Once again, I am flummoxed by the number of responses to a topic that I thought would generate perhaps a half dozen replies at best. Apparently Meridian readers are more passionate about their ward meetinghouses than are Latter-day Saints in the general population, and they have good ideas for how to keep their buildings ? and yours ? clean.

Let’s see what they have to say:

I am presently serving in Iraq as a military group leader, and have to say I am overjoyed each week with the members here that help each other keep our “tent” clean and neat. But I do feel the same about our meetinghouses that Dismayed Ward Member feels.

My personal opinion is that those who don’t take care of the building also don’t take care of their own homes. We live in a world of, “it’s all about me” and “someone else will pick that up.” We have forgotten that it is the Lord’s house, as stated by Dismayed Ward Member.

My loving wife of twenty-five years has finally gotten me to a much kinder state. And now, with her soft touch on my arm, I ask those who make a mess of the church to please clean up behind themselves instead of reacting to my first impulse of screaming at them.

The solution to the problem lies at the feet of the parents. Teach our children to respect the Lord’s house. Also our bishops need to realize that they are the “father” of the ward. And as the leader, if something needs to be taken care of it is they who need to do the teaching. A kind word from the pulpit will go a long way.

I have a question that you can post. Why is it that people feel they need to feed their children during sacrament meeting? It’s only an hour and ten minutes. Please feed them before you get to church. With that said, it isn’t only our children that make a mess and ruin the building. Many of our adult members are greatly to blame. This is where the bishops need to do a little training on whose house it is that we partake of the sacrament in.

Duty first! Safety always!

Marc Greene

Thanks for some great thoughts, Marc. I was particularly interested in your description of the mindset that “somebody else will pick that up.” I once had a bishop’s wife who told the girls in our singles’ ward that we should always ask ourselves the questions: “If not me, who? If not now, when?” Those two questions have guilted me into a lot of acts of cleanliness over the years. (But I’m sure Clark would tell you, I haven’t thought of those questions nearly often enough!)

We are fortunate enough not to have to share our building with any other ward, but since no longer having an official janitor we have a monthly rotation that is overseen by the Young Men. Each young man has his own team of people who he will call on his designated week. There is a list of tasks to do, and they are ticked off once completed.

Not everyone comes, and as always there are the usual faces that do show up. This seems to be working extremely well in our ward, and the chapel is much cleaner and tidier than before. This is a good way for our Young Men to have a responsibility where they actually carry out some of the cleaning duties themselves as well as encouraging others to take their turn. We are a small ward but only have to do cleaning once a month. In larger wards I’m sure this would be less frequent.

Jane Kirby

United Kingdom

What a great way, Jane, for the youth to show the ward (and themselves) how responsible they are! Our ward’s youth are responsible for putting away chairs and emptying trash cans at the end of Sunday meetings, but your ward has gone way beyond that. For one thing, I don’t think anyone who isn’t our ward’s youth program knows about our teenagers’ acts of service, but in your ward the boys are responsible for the building. If it’s clean, they get the thanks. If it’s not clean, everyone knows the buck (excuse me ? in your case it’s the pound) stops with them. Thanks for sending a wonderful suggestion.

Our next two letters talk about another idea for building cleanup:

I agree about the lack of respect for our House of the Lord! In my old stake we had an annual building cleanup.

We would have a breakfast first and then get our assignments to do for the overhaul. Prior to this, a member of the bishopric of each ward utilizing the building, as well as the building and stake PFR leaders, would do a walkthrough of the meetinghouse. They identified specific needs and concerns and made a list of what needed to be done and ordered supplies appropriately.

I am now in a whole new state and sure wish our stake would do the same. Our stake center could definitely use some TLC.

Keep It Clean

Thanks for the idea, Keep. I like the way that stake facilities specialists go through your building ahead of time and identify trouble spots. This is a great way for everyone to participate in keeping the building clean.

We have a meetinghouse that is 45 years old. Some of the members of the ward remember helping build the building. I am the ward activities committee chairman and determined that the best way to get the church cleaned and members involved is to host a continental breakfast and invite all members to a “Deep Clean” of the church as a ward activity.

We had a great turnout, with many young children who helped carry Primary and nursery chairs outside to be scrubbed and washed. The tables were scrubbed and washed. All the dishes and silverware in the kitchen were washed, as well as the drawers.

The nursery toys were sorted, discarding the old or duplicated ones.

Windows were washed, the floors vacuumed and closets were cleaned and old things were discarded.

The cultural hall was mopped, which really, really needed to be mopped.

I feel that the children and adults who helped will take a personal interest in keeping the building clean. They will love it.

A sign posted in our stake kitchen states, “This is not your mother’s kitchen. It is your Father’s.”

Whitney in Las Vegas

What a fine quote, Whitney! It really serves to remind us that meetinghouses aren’t to be taken for granted.

I like the list you sent. There’s a time when nursery toys need to be inventoried, washed, and replaced. I can only imagine how dirty those things get being in so many sticky hands week after week.

One option for the activity might be to have an outdoor barbecue instead of a continental breakfast. This would keep the cooking and eating outside, and would add a party atmosphere that might even entice more people to help do the cleaning.

I have tried to instill in my children the idea that the Church is a house of worship. I am the woman in the ward who is always telling the little children that they need to not run or “whatever” because this is the Lord’s House. In the past three months, our ward has started having families come in Saturday’s and cleaning everything in the building. Wow ? how great it looks!

We have a policy as to “leave it better than you found it.”

One of our biggest problems is that our facility manager lives in another stake, and I doubt if he ever comes to our building. I know the bishop has requested things be fixed that have broken just from use (not abuse), and it is not done. A few weeks ago a cabinet in the kitchen fell on my toe. The door had been hanging for more than a year. There was nothing that could be done by a member. Everyone has been very careful with it. I use the kitchen once a week for Institute, and so I was the unlucky person to have a broken toe. The door is still off and is sitting in the corner waiting to be put back on. Our benches in the chapel have holes in the upholstery. This has all been reported.

Our building is very clean. You could eat off the floor in the kitchen. But the maintenance of the building is lacking by the person who should be making sure the stuff the ward can’t do is getting done.

During hurricanes we have used the church as a shelter. Then it is home for the week or so for ward members. That makes it a big home with our ward family. But still we keep it clean and when we leave it is as if we never used the classrooms as bedrooms and gym as the living room and dining room.

Florida Mom

Thanks for your letter, Florida. I hope your toe is healing nicely. It’s wonderful to know that even though maintenance isn’t as good as it could be, the people in your ward still have the incentive to keep the building spotless.

That says a lot for your ward members.

Speaking of facilities managers, here’s a note from the wife of one:

This is in response to the Dismayed Ward Member, and especially in response to her saying she has the stingiest facilities manager.

Members need to realize that not only do they need to take care of their ward buildings, but that facility managers have rules they have to live by as well. They are not allowed to give the members everything they want. All of these things come from the “widow’s mite.” Every member will be held accountable for their use and abuse of the Lord’s House and the tithing used to keep it working.

The Church has been trying to get the members to take responsibility for their buildings over the past 20 years or so. Maybe more. We have a lot of members who refuse to take responsibility and feel that the facilities managers and custodians should do it all. As of July 1, custodians are no more. The responsibility is now completely upon the ward members. The facility manager is not a custodian. He is in charge of overseeing the buildings in his stakes, not just one ward.

My husband’s load is very large, and his buildings are spaced out around our state. It is impossible for him to be everywhere at all times. He is abused, yelled at, and worse, because he does not give in to the demands of people who feel they need everything given to them on a silver platter. People abuse the building, the utilities, and everything else in the buildings.

Our ward has a wonderful system of assigning two families a week to clean the building. If one family cannot do it that week, they have the option of trading weeks with someone else. Our building is clean and neat. The other thing that most people forget is that once you have had an activity, you need to clean up before you leave the building. If everyone did this, the buildings would be beautiful.

Wife of a Facilities Manager

Thank you, Wife, for coming to the defense of facilities managers everywhere. I’m sure you’ve warmed the hearts of many facilities managers (and their wives) today.

I don’t know whether ward members are allowed to make repairs (such as fixing cabinet doors in Florida Mom’s building). Perhaps if we ward members knew what we were allowed to do, more of us might step up and repair those kitchen cabinets and do other little things as needed.

As a convert, I’ve always been a little scandalized by the way we treat our meetinghouses. As in all things, how we teach our children is the best way to overcome the problem.

When my children were babies, I never gave them food inside the chapel; I either made sure they ate before coming to sacrament meeting, or I would feed them in the mothers’ lounge. Once they started school, they were able to last three hours without needing to be fed but they could look forward to a snack in the car on the way home from church. When there was an assignment to clean the meetinghouse, we always signed up and the whole family came and helped to make the building look nicer.

As a mother and Primary teacher, I have emphasized that the tithes we pay can either go to repair the messes we make in church or to building new temples and helping the missionaries. During the school year when my children have been attending early morning seminary at the meetinghouse, I’ll stick around and pick up litter inside the building and wipe marks off the walls ? I consider it thanks for the fact that I even have a building to meet in.

Part of the problem has been that no one is individually accountable/responsible for how the meetinghouse looks. It’s hard to tell someone else’s offspring to pick up the litter in front of them or not run through the chapel if you have no “authority.” I’ve reminded my children that it doesn’t matter who made and left a mess, if you find it then you need to clean it up and be of service to others.

Taking Responsibility

Thanks for reminding us, Taking, that our tithing can either go to repair the messes we make in church or to more important things. (And for those of you who wonder why our meetinghouses have silk flower arrangements instead of fresh bouquets, the same theory applies here).

I have to say that I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always lived in areas where our meetinghouses were well taken care of.

We had several instances in the past few years where some of the buildings in the stake were being damaged during the time periods when the meetinghouses were open for people to come and play basketball or volleyball (mainly the youth). You know what our stake president did? He shut them down. He didn’t allow anyone to use the building outside of regular church meetings for almost a year.

There was a great uproar and gnashing of teeth, but he stuck to his guns. Finally he tentatively allowed some nights to be open for sports ? with the condition that if any further damage was seen, the buildings would be shut down permanently. I haven’t heard a whisper of anything going on since the sports nights started back up.

I have also heard over the pulpit many times from bishoprics reminding people to take care of our building. Part of reverence at church is taking care of the Lord’s house. Everyone is expected to pitch in and help clean the building and keep it clean in our area.

As Relief Society president, I walk through our Relief Society room after church and make sure there are no papers or garbage left in the room. It takes about 30 seconds and leaves the room nice for the next people to use it.

Our ward is assigned to clean the building every three months and people are called to assign people to come and help. It’s posted on the ward bulletin board so everyone knows who’s supposed to be there cleaning on Monday nights and Saturday mornings. If you can’t make your turn, then you are to trade with another family. It works out great. Also there is a checklist in the cleaning closet that we look at that tells us what we are to do, so everything should get cleaned as instructed.

When I was a young mother I always made sure my area was cleaned up after sacrament meeting was over, and I never brought anything to church that would be too messy for my little ones to munch on. I’ve even heard the bishop remind people before the closing song to clean up your area before you leave. I think if the leaders in a ward are consistent in reminding people the importance to help keep the building clean and well cared for, then the ward members will honestly try and do it. We have a building scheduler, and he is in charge of making sure there are not conflicts for using the building. Messes and damage are reported to him, and the responsible parties are held accountable. I would imagine having the bishop come and tell you that your Young Women class left a big mess in the kitchen would be embarrassing enough that you’d be more careful in your stewardship the next time. I just love our meeting house and would be so sad if anything serious was ever done to it. I think our whole ward feels pride in our building and works hard to keep it nice.


Riverton, Utah

What a great stake president your stake has, Valerie! It took a lot of intestinal fortitude (translation ? guts) for him to shut down your buildings for extra social activities until stake members learned to respect the meetinghouses. Sometimes drastic situations only respond to drastic measures, and you obviously have a stake president who has the courage to do what needs to be done.

I was a scoutmaster in my stake in Murray, Utah. During my meetings in the building, the youth from wards using the building would run through the halls, and use chalkboards and white boards without erasing them, leaving things that should probably not be written in the house of the Lord. This even happened with the scouts that were attending for my meeting.

Unfortunately, there is not much we can do as leaders to stop this sort of thing from happening, except for remind them where they are. As for me, by the time my meeting was over, I was beat! These kids drained every ounce of energy I had.

I suppose some people would say I was not strict enough to see that the meetinghouse was being used properly, or maybe not doing enough to stop the rowdy behaviors that were occurring. For me, I felt I was walking a tightrope much of the time.





I would remind the kids to remember where they were, but left them to their own agency. I wanted the kids to come back the next week, and be a part of the program. By being the enforcer I was worried that they would not return.

This does not help with the problems of abuse, I understand. However, it is a delicate situation to keep the buildings in the condition the Lord expects. I suppose since most buildings no longer have full-time staff to clean them on a weekly basis, the stake and wards need to take charge. Maybe we could have a crew that is willing to come in the day after activities are done, and check on it, and make sure things are proper. As we are all volunteers in this church, it looks as if this is one more area we need to render service.

Don R

Murray, Utah

Don, you’ve hit a tender nerve with your letter. One of the hardest things as a church leader (or as a parent, for that matter) is to give people their agency even when they make wrong choices. In these days, too, there are families who absolutely refuse to hold their children accountable for their actions ? and who refuse to allow ward leaders to hold their children accountable either. When you wrote about a tightrope, you were stating the situation accurately. Even when the majority of ward members follow the rules, a few outliers can make things uncomfortable for everybody.

Remember the old days when we had real custodians who cleaned our church meetinghouses? Well, we had a little, crotchety old lady who cleaned ours. She was actually in our ward, and she made sure when we were done with our activities that we cleaned up after ourselves. Can you believe it? Why would we have to do such a thing when she is actually being paid to do just that?

Fortunately, for me, she taught me something very valuable by helping me and my family realize that we need to take care of our building. Our building is seldom dirty or cluttered, unlike some of the others I’ve been in. When we are done with our activity we sweep, vacuum, wash dishes, dump garbage, and so on. I also learned that this lady was a very kind little lady who was just trying to teach us to pick up after ourselves.

Lori Jarmin

Blackfoot East Stake

Blackfoot, Idaho

Thanks for your report on the crotchety old lady. I especially like how you realized she actually wasn’t being crotchety at all. It’s amazing how we get a different perspective as we age. (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the “crotchety old lady” was in her forties.)

Here’s our last letter for today:

I didn’t grow up in an LDS, home but I did grow up knowing that I was responsible for more than my own happiness. We call it the “Family Curse.” When we arrive (always early) to an event and chairs need to be set up, we set them and take them down when the event is over.

We work in the kitchen; we mop the floors not by assignment but because “the curse” has us feeling the need to be a part of making the event better for everyone. I married well ? she too has “the curse.” Our children are similarly afflicted.

A couple of years ago I found a story:

The Story of Four People

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could do it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

For our family ? when we see something our of place we put it back, or clean it up or make it right when we can. Throughout the years we’ve served in various positions, and in each we’ve arranged a “clean the kitchen night.” Youth can do this and elders and high priests can do this It doesn’t need to be the Relief Society. We do so without assignment (or permission in some instances); we just do it because of “the curse.”

My prayer is that by acting rather than just complaining, others will catch the bug. If so, the world will be a better place. I am the Somebody that Everybody should be ? Anybody can be so too, and then Nobody will enter our sacred meetinghouse without seeing and feeling the spirit of order and cleanliness.






Don’t get me wrong. Too often I complain and fail, but I hope that overall, the Lord is pleased and the “curse” prompts me and my family to the discipleship that I desire.

Cursed 5-month Member of the

West Jordan, Utah 19th Ward,

but 34 years in the

Bennion 4th Ward

Wow, Cursed! I only hope your family curse is contagious! If it is, you could sell the germs on eBay. Thanks for reminding us that all of us can do our part to make the world better than we found it.

Okay, people. That’s it for this week. We’ll round up this topic next week, and then we’re on to a shiny new discussion.

Until next time ? Kathy


If not me, who? If not now, when?


Rabbi Hillel