It seems a worthy topic for a Labor Day weekend, when the national unemployment numbers took another upward tick last week.
In our voluntary assignment at the Employment Resource Center, we see again and again the principles of pure religion playing out in welfare service in 2010.
The earliest foundations of the Welfare Plan of the Church were laid in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression. Harold B. Lee, a young stake president (age 32 when he was called) in the Pioneer Stake, is often credited with the earliest experiments to help his unemployed adult male population. But there was never any doubt in his mind where the inspiration came from to create the Welfare Plan.
In his journal, under date of April 20, 1935, Harold B. Lee records:
"I was called into the office of the First Presidency, where with President Heber J. Grant and President David O. McKay (President Clark then being in the East, but they had had some communications with him so that all members of the Presidency were in agreement) I discussed the relief situation in the Church and various methods of handling the same. President Grant said he wanted to take a 'leaf out of Pioneer Stake's book' in caring for the people of the Church. He expressed dissatisfaction with the then existent program of social service investigations. He said that there was nothing more important for the Church to do than to take care of its needy people and that so far as he was concerned, every thing else must be sacrificed [so that] proper relief [could be] extended to our people. I was astounded to learn that for years there had been before them, as a result of their thinking and planning and as a result of the inspiration of Almighty God, the genius of the very plan that was waiting and in preparation for a time when, in their judgment, the faith of the Latter-day Saints was such that they were willing to follow the counsel of the men who lead and preside in this Church. My humble place in this program at that time was described."
Many years later, when he himself was President of the Church in 1972, Harold B. Lee described what happened to him after that meeting by quoting further from his journal to the assembled General Priesthood meeting:
"I left the First Presidency's Office about noontime with an assignment to work out a program of relief for the entire Church based upon my experience with the relief problem in the Pioneer Stake, where perhaps the greatest problem of unemployment in the entire Church was to be found.
"Almost in a daze with the magnitude of this assignment over powering me, I drove my car up to the head of City Creek Canyon into what was then called Rotary Park, where I could meditate and determine upon a course that would realize the objective that had been set for me by the Presidency. After I had driven my car as far as I could, I got out and walked up through the trees. seeking a secluded spot, where I knelt in prayer and sought the guidance of an all-wise God in this mighty undertaking. I told the Lord to guide me to conclusions dictated by his will, and that, for the safety and blessing of his people, I must have his direction. "As I kneeled down, my petition was: 'What kind of an organization should be set up in order to accomplish what the Presidency has assigned?'
"Having sought my Heavenly Father, I sat down to pore over this matter, wondering about an organization to be perfected to carry on this work. There came to me on that glorious spring afternoon one of the most heavenly realizations of the power of the priesthood of God, that God had already revealed the greatest organization that could ever be given to mankind and that all that was needed now was that that organization be set to work. It was as though some thing were saying to me: 'There is no new organization necessary to take care of the needs of this people. All that is necessary is to put the priesthood of God to work. There is nothing else that you need as a substitute, and if you use it the temporal welfare of the Latter-day Saints will be safeguarded.'"
If you are not reminded of those simple beginnings, you may be oblivious to the fulfillment going on around you today. The priesthood of God is fully engaged. The leadership of the Church has given the direction in our day about what we should be doing. As never before, we are living in a volunteer Church. We are serving one another, loving one another as we never have to answer the extremities in which we find ourselves financially and economically. There are no government programs needed today, just as there were none needed in the 1930s when the Welfare Plan was launched.
Some of the "founding fathers" who were on the scene attest to its divine origins through the First Presidency of the Church at the time, Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark and David O. McKay:
"With the inspiration of this movement attested to by such witnesses as coming from divine sources, any Latter-day Saint who believes in the principle of continuous revelation cannot fail to heed the call of the prophets 'to set up a system where the evils of the dole will be abolished and where independence, thrift, industry, and self-respect can again be established among our people.'" (Heber J. Grant, October, 1936; "Church Security" by Harold B. Lee, as quoted in The Church Welfare Plan, by Henry D. Taylor, 37).
"I never heard President Grant say that he had seen the Master, that he had seen the Father, or that he had heard a voice about the welfare plan. But that does not mean that he did not have a revelation. . .
"But there is still another way in which revelation comes, and that way is through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost. . . Now I say unto you, that that kind of revelation, revelation of the Holy Ghost, did come to President Grant. Not only in this case, but in others. And through that revelation, inspiration if you wish to call it, from the Holy Ghost, President Grant launched this great welfare plan." (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., in an address to the Central Utah Welfare Regional Meeting at Brigham Young University, August 3, 1951).
"I believe I have heard almost all the objections which have been raised against it, and also the labored arguments in justification for not living it. As I have listened to these objections and arguments, I have been painfully aware of the dull spirit in which they have been urged. . . I believe I have made a rather complete study and I now testify to you that I do know beyond any doubt, by the same power that Peter knew that Jesus is the Christ, that the Church Welfare Plan in its inception was and now is inspired of the Lord; and that the great principles implemented by it are eternal truths, which the saints of God must abide if they are to purify and perfect themselves as the Lord has commanded." (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, October 1945, 156).
Today, we are eyewitnesses of the law of consecration in action, as originally envisioned.
In 2010, there are still some misguided ideas about how things work in the Church's Welfare Plan. Whether you are unemployed yourself or you know someone who is, here are four simple ideas to assist you:
1. The Employment Resource Center teaches self-reliance in the job search.
I am still surprised when people call me or e-mail me because they've heard I'm the guy with jobs at the Church. They want me to hook them up with a job, tell them where to go to find it, and introduce them to all the people I know who are hiring. I wish it were that easy and sometimes I wish it were true that I know all those people, but it isn't quite that simple. Instead, the Church has prepared a marvelous resource called the Profession Career Workshop, a two-day revelatory experience designed to reveal the job seeker's skills and strengths to themselves. Introspection, self-examination, and personal revelation are the key elements of the workshop. Remember, no law the Lord has given is temporal, not even the job search: "Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created. Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual." (D&C 29:34-35). For non-professionals without college degrees, the Career Workshop is likewise outlined in the same way with similar principles but different applications. The job seeker is shown tools to develop power statements, resumes, and cutting-edge suggestions about how to find a job in today's unadvertised job market. It is powerful and it works, but it is powerful because it reignites the job seeker in his own individual search, not because it hands them a job without effort on their part.
2. Network or don't work.
The Church provides the forum for a weekly association with other job seekers. When I first attended, it resembled what seemed to me to be an AA meeting, everyone standing momentarily and giving something called "Me in 30 Seconds," and I was first amused, then engaged by it, then fully immersed in helping others around me connect with resources I knew with whom I was connecting them. There is something very counter-intuitive about networking with people out of work to find work. But a room full of out-of-work people who are seeking employment and having interviews on a regular basis is a very fertile field, it turns out, because they know people with whom they have networked and interviewed who know people who know others who know people who are hiring. It may be counter-intuitive, but it works, and we provide that opportunity weekly on Monday morings at 8:00 a.m. at the LDS Business College for unemployed professionals who are serious about their job search. Ours is only one of many networking meetings across the Wasatch Front from Logan to St. George on every day of the week in other centers. There are 322 Employment Resource Centers worldwide doing the same things. Find a meeting near you at the local Employment Resource Center, and learn for yourselves the power of networking into your next job.
3. Support each other in your ward.
Find out what services or products are being sold by others in your own wards. Buy from those people you know in your wards and stakes. If you are remodeling your home or building out your basement, look for people you can employ in your own neighborhood, rather than getting bids from strangers. If your car needs repairs, turn to a mechanic in the ward. Support each other, and sustain those who are either underemployed or unemployed. It's always astounding to me how we come together each week on Sunday in a three-hour block of religious meetings, but few of us know the occupations of our ward members. We know them only on a superficial level of Brother or Sister so-and-so. Do you know what everyone does for a living in your ward? Have you asked them for their help? Or are you still suffering under the worn-out stigma that unemployment is a condition akin to adultery and unemployed people must have some kind of sickness or illness that is taboo and should to be avoided like one who has leprosy? It was King Benjamin who offered valuable insight: Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just — But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? (Mosiah 4:17-19).
4. Bear one another's burdens.
A week ago in our ward, Patsy and I presented a fifth-Sunday combined priesthood and Relief Society lesson about our mission and what we are doing to assist others find work. I asked for a show of hands at the end in response to the question, "How many of you have family members who have lost their employment in the last two years?" Nearly every hand in the audience went up. This week several told me they have encouraged others in their family to contact me and learn more. That's good. It's exactly how it happened for me last year. I told our ward members to go to http://www.ldsjobs.org/ and pass that website along to everyone they know who is looking for work, whether a member of the Church or not. We are in an economic debacle right now that is NOT the fault of those who have been affected by its ravages. Companies in survival mode have been laying off people routinely. I have met many who are in their late 50s or early 60s who are out of work for the first time in their lives. Company layoff decisions are not always fair. In fact, they are rarely fair, since there is no such thing as "fair" in this life. Several senior executives I have met have years of experience, but they represented high-priced salaries on the balance sheet that had to be jetisoned so their companies could survive. Their jobs were eliminated to cut costs, in some cases only months within full vesting in their retirement pensions, and to say it was their "fault" for losing their jobs is grossly inaccurate. As I have said before, sometimes there are no good answers to the "Why?" questions. Some things just happen. Instead of judging another's circumstances harshly in today's economy, we need to seek ways to bear one another's burdens. Often all that is needed is a kind word, a friendly smile, and an accepting heart filled with encouragement and love unfeigned.
The Apostle Paul admonished, “By love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13). Recall with me the familiar words of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17).
The Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24).
I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish — and in effect save their lives. (President Thomas S. Monson, “What Have I Done for Someone Today?,” Ensign, November 2009, 84–87).
We are living in a day, perhaps as never before, when the law of consecration is very much in evidence, at least in the circles in which I travel. I saw a young man the other day at our networking meeting who was engaging several of the participants with names and contact information of people he knew they should be talking to. Two of our employers, recent graduates of the program, were there as recruiters for the companies they represent now.
The ripples in the pond of helping and sustaining one another in consecrated service are widening.
We are still seeing new people at our meetings who have never been there before. Each week we greet about twenty-five or thirty new participants who have heard about what we do through word of mouth principally, sometimes from bishops, ward employment specialists, or friends who have come and then told them about it. In each case, it takes extraordinary faith and courage to show up bright and early on Monday morning dressed in a shirt and tie or Sunday bandbox best for the women. They are conducting their job search with faith and diligence, following the prescribed path the leaders of the Church have felt inspired to set forward for our day and time. There is one pragmatic and proven reason: It works!
We often see people who are not of our faith who come nevertheless because they have been assured they will find what they are looking for, and without cost to them. About half the people who found employment through applying the program to their job search were not members of our Church last year. While the unemployment numbers are still high nationwide, we are blessed here in Utah, as I have said before. Our unemployment numbers are lower than the national average, and there are ample opportunities for those who are willing to put in the work to find the work they are seeking.
There are many in our program who voluntarily assist the job seeker, folks who themselves are looking for work. The authenticity of the program is in clear evidence to those who come. These are seasoned professionals who know whereof they speak because they are in the thick of it shoulder to shoulder with those they serve.
Please take note: These simple suggestions from prophets are in stark contrast to the TRILLIONS of dollars being squandered in Washington D.C. today. The problem with having prophets among us is they are too simplistic, too humble, too true.
Only a conniving politician would attempt to give a convoluted and contorted explanation as the justification for the plethora of spending bills we are told are absolutely essential to our economic survival. BIGGER AND BIGGER GOVERNMENT BORROWING TRILLIONS IS NOT THE ANSWER.
But a living prophet, like his predecessors, has the antidote. He says, "Go find somebody to serve."
It's just way too simple. I am a witness, however, that simple is good. . . and it works.