Welfare Work: Restricted Only by Our Vision, Understanding, and Inspiration


This edited text is from a talk given by Elder Monson on 6 April 1984 at the Friday evening leadership meeting associated with April general conference.

With the reduction of many stake welfare production projects to meet our goal of producing only commodities used in the welfare program, there is some concern that perhaps there will be fewer opportunities for the priesthood to engage in welfare-related activities.

Welfare is not restricted to a farm. Welfare is restricted only by our vision, our understanding, and our inspiration. Let me illustrate.

One evening years ago when I was a young bishop, as I went visiting members of the ward, I saw a wonderful, retired high priest out in a snowstorm with a little pail, trying to obtain a few lumps of coal from his uncovered coal pile. I helped him fill the bucket, and then we took it inside and attempted to start a fire in the stove of that cold house.

I said, “John, how long have you had wet coal?” He replied, “Bishop, I’ve never had dry coal in the winter.”

That worried me. Later in the evening, as I pondered and meditated, I thought of another member of our ward who was temporarily unemployed—a carpenter who had a furnace that needed coal slack. He was very reluctant to ask for help from the welfare program and didn’t do it even when in need.

Suddenly the pieces came together. I telephoned him and said, “Reeves, we need you to build a coal house, but I won’t let you do it unless you permit me to deliver four tons of slack to your house from the Deseret Coal Mine.”

He said, “Well, if you put it that way, I’ll do it.”

I then telephoned a friend in the lumber business, who was not a member of the Church, and I said, “George, how would you like to paint a bright spot on your soul? I’d like you to contribute some tongue and groove flooring and some two-by-fours so that we can build a coal shed for a man and woman who need it.”

He said, “You’re a good customer; we’ll do it.”

The coal shed was built and painted. It was a handsome shed, and the next month when I went visiting, my friend John, seventy-five years of age, couldn’t wait to take me out to see it. He ran his old Scottish hand along the doorway and said, “Bishop, it’s the finest coal shed a man ever had.”

Brethren, could priesthood quorum brotherhood have seen—and solved—the same need? I think so. May I say it again: Welfare is not restricted to a farm—or a bishop. Welfare is restricted only by our vision, our understanding, and our inspiration.

My second illustration concerns a little red house on Gale Street. A widow lived there with three invalid daughters, each weighing about two hundred pounds and confined to a wheelchair. The house was in terrible shape. It had no wallpaper and no painted woodwork. The only appliance they had was a coal stove, used to heat water for bathing the girls and to cook food for the family.

The priesthood went into action in that home. They put new floor coverings on the floor, repapered the walls, painted the woodwork, and installed a water heater and an electric stove. They added some fixtures in the bathroom to make it easier for the widowed mother to care for those three invalid daughters. I was with the brethren the evening it was finished. I watched them, weary with work, wet with perspiration, but overjoyed to think that they had been able to help the widow in her affliction and the fatherless children in their dire need.

The spirit of the gospel is service. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,” the Savior said, “ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.)

I believe the stirring words of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, can apply to our welfare efforts: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22.)

May this be our motto with respect to our involvement in helping others in all our welfare work.