I’ve been surprised as a member of the RS presidency just what percent of our leadership meetings consist of discussing requests for assistance and our plans to attempt to fulfill those needs. As you can imagine, such requests vary in terms of reasonableness, both in scope and specifics.
I’ve also been listening to the History of England podcast on my commute, most recently the part about the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Interestingly, most of the monasteries that were first targeted were the local ones that were supposed to provide relief in smaller areas. These religious orders were supposed to be caring for the poor, and they were being shut down under the guise of being corrupt (the reality is much more mixed than pure corruption–yes, there were some abuses, but also, many in these orders were attempting to fulfill what they considered their order’s Christian duty). A statistic was shared in the podcast that roughly 7-9% of their money went directly to assist the local poor. That seemed like a rather low number to me. The rest of the funds must have gone to support the organization itself, its inhabitants (the monks and nuns and so forth). Some of these groups made goods (such as small beer or herbs) that could be sold in addition to selling indulgences.
So, what do dissolved monasteries have to do with the ministering program? Aside from the obvious similarities between the correlation movement and the dissolution, one observation is that these orders were intended to provide local support to those in need, much like our ministering program is today. When they were dissolved by the newly supreme royalty (just a little Henry VIII dig), and their goods were taken, their inhabitants turned out, and their livelihood made unlively, they could no longer fill that gap, which is one reason there was some unrest among the local and more outlying residents in the wake of the dissolution. There was suddenly more need than resource to fill that need, and instead of feeding the poor, the King’s coffers were enriched and his cronies suddenly got to live in estates with names like Northanger Abbey. 
But I digress. One key difference between the ministering currently done and that done in the earliest days of the Relief Society is that now the majority of our time is spent discussing requests that were made by ward members, and in the early days, the group was formed to do charitable works in general for the unwashed masses, not just those within the group helping others within the group. And those requests we are evaluating are sometimes odd, sometimes onerous, and sometimes outrageous!
I’m in an online group for those who are currently serving in a Relief Society Presidency, and this is also a hot topic of discussion, usually framed as “What should I do with this [weird] request?” One sister called the church’s hotline to get some advice on a long-term in-home health care request and got some great guidance, that many sisters found helpful. The advice was:
- no long term services
- no personal hygiene care
- no financial management
- no administering medications
Ministers should be friends, not full-time caregivers. My own principles are somewhat similar to these, and for a lot of the same reasons, but I’d add a couple more that are not strictly liability-based:
- Anything you can ask the sisters to do, you should also ask the elders to do. This counts both ways. Men can bring in a meal. Women can move boxes.
- People shouldn’t be asked to do for free what they do for a living.
- Don’t ask someone to do something for free that you can afford to pay for.
When my husband and I left corporate, we opened a small business that does professional house cleaning. Before we started this business we talked to friends in Salt Lake who opened an in home elder care business. They explained that one of their biggest competitors is the Relief Society! Which is kind of crazy, when you think about it. Now that I’m in this type of business (personal, in the home, with potential liability issues) I realize that church members volunteering have several risks (as do homeowners) when these services are provided for free:
- No training. People who are performing the work may not have a clue how to do this type of work, even if you think “everybody knows how to do this!” If there are tools or products or chemicals, they could be misused. If there is an expectation that the work will be done well, that’s probably unrealistic.
- No insurance. If something is damaged in the home, who is going to bear that cost? Will the person making the request expect the church or the volunteers to pay to replace things?
- No workman’s comp. If a worker is injured in the home, theoretically, the home owner bears that responsibility and could be sued. Likewise, if this is a church-sanctioned activity, someone could sue the church.
Not to mention that there’s an ethical issue with providing for free what local businesses use to make their living! Other questions that I’ve seen come up:
- Is it a need or a luxury? For example, if the request is to do a service in their second home, is that not by default a luxury?
- Is it something that is a monetary benefit to the recipient? For example, if we ask non-working women to drive a woman to her career job, is that fair when she is paid, and they are not? Should ward members do a move so that the person moving can pocket the relocation funds their company provides?
- Gratitude, not entitlement. Boy, nothing irks me more than trying to drum up volunteers when the person making the request is bossy and entitled about it, but when they are humble and grateful, there is nothing more I like than to help them out. I’m pretty sure we all feel the same way.
But switching to the other side, I can seriously see why local members often feel entitled to free help, not just when the need is dire. They have, after all, potentially paid 10% of their lifetime of earnings into the organization, so why shouldn’t they be able to rely on it in their time of need or even time of want, even if that need is longer term? I noted when I was younger that although people frequently joked about tithing being “fire insurance,” it really was a form of socialist insurance that would prevent people from going hungry, would get them through an illness, or would help them through a bout of unemployment.
Now that I’m older, though, I see that while this may work (with some caveats and limits) in the case of welfare funds, it doesn’t always work due to two main limitations:
- Tithing goes to the Church headquarters, but is distributed locally and has limitations as a result. More of your tithing money went to pay for college educations of BYU students (through the subsidy) than you will ever see in Bishop’s storehouse goods.
- Volunteer resources (people who, like you, paid their tithing to the organization) are not limitless and have to be allocated based on local needs.
As you may expect, the squeaky wheel often gets the grease, and 80% of the help goes to 20% of the people. That’s just the nature of the beast. If that’s because those 20% lost the hardship roulette, that’s usually not a problem. If it’s because they are the most entitled 20%, that’s not great.
- Do you see your tithing as an entitlement to local help when needed or do you think the way it is allocated is unfair based on most help needed being local?
- Where would you draw the line in handling ward member requests for help if you were creating guidelines?
- What requests have you heard of that raised an eyebrow for you?
 I guess H8 was a Republican, favoring tax breaks for the wealthy favorites, lots of warmongering to prove his manhood, and assuming the locals would take care of the poor through charity even as he stripped them of the means to do so through taxation and the dissolution of the monasteries.
It is primarily the democrats who raise taxes and persecute religious charities. Now, tax breaks for favorites and warmongering is definitely bipartisan.
Around here, there have been many community ministering opportunities recently. Being well organized and having a whole stake to mobilize for certain widespread problems is beneficial when doing volunteer service. My biggest benefit is being around a bunch of old guys at church that have the tools and know how to assist me in various improvements at home.
I see tithing as running the church as a whole. Plenty of third world subsidies that reduce the local impact. Fast offerings are usually allocated locally, and many seem to benefit.
“Do you see your tithing as an entitlement to local help when needed or do you think the way it is allocated is unfair based on most help needed being local?”
This is an unfair dichotomy.
“Do you see your tithing as an entitlement to local help when needed…?”
That’s better. No. There is no entitlement. Anything offered is a kindness from neighbors.
“Where would you draw the line in handling ward member requests for help if you were creating guidelines?”
1. That everything is voluntary, and that the ward can only promise to try — the ward cannot promise to deliver. An individual can promise to deliver him- or herself, and that is fine, but a Relief Society and an elders quorum president cannot promise the labor of their members.
2. That we must not run faster than we are able. We must say “no” when “no” is the right answer. The needy member might have to find help from other sources. It is okay for the ward to say “no.” It is okay for an individual to say “no.” In either case, no explanations are needed.
3. That there must be no guilt. We may invite others to come help us help a neighbor, but we must not compel them to come help with guilt.
4. That we can try to help people help themselves, but we are only neighbors trying to be helpful while also dealing with our own needs. Long-term or chronic problems are likely beyond our capacity.
5. That anything offered is a kindness from neighbors. If a neighbor tries to help (such as with a plumbing problem) and ends up making things worse, there is no culpability or liability on the neighbor who tried to help.
6. There must be some gratitude. Even if no one shows up to help me move on Saturday, and I have to do it all by myself, I still have to love my neighbors when I see them at church meetings on Sunday. I cannot hate them for letting me down.
7. That people should solve their own problems. For example, if I need help moving on Saturday, I can call friends and neighbors from the ward myself — and I should. It is unfair and unkind for me to demand that the Relief Society president recruit helpers for my move.
As one who has been significantly injured at work, I raised the issue of the work, health and safety aspects of the church “requiring” members to clean chapels.
Essentially these are commercial buildings with commercial level use. With commercial cleaning required.
I emailed the stake facilities person and expressed my concerns about training, use of unknown chemicals and what would happen if I was injured during a cleaning day. He provided no valuable response and said that the church would “sort it out”.
I bet they wouldn’t. I bet they wouldn’t pay my over $100K salary, my medical or medication expenses or any other compensation. I’m sure someone has been injured somewhere cleaning the church. And I hope they were looked after. I could t take that chance and I never participated after that.
Specifically regarding your post, I wonder if the church would accept responsibility or compensate people who we on “church business”..??
Great post. Great footnotes (as usual). A few comments:
1) RS emphasis on “charity in general” prevailed for all of the 19th Century and the first few decades of the 20th, with local Relief Societies doubling as branches of the Red Cross, etc. The move away from general charity to ward-specific help was driven by the financial necessities of the Great Depression, and never recovered thereafter.
2) LDS ministering is a holdover from these early days. That’s why most of the time liability, etc. is not even a consideration.
3) I’ve often said that if women want the priesthood, help people move and set up chairs. That’s 95% of priesthood service.
4) I have no problem asking professionals to donate their skills. Pro bono work is common in the legal field. What separates asking a financial advisor to counsel a fellow ward member and the professional musician or teacher who donate their talent and skill every Sunday?
Good topic. Temperamentally I’m not the type to seek help from Church. The only counterexample I can think of is we used the EQ Moving Company when we moved into our house back in 1988. But I had plenty of equity in that I helped on many dozens of moves in my life, If we were to move again, we’d hire movers (which I acknowledge is easier when one can afford to do so).
I’ve never understood the notion of sending meals to a man when his wife is gone. I would never expect or even want such a service; I’m a grown ass adult and can feed myself. I find that just plain weird.
While I’m willing to help others (within limits), an entitled attitude is a deal breaker for me. It hasn’t happened yet, but were I in such a situation I would just walk away. I’m not your slave. A little humility and gratitude goes a long way.
I think most of these guidelines are pretty solid, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that we shouldn’t ask people to do something they get paid for. One of the greatest practical benefits to activity in the church is being exposed to a community with diverse fields of expertise. It would be a shame to not take advantage of that for the benefit of people in need. Being able to use your expertise to serve is also gratifying. The caveat to that is that such requests should be made privately and judiciously, with an eye to the need of the person receiving the service. I think evaluating whether the service addresses a need or a luxury is much more important than whether the person serving might also do something similar for money. I love being a pro bono attorney, but I make it clear what my limitations are (in terms of skill, my own time, and ethics), and those limits are typically respected.
Speaking of being an attorney, I have had some limited exposure to some legal issues for the Church. My experience is that LDS Aussie is categorically wrong about what would happen if someone got hurt cleaning a chapel. (Unfortunately, that’s about as much as I can legally/ethically say about that). I also don’t think that church cleaning carries a substantial risk of serious injury.
So the program has moved from Ward Teaching (teach a lesson once a month) to Home Teaching (visit once a month, maybe teach, maybe chat, maybe help with this or that task) to Ministering (even less emphasis on teaching anything, just do some service if you can, and a visit now and then would be nice).
Clearly Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching was something like a template for Ministering. It was supposed to be a new and improved version of HT and VT. But the leadership also quite directly told us that no, this wasn’t HT and VT, it was something new: Ministering. So no one is quite sure what it is, but most people are quite happy that Home Teaching is gone. Less work, less guilt, happier members.
“What separates asking a financial advisor to counsel a fellow ward member and the professional musician or teacher who donate their talent and skill every Sunday?” Put simply, money. A person getting bum financial advice from a ward member could really take a trip to the cleaners, whereas someone listening to a poorly executed hymn gets relief in about 3 minutes. Nobody is getting sued over a bad musical number–probably.
While I’d be willing to donate free work that I normally get paid for, I’d be very hesitant to ASK someone else to do so. There are some professions that seem even more vulnerable to me than others. For example, if you ask a person who is a business person making a salary to give resume writing advice, that’s one thing. She has some expertise. It’s not a conflict with her direct income. If you ask a woman who is a freelance business consultant to give free start up business advice to a fellow ward member, that’s another story. Now she might say, “Sure! For 30 minutes I’ll talk to anyone, and if they want to continue, I’ll have to charge them.” That’s putting limits on your time, and possibly even drumming up new business. Theoretically, that may bear fruit for both people later on, or it may just be a 30 minute gift. But there do need to be some reasonable limits. It’s a direct conflict with her livelihood to give away the milk for free.
Or here’s another. If you have a professional photographer in the ward, is it right to ask that person to do free photography for a ward member who is getting married and has asked the ward to help put on the wedding because funds are tight? Is it right to ask a woman who does in home day care to provide free day care for an additional child which limits her ability to add more paying children and is already low paid work? It seems that providing free work is a luxury, and is a much harder burden for lower paid work and for freelance work. Plus, many types of careers don’t readily lend themselves to these requests. Nobody is saying “I really need some free medical transcription” or “I need a free veterinarian.”
In the case of our business, we were asked to donate a free cleaning for a ward service auction, which we agreed to do. But when we saw that the bids were below our actual costs, we just made sure to outbid those bidding. It was cheaper for us to just donate the money than to pay all the labor, gas, and supplies to do the work while turning away a paying gig.
I’ve assisted in hurricane clean-ups in the Gulf Coast area that were led by the LDS church. They made us sign liability waivers, so if we were injured we couldn’t sue. The church also required that the homeowners whom we helped sign liability waivers.
“Nobody is getting sued over a bad musical number–probably.” Not even for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional (or spiritual) distress? 🙂
I’ve been humbled by the willingness of professionals to help my family with things like legal consultation. And my husband is happy helping ward members with medical questions. Some professions are more compatible with ward service than others, and I agree with Angela that limits should be set.
Some eyebrow-raising requests, not with ministering but with other church callings: I was in nursery when a woman asked to drop off a fussing maybe 9-month-old. I apologized and said I couldn’t. She responded, “But she’s crying!” It later occurred to me that she may have been a visitor who didn’t understand how nursery works. If I wasn’t so bad with babies I might have complied. (Confession: I once tried sneaking in my 16-month-old to nursery. Well, not really sneaking because the nursery leader was my son’s babysitter and knew exactly how old he was, but she’d asked me if he was coming, which I mistook to mean she was okay if he did. He was promptly kicked out. Karma’s a harlot.)
Second, the teacher with whom I’d just been called to alternate weeks teaching primary unexpectedly showed up at my door 20 minutes before church to hand off materials for conducting Sharing Time — not as a request, but as a matter-of-fact assumption that I would be cool with it. (I’ve never seen another ward do this, but each classroom teacher took a turn teaching Sharing Time.) He launched into what seemed like convoluted instructions, but I stopped him and said I’d specifically been told I wouldn’t have to teach Sharing Time that week, it being my first Sunday on the job. (Now-me might have been able to do something like that, but old-me couldn’t. I was already a nervous wreck about having to teach the class lesson with little notice. Getting up in front of the whole primary on top of that and delivering someone else’s lesson that I was prepped on while trying to get my family out the door was not do-able.) He looked stunned that I would refuse and left in kind of a daze. The primary president ended up teaching Sharing Time. She later gave a talk in sacrament meeting about the faithful couple who prepared a Sharing Time lesson even though it was their week off because the new teacher was “terrified” and “didn’t even know what Sharing Time was.” After several months of similarly WTF experiences, we pulled a Jonah and fled to the Spanish Ward to get away from the calling.
I’ve seen another flavor of this, which is “Work for a church member for terrible wages under the assumption that you’re providing fellowship.” In one ward, a family operated a home for disabled adults and routinely offered jobs to sisters in the ward. Why only sisters? Because this wasn’t a situation where people would lend low-impact support: it was a home for severely disabled people who couldn’t feed, clean, or care for themselves and who could become violent. I guess the thinking was that women would be less traumatized by all this due to their “nurturing” nature? In any case, this family had employed several women who were wives of students–they tended to last about six weeks on average. Somehow people decided it was polite not to warn anyone off or even prepare them. One sister referred my wife to this family but was mysteriously silent when asked about her experience working for them. I accompanied my wife to the “Orientation” meeting and told her very quickly that the money wasn’t that important even though we were broke.
Now mind you, they provided a valuable service to good people that truly needed it. But preying on vulnerable young couples in the ward without providing fair notice of the difficult and dangerous work was dishonorable at best. When someone later asked us about the job we were very forthcoming with information, and the family stopped talking to us. I feel like if I’d been in leadership’s shoes, I would’ve said, “Hey, by all means offer fair employment for skilled long-term care professionals and we’ll mention it in church, but don’t ask untrained young people to do extremely difficult work for minimum wage and then act offended if we don’t present it as the greatest service opportunity available.”
Laurel: yikes, that sounds like madness on several levels. I’m glad you had access to a Spanish-speaking whale (una ballena?).
Hawk: I’m ready to start a class action suit on behalf of all members who have been traumatized by bad hymns. Please contact me and we’ll arrange an online call with my attorneys. 🙂
Do a good turn daily. Not world peace. Unless of course world peace is your specialty.
Three distinct thoughts:
1) I think there are times when you ask people to do what they do for a living for free. You just can’t make it too common an occurrence. There was a teenage girl in our ward who would never smile. She had a tooth growing sideways, was very self-conscious about it, and her family simply couldn’t afford orthodontia. I found an orthodontist in the stake and asked for a discounted rate, but he said he was happy to help and didn’t charge a thing. That was a big help to that young woman, and very satisfying to the orthodontist.
2) I don’t have too much sympathy with businesses who feel the Relief Society is competing with them. How the Relief Society fills its mission should be based on its best use of resources, whether it’s having a bunch of sisters clean a house or hiring a company to do it. Having educated well-to-do sisters do manual labor in someone else’s service can do good that simply hiring somebody might not, and businesses should work in a free market and succeed or fail depending on their suitability.
3) Nobody likes entitlement attitude, but when I read LDS_Aussie’s comment, it makes it seem like we all have it. If we agree to clean the building or help somebody move, that’s our voluntary choice. Sure, there’s social pressure, but we’re not forced. The idea that if we agree to do it that we’re somehow entitled to somebody else taking care of us for the rest of our life if we get hurt seems very similar to the idea that if we participate in the church or pay tithing, we’re somehow owed service from church members. I have no doubt that LDS_Aussie is right that if he fell off the stand vacuuming, shattered his ankle, and sued the church, the church would attempt to defend itself. But on the other hand, I feel like the risk is very low, and when we volunteer to perform such a service, we’re also volunteering to accept that risk.
Thanks for this post. It thoroughly articulates many of my long-time frustrations with Church service expectations.
Here are some of my own examples of ethical boundaries being crossed in Church service:
-My mother-in-law was an elementary school teacher for 30 years. For much of her adult life, she served almost exclusively in Primary callings, though reluctantly. Until one day she finally reached a breaking point and forcefully told her bishop to take the calling and stuff it. After cooling off, she explained that professional teaching is stressful and overwhelming and that Sundays were her days to recharge from it, not do it again for free. Prior to that, her bishop just assumed that being a teacher meant she was good with kids and enjoyed being around them. But he understood and honorably released her, never calling her to Primary again. This frustration is often felt by many folks who find themselves being asked to do the equivalent of their day job as a church calling for no pay (teachers, therapists, musicians, facilities maintenance, computer/technical experts, foodservice professionals, accountants, etc) who really just want a break from their daily grind.
-My brother-in-law, as a child, was playing at a friend’s house one time when he received an injury (laceration). Fortunately, the friend’s father (and fellow ward member) was a doctor, and was able to treat and suture the wound right at the kitchen table. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law (same one mentioned earlier) received a bill from the friend’s father’s medical office shortly thereafter. They were cash-strapped and didn’t have good coverage at the time, so it was especially painful. I think it would have been reasonable for the doctor, especially as member of the same ward, to waive his fee, considering the injury happened at his house and on his watch.
-I’ve seen many instances of military members with relocation entitlements ask for volunteer EQ moving assistance, with the unstated intention of pocketing the money they should have used to pay a professional crew. While not technically illegal, this is certainly not an ethical use of resources (both monetary and human) and I call BS on it whenever I see it in my own ward.
-My current EQ president is very generous in committing the EQ to help transient members with short-notice moves. He has made it clear that he expects people to drop everything, even take time off from work and family to provide moving help when asked. He is a divorced man in his 50s with no children at home, and lots of spare time. I’ve made it clear that there is a large segment of the quorum membership who simply do not have that flexibility in their lives, and will never show up to these last-minute “service opportunities”. He continues undeterred.
-As a youth, we were once tasked with a “service project” of helping a wealthy stake president install a tennis court on his sprawling property. Even then, there was much rolling of eyes.
-Also as a youth at my first youth conference, we did a “service project” that involved spending an entire day picking up trash on a freeway embankment. Where I come from, such work is normally the sole province of work-release inmates, low-level offenders and others on court-ordered community service. Combined with the other restrictions of youth conference (constant supervision, unable to leave or do anything else without permission, generally not fun as promised) I concluded that the whole experience was a form of imprisonment and I never went again.
-The RS president in my ward is demanding that the sisters’ ministering be done with face-to-face visits every month. Basically visiting teaching all over again. Totally missing the point.
Jack Hughes, just wow about the doctor, and the stake president.
The LDS Church has perfected the art of “getting work, things & services” for free. I think that they’ve so overdone it – for decades – I simply refuse to do anything “for them”; or at their request. While I really do try to be a good friend, neighbor and colleague – when “the Church” comes a calling – my response is No. I provide service, kindness and solace according to my own terms; not according to the expectation of some knucklehead who is trying to put on a good show. If more members would take this approach, I don’t think it would take long for LDS Buildings to once again have paid, professional cleaners – and a semblance of boundaries and mutual respect.
“I’ve seen many instances of military members with relocation entitlements ask for volunteer EQ moving assistance, with the unstated intention of pocketing the money they should have used to pay a professional crew.”
Historically a huge EQ problem, now that it’s combined with elderly high priests, I hope it decreases.
Ministering = Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching that is less organized and high-pressure. It has the same exact effects as HTing/VTing. Barely anyone does it.
The one plus for me is being partnered with my husband for ministering. So instead of the impossible trying to find a mutually convenient time with a VT companion, and spending more time apart from my husband in the evenings, because if it wasn’t church meetings it was home teaching, we actually get more time together. That aside, it’s all more of a semantic change.
“-As a youth, we were once tasked with a “service project” of helping a wealthy stake president install a tennis court on his sprawling property. Even then, there was much rolling of eyes.”
My Mormon Corridor ward is half wannabe McMansions on a golf course and half lower middle class neighborhood. The golf course is owned by several ward members in the wealthier neighborhood. The two neighborhoods are several miles apart. My cub scout son did a “service project” a couple of weeks ago. The project? Cleaning up trash on the golf course.
“What requests have you heard of that raised an eyebrow for you?”
I used to live in Los Angeles as a YSA, and one of the hardest things there involved people looking for a place to stay. It was literally almost a once-a-week thing that the Bishop/EQ Pres/RS Pres would get a message that said, ‘I’ll be in LA next weekend, can I stay with someone?’
For a lot of these people, the demand was not necessarily unreasonable. They were young and poor, and maybe just had a long layover and needed to spend one night in town, or maybe they were planning on moving to LA a few weeks later and just needed a place to stay one or two nights while they went apartment hunting. So the request in and of itself was not unreasonable, but it just never occurred to them that we got these kind of requests so frequently that if we agreed, every apartment in the ward would have a stranger sleeping on their couch once a month.
Of course, lots of them were less reasonable. More than once, we got phone calls that were literally, “Hi, I just got off a bus in downtown LA because I’ve decided to move to the big city, who’s going to take me and all of my possessions in for an indefinite amount of time, starting tonight, until I find my own place?’ or “Hi, my summer internship starts tomorrow, and since it’s unpaid, and rent in LA is so expensive, I figured someone in the ward would just let me live with them for free. It’s just a couple of months, and if no one agrees, I’ll have to spend the summer sleeping in my car, and I know none of you good people would be ok with that, so . . .”
Is it volunteering when your name is put on a list without your permissions and you are assigned ministering with an envelope left on your doorstep or assigned to clean church at a certain time and if you can’t make it…find someone to do it?
I cleaned the chapel with others today and as LDS_Aussie points out ..who covers injury costs?I gave up after 45 minutes as my arthritic spine with 4 titanium screws at its base spoke loudly that it was time to finish…..I was only vacuuming……but it ended my day with some needed medication.but what would happen if I seriously injured myself.?
Yesterday we did some ‘ministering’ (which I have always found laughable surely its only being Christian but in the true corporate tradition , in true Western US culture we have to make it a program…..with training!)
The family we visited needed help with the wife debilitated with a stroke. It was a serious issue and my companion ( fellow christian) sort help from our EQPres but I think he made the correct call as my companion not the family asked if people could help and nurse the stroke victim…( walk her around the house etc) our EQPres said we were Not equipped or trained to assist……my first reaction was what if the woman falls over or is hurt while people from the Church are helping her?
Yep there is limitations…. we did give a blessing to this poor women who has been away from the Church for almost 35years and both her and her husband were very grateful for the blessing and the continued contact.. the family had organised government help.
As an aside someone more equipped then me should do a History of Tithing blog.
“What requests have you heard of that raised an eyebrow for you?”
A lady in our ward had a boob job, and then asked for meals to be brought in for her family while she recovered.
So the way I understand tithing/fast offerings is that tithing goes to SLC for buildings, temples, etc and fast offerings is what funds the Bishops Storehouse. However, I was also aware when I was RS Pres, that our stake, despite covering many of the wealthier parts of the state, was “upside down” in fast offerings and had to be subsidized from SLC.
I remember when I was first called, I had been a member of the Presidency for about a year before that. We had one sister with a difficult pregnancy, who was on bedrest, that we were taking meals in several times a week for a couple of months. When she finally safely had her baby, I got a call from her VTs, telling me that they had arranged meals for a week, and did I have suggestions for meals for the next week. Her husband had taken time off of work, her mother was there for a week or two, she only had the baby and a 3 yr old. I told the VT that more than a couple of meals wasnt necessary. We had other needs in the ward more pressing (which, in her defense, she cant have known about). She told me it was “church policy” to have 2 weeks of meals. I laughed, and said that where she had lived before, it may have been customary, but there was no official church policy.
. A bit later, feeling unsure that I had done the right thing, I called my mom, and the previous RS Pres. I must have offended the VT, because a couple of hours later I got a call from my bishop (Hed only been bishop a month or so) and she had called him and told him I was uncompassionate. He agreed that it was an unreasonable expectation. (And I dont really believe that the new mother expected it.)
Last year, we had a convert move out of the area, EQ was asked to help her move the stuff from her storage unit. EQ pres got there, nothing was boxed or ready to move. She had grown children, so he told her that there was no way they could move it that way in the amount of time they had. If her grown kids would pack it up, ready to move, he would reschedule. We never heard from her again. We had arranged for some donated furniture, which was parked in my garage, and because she wouldnt return my calls, I eventually gave it to an Afghani family that relocated to our area.
There are many people who will milk the “system”, and sometimes its tricky to allocate limited resources where they are truly needed. But, I tried to err on the side of compassion and arrange what help I could. It blesses the giver, regardless. But people.need to remember that a ward has a limit to its service resources, and that only the ward leadership has the full picture, due to confidentiality.
As far as personal experience goes with offering our talents….A member called my photographer hubby and asked how much to take photos at her daughters wedding. Knowing a bit of the financial situation there, I quoted her like $300. Which is outrageously low, even for a couple of hours of a wedding at the church, reception following. She went on this long rant of “you take a couple of pics and you think youre a professional and gouge everyone”. After I hung up, I was really angry for a couple of days. Eventually, because the bride was a Primary and piano student of mine, I called and offered to do it for free. Its an ongoing issue, but it isn’t hubby’s main source of income, (I think I wouldve been angrier longer if it was, lol.) If I ask a ward members expertise for help, I nearly always offer to pay.
Instead of obsessing over these mostly middle-class problems, maybe it would be better to help our members and their neighbors who live in developing countries. They have real needs. Let’s discontinue the moving service (unless there are dire circumstances) and church cleaning, and get going on real global needs.