Here is a Mormon Channel video that is making the rounds on the Facebook. I don’t usually watch Mormon Channel videos because I don’t usually watch any video unless I think it’s going to be funny, and Mormon Channel videos are not usually supposed to be funny. (This is not to say that they’re never funny, intentionally or otherwise. I just haven’t ever heard of a funny one. No, I do not need links to funny Mormon Channel videos. Try to focus, people!) My life is too short to watch every video that gets shared on Facebook, no matter how inspiring. (I never watch anything on Upworthy. NEVER.) But my husband went to the trouble of sharing this one with me and asked me what I thought, so I decided to watch it (even though I knew it would probably not be funny).
It’s just under nine minutes long, so here’s a summary for those of you who can read faster than you can watch: A woman wakes up in the morning to the sound of her busy household getting ready for the day and a text on the phone from “Kate,” who will be in town on a layover that evening, when they will meet for a fun night out. The woman looks at her long to-do list, makes breakfast for all her kids and they have a family prayer, wherein she asks Heavenly Father that they may be able to do all the things they have to do today. She is getting ready to take the kids to school when her son informs her that he forgot to finish his science project. She sighs and helps him finish his presentation board (in what appears to be record time) and drops them off at school.
Back at home she takes a phone call during which she agrees to take dinner to a family who have just had a new baby and then she is on her way out the door with her toddler to run errands when a friend comes by and asks if she can babysit her child for a couple hours while she goes to a doctor’s appointment. At first the woman tries to beg off, but seeing that her friend is desperate, eventually agrees, reasoning that she has stuff to do around the house anyway.
So she’s doing some stuff around the house (although it isn’t clear to me what exactly she’s trying to do—maybe it’s some kind of Pinterest project?) when she gets a text from her sister, begging her to have lunch with her that day. So she packs up the kids and takes lunch to her sister in the park, where they talk about problems the sister is having with her job, and she offers support and encouragement.
Back at home, the friend is finally back from her doctor’s appointment. Somehow or another all the kids are home and things are busy busy busy when the woman remembers that she FORGOT ALL ABOUT making dinner for the family with the new baby. So she slaps together a casserole and puts it in the oven. She gets another text from Kate saying that her plane has landed; she texts back that she is running a little late, but she got a babysitter and she will be there ASAP. When the timer goes off, she discovers that the casserole is uncooked because she never turned on the oven. (Sounds like something I would do.) So she turns on the oven and sets the timer for another 30 minutes. (Does not sound like something I would do.) Eventually she puts all the kids in the car and delivers the casserole to the grateful new-baby family, apologizing for it being late. Back at home, the babysitter has finally arrived and after giving her last-minute instructions, our heroine is finally out the door. For about one second. Then she comes back inside looking dejected, and we see that she has another text from Kate saying that she had to board the plane and maybe they’ll see each other next time.
So she sends the babysitter home and irritably orders the kids to go to bed, before or after starting to cry (I don’t remember when the tears came, just the fact of their appearance). Her son says, “But we didn’t say prayers!” and she tells him to go ahead and pray (for all the good it will do). So her son says his prayer and thanks Heavenly Father that they were able to get done all the things they needed to do (O BITTER IRONY, the mother is thinking) and also that he was able to win the science fair, etc., blah blah. Then the kids go off to bed and the woman is pensive while a voiceover from Gordon B. Hinckley says this:
Many of you think you are failures. You feel you cannot do well, that with all of your effort it is not sufficient.
We all worry about our performance. We all wish we could do better. But unfortunately we do not realize, we do not often see the results that come of what we do.
While Pres. Hinckley is speaking and the thoughtful music is playing, we see a montage of everything our heroine did today to serve others; we also see what our heroine herself did not—the effect that service had on the lives of her friends and family. (We also see that the friend who had a “doctor’s appointment” was actually having what appears to be a Very Important Conversation with what appears to be her husband; at least I presume he is her husband, since I don’t think we’re expected to believe it was good that our heroine enabled her friend to have a rendezvous in the park with her secret lover.) Because of her sacrifices, many people were blessed.
I would have liked this video very much except for one thing: the moral of the story as Gordon B. Hinckley tells it does not match the story the video tells. It’s true that many people—okay, let’s just say “women,” since Pres. Hinckley’s remarks were taken from his 2003 talk “To the Women of the Church,” and male characters in this video have a combined screen presence time of about one and a half seconds—feel like failures because they do not accomplish everything they set out to do, or they don’t do as well as they’d like. They are fixated on what they haven’t done and don’t realize the good they have done. But I doubt very much our heroine in this video is crying at the end because she feels like a failure. I would bet cash money that she’s crying because she had been looking forward to having a night out with her friend and her plans were spoiled because she bit off more than she could chew. She didn’t fail at anything except the one thing she was supposed to do for herself. (And maybe that Pinterest project. It’s unclear.)
And just as The Giving Tree makes me want to scream, “The boy is a user! He takes everything she has until she’s nothing but a stump and then HE SITS ON HER!”—so this video makes me want to scream, “What’s wrong with ordering a pizza? Or if you absolutely have to make a casserole, why can’t you just tell them to put it in the oven for 30 minutes? Even a woman who’s just had a baby can put a casserole in the oven! Even if she can’t, probably her husband can! Why can’t your sister bring YOU lunch? Furthermore, I don’t believe that a boy who forgets to finish his science project until the very last minute is going to win the science fair! Sorry! Not buying it! Also, when did it stop being rude as crap to leave your friend hanging out at the airport by herself for two hours whilst you masticate what you had no business biting off in the first place?! But I digress!”
Yes, I want to scream all of those things.
It’s also true that service and sacrifice are necessary components of a Christian life. I believe I’m on record as saying that it is more blessed to serve when it is inconvenient. And I’m not necessarily opposed to guilt trips, used judiciously. So why does this video rub me the wrong way? Because it doesn’t tell people to get off their lazy keisters and serve somebody; it speaks to people who are already giving more than their fair share and says, “Thanks for holding up the world. Keep up the good work!” Or, more cynically, “You never know how much good you do for others, so always put your own needs last.”
I’m reminded of a General Conference talk given long ago by Jeffrey R. Holland. I am too lazy to look it up, but I am 98.9% certain it was Elder Holland who told a story about a bishop’s wife who had grown resentful of all the time her husband spent tending to his church responsibilities. The phone was always ringing, and every time it rang, it was some member of the ward who needed something. One evening they were on their way out the door for their first “date night” since he’d been called as bishop—and the phone rang. The bishop looked at his wife and his wife said, “I just know if you answer that phone, our night will be ruined.” The bishop, feeling guilty (about many things, no doubt), answered the phone and surprise, he ended up cancelling their evening out because a ward member was in crisis. The wife’s bitterness continued to grow until one day, much later, the ward member who had called the bishop that night came up to the bishop’s wife and expressed her gratitude for the bishop’s service and the wife’s sacrifice because that night she called she was truly at the end of her rope and the bishop had saved her. And the wife realized how much her sacrifice had blessed another.
To his credit, Elder Holland said that ordinarily he would be in the group telling the bishop, “Don’t answer that phone!” In that case, I can only wonder why, why would Elder Holland tell this story, if not to reinforce the belief certain people have that you should always answer the phone–because if you don’t, something bad might happen. Someone won’t get the help they need, and it will be your fault. It is entirely possible that the bishop was led by the Holy Ghost to answer the phone that night. That may very well be true. But not everything that’s true is useful. If this was a positive experience for this beleaguered couple, I’m happy for them, but I wish they and Elder Holland had cherished it privately amongst themselves and left the rest of us some plausible deniability the next time we wanted to take our neglected spouse out for a date instead of answering the phone. Nobody learns anything from these stories except that you really can’t ever say “no”–because you never know. And that is not a helpful lesson.
Getting back to the Mormon Channel video, though—one wonders where this poor woman’s husband is. Maybe they should have used a different excerpt from Gordon B. Hinckley’s talk for the voiceover.
I see their husbands, and I feel like saying to them: “Wake up. Carry your share of the load. Do you really appreciate your wife? Do you know how much she does? Do you ever compliment her? Do you ever say thanks to her?”
But, you know, maybe the husband travels a lot. Maybe she’s divorced and living off the alimony. Maybe she’s widowed and living off the life insurance. Maybe she’s divorced or widowed and ordinarily works outside the home but not on this particular day of the week, in which case I can only wonder, “Why is everyone bothering her on her day off???”
This post is already far too much ranting to say just one thing: I think a better ending to this video would have shown somebody bringing our heroine a casserole for a change. It certainly looks as though she needs one, doesn’t it? If you know someone like this, please take them a casserole. Metaphorically or literally, as needed. And no, I’m not talking to you people who are already literally taking casseroles to everyone else this week. Just go to the airport already! Geez!