We’ve mentioned numerous times that early in the 20th century it was common practice to pay small sums of cash to Latter-day Saints who served as temple proxies who were working in behalf of those not related to them. That is, Latter-day Saints who had the responsibility to see that temple work was completed for their kindred dead, but who did not live near temples or had more work to do than they could accomplish themselves, paid a small fee to others to do that work for them. These others were chiefly the elderly who appreciated both the value of temple service and the opportunity to help support themselves financially.
In the mid to late 1930s, the General Church Security Committee (Church Security meant Welfare Program in that era) sought to expand this assistance to more elderly Saints. Their proposal directed to ward and stake leaders is presented below. It is undated, but the General Church Security Committee existed under that specific name only from 1936 to 1938.
Temple Work In Connection with the Church Security Program
Melvin J. Ballard
Chairman of General Church Security Committee and
Member of Quorum of Twelve Apostles
Brethren, as we have studied the problem of finding employment for our brethren and sisters, who are in need of help there has come to our attention the condition of a great many aged brethren and sisters who are unable to enter into the field of industry, who nevertheless must not be kept in idleness, for even idleness to them is a menace. Those who are in good physical condition should be provided employment. The type of employment that appeals to us as something these people can do with joy to themselves and with satisfaction in the feeling that they are helping at least to support themselves – is our temple work.
I think the most beautiful thing I have seen in the world is the temple work of the Church as performed by aged people. When I contrast this with old-folks’ homes where people live in idleness in charitable institutions supported by the state or the counties just waiting to die, it does seem to me that this is the most delightful kind of activity for aged people there is in the world. It is a delightful experience for them to be engaged in the redemption and salvation of their kindred folks whom they are to meet in the spirit world.
The General Committee have made some recommendations to the First Presidency which they have approved and I am going to read to you a few lines and items from those recommendations:
“The General Committee have considered carefully the details of the suggested project, and we submit to you herewith our findings and observations with recommendations as to what might be done in developing the splendid ideas contained in the proposal.
These suggestions are made after a consultation with the General Board of Relief Society and representatives of the Genealogical Society.
Proposed Temple Work Project and Its Relation to the Church Security Program.
Our study of this matter suggests probably four classes of individuals who would be interested in such a project:
1. A considerable number of faithful Latter-day Saints, who because of age and perhaps minor infirmities are unable to sustain themselves in any rigorous activity, but who would find great joy in being enabled to labor in one of the temples, where as a result of their labors they would have sufficient income to supply their needs. For the most part the greater number of these persons are located in larger centers near our temples.
2. We have many of our faithful people who are in distress and who are being assisted at the present time on various work projects, whose genealogical work is being neglected because in many cases they are too far distant from the temples to be able to afford to do the work and they are without funds to have the work done.
3. The great majority of our people are converted to temple work, many of them live at some distance from the temples and frequently find themselves unable to provide the ready cash to permit them to do regular temple work or to pay to have this work done, but they might be able to contribute of their merchandise if credit could be allowed them and the merchandise thus provided be used to take care of those near temples who might do the work.
4. There are undoubtedly a great many of our members who live near the temples but who, because of arduous Church responsibility or business and professional requirements feel they do not have time to attend the temple or to search out their genealogy.
The following suggestions are submitted for commencing this program as soon as possible:
1. Ward and Stake Genealogical societies should be instructed to begin a business-like and determined campaign among Church members of their localities to submit approved proxy lists to have the work done at the temple located in their particular district. These lists are to be accompanied by contributions of cash to the amount of approximately fifty cents per each name submitted. workers are to be provided with receipt books made in triplicate, one copy to be left with the donor and one copy to go with the contribution and proxy lists to the office of a temple home described hereafter, or to some designated person at the temple nearest to which the donor resides. Where produce is contributed for which an individual desires work to be done, this person should be instructed to deliver such merchandise to the storehouse nearest the temple in his district and receive from the storehouse a copy of a receipt made in triplicate which specifies that this produce has been donated for the purpose of paying for temple work desired done. A copy of this receipt is to be retained by the storehouse and a copy transmitted to the nearest temple home above referred to or to a designated individual at the temple. When such produce has been disbursed either by sale or distribution on Bishops’ Orders, the donor is then to be furnished a statement of the value received at which time proxy lists may be submitted in the manner described above.
2. In order to provide economical and desirable living quarters for elderly people who are eligible and worthy to do temple work and where they have no home near a temple city, that such persons might be housed in a home provided for the temple city to be managed by persons appointed by the Church where the cooking of meals, etc., could be done for all the occupants to provide the greatest economy and yet in a manner to allow for the utmost of privacy and individuality.
People admitted to such homes must be upon recommendation of the Ward Bishop who must certify as to the status of the persons who enter, as to whether or not they are wholly independent, dependent, partially dependent or well able to pay. The status of each individual is to be known only to the person in charge of such a home.
Investigations of some local boarding and rooming houses, reveals that the usual charge being made in such places where excellent accommodations are provided is $30.00 per month for single persons, which includes room, breakfast, lunch put up for workers to take to the temple, and an evening meal, and where two persons live in the same room, a charge of $50.00 for the couple is made.
If these people could be provided with sufficient names solicited from Ward and Stake members and they be permitted to do a minimum of two names per day, this would provide an income sufficient to employ them and amply pay the costs of the home and to allow some additional money for these people to spend for themselves.
Orders for merchandise could be drawn on the local regional storehouse where surpluses could be utilized and the costs of such merchandise be paid out of the contributions received as above described or from the transfer of merchandise contributed to outlying storehouses that might be transported to the local storehouses or the cash equivalent paid.
We recommend that such a movement be instituted in every temple district pending a working out of plans to provide temple homes for the aged who are not otherwise situated and conveniently located to do such work.”
You will notice, brethren, that it provides that these folks may do work for which they may receive assistance themselves from the labor by contributions paid by brethren who can afford to pay for the genealogical work being done or the temple work who are not able to go themselves. There are some of our aged people who will be on government relief or on pensions or old-age assistance and some of them will be independent enough and willing to do charity work without cost because they can support themselves. We believe that if you brethren will give attention to it you will find a way by which you may house these folks who live out of the temple cities where they may be cared for more economically than by having one or two in a place and bringing them together and yet giving them home-life and giving them the opportunity of helping themselves by doing this temple work.
We submit this project to you for your thought and consideration, that you may be able to promote the welfare of many of these aged people and at the same time do a glorious work for those who have passed beyond and who are looking to us for the ceremonies and ordinances so essential to their salvation and exaltation and at the same time bring to the people who are engaged in the work joy and satisfaction and the spiritual uplift that will be a great blessing to them. Amen.