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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Priesthood & Mormonism – Welfare, 1936

Below you will find Prince’s research excerpts titled, “Priesthood: Welfare, 1936.” You can view other years here.

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1936:  21 Apr.:  Make-work project in beet-growing districts.


Salt Lake City, Utah

April 21, 1936.

To Presidencies of Stakes and Bishoprics of Wards–

Dear Brethren:

The following is a suggestive outline for a Make-Work Project for each ward in the Church in the beet-growing districts of Utah and Idaho, which has been submitted to me by Elders Melvin J. Ballard, Mark Austin, and Harold B. Lee, a committee that has been appointed–and other members will be added–to take care of the unemployed members of the Church.

That the bishopric of each ward be requested to select and secure at once one hundred or more acres of land suitable for sugar beets from the various farmers of his ward in tracts of not less than one acre for each farmer and more where possible and suitable, that would not otherwise be planted to beets, for which the farmer is to receive as rent on the land one dollar a ton for each ton of beets raised and a minimum of not less than ten dollars an acre for the use of the land and water.

Just as soon as the land is selected, a day should be set apart at once for the farmers with equipment to donate one or more days to prepare properly and plant the beets by manuring the land where necessary and where the manure is available.  If the land, when prepared for planting, has not sufficient moisture, then it should be irrigated and reworked before planting.  No beets should be planted in dry ground.

. . . . [Details of planting and harvesting.]

If this unemployment is to be solved, it must be done by all the people working together and helping each other to find employment, and if the start is made this season, more preparation can be made for another season and the project extended so that it will become a material benefit and absorb a large percentage of the unemployed.  There is a market for all the sugar that can be grown and plenty of factories to extract the sugar.

Sincerley your brother,

Heber J. Grant.”

(IE 39(6):332, Jun., 1936)

May:  Responsibility of quorum in welfare work.

“The Priesthood is a great brotherhood, the greatest on earth, dedicated to the accomplishment of the purposes of the Lord with respect to His children on earth.  Every Priesthood bearer is needed for this task.  Every man who receives the Priesthood accepts the obligation to use his new power to help his brother as himself.  Within the Priesthood the strong must serve the weak, so that all may more perfectly do their assigned tasks, and rise nearer to their divine destiny of joy.

The division of the Priesthood into quorums of moderate size lends itself perfectly to the spirit of brotherhood and mutual helpfulness.  The condition and needs of every quorum member may be known through the labors of the Personal Welfare Committee which shouild function actively in every quorum of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

In these trying days, when many families, through no fault of their own, are in want, the Priesthood quorums should earnestly inform themselves concerning the needs of their members, and set about to provide the necessary assistance.  Every quorum should take a pride in the welfare of its members.  Within every quorum there is power to care for many of its unemployed and suffering members.  This may be accomplished by direct and indirect means, discoverable in each locality.  Should the Priesthood rise in the majesty of its divinely conferred power, distress among quorum members would soon be eradicated.

Moreover, though the Priesthood is divided into quorums, it is really one great brotherhood.  Therefore, prosperous quorums that need no help are under obligation to give assistance to quorums in distress.  By such united action, abundant relief for all may be secured, and the blessings won by sacrifice may be enjoyed by all.

The call has come from the President of the Church, who is the President of the Priesthood, to bring the quorums of the Priesthood into action as never before.  The day calls for help.  Let the Personal Welfare Committees proceed, in season and out of season, to seek out the needs of their quorum brethren; then the quorums should bestir themselves to give the needed help.  There must be no delay.  ‘He gives twice who gives quickly.'”  (John A. Widtsoe, “Editorial,” IE 39(5):296, May, 1936)

May:  1st Presidency letter on Welfare.


Dear Brethren:

Pursuant to the statements made at the special Priesthood meeting of the Semi-Annual Conference last October, the First Presidency, through the Presiding Bishopric, made a survey of relief conditions in the Church as of last September.

Among the several distressing disclosures of that survey, the following may be mentioned:

That 17.9 per cent of the entire Church membership received relief, or a total of 88,460 persons; That 80,247 persons (16.3 per cent) received relief from the county and 8,213 (1.6 per cent) received relief from Church funds;

That approximately 11,500 to 16,500 persons received relief, who either did not need it or who had farms that might, if farmed, have kept them off relief;

That County relief probably totalled more than five and a half million dollars and Church relief approximately a quarter of a million dollars durin gthe year 1935; that County relief cost approximately $5.41 per person, and Church relief $2.48 per person, per month; and

That if those now on work relief should continue thereon, the cost of maintaining the balance of those actually needing relief and without means of self-help would, at Church relief rate, cost approximately $842,000 per year.

This makes clear the size of the problem which is involved in meeting the relief needs of Church members.  The curtailment of Federal aid which is now forecase, makes it imperative that the Church shall, so far as it is able, meet this emergency.

To enable the Church to do this, the following general principles are laid down as guides:

1. Fast offerings must be increased to an amount equalling one dollar per Church member per year.  This is an amount within the reach of every head of family and every single person in the Church.  Those who can give more should do so.

2. Tithing should be fully paid, where possible in case and where cash payment is not possible, then payment is to be made in kind.

3. The Ward authorities, the Relief Society, and the Priesthood quorums organizations must exert the greatest possible effort to see that fast offerings and tithing are fully paid.

4. Upon Ward teachers and the Relief Society must rest the prime responsibility for discovering and appraising the wants of the needy of the Ward.  These wants must be administered to, under, and in accordance with the regular rules and through the regular organizations of the Church.

5. Every Bishop should aim to have accumulated by next October Conference sufficient food and clothes to provide for every needy family in his Ward during the coming winter.  The Relief Society must cooperate in this work by directing and assisting the needy sisters of the Ward in drying and preserving fruits and vegetables, providing clothing and bedding, etc.

6. Every Bishop and every President of a Stake must keep constantly before himself, that other Wards and Stakes may be more needy than his own, and therefore that even though his own Ward or Stake, may not need the whole he is to collect on fast offerings, nevertheless he must collect the full sum in order that the sum not needed for the needs of his own Ward or Stake may be passed on to places where it is needed.

The problem of Church relief is Church-wide; it is to be accomplished through local unit organizations and operations.  It will be the business and responsibility of the Bishop and his Ward organizations–Priesthood quorums, auxiliaries, Relief Society–to see that the full relief collections of the Ward are made.

7. Relief is not to be normally given as charity; it is to be distributed for work or service rendered.  All members of the Church must cooperate to this end.

The Church itself will be prepared to assist to the utmost extent possible in providing work on its own properties for its unemployed members, and also in providing other work in wisely rehabilitating ranches, farms, gardens, and orchards that may be used to furnish foodstuffs for those in need.

No pains must be spared to wipe out all feeling of diffidence, embarrassment, or shame on the part of those receiving relief; the Ward must be one great family of equals.  The spiritual welfare of those on relief must receive especial care and be earnestly and prayerfully fostered.  A system which gives relief for work or service will go far to reaching these ends.

8. The work of directing and coordinating all this work will be in the hands of the Presiding Bishopric of the Church.  The First Presidency will appoint a Church Relief Committee to assist the Presiding Bishopric in their work.

9. It will be observed that the foregoing general principles call only for the operation of regular Ward and Stake organizations.  Some supplemental, coordinating, and grouping organization may be necessary as the plan is more fully developed.  The regular Church organization, set up under revelations from the Lord, was planned by Him to meet every emergency coming to human beings.  The Church organization will meet the present grave economic crisis if the members of the Church will but live fully and conscientiously the Gospel.

10. For the present, and pending further developments in the working out of the Church plan, all persons engaged in W. P. A. projects shiould endeavor to retain their positions, being scrupulously careful to do an honest day’s work for a day’s pay.

11. Whether we shall now take care of our own Church members in need and how fully, depends wholly and solely upon the faith and works of the individual Church members.  If each Church member meets his full duty and grasps his full opportunity for blessing, full necessary relief will be extended to all needy Church members; in so far as individual members fail in their duty and opportunity, by that much will the relief fall short.

Speaking to the Saints in the early days of the Church, the Lord said: (Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 56):

[vv. 14-20]

Faithfully your Brethren,

Heber J. Grant

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

David O. McKay.”

(IE 39(5):305, May, 1936)

Jun.:  “Church-Wide Security Program Organized.”

“‘It is indeed surprising, in these days of controversy concerning reform, political and domestic economy, communism and the like kindred subjects, discussed by the greatest intellects of the age without practical results that . . . A Mormon community at that, should be steadily and successfully demonstrating the feasibility of uniting the industries of a whole community and resolving them into a commonwealth.’

This opening quotation could well be a paragraph from a newspaper of today, but it is in part the lead paragraph of an article which appeared in The Deseret News sixty years ago, under date of September 20, 1876.  Described therein are conditions similar to those confronting the world today and seemingly no practical results follow the deliberations of ‘the greatest intellects of the age.’

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a practical religion.  It provides for the temporal security and growth of man as well as for his spiritual salvation.  Within the Gospel plan as revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, are principles which, if adhered to, will make Latter-day Saints independent of disasters which befall the world.

Sixty years ago, the Saints, facing economic, political, and social problems similar to ours of today, banded together and attacked their problem unitedly under the Lord’s plan.  They demonstrated to the world the power of cooperative enterprise with a unity of purpose–and that purpose was to find constructive employment for everyone and provide economic security for all who would labor.

By reading farther in that article of sixty years ago we find ample evidence that those people were happy and prosperous; they had their independence; they earned by the ‘sweat of their brows;’ and that which they possessed was rightfully theirs.  While the world about was suffering under weighty problems, yet unsolved, this little community, organized under God’s plan, had found the solution.

Their program is not to be confused with the United Order.  It was not a community of living symbolized by the ‘long table,’ but it was a community of enterprise.  Each man willing to work was permitted to do so, because under the plan there was work to do and ample compensation for that work.

More than six years ago the world was afflicted with what we have called the depression.  Men who had been employed for years were thrown out of work as the social order of things changed.  For many months prosperity was ‘just around the corner.’  Soon the savings and resources of these people vanished and there became widespread conditions of actual want.

The government, still puzzling over a solution for its step-child, depression, came forth with needed relief.  But months and years have passed with still no adequate change in unemployment conditions.  Already indications are that the government appropriations and the relief thus available will be curtailed.

Recognizing that something must be done for the relief and unemployment situation, and also realizing the necessity for providing a means whereby its members would be returned to financial independence and restored to the courage of social security, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has now come forward with its plan.  It is not the plan of sixty years ago, but one based on the same principle of cooperative enterprise.  It is a restoring of the old system of the bishop’s storehouse, for many years the economic salvation of the pioneers as they banded together to subdue the wilderness.

The program, now introduced to the entire Church and known as the Church-wide Security plan, is briefly as follows:

Stakes have been grouped together in regions.  Over these regions are executive councils composed of the stake presidents of each stake in the group.  One of these stake presidents is chosen as chairman and another selected as vice-chairman.

Each region is to have a central storehouse and an organization to control it.  This storehouse organization is established for five purposes:  (1) To collect and preserve all surplus comodities, such as foodstuffs, feed for livestock, clothing, and furniture, from any ward in the region, from tithing in kind, from private donations, or from community projects; (2) To see that there is no waste; (3) To establish a centrally located storehouse or other facilities necessary to serve the entire region in the collection and preservation of relief materials; (4) To make possible the utmost cooperation throughout the Church in the economical marketing, equitable distribution, and efficient transportation of produce or other materials through a centralized direction; (5) To work toward a wise balancing of labor from congested larger centers to farming, mining, or industrial districts where productive labor might be provided for self-maintenance.

The plan includes the organization of employment committees in every ward of the region.  This committee is composed of a member of the bishopric, the chairman of each of the Melchizedek Priesthood welfare committees, leader of Adult Aaronic Priesthood class, president of the Ward Relief Society and the ward work director.  The duties of this committee are varied and intensive.  Principally they must make a survey of the unemployed in each ward, keep an active record, report continuously to the stake work directors and the regional executive committee, and be in a position to supply workers of various classes upon request of the stake director. 

One important duty of this committee is to devise make-work projects within the ward, adapted to the needs of the ward and the capabilities of the unemployed.  Some suggested activities are: drying and preserving vegetables and fruits; providing clothing and bedding; rehabilitating ranches, farms, gardens, or orchards; working on Church properties; projecting civic and community enterprises; beautification; operating wood yards, coal mining; and assisting widows, sick, and aged.

All groups and committees whether in stakes or wards are appointed within the regularly established organizations of the Church.  This is true also with the general supervisory committee which is appointed under the direction of the First Presidency and the Presiding Bishopric to assist in the details of carrying forward this entire project.  A General Church Committee has been appointed consisting of Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, and Elders Harold B. Lee, Mark Austin, Campbell M. Brown, and Stringam A. Stevens.

So it is seen, in brief summary, that the organization adheres to the organization of the Church, begining first with the First Presidency, and Council of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric, with a general committee to assist.  Thence extending to the regional executive committee which controls the regional storehouse, and from there to the stake and ward relief committees, which in turn have control of the stake and ward employment and work committees.  Under the stake relief organization each bishop of a ward forms a bishop’s executive council which directly controls a bishops’ storehouse organization.

This program has two objectives, one of which is immediate and the other ultimate.  The immediate objective to create and surplus of food-stuffs and other commodities during the summer months and to provide work for all employable persons who are now receiving assistance from the Church.

The ultimate objective is to set up within the Church an organization to make it possible for the Church eventually to take care of all of its people exclusive of government relief and to assist them in placing themselves on a financially independent basis.  Church authorities point out as one of the reasons for this ultimate objective the supposition that large government expenditures for relief must soon end and there must be a means of security provided for the Church membership.

The immediate objective is set for accomplishment by October 1, 1936.  Instructions cite as one of the duties of the regional storehouse organization ‘to set in motion through the respective presidencies of stakes, in every ward in the region, a program that will accumulate by October conference sufficient food and clothing and fuel to provide for every needy family through the winter.’

Under this program it is not sufficient for each stake to take care of its own people.  The responsibility of the stake presidencies and even the regional officers is to care for as many people as possible.  And herein is one of the most important features of the entire program, and the one which if successfully followed will perhaps mean most toward achieving the ultimate objective.  It is the feature of exchange.

Surpluses in one section of the Church are to be preserved from waste in storehouses and will be subject to call from oother regions which will have other commodities or perhaps labor for exchange.  It is desired by the General Authorities that it will provide a means of distribution which will permit farmers in one section to use all available lands for production, for laborers and tradesmen in another section of work to a full capacity in order that all may have work to do and that none shall be found in want.

One factor in the ultimate success of the entire program will be the initiative displayed on the part of those placed in positions of responsibility.  As those in charge make use of all available sources of producing both work and commodities, and devise new projects for these purposes, so will the success of the program be.

All in all it will be no easy task to accomplish what this program sets out to do.  However, there seems to be a very strong sentiment among the membership of the Church, and especially among those whose responsibility it is to take the lead in the program, that it must and will succeed.

Presidencies of stakes and bishoprics of wards in the whole of the Church have assembled in various meetings to form permanent organizations.  In each region officers have been chosen and activities have already been of a nature that promises an attainment of the objective.  In each stake committees have been set-up and bishop’s storehouse councils have been created.

Attention, in all of these stakes and wards, is not being turned toward the fostering of make-work projects.  Surveys have ben made to determine the number of unemployed persons and families needing relief.  A simplified index has been provided the wards, making it possible to segregate into various classifications those needing work.  The surveys have also determined the most effective make-work projects available in wards and stakes.

In many sections these make-work projects are in the nature of agricultural enterprises.  Other sections are engaged in establishing small industrial undertakings which fit into their communities.

Paying tithing in terms of pounds of butter, dozens of eggs, bushels of grain, pecks of potatoes, pounds of mean, and tons of hay, was common practice in pioneer days.  It was perhaps the greatest means of creating surpluses in the bishop’s storehouse, whereby the needy were taken care of.  This was supplemented by produce from Church-owned or Church-operated farms, industries, and cattle ranches.  The important thing was that there was a surplus on hand and an efficient system of storing and distributing and no one who was willing to work went without.

This system faded into the background when days of growth and prosperity spread among the communities of the Latter-day Saints.  People had little trouble in finding profitable employment.  Tithing was paid in cash from wages received.  Church ‘hard times’ cooperatives dwindled because they were not needed to provide employment.

Now instead of a condition of prosperity, the country finds itself confronted with unemployment, and badly in need of a system of distribution that will carry a surplus from one section to another where it is needed and handle it with little or no waste.

This new Church Security program–in reality an adaption of the former program–may demonstrate itself to be a solution to our grave national problems.  That the world is watching the Church in its undertaking, is evidenced from the fact that announcement of the program has been carried to all parts of the country by newspaper service.

In speaking at regional organization meetings, Elder Ballard has discussed the importance of success in this new program.  He has described the effectiveness of the Church organization and government and has appealed to the missionary spirit of Latter-day Saints urging them to rally to the call of their leaders.

He has also likened this new undertaking to the other objectives of the Church during the century of its existence, and declares that the Church has a greater opportunity to attract the attention of the depression-ridden world by showing them the way out with this new cooperative program than it did in the conquering of the great western desert.

Another factor behind the successful inaururation of the Security program is the appeal of President Heber J. Grant, made at many of the regional organization meetings that he has attended.  President Grant urges its success and appeals for the cooperation of all leaders.  The burden of President Grant’s discussions is an appeal for the members of the Church to return to the strength which comes with financial independence and industry.  He explains that it appears that some members of the Church desire to make paupers of themselves rather than work for that which they receive when it is possible for them to do so.  President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and President David O. McKay, have been united with President Grant in organizing and projecting this Church-wide Security Plan.

Presiding Bishop Sylvester Q. Cannon, who presides over the temporal affairs of the people, has also taken an active part in the regional organization meetings, speaking in support of the program for making work and establishing projects that will be for permanent employment as well as lasting benefit to communities and the Church membership.

Stake President Harold B. Lee is brought into the welfare organization with a wealth of experience gained from operation of a program in his own stake similar to that being projected for the Church.  President Lee has proved that it can be done and that it is a program worthy of the support of the entire Church and to him is falling the task of completing much of the detail of organization.

In this program every effort is being made to preserve the moral stamina of the people.  Work is to be provided that charity will not be necessary.

Brigham Young once said in reference to giving of charity:

My experience has taught me and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out, to man or woman, money, food, clothing, or anything else, if they are able-bodied and can work and earn what they need, where there is anything on earth for them to do.  This is my principle and I try to act upon it.  To pursue a contrary course would ruin any community in the world and make them idlers.

History records that this was not only the policy but the practice of Brigham Young and it is a restoration of this ideal that prompts Church leaders today in their new efforts.

So now the Church moves along to a greater objective.  It has its Security program.  It now has its organization completed and is pointing steadily toward its goal of ‘taking care of its own members.’  It is an immense undertaking and a program that will not attain its ultimate objective without the faith and brotherhood, unselfish cooperation of Latter-day Saints in all parts of the Church.”  (Henry A. Smith, “Church-Wide Security Program Organized,” [“Approved by the General Committee of the Church Security Program”] IE 39(6):333-338, Jun., 1936)

Dec.:  Role of quorums in welfare plan.

“Perhaps more important than the successful working together of the ecclesiastical groupings referred to, is the realization of a greater Priesthood quorum consciousness.  Within each of these ecclesiastical units there are divinely appointed corps of men which units are known as Priesthood quorums, upon whom the responsibility of membership in a quorum must be interpreted to mean just one thing: Service to one’s fellow men!  The importance of this Priesthood activity in the Church Security Program was stressed by President David O. McKay at the October conference in these words:

I do not know how long it will take to realize the powers within these groups if we can start them functioning.  Unless they get to going they will be just like a boiler factory without any steam–it lies there as an inert body, as a physical thing, but if you start the steam going the wheels begin to turn and the things that can be accomplished are unlimited.  That is what must be done with our quorums.  They should be made to function for the completion of this plan.

Sensing the importance of the coordinating of the Priesthood quorums for the accomplishment of these high purposes, one stake is purchasing a hundred acre farm in a fertile, well-watered valley to be paid for and operated by the Priesthood quorums of the stake.  The labor of planting, cultivating, and harvesting is to be shared by the Priesthood quorums, including those who are unemployed or others who may need assistance; and the products from this farm are to be garnered in a storehouse to be distributed in that stake or region or in any other region of the Church wherever the produce may be needed.  Another Priesthood quorum has produced a hundred tons of sugar beets, and from the earnings of this produce is fostering suitable recreational facilities that are gareatly needed by Church members in that locality.”  (Harold B. Lee, President of Pioneer Stake and Managing Director of the Church Security Program, “The Church Security Program in Action,” IE 39(12):741, Dec., 1936)