“An Example of What Welfare Services Can Do,” Ensign, May 1980, 84
I have made it a habit of running three miles every day, and I would have to admit that this walk up here leaves me a little more out of breath than the end of three miles. It is a humbling experience to occupy this pulpit, which has been occupied by such great, great men in welfare services.
Sometime after the collapse of the Teton Dam and the ensuing flooding disaster which affected several counties in eastern Idaho, while serving as the area welfare leader, I was asked to speak on behalf of the Church to a group of people who were responsible for civil defense and disaster relief. They included representatives from city, county, state, and federal organizations as well as a number of religious, volunteer, and service groups. The requested topic was how the LDS Church is prepared to respond to emergency crises.
I realized that they had already observed the response of the Church to the flood. They saw firsthand how the bishops’ storehouse system was almost immediately prepared to ship in truckloads of supplies and then stood by to fill the requests of the local priesthood leaders. They saw the Deseret Industries help bring order out of chaos. Large mountains of clothing were donated from many parts of the country and placed in large, unsorted piles. There were party dresses with work shoes, small sizes with large, men’s with women’s, and clean with soiled. In a very short time the Deseret Industries had these much-needed articles of clothing cleaned, pressed, sized, and placed on racks from which those in need could choose for their particular needs.
They saw how the LDS Social Services was available to help the people in their social and emotional needs as emotional tolerances were pressed to the limit. Many jobs were lost due to the flood, and many new ones were created. LDS employment program was busy as employees and employers were matched together. They saw, as did people from all over the world, the many thousands of volunteers who came, at their own expense, to help in the cleanup effort.
There was a need in the early days of the flood cleanup for heavy equipment. A request was made for tractors and front-end loaders from stakes both near and far. We thought in terms of 5 or 6 outfits. Soon after the request was made, the area welfare leader from Soda Springs, approximately 165 miles away, called and said, “President, I understand that you need some tractors and front-end loaders. We are ready and prepared to bring 150.” I told him that 20 would be marvelous.
There was a need for electricians to restore power to the homes that lost it because of the flood. We estimated that 150 would be a great response. The call went out. We didn’t get just 150. More than 450 licensed electricians and helpers responded to that call. This same type of devotion and dedication was shown many, many times over as a variety of needs was fulfilled.
It was evident to this group to whom I would speak, as well as to others, what had happened in this major crisis, but were they aware of those who are helped every day on an individual basis—for example, the young girl who found love, understanding, and kind assistance from LDS Social Services when she was confronted with a major crisis in her life? Because of wise counsel, she did not compound an already serious problem with a graver tragedy when she found that there is an alternative to the accepted worldly philosophy of abortion.
They did not know of the many other services of LDS Social Services, the childless marriages with loving homes who are blessed with the opportunity to adopt a little infant, the Lamanite program, professional counseling, foster homes, and others.
I was sure that most of them did not totally understand the Deseret Industries; and most certainly did not understand that it is a living example of the principle of consecration, wherein each of us has the opportunity to give freely of our surpluses, and then those great people who are not willing to be spectators in the arena of life are given the opportunity to maintain their dignity by enjoying the blessing of work. Perhaps they were not even aware that Deseret Industries is open for all to make purchases which are so helpful in meeting the pressures of an inflated economy. Shopping at Deseret Industries is like shopping at an exclusive store. There are many items that are one of a kind, and with shipments arriving daily we have an opportunity to make new choices every day.
On one occasion when I had arrived early at Deseret Industries prior to our monthly meeting of the local operating committee, I made a tour of the well-organized displays and racks of commodities. My eyes were drawn to the area of overcoats. One particularly appealed to me. It was a fine, all-wool, English-tailored coat. I thought, “If it fits, I’ll buy it.” I looked at the price: four dollars and seventy-five cents! At that price, I knew it fit. I bought it and I paid cash for it. I took it home and, when I modeled it for my wife, I put my hands in the pockets, and there were a number of rare, one-cent postage stamps. I guess the stamps themselves were worth probably about as much as I had paid for the coat. And I suspect that I was probably the only person who made a purchase at Deseret Industries who not only made an excellent buy but also received stamps!
This group of people to whom I would speak certainly had no way of knowing about the father who found himself with his loving bishop exclaiming, “Bishop, tragedy has struck our family. I have lost my job. I need welfare.” That knowledgeable bishop replied, “Brother, you don’t need welfare. What you need is a job, and you have come to the right place.” That wise bishop had just taught the great principle of work. The bishop’s comment was not an idle remark, because he had available to him, as a part of the great storehouse system, a ward employment specialist, who has access not only to the employers within the ward and stake but also, through the employment center, to those throughout the entire area. If a job could not be found in the open market, that same employment specialist would become a resource to the bishop to help find meaningful work opportunities for the needy brother within the Lord’s plan, thus allowing that father the joy of maintaining his dignity by working for the commodities received. This same employment system serves the needs of all members as they seek employment and seek to upgrade their opportunities.
This group of interested people that I would speak to wanted to know what we as the Church can do in a major disaster, but that is not all. There are heartaches, hurts, problems—yes, even disasters—which occur in every life at some time. And, in the individual’s life, those personal disasters are just as real and just as deserving of our help as the disaster of those involved in the flood in eastern Idaho, or the earthquake in Guatemala, or the flooding in California.
I wanted this group to know that in the Church not only are we prepared to deal with major disasters which involve many, but the Lord’s plan provides for the loving care of each of his children on an individual, one-on-one basis.
Those of us who are here today have at our disposal the principles of the welfare plan, which assist us in helping to bless those who are in need.
I give you my solemn witness that we are engaged in the Lord’s work. May each one of us strive to carry out our stewardships, so the work may be done in His own way. The work and labor which we perform in welfare services will lead us steadily forward to that time when we will be blessed to live the great law of consecration in a Zion society.
May each of us be found doing our duty, I pray in the name of him whose plan it is, even Jesus Christ, amen.