In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread (Genesis 3:19; King James Bible)
And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. (Mosiah 4:16; Book of Mormon)
As Latter-day Saints, we have an obligation to care for those who are in need. To this end the Church has established a number of programs to assist those in need. Chief amongst these is the Fast Offering program. Every month, the members of the church fast for 24 hours and take the funds that would have been used to purchase food for those meals and donate to the Fast Offering program. This money is then used to help those who do not have money to get food for their families and pay for other things. Other notable programs are the Perpetual Education Fund and the church Humanitarian Relief.
However, even with these funds available, those who are in need are still required to do all they can to provide for themselves. For as God commanded Adam after the Fall, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” This commandment holds as true today as it did then. We are obligated to provide for our own needs.
Yet there are many people who are not capable of supporting themselves through any number of extenuating circumstances. In these situations the Church counsels that they should first seek assistance from family. If their families are not able to help, then they are to seek assistance from the Church.
In todays world, many may ask, “What about government run welfare programs? Are they not to be used to help those in need?” As a Latter-day Saint and a Libertarian, the answer should be a resounding, “No.”
Why is it we should not be seeking help from those government programs such as Food Stamps or Medicare? The answer is two fold.
The first reason is that the money that is used to fund these programs is taken from the people without their permission. This is stealing. It does not matter how noble the ends are, they do not justify the breaking of any of God’s commandments. God requires that our alms and gifts should be given with our full heart.We cannot justify the collective theft from those who have to give to those who have not.
The second reason is that the programs are indiscriminate in their giving. How is this a bad thing? First is the state of mind of the person receiving the aid.
Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:42)
I will admit that at one point in my life I was dependent on government aid. These were not the best times of my life, financially speaking. During this time, I was witness to all kinds of abuse of these government programs by those seeking aid. One prominent example came while I was sitting in the waiting room of the Human Services building. Behind me sat two people having a conversation about signing up. One had never done so and was in the process of filling out the application. The other was answering questions.
The person helping then noticed that the new person was getting ready to fill out the home address portion of the application. At this point the person helping told the other person to claim they were homeless because they could get more money that way. This person liked that idea and followed the advice.
So herein lies the problem of government welfare programs. For one, the money is stolen from those who have and secondly is given indiscriminately to not only those who are truly in need but also to those who abuse the system.
So what is to be done? The answer is to end government run welfare programs and let the people of this country give to those charities that they feel will meet the needs of the people in the most efficient ways.
I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, everyman according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order. (Mosiah 4:26-27; Book of Mormon)
That last sentence is the key. All these things should be done in wisdom and in order. That is not the way the government has run their program. It is run using an ideal that the lord has warned us against.
Wo unto the poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with their own hands! (Doctrine and Covenants 56:17)
God in his infinite wisdom commanded us to avoid coveting our neighbors’ possessions. So as Latter-day Saints we need to avoid coveting. We need to labor for our own sustenance and we need to give when ever we can to those in need.
The government is incapable of running an efficient and useful welfare program. If the government would turn over control over the welfare of the people to the people, they will be more willing to part of their substance to those organizations and charities they feel are most successful in their missions. Those charities that do not work or not as well as others will lose donations and will eventually close making room for those charities that actually work. This will make the overall system and the state of the poor and needy far better in the short and long run.
If the government will simply stay out of the way of the people, then it will become far easier to reach the status of Zion.
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18; Pearl of Great Price)