An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Saturday night I heard a large truck engine running in front of our house as I stepped out of the shower. I pulled on my pajamas and went outside to see the fire department aid truck parked in front of the house across the street where Jenny, a single mom with two young children lives. My next-door neighbor, also in pajamas, was in her front yard. She wondered if we should call the bishop. I thought we’d better go see if Jenny needed help with the kids. We entered the house to find our neighbor’s 16-month-old being attended by the firemen. She’d had a seizure. I offered to stay with the four-year-old while Jenny took the baby to the hospital, but Jenny’s aunt arrived on the scene before the firemen left and stayed with the older child.

The next day the baby was much better. The seizure had been caused by a high fever from croup and medication was controlling both the fever and croup. I was in my front yard when our ward Relief Society president stopped by to see Jenny. Sister President asked me what had happened. When I explained the events of the previous night, she asked why I hadn’t called her. “We had plenty of people here to help and didn’t need to bother you that late,” I said. She thanked me for supporting Jenny. I hardly thought my small attempt to be a good neighbor merited thanks from another neighbor. Is only the Relief Society President supposed to respond to needs in our neighborhood?

A sister in our ward recently confided that she doesn’t take an active role in offering help to people in need since she is no longer Relief Society president and doesn’t feel she has that authority. Our church is very efficient at meeting emergencies and caring for the needy. And church organization prevents duplication of services and keeps less prominent members from being overlooked. But the downside may be that our program inadvertently trains us not to take initiative—not to respond to needs unless directed by someone in authority. Maybe we need to remember that church programs exist to help us develop the skills and resources to act independently when necessary.


Comments on: "No Random Acts of Kindness" (4)

  1. Another downside is exclusion,, particularly in Utah.

    • You’re right. It does tend to blind us to needs outside our own group.

      • By exclusion, I was thinking more along the lines of denying nonmembers the opportunity to help their neighbors. After moving into our new home I was never informed about births, deaths or illnesses of our neighbors because it was all taken care of in Relief Society. When collections were taken for flowers or food was brought in for funerals we were not included. At first I thought maybe the problem was me. Now after six years I know that it is the “system”. Other nonmembers are also left out. Thankfully, my neighbors who are now my close friends see to it that I am at least informed. But no, I am not included in the participation.

        Maybe they are afraid of my Buddhist germs.

  2. “But the downside may be that our program inadvertently trains us not to take initiative—not to respond to needs unless directed by someone in authority.”

    HUGE downside, in my humble opinion.

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