“To Care For the Poor and Needy”

Bishop Edgley strikes again. Tonight was the adult session of our stake conference, with Bishop Edgley presiding. As happened with Scott’s stake, Bishop Edgley requested that everyone be prepared to give a talk just in case they were called upon. I dodged the bullet tonight but we’ll see about tomorrow.

What was interesting was that at the end of tonight’s meeting, our stake president prodded Bishop Edgley to share with us that a new Church Handbook would be coming out soon (seems fairly quick since the last one) with a revision to the three-fold mission of the Church. He said they would no longer be called “missions” but “the purpose of the Church.” Most importantly, a fourth prong would be added, “to care for the poor and needy.”

I thought that was pretty exciting. Perhaps FPR was onto something.

25 thoughts on ““To Care For the Poor and Needy”

  1. Chris Henrichsen

    I had heard about possible changes in the area, but I had not heard about specifics. Thanks.

    Of coure FPR was on to something. We always are.

  2. Pingback: A New Mission: Caring for the Poor and the Needy. | Faith-Promoting Rumor

  3. Scott B.

    Thanks for the link to my old post–that was a fun conference experience, and I had intended to do a follow up post.

    I think the addition of a 4th prong specifically for welfare is a good idea–having it wrapped up in Perfecting the Saints seems to be spreading too little butter over too much bread to me.

    Of course, that now means EQs in the Church will have 4 chairpersons who don’t do anything…

  4. David H. Sundwall Post author

    Chris – Thanks for the write up and link.

    Dan – I’m glad as long as the Church is doing more and encouraging us to do more and not let the govt. pick up the slack. Call it whatever you like.

    Scott – I remember reading your original post thinking, “I’m glad that’s not me!”

    But it was a great conference. I wasn’t called but I think the challenge was a great idea that got everybody engaged, even if they weren’t called (they just called a handful of members in the three sessions I attended). Made it one of the best stake conferences I can remember.

  5. David H. Sundwall Post author

    Dan – Not sure how “evil” comes into this but I believe that charity and helping the poor are much more efficient and beneficial to the giver as well as the givee when its done by individuals and private organizations, including churches.

    Outsourcing these responsibilities to the government isn’t the optimal solution in my view, but not evil.

  6. Dan


    Socialism = evil. The difference in whether or not helping the poor is good or evil stems from whether the service is provided for by the government or by private institutions. This is what all the prophets were railing on back in the 1930s-1980s.

  7. Russell

    I agree helping and assisting the poor is a requisite part of the Gospel. A friend at Church was telling me about Bishop Edgley’s remarks. Can anyone provide me the details of the doctrine. The Three-fold mission of the Church was established in D&C Sec 110. The keys restored by Moses, Elias, and Elijah are respectively Proclaim the Gospel (Gather Isreal), Perfect the Saints, and Redeem the Dead. Are there keys involved? I would assume these keys to be those held by a Bishop as the Aaronic Priesthood’s purpose is to seek out the poor and needy. But I question if it is a purpose of the Church, rather it is part of membership.

  8. David B

    @Dan: Actually, i’ve spent a good amount of time listening to general conference addresses from the formative years of the church’s welfare program, and there was a pretty decent split in the question of whether government-based welfare was on balance a good or bad thing. Well, actually, for the most part the question didn’t arise at all–you don’t start hearing much on it until the 50s. (Speaking of which, the 1950 general conferences had some truly *weird* addresses. But i digress.)

    @David: Is private welfare always more efficient? I doubt it, really–you gain some flexibility, but at the cost of losing some efficiencies of scale and coverage. It seems to be a Gala apples to Asian pears comparison–you’d think they’re related enough that you could stack them up against each other directly, but they’re not closely enough related to do that at all.

  9. Geoff B

    David, congrats on breaking this story. We will be linking to it at M*. Remember there are people in the Bloggernacle who love you (I know it can feel lonely sometimes).

  10. David H. Sundwall Post author

    Christopher – Thanks for linking to the story. It was very nice to speak with the great Ms. Stack.

    David B – I can’t say that private welfare is always more efficient but I think as a general rule it is. Of course, the government can handle a scale and coverage that no one else can, but I don’t know if “efficient” is the right description.

    I agree it may be a bad comparison but I would say part of the problem is that over the last 70 years, we have ceded so much as the government’s responsibility that private charities have been crowded out and given up trying. I think that’s a huge problem, because charity should be for the giver as well and the recipient, and that also gets lost when the government gets involved. I don’t think I get any special blessings for paying my taxes. The comparison may not be perfect but government’s relatively recent dominion has made it so.

    Geoff – Thanks. I didn’t think I was “breaking a story.” To be honest I didn’t think it would get out of the orbit of us Mormon nerds and the Bloggernacle.

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  12. Dan

    David B.,

    Do you have links to some of the addresses from conferences where General Authorities were saying the government run systems were pretty good?

  13. Dan

    David Sundwall,

    I agree it may be a bad comparison but I would say part of the problem is that over the last 70 years, we have ceded so much as the government’s responsibility that private charities have been crowded out and given up trying.

    pray, give examples of private charities taking care of the poor prior to the 1930s. I’m really really curious how effective they were.

  14. David H. Sundwall Post author


    What is your point? Do you mean to suggest that private charities didn’t exist prior to the 1930s? Have you heard of the Salvation Army? Have you seen any Catholic, Jewish, or hospitals bearing the names of other religions (including the LDS Hospital where my daughter was born last month)? Most, if not all, of those were started before the government decided to step into healthcare.

    Speaking of hospitals, thanks in large part to government, medicine has become so costly and regulated (some which may threaten religious principles) that most religious organizations have sold off the hospitals which now only bear their name.

    Believe it or not, charities have been around long before the government decided to allow them tax-exempt status or give them grants. Charity should be based on things like faith, charity, and hope. Not some bureaucratic policy initiative.

    I don’t mean to suggest that the government has no role to play but it has gotten way out of hand, and I believe all of us are the worse for it. I don’t believe the Church’s renewed emphasis will entail supporting government initiatives but private ones, from the Church-wide level down to the ward and individual.

  15. Dan


    not in the least. I’m well aware that charities have been around for a long time. That wasn’t my question, though, was it? I asked for examples of charities taking care of the poor prior to the 1930s and their effectiveness. How far reaching were charities? Who still was not helped due to any number of reasons, such as distance from charity, or, say being non-Catholic. You decry governmental run services because that is what your political ideology tells you. I’m for the facts, David. Were private charities more effective at helping the same number of Americans prior to the government getting involved? Were private charities helping more Americans than when the government got involved? I have absolutely no problem with it if the facts show that prior to the 1930s, private charities took care of more poor Americans than the government did when it got involved. I have absolutely no problem with that, because if those are the facts, then that’s how it was.

  16. David H. Sundwall Post author

    Well gee, Dan, you’re going to make me work on this aren’t you? ;-)

    I don’t know if there are even cold hard facts for what you want but you’re going to make me read something I have had on my list for some time which I think may touch on this, “The Tragedy of American Compassion.”

    Regardless of the facts you want, I believe I think I can say without a doubt (how’s that for certainty?) that our capacity to do charity and be blessed for it is greatly diminished when the government gets involved.

    Some of these arguments were hashed out in this non-provocatively-titled post from last year, “Voting Democrat Does Not Equal Charity.” But I need to do some more research. It’s a fascinating subject.

  17. Dan


    I’m just going to take a guess. I’m guessing the reason why most voters went to set up government programs to help them out is because the private world failed at providing help for a vast number of Americans. Why are we going to the government right now to reform health insurance? It is because the private insurance world has so terribly mangled up the process. I mean, canceling someone’s health insurance just as they need it most? WTF!!!! One thing I am well aware of, before Medicare, a larger number of Americans were uninsured than after. Currently you have about 10-15 percent of the American population not covered by health insurance. Before Medicare, that number was around 30-35 percent. That means, under private care alone, only 65-70 percent of Americans were covered. Because of course, capitalism only cares for those who can afford to pay. It’s the core nature of capitalism. It’s not a fault. That’s the nature of that beast.

    My guess, without even looking at hard data is that private charities failed badly before the 1930s at taking care of even close to the same number of Americans that were taken care of when government got involved with Social Security. I’m guessing that there were very very few charitable organizations that provided a safety net retirement for the elderly. I’m guessing that most elderly when they either retired or were forced out of their jobs before Roosevelt, they either survived by the charity of their children or religion, and then if not, they were dead in not too many years. Oddly enough, the life expectancy rate increased dramatically in America since the 1930s. Maybe getting government programs (or at least government-funded private organizations) is actually far more beneficial than exclusively private organizations simply because the government has a far greater ability to reach to its people than any one private organization.

    If private organizations and charities were doing well pre-Roosevelt, no one would have need of the government. Just sayin’…

  18. Chris Henrichsen

    Both private charity and public programs are need. They both have strengths and weaknesses. When they are both working well, all are better off. Pitting them against each other is not productive and does not serve the common good. Doing so, surely does not serve the interests of the poor.

    Dan, David is not some anti-government crazy. His father is an amazing man with a long record of public service. I think that a conservative argument about government (as opposed to the anti-government hysteria that we see alot today) is needed and should be encouraged.

  19. Dan


    Certainly I respect David. My only quibble was with his point that governmental programs somehow push out charities. If that’s the case, my point was simple: how did private charities and private organizations do at taking care of the poor before the government got involved. I posit that the record is very very poor.

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  21. David B

    @Dan: No links to old General Conference addresses–they’re not online, as far as i can tell. There are collections of recordings in archives here and there. BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library has (as you might guess) the most complete collection i’m aware of, but borrowing privileges are restricted.

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