Church Centers: Multi-use Buildings?

June 20, 2012 | 95 comments
By
When we lived in La Jolla, the kids and I were members of the La Jolla

Yes, we were a poster family for our YMCA.

YMCA. There was a child care center that would watch my little preschoolers for a couple of hours while I exercised and showered. I worked with a trainer and learned to use machines and free weights. I took aerobics, tai chi, yoga and pilates classes. My kids took swim, dance and gymnastics lessons. They went to preschool. I volunteered at the preschool, got trained and taught kids and adult yoga classes, and helped in the annual fundraising efforts that provided reduced membership and class fees for low income families like ours.

That Y was great because there was a true sense of community. The early morning aerobics class had a core group of women who had been working out together for 20 years. On Thursday afternoons, the ballet class parents held a potluck dinner in the courtyard, while the children danced and played. We were all together, young and old, each with our own place and purpose. I still miss those kind and supportive people who helped me through the years of young motherhood and postpartum depression to become physically strong and confident in a way I never had been before.

For many members, the YMCA was their community center. Though they came with the individual  purpose of exercising or taking a class, they stayed because common friendship. They were needed, missed in their absences, welcomed upon return. Time spent there was split between directed activities with a clear sense of purpose and relaxed socializing in the courtyard or around the coffee cart. The camaraderie was not exclusionary; new people were welcomed and were as much a part of the community as they chose to be.

I don’t know if that Y still has that sense of community. I do know that I still miss it and have never found anything quite like it. I also know that I like our church when it is most like that YMCA. I love the Wednesday nights when it is bustling with cub scouts and young men and young women. The bishop takes a break from his interviews to survey the activity and talk to the parents and leaders and kids. I like it when ESL classes meet in otherwise vacant rooms, when college students offer free tutoring for our grateful neighborhood kids, most of whom are desperately poor.

I like that the stake building has the genealogy center, staffed by volunteers so we can have free access to vast databases. One of our building even has a little computer class/preschool young mothers can bring their children to. And Friday morning I taught a yoga class to thirty women from our two adjacent stakes, our children watching a movie and playing in the gym around us. Our bi-stake fitness class has been going for years, three mornings a week of aerobics, step, cardio circuit, kickboxing, and zumba. No men are allowed, but women of all ages, members and neighbors, from the youth and college aged students to young mothers to grandmothers, meet together with purpose and companionship.

Sunday services are a different matter, and our buildings are quite efficiently designed for those meetings. I am grateful that we have these buildings to worship in, that our church goes out of its way to provide meetinghouses even for small congregations in out of the way places. But it saddens me that so much of the time, our buildings are lying dormant and unused, empty for much of the week. I don’t want to turn our churches in to fitness centers, but I do believe that we and our communities benefit as we open them up for more than our Sunday services.

Few of the members at the La Jolla YMCA were religious people. They lacked a religious home, a religious community. We have that in our church, but we sometimes lack a sense of community. Sometimes it feels that our church is a place where we worship and serve our callings, and then leave as quickly as possible to get back to our lives. But I want the gospel to permeate my entire life, to love and serve and know my neighbors throughout the week and through my different activities. I want the church to be at the center of it all.

95 Responses to Church Centers: Multi-use Buildings?

  1. Ardis E. Parshall on June 20, 2012 at 8:37 am

    That’s pretty much the way it was during most of the 20th century. I predict, though, that you’ll get a chorus of voices saying that they don’t want more activities (and whether or not the activities were official Church meetings, they’d still have to commit significant numbers of Church members to administration and security and cleanup), and that those things infringe on family time, and that they have better friends elsewhere than in their wards, and that … yada yada yada.

    But yeah, I’m with you. I remember those times when our churches always seemed to be bustling with activities. One of the chief reasons for designating Monday evenings as Family Home Evening (about 1972) was to clear one evening a week when the wards didn’t have activities going on (my ward’s MIA had been held on Monday up to that time) so that families could count on that available time. Otherwise, something was always going on. We were a hoppin’ people.

  2. Jenn on June 20, 2012 at 8:41 am

    We were just discussing this the other day: for a church that puts young mothers on such a pedestal, we offer them SO little resources that other churches do.
    K, here comes a huge complaining session:
    I have to go to the christian church down the street for Mother’s Day Out or preschool. Where’s the MOPS club or playgroup?
    RS weekly meetings can be great but in the wards I’ve been in, are irregular and unpredictable (and often on topics I really just don’t care about- sorry, but canning and scrapbooking aren’t my cup of tea).

    From the OP: “Our bi-stake fitness class has been going for years, three mornings a week of aerobics, step, cardio circuit, kickboxing, and zumba. ” That’s awesome! I’ve never heard of a ward/stake doing that- let’s see more of it! And I’ve never, in 28 years of activity in 4 states, heard of a preschool/computer class. Again, let’s see more like that.

    Our churches have no playgrounds, and our “children’s ministry” is so weak compared to other churchs. I think the YW/YM does a great job, but since I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, this doesn’t do me much good. I hear back in the day primary had wednesday activities too, but not anymore.
    I have to keep them still and quiet and “reverent” (ha!) for an hour and a half on sunday (during a service that I generally find boring and hard to sit through, and I’m 27) then send my 4yo to primary, which he can’t stand, because it’s boring and too long, and he’s been spoiled by the local christian preschool he attends that has colorful rooms, trained childcare specialists and play stations mixed in with fun songs and religion-based crafts. We expect our 4-year-olds to be like mini-adults, and stress the important of reverence, but I’m A-OK if my son feels the spirit through being rambunctious and excited about the world around him.

    PS, here’s an idea on how to invest money that doesn’t involve Tiffany or Porsche: build a preschool. I know our local community christian center offers preschool at reasonable prices and still makes a profit.

  3. Diane on June 20, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Nice post,

    I have a concern about having the church permeate everything that I do. That seems to be the very essence of why people who don’t understand Mormon culture tends to see us as a cult. And on some level I completely understand especially when I read post like this why they would say that..

    Here’s a somewhat truncated reason why I don’t want Church to permeate my life.

    I don’t need salt lake telling me what clothing is appropriate.

    I don’t need salt lake telling me what foods to drink and eat. For instance, some people have taken D&C 89 to the extreme and say that we shouldn’t eat meat. It doesn’t say that at all, but, if it makes you happy not to eat meat, God bless, but, don’t judge me because of it.

    (I’m not married, but if I were) it’s not the churches, nor the Bishops business what’s going on the bedroom. That’s intrusive.

    I don’t like church telling me and others that the only true families are from two parent families, and other families are less than if they fail to come up to that standard.

    I don’t like the church telling me that as woman, my only vital purpose is to produce children and be a mother. I think I can determine for myself what my purpose is thank you very much.

    I don’t like the fact the church continues to do baptism for the dead on holocaust victims when prominent rabbis have continued to tell our leader why this is so hurtful and then we say that we (church body politic) are being picked on by outsiders. NOT

    But,like I said, I appreciate this post and if it works(the church telling you how to live your life) then fine. But, it doesn’t work for everyone. The most important thing that I’ve learned since leaving church is that I can be just as good, loving a neighbor outside the church as I ever was inside the church

  4. Julie M. Smith on June 20, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Over the years, I’ve attended homeschooling co-ops and classes in a variety of (non-LDS) churches. I’ve read their pamphlets in odd moments and studied their art work and read their posted policies on the walls. It has always made me a little sad that no one has done that in an LDS building, but I also totally understood when a FP letter went out a few years ago specifically prohibiting homeschooling activities: they require supervision, clean-up, liability, wear-and-tear, etc. It’s a tough issue, but, with you, I mourn the wasted opportunities for building community (not to mention conversion!) that could happen. I think it would be easy to make the case that the church’s commitment to families includes doing what it can to sustain SAHMs in a world where they are few and far between, and having activities for them (LDS or not) in their buildings is a part of that commitment.

  5. Ardis E. Parshall on June 20, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Diane, there’s not a chance in hell that you’d let the church permeate anything, much less everything, that you do. Are you sure you’ve found the right online community? I think not.

  6. Daniel on June 20, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Handbook 2 21.2: “Church property should not be used for commercial or political purposes, which would violate laws that permit its tax exemption…. The following list provides examples of uses that are not approved:

    1. Renting or leasing Church facilities for commercial purposes…
    5. Hosting speakers or instructors who are paid a fee, who recruit participants, or who solicit customers or clients while giving seminars, lessons, aerobics classes, and so on. Exceptions may be made to use meetinghouse pianos and organs for paid private instruction (see 14.7).
    6. Holding organized athletic events that are not sponsored by the Church, including practices.”

    So essentially the reason we don’t use the facilities throughout the week appears to be to protect our tax free status. I presume this is because the limits on what is ‘acceptable’ to the various international tax offices is complicated and it would be too easy to accidently step over the line by providing child care or recreational facilities, especially if these were open access like the Y.
    That said why we couldn’t have facilities clearly delineated as for worship and for recreation on the same property? Like the new Young Adult Centres that appear to be opening up all over the world.

  7. Jenn on June 20, 2012 at 9:05 am

    “Handbook 2 21.2: “Church property should not be used for commercial or political purposes, which would violate laws that permit its tax exemption…. The following list provides examples of uses that are not approved:

    1. Renting or leasing Church facilities for commercial purposes…
    5. Hosting speakers or instructors who are paid a fee, who recruit participants, or who solicit customers or clients while giving seminars, lessons, aerobics classes, and so on. Exceptions may be made to use meetinghouse pianos and organs for paid private instruction (see 14.7).
    6. Holding organized athletic events that are not sponsored by the Church, including practices.””

    So how do all the other churches do this on a regular basis? Heck, that list does a good job of summing up our local tax-exempt churches DO. And how can we not do those things, but building a mall is ok?

    Or how about this: screw the tax-exempt status. We have enough money, the govt could sure use taxes we would pay, and then we could speak up about prop8 (*sigh*), allow candles in our buildings, and all sorts of other fun things.

  8. Diane on June 20, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Ardis,

    You illustrate my point beautifully. Your continued nasty responses is exactly why I wouldn’t let the church or church people Like you to permeate my life.

    Thank you sweet heart, have a great day. I’ll be praying for your soul

  9. Diane on June 20, 2012 at 9:18 am

    @ Jenn

    you are absolutely right, the church building shouldn’t be used for political activity But, almost always is, especially during prop 8 and with the proclamation to the world message for two parent families being the only acceptable family status.

  10. Rachel Whipple on June 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

    So the main reasons we don’t use our buildings more for non-worship activities are staffing/volunteers required to maintain the building and run programs, liability issues, and the desire to maintain a tax-exempt status. Other people feel that the less the church is involved in (dictating) their daily lives, the better. I would like to have the church support me in my daily life, and through volunteering, have the opportunity to support others.

    That liability one seems to be huge to me. I wish we could have little play structures, bike parking, and covered picnic tables on our building grounds along with our modest landscaping and a large parking lot. It seems that would be useful for many church activities and would naturally draw other families in the neighborhood to our building. But maybe someone has thought about this and already decided that the benefits do not outweigh the costs of installation, maintenance, and liability insurance.

  11. John Mansfield on June 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

    The LDS Church meetinghouse I attended in Baltimore for four years, a quarter mile from the former site of Memorial Stadium (where the Orioles and Colts once played) had previously been a YMCA.

  12. frente on June 20, 2012 at 9:35 am

    The Deseret Gym in Salt Lake City was kind of like that. I took swimming lessons there as a child. We played basketball, ran on the track and watched squash and racquetball. One time we happened upon Pres. Monson doing laps in the pool. As a young girl I was shocked to see older women in a complete state of undress right out in the open in the ladies locker room. They had a sign in the there that said, “Modesty is a virtue still.”

    I miss that place. The conference center is nice but not near as fun as the Deseret Gym.

  13. Rachel Whipple on June 20, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Another issue is member density. My ward meetinghouse in Texas was a 20 mile drive from my house. It would have been much more difficult to have a mother’s day out for members to use there, or to have members staff for the community use. We did go to mother’s day out at the Community of Christ church down the road from our house. We also went to vacation bible school at the First Baptist Church, and had piano recitals at it and the Methodist Church. Being about to go to those houses of worship for weekday activities helped us to feel a part of the community even though we were members of a different church and worshipped in a different town.

  14. Jenn on June 20, 2012 at 9:44 am

    @ Rachel:
    “I would like to have the church support me in my daily life, and through volunteering, have the opportunity to support others.”
    Agreed! I don’t think having more support resources through church is at all similar to “being dictated to”. Especially if there are no guilt trips to either use the services or volunteer for them…

    I also realize that our creed against paid clergy wipes out a lot of things the other christian churches too: yes, our local baptist church has a vacation bible school and yoga every Wednesday, but they have no guilt paying the yoga instructor and childcare specialists. I get that we don’t pay our bishops, but why not employ folks from the community to offer community-benefiting services? Again, we definitely have the money… and I don’t understand the fear of liability. If the baptists can do it, the government can do it, the jews and the muslims can do it with their community centers, the YMCA can do it… why does it stop us? Our church president recently dedicated at the grand opening of a law office in SLC, so I know we have darn good lawyers…

    The YMCA is a non-profit, with no paid “clergy” (but plenty of employees, meaning they help the local economy). We absolutely could follow their lead and have a playground or two.

  15. Sam Brunson on June 20, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Rachel, I agree about the member density issue. Our meetinghouse is fairly inconvenient; still, my wife took the girls to the weekly playgroup until school got in the way. But we’ve met amazing families at my daughters’ preschool and elementary school, so we feel like we have several communities (church, schools, neighborhood) that we belong to.

  16. Ardis E. Parshall on June 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Thank you, Diane, you never disappoint!

  17. Diane on June 20, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Ardis

    Neither do you sweetheart, neither do you. As it stands, I sent you a personal email, but, on second thought, I’m going to make this public,

    Ardis, your opinion is not the only opinion. My response was to the OP, not you. If you don’t like what I said, then be a big, girl, and simply ignore it. You don’t have the right to tell me I’m not welcomed.

    Your continued responses and attacks illustrates my point about the cult like atmosphere is because the minute some one likes me says something that someone like you doesn’t like your proverbial claws come out.

    Ardis, I’m here to tell you I’m not your verbal punching bag. Your nothing more than an internet bully, and you are not going to chase me out of any on line community, because quite honestly, its not just your community, the community belongs to everyone. not ARdis Paschel, the B@

  18. Dave on June 20, 2012 at 10:37 am

    LDS chapels are full of small rooms designed for classes and meetings — not for any other activities. If that’s all you’ve ever seen I suppose that’s what you expect, but a tour through anything like a modern megachurch makes a Mormon realize how little we get in terms of physical facilities for our tithing buck. Maybe if we want to keep LDS kids active we should start designing LDS buildings that offer something for kids? Besides hallways to run around in. My local Presbyterian church features a real library, an office for the youth pastor, discussion room with big comfy easy chairs, as well as a gym and a separate large activity room. I’ve seen climbing walls in churches. We need to start thinking outside the minimalist Mormon box.

  19. Sarah Familia on June 20, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I wonder if this is something else that is just impractical on a worldwide level, and thus doesn’t happen anywhere.

  20. Dave on June 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Diane, if you don’t stop insulting other commenters immediately, you will be banned from the forum. Share your opinions without feeling obligated to criticize everyone else’s views and opinions.

  21. Jonathan Green on June 20, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Spaces as large as the average gym or multi-purpose room are not always available, and can be quite useful. In a ward I lived in recently – in a place where the member density was lower than any ward mentioned above, guaranteed – the ward made the building available to a community dance organization for use as a practice space. I have no idea what hoops at the stake or area level had to be jumped through, but it was very much appreciated by the city, and it put a tiny congregation on the map for the community at large in a big way. It doesn’t entirely evade the need for member involvement (someone has to open and lock up the building), and I don’t know how liability issues were handled, but in this case a small investment had an outsized PR payoff. Small numbers isn’t reason in itself to keep our buildings empty.

    Diane, just to be clear, this community does not belong to everyone. It belongs to me and my co-bloggers, and this thread belongs to Rachel, and if you bug her she’ll toss you out on your ear without a second thought.

  22. Diane on June 20, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Dave,
    Tell me where I’ve insulted, a commenter, I have done no such thing, my response to the OP was completely appropriate and respectful

    I find it odd since Ardis, drew the first nasty slap at me that you would single me out,

    Now, If you said, the same thing to the other woman, I would have more respect. But, I know that won’t happen

    Hey, ardis, I participate at the exponent, and people like me, do you want to go there and have me thrown off

  23. Mark B. on June 20, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Sorta reminds me of that great opening line from Jason Compson in Part 3 of The Sound and the Fury.

  24. Jenn on June 20, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Agree with Dave (18) wholeheartedly. Now that I’m early in my possible disaffection, and looking for other places for community, friendhsip, and warm fuzzy feelings on Sunday, I’ve realized just how minimal our “bang for our tithing buck” is. It would be one thing if it were used for humanitarian aid instead, but the percentage actually used for that is VERY low.

    As for Diane/Ardis: you lost me at Ardis’s “I’ll be praying for your soul”. Geez, condescend much? I didn’t love Diane’s original response to the OP (seemed slightly off-topic since I don’t see a relationship between offering community services and the church’s tenddedncy to dictate our lives, though I agree on most points and suspect Diane and I are birds of a feather), but I’m fine with her posting it- obviously it’s on her mind and it wasn’t a personal attack on anyone. Don’t dig it? Don’t respond. If you feel it’s off topic? Don’t respond.
    Feel someone is wrong? Respond with reasonable rebuttal. No one should feel unwelcome for posting opinions that aren’t attacking anyone.

  25. Jenn on June 20, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Oh, ha, the condescension I referred to was Diane, not Ardis (in response to a similar pettiness). Then shame on both. Let’s elevate the level of discourse here a bit, folks.

  26. Ardis E. Parshall on June 20, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Apologies to Rachel for my part in derailing her post which is, ironically, about communities and community building.

    The kinds of activities Rachel and other commenters have suggested as being desirable (whether practical, or more wishful thinking, hardly matters) depend on a community of people who, however different they might be in other respects, share a purpose and a certain commonality during the times they come together for those activities. Those communities can sustain differences of opinion and work out their schedules and rules of conduct and so on, as long the shared sense of purpose is strong enough. It’s difficult, maybe impossible, to maintain a community like that when someone who doesn’t just have differences of opinion on the issue being discussed, but has differences and grudges that have nothing to do with the specific issue, insists on bringing them in and complaining bitterly about those (for the moment) irrelevant issues.

    T&S, I know you don’t need someone from outside policing your blog, and I apologize for a rather mild attempt to do just that. I speak only as a member of your community who is trying to engage in the common purpose, but who is easily distracted by someone shouting obscenities in her ear — that “B@” is beyond the pale, for instance.

  27. Rob Perkins on June 20, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I live in an area where the meetinghouses are in constant use six days per week. Each meetinghouse shares between two and four wards. Between them, Tuesday through Friday are consumed with youth-centered scheduling, such as seminary or Scouting. Weekends, mornings, and off evenings have ad-hoc sports groups, and the building is in use or being maintained from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. most days.

    Adjust the focus a little bit and at least for LDS population densities of 4% or higher, the things are (somewhat insular) community centers already.

  28. Dave on June 20, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Diane — wrong answer.

    You may review your prior comments to identify insults all on your own. Your comment #3 was a rant, not a comment, and Ardis was rather coyly pointing that out (I think you missed the point). There is a link to our comment policy on the top bar. Please read it to understand why your comments will no longer appear on the blog. Sorry this isn’t working for you.

  29. palerobber on June 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

    interesting post, Rachel.

    it brings to mind Dave Banack’s recent post in which he paraphrases the Haidt, saying:

    Religion enhances bonding or belonging in communities and societies, and regulates social life. Religious communities and societies (so the theory goes) are more efficient and outcompete communities without a religion.

    that may be true, and yet i’ve met many utah mormons who feel that — despite the bonding agent of shared faith — their local wards are hollow and ineffecient as communities, especially given the amount of resourses they have at their disposal.

    what do you think were the ingredients that made that YMCA so effective as a community even without shared faith and exclusion? does it depend on having the right people as well as the right infrastructure?

  30. Jenn on June 20, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Just wanted to step out and apologize for butting in, feeling a bit sheepish now.

    Yes, our buildings are currently frequently used to the brim 6 days a week- at least, in the evenings. But if you’re not a boy scout or play EQ basketball, you don’t feel the effects of it much. Again, where’s the support for the young moms who are home alone with kids during the day? We started a tri-ward playgroup in Houston and it got shut down because of liability- we were allowed to do it, but it couldn’t be affiliated in any way with the church.
    But boy scouts is apparently fair game. :/
    We have a wonderful community center for a very small cross-section of our community. Let’s open it up a bit more.

  31. palerobber on June 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    @ Ardis #1

    so what happened?

  32. Ardis E. Parshall on June 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    The block meeting schedule happened.

  33. D. Michael Martindale on June 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Wow, maybe I better not start commenting here. Diane started out quite civil and respectful in expressing her thoughts, then Ardis jumped in and launched on her fairly rudely, thereby demonstrating the very concerns that Diane had.

    Yet it’s Diane that got the heave-ho.

    Move along, folks, no open dialog here.

  34. Wesley Dean on June 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    I think we don’t have these sort of things, even though they’d be nice, because they already exist somewhere else. Like, why isn’t there a Mormon Red Cross? Because there’s a Catholic Red Cross. And because of that, we get to team-up with the people in our communities to do good and have fun.

  35. Ardis E. Parshall on June 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    A little more detail: When people were at the church on Tuesday morning for Relief Society (and maybe that evening for “second session” Relief Society for working women), and Wednesday evening for MIA, and Thursday afternoon for Primary, and when MIA involved rehearsals for the upcoming three-act play two or three evenings a week, and the basketball tournament, and everything else they did), then other things tended to happen around those events. I mean, as long as you’re going to be dropping your kids off at the building for MIA at 7:30, why not meet your auxiliary presidency there at the same time and save a little bit of traveling. Or maybe the Singing Mothers would stay for an hour after Relief Society that morning for a rehearsal, and let’s get Suzy Teenager to babysit our kids in the nursery while we do that, and so Suzy Teenager gets some of her friends to come to the building afterward and they play volleyball until time the crew shows up to put up the movie screen and pop the corn for the evening’s ward social. Or whatever.

    But with the block meeting schedule closing the building for most weekdays, and the concurrent downsizing of MIA and other activities that didn’t work well on a world-wide scale, the ward social life was also greatly reduced.

  36. Jenn on June 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I wish I had been alive during the times described by Ardis: sounds delightful. I can see that it could have felt like a drain to be at the church all the time, and hectic schedules are hard on families.
    As for “why have a mormon red cross when there is a catholic one?” This is going to sound selfish and greedy but: I’m already paying 10% of my income to the mormon church, ideally I wouldn’t also be paying the local christian church for services most modern US churches provide to their membership for free. As it is, I feel like a cheater, using the local baptist church’s fantastic playground, even though I can’t even name a single congregant, much less their pastor. What are we mormons contributing back to the community- feels like we are only taking from local churches, not contributing.
    We have the financial resources, why not use them?

  37. Alison Moore Smith on June 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Dave, I do not think “coy” means what you think it means.

  38. Dave on June 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Alison (#37), I’m sure most readers use context to guide them to the intended sense of a word, in this case “reluctant to give details” (the second sense listed in the Google).

    D. Michael (#33), you have obviously never had to manage comments in a public forum. Count your blessings. Dialogue is always welcome, it’s the other stuff that causes problems.

    No further discussion on the off-topic subject of comments or comment policy in this thread, please. If that’s a subject you feel compelled to discuss, read the comment policy (link at top of page) and email me directly with your concerns.

  39. MC on June 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Having never lived in the pre-block era, I can’t really compare the relative merits of either system. But I do find it sort of funny that one of the complaints that non-Mormons have about Mormons is that we only associate with our own people. And that jibes with my experience. If we’re not doing things as an LDS community at the meetinghouse, they are usually happening somewhere else.

    Also, someone should point out the increasing load of homework and extra-curricular activities that crowd out every other aspect of family and Church life in pursuit of a better college.

  40. Suleiman on June 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I really appreciate this post.

    I think that church buildings and schedules will evolve as the uses they are put to evolve. And as for the idea that the Church shouldn’t permeate various aspects of our lives… I have a hard time identifying aspects of my life that remain unaffected by my religiosity. With new technologies allowing the extension of ward/family boundaries, it will be interesting to see what constitutes a ward community and religious activities just a few years down the road. My Bishop already utilizes technology to reduce burdens and increase flexibility and effectiveness when we meet today. The scout master texts his scouts, the YW leaders are doing amazingly creative things, and I’d like to keep up with my home teaching families via technology during the hectic summer months. Will seminary teachers go online? Will the buildings and community enter the virtual world?

  41. MC on June 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Has anyone mentioned this article about LDS youth centers?

    http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/06/gathering-in-a-unity-of-the-faith?lang=eng

  42. Ardis E. Parshall on June 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Jenn mentions Red Cross work in association with churches (ours and the Catholics). I posted a collection of 1917 photos this morning; believe it or not, one of them *is* a Red Cross group — many Relief Societies doubled as Red Cross units during WWI — sewing things either for the soldiers or for relief work. I suppose much of what individuals and wards do now under the Humanitarian Services umbrella is the modern form of that, but isn’t necessarily done in our buildings. My ward has a major, long-time quilting project for Humanitarian Services — the work is done in the social center of a condo within our ward boundaries, for the convenience of most of those who are involved, so the church stays dark even during that weekly church-related project.

  43. Alison Moore Smith on June 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Dave, you think Ardis is “reluctant to give details”? You think her comment was vague?

    Ardis is about as coy as I am. ;)

  44. Ardis E. Parshall on June 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Alison, I’ll give relevant details: I’m trying to help Rachel by focusing on her post and engaging in relevant conversation with other commenters. Won’t you please help with that effort?

  45. Alison Moore Smith on June 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Sure thing. But I actually thought Diane’s initial post WAS relevant. I think she has obvious discomfort with things in the church, but this was a very good insight:

    I have a concern about having the church permeate everything that I do. That seems to be the very essence of why people who don’t understand Mormon culture tends to see us as a cult. And on some level I completely understand especially when I read post like this why they would say that..

    I live in Utah now. ALL THE TIME, I hear people complain about how insular Mormons are and how they don’t “get outside of their little group.”

    The accusation, at least as I see applied, is unfair. Thing is, I simply don’t get out PERIOD. I have six kids, I work from home, and I homeschool. Between teaching my kids, taking them places, working, and taking care of callings, I don’t have time to “get outside” at all.

    I don’t hang with Mormons either. I simply don’t hang out.

    So, when I have friends at Scera, because my daughter does theater there and I volunteer, I am compelled to “get outside.” But turn that community venue into a church venue, and one of my very few “outside” activities becomes yet another “inside” activity. And the accusations that we are segregated and isolated increases.

    I like the community idea a lot, but think this is a valid point.

    Glad that Julie brought up the homeschool ban. I never scheduled a Mormon church for a homeschool event, but it does seem odd that the church can’t be used for a language arts class, but is open for basketball pickup games 24/6 — even overlapping with scheduled church events.

    UHEA holds their annual graduation ceremony in the Calvary Church in Salt Lake. Most kids are LDS, but we can’t use an LDS building. Calvary is very kind to open their building to us every year, but (last time I checked) everyone has to walk past the anti-Mormon propaganda to get to the chapel. :/

  46. Sonny on June 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    My apologies in advance, Dave.

    Alison, I think Diane’s #3 *could have* been relevant if it were more of a comment. Dave is right, it was not a comment but a rant–an itemized rant at that.

  47. Rachel Whipple on June 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for the discussion, everyone. I’ve been out with my kids doing their extracurricular activities (not at the church, but one of the lessons was with a member of our ward). I can understand Diane’s hesitancy to not let the church overwhelm her life. We do believe in exercising our agency, and if every activity we do is either at the church or with people from church, we may feel our agency curtailed. That said, I also understand why Diane’s comment was taken as hostile, and I am sorry that that perceived (intended or not) tone of hostility was what dominated the thread. I am grateful for the many good comments Ardis has contributed, especially insight into pre-block church life, but I can also see that her initial response to Diane increased the hostility level of the thread. Thank you Dave, for stepping in and moderating while I’ve been out.

  48. J Town on June 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I agree with the sentiment of having the church more involved in community events. However, while I like the idea in theory, I foresee several issues in putting that into actual practice. And I could care less about concerns along the lines of folks wanting fewer activities to take up their family time (we’re all agents unto ourselves; if you don’t want to attend a community event at the church, then don’t.)

    My conerns are basically two fold: I don’t like the logistics and I have an admitted lack of faith that people will excercise good common sense. By logistics, I mean facility maintenance (which would need to be paid for, because I am expressly unwilling to participate in a church cleaning assignment if the building is in use as anything other than a church that I attend), tax concerns (which I agree are probably overblown, but there is something to be said for not giving others with their own agendas an easy means by which they could accuse the church of any kind of legal/financial chicanery), and other general financial concerns and who will manage them (I’m a clerk and NOT an accountant. MLS isn’t build to manage that kind of thing and I’m not willing to be responsible for it.)

    And yes, liability concerns are a very real issue. And this is just for the United States and not taking into account cultural and legal implications around the globe. The amount of time and money it would take to build an adequate structure to handle all those concerns (and many others which I just can’t think of right now) boggles the imagination.

    Now, could those things be planned for and handled intelligently? Perhaps. But I don’t see the benefits as being worth the costs, ultimately. Then there is the question of common sense. Maybe it’s just me, but I can already see church members in some areas being expected or even outright asked to “volunteer” for tasks that are not church related, because of the facilities being used for other events.

    As mentioned above, this would have to be a voluntary thing, and unfortunately many church members, well-intentioned or not, tend to blackball those who do not participate to their satisfaction in the church’s cultural paradigm even today. I can only imagine some of the issues that could arise if we were to involve ourselves in the community even more.

    A large part of me worries that there are social aspects of the church (or more correctly, general church membership) that are too worldly even now. I would rather avoid getting further into that mindset. Sometimes I fear that even as the church has a positive influence on the world, so the world tends to seep into the church to an unhealthy degree. I prefer separation to prevent that, if nothing else. But I seem to be in the minority when it comes to that opinion, so take it for what it’s worth.

  49. Jenn on June 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Just had to throw this out there as a response too my earlier comments and Wesley Dean (34): Apparently the church DOES work with red cross:)
    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-and-red-cross-sign-agreement-to-continue-relationship
    I like it

  50. RobF on June 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    It will probably be a long time before Salt Lake creates new programs that will fill a ward building all week, but local members can create their own activities to take advantage of our empty buildings. Just another sweet example of the Lord and the Church making it possible for us to let our own lights shine without having to be commanded–or reprimanded–in all things :-) Lets hear more examples of ways that local buildings are being utilized in “off” hours to serve our members and local communities.

  51. Rachel Whipple on June 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    18, 19–I do think that our general minimalist use of church facilities is related to our effort to provide facilities to congregations worldwide, as well as to avoid gross inequities in the resources offered, even if (especially if) those inequities would reflect the economic differences of congregations.
    24-That “minimal bang for the tithing buck” idea is a difficult one. It is a source of pride, a sign of our financial prudence and modesty that we build simple, efficient structures and don’t spend overmuch on ornamentation or luxury. As we have simple buildings in the US, we are also able to provide solid, simple buildings in much poorer countries, and I think that’s a good thing. The real problem with the issue is that we members don’t really know how much tithing revenue the church receives and how it chooses to apportion it. Because we don’t know, it is difficult to know if our criticisms, like why can’t we have play structures, are justified. But that should be the subject of another post.

    21-Large spaces are useful to community. That is one of the reasons I was sad that the Provo Tabernacle is to be remade as a temple. It was great to have that building open for concerts and other community events that welcomed non-members into an LDS building in a non-proselytizing, no pressure kind of way.

    27-Rob, those sound like a pretty busy buildings. I like the idea that the meetinghouses are alive with activity like that. But you do bring up this idea of insularity, that our activities at the church actually serve to isolate us from our larger community, rather than drawing the community in so that we work together. This is an interesting contrast to J Town’s concern in 48 that such interaction would dilute us and our faith and make us more worldly.

    And Alison’s comments about busyness being perceived as insularity in 45 are right on. I do think that is worse for us now that we live in Utah valley than it was when were San Diego, Texas, or New York. Now, so many of my neighbors and the people that I volunteer with at schools or community functions are also LDS, whereas before none of those people would have been. It made it easier for me to settle in here and contribute because I share a common set of values and expectations. I can see how that would make it much harder for a non-LDS person to feel as comfortable or welcome here; it can feel lonely if you think everyone is in the club but you.

  52. Rachel Whipple on June 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I like how hopeful Sulieman (40) and RobF (50) are. There are some administrative hoops to jump through-getting the women’s exercise class approved without having a priesthood holder in the building to protect us was a difficult fight. When we had our yoga class in our branch building in New York, we were able to get around that by holding the class at the same time as early morning seminary. It was great for the moms who had to bring their teenagers and would otherwise just have been waiting around for an hour, and often other women chose to join us.

    And maybe it is good that there is some difficulty in implementing these programs. They come from the ward or branch level, and because they are championed by people who care enough to fight to make it happen, they will have the support necessary to maintain their existence. I definitely think it better that we create and implement programs needed in our local areas than we only do as directed from higher ups. We can do much good, and avoid being slothful and unwise servants.

  53. Wesley Dean on June 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Jenn, I must have been unclear. Sorry! What I meant is that the church doesn’t need to have its own competing organization. The Red Cross is already there, and does good work, so we team-up with them, rather then starting our own similar group.

  54. Julie M. Smith on June 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Seminary is enormously expensive, opens us to huge litigation risks in a variety of areas, and is, in general, a royal pain. But we do it because we consider it a core part of the Church’s mission.

    I think someone could make the case that the kind of community building, conversion opportunities, and meeting-the-needs-of-people that comes from building uses discussed here could also be seen as a core part of the Church’s mission. Or maybe not. But it isn’t unreasonable to consider it.

  55. rbc on June 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    I completely agree with the sentiment of the OP. Here is the Philadelphia area most wards have exclusive use of their buildings-unfortunately. Most buildings are empty for a lot more hours during a week than they are in use. A couple of basketball seasons ago I coached my daughter’s 12-13 yr old team in a local league. Gym space for practice is a premium and I arranged to use our chapel. It worked great and I always enjoyed seeing the foyer filled with non member parents waiting for practice to end. For most, it was their first exposure to the Mormon church. Our Bishop reviewed the CHI and shut down the practices-reluctantly so but he was more committed to a strict CHI interpretation than the practical benefits of the practices. (I should have recruited his daughter for our team.)

    I suspect the policy is borne mostly out of the problems that would arise in densely populated Mormon areas. Imagine all the coaches in a building with multiple wards who would try to do what I was doing. Throw in other perfectly acceptable, but non-Church sponsored activities, which could be done easily in a chapel in an area where there are 2-3 units sharing the same chapel and you see where the problems could quickly develop. Hence, the activities are shut down everywhere. In countries where the Church is small-which is to say in every country-more Chapel use in non-traditional and wholesome ways could only help and for the reasons in the OP and alluded to by Ardis in #1.

  56. J Town on June 20, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    A quick point of clarification, Rachel. I was probably unclear earlier, since I had a number of thoughts running through my head and likely didn’t express them well. I don’t believe that interaction with our communities would necessarily make everyone more worldly automatically. That is a very insular idea and not very charitable. I certainly don’t believe it would dilute our faith. However, I’m more concerned with how members in my area (not in or near Utah, btw) tend to treat their pursuits (even church pursuits in some instances) in a very…competitive way? Or at least a very comparative way. I see that in their community interactions as well, and I suppose I just would prefer to not have one more point of contact looked at and judged, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone who hasn’t experienced it and I am admittedly not explaining it very well. Alas.

    In any event, I do agree that there are positives that could come from more use of the building, so if a way could be found to make that happen without causing chaos, then I would likely support it.

  57. Rachel Whipple on June 20, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Julie, it’s interesting that seminary is allowed, but homeschooling activities or classes are not. I wonder if girl scout troops could meet in the building? Or not-church-sponsored boy scout troops?

    rbc, you bring up a good point that density works both ways. In very densely populated Mormon areas, there are more members able to volunteer and have activities like aerobics and playgroups and members live closer to the building and are able to get to it more easily. But with higher density could come more conflicting demands, so even though there would be people to use the facility, it is closed off.

    We have run into conflicts with our women’s exercise class: a funeral trumps everything (as it rightly should), so on those days, class is either cancelled or moved to another building. I wonder if that need for the building to be available on short notice is another reason to avoid having a lot of standing commitments for the building schedule.

  58. Bob on June 20, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    I think where the Church misses it, when it thinks if it can work in all of it buildings, it shouldn’t be tried/used in any of them.
    Buildings have no “huge litigation risks”, unless they were built wrong. People mis-using them can cause the liability. But that can happen Sunday morning or Tuesday afternoon.
    Other churches live with the liability risks. So can the Mormon Church.

  59. Rachel Whipple on June 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    J Town-Competition is an issue I hadn’t considered. Now that I do, it makes me sad, because you’re probably right.

  60. NewlyHousewife on June 21, 2012 at 12:50 am

    When I was a teen and a non-LDS friend asked why my church doesn’t have a play area for kids I jokingly said it’s because teens would have sex in it. As I’ve gotten older I’m increasingly believing my joke to be true. Why else would we not have jungle gyms in the 70s?

  61. chris on June 21, 2012 at 1:26 am

    #3- Diane raises an interesting point. Why would it be unacceptable for the church to tell you what is appropriate “in the bedroom” when you are single, but not appropriate when you are married?

    I’m not arguing for anyone to give me guidelines or tell me whats acceptable other than my conscious enlightened by the spirit.

    But why would one be willing to accept it’s ok for the church to proscribe your sexual life as a single person, but that intrusion is a somehow unacceptable once you’re married?

    Current situation:

    Single:
    Non heavy kissing is ok, sex is not.

    Married:
    No comment. [but what is the logical reason why the church could not just as easily say something like, sex is ok, contraception, toys, lingerie, etc. is not]

    I’m not advocating for this, but Diane’s seeming indignation at the one and not the other had me wondering…

  62. chris on June 21, 2012 at 1:29 am

    To return to the post subject though, I definitely agree and I wish church centered activities would fill more of my life, if I’m going to have activities to begin with.

    But to be honest, I feel that we are actually called to more important things than just being busy, but rather serving and ministering as Christ did. That doesn’t leave much time for the YMCA or the LDSCA if we want to be honest with ourselves… (until the lost book is discovered where we read about Jesus organizing a soccer tournament)

  63. PostScript on June 21, 2012 at 1:36 am

    A few thoughts related to various comments:

    My Stake Center does indeed have bike parking, and a covered picnic area. However, no other buildings in my Stake have such facilities. I’ve also seen several buildings around the country that have outside pavilions, but they’re usually only at Stake Centers.

    There’s a park with playground, ball fields, and picnic facilities next to the Spokane, Washington Temple (and Spokane East Stake Center). It’s intended for church activities, for the Stakes in the area, but is usually open to the public as well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a playground by any other LDS church, any one else know of any? (Side note – there were originally 4 baseball/softball diamonds, but they built the temple on one of them!)

    The biggest problems related to using LDS church buildings for non-church-sponsored events: 1. supervision, 2. liability, and 3. fundraising / tax exempt status of church.

    1. Supervision: at other churches, there is usually at least one paid representative/employee (i.e. pastor, secretary, etc.) of the church present when some sort of activity takes place in their facilities. We just don’t have that in our church.

    2. Liability: the LDS church is self-insured, so liability is a huge issue. (Or should that be “i$$ue”?)

    3. Fundraising/tax exempt status: This all comes down to a basic difference between your local LDS meetinghouse and the local Lutheran/Presbyterian/etc. church: the local congregations of other denominations own their own properties, but your local LDS meetinghouse is owned by H. David Burton. Really. The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Corporation Sole consisting of only one person: the Presiding Bishop. Since the LDS church doesn’t exist in any legally organized form, all the church’s real property is owned by the Corp. of the Pres. Bishop. Your local Presbyterian congregation can legally do things on it’s property (such as allowing fundraising activities by outside organizations) that can’t be done at an LDS meetinghouse, largely because the LDS meetinghouse is owned by what is essentially a holding company located in Utah.

  64. Peter LLC on June 21, 2012 at 3:05 am

    Out here in the mission field, we have an insitute “outreach center” that, while targeting young single adulds and serving missionary work-related ends, is well used for a variety of activities during the week. It’s its own buildling, separate from the city’s four meetinghouses, so this approach doesn’t really address the empty building issue, but it does have the advantage of creating a more neutral space for community interaction.

  65. Peter LLC on June 21, 2012 at 3:06 am

    The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Corporation Sole consisting of only one person: the Presiding Bishop.

    So that’s what Romney must have had in mind. :)

  66. Diane on June 21, 2012 at 6:54 am

    @ Chris
    First, I want to clarify why I don’t want the church to permeate my life. . It has to do with the very definition of the word permeate, which when I looked up the word it means to envelop and to take over your whole essence. Thus the conundrum. Thus my feeling on why people either rightly or wrongly believe the church to be cultist. This is what Cults do, this is what Jim Jones did to his followers.

    Furthermore Married couples have long been counseled by Bishops that certain sexual activities in the bedroom is not with in keeping of the spirit. and have on occasion brought the other partner in the marriage for counsel with regard to the issue at hand. Like I said, this is not appropriate, especially, given the fact that Bishops are not trained personal qualified to make these kinds of decisions

    this is like the church telling gay people are bad just because they are gay and nothing more. Its prejudice to the highest degree.

    And the fact of matter is since you ask, I find it highly disturbing (especially as a victim of sexual assault)to be in the room with a man, young and old asking me questions about my sexual history (when they are not trained professionals)to determine whether or not I’m righteous enough to enter the temple. This is intrusive. This is what I mean by not wanting the church to permeate my life

  67. Researcher on June 21, 2012 at 7:25 am

    but your local LDS meetinghouse is owned by H. David Burton. Really. (comment 63)

    Or not. The Presiding Bishop is Gary Stevenson.

    By the way, that’s a lovely family picture, Rachel. I’m glad you had that great community.

  68. Peter LLC on June 21, 2012 at 7:25 am

    It has to do with the very definition of the word permeate…it means to envelop and to take over your whole essence.

    I ca

  69. John Taber on June 21, 2012 at 7:41 am

    I have it on good authority that when the Lincoln Square meetinghouse in New York was planned (where the Manhattan temple is now), the stake asked for a playground on the roof. Salt Lake said no.

    BTW Diane #66 – Elder Eyring in 2003 made it very clear that what a husband and wife do in the bedroom is not the business of any local leader.

  70. Peter LLC on June 21, 2012 at 7:42 am

    I’ll take that fumbled response as a sign and quit while I’m ahead.

  71. Rachel Whipple on June 21, 2012 at 8:30 am

    62-Chris, believe me, teaching a free exercise class for women, most of whom have young children, is service. Being a stay-at-home mom can be very isolating and difficult. Many young families don’t have the resources to pay for childcare or gym memberships where childcare is available. Exercise helps strengthen our bodies and our spirits, helps ameliorate the effects of post-partem depression, provides an opportunity for socialization and relationship building. We support and strengthen each other, which as I see it, is at the core of the gospel.
    66, 3-Diane, I’m sorry you’ve been hurt in the past. That is terrible and makes your wariness of authority understandable. I hear you. I can see why you got caught up on the word “permeate,” but please recall the way I used that word in the OP:

    But I want the gospel to permeate my entire life, to love and serve and know my neighbors throughout the week and through my different activities.

    I stand by my statement that want the *gospel* to permeate my life. I understand your objections; please recognize my affirmation: I want to live a life of faith, where my understanding of the gospel, of love for God and man, shapes all of my attitudes and actions. I want that faith and love to permeate everything I do, even teaching yoga to a gym full of women. I want many of my normal activities to be reborn in faith, to share them with others who believe or hope to believe. The institutional church will never dictate all aspects of my life; I am an agent who believes in personal revelation. The institutional church logically enters into this conversation because it sets the policies regarding use of our physical church buildings. I hope that through our faith and work, we can petition the institutional church to allow our local church communities to open our physical churches to doing many good things that will strengthen our congregations and communities.

  72. Diane on June 21, 2012 at 8:31 am

    @ John

    If this is the case, then why, am I reading on peoples personal blogs where this has happened? If fact, if memory serves me correctly, I believe that I read on a Wheat and Tares blog that this did indeed took place and the guy told his bishop to but out.

  73. John Taber on June 21, 2012 at 8:40 am

    It was in the 1st Worldwide Training Meeting, in I believe January 2003, which unfortunately I can’t find online. But he made it very clear, in the context of conducting a temple recommend interview, that it is not the interviewer’s concern what husband and wife do in the bedroom.

    I had an Elders’ Quorum President the year before say that there are certain things that are/aren’t allowed. For that and other reasons I worry about the stake he presides over now.

  74. John Taber on June 21, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Let me clarify: I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just that the Brethren have clearly stated it shouldn’t.

  75. Rachel Whipple on June 21, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Thanks, John Taber, for addressing both the official policy and the reason that there are exceptions to that in our experience.

    I now ask that further discussion of sex, marriage, and the church be tabled from this thread and saved for another post that is explicitly about that subject.

  76. Diane on June 21, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Rachel

    Given that we have spoken privately, I feel that I totally understand what you are saying and can totally respect what you are saying. especially since, you respect my position.

    I might add as a former nanny for young children I truly understand how isolating being by yourself can be during the day

    But aside from that if we are going to use church buildings for these kinds of activities, how do we insure that “all” are welcomed without the pushing(whether consciously or not )gospel principles and missionary work that people have not asked for.

    I’ll give you an example, when I was younger, my school was over crowded, so, in effort to combat the crowding issue, the school district, used trailers as well as rented out spaces in local churches. I was assigned to go to school to the Lutheran Church in the neighborhood. but, I was never proselytized. Can we say the same would happened if we opened the doors of the Mormon Church? I’m not sure, because this is kind of engrained in us as a people.

  77. J Town on June 21, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Diane, you’re reading it because leaders are people too. As such, they will occasionally do things, well-intentioned or not, that are contrary to the counsel that they have received. That happens in any organization, not just the church. Unfortunately, the consequences of that can be harmful. We’re all engaged in a life-long learning experience here, so mistakes are not only inevitable, but also a very large part of the point. Which doesn’t make it any easier, I know.

  78. J Town on June 21, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Whoops, sorry Rachel. I was typing up my last post while you posted yours, apparently. I’ll hush now.

  79. Rachel Whipple on June 21, 2012 at 9:14 am

    76-Diane, that is a good point. I didn’t serve a mission, and I personally have never been comfortable with either the commitment pattern or proselyting. Because of that, I would like to have more community and service activities that are not about converting other people. At our fitness classes, we always start with a prayer. That this the extent of overt religiosity. I know that missionaries often teach ESL classes. There seems to be a gospel component, but conversion is not required for assistance. The college students that tutor local elementary kids in our building are LDS, but there is neither prayer nor gospel discussion.

    You’re good, J Town. No apology necessary.

  80. john f. on June 21, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Great post and enjoyed Dave’s comment # 18.

    As we start locating our buildings in places relevant to broader communities, such as town and city centers near transportation hubs, our church buildings can become more of a focus of community life. This has been the case in the area where I live. The location of the chapel and its access to community life go hand in hand. If we continue to bury church buildings in remote suburbs then they will remain irrelevant in the broader community.

  81. Ardis E. Parshall on June 21, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Family History Centers (or “FamilySearch Centers” as the name is apparently changing) are a good test case for how the wider community can use LDS facilities without being proselytized. Those centers are supposed to be open to everyone, and are often staffed by enthusiastic non-members. Active proselyting is formally restricted, and staff members are taught this in training. This does not mean that LDS staff cannot answer questions about why we provide the facilities, or that there cannot be a poster mounted on the wall announcing a temple excursions, or that LDS patrons cannot discuss among themselves their enthusiastic participation. It just means that no one, staff or patron, can initiate a missionary-minded conversation with a non-member, or invite them to meet the missionaries, or exert any pressure to conform to LDS standards outside of the Center. It just means that everyone should be welcomed and helped to trace his ancestry, regardless of his reason for tracing his ancestry.

    Every once in a while you find a patron who is so thin-skinned that he objects to LDS-themed conversations within his hearing, or an LDS member who doesn’t realize it’s a violation of the no-proselyting rule to tell a non-member that now that he’s identified his ancestors he should have their temple work done so that they can be sealed for eternity even if the non-member patron doesn’t choose to join the eternal family.

    But mostly it works well, and shows that we can welcome the wider community without a blatant missionary motive, and that unless community members are hunting for reasons to be offended they probably won’t be.

  82. John Mansfield on June 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

    When neighbors get upset that an LDS building will be built near them, one of the angles used to placate them has been to emphasize how little the building will actually be used. “A couple worship services on Sunday, a couple activity nights during the week involving only a few dozen people. You’ll hardly notice any traffic most of the time.”

  83. Steve Smith on June 21, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Diane, might I suggest a forum where you would probably fit in more: forum.newordermormon.org. It is a forum for both active and inactive LDS who have doubts and criticisms about official doctrine, history, and policy and Mormon culture. Times and Seasons is more of an environment for believing intellectual LDS who may express some mild criticism over LDS church policy, history, doctrine, and culture but are generally supportive of the organization. You’ll find many more people in agreement with your opinions at New Order Mormon. Here it seems that the commenters are by and large more conservative, which is fine. But don’t expect them to be sympathizing with your points of view.

  84. Diane on June 21, 2012 at 11:45 am

    John
    Rachel’s post is about using the church building to build communities where everyone is invited, regarding any particular faith tradition. that being said I’m trying really hard to not take your comment as being flip and casual disregard for people who aren’t members, whose voices and concerns don’t need be addressed. I use to live in the area of the DC temple (which comprised, of a regular church building, stake center, in addition, to the temple and temple grounds)when I was first baptized, there was tons of traffic in the area. There was always traffic, I’m not saying that’s neither bad good nor bad, but, I’m saying that we need to be respectful of other peoples needs and wants in the community to not being hit over the head with the stuff. And I’m sorry as beautiful as the DC temple is, especially as it looms over head on the beltway. I can see and appreciate how people in the community who are not members would find it imposing and intrusive, Its a matter of perspective. Proselytizing and imposing values without even saying a word.

    I happen to live around the corner from two Cathedrals one Catholic, one Episcopalian. The Episcopalian church does community outreach, (i.e) food pantry, community day care, and they do with it with out proselytizing

    I know that I can’t speak for other people, but, I do believe that the concerns of those who live in communities around our buildings,is that ( again, rightly or wrongly)t they know what will follow afterwards and that’s being proselytized to and they don’t want it. Let’s put it this way, have you ever had a Catholic missionary knock at your door, better yet, I’ve never EVER herd of a Jewish missionary.

  85. John Mansfield on June 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    No, the main neighborhood concern about meetinghouses is traffic and parking. Since you used to live near the Washington D.C. Temple, you may find this article from the Washington Post interesting: “Full Up, Fed Up On God’s Avenue.” It is about opposition to construction of an LDS meetinghouse three miles straight north from the White House on an avenue with many, many churches already. After eight years of looking for an appropriate site, and a few more years of jumping through hoops, the building is nearing completion. It will house the Washington D.C. Third Ward, which includes any LDS who may happen to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

  86. John Mansfield on June 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    That article gives a taste of the sort of community use of churches that causes some neighbors to wish the churches were somewhere else:

    “‘If you left your house on a Sunday morning to get bagels, when you came back there would be no parking,’ said Ellen McCarthy, a consultant to the community group, who was also the District’s planning director. ‘The expectation is that one can enjoy the neighborhood without people coming and going to dances, without loud conversations on the street, without Bible studies or AA meetings.'”

  87. Diane on June 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    John

    I just read the attached article, I think your viewpoint is a little myopic, this isn’t just about parking, its about the onslought of noise, congestion, and buildings that are to large, As one protester stated,” there’s no need to have a building that large.

    And be fair on the other side, there one protester who thought that this was also “Anti” going on, but, at any rate, we as a group do not address their concerns with respect, especially given the tone of your first comment.

  88. John Mansfield on June 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve seen the building and the rest of the street. It doesn’t stand out at all, far less than several other churches within a quarter mile, but people worry about such things all the same. Relating this to the main topic, new LDS meetinghouses are frequently opposed because of mundane concerns about traffic, parking, and congestion. Neighbors do not want a bustling hive of activity, and so we tell them “Don’t worry, the place will be dead 90% of the week.”

  89. Rachel Whipple on June 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    82-John Mansfield, I hadn’t considered increased traffic or even possible zoning issues. We generally do a good job in providing adequate parking to go with our meetinghouses. In the article, it sounds like some of the complaints were about construction noise and the idea that Mormons would be noisy worshippers. Others were about theology and steeple aesthetics. It’s nice to know that the building is almost done. Then the construction mess will no longer disturb the neighborhood, and they will get a chance to see how bland and quiet our Sundays generally are.

  90. Diane on June 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    for a little humor, Personally, I wish they still met at the Press Club like it use to. I gave my first talk at the same week and at the same podium as Maggie Thatcher. didn’t do to badly, until I thought about it during my talk. Maggie Thatcher, stood exactly, where I stood, and I didn’t even flub up

  91. rae keck on June 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I read but seldom comment at this blog. I like the logical comments and fact based information I find here. I have discontinued reading several other blogs devoted to LDS concerns when they become personal conversations with emotional rumours as their sources. Please keep this blog on the high plain.

  92. Ben H on June 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Wonderful, delightful post, Rachel! You capture (a big slice of) exactly the kind of “permeate”ing I hope to see more of down the road. I do think it is also possible for this to be manifested in many important ways that lie farther away from particular chapel buildings, and see our contributions to larger projects like the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts as key parts of the gospel harvest, but creative ways of deepening and serving our communities at a very local and immediate level, within the necessary parameters of a global church, are key.

    Lots of great comments too on both the reasons why the institutional church has to be careful, and how members can use their God-given agency to organize activities, clubs, and other associations that reflect Rachel’s hopes for permeation while accommodating the boundaries the church has to maintain.

    The institutional church just doesn’t have the bandwidth to organize all this and nuance it for all the different local conditions, but I suspect there is room for a much richer ecosystem of such (dare I say “auxiliary”?) organizations, if those setting them up are willing to take the initiative themselves to ensure they are consistent with the church’s tax-exempt status, cleanliness, liability concerns, etc.

    Is it time for an open-source Mormon para-church, with a clearing house of recipes for setting up local associations to serve a range of local needs (my dad has also thought about something along these lines), with recommended “system requirements” for member density and such? Rachel, could you be the Linus Torvalds of Mormux?

  93. Diane on June 25, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I wasn’t going to post this but, I feel its necessary.

    Its going to be very hard to “permeate” everyone’s life and still maintain a healthy respect and a distance. Its really not going to be done.

    I know I’m going to take a lot of heat for saying this, but when we use phrases in our discourse on this issue like,”thin skin” “mundane” it completely supports what I’m trying to say. Why should those outside the church welcome or respect us, when behind closed doors and in the bloggernacle this is how we describe them. this really isn’t

  94. Sachiko on June 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Rachel, I think your desire to have a fun, close church community is a wonderful, but I don’t think it would work, because the YMCA and the Church are built around totally different paradigms.

    Community centers like the Y are built around the idea of fun; the Church is built around the idea of saving ordinances and the Law of Consecration.

    My family and I are part of a fun, local athletic club. But it would rapidly become less fun if the director of the club informed me that my children were automatically enrolled in certain mandatory weekly classes that I was obligated to assist in and provide snacks for.

    Imagine also the director of the club asks me to volunteer for other programs, but without an easy social exit. I am promised dire consequences if I turn down the volunteer opportunity, even (and especially) if the volunteer opportunity is outside my realm of talent, experience or desire.

    Perhaps the volunteer opportunity means I will have to miss my favorite yoga classes for possibly the next few years, until the Club Directed feels like releasing me, and instead I will be obligated to bring my family to the club and then work in the daycare. The Director encourages me to continue working out on my own to DVDs at home, which seems sadly ironic.

    At this same health club, if I find it difficult or undesirable to attend aerobics classes, the Director threatens to remove my membership card. If people I know miss aerobics, I am obligated to go to their house and ask them to come work out with me.

    Leaving this club is only an option if you don’t mind being shunned.

    Church is just too high-stakes to be fun like the Y is. I don’t know if I always agree with the heavy-duty social pressure used to get everyone doing all the “right things”; I try to see why some people might feel it’s needed.

    The Y knows it only owns whatever part of me I think it’d be fun for it to have. I agreed in the temple that the church owns all of me, and some days I really, really *feel* that commitment. It’s something I have to live up to. The Y doesn’t ask for any of that kind of sacrifice.

    I certainly feel like my life and the lives of my 6 kids are already owned by church activities. I suspect my schedule would be considered light to more organized, high-energy extroverts I know, but for me, it’s about as much as I can handle. Unlike our athletic club, however, I’m expected to run as fast as my ward expects, not as fast as I’m personally ready for.

    As it is I play hooky from Relief Society activities in order to attend the temple and my husband keeps ticking off our son’s scoutmaster by taking me on dates instead of being available for monthly campouts. (no, he doesn’t have a Scout calling)

    I feel too mortal to say whether the community bonds fostered by a low-pressure system like the Y are comparable or superior to the community bonds fostered by LDS wards, being the geographically-determined social pressure-cookers they are.

    The Y is about get-to, the church is about have-to.

  95. Diane on July 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    So, I was reading an interesting article about a 7 story building being built in the Pleasant View neighborhood of the MTC. there was a fair, some might even say a great amount of opposition to the building at the sight.. In order to get their way, Higher ups in the church sent out letters to the congregants inviting them to sustain and support their leaders in this effort. This is exactly why I don’t want church to permeate my life or anyone else. They(church leaders)use these high handed tactics of emotional guilt in order to get members to cave in and the hell with what everyone else says or wants.