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Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 21: Principles of Temporal and Spiritual Welfare

The welfare system of the Church, formerly known as the Church Security Plan, has been around for more than 75 years. It is a sad historical fact that handouts create a society of slaves, dependent on the dole. The Church does not believe in robbing people of their sense of self-worth. Everything we receive from the Church in the form of aid requires some kind of work (at least it is supposed to be required) so as to help preserve the dignity of the individual receiving aid.

As President Benson went to Europe to help the saints suffering from the effects of World War II, he saw firsthand the gratitude of those who received help from others. He took the acting president of the mission with him to see the supplies that had been sent by the Church to help the saints survive and rebuild.

“Richard and I took down one of the boxes. We opened it. It was filled with the commonest of common foods—dried beans. As that good man saw it, he put his hands into it and ran it through his fingers, then broke down and cried like a child with gratitude. ...

“That’s the Lord’s system! Voluntary donations motivated by brotherly love and willing sacrifice, and assisting others to help themselves. Such ensures dignity and self-respect.”

There are those who are in such dire circumstances that there is nothing they can do to work for their aid. In these instances, like the saints in Europe after WWII, the Church just gives the help. But for those who are able-bodied, they are expected to contribute their labor for the aid they receive.

As you consider the welfare system of the Church, which alleviates physical suffering, think about D&C 29:34 where the Lord says that he has never given a temporal commandment. How does the Church welfare system fulfill spiritual purposes as a commandment? All things physical affect us spiritually, just as all things spiritual affect us physically. When the Lord gives us counsel and commandments for our physical welfare, it is meant to bless us physically, as well as spiritually. We may have to look for the spiritual application of God’s physical commandments. This is why the Church is concerned with all things physical, social, and spiritual in our lives. They are all connected.

Here is the definitive description of the welfare program and its purpose.

As we administer any aspect of the welfare program, the primary purpose for which it was established must be kept before us. That stated purpose is “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.”

Yes, even in the early days of the Church there were those who were lazy and would live off the labors of others, if it was possible to do so. The Lord told the Saints that idleness was a curse and that they needed to put work back into its place (re-enthroned) as the ruling principle of “the lives of our Church membership.”

The Lord expects us to work hard and be self-sufficient. He expects us to not only work hard for our own family, but for the welfare of others. “Ours is a gospel of work–purposeful, unselfish and rendered in the spirit of the true love of Christ. Only thus may we grow in godly attributes.” Yes, you read that correctly, only through hard work, rendered with a Christlike attitude, will we be able to develop godly attributes.

So what happens to us if we receive help from the Church, but don’t have to work for it? Would it really be all that bad just to accept the help and move on? Is it really all that bad for us to just receive the help without having to work for it? This is what President Benson says:

When meaningful jobs are not provided, when people are not encouraged to work, a demoralizing Church dole would develop, and the purpose for which the welfare program was established would be undermined. It is a law of heaven, and one we haven’t learned fully here on earth, that you cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they can do, and should do, for themselves.

On the subject of being able to take care of ourselves, and do for ourselves, think about this - how long do you think the local store supplies will last if something happens to interrupt our highway and transportation systems? There will be a run on the stores, and the shelves will be empty inside of a couple of hours. Are we prepared for such emergencies? They are coming. Have we followed the counsel of the prophets and supplied ourselves in every way possible to be able to feed our families if we get laid off or we are not able to go to the stores to get more food?

Have we lived frugally enough so as to set aside a small supply of money in case we lose our job and have to pay our own way while we look for work? Have we made the effort to learn how to preserve our own food in our homes? This is more difficult to do in the cities than it is in the smaller towns where people have large gardens and fields of food, but the requirement is no different from one house to another. We will all need to eat in the event of an emergency. Ask yourself, “What has my family done to be prepared?”

One last quote on our need to become more self-reliant:

We encourage you to be more self-reliant so that, as the Lord has declared, “notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, … the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world” (D&C 78:14). The Lord wants us to be independent and self-reliant because these will be days of tribulation. He has warned and forewarned us of the eventuality. …

… The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah. …

The same principles that apply to having a reserve of food to live off of applies to having enough money set aside to live off of. Are these just physical needs? Of course they are not. When we have the ability to care for ourselves we are free to think of more important things, like the spiritual welfare of our souls. If we are starving or destitute it is difficult to think of anything beyond where we will get our next meal or where we will lay our heads for a night’s rest.

As we prepare ourselves to be independent of any other entity under heaven, we free ourselves in ways that we currently do not understand, but we will when the trials come and we need to help our neighbors who did not prepare for the inevitable. I will close this lesson study article with this quote from President Benson.

Be faithful, my brothers and sisters, to this counsel and you will be blessed—yes, the most blessed people in all the earth. You are good people. I know that. But all of us need to be better than we are. Let us be in a position so we are able to not only feed ourselves through the home production and storage, but others as well.

May God bless us to be prepared for the days which lie ahead, which may be the most severe yet.

Read More of President Benson's teachings here.

Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.

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