Breaking my back just to know your name

Those of us who live a peripatetic (peripathetic?) life come to know the Elders’ Quorum Moving Company pretty well. We’re all familiar with the process — contacting the Elders’ Quorum president two days before arrival; lifting a leather hide-a-bed couch up three flights of circular stairs; shattering a few glass table tops (yes, Steve Evans, I’m talking about you) or other sundries; and of course, visiting the chiropractor afterwards.

Amazingly, we do this all for two groups — people we’ve never met, and people we’re never going to see again. Thus, Elders’ Quorum moving becomes a test of our charity. For both move-outs and move-ins, the prospect of any earthly reward is far from certain. Move-outs may (or may not) be friends of long tenure in the ward; what is certain is that we’re likely never to see them again. Move-ins, meanwhile, are a cipher — is this fellow the next bishop, or the next inactive? We don’t know, and yet we still show up to move his dining room table.

Helping others move is a test of charity for another reason: Members in transition are also among those most in need of others’ help. Uprooting is difficult, stressful, and expensive. And sometimes ward members (on either or both ends of the move) can help ease some of the difficulties felt by these vulnerable moving members.

The quorum isn’t perfect, of course, and doesn’t always come through. (Sometimes this is due to member miscalculation. For example, it’s bad idea to move out of a law school ward two weeks before the bar . . . just trust me on this one). And while the Elders are usually the group with a formal role, they certainly aren’t the only ones who participate (I say this having watched Sumer Evans show up for a move and proceed to outwork everyone there).

Moving is hell. But moves have also been, for me, faith-affirming experiences. When I unmoor myself from my normal protections and security and find myself cast on the mercy of the Lord and of my ward members, I find that I am (perhaps finally) able to experience miracles, able to see the hand of the Lord in protecting my family. And so paradoxically, I’ve found that moving brings miracles. Or rather, it brings unique crises, but those crises are a chance to see the Lord’s hand.

And often, the manifestation of the Lord’s hand comes in the form of the Elders’ Quorum moving company.

107 comments for “Breaking my back just to know your name

  1. August 9, 2005 at 12:37 pm

    I just pray the hand of the Lord chooses to manifest itself around 4:30pm this Friday here in Jonesboro, and then again around the same time in Macomb the next day. Fortunately, I’ve been part of such manifestations often enough to know that offering up sacrifices of pizza, donuts, and soda increase the odds of the Lord’s blessing you with Brother Madsen’s piano dolley–er, I mean, His presence.

  2. gst
    August 9, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    This last move I accomplished without the aid of the local priesthood, using day laborers at reasonable rates on both ends. I much preferred it to enlisting my church friends and recommend it to others.

  3. costanza
    August 9, 2005 at 12:53 pm

    Amen gst

  4. Mike C.
    August 9, 2005 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks for the humbling post. I am the EQ Pres. in my ward, and it is difficult at times to maintain the proper perspective/attitude with respect to those who appear to assume that EQ members are available and ready to help at a moment’s notice (I am still too proud to call ahead and ask for EQ help moving in — I just haven’t been able to get comfortable letting the EQ wonder about what contribution I will make to the ward while they labor on my behalf. It’s much easier to ask for the help on the way out after I’ve proven myself). As one of my counselors recently observed: “This is what we do as Melchizidek Priesthood holders. We move people. We aren’t asked to help them in their fields. We don’t have to pull their overturned wagons from a creek bed. We just have to be willing to get up early EVERY Saturday morning (no joke in our ward) and move boxes and hope against hope for some doughnuts and Gatorade in return. It’s what we do.”

    I will note that your comers/goers analysis is not quite applicable to my ward. It seems like half of our moves take place entirely within the ward boundaries (there are a lot of apartments in Sherman Oaks, CA). I find those moves to be the greatest test of my own charity, because they frequently involve members who move often, are not prepared and seem to take our service entirely for granted (one in-boundary-moving sister last week couldn’t remember my name, but introduced me to one of her neighbors as “one of the movers” before asking me “where are all of the other movers?”). I find myself praying regularly during these moves for the Lord’s help to overcome my tendency to feel critical, annoyed, or even disgusted at times by the person and possessions I am moving.

    Obviously, it’s easier to serve and serve with the members of our wards who are “together” and who approach life and the gospel in much the same way as ourselves. We get so caught up in meetings and talks and lessons and ward activities. Your post helped remind me that true religion (and miracles) is much more likely to occur when we serve those who need are the help the most.

  5. mormon fool
    August 9, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    Nice Killers reference!

    “Moving is hell.”

    I’m breaking my back just to know your name
    But heaven ain’t close in a place like this

  6. Nate Oman
    August 9, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    When I was in the EQP in Cambridge I think that the main thing that our Quorum did as service was moving. Unfortunately, we didn’t do much else. I also made the mistake of spending a summer in a largely grad/law student ward. What this means is that two weeks before the start of classes everyone shows up and needs help moving, but most of the ward is not yet “back.” Suffice it to say that the EQP carried a lot of furniture during that two week period.

    I have never really felt comfortable asking for EQ help from a ward that I don’t know. Hence, when we left Cambridge, the EQ helped get our stuff in the van, but when I (by myself; Heather and Jacob being in Utah) arrived in Little Rock, I moved all of our stuff into our new house by myself because I didn’t feel comfortable calling the EQP out of the blue. This was in August in Arkansas. It very nearly killed me.

    Our last move had movers provided by my employer, which was nice, although the driver of our truck turned out to have an outstanding warrant for his arrest in the Commonwealth of Virginia and was hauled off by the Fairfax County Police Department, leaving the huge moving van (it was one of those semi’s where you buy ten feet of a forty foot trailer) parked athwart the entrance to our cul de sac. It was a great way to make a good first impression on the neighbors: “Yes we are the one’s with the moving guy who got arrested and left your car bottled up for six hours…”

  7. MDS
    August 9, 2005 at 1:34 pm

    Ouch! You struck a nerve!

    This is the most abused perk of membership in the church I am aware of. People pocket moving allowances given by their employers and ask the priesthood to step it up. I’m not aware of any temple covenants that are implicated by moving requests, nor am I aware of any direction from the brethren that such should be made. Moving certainly isn’t a part of the mission of the church.

    People need to understand that, to the extent they take priesthood out of their homes to move, they are using the Lord’s consecrated time. They should do everything they can to minimize the time spent by the priesthood, i.e., they should pack beforehand where possible. I’m not saying that I’m not willing to help where needed, but don’t take unfair advantage of me. If you can afford the move, don’t use my slave labor. If you have the capability of putting your underwear in a box, do it yourself.

  8. MDS
    August 9, 2005 at 1:38 pm

    Nate, that is quite a story. I was threatened with breaking and entering on my last move. The incompetence of the various realtors and banks involved in the transaction pushed our closing back (at first unbeknownst to me and the movers, who were happily carrying our things into the house) so that ownership had technically not yet transferred to me. It was less than a week before Christmas, and fortunately I was able to prevail upon the seller to be patient and not throw me and my family out on the street on a cold December day.

  9. August 9, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    People pocket moving allowances given by their employers and ask the priesthood to step it up especially when what they are mostly moving is high expense and massive numbers of hi-tech toys …

    Or a guy asking us to all come down and move his ex-wife who had decided to never attend church again years ago and who did no pre-move preparing …

    Or …

    Well, what the heck, time to go move someone again. Then back to workl

  10. Larry Beck
    August 9, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    A few random thoughts:

    1) Moving to Utah (Orem) many years ago, I started to feel awful. No, not about moving to Utah, but really sick, as in stuffed up head, fever, sore throat, the works. We limped into Orem around the dinner hour and within 30 minutes the EQ had set up my bed, whereupon I crashed and fell asleep. Woke up the next morning with everything out of the truck and in its proper location. All I had to do was take the truck back. I will be forever grateful for the help that we received at an inconvenient time for everyone who did help. And yes, they even provided dinner for my wife and child!

    2) Same ward, two years and a Master’s degree later, we went to a home of someone who need help moving, only to find them sitting around the dinner table. Needless to say, nothing was ready to move, and they had STUFF! 500 pound barrel of wheat, piano, you name it.

    3) Just finished moving two someones out of our current ward who has never attended church in the few years they’ve lived here. Grumble? Yes, but then what stopped me was the fact that I have about 5 neighbors who are members in name only, and I would drop anything and help them in a heartbeat, to move, or whatever. What difference does it make whether they attend church nor not?

    As someone said in this thread, we don’t have to plow a field, or build a barn, or pull someone’s wagon out of the creek, but we are Saints who move.

  11. Greg Call
    August 9, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    Ah, I remember moving Kaimi into his first Manhattan apartment, and moving him out of that apartment and into his second Manhattan apartment. I apologize for not showing up for the third move to the Bronx, Kaimi, but, as you guessed, I was busy sitting in a carrell in the New York Public Library panicking.

    My first calling in the Manhattan First Ward was “moving coordinator,” and it was probably the most demanding calling I’ve had. I’m still pretty good at finagling couches into elevators.

  12. Ivan Wolfe
    August 9, 2005 at 2:00 pm

    The charity of Ward members in moving, no questions asked, is one of my most favorite things about Mormon culture. With all the complaining about doctrince vs. culture and the bad aspects of LDS culture, the willingness of many members to help in moving is a wonderful thing.

  13. jimbob
    August 9, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    RE 12.3: I agree that from a service point of view, we should be willing to cry with those that cry, mourn with those who mourn, move those who need moving, etc., but from the asker’s point of view, there is something uniquely disingenuous about not coming to church, or indeed ever having contributed to the unit in any way, but still expect that someone you’ve never met come to help you move. That is, the answer to “will you help me” move should, maybe, always be yes, but that doesn’t mean everyone should be asking it.

  14. JKS
    August 9, 2005 at 2:10 pm

    I like it that Mormons help people move. It is preferrable that the people who ask for help do all they can, and at a certain point if you can afford movers (or if the company gives you a moving allowance) you shouldn’t ask for the EQ movers.

  15. Ana
    August 9, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    This week my husband is coordinating moving for a deceased inactive sister. They’re loading up her possessions to send to distant relatives in another state. It’s pretty amazing, actually, that they are doing this. She fits in both your groups, Kaimi — we’ve never met her, and we hope for our own sakes it will be a while before we see her again. I guess maybe we hope that this service will make an impression on someone she has left behind about the way the Church works.

    Having moved eight times while I was growing up and ten times since I was married, I’ve observed that the brethren who show up to help someone move are usually the salt-of-the-earth folks you can count on for anything. Those are definitely the friends you want to make when you first move into a new place. It works out well.

  16. Steve Evans
    August 9, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    Kaimi, you make it sound as if I broke a glass table of yours. That’s just ridiculous. You don’t even have a glass table! This is what I get after showing you and Mardell around Morningside Heights…

    I think this is the closest we get in today’s Superfarm world to an experience similar to pitching in at harvest time. We all can collaborate in a real physical exertion to benefit a single member of our community. Maybe we should also have EQ barn-raisings.

  17. August 9, 2005 at 2:25 pm

    As one still leading the peripatetic life myself I struggle mightily asking people to help me move because it occurs so often. I have a couple of friends who have helped me move my piano three times! It got to be embarrassing and I’m not sure that they thought the benefits of our friendship were worth the cost.

    I don’t feel any better about asking the EQ to help because I always feel like there are more important things they could and should be doing. Shouldn’t they be visiting the sick and the affflicted or . . . trying to get a date for the weekend?

    Nate, I can’t believe you moved in by youself! I mean, practically speaking, how did you manage it? Don’t you own anything but books? I wish moving alone were an option for me, but no matter how much time I spend at the gym I will never be able to lift my bookcases or my oversized old fashioned desk by myself.

    I’m another permablogger on the move this Summer and I’m praying for those moving miracles Kaimi talks about. Moving reminds me how dependent I am, even for the smallest things, on others. This reminder causes me discomfort, but I guess that means it is good for me. Since I will be moving three times in the next three years it is a lesson I will get to learn well.

  18. August 9, 2005 at 2:43 pm

    I love Mormons’ willingness to help people move; as others have pointed out, it’s pretty much the only way we can physically serve one another nowadays. When I graduated from law school my firm paid to have our stuff packed and shipped, but we were going to spend the summer in Utah to take the bar, and we wouldn’t close on our new house until August.

    Because my firm would only move our stuff once, the professional movers drove our stuff to Maryland and put it in storage. It would be our responsibility to get it from the storage unit into our house. When some non-member law school friends asked about my moving plans, they were incredulous when I told them that I’d simply call my new Mormon congregation, and a group of people I’ve never met would show up on my door to help unload it. They were equally flabbergasted by my confidence that this scheme would work, and at my certainty I’d only need to call a few weeks in advance.

    True to Mormon form, when we moved in seven strangers were there to help us. I now consider them great friends.

    (I don’t think it’s unfair to require people to have everything packed before the EQ arrives — if they need help packing, they should involve the RS beforehand.)

  19. Wilfried
    August 9, 2005 at 2:48 pm

    I think this is a moving topic.

  20. August 9, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    The difference of course is that everyone helped out in a neighbour’s field, or in helping a fellow pioneer out of the ditch. No one, however, shows up for a move.

  21. jimbob
    August 9, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    RE 18: I think the good folks over at Feminist Mormon Housewives might have some strong feelings about your parenthetical paragraph. Are there “roles” regarding moving responsibilities, too?

  22. Steve Evans
    August 9, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    Wilfried (no. 19) – don’t quit your day job.

  23. Aaron Brown
    August 9, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    When people express incredulity at the idea that someone would want to become LDS, I often point out that the full-time missionaries are a free, constant source of slave labor for church members to use at their whim. (At least I view them this way). This can be useful in impressing people. Getting free moves is one of the many perks of membership, and it’s an awfully important one. I think we should use this as a selling point in our proselytizing much more than we do.

    Aaron B

  24. August 9, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    We’ve never gotten help from an EQ when we’ve moved, though my stepdad used to help out when he could, before he got, er, “distinguished” enough to be invited to the High Priests Quorum instead. I always feel weird about asking other people for stuff but I don’t mind helping out others. When my car died the week I had to move a few years ago, I had to get help from one of my best friends in packing things into her car and driving it to the new place, and it still feels like that was a major imposition, two years later.

  25. costanza
    August 9, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    I don’t mind helping out, but I must confess that I do think that at least part of the old United Order rules apply: to get something out, one should probably be putting something in. I also find the attitude of entitlement that sometimes shows itself to be very off-putting.

  26. Mike C.
    August 9, 2005 at 3:10 pm

    We have a moves coordinator in our EQ, and we have devised a checklist of requirements that we give to everyone who asks us for help. It instructs them to arrange for the truck and for appropriate dollies for things like pianos and refrigerators, to have everything packed in boxes (using the help of the R.S. if necessary), and to be responsible for non-heavy “odds and ends” and cleaning themselves (again, with the help of the R.S. if necessary). We find that the hardest of those requirements for most to comply with seems to be packing everything in boxes. We did one move the other day where everything (including books) was thrown into Hefty garbage sacks. It was another “in-boundary” move — actually, it involved carrying everything from one side of an apartment complex to the other, with no truck — and was about 10X more difficult than it would have been with boxes that could have ridden easily on dollies and carts brought by the 14 members of our EQ that showed up (we knew it would be a tough one, so we really hit the quorum hard in marketing the service opportunity).

    Still, I question at times whether I should be SO concerned with educating members re: how to appropriately ask for EQ help (because I might only be doing it out of my own frustration). I agree with what has been written here about the sacredness of our time. I believe members should only ask for help with what they cannot realistically and reasonably do by themselves, which I understand is very different for different members. Nothing burns me up more than a member acting annoyed with us when we cannot accomodate their ridiculously tight schedule on less than one week’s notice. But it is in those moments that I sense my personal test is to see whether I will let go of that annoyance and frustration and find a way to love the member anyway and serve them willingly and without criticism.

    Here’s the other question I have: what can be done about the “STP” phenomenon (same ten people) as it relates to church service? There are faithful, active members of my quorum with no children who I know to be waterskiiing every Saturday morning and who have never been to one move in my two years in the ward, while another member of my quorum attends law school at night, works two jobs during the day, attends the temple every Saturday morning at 5:00 a.m., and serves faithfully in the Stake YM Presidency, who has never missed one move. Despite personal invitations and PPIs, we still the same small group of people regularly sacrificing to attend moves, and I’m finding it difficult as a priesthood leader to love and respect the members that don’t pull their weight in these service opportunities. Any suggestions?

  27. August 9, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    Mike C., I think your question (#26) deserves its own post…

  28. Chance
    August 9, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    Being ward mission leader is the best calling to have during a move because the Elders have to show up. It’s in the handbook.

    As I mentioned in the other moving thread, we just completed an intra-ward move. Every time I move, I am both humbled and inspired by the service provided by the Saints. I shared the same experience as Matt in that the people at work could not believe that members of my congregation would not only show up (on a weeknight nonetheless), but would also complete the move within 4 hours. Having moved so many times before (what is it about Mormons and moving? Pioneer wanderlust?), I was prepared, and EVERYTHING was boxed up.

    At any rate, we started loading at 5:30 with one crew, caravanned to the new home, and was meant with 3 families of reinforcements. Needless to say, it was a swarm with on group in the garage passing to people in the house, and in the midst of it all was the RSP strongly advising everyone that our beds MUST be setup.

    By 9:30 the trucks were empty and the beds made. It was unbelievable, and I honestly cried. Our ward is tiny in active members, but huge in boundaries (100 square miles). We only average about 70 members each Sunday, and it felt like every one of them was helping, most of them living 20+ miles away.

    For some reason no one showed up to help clean out the apartment…

    I personally like moving others. If I miss a move, I hide the next Sunday because I am so ashamed. A move places many in a very precarious and vulnerable position. Even if you know it’s going to be a move filled with unpacked underwear and solid oak furniture, help out, you’ll feel better for having done it.

  29. August 9, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Mike C – tell them they’re going to hell.

  30. Rosalynde Welch
    August 9, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    Last year we moved across country, and we called ahead to request EQ assistance in moving our piano from the truck into our home (that’s all we really needed help with). But a day or two before the priesthood was scheduled to come, our new neighbors came over, introduced themselves, and offered to help unload the truck. In a few hours all the big stuff was done, and we called the EQ to let them know we wouldn’t need them after all. I’m still trying to figure out how to introduce those neighbors to the gospel….

  31. jesstheca
    August 9, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    The bishop in my ward strongly counseled that all members who can afford to pay for movers are obligated to do so. In addition, if people request moving help from the ward they are asked to have everything packed, rent a truck, and to have helped in other ward moves at least three times. I’m not sure how dedicated people are to upholding this standard, but I think it is a great one. It does seem like ‘the consecrated core’ are the ones who show up to every move.

    I hate asking people to help us move. Our last move was from one third floor garden style apartment to another third story garden style apartment. My husband and I packed the truck with all the boxes and unpacked them so that the friends we asked to help us move only had to move our five pieces of furniture.

  32. August 9, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    I’ve made many moves and helped many, many more. I’ve never asked for help from the EQ but did receive it at both ends of one move. On the receiving end, a member happened to live next door and rounded up several others, even though I told him we were fine — and I was wrong, the help was great.

    I’ve only turned down one request to help move — late winter night, after bed time — could I find some guys and go help a guy right now unload his truck, especially piano and food storage. I made some calls and couldn’t get any help — so I had to delay until the next day after classes.
    It really is an easy opportunity to serve. I know one guy who actually investigated and joined the church because everytime that he and his inactive wife moved, the ward came to help. After about seven time, he felt obligated to investigate — he told me the story while we were helping him move, again.

    As for moving roles and those whiney FMH — if they hearkened they would not murmur. Yeah, I always go too far.

  33. Jedd Fowers
    August 9, 2005 at 4:01 pm

    How does the REST of the world move without an Elders Quorum? Somehow, they get by.

    Priesthood assistance during a move is a Mormon perk, plain and simple. The work an EQ provides on a Saturday morning would often be worth hundreds, even thousands of dollars to a moving company. Yes, a well-executed event can be a good experience for all involved. Really. We are here to serve one another, and if this is the kind of service needed, we will do it, hopefully with a smile.

    It can also be an extremely frustrating, incredibly time consuming, and even dangerous event when done poorly. If you live in a ward where moves are infrequent, you have little idea what I’m talking about and probably think it’s rough if you help at two moves/year. If you live in a transient ward where multiple moves can occur every week, you understand these are significant service requests. Moves can take substantial blocks of time from faithful quorum members, sometimes, I think, to the point of asking people to run faster than they have strength. Add the “Same Ten People” phenomenon and you see the challenge. But there are simple things everyone can do to make the process more efficient and thus show respect for the time and efforts of the volunteers involved.

    Five years as an EQ president will push you to improve the process or go insane. We saw a marked improvement when we publicized the guidelines found here. Some of these items will seem incredibly obvious, but trust me—TRUST ME—they are not obvious to many people!

    Okay, calm down. On the bright side, spending your entire Saturday moving someone does cover and multitude of sins and will probably push you over the edge if you’re teetering between Celestial and Terrestrial kingdoms.

  34. b bell
    August 9, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    Here is a good idea. Move on Mutual night. The YM will come and help. Its a win win. Good service activity for the YM and lots of participants if you have a decent sized program. YM leaders are always looking for activities. Call them and arrange your move. Do not forget the food.

  35. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 9, 2005 at 4:07 pm

    We’ve been on both ends of the moving spectrum described here. I turned in my dissertation the day of one move, so you can imagine how involved and prepared I was — my husband had to do that move mostly on his own. Our relative panic didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the 23 (!!!) members of our ward who showed up to help us. We had never even met one of the families, but since members had just moved them in the weekend before, they were happy to come help. I guess that’s the good attitude people are talking about.

    My dissertation advisor and his wife showed up to say goodbye in the midst of all this good-natured Mormon moving mayhem. They were dumbfounded, and my advisor later joked that he was considering converting to Mormonism before his next move.

    Our next move was paid for, and we had more time to prepare, so it was easier, but I still recall thinking that it was taking for_ever_ with just two guys loading and unloading that rig. I hadn’t realized that the EQ bee swarm was unusual. Professional movers take all day. Amazing what and EQ can get done in a few hours.

    I like the idea of a checklist. It makes lots of sense to try and simplify things whenever possible, since every hour at a move is usually an hour not spent with family. Some people probably do have a sense of entitlement, or are simply careless. Others are either just too overwhelmed or too inexperienced at moving to think through everything, and a checklist would help all of these kinds of people. I’m curious about the checklist – what’s on it?

    And then there’s the financial aspect. We’ve paid for all or parts of several moves ourselves, and it can be a huge financial burden, so help from friends feels like salvation in those times.

    Thanks to everyone who’s ever helped with a move — and to everyone who’s ever made that help feel less onerous to the givers by being ready and appropriately grateful for it.

  36. costanza
    August 9, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    It makes my day to learn that there are wards that actually have requirements/guidelines that govern church-assisted moves. I only wish more units followed this example. I especially like the idea of Bishops urging those with means to pay for movers. What a novel idea!

  37. Lisa B.
    August 9, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    A decade ago or so there was an Ensign article titled “Valuing Your Neighbor’s Labor” that I think has application here. We’ve had help with moves several times in our 13 yr marriage, but hope we can at last afford to do it ourselves next time, and agree with the bishop who counseled ward members to not “take advantage” of the goodwill of others in this.

    A non-LDS friend of mine asked if there were some ritual associated with moves that made non-LDS unwelcome at LDS moves. Apparently they had offered to help some LDS friends with a move, and their friends refused, stating that the Elder’s Quorum would take care of it. I was glad that my friend finally asked me so I could clarify that no, there is no sacred ceremony or anything–their friends were just rude to turn down their kind offer of help.

    I also have a disaffected sister who in crisis moments still asks “why don’t you get some MORMON to help me??!! [move, get a ride, help me financially, whatever]” Nice.

  38. Lisa B.
    August 9, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    PS – As far as the Feminist Mormon Housewives go, I’ll ask ’em. I’ve participated in a fair number of “Elder’s Quorum” moves when I haven’t been pregnant, watching children myself, or otherwise busy. And Jesse has baked bread, made soup, etc. for families in mourning, church potlucks, etc. But as a complimentarian, don’t mind the “usual” division of labor insofar as tasks like this are concerned. Just insofar as priesthood service is limited.

  39. zeezrom
    August 9, 2005 at 4:37 pm

    Asking men to volunteer to help you move means taking them away from time with their families or time with people who may really need them. l think that it is outrageous that Mormons assume that EQ (and RS!) assistance with moving is some kind of membership perk. We don’t expect the EQ to repair our cars or the RS to babysit every time we need those services. Why is moving any different? Unless your finances are utterly desperate (i.e. you’re on Church welfare) you should pay professional movers just like you pay for any other normal life expense and let the EQ members spend the time on something worthwhile like parenting or home teaching.

  40. Tanya S.
    August 9, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    As one who will probably someday need the EQ to help me move, let me just say THANK YOU! [Even though it isn’t you (the reader) who would do it (probably, unless you suddenly find your way to middle-of-nowhere, Utah), it’s a general thank you.] I promise to have everything packed up, and I’ll provide goodies.

    I’ve only had two post-college moves, but neither involved much in the way of furniture, so my sister helped me, and that was it. But now I’ve accumulated furniture and million more books. There’s no way I could load the truck on my own now. I have no plans to stay here forever, and the thought of trying to do it all alone is terrifying. I’ll hit up coworkers for help, too, but I don’t know how responsive they’d be. So, dear EQ people, you are indeed the ones I would go to, begging and pleading and totally stressed out (’cause who likes moving?).

  41. gst
    August 9, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    If you hire someone, they needn’t be professional movers. In my experience, you can get a couple of motivated salvadorenos standing around the Home Depot parking lot for 10 bucks an hour each. In fact, the next time I hear of a ward move, I’m going to hire one of those guys to go in my place.

  42. Nate Oman
    August 9, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    Melissa: Can you take your bookcases or desk apart? Also, the trick to moving really heavy objects is not to lift them, but to hold them on your back and hunch forward, placing the weight on your hips. One of the greatest things about visiting Egypt and Turkey was the way that it opened my eyes to the ability of skinny guys (I used to be skinny before sickness, legal education, and gainful employment turned me into a bag of gelataneous pudge) to move large, heavy objects.

    Regardless, however, it is a bad thing to do the heat and humidity of an August afternoon in the South.

  43. jimbob
    August 9, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    RE 38: Isn’t that a double standard? Assuming, for the purposes of argument, that moving is a less desirable than packing (I actually prefer the former), then if you accept the “usual” roles here, doesn’t that mean that you want the perks of equality, but not the disadvantages? Or is this strictly a discussion of stastical gender morphology (i.e., idea that most men can mostly lift more than most women)?

  44. Orson Welles
    August 9, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    There is a world of difference between a single sister or a poor family needing help with a move and people who reflexively call upon the church without checking into other options.

  45. August 9, 2005 at 5:16 pm

    I was an EQP in the 1980’s in a military ward and I calculate that I organized over 150 moves. We all made money off the taxpayers, if we did it right. We all helped out because we all knew our time would soon come. Often we would eat together and bring the whole family along to fellowship with each other. The moves were like quorum activites. It did not really feel like service, more like a communal and entertaining way to meet one of life’s most common challenges. I was blessed with a counselor who had worked for a well known moving company and he really helped make the process easier. Having two guys who were properly instructed is better than a dozen who are not. We called the moving committee “Strong Backs and Weak Minds” because I promised those who helped move (in contrast to those who just stood around and talked) that they would not have to teach any lessons. The Stake Prez. did not much like the “Strong Backs and Weak Spirits” committee for those who would rather haul furniture than home teach and so that didn’t last long.

    Without my expert counselor we had some real disasters. Once we lifted a small old house off the cinderblock foundation about a foot with this hydraulic lift on the back of a truck when it got stuck under the porch. The front of the truck went up about three feet then the whole thing collapsed with a loud bang. This threw movers and the family in the house to the ground faster than a California earthquake and cracked windows and walls in the house and ruined the front end of the truck. Another time we wrecked the new family minivan by backing the truck into it. Again we caught the end of a picket fence once with the tail gate of a truck and tore the whole thing out and dragged it half a block down the street and I about died laughing.. Another time we dumped an upright piano out of the pickup truck going about 30 mph in an across the ward move. One guy had us load his sports car into the back of the rented truck and then pile the furniture and 2 tons of wheat on top. A thousand miles later when he took off too fast, the car and assorted furniture lurched out through the truck door and into the road with a bounce and shut down an interstate. A few times I had to take guys to the hospital with various minor injuries and once we almost asphyxiated a guy with a baby grand piano that got away from us going down some stairs. Also I learned to invite no High Priests; their wisdom and experience might have saved us some of these troubles, but the threat of bringing on another heart attack after one frantic trip to the hospital with a man old enough to be my father was enough. Also any guys who looked too out of shape were sent on a pizza run.

    People who expected us to pack for them were easily accommodated; with pitch forks, snow shovels and these large discarded refrigerator boxes where we would quickly and systematically pack the entire house in about 15 minutes.Guaranteed. Most people immediately agreed to pack or else have us come back in a couple days after they had packed themselves. Cleaning filthy houses was another problem and I invented this pine sol and chlorox concoction that would clean anything. Trouble was that it also gave off toxic levels of chloride gas and I had to go the the emergency room with some sort of acute breathing problem and almost had to be intubated once after using it.

    In my current ward it seems more tame but less fair. We have a small number of permanent residents and a large number of transients who are constantly moving. I ended up being EQP again a few years back with few if any willing movers and none of the festive traditions. One of my counselors suggested that we do laundry instead of moves. So that became our policy when asked to move anybody. We said that this year we are not doing any moves but we would be more than happy to pick up your laundry and wash it and return it hand folded. My wife disliked this idea since she could see where this was going, the Relief Society would end up with the responsibility. For the record we never actually did any laundry officially that I knew of.

    The laundry instead of moves program did reactive one family. This guy from Salt Lake who had little intention of doing more than using the church, called me up and couldn’t believe it when I told him we only did laundry in this ward. He begged me and said he would move everything else by himself but his wife was pregnant and he couldn’t get the huge sofa and frig up the three flights of stairs. After considerable negotiating I told him if he would dump all his stored wheat into the street (he had none) and promise to wash all the embarassing ladies’ unapproved undies for the next year, that I would sneak over after dark in disguise and help him with the two items. But he had to promise not to tell anyone else in the ward. I showed up wearing a Santa Claus beard and acting like I was 90 years old with a sore back. He told me later that he decided that very night to come back to church because he might actually like a ward with an EQP as crazy as I was. Although he didn’t really fit into the box in his typical Utah ward, he never felt so welcome and positively mainstream in comparison to me. I also challenged his wife to wear her hair dyed purple to church the next Sunday in order to make a proper first impression and thus avoid the inevitable call to teach in the primary. I didn’t know it but she liked to dye her hair odd colors and so she did and no one said anything about it except for a few snickering compliments from cranks like me.

    One of the inevitable consequences of helping people move is that you acquire some of their junk. In addition when you have a large basement with a walk out door about 10 feet from a flat driveway, people will start to use your basement as free storage. And I have made little effort to not slip some of the accumulated junk that you couldn’t give away into the household goods of another. I consider it part of the rent, take something away. Some of my favorites are slipping things like used coffee makers or wine bottle holders into the boxes of the most orthodox members. Trashy novels or certain old church books in the wrong box can be hilarious. And there was the moldy microwave oven that a guy actually brought back to me and sheepishly appologized that one of his kids must have stolen it by accident. I had to give it to some one else.

    I have wondered why it is that we Mormons have latched onto this moving program as it is now constituted across much of the church as the most common form of charitable service. Many other churches have extensive and elaborate ministeries designed to help their people in thousands of different ways. So what is it about the move that so engages and occupies us? Is it some subconscious residue percolating up from the handcart treks that ended with the emigrant arriving in the valley in rags half dead and hungry?

    I will still go to help move people now even though my back is weak. But when I do I can not resist telling stories like this and funny thing, I never get invited back.

  46. Lisa B.
    August 9, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    #43 Huh? What’s a double standard?

  47. Jesse
    August 9, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve always liked helping people move. I’ve enjoyed the feeling that comes from that sort of service so much that I have gone out of my way to help other neighbors, not LDS, move in. It only takes an hour or two typically and it forms a kind of friendship, or sense of gratitude that is a wonderful thing to have between you and your neighbor. I will admit, though, that if I showed up to a ward move and the movee had made no effort to box their belongings, have an adequate truck waiting, and be ready to fully contribute themselves, I would feel taken advantage of and be somewhat upset (but would still help them out). But that hasn’t happened to me yet and I think it’s probably mainly an exception.

    The move I enjoyed the most was the last one I participated in. Just an apartment to apartment jump of a few blocks, but the husband had unexpectedly been sent out of the country by his employer and his wife was in the latter stages of pregnancy. There were at least 20 (probably more) members of our ward, husbands and wives, who showed up to help her and it was all done, with her furniture in place in the new apartment, in around 2 hours. When we were done, it struck me that that is what “pure religion” is all about. Made me feel good to be able to help someone who genuinely needed it. I have to say that that sort of service is a lot more satisfying to my soul than signing the tithing check, even though the latter is worth more in strictly monetary terms.

  48. August 9, 2005 at 5:20 pm


    I can remove the shelves from four of the five floor to ceiling bookcases–the other one is a monster. However, the idea of lifting the 6 foot tall solid pine armoire onto my back and hunching forward with it is not particularly appealing. It would crush me. I’ll just have to see if my hometeachers are willing to make up for their year long absence by offering a little assistance this time.

    You probably should have asked for help too.

  49. Mark B.
    August 9, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    I can see a M.A. thesis subject here: how moving members has replaced the welfare farm as the source of communal manual labor in Mormon culture. And, if you went back a few more years, it’d be the harvesting/threshing/barn raising/roundup that preceded, and was replaced, by the welfare farm.

    I’ve seen EQ movers emptying an apartment while “professionals” worked on the place next door. Two guys killing themselves hauling stuff up or down circular staircases, compared to 15 men in a “bucket brigade” emptying an apartment the way the crickets cleared a field of grain. Get a big crew, and a well-prepared home/apartment, and you’ll be eating pizza by 10:00 a.m.

  50. Henry Drummond
    August 9, 2005 at 5:41 pm

    I am reminded of the last time I asked for Elders Quorum assistance in a move. My family was moving from one rental house to another. Since my rental ended on the last day of the month, the 31st, I asked for assistance loading my truck that day. Since most of the quorum had employment responsibilities during the day, we scheduled the loading for the late afternoon and early evening.

    On the day of the move, several brethren showed up promptly at 4:30p.m. and began loading the truck. By 5:30, all but one had offered their apologies and disappeared. Where had they gone?

    Well, it was the last day of the month, of course, and they all had home teaching appointments elsewhere. Including my home teacher, who counted his half hour of loading as my visit for the month. My wife and the Elders’ quorum president and I worked late into the night to finish loading the truck.

    There are lots of morals to that story. But I’ve made a point of not calling on Church assistance to move since then. They’re happier and I’m happier.

  51. Henry Drummond
    August 9, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    (And I should add that they didn’t leave to go help move other people, which does sometimes happen at the end or beginning of a month, and which would have been quite understandable.)

  52. August 9, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    Interesting topic. Having not moved a whole lot (never as a child and once as a married adult, but several times as a single with a couple truckloads of stuff), I’ve never had the EQ help, as we’ve been lucky enough to have family around. In our ward, it’s standard, or semi-standard as it doesn’t always happen, for there to be a signup sheet passed around in RS for sisters to sign up to help clean the apartment or house being moved out of. Due to school constraints & kids, I’ve only made it to one of these cleaning “parties”. One woman in the ward, who is a gem, was a bit annoyed because the lady of the house had parked herself in front of the computer and stayed on for a good 45 minutes, while the women started cleaning. I don’t really like the idea of passing around sign up sheets, or asking for help in church meetings, but that could be because I’m not likely to ask for help doing things like that. I dunno, it’s an interesting situation. I guess the thing that bothers me is what someone mentioned before–the feeling of entitlement that a lot of people seem to have.

    As far as gender division of labor goes…when possible (read: not constrained by being in charge of kids or pregnant) I’d MUCH rather move the boxes than clean the place or pack. MUCH MUCH rather.

  53. JKS
    August 9, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    Friends like to help in times of need. I like to help friends whether or not they are in my ward. I expect friends and VT & HT to step in first.
    Both the EQ and the RS usually try to involve the visiting teachers and home teachers as the primary helpers, and fill in others as necessary. Visiting teachers who work full-time aren’t much help if you need childcare while you are at the ER, etc. And home teachers who are on a camping trip with their family last Saturday can’t help you move….sorry, but we really did have a fun camping trip our second one ever and we just couldn’t change it. I hope some other people showed up to fill in.

  54. JKS
    August 9, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    Oh, yeah, and family! I forgot about family. I don’t have any family around anymore….sigh.

  55. August 9, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    i miss huge chunks of lds culture, i want to move.

  56. JKS
    August 9, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    I think expecting people to help more than an hour or two is a lot to ask.

  57. Todd Lundell
    August 9, 2005 at 6:40 pm

    This is a great post. It has reminded me of all the help I have received over the years.

    My favorite story is when I moved from California to New York to go to law school. The day we moved it must have been 100 degrees, 100 percent humidity. Still, there were about 12 members we didn’t know (EQ and RS) who showed up to help. Other one-L’s were moving in on the same day and were hauling all their stuff by themselves or with a few family members. One actually stopped me and asked if I were moving from a short distance. When I told her I came from California, she stood there mystified and asked “how did you make so many friends so quickly?” I though that was pretty powerful commentary on the need for the formal church in addition to the doctrines of Christ.

    Comment #26 – never schedule a move when the water is going to be smooth. Afternoons will be best for the move.

  58. Orson Welles
    August 9, 2005 at 6:45 pm

    Henry, if I were you I would ask for my money back. Oh, wait a minute, those people who “only” put an half hour were working for FREE….

  59. JKS
    August 9, 2005 at 6:50 pm

    Hilarious, thank you for sharing.

    As for the moving is the only service we perform, I think many of you have forgotten the long list of “typical Mormon service” things we do. Perhaps others can help with this list to make it complete:
    1. Meals for families with new babies
    2. Meals for families with someone in the hospital for health problems
    3. Babysitting in various circumstances
    4. Giving rides to those who are incapacited
    5. Cleaning (I’ve done this mostly for people I VT)
    6. Funeral services
    7. After funeral meals for greiving families
    8. Dressing the body of a person who passed away
    9. Heavy labor man stuff for little old ladies if you are a really good home teacher
    Moving is perhaps one of the most social things we get to do. Making a meal you do yourself and just drop off somewhere. I just contributed a dish for an after funeral meal for the family, and I dropped it off at the RS president’s house, she said thanks, I left.
    Anyway, moving isn’t the only thing we do. Its just the only thing the EQ does as a group, and as solely their responsibility.

  60. August 9, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    I have mixed feelings about ward moves. I think it is a great opportunity to do service — and I especially like it (in Mormon-majority communities) when the LDS neighbors pitch in and help to move-in or move-out a non-member family. I’ve seen families who immediately felt welcomed into a community for that very reason. I agree that moving is hell and there is nothing like the relief one feels when others pitch in on something like that.

    When we moved recently to NYC, we realized that NO ONE in the elders quorum had a vehicle that was useful for moving furniture we had purchased. A friend who was staying with us helped me put the couch-bed on dollies and we wheeled that sucker for something like 15 NYC blocks. That was actually pretty easy once we figured out how to do it. It was almost amusing and fun in an odd way. The unpredictably vicious hard part was moving it up the narrow stairs. I’ve never exerted such brute force on a piece of furniture in my life.

    I do think that professionals should be paid to move extraordinarily heavy (and expensive) items such as pianos.

    I also abhor entertainment centers. Every time I help to move one of those things, I find myself wishing that designers would implement a way to take them apart into smaller pieces, as part of the design. It seems like a simple enough request. Why is it that an entertainment center has to be made in such a way that you cannot take it apart?

  61. Costanza
    August 9, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    Henry Drummond (#51) wrote: “There are lots of morals to that story”–chief among them should be that we should never expect other people to put their lives on hold to rescue us from what are ultimately our own responsibilities.

  62. Jedd Fowers
    August 9, 2005 at 7:26 pm

    JKS – a clarification: to my knowledge, there is no church policy or directive or general handbook instruction or anything which lists “helping people move” as being as a specific priesthood responsibility. It is simply a tradition, albeit a commonly-practiced one. And that’s part of the problem: I’ll bet most members think this is an official priesthood duty–thus the feeling of it being an entitlement.

  63. Jay S.
    August 9, 2005 at 7:31 pm

    I would say mormon moves are the modern day equivalent of corn shucking parties or barn raisings. It provides a useful & valuable service, allows people to work together and gets the work done in a much shorter time than 1-2 people could do. As my grandma used to say, many hands make light work. We can see this principle in the gears of a bicycle. when going up a hill, a certain amount of work has to be done. In a lower gear, each pedal revolution has to do a certain amount of work. With a higher gear, more revolutions are requiered but each revolution does less work. I hope that expresses the point.

    The problem is that of the free rider, someone who takes out of proportion to what they give. In Mike’s example, it seems that even though they all had stipends to hire movers, no one felt resentful on helping because they knew their turn would come. In my student ward, we had a lot of turn out for the fairly frequent moves, because people knew their turn would come even though it seemed like a large number of moves were going on.

    I frequently do get resentful about moving (Especially with that one single sister who kept calling me at work to know when the movers were coming, and…long story). But I have to realize that for the most part it is a great tradition with good benefits.
    Also, not to get too religious or anything, but when Christ atoned for us, I don’t remember any complaints that some of us were sinning more than our fair share.

  64. JKS
    August 9, 2005 at 7:49 pm

    The reason why moves are like the farm analogies that I can’t relate to is that a lot of work needs to be done at one time. It is almost impossible to do without help. Family and friends and neighbors and church members are a great help…..whether it is someone you can’t do yourself or something that is a big burden at stressful times or something that takes so many man hours at once that it is a big help to have help.
    Being a part of a community means that you help others and they help you. There will always be people around who need more help than they can give, or are disinclined to give as much help as they have received. Either reason makes it unbalanced. But that is precisely why we do it. The single mom with 2 young kids cannot possibly move herself. The father in the hospital and the mother by his side means they can’t possibly take care of the kids at home. My brother and SIL have babysat for us, with no payment, but it is my hope that one day they will have children and I might be able to serve them in their time.
    I hope that when people gave meals when my husband was in the hospital, they didn’t say “How unfair, she’s never given me a meal.” or “This sucks, I’m never going to get cancer so she can’t pay me back.” I am very aware of ways that it is difficult for me to serve since I have children.
    My husband now goes to Youth Conference each year (takes vacation days for it). What a service. As a teenager it never occurred to me that leaders took time away from jobs and families to serve us. I never appreciated it.
    I hope those leaders didn’t hate me. I hope they knew that I didn’t know.
    As parents my children have no idea of the sacrifice we make to take care of them. Someday, they might know when they become parents. But until then, I hope I don’t resent them for accepting their entitlement of having parents who provide basic needs, give love and support, and work to help them realize their potential.
    Yes, adults should know that it is inconsiderate to make people help them….a lot. More than normal. But we should also remember that it could be us someday in the situation, but for the Grace of God. We might be that old, that poor, that disabled, that mentally challenged, that incompetent at managing our life, that addicted to drugs, etc.

  65. Costanza
    August 9, 2005 at 7:52 pm

    Jay wrote “when Christ atoned for us, I don’t remember any complaints that some of us were sinning more than our fair share.”
    Perhaps, but those who sin more have to repent more in order to obtain the same result as one who has sinned less–that is a fundamental element in the economy of God as taught by the LDS church. So your analogy falls a bit flat.

  66. jesstheca
    August 9, 2005 at 8:54 pm

    #47: Jesse: A few months ago I helped a very pregnant friend whose husband was in China for business move from one apartment to another. I can’t help but wonder if it was the same move…That was one of the most impressive turn outs for a move I have ever seen. My husband and I forfeited a half marathon in Charlottesville, VA to help her move b/c she and her husband had helped us move and the thought of a pregnant woman doing that by herself made us both uncomfortable. Turns out there were plenty of people but I’m grateful to have witnessed such a strong showing of support.

  67. Jeremy
    August 9, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    We recently moved to a new area and I didn’t feel guilty at all asking complete strangers in my new ward to help unload the truck. For one thing, I had served in EQ presidency of our residential (i.e., non-student) ward during the busiest 3 1/2 years years of my graduate studies, so frankly I felt I’d earned a little Mormon-move karma. :)

    And since I was starting my first real permanent-ish post-grad-school job, and had not yet received my first lavish junior professor’s paycheck, simply hiring a moving company wasn’t an option. However, my new employer did give me a small moving allowance, which I used to rent the truck and–this is something I highly recommend where feasible–hire piano movers on both ends of the move to pack and unpack our baby grand (my wife’s a pianist so we have a nice instrument– it’s the only piece of furniture we own that I didn’t assemble myself with an allen wrench…). With the help of friends on our old ward we packed everything else and left room on the U-Haul for the guys to strap the piano, wrapped in lots of blankets, to the wall near the back.

    Rates for piano movers vary by region (the guys putting it on the trauck charged $150 or so; the guys unpacking it charged $225 or so). It was well worth it, not only because it spared the backs of the willing souls in our new ward, but because it was probably safer for the instrument as well.

    I think it’s reasonable to expect movees to have things ready–everything in boxes, etc. When that’s not the case, sometimes charitable feelings are overwhelmed by resentment. Our move went pretty smoothly, I think; our new ward had the truck unloaded (except for the piano, which the movers took in the next morning) in less than two hours.

  68. Jim F.
    August 10, 2005 at 12:34 am

    Costanza (#65): Where do you find that economy taught in the scriptures? (I’m interested, but I promise not to turn this into a thread jack.)

  69. BC
    August 10, 2005 at 1:01 am

    I helped move a family into a 4,000 square foot million dollar home and then returned to my 1000 square foot 100 hundred and change thousand dollar home wondering when the law of consecration would take effect.

  70. EQP in Japan
    August 10, 2005 at 2:55 am

    The biggest problem we have in Tokyo is that it is impossible to throw things away. Anything that won’t fit in a very small trash can’t be thrown away in the regular trash. I came home one time to find my “genkan” stuffed with somebody’s junk (table, TV etc.) that he hadn’t been able to get rid before leaving Japan and was too cheap to pay to have thrown away. Every since then I have a hard time getting into the spirit of moving. And for the ex-pats running around with employers that pay their rent for them etc., I have very little sympathy.

    I think I may draw up some moving guidelines myself for our ward. The first would be a calculation of adjusted gross income( taking into account previous participation in other ward members’ moves, number of kids, whether or not they have ever read the old testament etc.) that if too high, would phase out the privilege of EQ movers.

    I did like the guy recently who “hired” ward members to help with his move and then donated the money to the charity of their choice.

  71. norm
    August 10, 2005 at 3:03 am

    First of all, I think the takes on Moving are very much distorted by the predominance of married invididuals on the board.

    In one Student Ward I lived in, there was a non-LDS man who helped us move many times over two years. He treated the experience like a moving co-op. Thus, we helped him move out. In between, he got to know most of the married LDS students in his MBA program, shared a lot of laughs, and as he headed off to his new job was in contact with the Mormons there for a repeat performance. As one of the few you families in married student housing at his last institution he had
    met the Mormons, and discovered the moving co-op.

    I think it’s a great way to be good neighbors to non-LDS or inactive LDS. After all, most of their preferred social activities are off-limits to us. But, that mad had a great experience with LDS–it could be a good missionary / PR tool… but i prefer to think of it as neighborly, not functional to some end besides, you know, moving. A housing co-op, may be the best way to be good neighbors to inactives without testimonies that feel alienated from their roots. You don’t have to pray or wear a tie or believe anything to help move, or to be helped. And the people who might reject home teaching lessons, may be keen to work in a co-op.

    Frankly, whether or not you help others more than you get out of the program, whining about having to help more than share falls on one set of deaf ears (yeah, yeah, I’m being proud). I was single in a Student Ward which had married and single students. That meant I got juice and donuts frequently (but more frequently didn’t–since students are cheap). It was fun to peek into the married world. To get to know the families better. I had a truck. And liked getting some exercise on Saturday mornings, Thursday nights, or at a moment’s notice. Although I didn’t show up every time. Most of all, I found it a good way to feel like a human being, interested in my fellow Mormons lives, in a ward where the married individuals had no social contact with the singles (except that we home taught them and moved them).

    (Incidentally someone damaged my truck in one of the married moves and didn’t fess up. Cost me $700 to fix).

    Single students were called on by 1) our student ward families AND singles 2) the local family ward’s bishop 3) the institute and 4) the regular singles ward with which we often shared roommates. In effect, single Elders are the slave labor of Mormon moving. We’re like the missionaries–only our time isn’t consecrated and is assumed to be always free. Why wouldn’t we be available to move? No diapers to change, bread to win, or anything to do except dating, right?

    Married people never once helped Singles move in that ward. (Except for the senior missionary couple that were assigned to the ward who came once or twice and provided homemade bread and jam, but who were too old to do any moving.)

    (a great success story: an inactive called from her home ward to have us help her daughter move–the daughter had got in a fight with her roommate and needed to move ASAP. the mother drove several hours to get to town that night, and my roommates and I spent all night helping them move. then her mother reactivated. she called us several months later to ask us to work with her daughter (to know avail) and to say how grateful she was and that she had been attending church.

    Of course, I saw that you could count on some of the Married guys to be there almost every Saturday. Some showed up a few times. And others only when they needed to be moved. But virtually all “got something” out of it in that transient ward. Well, except us single kids. But I suppose getting something out of it, was never as much the point as doing what we’re asked.

  72. Lamonte
    August 10, 2005 at 7:53 am

    I know the “Mormon Moving Company” is typically administered by the Elders Quorum president and that the Elder’s are the ones with the strongest backs. But I just wanted to put in a word for the efforts of the High Priests as well. My experience is that the EQ provide most of the muscle but the HPs provide the packing savvy. I live in a rather transient ward in Northern Virginia and we typically have a percentage of the ward made up of military families. Those military HPs have moved so often that they possess a great understanding of how to efficiently pack a moving van and they make the process work more smoothly.

    Like everything else in the church, a collaborative effort involving the skills and talents of everyone, young and old, couple with a willingness to serve, make the experience enjoyable.

  73. Costanza
    August 10, 2005 at 9:28 am

    I find the principle that the more one sins the more repentance is required in such places such as D&C 19 and Alma 42, although one must look to the teachings of modern prophets to find it stated explicitly. This is one of the most important distinctions between the LDS view of atonement and that held by many evangelical Protestants: there is a relaThiionship between the kinds of life we live and the amount and intensity of repentance (meaning change) that is necessary to apply Christ’s sacrifice. This stems from our belief that we must repent of specific acts, thoughts, etc., as opposed to the “traditional” Christian view that basically sees grace as necessary because of the Fall. Under this latter system, any and all sins are taken care of by the same degree of repentance (confessing Christ as personal savior) because what is being repented of is not a series of individual sins, but rather the fallen state in which all humans are complicit. Joseph Smith rejected this idea, but it seems inescapable that if we are “punished for our own sins” then each of us must work out an individualized salvation based on repentance appropriate to our individual incorrect choices.

  74. Liz O.
    August 10, 2005 at 10:52 am

    The irony at our house last weekend… we were in the middle of moving in (ok, we’d moved out of the same house for remodelling… all furniture in, all furniture out, because every floor was changed), when our teenage sons (in our ward, it is the Priests and Teachers who do the moving, since almost all of the EQ are travelling engineers) were called away to help someone else (inactive, of course) move “a few boxes from storage” that turned out to be a whole houseful. It was a good day for biting tongue, telling my boys I was proud of them, and putting off parts our move for a couple of days.

  75. Jesse
    August 10, 2005 at 10:55 am

    #66: Jesstheca:

    Was in Franconia ward, northern VA.

  76. jesstheca
    August 10, 2005 at 11:25 am

    That’s the ward.

  77. Ana
    August 10, 2005 at 11:28 am

    Lamonte, I’m cracking up. My eqp husband is always complaining about a certain high priest in our ward who is extremely … um, precise about packing moving trucks, and quite bossy about it. It takes longer that way, but I’m sure people’s things stay in better shape.

  78. Lamonte
    August 10, 2005 at 12:35 pm


    Last week we moved a widow in the ward. Ironically, her deceased husband, who died tragically of a heart attack five years ago, was the best packer I’ve ever known (he was a HP, of course and retired military). We had a huge turnout of elders and a few of us old timers (HPs). The “director of packing” was a HP Air Force officer and he performed miracles. Everything was brought out of the house as fast as possible and then it was meticulously packed by the guru. There were some making “friendly” bets that we would never be able to fit all of the goods in the two trucks available. At the end of the job the trucks were packed to the gills but there were still some miscellaneous items unpacked. But since the family was just moving a short distance (about 30 miles) some dedicated Elders filled a pick-up and a minivan (after removing the seats) and everything went. I’m told that everything arrived safe and sound. Teamwork…it’s the Mormon way.

  79. August 10, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    Reply to #72

    Point well taken. Hats off to the HP who actually knows how to pack. If he gets too bossy about doing things right, send him over the day before to help pack the china or other valuables or else send him out for pizza and get the big stuff done before he returns. In my old military ward where packing savy was at the level of pitch forks and snow shovels and the incidence of cardiac disease in that aging military population was high, we tried to lessen their burdens.

    Also, I always told people that if they had anything of real value, to move it themselves. After all these were just our worldly possessions and we should be just as willing to drive the big yellow truck to the Bishop’s storehouse and give it all up to the poor and start over as move it across the country. For example we have a 60 to 70 year old harp that weighs about 100 pounds. Do you think, after all of these experiences, that I will ever allow any member of the Mormon Moving Company to touch it? No way, I won’t even let them near it when we take it to be played at church. That item will be packed and shipped on its own many days before if we ever move again and insured for more than the value of both of my automobiles.

    I forgot one of the funniest moving pranks ever in my old military ward, probably because it was pulled off on me. Somewhere along the line I had acquired a bunch of these 10 gallon plastic jugs and I had over 500 gallons of water stored in them. I was just going to give them to anyone who wanted them or stack them at the curb as garbage. When my quorum helped me, the prince of moving pranks move, they managed to get most of that water on the truck without me seeing them do it. They packed that truck so tight that I had at least 6 extra feet at the back empty. Then four big guys picked up this several hundred pound planter box that was about 3 X 3 feet by 2 1/2 feet tall with a palm tree growing in it and waltzed it up on the back of the truck. I was not strong enough to move it back off and they were laughing so hard that they wouldn’t help.

    My Max. Allowable Weight was 12,000 lbs and I knew I was running a little heavy but I weighed in at over 20,000 lbs. I couldn’t figure out why, until we unloaded the truck 3 days later in Utah. My new ward and my relatives certainly thought I was crazy moving a large palm tree and hundreds of gallons of water in used plastic jugs. Like Utah is a desert and everything, but …

  80. August 10, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    Costanza, I like your formulation in #73. But every time I see your name, I think of Seinfeld…

  81. Sue M
    August 10, 2005 at 12:46 pm

    My husband won’t let the EQ help us move, ever. He says they are too careless, break too much stuff, and you can’t complain because hey, they’re doing it as a service and they aren’t professionals and never claimed to be. He’s very precise and just doesn’t like people touching his stuff. He’d rather that we just do it ourselves. We moved last year, and it took two days to load and unload the truck. But at least nothing was broken, and that way the knotty alder front door frame doesn’t get ripped to shreds by an overly enthusiastic guy shoving a chair through the doorway at the wrong angle. Er, not that that happened to us, no siree…

  82. August 10, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    At one EQ move I commented on someone’s excellent truck-packing capabilities and he responded that he plays a lot of Tetris.

  83. Costanza
    August 10, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    That’s me baby!

  84. alamojag
    August 10, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    We have a move coming up in a few weeks. We don’t have anything lined up for housing on the other end yet, so we are putting everything in storage for now. We have been storing our boxes as we pack them, so if we ask for help it will just be for the things we cannot do ourselves–the big pieces of furniture.

    We are also hiring sombody to load and unload the baby grand. I love the brethren, but they simply are not bonded.

    I agree with the idea of a checklist. We had one in a ward we lived in in Las Vegas, NV. I remember one move that I got there about 5-10 minutes late, and the only thing left to do was to sweep the floors.

  85. [redacted]
    August 10, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    I refuse to help people move anymore.
    My back is still reasonably good and I believe this is taking money away from the moving business. Most people are able to move on their own, and they should, unless friends offer to help, but not because they all happen to be members of the same church.

    I have a personal policy against this. I will help others in times of need but if someone needs me to move them I will donate $20.00 toward the expense of moving if that will help, otherwise no.

  86. Kevin Barney
    August 10, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    I was an EQP shortly after our ward split. That was no fun. I’d go to PEC and get handed all sorts of assignments, some from the stake, for a dozen elders each. And I had like 5 elders showing up to quorum at that time. No one seemed to care that we just didn’t have the bodies. So I began to take it as my reason for being as an EQP to protect my charges from silly and meaningless assignments. What I couldn’t divert to the HPG I would try to talk the bishop out of, so that we only got stuck with things that were really, really necessary.

    So I felt guilty one time when a single sister called me to ask about moving. I hesitated, not because I wasn’t going to do it, but because I was mentally calculating how much my elders had already been through that week and whether I could reasonably get them to do more. She sensed my hesitation and said that she would just hire professionals, and I didn’t try to talk her out of it. Although I felt bad about it, in that particular circumstance it was probably for the best for all concerned.

    We had friends help us move into our house, about 16 years ago. (I help move a lot, so I guess I build up good will among other movers.) But I doubt we’ll ever need help again. I vowed that we’re never moving again, so we’re going to die in our house, even though it is a small 3-bedroom ranch starter home. Besides, we like the place.

  87. gst
    August 10, 2005 at 2:24 pm

    Kevin, you would make a good military officer. Except for the beard.

  88. Jay S.
    August 10, 2005 at 3:36 pm


    I agree that my analogy doesn’t fit perfectly, but it illustrates the point. Lets put it this way, in LDS theology to take advantage of the atonement, a person has to do their part. We could express this in a fractional percentage of sin (ie for every 100 sins, you have to make up for 10% or 10), so a person who sins a whole lot more “pays” more , but stills gets more benefit out of the atonement than the initially righteous. Or you could evaluate or in some fractional percentage of what we are capable of doing.

    The main flaw is that we all get the same amount out of the atonement. That is the potential to live with Heavenly father again.

    My analogy is that it would be silly to compare who gets more, when the issue is whether we “get saved” or not. I would say in service, it is counter productive to keep a running comparison. To do so negates the entire purpose of the service. Sometimes we have to put ourselves in the position of being “taken advantage of”, to fully get the benefits of christ like service.

  89. alamojag
    August 10, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Jay S. (#88),

    I have to say that my experience is the opposite of your last point. I have found that “taking advantage” of members is the true unpardonable sin. Not robbery, rape, or murder. Ask people to go out of their way, or, even worse, have them go out of their way without being asked, is the true unpardonable sin. You won’t be given a second chance.

  90. Wade Poulson
    August 10, 2005 at 6:03 pm

    Kaimi, I’ve heard you are a new professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. If this rumor is true, I look forward to taking classes from you. I’m assuming this talk about moving was spurred by your move from NYC to SD?

  91. Henry Drummond
    August 10, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    Henry Drummond (#51) wrote: “There are lots of morals to that story”–chief among them should be that we should never expect other people to put their lives on hold to rescue us from what are ultimately our own responsibilities.

    I was thinking more of the corollary: never expect the home teaching program to engage in actual service when the statistical reports might be threatened.

  92. claire
    August 10, 2005 at 9:47 pm

    Amongst some of the comments earlier, the theme of gender roles in service came up. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. In our ward, we have about as many single men as single women, and they greatly outnumber families. Amongst the married couples, there are many that don’t fit into typical gender roles in other areas of their lives. As my husband and I have served in various leadership roles in this ward, it has seemed odd to only pass missionary meal sign up sheets around in RS, or only ask for moving help or home improvement-type project assistance in priesthood. Why should only the sisters be asked to bring food for the potluck? These men eat, some of them even cook. And several women are only signing up their husbands to contribute something. We’ve recently begun adapting in our ward, but does anyone see this ever changing on a larger scale?

  93. annegb
    August 10, 2005 at 11:20 pm

    Everything JKS said, also Matt, Chance, Tanya, Jesse, Norm, and Lamonte.

  94. Orson Welles
    August 11, 2005 at 9:29 am

    Henry, I still fail to see how spending an hour helping you move can be viewed as anything less than “real service.” But, I guess you get what you pay for.

  95. geek
    August 12, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    People say that asking EQ to help move is taking them away from their families. I find that it’s usually just taking them away from “sleep”, since most of our moves are at 8am on a Saturday morning.

  96. JKS
    August 13, 2005 at 1:25 am

    One of the best things about Saturday mornings is sleeping until your children come and climb on you in bed. We’re up on Saturday mornings at 8am. Occasionally I”m still sleeping if my husband is sweet and takes kid duty.

  97. JKS
    August 13, 2005 at 2:46 am

    Let me clarify so no one feels sorry for me. We either both get up for kid duty, or he lets me sleep in. On rarer occasions I let him sleep in.

    Speaking of sleeping, yesterday morning my husband woke me before he left for work and….

    Husband: I’m so sorry about last night. I know you really needed to talk and I was tired and falling asleep. I want to be a good husband. I’ll try to be a better listener.
    Me: Do you want to listen to me now?
    Husband (thinking, oh-oh, how many minutes do I have to walk to the bus?): Yes
    Me: Let me go back to sleep

    He repeated the conversation back to me. I was too asleep to remember. I had no idea I could be so witty even while asleep.

  98. August 14, 2005 at 1:26 am

    I think that Sue M has a good point. Elders’ Quoroms just don’t have any incentive to take extra-care of your stuff. I just completed an arduous move this week and I was very happy with the movers I hired to load and unload my moving truck. I got them off of the eMove website where they are ranked according to customer feedback (each mover has an average rating, just like eBay). They work extra hard because my feedback will in part determine how many jobs they get in the future. Maybe we can rank the EQs by ward so you can determine whether you should bother asking for help or not.

  99. Jay S.
    August 14, 2005 at 1:39 am


    I think you are onto something. Ward membership can make a big difference in your life, and is something to be considered when moving. While you may not have much of a choice in say Alabama, or Rural alaska, in the Mormon Corridor Expanded (roughly Idaho, Utah, Populated Wyoming, Parts of SoCal, Arizona etc) 1/4 mile one way or the other could put you in another stake. So I think it is time for

    I thus stake my claim for said website, so anybody who wants to take the ball and run with it, just give me my 10% cut.

  100. Jay S.
    August 14, 2005 at 1:42 am

    Basically I think to sum up,

    1) Moving Stinks
    2) If you are rich, and.or really like your furniture, hire movers
    3) We should help if we can, but we shouldn’t try to work the system and should be wise to spot the potential leeches.
    4) Old guys spot, young guys lift
    5) On the never to move list: Food storage, Pianos, & Freezers full of meat

  101. K1
    August 14, 2005 at 11:05 am

    Jay S – you need to revise #5.

    If you have a freezer full of meet, that should immediately be cooked for a ward cookout — and then the whole ward can move your stuff.

  102. Seth Rogers
    August 14, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    Personally, I think the individual members are best served to follow the motto of selfless service, no questions asked (as far as humanly possible).

    It’s the job of the Bishop, RS President, and EQ/HP President to protect the members’ time from those who are just lazy and opportunistic.

  103. Lisa B.
    August 14, 2005 at 8:54 pm

    THAT’s the job of the Bishop, RS Pres and EQ/HP President?? Silly me. I thought they were supposed to oversee the work of the Kingdom within wards and branches.

  104. queuno
    August 14, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    So … today was the last day for one of the more upper middle-class families in the ward. He is retiring and they are moving (back) to Utahr as opposed to moving from The Great State to Joisey.

    This is a family who just built a huge house 18 months ago … and today they were passing around a signup sheet in RS asking for volunteers to help them pack.

    I guess there are no employer-paid moves when you’re retiring.

  105. August 14, 2005 at 11:03 pm

    The problem is that with non-LDS when they help you move, you owe them a case of beer and some pizzas. When the elder’s quorum helps you move, they are lucky to get OJ and donuts.

    When you have a mixed group, lucky to get diet soft drinks and pizza.

  106. texasviolinist
    August 15, 2005 at 12:01 pm

    Let’s break the culture of the “EQ as moving company”. Moving must be approached in a spirit of self reliance. If you can afford movers hire them. If you can’t see what your family can do and then call on the church. But don’t call unless you are willing to return every hour spent (by others) and then some in return service according to your capacities. I have moved many times and never once called on the church to help me.

    The “then some is for people” who cannot serve because of health and physical limitations.

  107. May 3, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    Out here in an Oklahoma college town we have moved a zillion LDS families in and out over the years. A few years ago, I created an online guide of moving tips specific to Elders Quorum moves based on our experiences. Some Quorums might find it helpful. The top half of the page is helpful to anybody moving, the bottom half is specifically relevant to Elders Quorum moves.

    Hope you find it useful.

    gary polson
    stillwater ok

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