“The ‘Perfect Day’ Challenge,” Ensign, Aug. 1988, 62
“How many of you would like to have a ‘perfect day’?” the bishop asked. Members of the congregation raised their hands—some high, some low. Some people raised only a finger. A few kept their hands in their laps.
“That’s fine,” he nodded. “Larry, would you like to have a ‘perfect day’? Would you please come up here? Gene and LaRae? DeeAnn? Sean? Tess and John? Lynn and Mike?”
He called their names slowly, pausing briefly between each one. Many hands fell back into their owners’ laps; only a few remained held high.
“Is there a widow who would like to live a ‘perfect day’?” the bishop asked. There was a moment of silence as he looked over the congregation. “Vivian, how about you?”
When those whose names he had called had reached the stand, he turned to them. “Which day would you like to be your perfect day? Tuesday? … Thursday?”
The disbelief and bewilderment on their faces showed that none of them had really expected to have to make a real commitment. Some nodded their heads yes. Others stood motionless. After several seconds, someone suggested Thursday because it would give them more time to prepare. So Thursday it was.
His eyes twinkling, the bishop said, “That’s fine. Thursday you will have a ‘perfect day.’ And since we do not have any speakers planned for sacrament meeting next Sunday, we’d like you to report your ‘perfect day’ to us.”
He turned back to the congregation. “Is there anyone else who would like to have a ‘perfect day’?” James, a teachers quorum member with a freckled face and a winning grin, raised his hand. He was included.
The bishop then told the congregation, “Your responsibility as ward members is to pray that they accomplish their assignment.”
How does one live to make a day perfect? That question passed through the minds of those who had accepted the bishop’s challenge. Throughout the week, whenever ward members got together, the subject of the bishop’s “perfect day” challenge came up. We were eager to hear the reports.
Sunday finally came. Vivian, a widow with short brown hair and shining eyes, was first. She told us that she had decided to begin the day by attending the temple and then catching up on some projects she had been planning to do for a long time.
But her day hadn’t gone exactly as planned. She awoke with a terrible head cold—the first time in more than three years she had been ill. So she had to revise her plans.
She decided to get out a box of her mother’s papers and mementos and spend a couple of hours putting together a scrapbook about her mother’s life. Vivian asked her sister to help, and they worked together to reconstruct their mother’s life story in pictures and words. It took most of the day, but the end result was a cherished scrapbook.
Vivian found that her activities on that day opened up a new avenue to her. Her patriarchal blessing had said that she would work on her family history. “Because I didn’t understand family history, I just couldn’t get really interested in it,” she confessed. “But after doing my mother’s book, I decided to do one about my husband.”
She has since compiled histories of her husband, her son, and her daughter. “By cleaning out all the boxes of treasures and souvenirs I had been storing for years, I’ve found enough information to do the temple work for many of my ancestors,” she said. “I can see my work is just beginning. And I’m happy to do it.”
James’s goal for the day was much different. He planned to be obedient to his parents—to immediately and cheerfully do what he was asked. “It seems as if your mother always wants you to do something when your favorite show is on television or when you are in the most exciting part of your book,” he said. “Sometimes I stopped and told myself to do it now. At the end of the day, I was able to do it as soon as she asked. It gave me a good feeling,” he concluded.
Sean, a fifteen-year-old with a delightful sense of humor, also took the bishop’s challenge seriously. Though scripture study was not a part of his daily routine, he decided to begin the day by reading the scriptures. “I don’t know why it was so important to me to read the scriptures that day, but it was,” he explained. “Several times Wednesday night I woke up, feeling sure that I had overslept. Finally, when my alarm went off at six o’clock, I reached for my scriptures.”
He read for about forty-five minutes. “Reading the scriptures seemed to set the tone for the entire day,” he said. “It’s not always easy to get along with school friends, teachers, and your family, and my ‘perfect day’ was not different. I made some mistakes, but I did a lot better than I do most days.
“It also helped me be much more aware of my blessings, of the things I should be doing, and of my mistakes,” he added. “Often during the day I wondered what I could do to be better.”
That question—“What can I do to be better?”—was asked by others who had accepted the bishop’s challenge. Many of them found the answer in serving others. John and Tess enjoyed the extra effort they put into service that day so much that they decided to continue it.
“As soon as we received the assignment from the bishop, we came home and talked about it,” John recalled. “We planned. We prayed. And then we planned and prayed some more.”
“I knew that by Thursday I would have had enough time to prepare,” Tess said. “I wanted to live the best I could.”
She and John spent the day visiting neighbors, taking fruit or gifts to those who were ill, and expressing thanks to people who had helped them. “So many people are lonely and just want to talk,” said John. “It was wonderful to see how they opened up to us. One sister asked us if the high priests could bring the sacrament to her home once in a while since she couldn’t go to the meetings. So I relayed her request to the bishop.”
“Most days we think about what we should do, but we just don’t make the effort,” Tess said. “But when you finally do it, you have such a good feeling.”
Gene found attempting to live a “perfect day” a great challenge. “On a scale of one to ten, I would rate my ‘perfect day’ about a six,” he said. “Even though I didn’t have exactly the kind of clay I would have liked to have, it made an impact on my life. I’d never even thought of trying to live a ‘perfect day’ before.”
LaRae, Gene’s wife, experienced an improvement in their relationship as a result of her “perfect day.” “By trying to keep my day perfect,” she said, “I realized some of the habits I had gotten into. For instance, I would suddenly get mad at Gene for some silly, insignificant reason. Now I’m working on correcting that.”
On her “perfect day,” DeeAnn called her two brothers and sister and told them that she loved them. “I knew that if I were going to try to live a ‘perfect day,’ I needed to evaluate my own life,” she said. “As I did so, my gratitude for my blessings grew and grew, and I realized how thankful I was for my family.”
One brother was surprised by her call. “He just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He kept asking me what was the matter!” The calls have strengthened DeeAnn’s relationship with her family. “Since then,” she said, “that brother has called me a couple of times just to make sure I was all right. He’d never done that before in all the years I’d been away from home!”
Mike and Lynn, a young married couple with two small children, wanted to make their “perfect day” a special one for the entire family. They spent part of the day in a nearby park, learning about each other and their Father in Heaven. The whole family made an extra effort to get along with each other. “You cannot have a ‘perfect day’ and not improve your family life,” Mike said. “It was wonderful!”
Lynn shared an experience that had happened to her early that morning. “I was whipping up pancakes a little too vigorously, I guess, because suddenly the batter splattered all over everything—the cupboards, the floor, me,” she said. “I looked down at my son, and his face had dozens of tiny pancake-batter specks on it.” On any other day, she admitted, “I would have become very irritated. But instead, we laughed and shared a funny moment.”
The couple’s relationships with family members other than their children also improved that day. Just after breakfast, Lynn’s mother called and asked Lynn to give her sister a ride to work. “I bundled up the kids and drove out to Mother’s,” Lynn said. “By the time I got there, my sister had found another ride.” But because of the bishop’s challenge to make her day perfect, Lynn said, “I was able to accept the situation instead of becoming angry.”
Recognizing faults and taking steps to overcome them was something each of those who accepted the bishop’s challenge experienced. Larry, who had participated in a “perfect week” campaign and a “perfect day” experiment on his mission, said, “Like many returned missionaries, I had fallen down in my study habits. There always seemed to be so many other things to do. So when I received this assignment from the bishop, I decided that I needed to regain that closeness to the Lord I had felt on my mission.”
Things didn’t work out quite as Larry had planned; a painful wisdom tooth marred his “perfect day.” “Still,” he says, “I don’t feel my day was a failure. I tried hard to live perfectly—in spite of my circumstances.”
After hearing the reports of those who had accepted the bishop’s “perfect day” challenge, I asked him about it.
“I’ve always thought about living a ‘perfect day,’” he said. “But we have so many outside influences and pressures in a regular day that we can seldom focus on the spiritual and idealistic. And we often speak about the impossibility of living a ‘perfect day’ or a perfect life. But I had a strong feeling that the time was right for the members to try.”
He added, “Many of us in the ward, not just those who had committed themselves to the challenge, also tried to live a ‘perfect day.’ We were all interested in the outcome, and we prayed for those who had accepted the challenge. As a result, we became more aware of the challenges involved in perfecting ourselves and strove harder to live worthy to have the Lord’s Spirit be with us.”
Though the bishop’s “perfect day” challenge did not cause instant turnabouts in our lives, it helped us along the road to perfection—something we all hope to achieve.