The silence of the sacrament service lingered as the young bishop walked slowly to the pulpit. “May I please see by a show of hands, how many of you love the Lord?”
Everywhere in the congregation hands were raised—some high, some low; some people raised only a finger. A few kept their hands in their laps. “That’s fine,” nodded the bishop. “How many of you would like to have a perfect day?”
Again the hands were raised.
“Larry, would you like to have a perfect day? Would you please come up here in front. Gene and LaRae? DeeAnn? Sean? Tess and John? Lynn and Mike?”
The names were called slowly and carefully, a short pause between each one. Some of the hands dropped lower, some fell back into the laps of their owners, only a few remained high.
“A widow? Do we have a widow who would like to live a perfect day?” There was a moment of silence as the bishop looked over the congregation filled mostly with widows and older people. “Vivian, would you like to have a perfect day?”
The bishop then turned to those who were on the stand behind him. “Now which day would you like to be your perfect day? Tuesday?”
Shock, disbelief, bewilderment—no one had really expected to have to make a real commitment. Some heads were nodding yes. Others stood motionless. After several seconds someone suggested Thursday because it was farther away and would give them more time to prepare. So Thursday was set as the day.
The bishop, with eyes twinkling, said, “That’s fine. Thursday you will have a perfect day. And next Sunday we’d like you to describe your perfect day in sacrament meeting.”
Then he turned back to the congregation. “Is there anyone else who would like to live a perfect day?” James, a young Aaronic Priesthood teacher, with freckled face and a winning grin, raised his hand. He was included.
“Thursday these eleven people are going to have a perfect day,” the bishop continued addressing the congregation. “Your responsibility as ward members is to pray that they accomplish that assignment.”
What makes a day perfect? How does one live a perfect day? All through the week when ward members would get together, the subject of the perfect day would come up. We were excited to hear the reports.
Sunday finally came.
Vivian is a widow—rather tall with short brown hair and shining eyes. She usually sits quietly in meeting—a little shy about contributing her thoughts in a group of people. She had decided to begin her day by attending the temple and then doing some of the things she had always planned to do but had never seemed to get done. But her day didn’t go exactly as she had planned. She awoke with a terrible head cold, the first time in three and one-half years she had been ill. So she had to devise a new plan of action.
Many of her mother’s old papers were tucked away in a box in her home. She got the box out, and decided that she would spend a few hours putting together a scrapbook of her mother’s life. “I didn’t want to do it alone,” she said, “so I called my sister to tell her I was coming out. On the way I bought some plastic cover sheets.” Together she and her sister reconstructed their mother’s life story in picture and word. It took a lot longer than the few hours they had planned on spending, but the end result was a cherished scrapbook.
Her activities on that perfect day opened up new avenues to her. “My patriarchal blessing had said I would work on the genealogy of my family, but I didn’t understand genealogy, and just couldn’t get really interested in it,” she confessed. “After doing my mother’s book, however, I decided to do one for my husband. I enjoyed doing it. Now I have compiled a history of my husband, my son, and my daughter. By cleaning out all the old boxes of treasures, mementos, and souvenirs I have been storing for years I’ve found enough information to do the temple work for many of my ancestors. I can see my work is just beginning. And I’m happy.”
Her life has new purpose and she radiates happiness.
Sean is an active fifteen-year-old—full of life and fun with a delightful sense of humor. He took seriously the challenge to have a perfect day. Scripture study had not been a part of his daily routine, but he decided that especially on his perfect day he wanted to read the scriptures. “I don’t know why it was so important to me to read the scriptures that day, but it was,” Sean explained. “Several times Wednesday night I woke up, feeling sure that I had overslept. Finally when my alarm did go off at 6:00 I lay there for a few seconds just to wake up, and then reached for my scriptures. I read for about 45 minutes and then I got ready for school. Reading the scriptures seemed to set the tone for the entire day.
“It’s not always easy to get along with school friends, teachers, and your family, and the perfect day was no exception. It still was hard sometimes. I made some mistakes, but I did a lot better than I do most days.
“Another thing reading the scriptures helped me with is being so much more aware of my blessings, of the things I should be doing, and of my mistakes. Often throughout the day I would wonder what I could do to be more perfect.”
“What can I do to be more perfect?” was the question many people asked themselves that day. And for many the answer was found in St. Matthew 25:40. “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” [Matt. 25:40]
James was one of those. He enjoys helping people, but sometimes they need your help at the most inopportune times. “It seems like your mother always wants you to do something when your favorite show is on television or when you are in the most exciting part of reading a book. Why don’t they ever ask you to take out the garbage when you are studying?”
His goal for Thursday was to do what he was asked, when he was asked to do it, and most importantly, to do it cheerfully. “It was a lot of work to remember that. Sometimes I had to stop and remind myself to do it now. But by the end of the day, I had conditioned myself to respond immediately. It just gave me a good feeling,” he concluded.
John and Tess found they enjoyed the extra effort they put into visiting their neighbors so much, they decided to expand the assignment into a week.
“As soon as we received the assignment from the bishop we came home and began talking about it. We planned. We prayed. And then we planned and prayed some more,” John reflected.
“From Sunday until Thursday I just kept thinking the day was coming closer and closer. I knew that I had enough time to prepare, and on Thursday I’d better live the best I could. I couldn’t really offer any excuses,” says Tess.
They decided to fill their day visiting their neighbors, taking some fruit or a gift to those who were ill, expressing their thanks to people who had helped them. “So many people are lonely and just want to talk,” says John who serves on the fellowshipping committee in the ward. “We wanted to just go and let them know we cared. And it was wonderful to see how they opened up to us. One sister asked us if the high priests could come and administer the sacrament in her home once in a while since she couldn’t go to the meetings. So I talked with the bishop about it, and the next week a couple of us administered the sacrament to her.”
Was their day a success? “Oh, yes! Most days we think about what we should do, but we just don’t make the effort to do it. And when you finally do it, you have such a good feeling,” Tess said.
DeeAnn decided that not only was it important to express her thanks to friends, but also to her family. “I just wanted to call on the telephone and tell you I love you,” she said to her two brothers and sister on that day. Her eyes sparkled and her blonde hair bounced when she laughed, as she later recalled the event. “My brother just couldn’t believe it. He kept asking me, ‘What is the matter?’
“I knew that if I were going to try to live a perfect day, I needed to evaluate my own life. As I did so, I realized the many blessings I have. My gratitude grew and grew. And I realized how thankful I was for my family.
“Since I made that call my brother has called me a couple of times, for no particular reason, but just to make sure I was all right. He’d never done that before in all the years I’d been away from home.”
Mike and Lynn are a young married couple with two young children. They especially wanted to share this day with their children and make it special for the whole family. Their entire family worked hard that day to be nicer to each other. They spent the day in the canyons learning about each other and our Father in heaven. As Mike said, “You cannot have a perfect day and not improve your family life. It was wonderful.”
Lynn shared another experience that had happened to her. “Early that morning I arose and decided to fix a good breakfast. I started making pancakes first. I was whipping up the pancakes with a wire whip a little too vigorously, I guess, because suddenly the batter splattered all over everything—the cupboards, the floor, me. Then I looked down at my son and his face had dozens of tiny pancake batter specks on it, and his eyes were big as saucers. When I looked at him, I began to laugh. Usually I would have become very irritated in that kind of a situation.
“And just after breakfast, I received a call from my mother asking if I could give my sister a ride to work that morning. I bundled up the kids, warmed up the car, and drove out to mother’s. By the time I got there my sister had found another ride to work. Again I was able to accept the situation instead of becoming angry or disgusted.
“As I was driving home from Mother’s I began to cry. My son asked what the matter was, and all I could say was, ‘We are going to have a perfect day.’
“Planning in advance and preparing yourself to live a perfect day is very important. Believe you can do it,” commented Gene. “I was one of those people who didn’t really forget about it, but I just kept hoping it wouldn’t come. I’d never thought of trying to live a perfect day before, and the idea was a little frightening.
“On a scale of 1–10 I would have rated my perfect day about a 6. I was a little better than normal, just because I was conscious and aware that I needed to at least try. But I didn’t really prepare myself, and I didn’t have the kind of day I would like to have had.”
How does one prepare for the day? “Those times in my life when I have felt really close to the Lord are when I have been praying with my family and studying the scriptures. I found that on my perfect day my thoughts would wander. All the garbage I had been feeding into my brain over the past several years seemed to surface on that day. I hadn’t prepared myself to live a good day—a perfect day. I was a failure in the attempt to live perfectly, simply because I didn’t take the time to prepare myself. But even so it made an impact on my life. I’d never even thought of trying to live a perfect day before, but now think of it often—and someday I’ll make it.”
LaRae is Gene’s wife and the mother of two teenage children. She usually gets very tired before the day is over but on her perfect day she felt very invigorated. She was able to accomplish many of the things she wanted to do. “But,” she added, “by trying to keep a day perfect, I realized some of the habits I had gotten into. For instance, I would suddenly get mad at Gene for some silly, insignificant reason. It was just a habit with me. Now I’m working on correcting it.”
Realizing what faults you had and taking steps to overcome them was something that each person experienced. Larry had participated in a perfect week campaign and also a perfect day experiment on his mission. “Like many returned missionaries, I had fallen down on my study habits. There just always seemed to be so many other things to do. So when I received this call from the bishop, I decided I needed to regain that closeness to the Lord I had felt on my mission.
“Things didn’t quite work out like I had planned them. I ended up having a painful wisdom tooth removed, but still I don’t feel my day was a failure. I was conscientiously trying to live perfectly—no matter what the circumstances. I was trying to upgrade myself in normal, everyday circumstances. And I relearned some very important things.”
What prompted the bishop to make such a request of his ward members?
“I’ve always thought about living a perfect day. But we have so many outside influences and pressures in a normal day, we seldom can focus on the spiritual and idealistic things. And we often speak about the impossibility of living a perfect day or a perfect life. But I had a strong feeling while I was bearing my testimony that the time was right for the members to try it.
“And there were many members who tried to live a perfect day that day, even though they had not been asked specifically to do so. Many times since when I have held a temple recommend interview, people have expressed their thoughts on perfection. It made a great impact on the lives of many in our ward.”
And this experience brought the members of the ward together. We as ward members were truly interested in the outcome. The bishop had explained that our responsibility was to pray for the members. And we did. I found myself caring about them more as individuals. They became real people with hopes, aspirations, concerns.
My own life became much richer and fuller. I was more aware of the challenge of perfecting myself. And I found myself doing those things that invited the Spirit of the Lord to remain with me always. And many of the ward members felt the same thing.
As Church members we are constantly being reminded that our goal is perfection. So it was interesting to observe that each one of those who participated in the experiment felt the need to do things he had neglected to do or stop doing things that were detrimental. In other words, too often we fail to include in our daily lives the things that are essential to reaching perfection: prayer, scripture study, service to others, strengthening family ties, etc. It was also interesting to see how unexpected things such as a bad cold, a toothache, and other inconveniences occurred in spite of careful planning. Yet these things provided the opportunity to practice patience and thoughtful self-control.
There was not a drastic turnabout in the lives of those who participated in and observed this experiment, but we were made aware, we grew. And we are still growing.