I had Bishops who were very kind and extended help beyond what was asked. We paid ours back and still contribute. I did have one Bishop's Counselor who filled in for the Bishop who wouldn't give us freah fruit to augment our MRE's when we had twins but he was an exception. Our family has volunteered at our stake's local welfare drop which is literally a local grocery store, bimonthly, and people get excellent service and quality without being shamed or judged.
Attitudes in these stories are so telling. Christ is the exemplar in meekness and humility. Sadly in the church, many times it seems to be lacking in the receivers.
I sat in a Relief Society meeting on welfare and self-reliance that totally changed the way I felt about the subject. Visiting us was a high school aged young woman. Her family had had to take church welfare following her parents' divorce. The sole money coming in was the wages she made in her after school job.
While the teacher continued trying to stress self-reliance, she continued to insist that the teacher was wrong, not seeing what was really being experienced in these families. I finally realized the teacher was handing out platitudes that made it easy for those of us attending to judge others. The brave young woman was teaching us the truth: she was ready to fail because the burden was just too great.
Unfortunately, the idea of self-reliance is too often used as a rod to beat people with, not a means of redeeming them.
I see those with means in the Church excusing the money they take -- in tax breaks for capital gains, in child tax credit, in government grants to college students and tax breaks to pay them back for attending, in everything from deductions for interest they pay on their mortgages to excuses as to why it is okay for them to borrow the ward's tables and folding chairs and keep them in their dining room for five years. But the poor, they are slackers who just need another lecture on self-reliance. I have heard well-paid attorneys insist they did not need to pay for the steak dinner they were eating at a campout because they were there as a stake leader. Of course, everyone else eating was paying but their calling made them exempt.
Perhaps the real lesson in self-reliance needs to be given to the rich and the middle class. They are eating at the government trough as thoroughly as the poor.
Years ago, President Kimball taught us that LDS employers should try to pay their emploees the highest wages for their work. I feel that part of the dream of Zion has been forgotten. Rather, we have adopted the beliefs of the world. Self-reliance through creating for yourself the highest profits. Certainly people are only in trouble because they brought their troubles upon themselves. Isn't that the belief King Benjamin denounces?
I am very sorry for what "Sharon" is going through---I know it's hard. I've been through much of it, and continue to go through some of it. Years ago a member of my ward in Provo, Utah, went through a hard time when her husband was beginning to experience homosexuality. She remarked that our ward members may not have known much about her particular problem, but LDS people sure know how to help. They do. Keep talking, keep asking, and find the people who can listen and perhaps help you. They are there. I'm 67 ( and a guy!) and have been LDS for 46 years old. I have been a helper for most of my life. Those kind of folks are in your ward---sometimes you have to work to find them.When I finish typing, I will kneel down and pray for you. My best to you.---Chuck
Having served as a Relief Society president who made those in home visits to offer food assistance to members struggling financially, I learned a great deal about people's attitudes. Those who were sincerely grateful (often to the point of tears) for the assistance usually only needed a month or two of food help. Those were the ones who would ask for 2 cans of soup and I would write down 8, based on my feelings about what their family needed. Those with an entitlement attitude would often come armed with requests for much more than my family ate in 2 months - and our instructions were that food orders were for 2 weeks! I often had to try to teach them that it is okay for their family to not have meat with every meal. Those families often made little effort to better their financial circumstances. But I hope that even when I had to redirect their requests and deny some of their wants, I treated them all with kindness and love. I was often emotional when I considered this responsibility to care for our neighbors, by spending the widow's mite. Humbling to say the least. The real test of success of our welfare programs are when they are no longer needed.
This seems like another one of those pieces where we LDS pat ourselves on the backs for how we have found the model that works and are going to teach it to the world. But may I offer another view, this one from the inside, someone who needed Church welfare during a dark period in my life.
I found the bishops to be focused not on listening or understanding or helping, but on making me feel bad about myself. By the time I finished dealing with mine I began seriously considering suicide. I know I am not alone in this. Earlier in my experience in that ward, I had opened my cupboards to a friend who did not want to approach a prior bishop for help because of his lectures to her. We are not welfare cases, we are single people with severe family problems. We are the divorced, the married with children struggling with drug problems or mental illness. I found that in the Church we love to discuss how we hold the only true priesthood when we sit in Sunday School. But we must never expect our leaders to actually possess this power when we seek blessings.
I have grown so disillusioned in my recent dealings with Church leaders. I hear too much lecturing on self-reliance, see too many examples of leaders assuring themselves all is well in Zion and that they are doing enough to help, while those who believed their words are left unhelped after another one of their talks from the pulpit.
Wish I could agree. After decades of sacrificing not only wants but real needs, when I needed help for a short time during the economic downturn, I found my bishop to be unkind and judgemental. I was deeply disappointed in the system. I considered the help I received a loan and paid it back as quickly as I could. But I no longer contribute.
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