Brothers and sisters, I am so thankful to be involved in the great welfare plan of the Church. I testify from the depths of my soul that this great movement was revealed by Almighty God to his latter-day prophets.
We have come a long way since the early days of welfare, but we have an enormous distance yet to travel. With the great expansion of missionary work throughout the earth, the ministering to temporal needs will likewise expand. To meet this magnificent challenge successfully, we must be wise and faithful stewards.
Modern scripture reminds us that all things belong to the Lord. He declared, “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine, … all these properties. …
“And if the properties are mine, then ye are stewards.” (D&C 104:14, 55–56.)
The lessons of stewardship are vividly taught in the parable of the talents (see Matt. 25:14–30). To be profitable servants, we must improve that which the Lord has entrusted to us. Stewards are managers, and sound management reduces waste and ensures an appropriate return on invested resources. How happy were the servants who could report to their lord that they had done all that was expected of them and were told, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matt. 25:21).
I believe there are three elements which characterize successful stewardship—agency, diligence, and accountability. We are free to accept or reject the invitation to serve, but once we accept, we assume full responsibility for the results. In section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read, “O ye that embark in the service of God [I see this as the invitation], see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2). And then, in section 72: “It is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity” (D&C 72:3). While we are ultimately accountable to the Lord, we are also accountable to his mortal priesthood administrators.
Let us now focus more specifically on how we may fulfill our stewardship responsibilities within the Storehouse Resource System:
First is the process of planning. Planning makes it possible to control and maximize our resources. Lack of proper planning results in frustration. Most of us have learned that trial-and-error management is wasteful and discouraging. So that eventually each area or zone will be self-sustaining, we are selectively introducing master planning throughout the Church. Welfare master planning is the process of identifying needs and programming resources to meet those needs. When the master plan is fully implemented, our bishops will be able to assist the needy more adequately under changing economic conditions.
Second, a good steward operates efficiently. Two years ago, President Kimball said:
“Let us become efficient in our production operations, so that we don’t merely go through the motions of having welfare farms. The time will come when we will need all the products and more from our projects—even more than we do now.
“Do what you can to make our projects economically viable, so that we don’t rationalize that the welfare project is good simply … for the priesthood to labor side by side; we can have the brotherhood of labor and the economic efficiency too.” (Ensign, May 1976, pp. 125–26.)
Addressing a welfare conference in 1960, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., counseled:
“It is my humble judgment today that it would be better for us never to have acquired a welfare project than to fail to take care of it now that we have it. The Lord will not hold us blameless, those of us who lead in the wards and the stakes, … if we take of the funds of the people, those sacred trust funds, and purchase projects and then do not utilize those projects as the Lord would have us.” (Welfare agricultural meeting, 4 Apr. 1960.)
It is a sobering responsibility to administer these sacred funds at Church headquarters. When we receive an application for a loan or Church participation, we review financial statements and projections very carefully. We critically assess the organizational structure, the management, and the local priesthood involvement with each project. The application forms tell us much about the quality of the stewards operating the project.
Third, let us improve our quality control. Good quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention and sincere effort. We commend you who are following the prescribed standards and procedures to assure that our storehouse commodities are pure and nutritional. President Kimball put quality control in perspective recently at the groundbreaking of a new cannery. He said, “[We should] be pleased to serve a meal of our products to the Lord, were it … our privilege to have him visit any one of our storehouses.” The phrase “good enough for welfare” must take on new meaning. Nothing less than our very best is acceptable to the Lord. The Deseret label should stand for highest quality because behind that label are the labors of love.
Whether in services or produced goods, by management or volunteer workers, quality control applies to every aspect of welfare services. The quality of commodities received into the storehouse is the final measurement of our production efficiency.
Fourth, closely associated with quality control is safety. I am glad to say that our safety record is improving, but there are still too many accidents occurring in some of our units. The cost in human terms is tragic. In dollars, in labor losses, and fire losses it totals several hundred thousand dollars each year.
We would like to remind you that the Church is primarily self-insuring. This means that when carelessness results in replaceable loss, we are forced to draw upon the sacred funds of the Church to restore that which has been damaged or lost. A handbook has been prepared to outline the safety procedures for all that is done in the Storehouse Resource System. Will you study its contents carefully and apply them consistently? Remember, most accidents are preventable.
Fifth, a good steward will follow preventive maintenance. He will see that every building is well constructed and annually inspected and that all equipment is regularly inspected and serviced. He will extend the life of every capital asset through wise management. I have a sign in my office which reads: “Why is there always enough time to do things over, but never enough time to do it right?” Preventive maintenance allows us to do it right the first time.
Sixth, a wise steward maintains good accounting records and follows sound financial practices. We are upgrading our accounting data system to provide you and us with better information. We appreciate your patience and assistance in implementing this new system. As you know, sound judgment depends upon effective data. We thank you who are accurately submitting your reports as requested.
With general Church participation in acquiring capital assets, it is incumbent that you manage prudently. We exhort you to seek participation only for equipment and other capital assets that are justifiably needed for successful production. The Lord’s trust in these matters should never be violated.
The business reputation of the Church must be held impeccable. All accounts payable should be remitted as agreed. Very often nonprofit organizations expect discounts on their purchases and then they’re dilatory in payment. Let it not be so with us. This applies to your promissory notes with the Church and your production commitments. These are sacred obligations and should be honored accordingly.
Now, brothers and sisters, so much remains to be done. May we follow the counsel and example of our leader, President Kimball. At the October welfare conference last year, he said: “May I urge you to go forward in this great work. So much depends upon our willingness to make up our minds collectively and individually, that present levels of performance are not acceptable, either to ourselves or the Lord.” (Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 79.)
To all who diligently labor, the Lord gives this promise: “And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life” (D&C 51:19).
My brothers and sisters, the Lord loves you for your devotion and untiring efforts. May he bless you as you continue to meet the great challenges before us today and tomorrow, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.