“Stakes Receive Welfare and Self-Reliance Training,” Liahona, August 2009, N1–N3
A new DVD titled Basic Principles of Welfare and Self-Reliance, along with a transcription of the DVD and a new booklet, Providing in the Lord’s Way: Summary of a Leader’s Guide to Welfare, is being shipped to stake and district presidents around the world to train bishoprics, branch presidents, high priests group leaders, elders quorum presidents, and Relief Society presidencies on how to apply Church welfare principles to today’s challenges.
According to Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop, the training gives ward and stake priesthood and Relief Society leaders the means to review and learn basic welfare principles and to discuss their application to assist those in need.
“The training will help stake and ward leaders be better prepared to teach and encourage Church members to live principles of provident living and self-reliance,” he said.
The DVD features four speakers: President Thomas S. Monson; Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop; and Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president. Each speaker focuses on different aspects of welfare: how the welfare program is the Lord’s program, the gospel vision of welfare as faith in action, bishops’ and branch presidents’ welfare responsibilities, and Relief Society presidents’ welfare responsibilities.
President Monson shares the scriptural account from 1 Kings 17 of the widow from Zarephath, who met the prophet Elijah during a famine. The widow was preparing to make a final meal for herself and her son before they died. Elijah asked the widow for food and promised that if she shared with him, her family would have food until the famine ended. She shared her food with Elijah and saw the fulfillment of his promise.
“This is the faith that has ever motivated and inspired the welfare plan of the Lord,” President Monson says. “To all within the sound of my voice I declare that the welfare plan of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inspired of Almighty God.”
Elder Hales defines self-reliance and provident living. “Self-reliance is taking responsibility for our own spiritual and temporal welfare and for those whom Heavenly Father has entrusted to our care,” he says.
Provident living means “joyfully living within our means and preparing for the ups and downs of life so that we can be ready for the rainy-day emergencies when they come into our lives,” Elder Hales says.
“How, then, do we obtain Heavenly Father’s help so that we have enough for our own needs and also enough to serve others?” he asks. “One of the fundamental principles of welfare is the payment of tithes and offerings.”
Bishop Burton lists five basic and time-tested welfare principles for priesthood leaders. First, seek out the poor; second, promote personal responsibility; third, sustain life, not lifestyle; fourth, provide commodities before cash; and fifth, provide work and service opportunities.
Sister Beck says as she has studied the histories of the Relief Society general presidents, she has been reminded that the organization has accomplished its work in times of growth and prosperity and in times of war, famine, epidemic, and depression. She says a painting in her office of a pioneer midwife reminds her that one sister with one skill can be a blessing to many.
The Relief Society president fulfills an important part of providing aid, Sister Beck says—helping the bishop assess the needs of members. She adds that because this is “a divine work and because a Relief Society president has a divine call, she is entitled to divine help.”
The eight-page booklet included with the DVD, Providing in the Lord’s Way: Summary of a Leader’s Guide to Welfare, summarizes a 34-page manual that the Church has used to teach the principles of welfare and self-reliance in the past. The manual is called Providing in the Lord’s Way: A Leader’s Guide to Welfare and is still available to leaders as an in-depth guide on welfare management.
The DVD, transcription, and Providing in the Lord’s Way booklet do not replace the manual, but are a summary of and a supplement to it.
The Church released the English version of the DVD, transcription, and booklet in February 2009. Translations in Cantonese, Cebuano, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog, Tahitian, and Tongan are being sent as the translation process is completed. Many have already been distributed.
The First Presidency has requested that when stake and district presidents receive the training packet, they go over the information with stake or district and ward or branch leaders. A letter included with the packet suggests an agenda for a training meeting that includes watching the 52-minute DVD or reading the transcription and counseling together on how to apply the principles taught.
According to Bishop Burton, as these leaders apply what they have learned, they will receive the inspiration and blessings of the Lord to move forward the sacred work of providing in the Lord’s way.
“Although many members face challenges as a result of today’s difficult economic times, the new training helps reassure ward and stake leaders that there are ways to address all welfare needs,” Bishop Burton said. “This training reinforces proven principles that the Lord Himself has established.”
After reviewing the materials, W. Wynn John, president of the Wilmington Delaware Stake, said the training information was “extremely timely,” as a rising number of members in his stake have lost their jobs. He said the materials would be helpful in teaching members self-reliance.
“It’s going to help us provide guidance and encourage people to take more responsibility for their personal welfare,” President John said.
Craig Ruesch, president of the Rose Park Stake in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, said, “I appreciated the attention to the responsibilities of key people—bishops, Relief Society presidents, and other priesthood leaders—helping everyone realize they have a part to play in helping others.”
President Ruesch said with the way the economy is right now, he thinks people will pay closer attention to self-reliance.
The training can help priesthood leaders apply the principles to the current circumstances, said Kenneth Smaellie, a Curriculum Department project manager who helped oversee production of the DVD and booklet. Welfare needs change from era to era, he said, and are different in today’s recession than they were in the Great Depression. But the new training helps reassure priesthood leaders that there is a way to address all welfare needs.
“It enforces proven principles that the Lord has established Himself,” Brother Smaellie said. “It also provides some current interpretation of tried and true principles to help priesthood leaders meet the needs of members today.”