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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 21: Principles of Temporal and Spiritual Welfare

Chapter 21: Principles of Temporal and Spiritual Welfare

During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 262–74

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

The Lord is anxious and willing to bless His people temporally and spiritually. I realize, my brethren and sisters, that in discussing temporal matters, the Lord has said:

“… all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal. …” [D&C 29:34.]

The objective, of course, is spiritual. We live, however, in a material, physical, temporal world. …

The Christian worldview agrees with this teaching.

… Man is a dual being, temporal and spiritual, and in the early revelations to this people, the Lord took occasion, many times, to give direction and commandment regarding temporal matters. He directed the Saints and the leaders of the Church in the purchase of land and other property; in the construction of temples; even in the establishment of a printing press, and a store, and in the building of a boardinghouse for the “weary traveler” [see D&C 124:22–23]. In the great revelation known as the Word of Wisdom, he not only indicated what is good and what is not good for man, but he outlined a plan for the feeding of livestock, which, through more than a hundred years, has gradually been sustained through the scientific investigation of man [see D&C 89]. Whatever affects human welfare has always been and ever will be the concern of the Church. Our people have always been counseled in temporal affairs. …

For more on the Word of Wisdom, click another response to Teachings of Presidents of the Church.

It is important that we keep our thinking straight, my brothers and sisters. Let us ever keep in mind that all material things are but a means to an end, that the end is spiritual, although the Lord is anxious and willing to bless his people temporally. He has so indicated in many of the revelations. He has pointed out, time and time again, that we should pray over our crops, over our livestock, over our households, our homes, and invoke the Lord’s blessings upon our material affairs. And he has promised that he will be there and ready and willing to bless us. …

… The Lord will not do for us what we can and should do for ourselves. But it is his purpose to take care of his Saints. Everything that concerns the economic, social, and spiritual welfare of the human family is and ever will be the concern of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As we administer any aspect of the welfare program, the primary purpose for which it was established must be kept before us. That stated purpose is “to set up, insofar as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift, and self-respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.”

The strength of the Church welfare program lies in every family following the inspired direction of the Church leaders to be self-sustaining through adequate preparation. God intends for his Saints to so prepare themselves “that the church [as the Lord has said] may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world.” (D&C 78:14.)

The scriptural parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins [see Matthew 25:1–13] is a reminder that one can wait too long before he attempts to get his spiritual and temporal house in order. Are we prepared?

There is nothing wrong with the Latter-day Saints wanting to take care of the temporal needs of their members. For those wanting relief but who are not members, it’s much more difficult to get any assistance from the LDS Church, with certain restrictions for money, food, and clothes, as the organization requires those receiving aid to either be members or at least attenders of a local Mormon ward. Of course, it’s the church’s money and their leaders can give (or not give) to anyone they want. I just don’t see the same types of restrictions with Christian agencies. For instance, Christian Pro-Life organizations will supply the needs of any pregnant mother and even for time after the birth. Rescue missions (including the Salt Lake Rescue Mission, to which I personally endorse) feed and house even those who don’t belong to a Christian church. Throughout the world Christian-based hospitals are available to anyone who needs help. Restrictions are rare unless a person is not willing to follow the rules of the donating organization.

Through energetic, purposeful, unselfish work, we obtain life’s necessities and grow in godly attributes.

One of the first principles revealed to father Adam when he was driven out of the Garden of Eden was this: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground” (Gen. 3:19). All we obtain in life of a material nature comes as a product of labor and the providence of God. Work alone produces life’s necessities.

Man is commanded by God to live by the sweat of his own brow, not someone else’s.

Paul told Timothy that if a person is not willing to work, he should not eat. As the proverb states, give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime. There is no substitute for hard work.

Ours is a gospel of work—purposeful, unselfish and rendered in the spirit of the true love of Christ.

Christians, meanwhile, believe in the gospel of grace.

Only thus may we grow in godly attributes. Only thus may we become worthy instruments in the hands of the Lord for blessing others through that power which can lead to changing the lives of men and women for the better.

In Mormonism, it is all about becoming worthy. In Christianity, it is all about Jesus making a person “worthy” by providing forgiveness of sins.

We should be humbly grateful for this challenge, this heritage, this opportunity for service and its abundant rewards. How fortunate are those who may follow the Lord’s plan to develop this power and use it for the blessing of others. That is what the Christ did. That is what we are privileged to do.

Welfare recipients should work to the extent of their ability to earn commodity or fast offering assistance. When meaningful jobs are not provided, when people are not encouraged to work, a demoralizing Church dole would develop, and the purpose for which the welfare program was established would be undermined. It is a law of heaven, and one we haven’t learned fully here on earth, that you cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they can do, and should do, for themselves.

We should ask the Lord’s blessings on all our doings and should never do anything upon which we cannot ask His blessings. We should not expect the Lord to do for us what we can do for ourselves. I believe in faith and works, and that the Lord will bless more fully the man who works for what he prays for than He will the man who only prays.

Energetic, purposeful work leads to vigorous health, praiseworthy achievement, a clear conscience, and refreshing sleep. Work has always been a boon to man. May you have a wholesome respect for labor whether with head, heart, or hand. May you ever enjoy the satisfaction of honest toil. … You will never wish or dream yourself into heaven. You must pay the price in toil, in sacrifice, and righteous living.

Notice the last line: “You must pay the price in toil, in sacrifice, and righteous living.” I believe the good work ethic in this temporal should not be translated in what is expected for the spiritual life. In Mormonism, what a person does in this life translates into what is received in the next life. As discussed in so many of these reviews of Teachings of Presidents of the Church, this is just not the case when the teachings of the Bible are considered.



… The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah. …

… Plan to build up your food supply just as you would a savings account. Save a little for storage each pay-check. Can or bottle fruit and vegetables from your gardens and orchards. Learn how to preserve food through drying and possibly freezing. Make your storage a part of your budget. Store seeds and have sufficient tools on hand to do the job. If you are saving and planning for a second car or a TV set or some item which merely adds to your comfort or pleasure, you may need to change your priorities. We urge you to do this prayerfully and do it now. …

Food storage is emphasized in Mormon wards. Collecting food (two years or more) and canning fruits and vegetables play a major role in many LDS families. If what Benson is saying is true, then why should anyone have to “do this prayerfully.” If something is said by the LDS leadership, it appears that the need to do this is a command and not something left up to personal revelation.

Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, and earthquake cannot happen here. Those who believe this are either not acquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or they do not believe them. Those who smugly think these calamities will not happen, that they somehow will be set aside because of the righteousness of the Saints, are deceived and will rue the day they harbored such a delusion.

The Lord has warned and forewarned us against a day of great tribulation and given us counsel, through His servants, on how we can be prepared for these difficult times. Have we heeded His counsel? …

Be faithful, my brothers and sisters, to this counsel and you will be blessed—yes, the most blessed people in all the earth. You are good people. I know that. But all of us need to be better than we are. Let us be in a position so we are able to not only feed ourselves through the home production and storage, but others as well.

May God bless us to be prepared for the days which lie ahead, which may be the most severe yet.

LDS leaders are free to teach their people food storage. I have no problem with the concept. There is wisdom in being prepared for natural disasters. In fact, I lived in Southern California for several different firestorms where I lived. Having supplies on hand led to peace of mind during those times.

Here is something to consider, though. When a disaster does take place, how many nonMormons understand that their LDS neighbors keep so much food? I would say most people know this about Mormons. Could this teaching possibly endanger innocent LDS families? I would recommend that families who practice food storage keep this information to themselves.

Peace and contentment come into our hearts when we save a portion of our earnings and avoid unnecessary debt.

I would think Dave Ramsey, the radio financial planner who advocates no debt finances, would be jumping for joy at this teaching.

I would respectfully urge you to live by the fundamental principles of work, thrift, and self-reliance and to teach your children by your example. … Live within your own earnings. Put a portion of those earnings regularly into savings. Avoid unnecessary debt. Be wise by not trying to expand too rapidly. Learn to manage well what you have before you think of expanding further.

Many verses in the book of Proverbs could be used to agree with this teaching. Unfortunately, we live in a society that isn’t patient and wants immediate gratification. Too many families purchase boats, TVs, and other items of convenience or luxury by using credit. Consider how the U.S. government practices deficit spending and taking this nation into trillions of dollars into debt. I encourage my children  to not live in such a way. I agree with Benson and say “avoid unnecessary debt.”


Many people do not believe that serious recession will ever come again. Feeling secure in their expectations of continuing employment and a steady flow of wages and salaries, they obligate their future income without thought of what they would do if they should lose their jobs or if their incomes were stopped for some other reason. But the best authorities have repeatedly said that we are not yet smart enough to control our economy without downward adjustments. Sooner or later these adjustments will come.

Another reason for increase in debt is even deeper and causes greater concern. This is the rise of materialism, as contrasted with commitment to spiritual values. Many a family, in order to make a “proper showing,” will commit itself for a larger and more expensive house than is needed, in an expensive neighborhood. … With the rising standard of living, that temptation increases with each new gadget that comes on the market. The subtle, carefully planned techniques of modern advertising are aimed at the weakest points of consumer resistance. As a result, there is a growing feeling, unfortunately, that material things should be had now, without waiting, without saving, without self-denial.

Worse still, a large proportion of families with personal debt have no liquid assets [savings] whatsoever to fall back upon. What troubles they invite if their income should be suddenly cut off or seriously reduced! We all know of families who have obligated themselves for more than they could pay. There is a world of heartache behind such cases.

Money is a very divisive issue in the majority of families in today’s society. Debt drives the divisiveness. Once again, the borrower to servant to the lender.

Living beyond our means can create “a world of heartache.”

Now I do not mean to say that all debt is bad. Of course not. Sound business debt is one of the elements of growth. Sound mortgage credit is a real help to a family that must borrow for a home.

Do not, I solemnly urge you, tie yourselves to payment of carrying charges that are often exorbitant. Save now and buy later, and you will be much further ahead. You will spare yourselves high interest and other payments, and the money you save may provide opportunity for you to buy later at substantial cash discounts.

… Resist the temptation to plunge into property far more pretentious or spacious than you really need.

How much better off you will be, especially young families just starting out, if first you buy a small house which you can expect to pay for in a relatively short time. …

Do not leave yourself or your family unprotected against financial storms. Forgo luxuries, for the time being at least, to build up savings. How wise it is to provide for the future education of your children and for your old age. …

Brothers and sisters, peace and contentment come into our hearts when we live within our means. God grant us the wisdom and the faith to heed the inspired counsel of the priesthood to get out of debt, to live within our means, and to pay as we go—in short, to “pay thy debt, and live.”

With these last paragraphs, I would fully concur. Debt for consumer goods is not worth it. Wise financial planning will provide more opportunities for any family’s future.

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