Let me explain the pattern of service in this one ward in central Oklahoma. Friday night (8 ish), I would receive a call from the Bishop. He would tell me that a family was moving and would I have a group of elders over to “help them move” at 8 the next morning. I would scramble to call every elder and elder age man on my list (which at that time had 108 names on it). Invariably 90% would not answer the phone (isn’t caller ID wonderful?). of the remaining 10% 9% would have plans for the next day. The remaining 1% (me or my councilors) would feel guilted into showing up at 8 the next morning and find out that the family were high priests, and 9 time out of 10 hadn’t even packed. I actually arrived to move the bishop’s daughter and wondered why her washer was so heavy–it had wet clothes in it.
Where are the families? I thought if you needed help you turned to your family first. Where are the home teachers? It was just assumed that elders had nothing better to do than spend all of their Saturday moving people who had the means to move themselves.
Which leads me to funeral potatoes. My mother-in-law is one of those Saints that has had her calling and election made sure. There is an evil tradition of their forefathers in their community that the relief society sisters make an after funeral dinner for anyone that has died. Its not just a small meal for the family after a funeral of a ward member, but its a flat out banquet for any attendee of the funeral of anyone buried in their community, member or not, resident or not. Because she is one of those sisters that never says no, she makes these banquets a couple of times a month for people she has never met. The Bishop just calls and lays on the assignment.
My wife had an ectopic pregnancy a couple of years ago. The tube burst and she had to recover from surgery. The relief society called to arrange meals, cleaning, and childcare during her convalescence. When my wife explained that while she was unable to do some of those things, we had made arrangements for the kids, I could cook and clean, and we really didn’t need any additional help. My wife was then subjected to a lecture about how we were depriving people of an opportunity to serve. The problem was, we really didn’t need the help. My wife was so guilted that she acquiesced to a week of meals. We were then the recipients of many fine meals (and some not so fine), that we could not eat all of. I know some of those families struggled.
The problem I have is that many wards contain enablers. Not enough people say no because it is a priesthood leader that is doing the asking. There are evil traditions that elders move things and relief societies make food. But that is NOT the program of the church! When we moved, My wife and 2 children packed up everything we owned and left (it took us a day and we probably needed the help, but I refused to ask). Because of my bad experiences, I deprived members and my family of a service opportunity. But I thought it was better that than perpetuating the tradition.