Monday, November 24, 2014

Welfare Speech

Welfare Speech

I’m a bit superstitious – Saturday morning, I awoke a bit before five and mulled over this opportunity to speak to you in my head.  I got up in the cold, still dark and grabbed a shirt and tee shirt out of the closet.  I couldn’t see which ones I had grabbed, it didn’t matter.  Our family has worked at Boy Scout camps every summer for forty-two years.  Scout troops often give us tee shirts, they are all nice.  After my shower, I slipped on the tee shirt and got my inspiration.  The tee shirt shows some boys summiting a mountain peak.  In big letters below the art it says, “I can and will do hard things”.  This works on so many levels.  It could have be an admonition to me to get this talk ready, it could by one to you – to tough out listening to it, or it could be the message I have been tasked to share distilled into one sentence.

My hope is that, as you listen this morning, my words will get you to think about your own lives – your own work – the difficult things you do because you can.  

When not at Boy Scout Camp, I am a high school History teacher; I have been honored to teach at Layton High School for thirty years!   Every year, at this time, I lecture about the Romans.  In these years of teaching, I have “gone through” five different text books; [my thanks to you tax payers] all have asked the students to consider a similar question – “what caused the fall of the Roman Republic?”  There are, of course many factors – but one of the most potent is the fact that too many people became dependent on the State, on the labor of others, for their support.  The greatness of Rome was built by people who sought to work for their own success and that of their city, a people who valued personal and family honor and duty to country above all.  When too of them many came to feel they did not need to work, but rather could live on the labor of others, the economy crumbled, evils and dangers multiplied, and their freedom was lost. 

This morning, I have been asked to speak on the Welfare Program of the Church, taking my direction from:

The 1st Presidency message – September 1986, delivered by President Thomas Monson. In his message, Pres. Monson states – that these “basic principles do not change.  They will not change.  They are reviled truths.” He explains:

On April 5, 1936 the Welfare Plan of the Church was established by President Heber Grant, 1st Counselor Reuben Clark and 2nd Counselor David McKay.  In October Conference 1936, President Grant said, “Our primary purpose was to set up, insofar 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” 

President Monson presents these reviled truths as six principles 1) work, 2) self-reliance, 3) sound financial management, 4) a year’s supply, 5) caring for the extended family, and 6) wise use of Church resources.

Our ward is full of living examples of these principles, of men and women who live honorably and do their duty!

Before I go through President Monson’s six principles point by point, let me remind you for the great lie.  In the council in heaven, Lucifer proposed that he would do all the work and give all of God’s children salvation.  His plan was rejected not because of his impudent pride – but because IT WOULD NOT HAVE WORKED.  We must work out our own salvation – we must learn to find joy by doing it ourselves!!!  Of course we will fall short – and then the Savior will do his part – but we cannot learn to love if we do not pass through sorrow. 

Now, to President Monson’s principles:

1. Work is basic to all we do. – Gen. 3:19: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.  And in 1939 President Stephen Richards explained “We have always dignified work and reproved idleness . . . The busy hive of the honeybee Deseret – has been our emblem.  Work with faith is a cardinal point of our theological doctrine, and our future state – our heaven – is envisioned in terms of eternal progression through constant labor.” 

Even God has work to do: “This is my work and my glory, to bring about the eternal life of man.” A big job! 

When I was a little boy, we lived in a tiny house in Anchorage, Alaska.  Every morning, I could hear my dad get up at five and get ready to head off to work.  He would have to drive six miles through the forest to Fort Richardson – sometimes it was forty below zero or even colder.  It never occurred to me that he would not go out and take care of me.  

I saw in my father a living example of King Benjamin, who in Mosiah 2:14 explains that he has “labored with [his] own hands that [he] might serve” the people, even though he was their king.

A hundred and fifty years later [160 BC], Marcus Aurelius, was emperor of Rome.  Marcus Aurelius was probably the most powerful man who ever lived.  He was absolute master of an empire that stretched from Britain to Bagdad, from the Rhine to the cataracts of the Nile. He could have spent his life in luxury in a palace in Rome – but he chose rather to spend his life camped out in a tent and fighting on battlefields in the defense of his country.  That was his work, he didn’t have to do it – he chose to serve.  He put it this way:

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

He chose to get up and go to work, like my dad, like all dads and moms who choose to do what they should, not only for the benefit of their children material needs, but to set the example for how those children should live their own lives. 

2. Self-reliance is a product of our work and under-girds all other welfare practices.  President Marion Romney said in 1976:  “Let us work for what we need.  Let us be self-reliant and independent.  Salvation can be obtained on no other principle.  Salvation is an individual matter, and we must work out our own salvation in temporal as well as in spiritual things.”  And a year later, President Spencer Kimball taught, “The responsibility for each person’s social, emotional, spiritual, physical, or economic well-being rests first upon himself, second upon his family, and third upon the Church if he is a faithful member thereof.”

In my classes at Layton High, I require my students to take notes on everything I tell them, on the reading we do together, on the material they read in their test book.  We work together to prepare for the final test.  I provide them with a study outline and once we have covered the material in class, I help them fill in the appropriate information on their study guide.  I have posted a completely filled in study guide on the class webpage so they can check their work and make sure they have taken down everything they will be expected to know. 

The other day, as most of my students were frantically writing in an effort to get down all the information before we moved on to the next point, I saw a boy sitting smugly in his seat doing nothing.  I look on his desk and saw he had printed out my completely filled in outline from the web page.  He had done nothing but pushed a button but, since he had the filled out sheet in front of him, he believed he had done his work.  I was disappointed. However, it gave me an opportunity to explain to the class that having the paper filled in is not the goal – the goal is to learn the material and more importantly it is to learn how to learn material.  I do not have a problem with providing information to my students – but I expect them to do the work necessary to learn for themselves – otherwise it does them no good at all. President Monson continues:

3. Sound Financial Management – Too many in the Church have failed to avoid unnecessary debt.  They have little, if any, financial reserve.  The solution is to budget, to live within our means, and to save some for the future.  Reuben Clark said in 1938, “Once in debt interest is you companion every minute . . . and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.” 

Our country is 20 trillion dollars in debt.   What an example for a nation to set – “bread and circuses” barrowed from the future of our children and their children’s children. Years ago, Janice had taken our little boys shopping.  The oldest – then about five or six – saw something in the shop he wanted.  When his mother told him we didn’t have enough money, he retorted – just write a check.  Such obliviousness may be amusing in a child – in a society it is devastating. 

4. A year’s supply of life’s necessities. (When I was a kid this was one of the most often preached tenants of the church.  We don’t hear much about it anymore.  How things have changed.)  President Monson says, “As has been said so often, the best storehouse system that the Church could devise would be for every family to store a year’s supply of needed food, clothing, and, where possible, the other necessities of life.”

At Camp Loll, about 200 boys and 100 leaders come to the woods every week.  The scouts bring with them a week’s supply of everything they need.  Thirty-five miles of dirt road from the nearest store, they have no other choice.  They think that the fun and adventure will be the best part of the trip – but most learn that the real value of living a week in the woods is learning to do hard things; its being prepare for anything.  They build a year’s supply of self-confidence and a life time of knowing that they can and will do hard things.  They swim in cold water and climb to mountain tops.  They build their own shelters, gather wood for their fires, and water to drink and wash, cook their own meals, and do their own dishes.  They follow bear and fire processions, defend and repair the wilderness, follow the trails, and go on working and playing in paradise through rain and sun and dark and mosquitos.  Having brought everything they need with them, they make their way for a week in the wilderness relying on their own abilities and the love of the fellows.  It’s “all the world”, a life time, in a week. 

5. Caring for the extended family – In 1 Timothy, Paul wrote, “If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.”  President Monson reiterates, “It is our sacred duty to care for our families, including our extended families”.  .  . It is difficult to understand how one mother can take care of seven children more easily than seven children can take care of one mother. . .   In 1938, President Clark gave clear direction on this matter:  “The prime responsibility for supporting an aged parent rests upon [the] family, not upon society … The family which refuses to keep its own is not meeting its duty.”  

In 1944, President Stephen Richards put it clearly, “I think my food would choke me if I knew that while I could procure bread my aged father or mother or near kin were on public relief.” 

Thales of Miletus, who was born in 625 BC, over a century before the first Hebrew Scriptures were even written down, said, “Expect from your children the same provision you made for your parents.” 

When I was a little boy, I would wake up in the middle of the night, afraid.  I would call out for my “daddy” and he would come and comfort me; his presence enough to assure me.  I knew that there was no danger, no monster, no evil – that was a match for him.  Ten years ago, at the age of 89, my father had a massive heart attack.  The doctors kept telling us he would die any day – but he didn’t; so we brought him home to live with us.  His bed was set up in our family room, just outside our bedroom door.  What joy I felt – when in the middle of the night, he would call to me.  I would go out and sit at his side and we would talk till he feel back to sleep. 

One night – it was about two A. M. – he called for me.  I went to him and asked what he wanted.

“I want to go for a drive.”

“Where do you want to go?” I asked. 
Realize that my dad had longed lived in Brigham City.“I want to go to Mantua,” he said.

“Dad,” I explained, “it’s the middle of the night – you won’t be able to see anything.”

“Yah,” he said, “but I could hear the engine running.”

“I have to go to work in three hours.  I promise I’ll take you to Mantua this afternoon, when I get home from school."

He went off to sleep – he never woke up again.

Next to the example of how to work – this chance to serve – was my father’s greatest gift to me.

6. Proper Use of Church Resources – President Monson explains, “The Lord’s store house includes the time, talents, skills, compassion, consecrated material, and financial means of faithful Church members.  These resources are available to the bishop in assisting of those in need.”  He presents five basic guidelines.  1) The bishop is to seek out the poor.  2) The bishop, with the council of the Relief Society president, is to evaluate each situation with discernment, sound judgment, balance, and compassion. 3) He will insure that those who receive welfare assistance should work to the extent of their abilities for that which is received, [take that Lucifer] providing work which will enhance the recipient’s efforts to become self-reliant.  4) Assistance given by the bishop is temporary and partial.  The rehabilitation of members is the responsibility of the individual and the family, aided by the priesthood quorum and Relief Society.  We are attempting to develop independence, not dependence.  5) Assistance is with basic life-sustaining goods and services, not the maintenance of current living standards.  (Quote from the last General conference by Bishop Davies 2nd councilor in presiding bishopric, “Church welfare system is to sustain life not life style.”) Monson explains that, “Families may need to alter their standards of living in doing all they can to meet their own needs. 

President Monson is quite clear that welfare resources are provided by the sacrifice of the saints for the benefit of those in need.  Donations are both a gift to others and a blessing to ourselves.  And those resources are to be used in need, President Monson indicates that they are for true and great emergencies.  Examples of when welfare is to be used are catastrophes like the Teton Dam Disaster and WWII.

The purpose of the Church Welfare program is not to provide for the material needs of the poor, rather, as President Grant explained: “Our primary purpose was to set up, insofar 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.”


Related Quotes:

Thales of Miletus 600 BC.

23. Expect from your children the same provision you made from your parents.

From the Bhagavad Gita 500 BC

On Work: 2:47 Krishna – Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.  Work not for a reward; but never cease to do thy work.  

On Leading by Example: 3:21 & 26 Krishna – 21: “In the actions of the best men others find their rule of action.  The path that a great man follows becomes a guide to the world.  26 “Let not the wise disturb the mind of the unwise in their selfish work.  Let him, working with devotion; show them the joy of good work.” 

On Service: 3: 25 Krishna – Even as the unwise work selfishly in the bondage of selfish works, let the wise man work unselfishly for the good of all the world. 

On Faith with Works: 3:31 Krishna – Those who ever follow my doctrine and who have faith, and have a good will, find through pure work their freedom.

From Democritus: 460 BC.

27. The thrifty behave like bees, working as though they are to live forever.

31. Voluntary labors make it easier to endure involuntary labors.

36. Mercenary service teaches self-sufficiency in life; for bread and a straw mattress are the sweetest cures for hunger and exhaustion.

47. Poverty and wealth are names for want and satisfaction; so one who is in want is not wealthy and one who is not in want is not poor.

48. Fortunate is he who is content with moderate gods, unfortunate he who is discontent with many.

69. Those who praise the unintelligent do them great harm.

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 180 BC.

“In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present - I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world?”

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

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