I helped a family member move last week. Now I know that we sometimes make fun of the Elders Quorum Moving Company. But if you are the lucky recipient of their services, it’s no laughing matter. It’s marvelous. It sometimes borders on the miraculous.
There may be times when you, a youngish elder with a strong back, roll your eyes at yet another announcement for a “service opportunity.” But let me tell you, after spending several days ahead of time packing things in boxes and throwing some things out and taking a trip or two to the dump — hey, when six guys show up on a Thursday after work and in 45 minutes get the boxes and the beds and the furniture all loaded into the truck, that is just a marvelous thing. And on the other end, where no one really knows you yet, a single phone call to the bishop or the EQP produces the miracle of four guys showing up on Saturday afternoon to spend 30 minutes carrying all that stuff up a flight of stairs into the new place.
I doubt LDS congregations are the only churches that produce moving squads on demand, but I’m guessing they are at the top of the list. Sometimes wives and kids tag along. Sometimes there are pizzas, sometimes some extra food appears with the help. Sometimes items get distributed at the last minute. Need a high chair, you say? Here, take it. An office chair? Please, take it (the very worst item to pack.) Somehow it all works out.
I’ll also give a shout out to the Relief Society Meal Service. A different family member went through a tough time with medical challenges last month and three or four meals a week showed up at their door for a month or two. So timely, so helpful, so tasty, so appreciated.
Any similar stories to share?
Yes. It’s amazing and worthwhile to get that help when desperately needed. And it also opens a door to fellowship in the community.
Exceptions made for those trying to avoid our community for whatever important emotional reasons. Those people are wise to pay some lumpers to help them out if they don’t want to feel they now have to be part of the community
As a young couple, my husband and I were idiots and didn’t prearrange any moving help for when we got to our new apartment in a different state (this was before the church website made locating bishops of distant wards relatively easy). We went to the local LDS Church on a Friday night. People there were able to get us the number of the local EQ pres. We called and talked to his awesome wife who promised us that a handful of guys would be at our apartment ready to unload our moving truck at 8am the next morning. It truly was a lifesaver. Twenty-one years later, my husband still tries to help with any move he can because we appreciated so much the willingness of six guys to help out a dumb young couple on just a few hours’ notice.
I lived in a college town once, and there were lots of moves in and out as students came and went. I honestly loved going to help with moves, because it was a great way to not only help out the folks who needed help moving, but also to get to know people moving in, bid farewell to people moving out, and get to know better the others who were helping.
Last week, our elders quorum ask for people to help an elderly man (who lives alone) with some serious yard issues. The man is on a fixed income, and his yard had major problems (downed trees that needed to be cut up, broken fence, lots of clean up, etc.). Probably around 15 people (including a few teenagers that I am sure were coerced!) showed up (armed with appropriate tools), and in a little more than an hour, a miraculous make-over had occurred. The man (who can’t move around a lot) just beamed as he watched the work and talked to the people helping out. There were a lot of laughs and smiles (and a few good-natured insults thrown in). It was just so pure, done with no desire for anything in return, and it just filled me with hope and peace. I feel more unity with ward members outside of the church building than inside.
My experiences with the EQMC are mixed.
As a single college student (at a big-city public university, not in the Morridor) I was the only one in my student ward who owned a pickup truck. I was called upon, A LOT, to assist with moving fellow ward members, especially as they shifted apartments from year to year. Though it was tiresome, it also gave me chance to get personally acquainted with many of the young ladies of the ward, often as they were new to the area and didn’t really know any other LDS people there yet. After I graduated, I sold my truck and considered my lifetime obligation to the EQMC satisfied (though I would occasionally make exceptions thereafter, time and energy permitting).
On the rare occasions that I’ve asked for EQ help to move my family, I make it a point to provide food for all who show up. And I make sure all the packing is done beforehand, with nothing left to do but carry boxes and heavy items out to the truck. It’s the least I can do.
When I was in the military, I experienced government-funded PCS (permanent change of station) moves, in which all of the packing, loading and shipping is done by paid professional crews. In those cases, I never activated the EQMC, considering that approach unethical if I was getting the move fully funded. Some military members opt to do the moving work themselves, and pocket the money that would have been used to hire professional movers (often called a “do-it-yourself” move, or DITY). Unfortunately, I have witnessed LDS servicemembers who enlist the EQ to do the gruntwork of their moving so that they don’t have to use the professionals, and put a few thousand extra dollars in their pocket. This is exploitative, and I call out this BS behavior whenever I see it (I live near a military base and we always have at least a few active duty families in my ward at any given time). Manipulating your EQ brethren to haul boxes for free while you keep the money for yourself is inexcusable, and in my mind, disqualifies one for a temple recommend.
Another issue is the potential for physical injuries. I have extended family members who, cumulatively over their able-bodied lifetimes, have over-extended themselves while providing free EQ moving assistance, and have permanent injuries and mobility limitations as a result. Unlike professional movers, the Church provides no insurance or disability for the EQMC. Church culture also makes it very hard for many men to say “no” when they reasonably should.
And I see other abuses of the EQMC, such as ward members asking for EQ moving help on behalf of their non-member friends; I consider EQMC services to be exclusively a perk of Church membership. And wealthy members moving from an upscale house to a gaudy McMansion across town, who could easily afford to hire professional movers; the EQMC exists mainly to help those who are really in need, not exploit free labor. An astute EQ president should know that the EQMC is to be used sparingly, and should carefully screen out possible abuses, and set reasonable expectations (such as dates, times, locations, duration of service, etc.).
But I have also had some warm, positive experiences with my occasional involvement in the EQMC, whether rendering assistance or being on the receiving end. You really get to know people in unique ways as you try to get a couch up or down 2 or more flights of stairs, when everyone involved is equally clueless but also equally dedicated to getting the job done.
As I often say about Church “service” opportunities, there is a fine line between service and servitude.
A couple of decades ago our child was born with serious medical problems, and was in and out of the hospital for the first 6 months. Our ward members rallied around us, helping with meals and childcare for our older children for that entire time, in the most generous, gracious way possible.
After the first couple of months, I felt like we were asking too much, I felt guilty about how much help we were getting. But when I expressed those feelings I was gently corrected and reassured we weren’t a burden.
That level of loving service changes you and changes your relationships with people. We now live several days journey away from that ward, but there is a feeling of awe and amazement that has never left me when I think about that time. Even typing this up has brought tears of gratitude back.
It’s one of the reasons I’m still here, even with all my frustrations. Because these are my people.
I’ve made long distance moves multiple times where we were able to get word to the bishop and EQP before hand and essentially ask strangers to just show up at the specified time and place to help us move in. It’s really amazing that it works as well as it does. In my experience, the centralization of the LDS church makes this possible in ways that it isn’t for some other religions. Because our congregations are geographically based (usually) there is an understanding before you even arrive that this is your new ward; there’s no question of who is responsible to help the new family. I’ve been the beneficiary at each end of multiple moves, and try to do what I can to pay back that debt of service.
I don’t know if this is a change over time, or over location, but since moving back to Utah, I don’t see the EQ helping people move. I rarely hear of requests. I don’t think it’s that no one is moving in or out of the ward. Maybe it’s that my ward is affluent enough that everyone is paying people to help? Through the first 15 years of “adult” life in both Utah and the midwest, it felt like nearly everyone moving would ask for help from the EQ, and we’d often have 15-20 people there to get things done quickly. In the last 5 years, I might be able to count the number of requests on one hand.
I was the EQ President in the late 90s in one of the US’s fastest growing towns (Plano, Tx) and boy was that apparent weekend after weekend in terms of EQ moves. I participated in more moves between 1997 and 2000 than I have the combined rest of my adult life. No regrets but glad I’m retired from that.
Lived in Brooklyn for many years. Every move had at least 15 people show up (you wouldn’t want to be the person that didn’t show up for a move and needed help moving in a month). Five-floor walk-ups down very narrow stairwells, passing couches from floor to floor while leaning over the edges of each floor’s balcony, coordinating moves on the same day so we could share the cost of the moving truck, and talking with the neighbors who were wondering how we all lucked out to have such good friends to help us. Then heading to Smiling Pizza on 7th Avenue for a slice (and maybe an Italian ice at Luigi’s) or to the Chip Shop for a deep fried Mars bar.
I loved the Park Slope ward!
Six wards in the last 30 years, two of those outside Utah – my experience has varied, with a few random thoughts here-
-it’s a great service we provide each other which has the potential for abuse.
-I have seen some bishops and EQPS try to make this a lesson in self-reliance but often the person moving out is so taxed that they can’t even think straight to make a list and call a few close friends in the ward
-in my current ward the preferred method seems to be to send a mass email to the quorum calling for help; I have never received a 2nd email in this regard. However we also are the 1st ward in the building and I know there is a struggle to get dudes there early to help set up chairs. Sometimes I play the organ so I can’t help out but I also have conflicting feelings as lws329 points out in the first comment, which include giving free labor to a wealthy organization
-moving is a lot of work regardless of how it’s done – I am in a better place now financially so wife knows we are paying movers next time whenever that is – we have now broken our record for residency in any of our homes (7+ years now). Also, I have knee problems so I am a liability to myself and others although I can sling a few boxes around.
I was an EQP for a few years a long, long time ago. My wife had given birth to our first child a few months prior and I was desperately trying to gain career traction. Our ward had an interesting socioeconomic distribution. About a third of it lived in an upscale retirement community. A third of us lived in a run-of-the-mill, tract-style neighborhood where most of us were young with small children. The other third of the ward was located in a high density apartment complex. The complex had high turnover, high inactivity (as we called it then) and was a bit rough.
Our EQ was routinely called on to help members move in or out. The frequency was about twice a month. We had about 20 engaged members in our EQ. About six men, usually the same six, always showed up. It’s an interesting phenomenon. A couple of those men were converts and I’m pretty sure they joined the church to appease their lifelong member spouses. I’m only saying that because they never commented in class and at times seemed to cringe, declined to speak in sacrament meeting, and were pretty direct with me about their views on home teaching (don’t give me a companion or a formal assignment, but I’ll help anyone in need).
One Saturday afternoon I took a call, a desperate plea for help. A young couple with two small children had been evicted and had to be out of their apartment by midnight. They were in trouble. The husband had secured a small moving van. The wife’s mother who lived a few hours a way agreed to take them in until they could get back on their feet. I wasn’t always able to help people move, but those six were money in the bank. This night I joined in and with them we went to work. Two ran to find boxes–the poor family was barely half packed. I think that young couple wanted to die of embarrassment as we boxed their clothes and other personal items. The wife wouldn’t stop apologizing until one of the brothers said with a smile that we’ve all been there, that being young with kids is hard and there was no reason to apologize. I think that gave her some relief. We finished the job done a little past midnight. The couple pulled out. The seven of us decided to go over to a gas station and enjoyed 44 oz sodas at nearly 1am. We sat out in the summer night, rehydrated and the conversation wandered. We really got to know each other that night. We were tired, but felt like we had done something that meant something, more than the other moves we had enabled. This one felt like true service. It was hard and it was humbling. I learned that I didn’t care what the two convert men thought about the church or its beliefs, all I know is they always showed up when it mattered the most.
A while ago my wife and I moved out of the Wasatch front and to a place that is far away and far more diverse than Utah is, religiously and ethnically. I know we Mormons are proud of the service we render, and the institutional church isn’t afraid of pushing that out in its marketing to convince the world that we are more wonderful than weird. I think at times it can make us feel like we are the leaders in service, and that can be a dangerous presumption. It’s not what I have experienced in my new neighborhood. I live in a new development and when a home is finished and purchased, word goes out on the community Facebook page welcoming the new owners to the neighborhood. On a few occasions the new owners have asked for help unloading the truck. A dozen have shown up the few times I have been able to join in, and the donuts are there, the laughter and the heavy lifting. Work along side people and it bonds you to them somehow in ways that talking over the fence can’t. I can say if a tree fell across my house, a half dozen people from my street would be at my front door ready to go to work helping me clear the debris. I am grateful for good people everywhere.
I had a move once that went so quickly, me and my wife were chilling on our couch with all of our unloaded stuff when more people showed up to help.
Unfortunately the event that sticks out to me is when they didn’t help. I wrote about my experience after emergency surgery at this link. And, bonus points, someone in the comments gave ME a tough a time about it: https://wheatandtares.org/2018/06/16/is-there-anything-you-can-do-for-me/
I have had more far more opportunities for getting to know people in my EQ through participating in these moves than through any other venue, including sunday meetings. Now if only the leaders of our missionary program realized this. Imagine our missionaries spending their days working alongside and on behalf of people. You have socializing, getting to know people, sharing values, beliefs, naturally talking about the gospel, all while accomplishing some good in the world that would make our church look good! Come on guys, it’s so obvious. You can schedule more formal lessons in the evenings so you’re not bothering people trying to go about their work day.
There were a number of good comments on the Relief Society Meal Service as well as The Elders Quorum Moving Company on hawkrrrl’s thread from last November: https://wheatandtares.org/2022/11/17/aita-church-version/.
Much of my childhood was spent in the neighborhood helping people with all sorts of tasks, big and small – with the Boy Scouts, with the church, or just tagging along with my dad to go help anyone who needed it (or my brother and I being sent off to some neighbor or another to help with something).
We did a lot of moving, but we did all sorts of other things too. My dad had worked construction and is very handy, my uncle was a skilled plumber, my Scoutmaster was a professional mechanic, the YM President was an HVAC pro. Between all of them we weeded, moved heavy things, made all sorts of repairs, installed miles of sprinkler pipe and sod. Once we dug up broken sprinklers for a single mom with three young kids – I remember standing in a pit of mud learning to make the repairs. While still muddy we then climbed onto her roof to fix a swamp cooler.
My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and my dad was very handy so do most building/repair tasks ourselves. Everything he did or learned would then be offered to anyone in need in the neighborhood, no matter their affiliation with the church…invariably my brother and I were brought along. We helped hang sheetrock, make minor plumbing/electrical fixes.
One summer our roof shingles needed to be replaced, so my dad found a friend of a family member to come over and teach us how to reshingle the roof. We successfully did our own roof, and then spent the few years replacing the roofs of anyone else who needed it. One in particular was a family with a dad that had received a terminal cancer diagnosis. They had kids close to my age, and it was incredibly sad and difficult. He very quickly went from strong, vibrant, and independent to being completely dependent on others for help. Their roof was one of many we replaced…by that time we’d done several others in the neighborhood, and we were able to get their roof done in a day.
I have so many memories like this.
I haven’t moved a lot in adulthood, and don’t plan on moving again any time soon, but I feel like I’ve developed a bit of a double standard.
I don’t particularly enjoy the physical aspect of helping someone move, given the strain my back gets in my current job, but I do think they’re great events for getting to know people, as has been mentioned. Plenty of nonmembers and less actives often show up to help as well. We’ve been taught to save and be self-reliant, and I’m willing to help a family save by doing that.
Having said that, I’d like to try really hard not to ask a ward to help out again, and simply use a moving company. Any goodwill from the ward could be reallocated to others more deserving.
Two of the last few times our ward has been asked to help move were on a Sunday. One family was a nonmember family, the other a member family and it was during the second session of conference. A fair amount of people showed up to both last minute events. Not one word was said about the Sabbath, nor were there any that seemed disgruntled, which impressed me.
I also have mixed feeling on this.
For some this has been very helpful. But, there are things like EQMC dropping a refrigerator down a flight of stairs, Needless to say, it did not work right after that, but, the EQMC seemed to just laugh it off.
At a moving many years ago, another Saint backed his car into my driver side door. Of course, I ate the repair cost. Similarly, if a volunteer group dropped my refrigerator down the stairs, I would eat that cost, too. If someone wants protection and liability, he or she needs to hire a proper moving company — when it is volunteers for free, well, that’s what it is.
Like some others, I don’t like it when a military person or someone else gets a moving allowance (sometimes a handsome moving allowance) and yet uses the elders quorum for free — the scripture says the laborer is worthy of his hire.
Experience is mixed. On the receiving end of some quick help to unload a truck – it’s something that made me truly grateful. On the EQ end I am always happy to help. The key word is help – not plan, execute and basically take ownership for the entire move. If someone has a plan and a moving truck and just needs a few extra hands, it’s a blessing all around. But when they expect the ward to use their own vehicles to move everything (and this load/unload on both ends), clean the filthy hole they are exiting, and don’t have anything packed and organized, then it’s a nightmare and a recipe for bad church-adjacent experiences on all sides.
Bottom line – own your personal life and the things that need to happen within it, have a plan and then a few extra hands will usually be happy to assist.
I have had generally good experiences on both sides of the EQMC over the years. I don’t recall a time where I felt like a family didn’t “deserve” the help or was abusing the system. I will say, I have helped with several moves where I was doing a lot of standing around because the family didn’t have everything ready to go. To me this just meant that we as a ward had dropped the ball by just swooping in at the last minute and throwing things in the truck. Honestly, that’s the easiest part of moving. It’s the packing, making runs to the dump, cleaning, and repairing holes ect. that can be really hard to do alone, especially if you are moving out of an apartment and trying to get your deposit back. Overall, I think most wards are good at giving short – term, immediate need service (like moving or meals), but often fall short when there is a long-term or more complicated issue. Then again, these are volunteers with busy lives led by a busy volunteer dentist or tax attorney with no pastoral training. I would like to see more top down initiated and supported service opportunities for members at the local level the reach the wider community. For example, is there any legitimate reason why we couldn’t run soup kitchens or food banks out of our ward buildings like other churches do?
These are some heartwarming stories. Like others, I’ve been both a recipient and giver of service. We all have our pet peeves about Mormon culture but in my experience when the chips are down and a call for service comes it is the best of our culture. When the requests come I’ve never heard anyone gripe about them. Although it wasn’t a move, one of my greatest memories of service is from a time when our area had a major ice storm. Many homes were without power which caused serious flooding. I still remember the large group that showed up in the middle of the night to form a bucket brigade to help the family whose home was flooding. That was about 30 years ago and the few that remain in the ward from that time still talk about it.
Our ward is pretty big geographically and economically diverse. Many times I saw young men from well-off families walk into the homes of the very poor to help with a move or project. They were forever impacted. Many later served missions in poor areas of the world and the softening and compassion they developed was evident and impacted their lives forever. It’s hard to not love someone who is serving you or you are serving. It helps us put differences aside. We have a brother in our ward who is a right-wing extremist. Yet when service is requested, he is the first guy there. When we are on both ends of a sofa our differences really don’t matter and it helps me to see his humanity and indeed love him. I still despise his politics but I love him and he loves me.
I don’t think EQMC is a British thing. Not in my experience anyway. It’s always sounded quite bizarre to me whenever I’ve seen it mentioned on blogs. The only time I came across anything remotely similar was when the RS helped an older couple with unpacking and assembling bunk beds ( for visiting grandchildren presumably), and that was in the evening after everything had been unloaded.
The last time we moved the RS president was kind enough to bring a packed lunch, and take a bag to the tip, whilst we waited for our delayed van and removal people to show up.
That OP picture of the cyclists and sofa looks British though!
Three experiences come to mind. The first was in a ward that was so organized that when I came about 10 minutes after the starting time, the truck was fully loaded and they were already sweeping out the apartment.
The next was a huge move where the poor woman was completely unprepared, but we all worked as well as we could. The EQ President had done so many moves that his packing of the truck was a thing of beauty. Anyone else would have required at least two trucks, but he got it packed into one.
The worst experience was in St George. The ward told us that our moving date was inconvenient, so they would have to help us on a later day. They were actually offended when they showed up on their chosen day to see that we had already packed everything up on our timeline, not theirs.
On our last move, the bishop refused to give us any help at all. He didn’t need help on his move, so nobody else would get help either. Our upcoming move will be paid by the military, so we won’t be bothering the ward for help.
For move-outs, it is best for those persons to recruit helpers from among their friends — dumping it as a task on the elders quorum president is unfair and unnecessary.
For example, Brother Jones can stand up in elders quorum and say, “Brethren, I am moving and I need your help. Can you help me?” This is far better than Brother Jones sending an email to the elders quorum president demanding five people at 8am on Saturday morning.
As another example, Brother Smith can stand up in elders quorum and say, “Brethren, Sister Baker is moving — I am her ministering brother and my son and I will help her, but we need some additional help. Can you help us?” This is far better than Brother Smith sending an email to the elders quorum president demanding five people at 8am on Saturday morning.
ji – I’ve never seen it done any other way than in your two examples. The person moving asks for help and people start volunteering on the spot in quorum meetings. If it’s not enough then someone sends out emails and makes calls.
Lawrence, Right! and Brother Jones and Brother Smith can send the emails and make the calls, right?