Bearing One Another’s Burdens: Summer Vacation Edition

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A vacation doesn’t actually require the bishop’s input to turn out nicely.

Elder Holland recently observed that

For me, bearing another’s burden is a simple but powerful definition of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When we seek to lift the burden of another, we are “saviours … on mount Zion” (Obadiah 1:21). We are symbolically aligning ourselves with the Redeemer of the world and His Atonement. We are “bind[ing] up the brokenhearted, … proclaim[ing] liberty to the captives, and … opening … the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).

When I read this a couple of months ago I nodded my head in firm agreement—what a great Christian message—and redoubled my resolve to be the kind of person that willingly bears another’s burden. And then summer vacation happened.

It started with an unusual request from a member in a foreign country. [Edit: see footnote below] She was planning to visit the city where I live and had contacted my bishop to ask for help looking for affordable accommodations. With me being the bishop’s general dogsbody, the request ended up on my to-do list.

Well, I like to plan trips, so even if this didn’t seem like the kind of service one normally provides I was game. I started by trying to find out how much was affordable. I turned out that “affordable” meant “entirely unrealistic for a European capital in the height of the tourist season.” I tried in vain to manage expectations, providing links to several hostels that were close but still over budget. The visitor was traveling alone and wanted her own room, so hostels with dormitory rooms were out. Understandable, but the going rate for a single room still exceeded the available budget. So after some back and forth, our visitor decided to cut back on the number of days in town. After some explanation of how to make a reservation and fill out visa application paperwork I thought my job was one done well; even if I did grind my teeth a little in the process, it wasn’t too much skin off my nose and helped make a stranger happy.

A couple of months later I went on vacation myself. I had just taken up a perch on the beach when I received another email: “Dear Brother, I’m arriving in a few days and need someone to pick me up from the airport.” I shifted back into expectation management mode and tried to explain that I was goofing off in a foreign country and couldn’t help, the bishopric and many of the members were off on a stake temple trip (these are week-long affairs due to our distance from the temple), the arrival time was during regular business hours on a weekday for those who weren’t on vacation and, besides, this is an urban ward where most members don’t have a car anyway. Finally, the public transport from the airport is cheap and excellent, and by the way here are the timetables.

The visitor’s reply was firm—she was a single woman in a foreign country who needed assistance. She wasn’t asking for much, just someone to meet her and accompany her to her hotel. And that’s when I realized that my vision of burden bearing is not just fairly abstract but also quite narrow in scope—try as I might, I just couldn’t imagine myself using church networks to facilitate my vacation plans.

But doing just that must be a thing because last week a couple of acquaintances turned to social media to broadcast a request for reliable babysitters in a resort town (not local to the couple making the request) for a few hours on an upcoming Saturday. See, mom and dad wanted to go rafting but the river was too wild for the three- and five-year-olds (really easy kids though!). “You should contact the YW President,” someone suggested helpfully.  “We would if we knew who she was. So far we could only find the Bishop’s contact info and he hasn’t replied yet,” the couple replied.

Does it make me a bad person that I hope the bishop maintains radio silence? Surely our time and talents could be put to better, more urgent use than facilitating summer vacations for visitors. But what do you think—how expansive a view should we take of the call to lighten another’s burdens?

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Footnote: As I noted in a comment below, it’s probably worth taking into consideration that the visitor was from an economy in transition with a reputation for corruption, where I assume you get things done by working your relationships. This is why I was willing to go above and beyond in the first place, though ultimately not quite as far as the other party would have had it.

Comments

  1. It in a million years would I think that ward members in my home ward, or particularly in a foreign ward should be called upon to be my travel agents, baby sitters or Taxi drivers. It seems to me that this young woman traveling alone could really not afford the trip,but was looking to others to share the burden she had not adequately prepared for. As for the parents of small children wanting to take a rafting trip……some things must wait until the children are older. Young women in a vacation destination are not waiting for opportunities to babysit vacationers’ children, nor should they be. Suppose an accident should happen.

  2. RockiesGma says:

    Glory…..I say no way is any ward there for visitors to do their free vacay bidding. Wards are not cheap travel agencies.

    In my prehistoric day if we couldn’t afford vacation we didn’t have one—we stayed home and saved. Folks even did their moves on their own. Asking for free help to move out and then help to move in was embarrassingly appalling. But my generation was fiercely independent and our self reliance truly meant relying on ourselves, not the ward. We paid our own way from high school graduation on. Ward members’ plates today are seriously overloaded with family life and civic responsibilities. Ministering locally is overwhelming at times. I feel if you’re going on vacation and can’t afford public transportation to your hostel, then postpone your trip until you can afford to meet your own needs. Vacation is a luxury not a necessity.

    As for seeking LDS babysitters on vacation I think that’s fine if you’re willing to pay the going rate in that area. No cheap or free babysitting. No pay no play.

    One further note….it’s not right to seek freebie services from ward members who have special skills. If a plumber lives in your ward, pay him/her! Other services? Same. Everyone deserves payment for services rendered. If the one who does them offers to do so for free, that’s fine. But we shouldn’t seek/expect/feel entitled to free help, nor expect discount rates. (I’m not talking about times of true hardship when there’s serious illness or loss of employment and such.)

    Taking advantage of thy neighbor is not part of the gospel plan. Yet I’ve seen such rudeness and the conflicts that result among our members countless times.

  3. Folks even did their moves on their own. Asking for free help to move out and then help to move in was embarrassingly appalling.

    I think there’s a post here too!

    As far as I could tell, the people looking for a babysitter were willing to pay, I just don’t think the search for one is something you should hassle a bishop about.

  4. I think the reluctance to use quality public transportation is a cultural issue that American tourists who want to travel cheaply in Europe need to overcome. Tourists should only be bothering ward leadership if there’s a true emergency. For everything else, they should be relying on a good guidebook or two. Maybe next time you can recommend Lonely Planet or Rick Steves.

  5. Bro. Jones says:

    Was this decades in the past? I could almost see my way to approving of this if it took place in, say, the mid-90s. But now it’s so easy to hop on the internet and explore options. I usually have a sense of where I want to stay, eat, and explore long before I even book travel arrangements. You’re a true diplomat, Peter.

  6. But my generation was fiercely independent and our self reliance truly meant relying on ourselves, not the ward.

    Color me skeptical that this is a this-generation-and-their-avocado-toast thing. A decade and a half ago, my then-bishop’s wife told a group of us about a foreign stake president who had called them and asked to stay at their place while on vacation in the expensive urban area they lived in. He became livid when they refused (because, of course, not only was he a stranger, but they lived in a small apartment without any spare room), explaining that he always stayed with members when he traveled. And, while I don’t know who he was, given how long ago it was and the fact that he was a stake president, I sincerely doubt it was a this-generation thing. (Moreover, I remember helping old people move when I was a kid and teenager in the 80s and 90s, and remember jokes and snide statements about Mormons asking for free help from attorneys and doctors around the same time—heck, the request for free specialist services drove my grandpa to move from his hometown in Utah to California in the 1950s).

    As to the substance of the OP, I think it’s totally fine to try to use your social networks to make a better vacation. If you know people where you’re going, you should definitely ask them what they’d see. (And I can also see asking locals about babysitting, as long as you’re willing to pay.) But I guess I see my network as people I know (or, sometimes, people I e-know), not the full set of people who are members of the church.

    I think the injunction to bear others’ burdens is broader than just my network (and, frankly, broader than just set of church members). But honestly, a vacation shouldn’t be a burden, and we shouldn’t feel a need to bear others’ vacations.

  7. Was this decades in the past?

    No, the events related above all took place in the last couple of months. To be fair, however, the first visitor was from an economy in transition with a reputation for corruption, where I assume you get things done by working your relationships. This is why I was willing to go above and beyond in the first place, though apparently not quite as far as the other party would have had it.

    I usually have a sense of where I want to stay, eat, and explore long before I even book travel arrangements.

    Same here; in my book, the anticipation and planning are almost more fun than the travel itself.

  8. As to the substance of the OP, I think it’s totally fine to try to use your social networks to make a better vacation.

    If that means an easily ignored plea on Facebook, I heartily agree. If that means contacting the bishop of another ward, I think a line has been crossed.

    this-generation-and-their-avocado-toast thing

    Heh. My mom introduced avocado sandwiches to me when I was young, much to my horror and disgust at the time. Now I chide myself for not recognizing a good thing when I first saw it.

  9. Wow, what a way to take advantage of the church network. Hopefully you told her to call an Uber, hail a cab, use the public transportation that I’m sure was available and then shut your computer off; that is ridiculous that she would expect someone to drop what they were doing and pick her up! And, if she is that helpless she should have never left her home let alone her city, state, or country!

  10. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    As Sam put it, “I guess I see my network as people I know (or, sometimes, people I e-know), not the full set of people who are members of the church.” There does seem to be a tradition to thinking of the entire Church as one’s network, from which you can draw to meet any perceived need. It may be a product of the many people who have virtually no interpersonal interactions with non-members, or may come from the siege mentality that lead people to think of other members as part of their tribe, in a world that is not to be trusted. Either way, there is often the assumption that, since I share your faith, I’m willing to share my…everything. This is often mistaken as one of the hallmarks of a Zion society. I think that’s a naive view of Zion.

    Now, I am reluctant to think that if the woman in Peter’s story story couldn’t afford the vacation she desired, she should just stay home. Lots of folks don’t have the means to go on holiday, but could surely use some time away. It’s slightly elitist to suggest they call an Uber, or find an Airbnb, I’m not sure how best to facilitate this (though, Peter went to admirable lengths to try to make it work for her), but let’s just be careful to not reserve good experiences only for those who can afford them.

    But, back to my main point – I have always found this aspect of Church membership interesting (though, would also be interested to learn if it exists in other religious “communities”). Many (most?) of my friends are LDS, and I’ll call upon some of them for help when I move. However, I won’t send a general call to the Ward for moving help. At the same time, when a family moves into the area, and doesn’t know anyone, it doesn’t bother me that they ask for, or are offered, help from the Ward. (But, don’t get me started on providing meals for new mothers. If they have access to a husband, I sure as hell expect that man to be thinking ahead, and of being capable of putting together something for them to eat!)

  11. We were asked to bring in a meal because the husband had surgery and the wife worked….and how about people asking for babysitters for funerals.

  12. nobody, really says:

    One of my brothers used to be the EQ President in a ward with an Air Force base within the boundaries. Two or three times a week, he was expected to move people in and move people out. The thing that made him most irate was knowing that people were getting a move allowance or stipend – they would enlist the ward to move them, and pocket the check. I think he quit when he moved somebody in, then moved them out several months later, and realized that they had never been to church or an activity in the meantime. And heaven help you if your full-time profession is a roofer, a mover, or a landscaper.

    In my last ward, the Bishop was the designated “transient affairs” guy for the stake. Somebody in Utah started chatting online with a guy, and eventually decided to leave her husband and kids and go shack up with the person in Tennessee. She got there and found an empty lot – no guy, no place to stay, and he wasn’t answering emails. She turned around and headed back to Utah, but her husband cut off the funds and left her broke and stranded. Of course, she decided we were obligated to help – wanted our members to drive 5 hours to Tennessee with her to find her new Prince Charming.

    Uh, no. How about a prepaid gas card and road trip food?

    I’ve even been asked, by leadership, to co-sign and guarantee loans for local members. I tried and tried to find something in the handbooks, but other than the usual “stay out of debt”, I couldn’t quote policy as a reason to refuse. We used to teach people to be self-reliant and stay off the dole. Now, to a large extent, we have become the dole.

  13. A Turtle Name Mack
    How is it “elitist” to suggest someone who is vacationing plan to take care of themselves financially while on vacation? If I can’t afford to go abroad, I don’t. I would love to go to Switzerland but at the present, I can’t afford it and I know I can’t. I’m not trying to make it happen on an unrealistic budget that includes bumming free rides from church members while there. There are plenty of affordable places I could vacation closer to home. Maybe said vacationer should have planned better and/or saved longer so she could afford that vacation.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Co-signing loans? Wow. Just wow. I suspect my in-the-moment response would be to assume it were a joke and laugh at such a suggestion. No way in hell would I do such a thing..

  15. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    PCHiker – I’ll answer, but really don’t want to derail the discussion, so won’t keep at it. “Maybe said vacationer should have planned better and/or saved longer so she could afford that vacation” is the kind of thinking that often just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So many folks just aren’t in a position to do those things. I’m not advocating taking advantage of others in order to attain the “finer things” in life. Just a bit of restraint when implying they don’t deserve to aspire to them.

    Back to the topic, I’ve also heard many tales of pressure to co-sign loans, offer employment, or loan vehicles, etc. The Church, in the past, sort of set itself up as a one-stop shop for all needs, both spiritual and material. We have been moving away from this in recent years (asking that those in need explore public and family assistance before turning to the Church), but the mentality still persists. And this line of thinking often extends to “needs” that are, sometimes, dubious. I think this is something every Ward deals with, at some level. In many ways, a Ward functions as a unit that deals with the temporal needs of it’s members. When it becomes most interesting, to me, is when members assume that these Ward functions extend to the Church, as a whole. So, while I might call my Home Teachers (Ministering Brother/Sisters) when I have an unexpected emergency, it can be somewhat different when you have a similar emergency when you’re abroad.

  16. It’s one thing to be ready and willing to give service, and another to expect service (and another to expect service custom tailored to your demand).

    That being said, can I stay at your house when I come to tour Europe PLLC? :-)

  17. I was once asked by our Relief Society president to take a cab to the airport, meet a mother who was traveling with her small daughter, and cab them back into town and get them set up where they were staying. Which I did; I then took them for an early dinner at a popular restaurant with singing and dancing waiters and waitresses. I also called them every evening of their stay to see how things were going. BUT this was NYC, and the mother had brought her daughter to town for treatment at Sloan Kettering, a renowned cancer hospital. Her husband was unable to come and had called our bishop to see if the local members could provide some sort of moral support during a traumatic time in an intimidating city. I was happy to do it then, and I would do it again. To me, this is who we are.

    After they went home, the mother, who belonged to a support group of parents with kids with cancer, talked about her experience, and a few months later I got an email from a fellow group member – not LDS – who was setting up a similar trip and needed help working out some trip logistics. (NYC can be hard when you’re not used to it.) I was happy to do it then, and I would do it again.

    I will admit, though, even though I’m not in a position to judge the depth of somebody else’s neediness, I’d be far less accommodating about somebody else’s vacation than about a sick child.

  18. nobody, really: Ahh the DitY move. We lived in a ward where the EQ was constantly being tasked to move AF families in and out. Finally, my husband, fed up with his fellow church and service members taking advantage of a good thing, approached the Bishop and said “You know they are getting money for these moves, right?” After that, the number of EQ Moving Company bookings dropped. We never did a DitY move. Why put yourself and your friends through that when the Air Force will pay professionals to come in and do it and if anything gets broken, it’s covered?

    I’m not surprised about the vacation planner. I know people who think they can save money on vacations by staying with church members. That they don’t even know. Just out of the goodness of their hearts. I do not understand where this idea comes from. Is it a Law of Consecration throw back?

  19. I could see this being a great service to a young family travelling to the temple in a foreign country for the first time. But unless it is that, people should manage their vacations by themselves.

  20. Jack Hughes says:

    I have strong feelings about the use (and abuse) of LDS networks for free assistance. The difference between service and servitude is sometimes unclear, but ultimately it lies in the intentions of the one requesting help.

    nobody, really–When I was in the military, we always executed our PCS moves responsibly, and used our entitlements without asking anyone from the ward to lift a finger. But we knew plenty of other LDS military families who abused that privilege, and it made me furious. Their intention was to pocket a few hundred extra dollars on the backs (literally) of good-natured ward members. For the most part, these were otherwise decent people who probably would have dropped everything to come help me move if I had asked. The problem was that they were either too naïve to realize that they were taking unfair advantage of both government programs and their fellow Saints, or they were so steeped in Mormon culture (prior to joining the military) that they were notoriously cheap and just expected moving help wherever they went and took it for granted–or both. To this day I refuse to help anyone who takes this approach, and politely make my objections known. I believe a Latter-day Saint who knowingly profits from someone else’s misery is not worthy of a temple recommend.

    Later in life, as a civilian, I had to self-finance a cross-country move for a new job in an unfamiliar city, and on a tight budget. I reached out to the bishop at the destination several days in advance to ask for help. I was extremely grateful for the moving help I received from total strangers who would become good friends. I provided refreshments to all who helped, and never made excessive or unreasonable demands of them (e.g. moving a piano upstairs, unpacking, etc.). I consider this responsible use of the privilege.

    Over the years I’ve also seen some very kind, helpful, enthusiastic church members give themselves permanent injuries as a result of pushing themselves too hard while helping people move. Sometimes, helpers need to establish better boundaries. Occasionally we have to remind each other that there is no workers’ compensation or disability insurance from the Elders Quorum Moving Company (TM).

    Other misfires of LDS charity I have witnessed:
    -An older woman asking for meals to be brought to her house while recovering from surgery. It turns out it was elective plastic surgery (eye tuck and breast augmentation).
    -After moving out of and deep-cleaning my house to prepare it for sale, the RS president and her 5 rowdy, messy kids drop by unannounced to ask if there is “anything I can do to help?” in a very passive-aggressive, box-checking kind of way. All the hard work (when we needed help) was already done, and her kids were tracking dirt on my freshly cleaned carpets. She would have been far more helpful if she had just stayed home that day.

  21. Gilgamesh says:

    I would never imagine using the local church like that, though I have to admit I was hoping for a free meal when I visited church in Italy 25 years after my mission. :-) Lo and behold, nobody remembered me so I had to eat at a really good restaurant instead.

    I do remember driving through Nevada with a clunker of a car. I was worried it might break down when the thought hit me – if it did break down, I could contact the local bishop to find a place to park it for a few days until I could come back to pick it up. It was a very comforting thought.

    Not once did I think that they would repair the car or put me up for a few days. I had means to do that myself, but I did not know where I could store a car while I worked out the details.

  22. Jack Hughes says:

    I just remembered another one:
    In our last ward, the RS provided compassionate service meals to new mothers, just as they do in most wards. Until one woman vocally complained about the quality and choices of food she was receiving. She was a very health-conscious type and had some extreme self-imposed dietary restrictions (mainly for lifestyle, not medical reasons) and was upset that the provided meals did not comply with her high standards. This also happened to be in a ward where most members lived on Wal-Mart food budgets, not Whole Foods. Regardless, the RS president put a stop to it right away, and for fear of running afoul of anyone else’s dietary demands, cancelled compassionate service meals indefinitely. This happened a few months before my wife gave birth. When our new daughter arrived, she had complications that put her in the NICU for several days, so we were really overwhelmed and some free dinners would have been much appreciated, regardless of content or quality. But none came. And asking for people to bring you home-cooked meals sounds entitled.

    I recognize that sometimes, even with the best intentions, we fail miserably at bearing one another’s burdens. But asinine missteps like these will still piss me off.

  23. Not a Cougar says:

    nobody, really, cosign a loan? Wow, just wow! If you can share, did this come from a bishop? If so, did you mention this to the stake president? Maybe I’m just naive, but I can’t imagine my bishop asking me to cosign a loan for another ward member.

  24. As a bishop, I see many church members get pushed pass the point of reasonable requests due to someone’s desire to manipulate others (maybe unknowingly) contrary to what we know about self-reliance. If a widow, single mother, or handicapped member needs help moving, I will be there early. I think many service requests are abusing the culture of a desire to serve, and else enable it by rallying the troops to help someone who would be better served by doing it themselves. That’s the challenge we face though trying our best to follow the Savior’s example. I try to lean towards overhelping, but I’ve decided I will never ask my ward’s elder’s quorum to help me move (I will pay for some help because I can), let alone ask someone to help me with vacation plans because of their church position in my vacation area.

  25. Jack Hughes says:

    From the March 1980 Ensign, “Church Policies and Announcements”:

    “Requests for Travel Assistance by Church Members. Church leaders in some areas receive letters from members outside their jurisdiction asking for help in planning vacations, and local members are often asked to provide housing and financial aid for them. These requests are inappropriate. Members planning trips should make their own arrangements through travel agencies and not burden Church leaders or members in other areas by asking for assistance.”
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1980/03/news-of-the-church/church-policies-and-announcements?lang=eng

    Apparently, this was a thing a long time ago, and was problematic enough to warrant a church-wide policy change to put a stop to it.

  26. EnglishTeacher says:

    Earlier this year, I was asked by a family in my ward to tutor their daughter with AP test prep and to help her with her faltering grades. I agreed, and then told her mother my hourly rate for tutoring, since it is a job I do on the side to supplement my income as an adjunct. She looked at me funny, then said she’d get back to me about it. Of course, she never did. My experience is one of dozens, I’m sure, and not entirely surprising based on some of the responses on this thread. Several years ago, I was cajoled into offering my apartment to an in-town visitor who was doing some sort of summer weekend program in my area. I lived alone at the time and the bishop knew it, gave me as a contact to the young woman who would be traveling in, and I felt pressured to accommodate her since she didn’t want to spend money to stay in a hotel. We made plans, and she told me she’d be getting in late. Finally at 2:00 am, I texted her and asked where she was. She responded that she’d actually made a friend at her retreat and wouldn’t need to stay with me after all! If I hadn’t asked, though, I get the feeling I would not have heard from her one way or another. That night I learned one could feel seriously irritated and also relieved at the same time.

  27. “And that’s when I realized that my vision of burden bearing is not just fairly abstract but also quite narrow in scope—try as I might, I just couldn’t imagine myself using church networks to facilitate my vacation plans.”

    Perfectly said.

  28. I suspect that a lot of my prayers sound to God like requests for help planning a summer vacation…

  29. This is a hoot. I contrast this with my daughter who recently traveled from DC to Stockholm, London, Romania, Bulgaria, and Brussels on her own hook. Generally she arranges for friends to travel with her but sometimes plans don’t work out.

    It’s my observation that “service” in the church is often doled out based upon popularity more than need. The winsome counselor in the Relief Society and a sprained ankle will get a month of meals while an older sister with an out-of-the-way calling and a sick husband will barely merit a telephone call. Of course it’s self-perpetuating. That is, the better someone, the older sister for example, is at managing without help the less likely help will be offered. She won’t ask, no matter her need, and she learned, long ago, that except for empty platitudes, it was all on her.

  30. Jack Hughes, thanks for digging up that policy change.

    I’m happy to give service when genuinely needed. The scriptures state that “the idler will not have a place in Zion.” It’s the abuse of this principle that creates the most galling examples mentioned upthread. That is, some people expect the Church (individual members) to provide what the “idler” could do themselves, but are unwilling to do.

    I lent my car to a needy mom for two weeks, and my truck to a new convert couple who otherwise had no transportation. I help families move or out of the ward twice a month. It’s part of the covenant I’ve made to live the Law of Consecration.

    There are extreme examples, like the poor family from Arizona that expected our ward in Idaho to pay for a new transmission when their rickety van broke down returning from a vacation to Canada. (The bishop did). Or the family no one has seen in Church for decades that asked the ward to supply their firewood for the winter. Ugh.

    My personal rule of thumb is that if the individual is doing the best they can to provide for themselves–and would help others if they only could–by all means help. If they’re just being lazy, I’ll pass. It’s a subjective judgement call, for sure.

  31. Vacation self-reliance also includes getting your own darn ride to/from the airport !!

  32. Yes, Jack, thank you for the link.

    Kristine, good point.

  33. This sort of service has to come from the heart. When we start guilting ourselves into it then the magic disappears. Don’t do it. One person’s service can be another person’s servitude.

    About a decade ago or more, the Bishop’s Easter egg hunt was rained out. I was sluffing Sunday School and eating chocolate eggs in the kitchen intended for the Linger Longer. The bishop’s wife was snarfing or perhaps pretending to guard the eggs and she mentioned to me if I knew anyone in the ward who would like to provide free housing for a German college student for a school year. None of the usual suspects wanted to do it, most of all her. They were recent empty nesters and had a large house with many unoccupied rooms, but just didn’t want to do it.

    I envisioned a gorgeous young woman sloshing around beer steins and thought my wife would also and immediately nix the plan. My wife was born in Germany to American parents living there and spoke the language. My children in grade school were learning German in some pilot program. They all three jumped at the chance to let this unknown girl from Germany stay with us.

    Our German guest could fit my mental image in the right costume; an attractive, robust blond with a wonderful strong singing voice. Also exceedingly smart and spoke 4 languages fluently. She had no money, her parents not able to help her and emotionally distant and she had only a tuition scholarship. She was a new convert to Mormonism of a couple of years. Her economic needs were great but as the months passed it became obvious her emotional needs were greater. She really needed a stable family. She was devoted to Mormonism but she was stubborn and opinionated and often wrong in my opinion.

    We had so many humorous events, like when she insisted she could ride 40 kilometers on a bike, why not 5 miles to the church building when it was 98 F and about the same percent humidity. She laid down on the side of the road in exhaustion about 80% of the way there. Or the time she forced us to start having family prayer and the toilet flooded. Or the time she and her Mormon friends got arrested in a park for something stupid. Or the time I was trying install a tile shower and I really don’t know how and screwed it up and started swearing. My wife calmly said to ignore it, he gets over it and only does it about once a year. I think my free-thinking unorthodox Mormon ideas around the dinner table scared her more than anything.

    We had a massive flood while visiting Utah at Christmas time that did about $100K damage to the house. We lived like Russians on the second floor with only one bathroom and no heat for the rest of the winter and no kitchen for 9 months; while the fleecing insurance contractors battled bogus toxic mold and cheated each other blind. That ordeal solidified her status as a full-fledged family member.

    She lived with us for 4 years of college and 2 years of graduate school. She dated a number of guys. My son grew from a pesky primary boy who played pranks on her dates to a ripped beast with the physique to play college football who scared the whimps away. They look more like siblings than any other members of the family. She met a wonderful guy from Mexico and dated him for a year or two before getting married in the temple. They have had their challenges and successes. They have three children now and they are like our grandchildren. She reconciled with her family in Germany and they have visited us here a few times and they seem like family to us now.

    We started out with a college student with no resources and gained another branch of our family. On the balance she enriched our lives more than we helped her. The future ahead is helping a liberal opinionated German mother and conservative opinionated Mexican father figure out how to raise 3 very challenging children in the American South. We have faith in an ultimate great outcome. But getting there is going to be, shall we say, interesting?

  34. I love the stories. The good ones especially. There are visitor-from-hell stories too.

    With regard to “what should we do?” three thoughts come to mind:

    1. A reminder, next time we turn to the vending-machine-god idea, that sometimes the answer is “no.”

    2. A prayer that next time I argue for taxes and a social safety net and public goods including transportation, my critics will remember and think about their answers to these questions.

    3. The idea that perhaps visiting member to local bishop would be better handled as visitor to own bishop to local bishop. If you wouldn’t ask your own bishop for help with transportation (for example) does it make sense to call an unfamiliar bishop out of the blue for the same?

  35. Our vacations are typically self induced burdens. Any judgmental response at lack of help from others in facilitating that self induced burdens can easily be turned around on ourselves for using those resources on ourselves instead of others in the first place. Non of us are probably innocent there…

    Radio silence from the Bishop isn’t necessary, but he can certainly gently remind others that we have a responsibility for ourselves and if we don’t feel capable of traveling alone for non-gospel reasons (did God command you to go), we ought not to do it and insist other help us.

    But we all get our oxen in the mire from time to time… Even if we just wanted to appreciate the view.

    Nephi turned to God and didn’t ask for a ship, but where to find the materials to build the tools to build the ship himself.

    That’s our pattern as saints and that’s where the Bishop ideally should point.

    You’re no worse for helping, neither is she for asking. I’d be interested to pick her up an get the story and help guide expectations if it was my ward.

  36. Anon today says:

    Last summer our bishop sent an email to the while ward asking if anyone would let a mans traveling on a cross country trip stay with them. I was shocked. Just because the mans was Mormon did not mean he was a good man. Someone in the ward did, and it was fine, but really this is a safety issue in addition to a take-advantage-of-church-members issue. S

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