01) CHURCH/GOVERNMENT WELFARE: What is the difference between the Church welfare system and the government welfare system? Should government be involved in welfare?

Prophetic Statements

Heber J. Grant

If we inspire in the hearts of the people a desire to do their duty, it will be the easiest thing in the world to take care of all those who are in distress among this people. . . . I am confident beyond the shadow of a doubt that with our system of fast day donations we will be able to look after those who are in real distress. . . . Utah would need no help from the United States government to take care of the poor, but that peace, prosperity, happiness, and abundance would be given to the people of our fair state, and of every other state in the Union. [1]

Let me promise you here today that if the Latter-day Saints will honestly and conscientiously from this day forth, as a people, keep the monthly fast and pay into the hands of their bishops the actual amount that they would have spent for food for the two meals from which they have refrained; and if in addition to that they will pay their honest tithing, it will solve all of the problems in connection with taking care of the Latter-day Saints. We would have all the money necessary to take care of all the idle and all the poor.  1

Harold B. Lee

I have a feeling that whenever we have among our leaders those who would say that the care of the needy should be left to public institutions and not to the Church, there we have men who lack the spiritual insight into the spiritual values involved in caring for the unfortunate. [2]

We are under instructions from the First Presidency of the Church to say to you . . . that no effort is to be spared to get every soul who is able-bodied to help to produce that which he himself needs, and to see to it that he is not forced to receive the aid he needs in idleness, if he is able-bodied. This is a necessary step for the preservation of the self-respect of the receiver. [3]

Sometimes in our zeal and in our over-anxiety to take care of the unfortunate, we rush to do things that are hurtful to our welfare unity. We expect the individual to do all he can to help himself, whether it be an emergency for a single family or for a whole community, that the relatives will do all they can to help, then the Church steps in with commodities from the storehouse, with fast offerings to meet their needs that commodities from the storehouse will not supply, and finally, the Relief Society and the priesthood quorums will assist with rehabilitation. [4]

The power of the great Church organization “upon her stakes” [D&C 115:5-6 ] has been well demonstrated in the development of the welfare program . . . Each stake president . . . has the responsibility in his own stake of setting up a stake welfare committee on which representatives of priesthood groups, Relief Society workers, and a respresentative Bishop of the stake have membership. Within each stake this stake welfare committee acts as a stake board of welfare and has the responsibility of stimulating the groups which they represent to carry out the purposes and objectives of the welfare plan. In each of the . . . wards of the Church, however, is the place where the real activity and the work of the welfare program is done. In each ward there is a ward welfare committee . . . whose business it is to set in motion the program and to actually direct the work activities that make it possible the productions and the rehabilitation activities that have been a blessing to so many thousands. [5]

We must never cease our striving until we have done everything we know how to do, to lift those now presently dependent, even upon the Church welfare program, to a point where they can be completely self-sustaining and independent. Now, keep in mind with all the crowding in of the socialistic reform programs that are threatening the very foundation of the Church, we must never forget what the Lord said, “that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world” [6].

Whenever we allow ourselves to become entangled and have to be subsidized from government sources—and we think that it’s the expedient way to do business in this day—or when we yield to such pressures, I warn you that government subsidies are not the Lord’s way; and if we begin to accept, we are on our way to becoming subsidized politically as well as financially. May the Lord help us to understand these fundamentals that we have been taught over the years and guide us to that destiny which [the welfare] program is intended to attain, a full consecration, wherein we consecrate our lives, all that we have and are, not even withholding our lives if it were necessary for the upbuilding of the kingdom. Then only can we develop the faith necessary to an exaltation in the celestial kingdom. [7]

The Church has demonstrated, however, that if Church members will do all they can to help themselves and if the immediate family relatives will cooperate to the limit of their possibilities, beyond this point the Church is prepared and can aid its faithful members to be independent of public relief and become self-sustaining. Ten years of experience has also well demonstrated that in order for an individual or a community to be self-sustaining, the following five steps must be taken:

First: There must be no idleness in the Church.

Second: We must learn the lesson of self-sacrifice.

Third: We must master the art of living and working together.

Fourth: We must practice brotherhood in our priesthood quorums.

Fifth: We must acquire the courage to meet the challenge of each day’s problems through our own initiative to the full limit of individual or local resources before requesting others to come and aid us in that solution. [8]

When a home is shattered because of the needs of food and shelter and clothing and fuel, the first thing we have to do is to build a sense of security, a sense of material well-being, before we can begin to lift the family to the plane where we can instill in them faith. That is the beginning, but unless we have the objective of what we do as to the building of faith, the mere giving of material aid fails. [9]

The Church welfare plan is not something new to the Church, neither does it contemplate a new organization within the Church to carry out its purposes, but rather it is the expression of a philosophy that is as old as the Church itself, incorporated into a program of stimulation and cooperation to meet the demands of church memebers in the solution of present-day economic problems. [10]

I have never worried more, I have never lost more sleep over anything than in the early days of this welfare program when we trudged over this entire church to find practically no stake or ward actually taking care of those who were in distress. The whole job had been turned over to public welfare. [11]

You listen to [this] when somebody tells you that we pay taxes and we ought to turn our people onto public relief. Did you hear what the Lord said? “It is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way.” Not the government’s way, not some crackpot philospher’s way, but it is to be done in the Lord’s way: “And behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints.” [12]

Everywhere I went people were always asking questions. They asked, “Who started the welfare program?” I have always answered, and do so today, “The Lord started it.” Many have asked how the welfare program was getting along . . . and I used to say, “Just as fine as the bishops of this church make it go, and no better.” [13]

You force our people to accept a subsistence allowance without giving them the opportunity for rendering some kind of service in return, and they are not going to get any pleasure or any satisfaction out of it. They are going to look for some other kind of, shall I say, dole plan where they can come as near to getting something for nothing as is possible. . . . If you want to make our people happy, then, don’t force them to receive what they need without giving them the opportunity to give in return. That is the law of life, and it is the thing that we have been trying to teach them from the beginning. [14]

Ezra Taft Benson

Occasionally, we receive questions as to the propriety of Church members receiving government assistance instead of Church assistance. Let me restate what is a fundamental principle. Individuals, to the extent possible, should provide for their own needs. Where the individual is unable to care for himself, his family should assist. Where the family is not able to provide, the Church should render assistance, not the government. We accept the basic principle that ‘though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.’ [15]

A letter came to my office, accompanied by an article from the Brigham Young University Daily Universe, on the matter of BYU students taking food stamps. The query of the letter was: “What is the attitude of the Church on taking food stamps?” The Church’s view on this is well known. We stand for independence, thrift, and abolition of the dole. “The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.” [16]

When you accept food stamps, you accept an unearned handout that other working people are paying for. You do not earn food stamps or welfare payments. Every individual who accepts an unearned government gratuity is just as culpable as the individual who takes a handout from taxpayers money to pay his heat, electricity, or rent. There is no difference in principle between them. You did not come to this university to become a welfare recipient. You came here to be a light to the world, a light to society-to save society and to help to save this nation, the Lord’s base of operations in these last days-to ameliorate man s social conditions. You are not here to be a parasite or freeloader. The price you pay for “something for nothing” may be more than you can afford. Do not rationalize your acceptance of government gratuities by saying, “I am a contributing taxpayer too.” By doing this you contribute to the problem which is leading this nation to financial insolvency. [17]

Supporting Statements

Marion G. Romney

Note: This talk was recommended by Elder Hunter, and as mentioned by Elder Romney, he was asked by “the Brethren” to give this talk in General Conference Priesthood meeting of April, 1966. Here are some excerpts from that talk:

Thus in both implementation and ownership and management of property, the United Order preserves to men their God-given agency, while socialism deprives them of it… Socialism is political, both in theory and practice. It is thus exposed to, and riddled by, the corruption that plagues and finally destroys all political governments that undertake to abridge man’s agency.

. . . No, brethren, socialism is not the United Order. However, notwithstanding my abhorrence of it, I am persuaded that socialism is the wave of the present and of the foreseeable future. It has already taken over or is contending for control in most nations. We here in the United States, in converting our government into a social welfare state, have ourselves adopted much of socialism. Specifically, we have to an alarming degree adopted the use of the power of the state in the control and distribution of the fruits of industry. We are on notice according to the words of the President, that we are going much further, for he is quoted as saying: ‘We’re going to take all the money we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the ‘haves’ and give it to the ‘have nots.’ [18]

Socialism takes: United Order gives. That is the spirit of socialism: We’re going to take. The spirit of the United Order is: We’re going to give. [19]

  1. Heber J. Grant, Conference Reports of 1931:2-3 and 1935:9; also Gospel Standards, pp. 122-123
  2. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, pp. 320-321; Conference Report, April 7, 1944, pp. 85-89
  3. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 305; Relief Society Conference October 1952; Relief Society Magazine 39 [December 1952]: 798-803
  4. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 306; Relief Society Conference October 1952; Relief Society Magazine 39 [December 1952]: 798-803
  5. Harold B. Lee, Instructor 81, July 1946, pp. 313-316; The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 302
  6. D&C 78:14
  7. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 314-315; Welfare Agricultural Meeting, October 5, 1968
  8. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 316; Instructor 81, July 1946:315-316
  9. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 306; Relief Society Conference, October 1, 1964; Relief Society Magazine 52, January 1965, pp. 7-20
  10. Harold B. Lee, Instructor 81, July 1946, pp. 313-316; The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 302
  11. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 304; Welfare Agricultural Meeting, October 1971
  12. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 310; Relief Society Magazine 33, December 1946, p. 814-815
  13. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 304; address at the Pioneer Regional Bimonthly Welfare Meeting, March 17, 1959
  14. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 324; Welfare Agricultural Meeting, April 9, 1966
  15. Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference, April 1977
  16. Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, October 1936, p. 3
  17. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 262; “A Vision and a Hope for the Youth of Zion,” in 1977 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: BYU, 1978], p. 78
  18. 1964 Congressional Record, p. 6142, Remarks of the President to a Group of Leaders of Organizations of Senior Citizens in the Fish Room, March 24, 1964.
  19. Marion g. Romney, Is Socialism the United Order? General Conference Priesthood Meeting, April 1966
  1. Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, p. 123; Presidents of the Church Institute manual, p. 185
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