The Church Employment System


The Church Employment System

Bishop H. Burke Peterson

Brother and sisters, we have been reminded once again of the importance of wisely preparing our families for life’s challenges. Bishop Brown has outlined for us some important points—some of the elements of family preparedness and Church preparedness. I would like to discuss with you the Church employment system, which is just one part of Church preparedness. May I emphasize that we shall review familiar ideas this morning. This is not new, but it does need strong reemphasis.

Earning our own way and sustaining ourselves has been the way of life since Adam and Eve were instructed as they left the Garden of Eden, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” (Gen. 3:19.)

You and I as parents and leaders have a God-given opportunity to teach our children this great eternal principle. Along with the principle of honest and honorable work is the principle of self-reliance—not stubborn, arrogant independence, but humble yet strong self-respect and personal responsibility for ourselves.

Now, while much of the responsibility for teaching these correct principles rests with the quorums of the priesthood, the primary responsibility for caring for ourselves rests with each of us and our families. We who are Welfare Services workers must never forget that our primary objective and the work of the priesthood is to help people to help themselves.

When a ward member becomes unemployed or when he is underemployed, it is his responsibility to find new employment. Obviously, he will need to be taught and encouraged how to do this by his priesthood leaders. Many do not know the steps to take in finding or improving their employment situation and will need the help of their quorum leaders. The individual needs to search intelligently and persistently by reviewing job listings in newspapers, by visiting employment centers, by sending out resumés, by contacting relatives and friends, and by using whatever other honorable means may be available.

As a member seeks employment, he should appropriately call on the resources of his entire family. This would include brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents—everyone. What a tremendous opportunity for strengthening the bonds of family relationships as the family rallies to help one of their own! A strong, sustaining influence can be given during these discouraging times by family members who exhibit genuine and active concern for each other.

There are times when neither an individual nor his family is able to do all that is necessary to find employment. In this case, the Church employment system should be ready to help the member work out his problem. Very simply stated, the purpose of the employment system is to help qualified individuals find appropriate job opportunities as quickly as possible—or in even simpler terms, to get the right person in the right spot at the right time—usually the sooner the better!

There are four parts of the employment system I would like to mention this morning. First and foremost, the priesthood quorum; second, the ward welfare services committee and appropriate resource people; third, a stake employment resource person; and fourth, a Church Employment Center. Let me emphasize once again that these components come into play only after an individual and his family, with proper training by priesthood leaders and home teachers, have done what they can to solve the problem.

The priesthood quorum is the key to the success of the whole employment program—not the paper quorum on a theoretical chart, but a group of men, active in behalf and support of one of their brothers. Quoting from the Welfare Services Handbook: “Quorum leaders and home teachers should watch for signs of impending economic trouble such as excessive spending, business decline, inadequate education for the present or future employment situation, and other indications of potential economic stress.” (Welfare Services Handbook, p. 14.) They should constantly be on guard to help their assigned families when these types of circumstances appear.

When a home teacher observes a need for employment or upgrading employment, this could be reported immediately and confidentially to the quorum president or group leader. In the quorum meeting, a very simple but effective way for quorum leaders to gather specific information is to label two columns on the silent roll each Sunday—one labeled “Do you know anyone who needs a job?” and the other, “Do you know of any job openings?” Whenever a home teacher or quorum member marks “yes” to either question, the quorum secretary should make sure the quorum leader receives the information that same day. The quorum leader should immediately contact the individual who reported the information for more specific details. Employment opportunities and needs are perishable commodities. Many may not survive longer than twenty-four or forty-eight hours.

The handbook further instructs us that quorums “should assist in job retraining or vocational upgrading by recommending trade schools, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training as needed. … The collective knowledge, skills, and efforts of the quorum will usually contribute to the solution of an economic problem.” (Welfare Services Handbook, p. 14.)

When the quorum alone cannot help the member resolve his employment problem, the quorum leader and the member should then take the problem to the next step in the employment system. This is called the ward welfare services committee. If possible, the quorum leader should also come prepared with a recommended solution.

The welfare services committee’s duty is to rapidly assess any job openings they know of. In many instances, the ward committee may recommend to the priesthood leader that the member with employment needs be referred to an employment resource person in the ward. Every ward in the Church should have at least one employment resource person to assist members with employment problems. If possible, this resource person should already have basic skills in areas relating to employment and should be available to work directly with individual members whenever assigned by the welfare services committee. If he does not have these skills, he should be trained either in the ward or the stake.

We have received many encouraging reports from wards that are using employment resource people. Working through priesthood leaders and home teachers, an employment resource person may assist teenagers as well as their parents in ways to prepare themselves and steps to take in developing marketable skills we all must possess. Visiting Relief Society teachers need to be alert to the employment problems of families they visit and will immediately report them to the ward Relief Society president, who in turn will bring the matter to the welfare services committee meeting or to the bishop, as the urgency of the circumstances indicate.

When ward priesthood leaders feel that additional help is needed, they turn to the third component of the employment system—a stake employment resource person who is identified by the stake presidency to supplement the work of the ward resource people and to work with employment problems and opportunities that cannot be resolved within a single ward. The stake’s process, of course, is similar to the ward’s.

We would hope, brothers and sisters, that every ward and every stake would become involved in these three aspects of the employment system: first, the priesthood quorum and the Relief Society doing all they can to help their members; second, the ward welfare services committee, assisted by employment resource people, helping where they are needed; and third, stake employment resource people assisting when they are called upon.

Finally, there is a fourth part of the employment system which is now available in areas where employment needs justify it. This is the Church Employment Center. Because of the training and full-time responsibility of the managers, Church Employment Centers are able to provide a listing of as many job opportunities as possible, match an individual’s abilities to job requirements, and provide counseling concerning the person’s vocational abilities, educational opportunities, and available financial aids. This applies equally to women who must support themselves and their families. Stake and ward priesthood leaders, and especially the resource people who work under their direction, should be thoroughly familiar with the services provided by an employment center if one is available locally.

If any of you priesthood leaders here this morning do not have access to an employment center, but feel the need for one, or if you simply want to have more information, please have your stake president contact the Personal Welfare Services Department here at Church headquarters.

Now, brothers and sisters, we challenge you to return to your people and make this employment program work. If you do, it has the capacity of blessing the lives of the Saints of all ages. Specifically, you can begin right now—

  1. 1.

    Through the priesthood leaders, home teachers and visiting teachers, to teach individuals and families to be self-sufficient, and teach them how to solve their own problems to the extent possible;

  2. 2.

    To have your representatives, the home teachers and visiting teachers, be constantly on the alert to observe and report employment needs;

  3. 3.

    To identify qualified employment resource people in every ward and every stake;

  4. 4.

    To use the Church Employment Centers where available.

In conclusion, may I remind us all that a successful employment effort is based upon eternal principles put into action by people helping people.

Many years ago, the Church established a very special type of employment opportunity that is still in operation today. I remember as a boy coming to Salt Lake City on occasion from our home in Phoenix, Arizona, to visit my grandparents. My grandfather, who was well into his eighties, was proud to invite us down to his place of employment. It was the old Deseret Industries in Sugarhouse. I was thrilled as I visited him and saw this patriarch of the Peterson family remain useful, productive, and happy until the time of his death because of one of the employment programs of the Church. It was from this good man that my father learned the nobility of work, which became one of his greatest gifts to his own posterity.

The children of God will never need be ashamed of honorable employment experiences.

May we be blessed to teach these principles, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.