It’s Time for the LDS Church to Hire Janitors Again
In a 1999 post on the churchofjesuschrist.org website, Bishop David Burton explains that, “Members of the Church are invited to participate in the cleaning of their buildings in such a way that, by their sacrifice, they will come to honor and respect and love these beautiful houses of worship.”
Bishop Burton insists, “The most important thing to understand is that this program was not primarily instituted to save money. This is a program to develop personal character and receive eternal blessings.”
When I was younger, I half believed/hoped this to be true. I used to volunteer–or be volunteered/assigned–to clean church buildings. We would pile our children into the mini-van on a Saturday morning after a long, exhausting week and meet up with another young family at the church. While our kids dusted/ran around the building, we hurriedly vacuumed and scrubbed, trying not to think of the piles of laundry and messy rooms waiting for us at home. We pretended not to watch the small window of Saturday we had together as a family shrink as we cleaned.
Sometimes, we waited until the evenings, so we could leave the kids with a babysitter and clean before going out on a double date. Our commitment was admirable and it’s probably true that I was the only one of the four harboring secret resentment about this task. I know I was the only one openly complaining about it.
I wasn’t then, nor am I now, above janitorial work. It isn’t the vacuuming and scrubbing itself that began to irk me. It’s the assumption that “The same opportunities to sacrifice for the kingdom do not exist today as they once did” (Burton). It’s the belief that this cleaning “opportunity” is a necessary spiritual one that members are not achieving as they simultaneously fill their spiritual cup/calendar with FHE, seminary, singles activities, primary/youth activities, family history work, temple attendance, family and individual scripture study, Come Follow Me lessons, feeding the missionaries, creating handouts for lessons, planning lessons, cleaning the temple, education, member missionary work, preparing for Sunday on Saturday, using Sunday as a day of rest, working one or more jobs during the week, parenting, home care, volunteering at school/in the community, attending meetings for callings, building up food storage, supervising homework, going on dates, building friendships, finding uninterrupted family time, etc…
Janitors should be hired to clean and preserve church buildings weekly, with members contributing in maintaining this cleanliness. The LDS church can afford to offer well-paying, desirable, respected janitorial positions. Respecting the buildings requires more deliberate, experienced, focused care then they are currently receiving.
Instead of the call to clean the building creating an increased respect, it is often another duty completed by a few and dreaded by many. In fact, how often are we assuming that it is someone else’s duty to clean that week/month, rather than a shared task? LDS church buildings are not maintained as they should be because of many factors, including lack of experience, lack of time, apathy, exhaustion, and over-commitment.
Members should show respect for the building by emptying trash, cleaning white boards, cleaning up after messes, and generally picking up after themselves. We should show church buildings regular care and take responsibility for our messes. We should do this and hire janitors. Wouldn’t it be better to know LDS buildings are professionally deep-cleaned and respectfully maintained by members? Wouldn’t it be better to create jobs that help individuals and communities and to have immaculate, well-maintained buildings?