Throughout the history of the restored Church, Latter-day Saints have sought to live the principles of welfare and humanitarian service.
Latter-day Saint practices in helping others are grounded in the teachings and example of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Inasmuch as you impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me,” He has said (D&C 42:31).
In announcing the welfare program of 1936, the First Presidency said, “Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3).
When President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, was a young bishop in a Salt Lake City ward with an unusually high number of widows, he spoke with President J. Reuben Clark, who had been a principal architect of the welfare program. Knowing that President Monson was a newly appointed bishop, President Clark emphasized the need for the bishop to know his people, to understand their circumstances, and to minister to their needs. Then President Clark recounted the story recorded in the Gospel of Luke wherein the Savior raised from the dead the son of the widow of Nain (see Luke 7:11–17).
President Monson tenderly recounts what happened next: “When President Clark closed the Bible, I noticed that he was weeping. In a quiet voice, he said, ‘Tom, be kind to the widow and look after the poor” (“A Provident Plan—A Precious Promise,” Ensign, May 1986, 62).
Shown are images from a Museum of Church History and Art exhibit that traced the history of various Church programs designed to provide for those in need and to teach us to become self-reliant.
Administer to Their Relief
“Now for a man to consecrate his property … to the Lord, is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and fatherless, the sick and afflicted, and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for him and his house to serve the Lord.” Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 127.
[photos] The stove at the left of this picture was used by Clara Spencer of Kanab, Utah, a widowed mother of eight, to provide for the needs of her family. Latter-day Saints know there is dignity in work and view it as a blessing. Above inset: As this photograph from the 1890s shows, when deacons collected fast offerings, some used wagons as they gathered commodities for the needy.
[photos] Top: This sewing machine was used for 53 years by Rachel Ivins Grant, mother of President Heber J. Grant, to support her family after her husband died. President Grant remembers how he sat underneath the sewing machine as a boy and ran the pedal for his mother when she was too tired to keep it going herself. Above: Labels are glued onto cans as they roll through this machine and come out the other end ready for boxing.
[illustration] Upper right: This painting of Latter-day Saints baking apple pies on a work project captures the spirit of welfare work as all work together for the common good. (Painting by Earl Jones.)
[photos] Above: These products represent the large variety of food and household items the Church has provided to those in need over the years. The baseball caps belonged to Ralph Taylor of the Salt Lake Pioneer Stake, who wore them during the 50 years he volunteered at the dairy. Bottom: In the fall of 1939, Deseret Industries began using trucks like this to transport goods.
[photos] Above: One Sunday each month, while a World War II prisoner of war, Dutch Latter-day Saint Pieter Vlam and those who shared his beliefs went without two meals and shared some of their rations (above left) with other members of the camp.
[photos] Left: Dutch farms were destroyed during World War II by German armies. After the war, when Dutch Latter-day Saints began to grow enough food for their own use, the Church requested that they send potatoes and herring to German members living in worse conditions. This required the Dutch to put aside their feelings of hurt and injury and to think about those with whom they had been at war. Below left: Not all help is institutional. Individuals such as Dr. Emanuel Kissi of Accra, Ghana, make a difference with projects they start. Below: Each year more than 60 million refugees flee from political violence or natural disasters. Emergency relief blankets made by the Church are sent worldwide. Because their wool fibers have been boiled and are tightly compacted together, the blankets provide great warmth.
[photos] The gardening clothes of President Spencer W. Kimball’s wife, Camilla (top left), and the painting of a family working in their garden (top right) remind us that gardening helps us become self-reliant. Above: Some of the clothes donated to Deseret Industries are bundled and sent to others in need worldwide. Right: This pump was developed by the Andean Children’s Foundation in conjunction with the Church’s Humanitarian Services. Inexpensive pumps like this are now in operation high in the Andes, providing precious water for many families. Far right: A few of the many Deseret brand products packaged over the years for use by those in need.
[photos] Photography by Craig Dimond