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Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor riches to men of wisdom. The Lord gives the increase: he makes rich whom he pleases. You may inquire, “Why not make us rich?” Perhaps, because we would not know what to do with riches. You remember that a while past, nine wagons went through this city on their way to California, accompanied by some soldiers as an escort and guard. One of our missionaries, returning home, met them on the northern route, and asked one of them what caused him to apostatize? The man replied—“To tell you the truth, I was used so well at Great Salt Lake City that I could not endure it. I came there with a handcart company, and had not a mouthful of anything to eat, no clothing, nor anything to make me comfortable. As soon as I arrived in the city, Heber C. Kimball, having learned my name, met me and said, ‘Brother, there is a house; there are flour, meal, and fuel: you have had a hard time; go there with your family, and make yourselves comfortable, and eat and drink, and get rested; and when you wish to go to work, I will give you employment and pay you for your labor.’ From that day my heart was in me to do evil. I have been trying to apostatize ever since and have finally made out to do so; and I cannot attribute it to anything in the world, only that I was used so well.”

This exhibits the spirit that is in many. They are faithful while they are extremely poor; but give them wealth, and they are thrown off their guard, forget their sacred vows and solemn covenants, and the property they have around them occupies their whole attention and affections; their minds become wholly engrossed in their possessions. Doubtless there are some instances opposite to this; but probably, in nineteen cases out of twenty, poverty and hardship will tend to make people humble and faithful. 1

Joseph F. Smith

There is such a thing as encouraging idleness and fostering pauperism among men. Men and women ought not to be willing to receive charity unless they are compelled to do so to keep them from suffering. Every man and woman ought to possess the spirit of independence, a self-sustaining spirit, that would prompt him or her to say, when they are in need, ‘I am willing to give my labor in exchange for that which you give me.’ No man ought to be satisfied to receive, and to do nothing for it. After a man is brought down to poverty and is under the necessity of receiving aid, and his friends give it to him, he should feel that it is an obligation under which he is placed, and when the Lord should open his way he would return the gift. That is the feeling we should cultivate in our hearts, to make us a free and independent people. The cultivation of any other feeling or spirit than this is calculated to make paupers, to degrade and bring mankind down to beggary, which is a most wretched condition for men to be in. It is a bad thing for men to think the world owes them a living and all they have to do is to beg or steal to get it…. there is no great need in this world [to give assistance] for men and women who are able to work and will not work.2

Idlers have no place in Zion. There should be no idlers in Zion. Even the poor who have to be assisted should be willing to do all in their power to earn their own living. Not one man or woman should be content to sit down and be fed, clothed, or housed without any exertion on his or her part to compensate for these privileges.3

Heber J. Grant

I desire to call attention to a statement by President Brigham Young:  “My experience has taught me, and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out, to man or woman, money, food, clothing, or anything else, if they are able-bodied and can work and earn what they need, when there is anything on earth for them to do. This is my principle and I try to act upon it. To pursue a contrary course would ruin any community in the world and make them idlers. [People trained in this way have no interest in working.]”4   And what would ruin a community, would ruin a state, and I might incidentally remark, a nation also.5

Harold B. Lee

If these words [D&C 68:31] are clearly understood, we have been told where the roots of all evil are to be found. Our children have not been properly taught by parents in the home. Our communities have adopted policies which encourage idleness instead of work for those who want to work for what they need, and have failed to adopt measures to see that idleness and unemployment are reduced to the absolute minimum.

In our day a pioneer leader, President Brigham Young, spoke as a pioneer statesman about the importance of work. Said he: “My experience has taught me, and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out, to man or woman, money, food, clothing, or anything else, if they are able-bodied and can work and earn what they need, when there is anything on earth for them to do. This is my principle and I try to act upon it. To pursue a contrary course would ruin any community in the world and make them idlers. [People trained in this way have no interest in working.]” 67

You may measure the effectiveness of your teaching to those who are being assisted by a very simple standard. If your people come to you and ask if there is available some work for them to do in the welfare plan, then you may know that they understand that work is being provided for all able-bodied persons. If they merely ask if they may have an order on the storehouse, it would appear that you are not doing your job well. Take precaution to have your people understand that work is just as essential as supplying the necessities, and teach them all to come inquiring for work opportunities, in the welfare plan. That becomes your challenge. And if they understand that, it would be the ideal that work be provdied before the necessity arises, so that what they receive will be in compensation for work they have done, rather than an order in anticipation of what they may do. [1]

In rendering [welfare] assistance, every opportunity must be given to those who are assisted to perform some labor or render some service for the assistance they are to receive. This is as fundamental to the program as the supplying of necessites. [2]

Ezra Taft Benson

Unfortunately, there has been fostered in the minds of some an expectation that when we experience hard times, when we have been unwise and extravagant with our resources and have lived beyond our means, we should look to either the Church or government to bail us out. Forgotten by some of our members is an underlying principle of the Church welfare plan that “no true Latter-day Saint will, while physically able, voluntarily shift from himself the burden of his own support” [3]. [4]

Opposing Statements

Scripture

Supporting Statements

Boyd K. Packer

The Church was two years old when the Lord revealed that , “the idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways.” (D&C 75:29.) President Marion G. Romney in our last conference explained this principle with his characteristic simple directness: “The obligation to sustain one’s self was divinely imposed upon the human race at its beginning. ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.’ (Gen 3:19.)”

The welfare handbook instructs, “(We must) earnestly teach and urge members to be self-sustaining to the fullest extent of their power. No Latter-day Saint will … voluntarily shift from himself the burden of his own support. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Almighty and with his own labors, he will supply himself with the necessities of life.” (1952, p. 2.) …

We have counseled bishops and stake presidents to be very careful to avoid abuses in the welfare program. When people are able but are unwilling to take care of themselves, we are responsible to employ the dictum of the Lord, that the idler shall not eat the bread of the laborer. The simple rule has been, to the fullest extent possible, to take care of one’s self.8

Marion G. Romney

It is more important to be reminded than it is to be taught. I never tire of teaching the truth…. I would like to caution you bishops who have the responsibility to implement and administer the [welfare] program to be careful and wise in helping transients…. We don’t want to be harsh with our Lord’s children, neither do we want to be taken advantage of. Please take note of this matter….

I know that we quote this scripture (D&C 38:27) in many senses, applying to many different circumstances, and rightly so; but when it was given, the Lord was talking about the economic equality that he wanted to prevail among his people….

“And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me; (Then he explained how the contributions were to be handled.) and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church and his counselors …” (D&C 42:31.) …

As above cited, the Lord has told us how he intends to take care of the poor. As I have already quoted, the scripture says that the means for taking care of the poor are to be put in the hands of the bishop. In the 104th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord tells us that we are to get the means by humbling the rich, and that we are to distribute them in such a manner as to exalt the poor….

Everything that you have and I have and that every other person in the world has, we hold as stewards. All things belong to the Lord and he is telling us how he expects us to use them. (D&C 104:15-17 quoted)

We need not listen to the false doctrine that we must limit the population of this earth. The earth was made by the Lord and he made plenty for all. What we, his children, need is to follow his direction in using it….

We talked about how the rich are made low. They are made humble and submissive and obedient to the commandments of the Lord by giving of their means liberally — by giving to the bishop for the care of the poor. How do you exalt the poor as they receive? Well, there is only one way to do that and that is to make them self-sustaining. No man has self-respect when he is the recipient of a dole. If there is anything that he can do, he wants to do it. This program was set up not merely to feed and house and clothe people, it was set up to build people into self-respecting Latter-day Saints. The First Presidency said at that time,
Our primary purpose (This they said back in 1936, referring to the Welfare Program.) was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, 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. 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. (Welfare Plan Handbook of Instructions, 1952.)

How the nations in the world have receded from that position! Get it for nothing if you can is widely accepted in the world, but in The Church of Jesus Christ the responsibility is upon every man, under God’s mandate, to sustain himself and his family to the full extent of his capability. The accomplishment of this objective is the most pressing task that we have in our Welfare Program…. Our objective, I repeat, is to build people and to meet that purpose for which the program was set up. To provide for people who are able to work, without providing them the opportunity to work is a bad practice. On this matter I call your attention to these words of President Brigham Young.

“My experience has taught me … and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out, to man or woman, money, food, clothing, or anything else, if they are able-bodied and can work and earn what they need, when there is anything on earth for them to do. This is my principle and I try to act upon it. To pursue a contrary course would ruin any community in the world and make them idlers.”9

And upon another occasion he said, “To give to the idler is as wicked as anything else. Never give anything to the idler.” 10

That is the man who won’t work when he has the opportunity.11


  1. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 312; Relief Society Conference, April 3, 1940; Relief Society Magazine 27, July 1940: 458-462
  2. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, pp. 312-313; Relief Society Magazine 24, March 1937: 140-43
  3. Marion G. Romney, in CR October 1973, p. 106
  4. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 261; Conference Report, October 1980, Ensign 10 [November 1980]: p. 32
  1. JOD, 7:242-3
  2. Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1898, 46-48; Gospel Doctrine, pp. 234-235
  3. Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, Apr 1899, p. 42; Gospel Doctrine, p. 236
  4. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 274
  5. Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, Oct 1936, pp. 6-7; Presidents of the Church Institute manual, p. 187
  6. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 274
  7. Harold B. Lee, Conference Reports, Oct 1972, pp. 61-64
  8. Boyd K. Packer, “Self-Reliance”, Ensign, August 1975, pp. 85-89)
  9. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 1954 ed., p. 274
  10. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 1954 ed., p. 274
  11. Marion G. Romney, General Conference address, Conference Reports, 6 Apr 1974, pp. 176-178

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