One of the most interesting opportunities I have had since becoming a member of the Presiding Bishopric has been to work with the Welfare Services program of the Church. This program was established in 1936, when Heber J. Grant was president of the Church, and has now grown to include many different areas of our lives.
Most of you already know that Welfare Services involves taking care of the poor and needy and helping those who don’t have as much as we have in our homes. Perhaps you have been able to visit one of our church farms with your family and work on a service project there.
I know of one family who took their children to a welfare farm in the Salt Lake valley. The three-, ten-, and eleven-year-old children were given the opportunity of pulling weeds in a sugar beet field with their father. As the work became harder, the ten-year-old girl suddenly stopped, turned to her father, and asked, “Why are we doing this, Dad?”
He explained that all the work they were doing was helping the sugar beets grow. After the beets were grown, harvested, and processed, the sugar would be taken to the Bishops Central Storehouse. The processed sugar, along with all the other different kinds of food from welfare farms throughout the Church, would be put into bishops storehouses for those members of the Church who don’t have enough money to buy the food they need.
The Welfare Services program, however, involves more than this. It means learning and planning how to help ourselves and our families in many areas.
More than a hundred years ago President Brigham Young counseled mothers and fathers in the Church this way:
“If the little girls want dolls, shall they have them? Yes. But must they be taken to the dressmaker’s to be dressed? No. Let the girls learn to cut and sew the clothing for their dolls, and in a few years they will know how to make a dress for themselves and others. Let the little boys have tools, and let them make their sleds, little wagons, etc., and when they grow up, they are acquainted with the use of tools and can build a carriage, a house, or anything else.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 210.)
Young friends, it is as necessary now as it was then that girls and boys learn how to make things. The time to learn the skills needed when we grow older is while we are young. You girls and boys should learn today how to cook and sew and build. You can have fun while you learn and at the same time help your families.
Our prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball, has suggested other ways in which we can help ourselves and others. He has asked every family in the Church to store a year’s supply of food and clothing. He has also asked every family to raise a garden.
One family in Virginia with eight small children had a large garden where each child had his own row of plants to tend. While he learned how to take care of his part of the garden, the whole family was helped.
Two boys in another family were in charge of keeping a list of all the food the family had stored. They were also charged with the important job of checking their food supply and letting their parents know when any items needed replacing.
Whether you take care of a garden, keep a record of foods stored, sew clothes, cook, build, or contribute any other useful skill, the more things you know and do, the more you can help your family. How exciting it is to grow and to learn skills that will help you be good mothers and fathers someday!
These are just a few ways in which young people can be a part of the Church’s Welfare Services program. As you learn and help your families and serve your neighbors and friends, you will find great happiness, and our Heavenly Father will bless you for your faithfulness. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; … nevertheless, … The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. … Wherefore, do the things which I have commanded you. …” (D&C 78:17–18, 20.)