It was a warm, sunny Sabbath morning, the first Sunday in July.
At the commencement of the high priests group meeting, the group leader welcomed the brethren and then announced that the group had the assignment for snow removal around the meetinghouse for the month of July.
Obviously, there was an almost unanimous response of the brethren willing to accept such an assignment. But, the group leader continued, they also had the assignment for the clean-up, lock-up and other maintenance work for the building during the month.
The response was not as immediate, but many of the brethren volunteered to carry out these custodial duties during the month.
Depending upon members of the Church to do much of the maintenance work in our meetinghouses is a relatively new procedure in the Church. For many years each meetinghouse had a full-time employed custodian to look after the building and clean up after meetings and activities.
With the rapid growth of the Church, and the need for more and more meetinghouses, it is no longer possible to employ full-time custodians to do this work. So, in their wisdom, the leaders of the Church have asked that at one time or another every member is to be a "custodian."
The Church is blessed to have thousands of meetinghouses throughout the world. They are constructed of the finest materials and the construction work is carefully supervised to assure that no shoddy workmanship takes place. They have been built to last for many years, provided they are properly cared for.
It is only fitting that those who use the buildings and those who look to them as sacred centers for worship should also have the opportunity to keep them in good condition.
With most meetinghouses serving multiple wards there are hundreds of people using each building every week. There are the weekly sacrament meetings, Relief Society and priesthood meetings, Sunday school classes, Primary meetings and activities, Young Women and Young Men/Aaronic Priesthood meetings and activities, baptismal services, choir practices, Scout courts of honor and other events, meetings, interviews and activities.
Those who come to the buildings expect them to be clean and neat. Restrooms should be clean and sanitary. The kitchen area should be spotless, and carpets should be well cared for. Classrooms need chairs in their places and chalkboards should be clean. Musical instruments should be well cared for. Walls and ceilings should be free from dirt, and the furnishings polished as needed.
When each meetinghouse is dedicated it is given as a gift of the people who use it to the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Church this is. Caring for His meetinghouse is every bit as much a part of the gospel as teaching, preaching or serving in the organizations that use the building.
What a great opportunity exists for families to have the blessing of spending time together "serving in the Lord's house." Children can be taught to clean and polish, teens can vacuum, dust and sanitize restrooms. Dusting and sweeping become more than menial tasks they are offerings to the Lord whose house this is.
The grounds around the building should be well kept so that those who pass by the building will appreciate the beauty of its setting. And yes, in winter months in those areas where snow falls, the sidewalks and parking lots should be cleared for the safety of those using the building.
The organization of the Church provides for physical facilities specialists to oversee large numbers of buildings and assist with major needs, but the regular weekly care of the buildings belongs to those who use them and who will gain a greater respect for them as they help in their maintenance.
Each person using a building should pick up loose papers, dispose of any trash he or she finds and volunteer on a regular basis to serve as a caretaker in the Lord's house. Parents should look around before leaving and pick up anything their young children might have dropped onto the floor or pews in the chapel.
The psalmist has said: "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." (Ps. 84:10.)
We should likewise desire to be caretakers in our houses of worship so all may enjoy facilities that are well cared for. This is a practical part of the gospel and will bring its commensurate share of blessings to all who thus serve.