This morning I would like to speak of a division of Welfare Services which is rarely mentioned in this Welfare Services meeting, and yet through its organization and activities it draws all who participate—the giver and the receiver—so very close to the Savior. We might appropriately call it a “haven of love,” a very special haven for some very special people, where perhaps for the first time an individual begins to feel worth something after all—
where the environment is such as to help one regain his self-respect;
where lack of training, skills, or aptitude is not considered a handicap;
where a person is treated with tender, loving care, regardless of mental or physical limitations;
where by making a contribution, no matter how modest, a person gains the feeling of being needed, worthwhile, and important;
where each work day begins with a morning devotional.
This haven for special people is Deseret Industries. Deseret Industries epitomizes the spirit of the Savior’s teachings and is one of the most exciting aspects of Welfare Services. What makes it so exciting is the influence it has in the lives of people who serve there. Let me introduce you to some of these wonderful people.
[A film was shown.]
Perhaps you sense now why these are such wonderful people. Their example of faith, self-reliance, and determination is a beacon and a sermon to all. Let me share with you in a little more detail what happens to those who work at Deseret Industries. A father tells this story of his son:
“The great blessing we have in our home is the oldest of our three boys. He is thirty-one years of age and was injured at birth. As a result of brain damage, his muscular coordination and powers of speech have been severely impaired. Mentally, he’s just as normal as anyone.
“He has one of the greatest personalities I’ve ever seen. Everything is okay with Mike. He’s a grand sport, so grateful for everything you do for him, never complains. He has a great sense of right and wrong and is always on the side of the good guys. He had more to do with my joining the Church than anything else. I learned a lot about praying by praying for him.
“About the time our regional Deseret Industries store was to be completed, the bishop made the suggestion that perhaps Mike could find a job there. Neither my wife nor I could bear to think of taking him any place and leaving him alone like that, but after talking to the bishop and stake president, we decided to give it a try.
“It has turned out to be one of the greatest things that has ever happened in our lives, or in Mike’s. At first they had him dyeing shoes, with the result that he got more dye on himself than on the shoes. So they put him to washing dishes. He must have broken too many because they changed him to sorting rags. Presently he is cutting off buttons, for which he is paid eighty cents an hour. Can you imagine what eighty cents worth of buttons would be? I doubt that a normal person could cut off eighty cents worth of buttons an hour. But the main interest at Deseret Industries is making people feel useful and happy.
“If you want to give yourself a spiritual treat, just visit Deseret Industries and associate with those who work there and see how much love and concern they have for each other, and how happy they are in their work.”
An awakening to a sense of personal worth stands at the heart of everything Deseret Industries does. It is exhibited in the theme song adopted by the Mesa Deseret Industries. At the dismissal from morning devotional, all the workers sing, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” As they walk arm in arm to their work stations, you witness a feeling of profound love.
Brother Jim Clegg, manager of the Murray Deseret Industries, attended a sacrament meeting in his son’s ward, where the program was provided by some retarded youth. The final number was a solo to be sung by a sweet mongoloid sister. Brother Clegg knew this young woman could sing because she participated in the Murray Deseret Industries choir, but little did he know that one of the seventy-year-old brethren at the Deseret Industries had been working closely with her because he recognized some natural vocal ability.
As she stood up to perform her number, she noticed Brother Clegg in the audience and cried out, “That’s my Deseret Industries manager, there in the back!” She proceeded to tell the congregation that Deseret Industries was the most wonderful place in the whole world.
As she sang “I Am a Child of God,” no one in the audience doubted that indeed Deseret Industries is the most wonderful place in the world.
In May 1938, the Deseret Industries was established. Its charter was outlined by the First Presidency to permit those who have to share with those who have not by giving of their surplus property, such as clothing, furniture, appliances, etc., to Deseret Industries—where the work of renovation would employ the unemployed—and to make available those same articles of good quality at affordable cost.
Although it would appear that employment is the prime purpose of Deseret Industries, it is only a means to an end—the end being to bless the lives of these people through work. Not only does it bless those who work, but also those who give. Deseret Industries could not function were it not for the generosity of those who give goods and materials which the workers mend and repair.
Of course, the next step is obvious: this restored merchandise must be sold to complete the cycle.
You may be interested in what has happened in Deseret Industries from its beginning forty years ago. As of March 1, 1978, there were 1,700 handicapped employees in twenty-two Deseret Industries stores and satellites. Approximately 60 percent of gross receipts goes directly into handicapped salaries. Presently we have units in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, California, and soon-to-be-opened stores in Oregon, Colorado, and Nevada.
My purpose in speaking of Deseret Industries today is two-fold: first, to suggest that those of you who have access to Deseret Industries (or will have in the near future) encourage the members of your wards and stakes to become enthusiastically involved in the program by giving to and then patronizing Deseret Industries; and second, to encourage you leaders who do not have Deseret Industries to analyze the circumstances of your wards and stakes to determine whether or not the time is right to organize the Deseret Industries in your area. If you think it is, make contact through proper priesthood channels with the Welfare Services department here at headquarters.
We recognize there will be many areas of the Church where limited membership would make it impractical to introduce the program at the present time. It is not, however, inappropriate to use all of your ingenuity in blessing the people with the principles we have discussed, even before it is possible to have the full program.
May I close with just one other experience. Let me tell you of one elderly brother who sat in a nursing home just looking at the floor day after day, week after week. Someone who loved him and knew about Deseret Industries arranged for him to come to work. He began by the supervisor placing a wide push broom in his hands, taking him to the end of a corridor, and having him push the broom down the hall to the other end; then turning him around and having him push it back again. This he did time after time.
In the process of doing, he started to get a small glimmer of interest in something—in anything—and his eyes raised from the floor. He saw the walls, and he saw the windows. As this process continued, the development of a feeling that everyone needs was nurtured. It wasn’t long until other assignments were given to him which he did very well. In time his faith in himself and his feeling of worth had been restored. He became a supervisor of others.
May the Lord bless these wonderful, special people, and may we be blessed as their leaders, that we, through the work of the Welfare Services program, may bless their lives, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.