“Church Welfare Program Is ‘Worthy of Imitation,’ Congressional Committee Told,” Ensign, June 1987, 79
The promotion of work and self-reliance and the elimination of idleness and the dole—the goals of the Church’s welfare program—are “worthy of imitation,” a U.S. Congressional subcommittee was told March 11.
In testimony before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Assistance, Keith B. McMullin, managing director of Welfare Services for the Church, said the program focuses on prevention, temporary assistance, and rehabilitation in striving toward those goals.
“We strive to promote self-reliance, to enthrone work, and to eliminate the curse of idleness and the evils of a dole,” he said.
The purpose of the subcommittee’s hearings is to seek ways in which government welfare might be improved. While Brother McMullin stressed that the Church’s program is based upon religious principles and operates independently of local, state, and national government, he added that “much of what we do can be copied and is worthy of imitation.
“Where community resources are available that are compatible with our approach,” he said, “we are happy to use them. Our overarching aim, however, is always to help people help themselves.”
He said greater emphasis is placed on prevention than on other aspects of the Church’s welfare program. “Through teaching and admonition, we seek first and foremost to foster self-reliance and provident living,” he said. He added that members are urged to acquire needed literacy skills, to select suitable employment, and to manage their financial resources “so as to avoid unnecessary debt and to live within their means.”
Latter-day Saints are encouraged to store adequate reserves of food and clothing, to follow sound health practices, and to cultivate “habits that ensure social, emotional, and spiritual well being,” Brother McMullin said.
Needy Church members unable to provide for themselves are often given temporary assistance until they are able to become self-reliant, he said, adding that “permanent dependence on Church or other welfare programs is discouraged except in instances of the very aged or infirm who have no other resources on which to rely.”
He pointed out that resources needed to maintain Church welfare services come from voluntary member donations of time, talents, and money. During 1986, nearly five million hours of compassionate service were donated by members.
Fundamental to the Church’s welfare plan is the principle that recipients work to the extent of their ability for what they receive. “Work engenders independence, thrift, and self-respect,” Brother McMullin said.
He added that members of local Church congregations are encouraged to help fellow members who have lost jobs to locate new employment or to assist them in acquiring improved skills needed in the marketplace. Such efforts helped some forty-two thousand members find gainful employment last year.
Brother McMullin told the subcommittee that the basic moorings of the Church’s welfare system are spiritual and not economic. He quoted the Biblical injunction, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim. 5:8.)