Latter-day Samaritans

N. Eldon Tanner


My dear brothers and sisters, I do not remember ever hearing such a splendid period of instruction in welfare work and welfare principles. We have heard the prophet of God emphasize the importance of this great work and encourage each and every one of us to become fully engaged in the programs. We have heard his call and must respond wholeheartedly. President Romney, the great authority on welfare and chairman of the Church Welfare Committee, has spoken to us and instructed all of us in our duties.

The General Welfare Committee of the Church is made up of the First Presidency of the Church, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Presiding Bishopric, and the presidency of the General Board of the Relief Society, and the secretary, Quinn Gardner—all of whom have been represented here this morning and have contributed greatly. I only hope that I have adequately caught the spirit of this session and may add something of value.

As President Kimball referred to the origins of the modern-day effort in welfare, my thoughts turned to the story of the Good Samaritan, as recorded in the tenth chapter of Luke. In this story the Savior taught perhaps his most stirring lesson on welfare in the meridian of time. I would like to read this incident and then trace with you its relevance to our present Welfare Services efforts.

“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

“He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

“And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

“And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

“But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

“And Jesus answering said, a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

“And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

“And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

“And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

“And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

“And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:25–37.)

How changed a world this would be if we were all to follow so fine an example of pure Christian love! Let us examine what really took place here.

First, the Samaritan “had compassion.” He had the urge to help, for he felt sympathetic to the wounded man’s problem. This kindly affection is brought forth in the heart of anyone who has been touched by the Spirit of the Lord. These empathetic feelings should be felt by each of us toward one another. Indeed, the Savior said that covenant Israel should be known and distinguished by the love they show one for the other. (See John 13:35.)

Second, the Samaritan “went to him.” He did not wait to be approached by the one in need, but rather perceived the need and stepped forth without being asked to do so. In that great hymn “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” (Hymns, no. 153), so loved by the Prophet Joseph, we sense that the high reward promised by the Savior came not just because acts of kindness were performed, but also because they were done spontaneously, consistently, and selflessly.

Third, the Samaritan “bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.” He provided medical attention and refreshed the sufferer’s thirst. This immediate relief may well have saved the man’s life.

Fourth, the Samaritan “set him on his own beast”—that is, he provided transportation and “brought him to an inn,” a place of rest and care. By providing this appropriate accommodation he ensured the proper conditions for healing to take place.

Fifth, the Samaritan “took care of him.” Notice that during the critical stages of healing, the Samaritan did not turn the care of the wounded man over to others, but sacrificed of his own time and energy to perform this healing service himself. In a time when it is so easy to leave things to someone else, it is important to have so powerful an example as this good Samaritan.

Sixth, the Samaritan “on the morrow … took out two pence, and gave them to the host.” He took of his own money, not someone else’s, and paid for the services he could not render himself. He thus consecrated of his means for the care of the poor and the needy.

Seventh, the Samaritan, needing to continue earning his own living, told the innkeeper to “take care of him.” In this way he enlisted others—resource persons—to help and to continue the care.

Eighth, the Samaritan then promised that “whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” Here the ultimate in compassion is shown! He puts no limit on the extent to which he will help. And, perhaps even more significant, he does not drop it there and forget it, but commits himself to return and ensure that all that could be done has been done.

This seems to be the consummate story of service. Inherent in it we find many if not all of the elements of our modern welfare plan. And while we as individuals cannot always fulfill these eight steps of relief by ourselves, we can, through the welfare system, accomplish all of this:

We can and should have compassion.

We can and should seek out those in need. The Lord expressly lays this charge on the bishops in the Eighty-fourth Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. (See D&C 84:104–5.)

We can and do provide medical services, food, housing, transportation, and related assistance.

We can and must give of ourselves personally as priesthood and Relief Society officers; as visiting and home teachers; as friends, parents, and loved ones.

We can and do pay our fast offerings as well as produce commodities, render professional service, and donate usable goods.

We can and do mobilize resources, as well as make ourselves available as resource persons. This is usually done through the Ward Welfare Services Committee spoken of earlier.

And finally, we can and must stay involved until the solution of the problem is found and resolution of the needs is accomplished. This is achieved when the individual in need can once again fully care for himself. It must be emphasized that we do not rely on some outside agency to show the compassion or perform the labor that we have covenanted to do.

Now, in order for us to be effective in this Welfare Services work, there are several basic things that must be done. May I suggest some of the primary Welfare Services priorities that each priesthood leader should pursue. In brief, they are:

  1. 1.

    Organize according to the pattern set forth in handbooks and as directed by your presiding priesthood officer. If we are not properly organized, our Welfare Services efforts are likely to be inconsistent and ineffective.

  2. 2.

    Learn our duty. Much material has been made available to help you understand your responsibilities and accountabilities. See to it that you do not lack in understanding of what and how you are to proceed in your assignment.

  3. 3.

    Hold regular, effective meetings following a meaningful agenda. In all of your meetings please make adequate provision for reports on assignments given; it’s the follow-through on decisions made in our priesthood councils that truly makes of us Good Samaritans. As was stressed last April, I want to give emphasis to the three crucial meetings that must be held if Welfare Services is to be carried forward as the Lord intended. These three are the weekly Ward Welfare Services Committee meeting, the monthly Stake Welfare Services Committee meeting, and the monthly Stake Bishops Council meeting. (See Ensign, May 1977, pp. 88–90.)

  4. 4.

    Teach Welfare Services principles and exemplify them in your own life. Make it a habit to read the report of these Welfare Services sessions of conference. They contain splendid material on the principles of Welfare Services. Today we have been instructed as fathers in what to teach to our families, as bishops in what to teach our wards. And President Kimball has reminded us of the foundational principles of this Welfare Services work with which we should all familiarize ourselves.

  5. 5.

    Establish and maintain those facilities and systems required to respond to needs. Much has been said over the years regarding establishing production projects, storehouses, the employment program, appropriate use of LDS Social Services agencies, and Deseret Industries. I needn’t elaborate on what ought to be or how it should be established. Simply let me remind you that, according to an appropriate plan, we must go forth in establishing the Lord’s complete program.

  6. 6.

    Keep the program volunteer centered. As a stake president, I observed the transformation in lives and the happiness gained by those who, on a Church service and volunteer basis, gave of themselves as Good Samaritans and as good Christians to heal and prosper the lives of others. I believe it was President Lee who said that we must never let this program become one of professionals. To the extent possible, we should rely on church service—brothers and sisters—to accomplish much of this work. When it is required that we have full- or part-time employees, then let us make certain that those we hire are fully qualified.

My brothers and sisters, the work of this Church is moving forward as perhaps never before. May each of us give of ourselves wherever we can in the building of this kingdom and be fully self-reliant and compassionate; and then, as appropriate, help others help themselves in this great Welfare Services work and maintain their dignity and self-respect.

I leave with you my testimony of the truthfulness of this most important work. It is the work of the Lord. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.