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?