‘To care for the poor and needy’

According to a couple of reports here and here, the Church will be adding another goal to the three-fold mission of the church, which is “to care for the poor and needy.”    If there was ever a doubt that President Monson is going to turn out to be a great prophet, this news, in my opinion, erases all doubt.

Who better to remind us of our duty to help the poor and needy than the prophet who has spent most of his life in service of others and is famous for his selfless attitude toward the widows and helpless?

A special shout-out to David H. Sundwall for breaking this story on his blog asoftanswer.com.

It will be fascinating to see how this new Church mission is manifested in our stakes and wards.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

14 thoughts on “‘To care for the poor and needy’

  1. I agree.

    I am among those who was uncomfortable (silently) with the articulation of the three fold mission of the Church under President Kimball because it did not explicitly mention welfare. Of course, welfare continued to be an important objective of the Church, even though it was not expressly included in the three-fold mission. And certainly, welfare fits under the second mission–perfecting the Saints/strengthening the members.

    However, the thrust of the second mission/purpose–perfecting/strengthening the members–is on ordinances and Church activity (“To perfect the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation” Spencer W. Kimball, “A Report of My Stewardship,” Ensign, May 1981, 5). And, to the degree welfare is encompassed in mission two, it is in-group focused. Caring for non-LDS poor and needy (humanitarian services) barely fits at all (it fits to the degree that caring for the poor and needy is part of the “discipline [required] to gain exaltation”).

    I am not sure of the reasons that caring for the poor and needy was not included expressly in the articulation of the mission of the Church in 1981.

    Perhaps it is because some of the Brethren thought, as Ardis has argued, that the missions of the Church should focus on what only a Church can do, and that is ordinance focused (proclaim the gospel: baptism; perfect the Saints: temple ordinances; redeem the dead: ordinances for the deceased). A Church structure is not required to reach out and care for the poor and needy–we can do that without any Church structure, but we can’t baptize or perform other ordinances without a Church.

    And yet, and yet, and yet. As James stated, “pure religion and undefiled ….”

  2. Ok, I’m not trying to be a stinker here, but I have an honest question about this. I am all for helping people who need help, but how do you help those without enabeling them? How do you help people with the things they need but also help them to become self reliant?

    I really struggle with this, and I’ve had a hard time over the years resolving my issuses….

  3. It helps if we remember that we are all beggars, that nobody is entirely self-reliant, and that we have all been enabled through Christ’s grace beyond anything we could have ever possibly earned or deserved.

  4. Bishop Edgley presided conference in my stake in October, much as David Sundwall described for his stake, though without the stake president having any role pressuring Bishop Edgley into “revealing” something. I considered putting something up about it, but didn’t really want to do that with my stake conference.

    It is interesting that Bishop Edgley has chosen to put out word of this matter in the manner that he has.

  5. Joyce,

    In the many training sessions which I have attended, welfare assistance is to be temporary, specific and as a means to get the member back on their feet.

    When I was recently called as ward employment specialist, the stake employment specialist told a story of a brother who was receiving welfare assistance and was not actively seeking a job. The bishop found out about this and gave the brother a date when his assistance would end. His comment to the WES was, “Well, I guess it means I really have to start looking for a job.”

    When I served as the ward clerk in a singles ward, I used to look over the finances and see who the bishop was helping. My heart was filled with joy as I thought about how the Church was able to bless the lives of these people and give them much needed help. In cases where that help was abused, the bishop promptly ended the assistance. When it was needed and used properly, the bishop continued to provide the assistance.

    I trust that the bishops of the Church will ensure that any assistance given will be used properly, or be withheld from those who abuse it.

  6. David H, good point. I wonder if there is any of the “tired, worn out Mormon” phenomenon going on with the Church’s three-fold mission statement in the past. What I mean by this is that I guarantee you there are Mormons hearing this news right now saying to themselves, “ok, I have FHE on Monday night, then home teaching Tuesday night, then Mutual Wednesday night, then Enrichment Thursday night, date night Friday night, going to the temple Saturday and then five hours at church on Sunday if you include meetings before and after church. NOW THE CHURCH WANTS ME TO GO DONATE TIME TO THE SALVATION ARMY!!!??? GIVE ME A BREAK!” So, I think we need to laud the Church’s effort here (which I do), but you also have to be aware that there are a lot of us who recognize you can/should help the poor but there is a limit to how much extra time any of us has.

    Joyce, my personal opinion, (and again this is personal because a lot of these discussions involve some self-righteous loser saying “if you don’t help the poor you’re not a true Christian like I AM!!”), is that the Church does an excellent job, as Brian describes, of both offering Christian charity but also making sure it is not abused. In agreement with Mark Brown I would like to say my personal belief is that Mormons are especially called upon to remember we all are beggars and that sometimes you give just because it is right to give. My personal policy on this is that I always give if it is a reasonable request and not dangerous and is not obviously going to be used for drugs, etc. Yes, I’m sure some of the people I have given to have probably used the money the wrong way, but my responsibility is to give — they are responsible to do what they do with the money. It makes it a lot easier if you give your time rather than your money.

  7. It has been a very long time that I have even heard mention of the 3 fold mission of the church. I remember back in the 90s when it was talked about more, but I never hear it mentioned as the 3 fold mission of the church in Elders Quorum, Sacrament Meeting, or even in Sacrament Meeting. I had thought that the church did away with it as I never heard them use the term. I think the last time I heard about it was in 2001 or so.

  8. I am happy to see “care for poor and needy” included in our official mission. Geoff B., has a valid point that most of us will say in our heart, but not with our mouths. Thank you for your honesty Geoff, cause I agree. I think our “ambassadors to the world” i.e. the missionaries could do more in the way of service. They need to spend just as much time (or more) in “engaging in a good cause” thru service, as they currently do in tracing.

  9. My brother is already complaining about this leading to our tithing and fast offerings going to lazy welfare moms. I hope the general membership doesn’t react like that when an official announcement comes. I also hope that this isn’t used as yet another way for members of the church to bash government welfare programs.

  10. Jjohnsen, the first concern seems pretty petty because the Church does an excellent job of helping those and need and also helping move them to self-sufficiency. I’m guessing your brother has not actually been in a position to see how bishops and stake presidents help the needy. If he were, he would no longer be concerned.

    As for bashing government programs, this is exactly what I plan on doing. Muhahahahahahaahahahaahahaahahaaha!

  11. I think his concern is the Church will suddenly be handing money out to anyone who asks (which is what he thinks the government does). How he got that from the Trib article I don’t really know.

  12. JJohnson, the Church does not just hand out money. I think you probably get that. And like Brian said up thread, people who recieve it have to give an accounting, unlike government programs. This is what seperates the Church welfare from other welfare programs, it is personal, the person gets as much as he or she needs, and only the things they need — not just a check in the mail.

    I guess my concern from my previous comment had to do more with government programs than church programs. It just seems that so many are just looking to the govt for a handout with no thought of ever giving back or striving for self suffiecency. Like I said, I am all for helping those that need it, but there have been times in my life when I have been less than well off, no insurance etc, this was terrific motivation to better my situation. I just don’t see govt programs doing anything but handing out money and not turning toward self sufficency.

  13. Just a quick reality check in regards to those eeevvviiiilll government welfar programs.

    The handbook advises priesthood leaders to make sure that members in need are receiving the benefits available to them under governments programs. This is part of the first step of needs assessment. For instance, a bishop would be out of order to provide church assistance to an unemployed member if that member didn’t want to file for unemployment benefits. Same goes for food stamps, medicaid, etc. We can bash govt. programs all we want, but the simple fact is that the church uses them before it uses its own resources.

  14. Mark, I’m sure you know there is a difference between the Church encouraging a member to take advantage of available government programs and the Church actually endorsing government programs as a long-term solution to people being out of work.

    In fact, during the 1930s, one of the Church’s primary concerns, something that was emphasized again and again in conference and elsewhere, was for members to strive for self-sufficiency and not rely on the government for support.

    So, there is a big difference between, “I just lost my job, let me go apply for unemployment benefits for a few months” and “hmm, I wonder if I could find a way to live off government benefits for the next few years.” And by saying this, I am cognizant of the fact that there are many people, including some people in the Bloggernacle, who have been unemployed for years. I have no problem with the Church or individual people or the government helping out people who really are trying to find another job but cannot for various reasons. I do have a problem with people trying to game the system.

    And while you’re pondering that difference, you may want to consider whether it might be more efficient and just for unemployment benefits to be privatized. Just saying…

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