Monday, July 16, 2012

Strong Words About Idleness

While studying a different topic, I came across this talk by Marion G. Romney in the May 1976 Ensign (April 1976 General Conference). Romney had some leadership responsibilities in the church welfare program. The following excerpts are pretty blunt concerning government welfare (vs. the church welfare system) and its outcome. I found his quotes from President Clark particularly bold, considering the state of things 74 years later.
This speaks to me in several ways: (1) It opposes the idea that government welfare programs are "charity". There is no agency (Romney uses the outdated term "free agency") in being taxed, and paying taxes does not stem from love. (2) The effect that free living and  the absence of work have on the character of individuals (idleness/entitlement), and ultimately our society. (3) The social importance of a strong family unit.

Marion G. Romney, "Church Welfare Services' Basic Principles"

"When we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, might, and strength, we will love our brothers as ourselves, and we will voluntarily, in the exercise of our free agency, impart of our substance for their support.
"Now about work. Work is just as important to the success of our welfare services as are the first and second great commandments and the preservation of our free agency.
"We must ever keep in mind that the First Presidency, in announcing the welfare program in the October 1936 conference, said:
'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. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.' (Conference Report, Oct. 1936, p. 3; italics added.)
"A year before this statement was made, on October 7, 1935, President Clark, in a special priesthood meeting held in this tabernacle, referring to government gratuities, said:
'The dispensing of these great quantities of gratuities has produced in the minds of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people in the United States a love for idleness, a feeling that the world owes them a living. It has made a breeding ground for some of the most destructive political doctrines that have ever found any hold in this country of ours, and I think it may lead us into serious political trouble.
'I fear,' he continued, 'we need not be surprised if some blood shall run before we of this nation finally find ourselves.'
"In his conference address of April 1938, President Clark said this:
'I honor and respect old age. I would not see it suffer from want, not from disease that can be helped. It is entitled to every care, to every act of kindness, to every loving caress which a grateful community and a devoted family can give. 'I have every sympathy with age. I know the difficulties which age has in fitting into modern, economic life. …
'Some plan must be devised that shall make certain that no aged person shall be cold or go hungry or unclad. But the prime responsibility for supporting an aged parent rests upon his family, not upon society. Ours is not a socialistic or communistic state, where the people are mere vassals to be driven about as animals from one corral to another. We are freemen. So still with us the family has its place and its responsibilities and duties, which are God-given. The family which refuses to keep its own is not meeting its duties. When an aged parent has no family or when the family is itself without means, then society must, as a matter of merest humanity, come to the rescue. This is perfectly clear.
'But it is a far cry from this wise principle to saying that every person reaching a fixed age shall thereafter be kept by the state in idleness. Society owes to no man a life of idleness, no matter what his age. I have never seen one line in Holy Writ that calls for, or even sanctions this. In the past no free society has been able to support great groups in idleness and live free.' (CR, Apr. 1938, pp. 106–7.)
"And I’ll say to you that no society in the future will ever be able to do so.
"And in a private letter five years later, President Clark wrote:
'You must remember that back and behind this whole propaganda of ‘pensions’, gratuities, and doles to which we are now being subjected, is the idea of setting up in America, a socialistic or communistic state, in which the family would disappear, religion would be prescribed and controlled by the state, and we should all become mere creatures of the state, ruled over by ambitious and designing men.'
"What has happened during the third of a century since this statement was made testifies to President Clark’s prophetic insight.
"Prayer in schools has been dealt a fatal blow. The integrity of the family is being undermined. Unemployment compensation, Medicaid, aid to families with dependent children (AFDC), food stamps, and hundreds of other transfer-payment programs for veterans, widows or widowers, and children are today all supported, totally or in part, by federal and state/local tax revenue.
"Little is said or done in these programs about the obligation ... of recipients to work for what they receive."

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