More evidence that Mormon-dominated Utah is indeed, as some critics insist, hell on earth:
Incidentally, my wife and I had an assignment to help clean our church building today.
I’ve read comments from some ex-Mormon critics who’ve really seemed steamed up about what they regard as the Church’s exploitation of its members — as if the Church somehow exists apart from its members, as if the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were some kind of professional clerical class entirely distinct from Mormon laity. These complaints have always puzzled me.
Our assignment this morning took about ninety minutes. There were a number of others there; most of them finished their assignments thirty minutes earlier than we did. We don’t have to do this very often. The whole active membership of the congregation does its part, and, as today, when a solid group turns out, the labor isn’t very burdensome. In fact, it’s rather fun. We visit with people, laugh, strengthen ties, develop a stronger sense of ownership of the building. And it’s a good thing to have — as we’ve sometimes had — very wealthy people working side by side with, say, poor young students. It’s spiritually good, and it’s socially beneficial. There should be no caste system in the Church.
I still recall reading a journalist’s account of going out on the Church welfare farm near Washington DC, and seeing George Romney (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former CEO of American Motors, and father of Mitt) down in the dirt with J. Willard Marriott and David Kennedy (either Secretary of the Treasury or ambassador to NATO at the time, and formerly a prominent banker in Chicago) trying to repair a chicken coop. He asked them whether they didn’t regard this as a waste of their valuable time, and they replied that it was very good for their souls.
Another favorite story comes out of the nineteenth century, when a very successful Utah businessman was called to serve a mission for the Church. He was anticipating an assignment to proselytize in Europe, but, instead, he was called to collect rags in order to help set up paper-making in Utah so that the Church could print its scriptures and other materials. At first, he was deflated, even insulted. But then he realized that his call was to serve, and that all service was valuable in building the Kingdom.
On the other hand, I still remember a lawyer friend in another state, many years ago, who objected to being asked to work in a Church welfare cannery, on the grounds that his time was worth lots of money. He could, he said, easily hire three or four lower-paid people to do such work for him. I thought that this was all the more reason that he himself needed to go work at the cannery. I saw a satirical bumper sticker, somewhere quite a while back, that expressed a willingness to serve, but “preferably in an executive capacity.” That isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the spirit of Christian service.