Sweeping, Shining, and Serving
October 2000

“Sweeping, Shining, and Serving,” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 44

Sweeping, Shining, and Serving

As we help care for Church meetinghouses, we find our own lives blessed.

Church leaders are asking members to take a larger role in helping clean and maintain our meetinghouses. Local priesthood leaders have been encouraged to involve members of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes, as well as other ward members, in cleaning efforts. As a consequence of member participation in meetinghouse care, there is a greater respect and reverence for the buildings. In an earlier issue, readers were invited to report how they feel their lives have been blessed by this service. The following is a sampling of those reports.

My husband and I and our three-year-old daughter, Cheyenne, arrived at the meetinghouse to help clean. While cleaning the back door, Cheyenne looked up at me and said, “Mom, why are we doing this?”

I replied, “Because this is Heavenly Father’s house and we want it to be clean for everyone to enjoy.”

She started scrubbing the glass door a little more and said, “We are going to have the cleanest, shiniest church ever!”

Oh, the words of a three-year-old to teach the spirit of cleaning our meetinghouse! Each time I see glass doors, I remember the glow on her face and the joy that came to her just by washing doors in a meetinghouse.—Heather A. Cannon, Buena Vista Second Ward, Washington Utah Buena Vista Stake

For several months we have been involving Aaronic Priesthood youth in our meetinghouse care program. The wards assigned to each building rotate this responsibility on a monthly basis. Typically the young men use their regular Mutual night to clean, and when they all help the work is generally done in an hour. It has been enlightening to hear from both youth and leaders:

Youth: “At first I had a bad attitude, but when I got to the church and started cleaning, I felt so happy to be giving back even a little that I couldn’t believe it. In the end I appreciated the opportunity to serve.”

Young Men Leader: “The companionship among the young men has improved. They try to get everyone to participate so it isn’t a burden on a few. This activity has built friendships.”

Young Women Leader: “As the young women clean, the joy of service has come out in them. They are proud of their work and feel good about the cleanliness of their assigned areas. It is a gift to the ward on Sunday mornings.”

High councilor: “I have seen a dramatic change in the attitude of youth in our stake since they began helping to clean the building. They seem to take better care of the building, and we’ve had no vandalism. Youth often put forth extra effort to avoid making messes, for they know they or their friends will be the ones to clean them up.”—Bud Stanford, Centerville 15th Ward, Centerville Utah North Stake

In Nigeria I was baptized into a struggling unit of only 20 members who met in a large duplex. Upkeep made tremendous demands on so few members. As a convert I was charmed by the way members galvanized their energies in dusting the hall and working to maintain an aesthetically satisfying and spiritually pleasing atmosphere. My family joined in, and we found these activities brought us closer together. As we associated with the members, we were informally schooled in the way of the Church and things pertaining to our salvation.

Other blessings also came. One day while swinging my machete over our lawns to keep the weeds down, the district president pulled up and asked me to get into his car quickly. Sweat-soaked and stained with grass cuttings, I got in. As we drove away, he explained that a member had been involved in a near-fatal accident and urgently needed a priesthood blessing.

When we arrived at the hospital, doctors and nurses surrounded him and would not pause to let us give him a blessing. Death was imminent, they said. While we waited in the corridor, one of the president’s counselors also arrived. When the doctors retired to an adjacent office, the brethren slipped in and offered a priesthood blessing to the dying man.

Later that evening I felt a need to return to the hospital ward to visit the member, but I found his bed empty. Fearing the worst, I sought out a nurse who informed me that the brother I was looking for had recovered so quickly that he had been moved out of the intensive care unit. I finally found him in another room chatting animatedly with family and ward members. This time the doctor said I might bless this brother over and over if I wished, for they had seen the Lord pull him from the jaws of death.

I am grateful for my decision that day to go to the meetinghouse to help care for the grounds. Because of that one decision, I was able to help out during a serious emergency and through that gained a powerful testimony of the potency of priesthood power.—Imo Ben Eshiet, Calabar Nigeria District, Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission

After fasting and praying about my new calling as ward meetinghouse care coordinator for my Manhattan ward, I was prepared to receive the new experiences the calling would bring me. I was not prepared, however, for the tremendous poignancy and the new level of spiritual experiences that I had with members of my ward and other wards each time I participated with them in cleaning our stake center in the heart of New York City.

To learn my duties, I contacted the deaf branch, which had the current assignment to care for the building. I arranged to get training from a senior missionary couple serving that branch. On my first Saturday working with the members, we began our cleaning assignments with a humble prayer in sign language. I had never before been part of a group of reverent members praying in this manner. Afterward, two of the deaf brethren patiently taught me how to use the equipment and what needed to be done. Since I did not know how to sign, I was touched by their patience with me and their good humor as I learned my tasks.

In the following weeks I sometimes worried whether enough people would show up. My fears proved to be unfounded. I have been moved by the families with small children who have come to clean each week. I have seen investigators and new members come to join our efforts. Two investigators were eventually baptized. I’ve seen mothers with newborns, and tired law school students who had been studying all night come to help. I’ve seen people with disabilities show up. I’ve seen people drop by from other wards even when it wasn’t their assignment to come. I’ve seen officers of major corporations on their hands and knees cleaning spots out of the carpet. I’ve seen out-of-state visitors in town on business come to help.

I was so moved by the depth of spirituality I found in this calling that I went to the temple pondering upon it. While there, it was borne upon my mind that this service was one way of living the law of consecration. By honoring the First Presidency’s invitation to serve in this way, we make a difference and purify our hearts. I know without a doubt that this work is important to the Lord.—Anne Sheedy, Manhattan First Ward, New York New York Stake

With a growing concern over our family’s work ethic, I worried and prayed and pondered about what I could do to help my children learn to work with a good attitude. Then an opportunity came to assist with cleaning the stake center. I signed up to help, and when I arrived with two of my three daughters and my baby son, I began in the kitchen. My girls soon got into the spirit of it. My 10-year-old cleaned under cabinets while my 4-year-old polished trays.

By helping with the cleaning, my children would learn the importance of serving and gain more respect for our building, I imagined. I was right on both counts, but they learned other lessons as well. They experienced joy in their work, built closer relationships with other mothers and children, and saw their own mother cheerfully giving service.

As I thought about our service, I began to understand that this service was part of my answer for teaching my children good work ethics. The opportunity to clean our church building has been an answer to prayer.—Beth Davis, Tierra Bonita Ward, Lancaster California East Stake

My father, who is 60 years old, was the building representative for the local stake center. Each evening he made his rounds locking doors, closing windows, turning off lights, and picking up after different groups. On Saturday he met with other volunteers to thoroughly clean the building.

About once a week I made the evening rounds with my father. Together we checked the doors and windows, stacked chairs, picked up garbage, and tidied rest rooms. Helping him brought an unforeseen benefit to my life: an opportunity to talk together. We shared thoughts about Church doctrine, careers, family needs, and future plans. Sometimes while walking to and from the meetinghouse we chatted with neighbors. I gained a deeper respect for my father as I watched his example in filling this Church calling.—Paul C. Keefer, Canyon Springs (YSA) Branch, Sandy Utah Granite View Stake

When I served as a counselor in Primary, our presidency looked for a service activity for our children and recalled the responsibilities that different organizations in the ward had been given under the meetinghouse care program. We decided that as part of our service activity, the Primary children would participate in cleaning the Primary rooms, halls, and nursery.

It was rewarding to see nursery- and Sunbeam-age children picking up paper and throwing it away. Children helped clean chalkboards, tables, and chairs; they dusted and took out the garbage. Older children vacuumed and reached high spots on walls and chalkboards the younger children couldn’t reach. The Primary rooms took on a beautiful, fresh look with so much help from the children.—Jennifer Archer, Valparaiso Ward, Valparaiso Indiana Stake

One Friday evening I got a call asking if I could help clean the meetinghouse on Saturday morning. I had helped just a few weeks earlier, so I felt I should not have to volunteer again. I turned down the opportunity, but as I hung up the phone I felt a twinge of guilt. As the evening wore on, I reflected on the parable of the father who asked one of his sons to work in his vineyard. The son replied, “I will not: but afterward he repented, and went” (Matt. 21:29).

My heart changed, and the next morning I showed up at the meetinghouse. There I was greeted by friends. Feeling cheerful, I got out the vacuum and began to push it through the halls. I reflected on the difference between this day and my experience a few weeks earlier when I had had the same assignment. Then I had felt some resentment when a brother left early and I had to finish his assigned rooms along with my own jobs. My hand had hurt from vacuuming so much, and my main feeling at the end of the morning was relief that a blister had not formed.

This day seemed different. The vacuum didn’t seem so heavy, and I concentrated more on doing a thorough job. When I finished I looked around, surprised to find the others had gone. Then, quietly, a warm, peaceful feeling entered my heart and I felt goodness surround me. I was touched at this silent approbation of my efforts. As I headed home, I was filled with a sweet sense of having done the right thing.—Timothy R. Weller, North Branch Ward, Morristown New Jersey Stake

While at Church one Sunday I was handed a list of jobs to do to help clean the meetinghouse. “I realize this is short notice,” said the bishop’s counselor. “It won’t be a problem, will it?” I almost said, Yes, of course it will be a problem. We are moving in two weeks. Still, my daughter and I showed up the following Saturday. Only one other sister came to help. A bit irritated that no one else had come, I nevertheless took the small vacuum and began in one of the classrooms. The vacuum obediently consumed each crumb, scrap of paper, and particle of dust it encountered. I made my way slowly, methodically through doorways, around chairs, and under chalkboards, removing evidences of past projects and lessons.

Unaccountably, peace settled around me with the hum of the machine. Doors opened. Doors closed. The mortal task continued, and I found in its simple monotony a growing gratitude for the One whose building I at first reluctantly agreed to clean. He who consistently removes the earthly debris from the corners of my life sometimes moves me in and out of doors that at times make little sense to me—except that I know that it is His hand that continually guides me through.—Lorinda Smith, Missoula Second Ward, Missoula Montana Stake

Photography by Craig Dimond and Photodisc