Friday, September 10, was a memorable day for Church leaders and members in the Ogden, Utah, area. United States President Ronald Reagan visited the northern Utah Ogden Area Welfare Services Center in Ogden and spoke to thousands in nearby Hooper, Utah.
“Today we are returning to the principle of that cannery,” President Reagan told members and others following the tour of the Ogden center, “and that is the principle of reward for honest toil, living within our means—and paying heed to the spiritual values that have always been the inner strength of America.”
The chief executive’s tour began with a visit to the cannery at the Ogden center, where he was greeted by President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency who guided him throughout the complex. They were accompanied by Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve and Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown.
At the cannery, President Reagan saw tomatoes being canned by 37 volunteer Church members from the Pleasant View Utah Stake. He then toured the milk processing plant and storehouse.
In the storehouse, he saw in action one of the major principles of the Church’s welfare plan. Volunteers and recipients worked alongside each other sorting, peeling, and washing tomatoes.
Among the volunteers were a stake president, a rancher, a mechanic, a doctor, a dentist, an attorney, homemakers, and a bishop. Volunteers paused for a moment to shake hands with the chief executive. Outside, spectators braved heavy rain to applaud the president when he arrived and entered the Ogden complex, and to wave to him upon his departure some thirty minutes later. Names of the volunteer workers at the cannery had been cleared earlier by White House security.
From the many questions put to President Reagan by the several local reporters, photographers, and television crews, in addition to the White House press corps, the president responded enthusiastically to those about the Church’s welfare program.
As he was shown shelves filled with canned and packaged foods bearing the “Deseret” label, the president noted: “This is one of the great examples in America today of what we’ve been talking about—about what the people could do for themselves if they hadn’t been dragooned into believing that government was the only answer.”
To this praise, he added: “Here is an entire industry, as you can see. It is manned by volunteers, people from the Church. The foodstuffs that are here are raised by volunteers, picked by volunteers. They’re brought here. They’re canned. They’re put up in whatever packages are appropriate. And they’re used to distribute to those people who have real need here in the state of Utah and all over the country, for that matter—people from the Church. And you wonder why others haven’t thought of the same thing and been able to do this. …”
In response to a question on whether he had seen similar efforts elsewhere, the president said that he had “visited a similar institution as governor in Sacramento, California, doing much the same thing there, the same group.” He continued, “And in my home state of Illinois, they have a shoe factory that is manned by volunteers from the Church.”
A question on whether he thought such a system could help curtail inflation, and bring things back into the hands of the people, gave rise to this response from the national leader: “If more people had had this idea back when the Great Depression hit, there wouldn’t be any government welfare today or need for it.”
When asked if it was too late for that sort of effort now, President Reagan commented, “No. No. That’s why we have a Task Force headed by Bill Verity, the Private Initiatives Task Force—seeking ways in which the private sector, the people themselves, can meet some of these problems.”
Serving on this task force are three members of the Church: Elder Thomas S. Monson, Vice-chairman of the Church Welfare Executive Committee; Jeri J. Winger, a community development specialist at Utah State University; and George W. Romney, former governor of Michigan and head of the National Center for Citizen Involvement. The major purpose of the task force, organized in December 1981, is to encourage volunteer efforts and private charity in helping those in need.
Following the tour of the welfare complex, President Reagan traveled to a park in nearby Hooper, Utah, a farming community of 4,000, where he spoke to a large gathering.
Addressing some 17,000 rain-soaked citizens packed together in the park, the president continued his praise for the Church’s initiative in caring for its own members. “You know that I’ve talked for a long time about Americans doing for themselves, about the private initiative, about citizens’ groups doing so many things that government thinks only it can do. And I have just toured a cannery—part of the program of the Latter-day Saints for meeting the needs of their people when they have to have help.”
He then commented on the fact that volunteer Church members do everything necessary for growing, harvesting, preserving, and storing commodities for later distribution to people in need. He pointed out that those who make the welfare program possible also “work at the same time to help the needy among them become self-supportive,” caring for them until they are able to care for themselves.
In his concluding remarks about the welfare system of the Church, President Reagan stated enthusiastically: “It’s an idea that once characterized our nation. It’s an idea that should be reborn nation-wide. It holds the key to renewal of America in the years ahead.”
Following the president’s departure from the Hooper park, the national news media were hosted to a luncheon buffet at the nearby Church stake center, where they were served Deseret brand food. Attractive displays provided information on the source of each food served.
News organizations represented in the news corps included ABC-TV and ABC Radio, CBS-TV and CBS Radio, NBC-TV and NBC Radio, RKO Radio, Associated Press and AP Audio, Agence France Presse, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, London Daily Telegraph, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, New York Times, New York Daily News, Newsday, Time, United Press International and UPI Audio, US News & World Report, Voice of America, Washington Post, and Washington Times.
Earlier, in a private meeting, as the tour left the cannery and moved to the storehouse, Church officials presented President Reagan a miniature statuette from the Relief Society Monument to Women series.