In an effort to “promote economic mobility, strong social networks, and accountability to American taxpayers,” President Donald Trump signed “Executive Order Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility” on April 10, 2018. The order basically tells the secretaries of the Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education departments to review their welfare programs and to propose new regulations within the next 90 days. These welfare programs include food stamps, Medicaid, and housing, and the new regulations hopefully include stronger requirements to receive governmental aid, such as the requirement to work if capable of doing so. The order reads as follows.
Since its inception, the welfare system has grown into a large bureaucracy that might be susceptible to measuring success by how many people are enrolled in a program rather than by how many have moved from poverty into financial independence.
This Executive Order does not yet give any policy, but it does show that the President is concerned about the number of people in the government entitlement programs. Some people call this a “hard line conservative view” of the entitlement system. It is. However, the conservative view is more likely to help people to achieve independence than the liberal view of keeping people on the “plantation” where the government takes care of all their needs – and they remain in poverty but voting for Democrats.
About the same time that this Executive Order was announced, I read a talk by then-Elder and now-President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled “In the Lord’s Own Way.” After describing some of the poverty that he has seen in his travels around the world, Elder Nelson says, “Although reasons vary according to time and place, the poor and the needy have nearly always been present.” He says that the scriptures teach us that “the poor – especially widows, orphans, and strangers – have long been the concern of God and the godly.” There will always be poor people among us.
In Old Testament times the poor were favored by the law. After the “reapers” would go through a field, the “gleaners” could legally follow along behind to gather whatever grain was left in the field or fruit left hanging on the branches. In addition, the poor were welcome to take whatever food grew in land that was not planted or tilled. In addition, blessings were promised to anyone who cared for the poor.
The Savior, even Jesus Christ, illustrated this doctrine by giving a parable about caring for the poor. “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” (Matthew 25:40). He also says, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (Matthew 25:45; italics added. Heavenly Father loves each of His children, and He expects us to help the poor.
The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ teaches us that caring for the poor is part of our baptismal covenant.
8 And … as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9. Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, …
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
There are so many people who are poor and needy. How can we care for all of them? Elder Nelson says that it is possible when we do it in the Lord’s own way. The Lord’s “own way” begins with husbands and fathers taking care of their wives and children. In addition, each family should prepare for “rainy days” by maintaining a year’s supply of basic foods and other supplies necessary for survival as well as extra cash in an emergency fund. This family storehouse can be used in times of unemployment or other emergency.
If something goes wrong, such as the father cannot fulfill his duties and the family storehouse is empty, the family is to go to the Church – whatever church one belongs to – for temporary assistance. The Church itself should maintain a storehouse by using consecrated funds from which to give assistance (see Doctrine and Covenants 83: 2, 4-6).
In cases where people are poor because they are idle and unwilling to work, the Lord has given this warning: “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:42). “Wo unto you poor men … who will not labor with your own hands!” (Doctrine and Covenants 56:17). We are not in a position to judge worthiness, but the bishop does have the responsibility to determine whether or not one is worthy to be given food provided by sacred funds.
The storehouses and other funds are provided by faithful members of the Church who go without food for two meals every month and give the equivalent amount of funds to the bishop to care for the poor. Because the benefits are limited, the assistance is given for a limited period of time. There is only so much available to help everyone. Elder Nelson further explains.
The Lord’s “own way” includes, first, reliance on self, then on the family. As parents care for their children, they, in turn, may reciprocate when parents become less able. Family pride promotes solicitude for each member, taking priority over other assistance.
If one’s family can’t help, the Lord’s “own way” includes the Church organization. The bishop is assisted by priesthood quorums and good sisters of the Relief Society, organized to look “to the wants of the poor, searching after objects of charity and … administering to their wants.” (Handbook of the Relief Society, 1931, p. 22.)
Members of priesthood quorums … have a duty to rehabilitate, spiritually and temporally, their erring or unfortunate brethren. While a bishop extends aid to one temporarily out of work, the quorum arranges for his employment until fully self-supporting again….
To care fully for the poor, we must help the poor to change. As they are taught and abide doctrines of Deity, spiritual strength will come that enlightens the mind and liberates the soul from the yoke of bondage. When people of the earth accept the gospel of Christ, their attitudes change. Their understanding and capabilities increase.
The President of the United States and the Apostle of the Lord are both concerned about helping people to help themselves as much as possible. There will always be people who will need a “safety net” – the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill, etc. However, people who are able to work should be working to meet their own needs. This is the Lord’s “own way” and appears to be the conservative way also. People who are encouraged to work and are helped to succeed will take themselves out of poverty and into financial independence as well as become able to help other people along the way.