I have a sure-fire proposal to improve church welfare.
Church welfare admittedly has a long and storied history. In 1936, the Church officially inaugurated the Church Security Plan. President Grant explained that the purpose of the plan was to provide
sufficient food, fuel, clothing, and bedding to supply through the coming winter, every needy and worthy Church family unable to furnish these for itself, in order that no member of the Church should suffer in these times of stress and emergency.[fn1]
In 1936, the Great Depression, which hit Utah hard, was still a recent memory, and its effects were still being felt in Utah. So it makes plenty of sense that church leaders were trying to establish a procedure that could help members weather the financial storm.
First, every individual should value his or her independence and labor with all his might to maintain it by being self-sustaining. … Second, next to himself, the responsibility for sustaining an individual rests upon his family—parents for their children, children for their parents. … Finally, the individual having done all he can to maintain himself, and the members of his family having done what they can to assist him, then the Church, through the Welfare plan, stands ready to see that its members, who will accept the plan and work in it to the extent of their ability, shall each be cared for “according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.”
Note what this threefold vision of church welfare didn’t include, though: the government. In fact, the government was not only conspicuously, but deliberately absent. From the 1936 announcement again:
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. [Emphasis added.]
It’s important to note that the church has moved on this: it expressly allows (and, in fact, encourages) members to simultaneously receive church and government benefits. From a 2009 worldwide church leadership training:
Question: Is it appropriate if an individual is receiving governmental welfare assistance to use Church welfare assistance as well?
Response: Members may choose to use resources in the community, including government resources, to meet their basic needs. The bishop should become familiar with these resources.
When Church members receive assistance from non-Church sources, the bishop may also give Church assistance and should help members avoid becoming dependent in any way on these sources.
I’ve seen first-hand the good that the church welfare system does, especially working hand-in-hand with various government programs that are available. But we could always do better. And this week, I saw how.
In the 1990s, a county welfare office in Riverside, CA, produced a CD.[fn2] And, with songs like “Welfare’s Just a Temporary Way of Life” and three versions of “Feels So Good” (the next words are “to get a job,” and the three versions are “country,” “urban contemporary,” and “Spanish”), what’s not to love?
My proposal, then: give a copy of the music to anybody seeking church welfare. Also, to anybody not seeking church welfare. Heck, if we forced the whole world to listen to this music, well, I don’t know that it would do anything to the employment rate, but we’d all have awesome/horrible songs stuck in our heads.[fn3] So there’s always that.
[fn3] Heck, I’d be cool with it if the Mormon Tabernacle Choir decided to perform some of these songs at Conference. Or if the next hymnbook included them. Not because they’re good, but because they’re awesome.