feel popular.

  106. Scott B.,

    Sorry for misinterpreting your OP. I did read it but I must’ve missed the heart of the message.

    Good observations about situations in your local ward and you are correct, with what we know about charity and love it is not acceptable for us to be so superficial in who we choose to help.

    I’ve never really witnessed your main argument (that popularity begets charity) in my life but if you did then you are right to bring it up, lest some of us are guilty of that and need to be informed. In my experience the opposite has been closer to the truth, it seems the less popular members have received the most assistance in various ways. I think of my current Bishop, the man puts so much into what he does and as far as I’m aware there is no noticeable earthly reward for what he does. . . maybe someday when he decides to move there’ll be a 100 people there to help.

  107. Rick–

    I was being sarcastic–your question is actually the very heart of the post: why are we so discriminatory in our love and service. The fact that I know I’m a wretch doesn’t explain _why_ I am a wretch–and only self-examination will help me find ways to alter it. I wrote the post entirely “to” the bloggernacle, but like most posts, it was actually entirely about myself.

  108. Also, I don’t think that popularity begets “charity” if you mean “actual Christ-like charity.” Rather, I think popularity begets attention, which begets knowledge of others’ needs, which begets a grudging willingness to exchange hard labor for doughnuts on Saturday mornings.

  109. Antonio Parr says:

    106. “Popularity begets charity”

  110. Antonio Parr says:

    106. “Popularity begets charity”

    Rick:

    If our “charity” is directed towards the popular only, then I am not sure that any such act of service can be fairly characterized as “charity”, as the benefits (i.e., rubbing shoulders with the popular) may outweight the sacrifice (time and physical labor).

    “For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
    but to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums”

    (Bruce Cockburn)

  111. Perhaps if we substitute the word ‘kindness’ for ‘charity’ the OP’s point might be easier for some people to understand. I don’t think anyone expects charity, but we all have a right to be treated with kindness.

  112. Scott B.,

    Your OP was spot on and excellent. You covered all your bases and everything really comes together to make a great statement. From your observances your statements are great.

    To the rest,

    I realize charity means more than just service, and that ill-motivated service is not charity at all. I was, in my foolishness, using the worldly definition of charity.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,484 other followers