“How many of you would like to have a ‘perfect day’?” the bishop asked the congregation. Many members raised their hands—some high, some low. A few kept their hands in their laps.
“That’s fine,” the bishop nodded. “Larry,” he asked one of the ward members, “would you like to have a ‘perfect day’? Would you please come up here to the stand? George and Ruth? Paul? Matthew and Joan? John and Helen? Ben and Carol?”
He called their names slowly, pausing briefly between each one. Many hands fell back into their owners’ laps; only a few remained held high.
“Is there a widow who would like to live a ‘perfect day’?” the bishop asked. There was a moment of silence as he looked over the congregation. “Grace, how about you?”
When those whose names he had called had reached the stand, he turned to them. “Which day would you like to be your perfect day? Tuesday? … Thursday?”
The disbelief and the embarrassed smiles on their faces showed that none of them had really expected to have to make a real commitment. Some nodded their heads yes. Others stood motionless. After several seconds, someone suggested Thursday because it would give them more time to prepare.
Smiling, the bishop said, “That’s fine. Thursday you will have a ‘perfect day.’ And since we do not have any speakers planned for sacrament meeting next Sunday, we’d like you to report your ‘perfect day’ to us.”
He turned back to the congregation. “Is there anyone else who would like to have a ‘perfect day’?” James, a teachers quorum member with a happy smile, raised his hand. He was included.
The bishop then told the congregation, “Your responsibility as ward members is to pray that they accomplish their assignment.”
How does one live to make a day perfect? That question passed through the minds of those who had accepted the bishop’s challenge. Throughout the week, whenever ward members got together, the subject of the bishop’s “perfect day” challenge came up. We were eager to hear the reports.
Sunday finally came.
Grace, a widow with short brown hair and shining eyes, was first. Her day hadn’t gone exactly as planned, she told us. She awoke with a terrible head cold—the first time in more than three years she had been ill. In revising her plans for the day, she decided to put together a scrapbook about her mother’s life, something she had been thinking of doing for a long time. Grace asked her sister to help, and they worked together to reconstruct their mother’s life story in pictures and words. It took most of the day, but the end result was a cherished scrapbook.
Grace found that her activities on that day opened up a new avenue to her. Her patriarchal blessing had said that she would work on her family history. “Because I didn’t understand family history, I just couldn’t get really interested in it,” she confessed. “But after doing my mother’s book, I decided to do one about my husband who died recently.”
She has since compiled histories of her husband, her son, and her daughter. “By cleaning out all the boxes of treasures and mementos I had been storing for years, I’ve found enough information to do the temple work for many of my ancestors,” she says. “I can see my work is just beginning. And I’m happy to do it.”
James’s goal for the day was much different. He planned to be obedient to his parents—to immediately and cheerfully do what he was asked. “It seems as if your mother always wants you to do something when your friends come over to play or when you in the most exciting part of a book,” he said. “Sometimes I stopped and told myself to do it now. At the end of the day, I was able to do it as soon as she asked. It gave me a good feeling,” he concluded.
Paul, a fifteen-year-old with a delightful sense of humor, also took the bishop’s challenge seriously. Though scripture study was not a part of his daily routine, he decided to begin the day by reading the scriptures. “I didn’t know why it was so important to me to read the scriptures that day, but it was,” he explained. “Several times Wednesday night I woke up, feeling sure that I had overslept. Finally, when my alarm went off, I reached for my Book of Mormon.”
He read for about forty-five minutes. “Reading the scriptures seemed to set the tone for the entire day,” he said. “It’s not always easy to get along with school friends, teachers, and your family, and my ‘perfect day’ was not different. I made some mistakes, but I did a lot better than I do most days.
“It also helped me to be much more aware of my blessings, of the things I should be doing, and of my mistakes,” he added. “Often during the day I wondered what I could do to be better.”
That question—What can I do to be better?”—was asked by others who had accepted the bishop’s challenge. Many of them found the answer in serving others.
George found attempting to live a “perfect day” a great challenge. “Even though I didn’t have exactly the kind of day I would have liked to have,” he said, “it made an impact on my life. I’d never even thought of trying to live a ‘perfect day’ before.”
Ruth, George’s wife, experienced an improvement in their relationship as a result of her “perfect day.” “By trying to keep my day perfect,” she said, “I realized some of the habits I had gotten into. For instance, I would suddenly get angry at George for some silly, insignificant reason. Now I’m working on correcting that.”
Recognizing faults and taking steps to overcome them was something each of those who accepted the bishop’s challenge experienced. Larry said, “Like many returned missionaries, I had fallen down in my study habits. There always seemed to be so many other things to do. So when I received this assignment from the bishop, I decided that I needed to regain that closeness to the Lord I had felt on my mission.”
Things didn’t work out quite as Larry had planned; a painful tooth ache spoiled his “perfect day.” “Still,” he says, “I don’t feel my day was a failure. I tried hard to live perfectly—in spite of my circumstances.”
For John, “Every day is a perfect day for me because of my wife Helen. To share my life with her is one of my greatest blessings. For me, a ‘perfect day’ is being together with her. We enjoy each other’s company, and we’re the best of friends.
“We start the day together in prayer and scripture study, and although we go our separate ways to work, we are spiritually together throughout the day. We like to surprise each other by putting a note expressing our love for one another in our lunch sacks.
“After work, we get home, have our evening meal, share in the chores, and then visit with each other and discuss our day’s activity, and plan for the coming day. A special activity for us each week is attending the temple, and this past week we went on our ‘perfect day.’ It’s wonderful to kneel together at the altar, holdings hands, and reliving our marriage covenants as we perform sealing work for others.”
Temple work featured in the “perfect day” for Ben and Carol. When Ben retired a couple of years ago, he and Carol accepted callings as temple workers. “The bishop’s assigned ‘perfect day’ happened to be one of the two days in the week that we serve in the temple.
“I serve as a supervisor at the temple, and I was really touched when, in a prayer meeting, the brother offering the prayer asked that the Lord watch over me, as supervisor, and bless me with a special day. He didn’t know about our ‘perfect day’ assignment, but his prayer was very meaningful to me.
“What a special place to be for a ‘perfect day.’ We were there in the Lord’s house, doing the Lord’s work, side by side with wonderful brothers and sisters, helping others on the road to the celestial kingdom.”
Matthew told the congregation that in his family’s discussion of a “perfect day,” “we came to understand the need to perfect ourselves a little each and every day. For some months, my wife Joan has been very ill, and her illness has affected the entire family. We have come to rely upon the Lord more and to daily seek his guidance, and we have come to better recognize and understand the power of the priesthood. For our ‘perfect day,’ we agreed that we continually need to be supportive of each other, and to live worthy of the blessings we receive.”
After hearing the reports of those who had accepted the “perfect day” assignment, I asked the bishop why he had issued the challenge.
“I’ve always thought about living a ‘perfect day,’” he said. “But we have so many outside influences and pressures in a regular day that we can seldom focus on the spiritual and idealistic. And we often speak about the impossibility of living a ‘perfect day’ or a perfect life. But I had a strong feeling that the time was right for the ward members to try.
“I think we discovered that we can make things a little more perfect regardless of our circumstances. None of the ward members involved in this assignment had to make an investment in money, but they did have to make an investment in time, and give of themselves.
“Many of us in the ward, not just those who had committed themselves to the challenge, also tried to live a ‘perfect day.’ As a result, we became more aware of the challenges involved in perfecting ourselves and tried harder to live worthy to have the Lord’s Spirit be with us.”
Though the bishop’s “perfect day” challenge did not cause instant changes in our lives, it helped us along the road to perfection—something we all hope to achieve.