In 1939, under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve, the church published Priesthood and Church Welfare: A Study Course of the Quorums of the Melchizedek Priesthood for the Year 1939, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939). Written by George Stewart, Dilworth Walker, and E. Cecil McGavin, this 300-page book describes the then-new church welfare plan. More than that, it discusses principles of cooperation, debt, investment, labor, home production, the Law of Consecration, the United Order, the management of natural resources (including those useful for recreation), charitable contributions, health, thrift, and home repairs – virtually everything that could possibly be grouped under that old Mormon rubric, “temporal salvation.”
It is a remarkable book. Leafing through the pages almost at random turns up paragraphs as relevant today as 80 years ago.
Wars and depressions cause governments to go in debt to meet the emergencies. Unbalanced budgets usually result in monetary inflation accompanied by rising prices, over optimism, speculation and false prosperity. During such periods many people lose their sense of values, rush headlong into debt to buy more sheep, more land, more stocks and bonds, more of anything because prices are rising and prospective profits are great. Even the most conservative are often blinded by the confusion, by the trend of the times. Even Bishops and Stake Presidents have been known to mortgage a debt-free farm or debt-free sheep or cattle in order to buy more, because “everybody is doing it.” And banks have frequently encouraged them in such speculative ventures, even though the land price or the sheep or cattle prices were double the normal price at the time of the venture.
When the break comes – and it always does come, for what goes up must come down – prices decline, land values shrink, banks close in on the loans and thousands find themselves bankrupt. The one who borrowed $9.00 per head on his debt-free herd of sheep to buy another herd at $18.00 per head, now finds that he still owes $9.00 per head on both herds that he would have difficulty in selling for $4 or $5 per head. So the bank is unwillingly forced into the sheep business, and the heretofore thrifty farmer finds himself bankrupt at a time in life when he should be turning his business over to his sons, so that he could retire, not rich, but financially independent.
Some persons have peculiar notions about our Government, its activities, services and costs. They look upon the cost of government as a burden upon society. Taxes are considered an evil and something to be avoided (or evaded) if possible.
In reality, the expense of government is no more of a burden than the cost of telephone, transportation or postal service. For example, if a business concern should purchase a truck for delivery service, that would be a legitimate expense. But if the same business is asked to pay a gasoline tax to help construct and maintain a hard surface road over which te truck is to operate, that would probably be regarded as a burden, because it is a governmental function.
Likewise the typical taxpayer considers his payments for fire insurance an ordinary expense. But he “knows” that his payments in the form of taxes to keep a trained and well-equipped fire department to protect his home and property are not an expense, but a burden. Similarly, the cost of his summer cottage or his country club is not a burden, though the cost of public parks is a burden; the education of his daughter at a private musical conservatory is merely an expense, but payments through taxes for education in public schools is a burden. …
To be sure, our present tax system has many defects. Assessment practices are far from perfect. Some governmental agencies are woefully inefficient. As a result, many persons and businesses become proficient at shifting the tax on to some one else, or in evading it entirely. …
But if we want governmental services, they must be paid for; and in a capitalistic system, where individual initiative and freedom of enterprise is preserved, taxation in one form or another is the only way these expenses can be met. T he only alternative is a socialistic system, where the government owns and operates all forms of productive wealth.
On conservation of the natural world:
Endowed by the Creator with a splendid set of resources, man needs to bring his affairs and activities into tune with the law of God and cooperate with Him in preserving the range, wildlife and recreational resources. Man cannot of himself make streams, shady nooks or grassy glades, or change bare spots into plant-covered ranges. Only nature can do this, by following the eternal laws of the universe.
God has given to man the mountains, the streams, the plants and the animals. To man God has given also intelligence and a versatile body. It is not too much to expect that man shall use his intelligence to put his affairs in tune with the Creator, and so to govern his use of the natural resources as to preserve them for his children, and his children’s children. It is no easy problem to solve, but man will reach his greatest development and make his greatest progress, both temporally and spiritually, by conquest over great difficulties. When man’s effort is strongest, the assurance that he will be given Divine assistance is greatest.
The role of the working-man of today, however, is quite different from the hired man of a few generations ago. At the time our church was organized approximately three-fourths of the population lived on farms, produced their own food and made most of their own clothing. In the main, people provided their own employment. There were few corporations and few hired men. And accordingly there was little unemployment, and therefore practically no excuse for idleness.
In contrast, we find three-fourths of the people living in cities today, largely dependent upon giant industrial corporations for employment. Most of the so-called working class are dependent upon their weekly wage, living in a rented apartment just around the corner from a grocery store, and not far from a five-and-ten-cent department store from which most of their needs are supplied from day to day. If the factory shuts down, due to business reverses or unfavorable economic conditions, the average worker and his family find themselves in a serious predicament. Usually they have little or no reserves, no garden, chickens or cows to supplement the factory pay check, and so the family is virtually stranded unless the government or some other agency comes to their aid. …
In time we will no doubt learn how to live in a highly industrialized civilization without experiencing such violent disturbances. Perhaps we may come to Henry Ford’s plan of decentralized industrial villages, where the wage-earner can have a home of his own, a few chickens, a cow and a garden to supplement the family income and to afford greater security in time of economic disturbances. Or, perhaps the government will devise a permanent program of work projects for the unemployed on a more satisfactory basis than now exists. Or, maybe, an entirely different economic system will evolve out of our difficulties, based on the principles of cooperation, with more emphasis on economic security, and less emphasis on profits, expansion and exploitation.
This is probably as close as Keepa will ever get to inviting rants or debates on such politically charged topics. Try to be courteous, but if you have anything to say in agreement or disagreement, or any opinion on church progressiveness in 1939, feel free to discuss it.