A Life of Gospel Labor: Elder Glen L. Rudd, “Mr. Welfare,” Retires
By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
Hanging prominently in Elder Glen L. Rudd’s Millcreek, Utah, home is an aging photo of a burly workhorse harnessed and pulling a heavy load. The animal in the black-and-white image dips its head low and has almost four hooves off the ground as it lunges forward in a moment of great exertion.
The photo was originally owned by Elder Matthew Cowley, the late Apostle and Elder Rudd’s mission president and dear friend. It was given to Elder Rudd as a gift and remains an apt symbol of its current owner, whose life has been defined by gospel work and effort to better the temporal and spiritual welfare of others.
Earlier this month, the 95-year-old boxed up his effects and walked for a final time from his office in the Church Office Building. In a Church News interview on December 11, Elder Rudd admitted he was not enjoying the first few days of his retirement.
“I was born to work, and I’ve never had a day without a job,” said the emeritus Seventy and the Church’s so-called “Mr. Welfare.” “I’ve never been unemployed,” he said. “This has been the hardest week of my life.”
Elder Rudd tells visitors to his home that he can no longer sprint up the basement stairs with a child on his shoulders—but his mind and memory remain active and quick. His eyes brighten when he speaks of meeting Harold B. Lee for the first time as a young boy. The future Church President was serving as young Glen Rudd’s stake president in Salt Lake City. The two would become close friends and colleagues in the development of the Church’s welfare program.
“President Lee treated me like a son,” said Elder Rudd.
Born in 1918 to Charles and Gladys Harman Rudd, Elder Glen Rudd inherited his father’s work ethic. His boyhood was spent in a region of Salt Lake City that had been devastated by the economic troubles of the day. “When the Great Depression hit,” he said, “it hit our Pioneer Stake hard.”
Under the wise direction of President Lee, the Pioneer Stake built a storehouse in 1932 and began collecting food and clothing to be distributed to those in need. The Rudds were in the poultry business and donated thousands of pounds of chicken to the storehouse. Young Glen learned early the importance of provident living and caring for those battling tough times. The opening of the Pioneer Stake storehouse predated the formal organization of the Church’s Welfare Department by four years.
In 1938 he answered a mission call to New Zealand, where he served as secretary and traveling companion to President Matthew Cowley, who would later be called to the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Rudd returned home, married Marva Sperry and started a family, attended the University of Utah, and returned to the family poultry business.
Then two events occurred that carved the path Elder Rudd would follow for the rest of his life.
First, at the age of 25, he was called to serve as bishop of his Salt Lake City ward. In that shepherding role, Elder Rudd learned to care for widows, mentor young people, and look out for families in spiritual or financial crisis. (A few years later his friend and rival on the stake softball diamond, 22-year-old Thomas S. Monson, was called to serve as a fellow bishop in the Pioneer Stake.) That ecclesiastical assignment was the first of many leadership callings Elder Rudd would faithfully fulfill. He later presided over missions in Florida, New Zealand, and Texas and served as the president of the New Zealand Temple. He would serve for six years as a Regional Representative before being called to the Seventy in 1987.
And second, in 1953 he was called into the office of Elder Lee, who was serving in the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Lee issued Brother Rudd a “call” to full-time Church employment as the manager of Welfare Square. The job did not pay a great deal of money, he said, “but when Brother Lee spoke I jumped.”
Elder Rudd’s contribution to the Church’s welfare program was not limited to Welfare Square. He would serve 35 years on the Church’s General Welfare Committee and on the General Church Missionary Committee. Along the way, he became one of the Church’s preeminent authorities on welfare. In a 2007 personal letter, President Gordon B. Hinckley noted, “No one knows the history of the welfare program more thoroughly than do you.”
In 1992 the First Presidency asked Elder Rudd to chronicle the history of the Church welfare. His subsequent book, Pure Religion, the Story of Church Welfare Since 1930, continues to be read across the globe.
Elder Rudd said his connection to Church welfare has blessed him with the association of special friends and mentors such as President Monson, President Lee, Elder Cowley, and dozens of other General Authorities. His assignments would also take him across the world to some 900 stake, regional, and area conferences.
Now Elder and Sister Rudd look forward to spending time with their eight children, 41 grandchildren, and 70 great-grandchildren. But if the Brethren again require his services, said Elder Rudd with a smile, “they know where to find me.”