Today’s post is a list of ten things I like about my ward. The impetus is a comment by Mormon Heretic to my post last week where he said, “It seems like many of the items in here are a bit like scab-picking to me, and seems to have a negative focus. I mean I do some scab-picking too (like my recent “Dumbing Down the Gospel”), but I hope it isn’t a steady diet.” And he was right. While I have pointed out things I would do differently if I were in charge, it’s not all doom and gloom, so I don’t want to give that impression. While the LDS Church is obviously a global organization, past a ward level it’s generally just management. Leaders above bishop rarely know people on an individual basis but give talks and mostly focus on policies and administration. So, in reality, the gospel is lived “in the trenches” on a ward level. And I happen to live in a great ward.
For those who haven’t picked up on it from prior posts, I live in Salt Lake City, in the heart of the Church. I can look out from my back porch and see downtown Salt Lake. From my neighborhood I can see several temples. A general authority lives in my ward. We occasionally have an apostle visit the ward. We have a wide range of occupations and life circumstances represented. So, why do I like my ward? In reality, there are a number of reasons. In homage to David Letterman, who we watched every night when I was at BYU, and who we even emulated by dropping objects like bowling balls off the Spencer W Kimball tower, I narrowed it down to ten. This isn’t necessarily my top ten, and they aren’t in any particular order, but here goes:
We have a member of the ward who addresses the ward with a big “Aloha” every time he stands up for anything – even if he’s just making an announcement as part of his calling. It was even better when a member of the bishopric started sacrament meeting one day with a big “Aloha”, not even having any ties to Hawaii and completely out of character for him. After everyone gave a somewhat surprised “aloha” back, he kind of chuckled and said, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” He then started sacrament meeting.
We have a pool, and because I have kids, we regularly have a dozen or more kids here on any given summer day. At least 80% of the girls from the ward wear bikinis when they are here, and no one cares. Sometimes they wear tankinis, sometimes they wear one-piece swimming suits, whatever. It’s refreshing that the majority of people in my ward aren’t hung up on something so trivial.
8. Being YM President
My calling before my current one was YM President, and we had a big group of kids. I generally had 25 priests, 20 teachers and 20 deacons at any given time. Because I had good people helping, I mostly focused on the priests. We did a lot of fun things, including playing laser tag regularly, going to a club to watch a band play, putting casts on each other and playing with x-ray machines, hiking in the Wasatch mountains, playing frisbee golf, having a Xbox Halo 3 party with pizza and multiple TVs hooked up throughout my house, summer BBQ & pool parties, etc. We also did a number of spiritual things. We met each Sunday morning as a quorum and read the Book of Mormon for an hour before Church; we covered a chapter in Preach My Gospel once a month in our quorum meetings; we memorized scriptures; we served retirement branches in our stake; we did multiple service projects; etc. In the two years that they were priests, each boy read the Book of Mormon with us nearly twice, and went through Preach My Gospel around 1-1/2 times, all before going to the MTC. We generally had 14-18 missionaries out at a time.
They are great young men and we became great friends. When they had an extra ticket to a midnight movie on a premier night, they’d call me and we’d stay up far too late on a school/work night. It may seem weird, an “old guy” with a bunch of kids, but they were my friends. My wife and I took some of the young men out to dinner before a Dream Theater concert in Las Vegas when we were all down there. I’m proud of what they’ve done, what they’re doing and where they’re going, and I am proud to call them friends.
At the same time, I’m really, really glad that I’m NOT YM President. It was a lot of work keeping everything organized, as well as all of the silly meetings you have to go to as YM President with the other ward leaders. For the past couple of years I have taught Primary and I couldn’t be happier. The kids are great. We have treats and color. Lessons take just a few minutes to prepare. And we get to sing songs.
6. Understanding Bishop
I’m glad that I had a tremendously understanding bishop, as I wasn’t the most traditional YM President. One person asked him what he thought about us having a YM activity where we played an XBox game that was rated “M – Mature”. He said that he didn’t care what we did during the week if it made them more likely to listen on Sunday. He also wasn’t too particular about our budget. For 25 priests, my budget was $200 for the year. This works out to about $0.67 per boy per month. We couldn’t even buy a soda per boy each month for that, let alone do all the things we did. Fortunately, as leaders we were in circumstances where we could “supplement” the activity budget a bit. And at the end of the year, we still had our $200 in our account. Our bishop didn’t micromanage anything, but focused on the big picture of how the YM were developing and learning. I couldn’t have done the job with any other kind of leader over me.
5. Rainbow Shirts & Beards
Because of my callings, I haven’t really been to my own quorum for over half a decade. But when I see the men, I’m glad that no one micromanages there either. On any given Sunday, at least 30% of the men are wearing non-white shirts – blue, green, lilac, pink, striped, grey, black, etc. Probably 10% don’t even wear ties. No one cares. A fair number have beards or goatees or mustaches or scruff. No one cares. I don’t know if anyone has tattoos, though I think it would be cool because I really like tattoos. But no one would really care about that either.
We truly have devoted members who follow-through on things. While YM President, we planned an entire ward youth conference with a single 20-minute meeting. Our youth conference involved traveling 4 hours to Moab, with a service project in Salt Lake City and a devotional in Provo on the way. It involved camping and food. It even involved a day rafting the Colorado River with 80+ people. Don’t ask how we fit it in the budget, but the whole thing was essentially planned with email and texts. A month before, one person said they would take care of the tents. I never talked to them again but the morning we were leaving, they were all loaded on a trailer. Someone else said they would organize the service projects and that was done. Another person set up the devotional. And so on. We created a list of tasks – everyone volunteered for one – and everyone followed through. It was seamless.
And it’s like this in all aspects of the ward. One of the members set up a server for the Elders’ Quorum. Home teaching followup is done with a monthly email. You can click “YES” or “NO”. There is a space to fill in any special needs or feedback. It’s slick. There are automated text & email reminders for various activities, etc. We have someone whose entire calling is helping 14+ year old scouts finish the few little requirements they have for Eagle. We have someone who tracks Duty To God, and who meets with all 60 FAMILIES at least once a year to go over things. We have Halloween parties will ALL the kids in the neighborhood, LDS or not. We have Primary triathalons. We have dunk tanks and hot dogs. And it goes on and on. We have a very devoted ward who truly go the extra mile.
3. Temple Recommend Interview
For my last temple recommend interview a few months back, the counselor told me that the recommend was really between me and God and that he didn’t think he needed to ask me any questions at all. The fact that I scheduled the interview and had a desire for a recommend was enough for him. Since he was required to go through the questions, he again said that the answers didn’t really matter to him, as God knew my heart and that’s who it was with anyway. It was very refreshing.
At least every week or two, I have someone call at random times of the day asking if I could see them for some sort of medical problem or question. But it goes both ways. I could literally call just about anyone in the ward at any time and they would drop what they were doing to help me. I’ve been called at 10pm to help give blessings. I’ve called people at midnight when one of my son’s teeth was just about knocked out. We have people with medical issues who are still having dinner brought 5x/week nearly two years later. People shovel each others walks. People serve. This is the true spirit of Christ – being willing to serve your fellowman and put their needs above your own. And my ward has it.
1. People Trying To Be Better People
Finally, my ward is filled with great people trying to be better people. We all have our issues. Just about every family has some sort of crisis they are going through, or else someone in their extended family, or their close friends, or whoever. There are good times and bad times. We have people addicted to drugs. We have people recovered from drugs. We have dozens of missionaries out. We have missionaries who came home and left again. We have missionaries who just plain came home. We have tragedy and success. But none of that matters. We just keep on trying to be better. And that the end of the day, that striving to be better is all that truly matters.
This list could go on and on – I brainstormed at least a couple of dozen other things I could have listed but stopped here. I am truly blessed to live in a great neighborhood, and in a great ward where no one cares if you’re LDS or not, no one cares how “active” you might be, no one cares where you’ve been or what you do or how much money you have. People just accept you as you are.
And that’s my ward.
- What about your ward?
- If you’re active, what are things you like about your ward?
- If you’re not currently active, what are things that you did like about your ward?
- Were there things you liked about your ward growing up?