(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implication of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)
In some of my units we have made baby quilts for new mothers as a Relief Society project. This seems harmless enough. But, what if a girl becomes pregnant out of wedlock? Will the R.S. make her a baby quilt? What if it does so before she makes a decision on whether to keep the baby or give it up for adoption? Will the quilt making project affect her decision? It certainly could. If a quilt isn't made for her will she view it as a judgment on her behavior or her decision. She might. Others may view it that way too.
In one unit, an expectant mother moved into the unit after she got pregnant and after the project was underway. She didn't get a quilt. Did she feel excluded? Probably. I think I would. If we are going to make a quilt for one mother shouldn't we make one for all of them? How about only making quilts for the mothers who need them. Boy, that's a hornet's nest. How do we know if a mother needs them and who makes that decision? What about single women? Don't they need quilts? Why are their needs always ignored?
Let's back up. What are we trying to accomplish with the whole quilt making project anyway? Regardless of our intent, will it actually accomplish it? Would doing something else entirely accomplish the same purpose and be less time consuming and expensive?
Would it be better to teach the sisters how to make their own quilts? What for? Do we really need to make quilts anymore? I'm not sure we do. It has become less expensive to buy many formerly handmade items. Quilt making used to be a necessity. Now it seems more like a leisure time activity.
What if the unit in question is a remote village in Alaska? An urban center in a major U.S. metropolis? What about in Africa bushland on the edge of the Sahara? I can't imagine sisters there needing a quilt.
Obviously the needs of members will differ in every area of the world and differ amongst individual members in every unit. The Church keeps backing up and allowing us all more flexibility in how we apply church programs to our individual and unit circumstances. This requires thoughtful reflection. But, we need to all ask ourselves the same questions even if the examination yields different answers.
Let's stop filling up time with nicey nice projects that are ill-conceived, poorly executed and unnecessary. I'm not saying making baby quilts is one of them. I'm just saying it may be in some units and it may not be in others. It may be a wonderful effort an individual could undertake but possibly not the best use of the Relief Society program.
If I know the questions have been carefully considered I'll have less reasons to doubt the answers that result.