Free Labor or Free Loaders?

What is a reasonable expectation for free labor from our fellow Mormons? It seems that different people have very different ideas of what is reasonable to request.

Now that we own a small business, I’ve also noticed that certain types of labor–usually lower skilled labor where the majority of the work is “manpower”–are considered a right rather than paying a company to do these things. In fact, when we opened our business, we joked that we would never have opened it in Utah where the main competitor was the Relief Society. Friends of ours had opened an elder care business there, and they found that the work their staff did was often in competition with wards’ free labor pool, not a great situation to be in if you are trying to grow a business.

Other types of free labor requests I’ve seen in Mormon congregations are things like yard care (particularly laying sod, general landscaping), construction clean up or debris removal, and of course, the dreaded moving. “Women’s labor” is usually just things like taking in meals, although with services like post-mates and door dash, this is also becoming less necessary. Occasionally, I’ve seen sisters be asked to do house cleaning for free for someone in need, although this has been more rare than other types of requests. But of course, much has been said about the church expecting members to clean the building rather than hiring janitors (as was done when I was growing up).

None of this is terribly surprising. We all do many different types of service in our wards, including all the volunteer hours we spend in our callings, and the old visiting/home teaching program that’s being ratcheted up a bit with the new ministering program. We are there to assist one another. We also believe in the law of consecration, although we don’t define it very well. Early Christian societies believed in sharing their goods so that there was less class distinction between them, a system that is socialism, except that we can’t say that or the right-wingers in our wards’ heads will explode.

Abraham Lincoln remarked that

The worst thing you can do for those you love is to do the things they can and should do for themselves.

It’s certainly a time-honored tradition within religious communities to serve one another’s needs on a voluntary basis, but there is still a wide variety in what is considered an “appropriate” request. Based on the examples I’ve personally seen or heard about through other sources (a more comprehensive list can be found at my original post here), there are a few service scenarios that fall into a gray area:

  • The person has means or resources to cover the request without relying on the ward’s free labor. This could be monetary means (e.g. a wealthy person who could afford a moving service, a cleaning service, or elder care), or it could be access to other labor (e.g. adult children available to assist).
    • A wealthy retired couple requests that the Elders Quorum provide at least a dozen men to come do yard work for them while they are out of town attending to a family funeral. It’s during the heat of summer in Arizona. They own a large estate and can afford to hire a landscaping service.
  • The person is using the ward’s free labor for personal financial gain (e.g. they are being paid relocation, but using free labor instead of hiring a service or they are using the ward’s free labor to increase the value of the home through improvements–value they will pocket at the time of sale).
    • A couple wants to improve the resale value of their home by adding a full sprinkler system and laying sod. They prefer to use the ward’s free labor rather than pay for labor so that they are sure to get a return on their investment.
  • The requesting ward member’s behavior toward the free laborers is demanding, difficult or even abusive. This could be limited to the manner of making the request or could include bossing fellow ward members around without helping as they do the work, or leaving the home during the work to attend to personal matters.
    • A ward member buys a $15 silent auction for pet sitting. Her requirements are so onerous and specific, and the driving distance is such that it requires 21 man hours to fulfill the obligation.

Another type of free labor request that sometimes happens is when someone who does a type of service professionally is asked by the ward to do it for free or occasionally at a greatly discounted rate. This is probably not a big deal depending on the scope of the request: is it a one-time request? is it for the ward as a whole or for individuals? is it in direct competition to their paid business? do they mind offering their service for free, considering it part of their volunteer work?

On the one hand, wards should be communities that include some networking opportunities as well as opportunities to serve. That’s how communities work. But on the other hand, some services are more prone to be requested on a free or discounted basis. Consider the following types of professionals who might be requested to perform services for free or at a discount:

  • Trades like electrician, handyman, pool care, landscaping, house cleaning.
  • Higher end trades like restoration work, construction, or air conditioning / heating.
  • Professions like accounting, legal advice, medical or dental advice or care.
  • Individuals who do personal services like therapy, business or professional consulting or personal trainers.

Are some of these more likely to be approached for freebies? Are some of these more at risk of being done free by the ward, competing with local businesses?

Recently, it came to my attention that my current ward objects to providing service if it occurs on a Sunday. This surprised me a little bit because Jesus specifically taught that we should help others in need on a Sunday. Mormons refer to this as your ox being in the mire, although the scriptural reference doesn’t actually use those words:

Luke 14: 5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the asabbath day?

So, clearly it would be more scriptural to say someone’s ass is in a pit, not that their ox is in the mire. Perhaps the objection is to helping people who really don’t need it, and the request just happens to be for a Sunday. I’ve also heard the objection raised that the service wouldn’t have to be done on a Sunday if they had only planned better, and that when it was a planning failure, the ward should refuse to assist on Sunday. But on the flip side, “failure to plan” assumes that individuals are capable of planning and organizational tasks. Sometimes the people who most need help are the ones living in disorganized (borderline hoarder) situations, and may be associated with other issues like depression or even care for disabled or elderly family members. Disallowing service to those who are disorganized would certainly reduce the drain on the labor pool, but would not provide help where most needed.

This is why the ministering program should help. If someone’s ministers (is that what we are calling them?) has talked with them and understands more clearly what the need is, that helps ward leaders assign resources with a better picture of what’s needed and what the labor force will be getting into. Other best practices:

  • For moves, provide a checklist to the home owner so that they are prepared when the movers arrive. Include things like providing water, having boxes taped up and ready, furniture disassembled, etc. Place limitations on what ward members can lift or carry if appropriate (e.g. no baby grand pianos).
    • If they are too disorganized for that, separate moving parties into packing and moving like actual moving companies do.
    • If they can afford a service, provide a list of reputable local businesses instead of free labor.
    • Think about liability issues such as personal injury to the volunteers and damage to the home owner’s belongings. Be clear about expectations.
  • For other types of services, always ask the person whose expertise is being sought so that they can define the limits of what they or their business can provide for free or in competition with their paid labor. Again, bear in mind things like the restrictions of professional certifications, personal or professional liability, and the risk involved.
  • Service is a great opportunity to invite non-members, and also to provide service to non-members. It’s one of the most valuable features of religion: connecting people to those in need which adds purpose to our lives.

Finding the right balance between service and co-dependency in our volunteer church is a tricky one.

  • Have you ever been helped out of a tight spot by your fellow Mormons when you didn’t expect it?
  • What best practices have you seen to maximize helping others without burning out the ward’s good will?

Discuss.

Comments

  1. Not a Cougar says:
  2. Jack of Hearts says:

    This resonates with me because my current ward is next to a university and has a sizable grad student contingent, meaning many moves at the beginning and end of the summer. It’s taxing. With that as the context, I really, really like your best practices list for moving. I think that kind of open communication about expectations would go a long way to preventing ward members from feeling taken advantage of or (on the other end) from having unreasonable expectations about what the volunteer movers can be asked to do. Thanks for this post.

  3. Some good thoughts. I have been dealing with this issue as I am building my home. Some want me to ask Ward members for help but I will not. Friends and family? yes but not the ward. This is a profit seeking activity that should not involve the wards goodwill. Now some families have come over to help and I have accepted based on their desire to serve but it has never been solicited. I also am involved with Temple facility management and I see the wonderful miracle of the selfless volunteer service it takes to operate a Temple.

  4. Suzanne Lucas says:

    I see two distinct differences in service provided.

    1. Service provided because we need to serve. This includes trimming lawns and bushes of people who could afford a gardener, but we do it as a ward service project because we need the opportunity to serve. We can complain about how difficult and complex our lives are now, but the reality is, we don’t do a lot of hard physical things. This is especially true for our teens. It is very, very good for them to go do an annual window washing for all the older folks in the ward. It doesn’t matter that Sister Jones is sitting on a fortune and could hire someone. The service is not for Sister Jones, it is for the people who do the service.

    2. Service provided because people need service. This need can be a physical need (like moving for someone without the funds to pay for a moving service) or a personal need. For example, after my first baby was born, my visiting teachers brought me ice cream. That was sweet. I had no meals brought in at all. Now, technically, I didn’t need any meals. It was my first baby, I had an uneventful delivery, my husband and I had good incomes, and I had a paid maternity leave. My mom was there for the first week, and after that, I could easily pay for any service that I needed.

    But, 6 weeks later another woman in the ward had a baby. It was her third. She didn’t work, but her husband had a high salary (I worked in pharma HR and he was in pharma, so if I knew someone’s title, I could guess their salary.) They were both locals, though, and had grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles all around to help out. She, too, could have paid for any non-familial help needed.

    But, the ward swung into action and at the testimony meeting after her baby, she got up and gushed about all the amazing meals ward members brought. And how loved and appreciated she felt, and how much gratitude she had.

    I sat there feeling like crap. I learned (which I already suspected) that I was not part of the in-crowd. In a suburban, wealthy ward, I was one of the very few women who worked. And while I’m sure they didn’t mean to actively shun me, they had.

    I needed that service–not because I couldn’t pay, but because it would have gone a long way towards strengthening relationships within the ward. If I had been on the edge, testimony-wise, that testimony meeting would have severely damaged my desire to come to church.

    I absolutely agree that if ward members are abusing ward labor the bishop should put a stop to it. We moved about six months ago–just across town. The Bishop and EQ president asked me if we needed help moving, and the RS president asked when the sisters could come over to do a thorough clean. I thanked them politely and said we were hiring someone. And we did. Because we could.

  5. Laurie H. says:

    In 2008 I was RS President. We had a couple with 2 children have a new baby. The Father called me up to complain that they were only getting meals at dinner time and it happened for only 3 days. I said that was the norm at the time and did they have a more pressing need. He said yes, that he was home for 2 weeks and had expected at least lunch to be delivered also! I told him that if he was at home it was his duty to provide for his family and not the wards because we were not a meals on wheels service. Needless to say they moved after a short time. I ran into this a lot. I had to remind the ward members that the RS sisters were not an on call babysitting service nor a taxi business nor a food delivery empire. Service would be provided if needed, but it was never to be expected. There was a small group of stay at home moms and a small group of retired women in that ward at that time. It seemed to me that because those women were seen at “not working” that they could and should drop whatever they were doing at a moments notice and be on call. Crazy stuff, I have never since seen anything like it.

  6. Laurie H. says:

    One other thing, I never had a single meal delivered to me after I had my children. I was in a ward that said they do not do ‘that kind of thing’, because you know you are expecting and have 9 months to prepare! Just a different way of looking at it.

  7. I don’t mind helping people move. But if they’re moving out, they better have packed their stuff already when we show up.

    Pretty much every move I have been involved with in the current ward, the joke / not joke is always stated at least once in earshot of those being served that there is no insurance or expectation that things not be damaged when the EQ is moving them.

  8. I think the meals after baby highlights how important context is. Some sisters don’t want meals afterward (shocking to me!). Others can really use the help. My wife had our first child while I was still in the Marine Corps. I was so grateful for the help from the ward. By our third kid, we had system and I was home to do those things. I think the problem is when the ward makes policies for individuals. Like the brother above said, friends and family members are easier to ask for help and receive help from than others.
    I’m in a ward where we help no one move. I think that’s a bummer. It’s true some people take advantage, but some really need help. The Bishop has essentially black listed ever mentioning a move during the three hour block. But that’s okay, it doesn’t stop me from offering to help – and it is up to the family whether they accept that help or not. If they do, I know some families that are willing to help out to.
    In some ways this is better as I feel no level of obligation, no one asked me – I volunteered. If we are becoming Christ like people (not saying that I am anywhere close) we should need the church and it’s leaders less and less to accomplish service.

  9. I’ve done a lot of cleaning in the RS (I’m good at it, as opposed to providing meals). It’s always been for somebody with really serious difficulties and a corresponding really serious mess. I’ve seen the men get involved for appliance and house repair in most of those cases.

  10. Bro. Jones says:

    I remember when my first child was born, one of the meals that the ward brought to us was a Chicken Alfredo dish. My wife would rather jump into a volcano than eat Alfredo. We had a good laugh about it while I fixed something else for her, and I jokingly suggested we call the bishop and complain about the faith crisis caused by the sisters not calling to take our individual dinner order.

    I’ll admit I’m shocked to hear that there are people who actually do complain. I’m not grateful for enough things in my life, but I sure did appreciate those couple of meals that we got with each kid.
    I ate the Alfredo for lunch over a couple of days and I appreciated it greatly.

  11. The abuse of free labor in congregations is a valid and useful topic for discussion. Thanks for bringing it up.

    However, the statement ‘“Women’s labor” is usually just things like taking in meals..’ was not something I expected to find in a BCC post. This just goes to show that “women’s labor” is truly invisible labor. It is disappointing to see this narrow outlook on this site.

    First of all, “just.. taking in meals” can become an onerous problem. It shouldn’t be so easily cast aside. It depends on the ward, of course. I have experienced a ward where the meal thing was executed beautifully and was well contained and not a huge chore for those who helped and of great assistance to the receivers. I have also lived in a ward where it was abused and a strain on those willing to provide.

    The bigger problem with this statement is it completely ignores the bulk of women’s contributions. Women are also asked to do a great deal for free this is not an exclusively male problem by any means. One that immediately comes to mind is to provide free child care. I don’t know how common this is elsewhere. But it is a plague in my current ward (and, strangely, our ward has relatively few children). As a stay at home mother I am bombarded with requests to watch children. Usually these requests have been to babysit for large amounts of time while the parents are at work or school (not just an occasional evening out or unexpected need, which, of course, I don’t mind). I know that other stay at home parents in the ward have also been propositioned to be in a sort of rotation for child care. Our family has made some pretty substantial financial sacrifices for me to be home with our children. It really bothers me that ward members think it is appropriate to ask me to make these sacrifices for their children as well while they are off brining home a paycheck for themselves. This is a serious form of attempting to capitalize on free labor. I say no. And then I say no some more. Unfortunately, there are some in the ward who let themselves be guilted into saying yes.

    In the same vein is the more formalized version. On this one, there is no fiduciary gain but it is still a frustrating and also sexist expectation. As a past primary president and then a young women president, it seemed my job was to entertain children at every ward function. At each activity one of those two auxiliaries was asked to either provide a nursery (YW) or provide children’s activities (Primary). While this is appropriate at certain times, it should not be expected every time from the same people. And you know what? I know this is shocking, but men (young and otherwise) are perfectly capable of watching children. So if we must provide this, let’s give the other auxiliaries/quorums equal time providing it.

    I am also reminded of a conversation I once had with our Relief Society president. She expressed frustration with the fact that their were women in the ward who would call her on a daily basis to voice their personal problems and issues. They were not brief phone calls. She was basically acting as a free therapist, every single day for the same troubled people. Now, there is clearly an issue here that the RS president needed to set some boundaries. But it was clear that these women had a past precedent set that this was the RS president’s job.

    There are plenty of other examples: cleaning homes, caring for the elderly, yard work, etc. All service can fall under Christlike love or exploitation depending on the particular situation. I think a conversation of where that line lays is important. Please, please don’t disregard women in the discussion.

  12. The Church is less of a safety net and more of an awning – it might slow your fall, but it’ll either tear or bounce you right out.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    We ended our foray into business ownership with the firm opinion “never do business with Mormons.” One lady ordered our customized product and took three months to pay a $6 bill. Even knowing that, we made the mistake of renting to a couple of Mormons (my apologies to Pres. Nelson, but these yahoos were Mormons, not Latter-Day Saints.) Our lawyer referred to them as the “renters from Hell,” that pretty well sums it up. I reiterate, never do business with Mormons.

  14. To your list of skills that are more prone to be requested on a free or discounted basis I’d add music. When someone does something professionally, doing that thing is work no matter where they are doing it, including at church. This doesn’t mean they’re unwilling, or that the work necessarily feels bad, but it IS WORK. In my experience almost no Mormons view preparing and performing music as work, though it’s paid employment in virtually every other church. I hope people will just be aware of that and be sensitive to it.

  15. Echoing Emily U. I’ve heard from several artist friends in Utah (in theatre, music, visual arts, etc.) that it’s very hard to work in the arts professionally there because Mormons don’t think they should have to pay for others’ “talents.” They expect artistic talent to be given freely, even if it’s by request. I’m not sure if they don’t see it as work or if they just take the term “gift” to literally mean a free present instead of just aptitude.

  16. There are free loaders in every group of people, misers who have millions in the bank, but pinch every penny and take advantage of services which they could (and really? should) buy for themselves, and there are those people who have so much nerve that one is glad NOT to know them. We are told (over and over and over … some wards are guilty of too much chat and not enough action) about ministering to others. It’s the buzz word of the decade. And each Ward is different in needs and ‘free’ services. Here in Northern Utah I happen to live in a ward with a lot of elderly widows (of which I’m one) who are in poor health. Do I sort of rely on the kindness of my ward to help me do yard work and minor household repairs that I can no longer physically do? Yeah. Another ward member (elderly) has heart problems and her husband (for whom she is chief caregiver, has advanced Parkinsons and is wheelchair bound. They rely on the ward to help with their yard work. They don’t have money nor physical ability to do it themselves. Besides. It’s supposed to be about the blessings one gets from doing service for another. Not about who has gotten more benefit from those services, in my opinion.

  17. Jack Hughes says:

    The volunteer spirit of the various wards I’ve lived in has been a mixed bag.

    When my first child was born, we were getting nightly meals for almost a month. We were in a small branch in the rural South at the time, and fellow branch members were more like extended family. Southern hospitality and Mormon helpfulness combined in the best possible way. The expectation was that the meal provider was allowed to stay and chat for awhile (essentially an excuse to be able to see/hold the baby while my wife and I ate). These were mostly older ladies who no longer had children at home, and they became instant “grandmothers” to my new daughter. The whole thing had a social/community feeling about it, and not merely a function of duty or “checking the box”.

    By the time my second child was born, we were in a busy suburban ward. A few months prior (just before we moved in, and unbeknownst to us) the RS president had canceled all compassionate service because one lady whined that the meals did not meet her strict (though self-imposed) dietary needs/fake food allergies. So we got nothing. And we really could have used some help then, since that child was born with medical issues and was in the NICU for a while. We didn’t ask for meals because we didn’t want to seem entitled. But our previous experience set our expectations rather high, so we still felt resentful. Regardless, I’m glad we aren’t in that ward anymore.

    On the rare occasions that I am on the receiving end of LDS volunteer service, I always try to use it sparingly, set reasonable boundaries, show gratitude, provide refreshments, and pay it back/forward at the earliest opportunity. I go to great lengths to never let myself be seen as a freeloader. Consequently, I have very little tolerance for people who abuse that goodwill for their own advantage, for secondary gains or simply because they can.

  18. Lindsey Griffiths says:

    My father is a skilled mechanic who barely had time to spend with his family while I was growing up. Best kind of guy though; would give you the shirt right off his back.
    We were always on the less affluent end of the ward spectrum (mom was a public school teacher). Our family never lived in the right neighborhoods or hung out with the right people, so we were surprised when a well-off family in our ward invited us over for a barbecue. When we arrived the father of the family took my dad out to the garage where he showed him the engine they would (surprise!) be putting in his car during our time at their house. Needless to say, we didn’t stay for much longer.

    There were a few other instances where my dad had to remind people that he had a family to feed and just because he is paid less than the lawyers and doctors that were plentiful in our wards, it didn’t make his services less valuable or time-consuming. Many times he was ignored or looked down on for his occupation until something broke.

    Make no mistake though, he is the champion of those who truly need help. I’ve never seen him turn down widows, elderly, or those who couldn’t provide for themselves, especially when he could teach them how to do a repair or service. Dad taught me healthy boundaries for service. I think Christ is a great example for those same boundaries. Discernment can be a gift of the Spirit.

  19. nobody, really says:

    Chapter One, where the duties of the moved are laid out.

    1. Thou shalt have thy crap packed up, boxed up, and thy electrical cords girded up with zip ties. Thou shalt also provide a clear, wide path between thy couch and thy front door, for the Road to Perdition is littered with boxes and toys of the children.
    2. Thou shalt provide bottled water, regular soda, and diet soda as well. Sodas with the drugs of alertness shall also be provided, for thou art robbing some people of nap time. Thou shalt not provide that store-brand swill, which is an abomination in my sight. If thou expect services during meal times, thou shalt certainly provide that meal, lest thou be regarded as the infidels and ungracious hosts.
    3. There shall be no requests to go get something out of storage. Unless thou move within the borders of thine own land, thou shalt not expect multiple stops and destinations from anyone but thyself.
    4. It is naughty in my sight to request help if thou hast given no help in days past.
    5. If thy servants have other tasks to perform, thou shalt send them on their merry way with thanksgiving. Thou shalt not require of them “just one more thing”, for it is never just one more thing, and thy servants have places they must be.
    6. If thou hast “interesting” items in thy bedroom, thou shalt have these packed up and on the truck before the youth arrive. These items shall be in boxes labeled with something that nobody wishes to explore, like “Doctrines of Salvation and Mormon Doctrine, 2nd Edition”, for nobody needs to see thy toys, thy loincloths, and thine tools of bondage.

  20. I was in the midst of moving. We had a week to go and I was not just packing up my own household, I was also doing what I could to move my daughter and her family out of my basement and into a home of their own. It was a fixer upper, and needed work before she could move in. I was babysitting my grandson while my daughter and son in law were at work. I was attending to the needs of my teenage daughter who is on the spectrum and needed reassurance through the process. And I was serving in the Relief Society presidency. The other counselor and president had obligations out of town, leaving me, at times, as the only available leader. My husband had moved ahead of us for his new job in another state. While we had professional movers to take care of our move, it did not cover my daughter’s family, complicating things a bit. That’s when I got the call from a sister in the ward. She had some medical issues and needed someone to come strip the bed linens, wash them, and replace them on the bed. The entire process would take a few hours, and the task fell upon me. It was the worst possible timing, but I approached the task with a willing heart. The week that followed was stressful to the point of being traumatizing. Many times in the days that followed, I wondered why I didn’t find someone else to attend to the sister in need. I wondered why I hadn’t been released. I was overwhelmed as it was. But then, without my asking, angels (in the form of ward members) came to my aid. They brought in meals so I wouldn’t have to cook. One member arranged for help in some of the repairs needed to get my daughter in her home. I had help with the final cleaning to prepare for the buyers of my house. In the end, it all worked out. I’m convinced that this is the way it should be. We give what we can. Others contribute what they can. We are aware of each other’s needs and work together with willing hearts. It works best when our hearts are turned to others without worrying whether they are taking advantage of our free labor. (Some will.) it works best when we are in a position to serve without adding to our own stress. (But the timing sometimes sucks.) Not gonna lie. I never want to have a summer like that again. But. I’m grateful for those who served me and for the opportunity to serve and for the lessons I learned.

  21. Berta: Your comment is an important addition. I haven’t been in a ward where there was an expectation for the women (as opposed to the youth) to provide free child care to ward members, particularly as a replacement for day care! That’s pretty outrageous–it’s clearly a service people should pay for. I’ve never been a SAHM, so perhaps I’m just oblivious, but as a woman who had a career I would never in a million years have expected such a service for free. We always always paid for it. It wasn’t even a question.

    Frankly, it’s galling to me for women in general to be expected to cook meals for people. Men should be able to cook as well as women. I have yet to use my uterus in meal preparation. I particularly object to the idea that a man who is not physically incapable can’t cook a meal for himself or his family. It makes sense if he works a night perhaps, but shouldn’t be a given. I’ve been asked to cook meals a few times for people (which I don’t do except on Sundays because I’ve always worked), and then bring it in because the man couldn’t be bothered. Give me a break! Why is my time so less precious that I should be asked to cook when we BOTH worked all day at a career? What’s the justification for him being off the hook?

    When the “feed the missionaries” calendar gets passed in my current ward, though, it only goes to the RS. I’ve explained elsewhere why I will no longer sign up for that (5:00 PM eating time plus they are terrified to enter my home without my husband present as if I’m going to drag them off to my sex dungeon).

    Likewise for food signups for ward parties. In my last ward that was not so. They always passed it in both EQ and RS because they didn’t assume it was “women’s work,” which it is not. They likewise assumed that if there was a nursery at a ward event, it would be staffed by both the YM and the YW. That’s been the case in my last two wards prior to this one.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, I don’t really get the bring in meals thing. Sure, if the husband is out of town and the wife is just home from the hospital with a newborn or something. But generally, it’s not something we would expect or even really want. I can handle getting a meal together.

  23. It’s been a long time since I had a new baby in the house, but I do want to speak in favor of meals. I mean, yes, I can cook. And do, at least half the time. But in the chaos of a new baby, it’s a lovely service to receive.

    Also, fwiw, it’s not exclusively a Mormon thing. The preschool my kids attended organized “meal trains” for families with new babies.

    I mean, I can see it getting oppressive if you’re in a Ward with dozens of new babies each month (out whatever).

    That said, I certainly wouldn’t want to find a chef in the ward and expect him or her to do all the meal-providing. And I wouldn’t expect people to bring meals. But I was certainly appreciative when it happened. (Also, the assumed gender imbalance is kinda absurd. Though the missionary meal calendar is passed around in Sunday School in my current Ward, so that ameliorates the gender imbalance a little.)

  24. I HATE cooking, so it’s the first thing I stop doing if my life is in any kind of chaos. I definitely get the bringing of meals idea.

  25. Love this thread. I love the Mormon (culturally speaking) spirit of service but I had not really considered the ways that service might disadvantage small business owners and artists. I have seen the reverse though – the ward might know that someone is in a tight spot and gently encourage others to hire that person if they can in their area of expertise.

    As far as my personal experiences – I was once asked as part of the compassionate service committee to deliver mint chocolate oreo cookies to a hospital at 6AM. Of course there was no real physical need attached to that, but it seemed like what the sister really needed was for someone to show up and care about her surgery. I was happy to do that.

    And then there is the service that is sweet but perhaps over-stepping. My ward once conspired to lay sod for a family while they were out of town. They had a severely disabled daughter and perhaps other needs I wasn’t aware of. I hope they appreciated the spirit in which it was done, but I would find that kind of un-asked for service very intrusive. Similarly, a ward member and good friend once repaired the roof of our trailer without being asked. It was extremely kind but really offended my dad who is very proud.

  26. I feel this way as a stay at home mom that gets asked to watch others’ kids a lot. I truly don’t mind in an emergency, or to do a favor for an hour or two, especially if their kids are the right age to play with mine.
    When I do mind is when there are plenty of teens home that could babysit when they aren’t in school. Teens here charge at least $10 an hour to babysit, which can be a burden, but it isn’t like it’s easy for me either.
    Or when it’s an all day expectation. I was asked to watch 4 kids of someone else’s for 10 hours a day while she went to girls’ camp. I am pretty overwhelmed with my family as it is. I think having 4 small children means you can’t go, or your husband has to take vacation days, grandma watches them, or you pay a babysitter.
    There are a lot of women who babysit others in their home for extra income, I am not cut out to be one of them.

  27. The worst example I have ever seen was a mom of 6 kids who asked the ward to PACK, CLEAN, and MOVE their stuff because she and her husband were working full time. I can’t believe the ward did it. It was even her own mother’s house that they were renting.

    Her husband just didn’t want to do it. She thought him incapable of it anyway and wanted a woman’s touch in the cleaning. She could have asked off work, but admitted that then she wouldn’t have time off to go on a trip to run a half marathon in another city she signed up for.

    I was not sad to see her move out of the ward. She regularly blasted the ward on social media for not reading her mind and showing up to serve her. It really hurt everyone’s feelings as we are a very service oriented ward, and so it sent people scurrying to her aid. She also blasted the relief society on social media for not throwing her a baby shower for her 6th child- even though that wasn’t really something the relief society did.

  28. Also, our missionaries want to be fed at 4pm now. What is it with mission presidents’ moving up the meal times? My elementary kids aren’t even off the bus at 4pm. Missionaries need to know the members for support and referrals. They never get fed on weekdays anymore and we regularly get guilt trips about it. They even suggest we drop stuff off at 4 for them, but the moms with kids are running around getting kids home from school at that time. There are no men home to protect the missionaries from we slutty housewives, and the working women and men aren’t home yet-let alone home in time to cook a meal.
    That leaves the retirees, I guess.

  29. About 20 years ago, there was a guy in our office who approached one of the women managers in the break room while she was eating her lunch. He said, “You look like a good cook.” After she got over that backhanded compliment, he continued, “What do you say you bring me in a meal each day to the office, whatever you’ve made for your family the night before is fine, and I pay you like $1 or $1.25 a day to do that?” Somehow he escaped with his life.

    His sexist assumptions about the value of her time are too often behind the assumptions of what women in the church should be willing to do all the time. I’d simply like the men to be asked about childcare and meals and the women to be asked to participate in the moves. If it’s not a suitable ask for a man, it’s not a suitable ask. If the person requesting it has more ability, more free time and more financial resources to do it than the one giving the service, then it’s not a suitable ask.

  30. This is the first ward I’ve been in in a long time where the YW are utilized for childcare during RS enrichment nights instead of the EQ. When I brought up the possibility of requesting the fathers put a little skin in the game when it came to childcare I got a deer in the headlights look. It had never occurred to the women in the ward to make such a request. I had noticed that when the men are asked to help staff the nursery, a lot more men were willing to just keep their own kids at home with them and only the women who truly had no other option were bringing their kids to the nursery.

    My family has seldom been the recipients of service from the wards we have lived in. In large part because we just never saw the need to request it if we could possibly manage on our own. But also because we didn’t seem to be known enough that the leadership in the ward had any real idea what was going on in our lives. Or maybe they just thought we were solid enough members they could ignore us in favor of more needy/shaky members.

  31. Mormom – 4pm??? I thought the mission president who required 5pm dinner times was bad. At least that’s generally considered the start of evening. And if you’re really determined, you can take them out for dinner the second work ends, I guess. But wow. Ridiculous.

  32. It’s a balancing act really. On the professional services front, many legal professionals do “pro bono” work as service to the needy and less fortunate. I figure the counseling, music and other skills is just another manifestation of that same desire to help. And unlike legal volunteerism, the Church assignment aspect has much more potential for abuse.

    The Church(tm) has a long history of expecting professional services for free, from building temples in Kirtland and Nauvoo and local meeting houses into the 1970s to janitorial service today. “Service missionaries” in SLC do accounting and receptionist work. Early morning seminary teachers do the same work as CES instructors, but without pay. FT missionaries are essentially unpaid door-to-door salesmen, overseen by an unpaid president. And heaven knows bishops provide counseling services. It’s just part of the culture.

    Also, as the (apparently) only right wing reader left on this blog, I must push back on your claim that early Christian efforts at consecration were socialism. They could be characterized as voluntary communitarianism, but that’s totally different from socialism. Compare, for example, Stalin’s forced collectivization of farms in the Ukraine that left tens of thousands dead, with Mormon’s collaborative approach to growing sugar beets during the same time period. Night and day difference.

  33. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    oh my gosh, “nobody, really” for just about the strongest win imaginable. chapter one? HILARIOUS! Please submit more chapters!

  34. Youraveragemormon says:

    Here’s another area where this exists: music. As a pianist, I’m constantly asked to play at church. I’m fine with it— it’s easy and convenient for me, and since I have a degree in piano, I don’t need to practice for anything. The gray area begins when people ask me to play outside of church. I had one couple ask me to play at their wedding. We were both in college and I was her visiting teacher, so she assumed it would be free. Because I was fairly young and inexperienced, I didn’t make a contract with her over hourly rates or expectations. Months after the reception, and after I’d contacted her numerous times, she paid me $20 for 3 hours of reception background music. That didn’t even cover the cost of the music I bought! She assumed it would be free because we were both members in the same ward, whereas I assumed she knew that this type of event was close soldered a professional gig.

    That wasn’t the first time someone has asked me to provide music services and it hasn’t been the last. My rule now is: if I’m playing at church or for a church activity then it’s free. If my musical talent is being used outside of those two occasions, then I state my rates. It definitely has earned me the side-eye but I’m not going to teach lessons for free, I’m not going to transcribe someone’s composition for free, and I’m not going to play for a public event for free. Those things fall under freeloading!

  35. Youraveragemormon, I’ve had similar experiences, but my rule is somewhat different because some activities “at church” are not church activities, e.g. funerals and weddings and wedding receptions, and some requests for transcriptions, composition, arrangement, or performance come from people who have willingly supported what I have asked them to do (usually in a church-sponsored context). While I do not mind donating my time and talents for a funeral, for example, that I would be attending anyway, it is offensive to be expected to do so for free at a funeral I would not otherwise be attending. Similarly, it was offensive to find myself playing for a funeral, even for friends, that dragged on for 2 1/2 hours, almost making me miss a plane. After that one, I have also contemplated telling people how long I’m willing to stay at an event. If they can’t wrap it up in the agreed time, that’s their problem. Outside the Mormon context, there is no American church that expects organists/pianists to play for free for church service, weddings, or funerals. Requests are one thing; expectations are quite something else. Some of those free loaders should be told to go take lessons for years and practice for thousands of hours so they can do it themselves “for free.”

  36. One thing I tried as a compassionate service leader a few times was to send out an email a few months prior to university move-out time to time vters of any woman moving. The email basically said “you visit teach someone who will be moving in a few months. Over the next few months, perhaps you could consider what you could do to help your sister prepare for her move.” And then I listed some suggestions of varying sorts – loaning air mattresses the night or 2 before the move, helping to sort or pack, offer to take all the random stuff to Goodwill or recycle the leftover chemicals. Clean baseboards or cupboards, find moving boxes, watch children, bring dinner, etc. My hope was that it would give the women a reason to go over for vting/service, every if they hadn’t been in regular contact before and also encourage the idea of preparing for a move. I did the same for vters of pregnant women – working together to help prepare for an upcoming event.
    I’m not sure if it worked or not, but it made me feel better to hope that it did.

  37. I have not had bad experiences giving service or receiving it, but I don’t doubt some of the bad experiences expressed here. I have lived in affluent wards (which felt more like belonging to a country club), in which members actively looked for service opportunities and then dogpiled when one availed itself, to impoverished wards with staggeringly high needs. I think our elders quorum at the time (old version of the EQ) was moving people in and out of a multi-family housing complex three to four times per month. It was the same half dozen of us who showed up almost every Saturday morning, but none complained. We recognized the people we moved were in desperate circumstances, most of the time. It was tiring but we felt compelled. (I can say the half dozen of us bonded deeply and often went to lunch after and then resumed our Saturday family obligations.) Our EQ president created a checklist to help those who asked for help be better prepared. It made things better.

    I have also been in more mixed wards with a mix of professional class and depressed families, and nearly all of the members with professional skills generously gave of their time. One, an accountant, would freely meet with couples struggling financially–at least for those who asked the bishop for help in learning how to budget–and teach them how to organize their finances. I never heard of anyone asking him to do their taxes for free. I never saw this kind of help turn into an expectation or entitlement–most where overwhelmed by the generosity of the giver. Another, a lawyer, would provide basic counsel and steer people to pro bono services. Once, a ward member, an elderly widow, went to his law office and asked him to help her draft a will. He did. She received the bill for a little over a thousand dollars. She called his office wondering if there was an error, maybe an extra zero had been added by accident. The member lawyer happened to overhear his office manager on the phone with the widow and changed the invoice to read: two lemon meringue pies, terms net thirty. But this was a special ward and I have never lived in one like it since. To my knowledge, no one every approached him and said, “I hear you do wills for pies,” and I know if they did he would have had a direct conversation with them about the expectation they pay him a fair rate. I raise this not to shame those who have felt imposed upon because I know that happens, and when it does it is wrong and needs to be directly confronted. I will also add that we had an inactive member who was an arborist. He never came to church but told us if any members needed help with tree removal, especially the elderly or those in desperate circumstances, to give him a call. He enjoyed helping people but told me (I was in the bishopric at the time) attending church was worse for him than going to the dentist. I thought he was a saint.

    I do think there is a problem with those who know how to play the organ and piano. I have never been in a ward with more than two or three with these talents. It’s easy for these individuals to be consigned to the calling…forever. Other churches in the town in which I grew up paid their organists and pianists…often those musicians were of another faith. That is something for our church to think about, in my opinion, paying the ward organists for their time.

    One problem we suffer from in our church culture is being direct with a communication style that is not offensive. Instead, we allow ourselves to be imposed upon, and instead of managing the problem realistically and with love, we become passively aggressive against those who ask for services who are able to provide them for themselves, or who do so with unrealistic demands.

    But I also think the church relies on members to bear the cost of helping members too much when it could do more to provide resources to help people in trouble or with chronic needs. The church often subsidizes counseling services for those in need of marriage counseling or mental health services. I have never seen a member who is an LCSW, however, be approached and asked to counsel someone in the ward or stake, for free. I have worked with bishops who very generously used church funds to pay for prescriptions when families could not afford to cover the bill. I never saw an instance where bishops I worked with covered legal expenses, however. It seems to me the church at the general level prefers not to pay for anything when it can avoid it, but has no problem with individual members stepping forward (to pay for the cost of missionary service, for example). I’m not sure I agree with that. (And I’m not going to make any remarks about the church’s $32B in liquid assets.)

    While I’m sure some members have exploited too much from their quorum for sod laying or other work, I have never seen this at a level that has drawn my attention. I do think a very real problem for the church to struggle with, given its Christian mandate, is how to help members with chronic needs. We just simply don’t do well institutionally with these kinds of members and I think we hide behind the mandate for members to be “self-reliant” and to take responsibility for themselves as reasons not to extend long-term help when there are few or no other options for these members. At most, we give members a good shove and then expect them to walk on their own. But what if they can’t? What if they need ongoing help? What if they have no family alive to help them? What if they have no one? I know a member who is a shut-in because she is obese (~500lbs) and suffers from a number of complicated and difficult to treat conditions. Don’t ask me how many times I have overheard members say she just needs to lose weight; she also suffers from chronic mental illness (depression) and has a complicated background. Thinking she simply needs to lose weight demonstrates a real level of ignorance. Because she manages to work about 15-20 hours a week from her home (she tries very hard to provide for herself), she does not qualify for government services, but it is not enough even to being to cover what she needs. She suffers and is in need of so much help and companionship to get her to a minimum baseline of provident living. She needs help with house cleaning, personal hygiene, and emotional support. She has no one. Bishops have told her they are not equiped to help her on an ongoing basis. Visiting teachers stop showing up–admittedly hers is a tough environment to go into (the smell alone is overpowering). She is largely ignored because it makes most of us very uncomfortable to be around her. It is hard to know what to do or how to handle the complexity of her problems–they are so overwhelming. I guess I am confused why the church does not have a paid, professional, care giving arm to assist members with these kinds of needs. While I think her ward could do much more and should do much more for her, no ward member can help her enough to change her life. She needs professional support and medical attention. The church will not provide the ongoing support and care she needs because of its policies. I argue that she, and others like her, fall into a category where these policies ought not to be applied. I would prefer not to hear the argument that this is a slippery slope and we would only be hurting these people by creating a dependency…again, these are individuals who have no support and may never be able to be totally self-sufficient. So…what are we to do in these kinds of cases?

  38. Check the Box says:

    Some years ago, a quadriplegic woman lived in our ward. She required virtually daily care by ward members, almost always by sisters. Some of the service required was difficult and some of it near-revolting. I know of it because my wife was RS president and often was the one doing the service. My wife worked full-time at a demanding job and, of course, had family responsibilities to go along with her RS work. Her attitude – and that of most ward members – was this woman could not do these tasks on her own. They provided the service willingly and without complaint. The woman’s parents and other family members lived in a neighboring stake within a few miles drive from the sister’s residence. I never heard of a family member participating in the marathon of care our ward’s sisters provided. That all came to an end when our newly called bishop walked into the foyer during Sunday school to see a ward member (a trained nurse) cleaning the disabled woman’s tracheotomy and reinserting the breathing apparatus. The bishop immediately called the woman’s father and said our ward would no longer provide extensive services for the sister. He said it was unfair to our sisters and a potential liability to them and to the Church. He suggested the family provide the needed services or arrange to have paid professional care. The family responded by moving the sister out of our ward. The father openly and vocally criticized the bishop and our ward, saying that we completely let his daughter down; that our members refused to provide any service to her. He praised the new ward because they took on the caregiver role, again with no support from the family. The moral: no good deed goes unpunished.

  39. Bro. Jones says:

    Angela C: when a request to prepare meals has come to my family, I did the cooking–as I always do. And whenever I’ve been in a setting where someone makes a remark like “Perhaps the brethren’s wives can make some baked treats for this event?” I very quickly pipe up: “The brethren can bake just fine too, get to it.” Our past couple wards have been good about saying “The youth can help out with watching the kids” instead of “the Young Women.” And there’ve been some fun times where kids of all ages go nuts in the gym. Small progress but it’s good.

  40. Jack Hughes says:

    Another example of church members being asked to do their professional job for free:
    My mother-in-law has been an elementary school teacher for 30+ years. For most of those years, she was regularly called to be a primary teacher. Leaders just assumed that being a professional teacher meant she was good with kids and enjoyed it. About 10 years ago, she explained to the bishop that 5 days in a row of teaching other peoples’ kids for low pay is so draining that also having to do it on Sunday for free is absolutely demoralizing, and at that stage of life she needed church to be a respite instead of another stressor. She politely told him to go pound sand, and subsequently never got a primary calling again.

    Even is someone is willing to provide professional services for free in Church settings, never assume that they are enjoying it.

  41. richellejolene says:

    Thanks for writing this post, Angela! I have been thinking about this a fair bit lately. I’m not exactly sure where I land, as each situation seems to require its own consideration. For example, I’m one of the Mormons who has completely taken advantage of the ward moving services. When I first arrived at my current city for grad school (no friends or family living here), I was so impressed with the YSA ward’s willingness to pitch in for me as a perfect stranger. Honestly, it’s half the reason I kept attending the ward for my first year or so. I had already borrowed money to make the move in the first place (cross-country pod service, local truck rental) and wasn’t slated to get my first university paycheck for a full two months after arriving. It would have been a serious financial burden to hire professional movers, nigh unto impossible in my circumstances. I was so glad for the men and women who came to support me during what was, for me, an incredibly difficult time.

    On the other hand, I have little sympathy for run-of-the-mill cheapskate Mormons. Folks who have the means to hire professionals or compensate ward members to do the task but just refuse to because of some twisted notion that being financially responsible is the same thing as being stingy.

    I completely agree with what Berta has said about labor gendered as feminine. As an unmarried woman, there has more than once been an assumption that I magically have the time/skills/desire to babysit at the going rate of a teenager. More often, there are emails that go out in our RS listserv asking for childcare in exchange for cookies. COOKIES. Like, no thanks, baked goods aren’t a real currency. If I want a cookie so bad, I’ll get one at the deli for 99 cents and NOT watch your kids for four hours.

    Again, there are always exceptions. When families have a mutual deal with each other to swap childcare or other household duties, that’s fabulous. I know my sister has benefited from cooperative arrangements like that. But expecting unmarried or childless members to “have more time” or to accept sugar as compensation really rubs me the wrong way.

  42. richellejolene says:

    Quick thought: how do folks feel about using the ward budget as a way to compensate members for doing certain tasks? That way, families who are strapped can receive assistance without putting undue burden on ward members with certain talents or qualifications.

    I have mixed feelings on this and can anticipate some possible abuses, but it seems like the ward budget is another place where we’re awfully stingy. I remember having YSA ward members (usually broke college students or young professionals) pitch in for ward BBQs, trips to historical sites, or campouts that could easily have been covered by the ward. And honestly, imo, no reason not to fully fund folks to go on ward temple trips when the temple is not close by.

  43. Shy Saint says:

    How does this question apply to the church conscripting members as cleaning crews?

  44. Not a Cougar says:

    Bro. Jones, I’m sorry, but I don’t want the young men babysitting my children, ever.

  45. In our business, the biggest cheapskate story I’ve ever encountered was a Mormon one, though not in our ward. They were looking for house cleaning, and I went to the home in a different suburb to bid. When I walked in, the house was full of Mormon kitsch, and I commented that we were also Mormons. She was elated that I was an answer to prayers because they really needed some help, and had a hard time finding it. As we walked through the house, she kept trying to add things on that are not normally done in house cleaning: pulling the refrigerator and dryer out to get behind (I couldn’t budge either of them, and I’m stronger than most of our staff), and she also wanted someone to help her sort family photos, set up her computer, and figure out the PAF system for her genealogy (!) which are definitely not services our company can provide.

    I explained that the first clean would be about 4 hours for 2 people, $75 per hour. This is a very competitive rate for our city for this type of service. She was shocked. “Oh, I thought the girl on the phone said $5 an hour!” I patiently explained that $5 an hour was well below minimum wage (currently $10.50/hr in AZ and rising), and she wouldn’t be able to get a Beehive or Deacon in the neighborhood for that rate, let alone a professional company with payroll taxes, insurance, royalties, marketing costs, office and field support, driving costs, and their own equipment.

    I can’t completely second the statement that I would never do business with Mormons, but there are some I would prefer not to work with. About a mile from that woman’s home, we had another Mormon family. The wife was an executive who traveled a lot, and the husband was a contractor who worked locally. They were great customers. Not all Mormons are living in a fantasy about what things cost.

  46. Not a Cougar says:

    richelle, while it’s not full funding, the Church does have patrons’ quarters at some temples. That was really the only way Filipino members I knew could afford to attend the temple in Manila. The boat ticket and food were expensive but doable on meager budgets (if infrequently), but lodging was next to impossible.

  47. Kevin Barney says:

    4:00 pm required time for missionary dinner appointments? That’s insane. I suppose the theory is that way the elders can go tracting during the normal dinner hour and catch lots of people at home. But whoever is coming up with this plan doesn’t appreciate the negative framing of such an intrusive contact. (Our elders told me they were required to go tracting on Christmas day for this very reason. I told them not to be surprised to be greeted by the occasional shotgun.)

    While I’m at it, I think the chaperoning rules for missionaries are bizarre. I assume somewhere sometime there was some sort of lived experience that gave rise to those rules, but they are overkill. I was a missionary in the late 70s and we didn’t have such rules, presumably on the seemingly reasonable assumption that we had a companion who was with us all the time and thus always had a built in chaperone. It worked perfectly fine that way back in the day. When we insist on bringing three people to a teaching appointment with the not so subtle implication that the Church views said investigator as a potential sexual threat, to the missionaries or the missionaries as a potential sexual threat to the investigator, it’s not a good look.

  48. Sidebottom says:

    I recognize the need to set boundaries in providing service, but I’ve also observed a tendency to immediately classify folks who we don’t know (or like) as “freeloaders”. My own ward mobilized a small army to provide child care and meals for a family with a mild medical scare while intentionally choosing not to serve a marginally active family whose life had been completely upended.

  49. My husband is a dentist. His mom is president of a stake auxiliary. One of her counselors was in need of dental work and confided in her that she couldn’t afford the fee so mom talked him into a (steep) discount (almost at the lab cost). He did the work he could and referred her to a specialist for the rest. She paid the specialist’s full fee, no questions asked, even though he is also a member. Lesson learned: no more discounts (we don’t ask for them, either).

  50. Richelle, I am still shaking my head over the notion of paying women for childcare with cookies. Cookies! My teenage daughter wouldn’t do it for cookies, so why should we expect an ADULT to do so?

  51. Bro. Jones says:

    Not a Cougar – Yikes. A sad but necessary observation. The situation I referred to was basically all the youth watching all the younger kids in a big open space (the gym/cultural hall) but I agree with your concern.

  52. Not a Cougar says:

    Bro. Jones, yes, unfortunately, very real personal experience has led me to that conclusion. I mean no disrespect to young men or their families as the vast majority wouldn’t hurt a fly, but the risks far outweigh the benefits in my opinion.

  53. As someone who graduated with a genealogy degree but chose a different path – the family history aspect in the ward is unquenching
    As soon as that skill is heard I’ve been called as Family history consultant and the outside of class requests become too much.

    There really is a “I need names for the temple at all costs” mentality where the accuracy of extending your family tree an additional level becomes secondary

    My particular skill with genealogy comes through years and years of hard work and experience but I know that the moment I suggested a payment for research option to continue after the 10+ hours I’ve vountered, I would never hear from them again

  54. To clarify – I meant that I worked with one family in particular for over 10 hours in their home

  55. it's a series of tubes says:

    Quick thought: how do folks feel about using the ward budget as a way to compensate members for doing certain tasks?

    Richelle, I’m not sure how it operates where you are located, but in my location (upper middle class suburb of a large western American city), our annual ward budget is about $10,000. We’re the largest ward in our stake, with sacrament attendance typically around the 250 mark, and we send more than $1m in tithing to SLC each year. “budget” for us is a comical notion as this amount is actually smaller than it was 10 years ago, and isn’t enough, by half, to fund what actually needs to be done. So everything is run off the books on the pockets of the organizational leaders. On a positive note, the YW budget is more than 30% of the total, more than any other organization, so that’s at least something.

  56. johnrmuir1 says:

    As EQ president I was disturbed by moving requests that involved items too big for the Elders or simply required too much time. So we created a document to give to people asking for moving assistance that detailed 1) the time we would arrive, 2) that nobody was asked to provide services for more than two hours, 3) heavy, exotic (we once moved lady who had terrariums with rare spiders and an iguana hanging from the light fixture) or valuable items should be moved by professionals, and 4) they were expected to have everything that could be packed to be in sturdy boxes. Knowing that they were not walking into a half day ordeal improved the participation rate of the EQ.

  57. Las Vegas. In September 2012, a year after moving across town out of my old ward into a new, and having been lunch friends with my former bishop, I got a call.

    It was him.

    It was my old (and currently serving) bishop. He asked, based on our friendship, for a loan of approx. $7,000. Something about a secondary mortgage company threatening foreclosure if a settlement wasn’t paid in a week or whatever. In short, I agreed and wired the sum to GMAC the next day. We verbally agreed it was a loan with the assurance that he would “chip away at it” and repay it.

    Six years to the month and I haven’t seen a dime. Little thanks expressed. A year later he said, “I haven’t forgotten”. Since then: Crickets.

    I hear he’s’ now on the Stake HC. I’ve moved on but learned the hard way.

    Reminds me of the joke: A Mormon and a Jew marry, have a son, and raise him up in both faiths. Timmy comes to mom and dad and asks: My friend has a bike for sale, and I need your advice. Should I jew him down on price or just steal it?