Families grow stronger when they practice basic principles of welfare - self-reliance and industry. Parents can teach these principles to their children by precept and example. Children are blessed when they learn the importance of being self-reliant.
Our world today is much like that of 1929 when the stock market crashed and caused huge financial losses. My parents married just a few weeks before the crash and spent the rest of their lives being prepared in case such a thing were to happen again.
The unemployment rate in
climbed to 35.8 percent by 1932. Even though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a system of storehouses and programs set up to help members find work, many members of the Church were turning to the Utah government for relief. United States
Church leaders did not like the idea of members going to the government for help. President Heber J. Grant (1856-1945) stated during that difficult time, "I believe that there is a growing disposition among the people to try to get something from the government of the
with little hope of ever paying it back." United States
Leaders knew that members were struggling, and they were determined to find a way to help the members become independent and avoid promoting idleness and a sense of entitlement. The Church encouraged able-bodied men to render some sort of service in exchange for any aid received. Thus the Church Welfare System was put in place.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its welfare program. When the program was inaugurated in 1936, President David O. McKay, a counselor to President Heber J. Grant, confirmed the divinely inspired foundation of the welfare plan: "[The welfare program] is established by divine revelation, and there is nothing else in all the world that can so effectively take care of its members."
During the past 75 years, our nation has gone through many economic cycles, and many changes have occurred in both the size of the Church and the morals of society. The soundness of the welfare plan has been proven again and again. Using welfare principles and operating on faith in God, wards and stakes emphasize righteous, thrifty and independent living, organize classes to teach sewing, food production, canning, etc. and coordinate work projects to help the members to help themselves. The welfare plan teaches members to help others by giving a "hand up" rather than taking a "hand out" from other sources.
President Grant stated, "Our primary purpose was to set up … a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self-respect be once more established amongst our people." He also said, "Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership."
Even though the Great Depression ended and World War II was over, Church leaders felt the need to continue the welfare program. In October 1945, United States President Harry S. Truman asked President George Albert Smith (1870-1951) how and when the Church could deliver supplies to the war-torn nations of
Europe. President Truman was astonished when Church leaders told him that the food, clothing and other supplies were already collected and ready to ship.
The welfare facilities and programs of the Church have been expanded since 1945 and cover more needs and larger areas. Over time, the welfare program expanded to
Mexico, South America, England, and the . Today the Church is experiencing new challenging in adapting the welfare program to meet the needs of the developing nations. Pacific Islands
The basic welfare principles of self-reliance and industry are the same today as they were in 1936. In fact, the Lord commanded Adam, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Genesis 3:19).
The storehouse of the Church is in place to help widows and orphans as well as the poor (Doctrine and Covenants 83:6). Welfare principles are helping members throughout the world as they practice them in their individual homes. "The strength of the Church and the Lord's real storehouse is in the homes and hearts of his people" (Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles).
The welfare program's long-term objective continues to be fulfilled as members exercise their faith in Jesus Christ and develop their own self-reliance. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., counselor to President McKay, defined this objective as "the building of character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers, rescuing all that is finest down deep inside of them, and bringing to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit, which after all is the mission and purpose and reason for being of this Church."
President Thomas S. Monson stated, "I declare that the welfare program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inspired of Almighty God."
His counselor, President Henry B. Eyring noted the difficult times we are living in when he stated, "Great temporal needs of the children of Heavenly Father have come again in our time as they have and as they will in all times. The principles at the foundation of the Church welfare program are not for only one time or one place. They are for all times and all places."
When we participate in the welfare program of the Church, we are given the opportunity to lift others in need as we covenanted in the waters of baptism. Silvia H. Allred stated, "Men and women of the Church participate jointly today in bringing relief to those in need…. When love becomes the guiding principle in our care for others, our service to them becomes the gospel in action. It is the gospel in its finest moment. It is pure religion."
There is a great difference between the welfare program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the entitlement programs of the state and federal governments. The Church's program strives to help people to help themselves to become self-reliant whereas the government's programs simply invite more greed and feelings of entitlement.
Ideas and quotes are from an article by Heather Wrigley entitled "Celebrating 75 Years of Welfare," Ensign, May 2011, pp. 139-141.