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“I Was Born In The Welfare Program”

January 12, 2012

In the Mormon Channel’s “Faith in Action” program they’ve interviewed Elder Glenn L. Rudd, who played a prominent role in establishing the LDS Church’s Welfare Program during and after the Great Depression. It’s a fascinating and inspiring listen.

One of the stories Elder Rudd told really struck me. He was a teenager during the early days of the Depression. His father was a successful poultry businessman and so instead of being in a position of want, Elder Rudd was in a position to give. His father would hire a few day laborers each morning, even when he didn’t necessarily need them. He would take the young Glenn with him to the workers’ gathering place where Glenn would see dozens of men lined up hoping for work.

One day Glenn noticed a man who had been in that line for several days in a row but had never been picked. When Glenn’s father chose his workers and this man wasn’t among them Glenn asked his father to hire him anyway. His father told him he couldn’t hire everyone, and he didn’t even really need the ones he did hire. But then he asked him why Glenn wanted him to hire this particular man. Glenn simply answered that he looked hungry.

So he was hired for the day. Lunch time came and Glenn sat down next to the new hire as they ate. When the man opened his sack Glenn saw that all it contained was potato peelings. He told Glenn that that morning before he left his wife informed him that all they had left to eat was a single potato. She gave him the peelings to eat for lunch and saved the rest to make potato soup for they and their children that night. After that, their cupboards would be bare. That is, they would have been had Glenn not convinced his father to hire him. Because of Glenn, not only did this man get wages that day, but he also ate a hearty lunch provided by Glenn’s mother.

I’ve been pondering this story and others told on the Faith in Action program. I almost immediately thought of my review of Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness found therein. Rand was a devout atheist who condemned religious ideas of “sacrifice”. She once said, “Communism was based on altruism. Every dictatorship is based on altruism.” But she held this view in response to her perception that religion teaches you should not get anything in return for your sacrifice. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Clearly Elder Rudd benefited from speaking up for the man in the workers line that day. Charity, Pure Religion, uplifts the giver and the receiver. Of the LDS Church’s welfare system, President J. Reuben Clark said,

“Its long term objective is the building of character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers, rescuing all that is finest down deep inside of them, and bringing to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit.”

Elder Rudd became a man to admire because, in his words, he was born in the welfare program. While he says he never knew poverty in his own home, he saw it all around him and he acted upon his innate, god-given desire to help. He gave of himself and in the giving he grew as a man, a leader, and as a child of God.

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