Sunday, December 28, 2014

Saturday is a special day...

I'm inspired by the RfM community today to write about a little thing certain members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are expected to do on Saturdays.  Now, I am not now nor have I ever been LDS.  I was raised Presbyterian.  In my church, we had custodians.  They were paid to keep the church clean and they were expected to do the job properly.  To my knowledge, they did their job well.  I don't remember ever coming across a nasty bathroom or a dirty Sunday School room.  Indeed, I don't remember the kitchen or the fellowship hall ever looking or smelling skanky.  The sanctuary was always pristine and the grounds were well-tended.

From what I've read, that's how it was in the olden days of Mormonism.  They used to have paid professionals keep their buildings clean.  Church members were expected to clean up after themselves, but they weren't asked to give up a precious Saturday to come in and scrub toilets or vacuum.  And given how busy church members tend to be with their (often) large families, demanding jobs, community service, and callings, Saturdays are no doubt a "special day".  Indeed, there's even a song about it.

"Saturday is a special day"... it's the day we get ready for Sunday.    

Listen to the lyrics.  On Saturdays, members have their own shit to attend to.  They have to shop, clean their house, wash their hair, clip their toenails, iron their Sunday clothes, shine their shoes, and get everything ready so they'll be ready to "rest" on Sunday...  after three hours of church, of course.

A few years ago, the powers that be in the LDS church determined that members needed to learn more about service.  So they got rid of the people they used to pay to clean their buildings and commanded the members to do the cleaning themselves.  The members were told this would help them have more of an attitude of service, be more reverent toward their buildings, develop more community spirit, and most of all, indoctrinate the children to be obedient to the profit... er, prophets...  Personally, despite church leaders' insistence that they didn't fire their janitors to save money, I think that's precisely why members are doing the cleaning instead of paid professionals.

RfM member "EveryMemberAJanitor" helpfully provided links to videos about the Mormon practice of getting members to clean the buildings.  I watched one video provided by the church.  I often get a kick out of Mormon church made videos.  They are very professionally done with lots of heartwarming music and pictures of happy families cleaning windows, scrubbing toilets, and vacuuming floors.  And members talk about how these chores help increase their faith and how it really can be "fun" to do this stuff on Saturday if you have the "right attitude".  Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.

Maybe it is fun for some people.  Those who have the time and energy to clean-- don't have a bunch of kids to tend to or a busy job that prevents them from getting their stuff done during the week-- and those who actually enjoy cleaning (and there are a few rare souls that do) might genuinely enjoy the Saturday church cleaning chores.  Maybe it's fun if everyone does their part and shares the load so that the same people don't end up doing the work week after week.  But from what I've read, this is not what usually happens.  Members are supposed to volunteer to clean once a month or so.  A lot of them don't, because they have other things to do.  Some of them don't because they don't want to or are lazy.  So that leaves the people who don't have anything better to do, those who actually like to clean, and those who can be guilted or manipulated into doing the work that inevitably is assigned to them after they don't volunteer.

Here's the thing, though.  Though the LDS church leaders are quick to tell everyone how they take care of their own by having a bishop's storehouse for people who are down on their luck, the truth is, to take advantage of the "charity", members are expected to work.  Which is fine.  Except that if the church actually hired these folks to do the work, then they'd be helping them become productive members of society again.  They'd be able to tithe, pay their bills, and get by without charity.  And maybe they'd also gain valuable skills.  The buildings would get the full time attention they need and the members who have other things to do on Saturdays would not be burdened with yet another chore on their one day off.  Seems to me that if they have the money to make their fancy videos and printed resources for church members, they have the money to pay people to clean their buildings properly.

Of course, I am not now nor will I ever be a Mormon.  I don't know how the rank and file members actually feel about this policy-- and I have a feeling it is the rank and file members that are affected the most.  I guess if they're okay with it, maybe I should be...  except I am sure that some people don't like being put upon to do this kind of work.  Given how many Mormons have small kids, I am sure the job is pretty disgusting at times.

The leaders present the prospect of cleaning the church as if it's a great service opportunity.  But really, it's a way for them to save money, keep the members busy, and indoctrinate them further.  Because if you are busy on Saturday morning scrubbing the shit stains and pubic hairs out of the church's commodes, you aren't doing something that might lead you astray.  There's no free time to do some critical thinking or reading about church history, or talk to people who aren't in the church, or even watch a television program about something not church related.  It's also time you aren't spending with your family.  Yes, they may be there helping you scrub shit stains, but how much deep bonding can you do over cleaning up dried urine and poo residue and the whine of a vacuum cleaner?  Especially when you also need to do the same chores at your own home?

Of course, these lads serving missions in Russia could probably use some remedial toilet training...

Actually, the video above kind of pisses me off.  On one hand, these two boys are doing the kind of typical immature stuff teenagers do.  On the other hand, they are called "elders" by their church and they were going door to door in Russia trying to get people to become Mormons.  Clearly, they aren't really "elders"; they're boys... full of mischief and testosterone and apparently, a bent toward vandalism.  These guys are probably the source of many shit stains in the meetinghouses.  How much scrubbing do you think they do on Saturday mornings?

Having lived in a Soviet era building or two myself, I think they are lucky they didn't cause a fire.  Imagine what that would have done for the morale of Russians who might be displaced, hurt, or killed by their shenanigans?  I see by the full trash can by their toilet, they aren't supposed to flush paper down the toilet.  Plumbing in the former Soviet Union tends to be fragile.  Notice the young man who didn't make the fire yells, "You can't flush it!" as his companion flushes the residue down the tubes.  At the very least, their prank could cause a nasty clog, which might affect others in their building and/or cause a plumber to have to come out and fix the toilet for them.

Anyway... I'm glad my Saturdays aren't special.


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