“Individual and Family Self-Reliance Featured in Leadership Session,” Ensign, May 1983, 83–85
A reaffirmation of basic Church welfare principles was presented Friday evening, April 1, in the Tabernacle during a leadership session of this year’s general conference. In attendance were General Authorities, Regional Representatives, and stake presidents or their counselors from throughout the Church.
The instructions presented urged priesthood leaders to implement modifications designed to increase personal and family self-reliance, spiritual growth, and Christian service. Emphasis was placed upon the increased need for members of the Church to become more independent and self-reliant, in order to meet today’s economic and spiritual challenges.
Priesthood quorums, wards, and stakes were encouraged to focus more effort upon assisting individuals and families in developing financial stability, maintaining a year’s food supply, and developing the capacity for home production.
Priesthood leaders were also asked to reemphasize, by precept and example, the importance of the law of the fast, which includes “generous freewill offerings” to fund assistance for needy members.
Church members have traditionally been encouraged to fast, or abstain from food and drink, for two consecutive meals a month and to contribute to a fund for the needy at least the equivalent cost of the meals, or a much more generous offering, if possible.
The modifications announced by the General Welfare Services Committee, comprised of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, Presiding Bishopric, and the General Presidency of the Relief Society, are:
1. Funding of the welfare program will come from the fast-offering contributions of members, instead of annual cash assignments to local units.
2. The acquisition of new farms or facilities will be paid for with general Church funds.
3. Local welfare funds not needed for the completion of 1983 production project operations are requested to be transferred to the general Church welfare account.
4. Existing production projects will be carefully evaluated to provide greater efficiency. Each project will be studied in light of the ultimate goal of producing those welfare goods needed within the system.
5. Wards and stakes will continue to manage production projects or to provide volunteer service in other welfare facilities.
These modifications are effective immediately and should further encourage individuals, families, priesthood quorums, Relief Societies, and other auxiliary organizations to focus more time and resources on personal and family self-reliance and on rendering Christian service, said speakers at the leadership session.
The modifications were announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. Also speaking on the Church’s welfare principles were Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder J. Thomas Fyans of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown, and Barbara B. Smith, general president of the Relief Society.
The announcement of the modifications were “the most significant and far-reaching” involving welfare services “since 1936 when President Heber J. Grant gave his renowned address of the program’s primary purpose,” said Elder Monson in his remarks.
Even so, “the statement of purpose remains unchanged, undiminished, unaltered,” said Elder Monson. “However, the methods whereby we achieve the purpose are affected by changing times and continued revelation,” he said.
In discussing the range of welfare services provided throughout the history of the Church, Elder Monson said: “In each of the periods, the purpose was to make individuals self-reliant. With a knowledge of the changes that have taken place in the welfare program since the beginning, one can better appreciate that the modifications announced by President Hinckley are part of a continuing chain.”
The welfare program is “God-given and prophet-inspired. It has been such from the beginning. At times we draw from past experiences to meet present needs and to surmount tomorrow’s challenges,” said Elder Monson.
Presiding Bishop Brown said that the announcement represented “another giant step in financing the Church in the Lord’s own way through the tithes and offerings of the members.”
In stressing that members have an obligation to be self-reliant, Bishop Brown said: “We have received reports indicating that the buildup of resources in Church preparedness has resulted in the building of a false sense of security among far too many people.
“It is essential that all clearly understand that the Church institutional resources will provide for a very small percentage of the Church population. They are for the poor and the needy who will always be with us, who cannot take care of themselves—not for those who will not,” he said.
Bishop Brown observed that the reliance upon a generous fast offering by members “may be a good test in determining how close we are in our preparation to live the law of consecration if the Lord were to ask us to do so.”
In his remarks, Elder Fyans said the new announcement is “aimed at encouraging members of the Church to use their own gifts and abilities, their financial and personal resources in becoming temporally self-reliant and then reaching out to help others to gain that same capacity for self-reliance.
“We should strive for self-reliance physically, emotionally, financially, and, most important of all, spiritually,” he said.
Elder Fyans stressed that fathers and heads of homes will learn to practice welfare principles “in his or her individual study of the scriptures, prayer, seeking the Lord’s will in their own families, and also in the priesthood quorums, Relief Society, and other auxiliaries of the Church.”
The concept of priesthood quorums as a “working brotherhood” was then presented by Elder Fyans. Speaking of ways quorum members could help each other, Elder Fyans mentioned four steps he would take were he a local priesthood leader: (1) put on his own “temporal life jacket”; (2) gather a list of the resources of every man in the quorum and assess his abilities; (3) determine the needs of quorum members; and (4) teach and help quorum members to become self-reliant.
In her remarks, Sister Smith said, “Women will play a vital role at both church and home as they support priesthood leaders in bringing about the success of this new phase of the welfare program.
“By teaching in Relief Society and in family settings, women can promote mastery of some fundamental principles that provide the base for charitable living. Women want to do their part in this wonderful work,” she said.
Following the presentation and discussion of these welfare matters, Elder Maxwell focused on how priesthood leaders could be “mighty men in the faith of the Lord.”
“In your teaching and leading,” he said, “take the time needed to explain to members what is wanted. To help our members to understand how the fundamental purposes of the work of the Lord are linked with daily living is a great need among our people now.”
“The simplicity in the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ should be matched by simplicity in our church administration and programs,” he said.
Elder Maxwell encouraged leaders to delegate responsibilities, “not only for your sake, but for the sake of the people—lest they wear away, too.” He encouraged leaders to find time for rest, renewal, solitude, and pondering.
Elder Maxwell further stressed the principle of love as a primary priesthood guideline. “The lessons of history tell us that long-suffering, persuasion, love, gentleness, and kindness are the only ways in which human behavior can be changed both freely and irrevocably,” he said.
Earlier in the day the Regional Representatives Seminar was held in the Church Office Building. Conducting the seminar proceedings was President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve.
President Gordon B. Hinckley was the keynote speaker. In his keynote address, President Hinckley discussed the growing trend toward governmental legalization of gambling and said, “The sophistry of the promoters of gambling, like the sophistry of the promoters of other immoral vices, is specious and badly flawed.”
President Hinckley observed how gambling had proved to be an inefficient way to raise money, in addition to being immoral.
President Hinckley noted that he was speaking in the place of President Spencer W. Kimball, due to the President’s ill health, and were President Kimball able to attend conference, “he would urge us to intensify and broaden the missionary work of the Church.” In terms of opening the doors to other lands, President Hinckley said, “I am confident the Lord will open the way when we are prepared to take advantage of it.”
He stressed the need for more missionaries, the blessings of missionary work, and that what might be seen as a sacrifice to go on a mission turns out to be seen as an investment that yields a lifetime of remarkable dividends, stretching even into the eternities.
“The work of a missionary is everlasting in its consequences. Acceptance of the gospel at the hands of a true and dedicated teacher affects not only the recipient, but also generations who come after the recipient,” he said.
President Hinckley also discussed temple work and noted that in the coming months five temples will be dedicated, thus blessing the lives of many people.
In discussing the needs of leaders, President Hinckley said, “I suppose the most important attribute of leadership is attitude.” He said leaders must have a willingness to learn and seek a knowledge of what is expected. He said leaders should cultivate qualities that give confidence.
Leadership “involves also a personal and sincere interest in the problems and concerns of those who are being led and, most importantly, a willingness to get on one’s knees and seek for greater power than that which one naturally possesses.”
President Hinckley said that Church leaders need to teach people to obey the commandments of the Lord so that they may be worthy to receive the blessings that will flow from such obedience.
“Their lives will be enriched, and they will be happy as they walk in light and truth,” he said.
President Hinckley discussed a statement of President Heber J. Grant in October 1939. “He spoke as a prophet, and I hear him as a prophet when I read these words. ‘I promise you, as a servant of the living God, that every man and woman who obeys the commandments of God shall prosper, that every promise made of God shall be fulfilled upon their heads, and that they will grow and increase in wisdom, light, knowledge, intelligence, and, above all, in the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. May God help each and every one of us who has a knowledge of the gospel to live it, that our lives may preach its truths.’”
Following President Hinckley’s keynote address, Elder Carlos Asay and Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy gave a presentation on “Preparing Youth for Church Service.” The presentation stressed the vital roles of family and individual prayers, family home evening, and scripture study as supplying strength in the face of today’s challenges.
Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve then discussed activation of Church members, and Elder L. Tom Perry discussed Church councils.