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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Entertainment Versus Something Else: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #2

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications 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.)


[The enforced hiatus of this blog due to extensive computer problems is now, hopefully, over.] 
"Let's not just entertain ourselves,"
There is nothing inherently wrong with having a unit Christmas party. However, is this the best use of our time and resources? A ward in Georgia decided it wasn't. See "Christmas charity: Georgia ward forgoes party for long day of service," in the LDS Church News.
At the monthly Webb Bridge Ward council meeting in Cumming, Ga., last July, the activities committee made a proposal that was a bit shocking to several of the leaders. They suggested that the ward members forego the annual Christmas party and find a service project to do.
This began one of the most expertly planned and finely executed church activities I have ever heard of, and it began in July. The level of all their plans is only hinted at in the article but is obvious when you read between the lines.
Roswell Georgia Stake President Vern Ernst said that the Webb Bridge Ward "dared to dream big" and then "went to work" and made their big dream become a reality.
Camp Twin Lakes — a year-round camp for children with disabilities, challenges and serious illnesses, tucked away in the beautiful woodlands near Rutledge, Ga., — became the beneficiary of more than 4,000 hours of service projects that included nearly every active member of the Webb Bridge Ward, many of their friends, co-workers and neighbors. . . . 280 people traveled an hour and a half outside ward boundaries and met at the local camp. Equipped with power tools, paint, wall-stencils, lumber, and—most important—a shared vision of what needed to be done in just eight hours, they went to work.
During the day of service, volunteers made improvements to all areas of the camp.
The Director of Camp Twin Lakes commented:
"this is by far the most meaningful, well-organized, professional event that has ever been done."
Even child sitting was expertly planned and executed:
A "Kid's Camp" accommodated all the children of Primary age, allowing parents to be free to paint and hammer without worrying about keeping a close watch on their children. All ward members rotated throughout the day, taking turns with the children, thereby allowing everyone to take part in this day of service and to share their unique talents with the various projects.
Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with having a unit Christmas party or any party for that matter. However, a service project that engages all the unit members and more AND gives them an opportunity to use their skills in creative and useful ways that will produce numerous benefits for years to come is clearly a better use of the unit's resources. In Dallin H. Oaks criteria of "Good, Better,Best" I would classify this as "Best."


We spend a tremendous amount of time sitting in meetings planning activities for ourselves. Do we really need more entertainment? Isn't this unit's activity a phenomenal example of what we should be doing?


Moral decision making involves asking normative questions. It suggests that instead of asking What can we do? or What are we going to do? it asks, What should we do? Clearly a service project of this magnitude is more Christlike than having a party for ourselves.


I think any Bishops or Branch Presidents would be thrilled out of their minds to have 280 people show up for anything Church related. This activity clearly engaged more people in a significant way than all the parties they could have held.

The Director of Twin Lakes summed it up best:
"the generosity, creativity, and caring that was shown through the labors of today have impacted many lives. God bless all of you … and Merry Christmas."

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