Posts Tagged ‘President Truman’

What the Mormons Know About Welfare

March 2, 2012

Mitt Romney has raised the issue of the social safety net. Washington could learn from the lesson of his church.

By NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY

Salt Lake City

Ever since Mitt Romney said he was “not concerned about the very poor” but would fix America’s social safety net “if it needs repair,” conservatives and liberals have been frantically making suggestions. Gov. Romney says he would consider options like restructuring Medicaid. But if he wants to see a welfare system that lets almost no one fall through the cracks while at the same time ensuring that its beneficiaries don’t become lifelong dependents, he could look to his own church.

As I ride in a golf cart through a new 15-acre warehouse on the outskirts of Utah’s capital, I can’t help but wonder: How many Wal-Marts would fit in here? How many burgers can you make from 4,400 industrial pallets of frozen meat? And how do they keep this place cleaner than my kitchen floor?

Dedicated last month, the Bishops Central Storehouse contains a two-year supply of food to support the Mormon church’s welfare system in the U.S. and Canada (primarily for church members in need) and its humanitarian program, which sends food, medical supplies and other necessities to the needy (of all faiths) world-wide.

In addition to goods from canned peaches to emergency generators, the facility also houses the church’s own trucking company, complete with 43 tractors and 98 trailers, as well as a one-year supply of fuel, parts and tires for the vehicles. Just in case.

The storehouse is not only a kind of physical marvel — it has been built to withstand an earthquake with a magnitude as high as 7.5 — but also a symbol of strength and self-sufficiency.

Launched during the Great Depression, the Mormon welfare system was designed by church leaders as a way to match the armies of the unemployed faithful with some of the nearby farms that needed temporary labor. As storehouse manager Richard Humpherys explains, goods and services were traded so that if a father needed food for his family he could get some in exchange for, say, repairing the fence of a widow down the road.

Mormons and U.S. Marines carry aid to landslide victims in central Philippines in 2006.

In 1936, Heber Grant, one of the church leaders, reported the reasoning behind this effort: “Our primary purpose was 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 among our people. The aim of the Church is help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.”

Over the ensuing decades, the church acquired farms and ranches of its own. It built grain silos and dairies and canneries to store and process the food. By the end of World War II, church leaders had enough in the way of reserves that they contacted President Truman to ask if they might assist in feeding and clothing the destitute across Europe. The president readily agreed.

Because it has members on the ground around the world, the church continues to be an important force in bringing food and supplies to the impoverished and victims of natural disasters. Local church leaders contact the central headquarters in Salt Lake City to tell them what is needed — gauze pads, school supplies, wheelchairs — and the church does its best to accommodate.

The Department of Defense recently visited the new storehouse to find out how the Mormons are able to mobilize so quickly, and there is an almost military sense of efficiency and strategy to the church’s efforts. When Hurricane Katrina struck, for instance, the church had positioned its fully loaded trucks in a kind of semicircle from South Carolina to Texas because no one knew how the storm was going to move. The church used reserves of fuel that it has placed around the country, and drivers were able to bring full tanker trucks into New Orleans, powering rescue vehicles and even chain saws to remove tree limbs.

Most of the inventory in the central storehouse, though, goes to supply more than 100 smaller storehouses around the country, plus hundreds of soup kitchens and homeless shelters of other religious communities around North America. Members of the Mormon church who find themselves in difficult circumstances can go to their local bishop and ask for aid.

The bishop then fills out an order allowing them to go and receive food from the local storehouse. Seventy percent of the items on the shelves are produced by the church itself and the remainder are purchased at steep wholesale discounts. According to Rick Foster, who oversees a smaller storehouse in Salt Lake City along with the cannery and dairy at Welfare Square (the original site of all the church’s welfare services), people depend on the food at the storehouse for an average of three to six months

That’s because the church’s goal is to help them get back on their feet as soon as possible. And the storehouse is only one of the tools at the disposal of local bishops, who may also refer members to other church programs, including employment counseling or family services. The bishop may even use money from a fund at his disposal to help pay for education, housing or utilities.

The labor behind the farming, food production, counseling and even cattle ranching is provided almost entirely by volunteers. Some are retired folks who come in every day. Other times an entire ward, or congregation, will come for the day, each of the members standing on an industrial assembly line packaging bread, processing cheese or sealing jars of apple sauce.

Regular tithing by church members helps pay for the facilities, but the primary source of capital support is the Mormons’ monthly fast, as church members are asked to contribute what they would have spent on two meals. Many give much more, says Mr. Foster.

It is safe to assume that Mr. Romney is among them. The tens of millions of dollars he has given the church over the years have raised suspicion in some quarters. What does the church do with all that cash? Wouldn’t that money have been better spent paying a higher income-tax rate? But his donations are supporting the kind of safety net that government can never hope to create. Jesus may have said the poor will always be with you, but he didn’t say Medicaid would.

Ms. Riley, a former Journal editor, writes frequently about religion.

Wall Street Journal article on 2/18/12: What the Mormons Know About Welfare


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Six Boys And Thirteen Hands…

July 13, 2010

The Boys of Iwo Jima
(From the book: Heart Touchers “Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter)

by Michael T. Powers

Each year my video production company is hired to go to Washington, D.C. with the eighth grade class from Clinton, Wisconsin where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall’s trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history — that of the six brave men raising the American flag at the top of Mount Surabachi on the Island of Iwo Jima, Japan during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, “What’s your name and where are you guys from?

I told him that my name was Michael Powers and that we were from Clinton, Wisconsin.

“Hey, I’m a Cheesehead, too! Come gather around Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story.”

James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, D.C. to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good-night to his dad, who had previously passed away, but whose image is part of the statue. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, D.C. but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night. When all had gathered around he reverently began to speak. Here are his words from that night:

“My name is James Bradley and I’m from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called Flags of Our Fathers which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game, a game called “War.” But it didn’t turn out to be a game.

Harlon, at the age of twenty-one, died with his intestines in his hands. I don’t say that to gross you out; I say that because there are generals who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen years old.

(He pointed to the statue)

You see this next guy? That’s Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene’s helmet off at the moment this photo was taken, and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph. A photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection, because he was scared. He was eighteen years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.

The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the “old man” because he was so old. He was already twenty-four. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn’t say, “Let’s go kill the enemy” or “Let’s die for our country.” He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, “You do what I say, and I’ll get you home to your mothers.”

The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, “You’re a hero.” He told reporters, “How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only twenty-seven of us walked off alive?”

So you take your class at school. 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only twenty-seven of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of thirty-two, ten years after this picture was taken.

The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky, a fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, “Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn’t get down. Then we fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night.”

Yes, he was a fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother’s farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Kronkite’s producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, “No, I’m sorry sir, my dad’s not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don’t know when he is coming back.”

My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually he was sitting right there at the table eating his Campbell’s soup, but we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn’t want to talk to the press. You see, my dad didn’t see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, ’cause they are in a photo and a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died, and when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.

When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, “I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. DID NOT come back.”

So that’s the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.”

Suddenly the monument wasn’t just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero in his own eyes, but a hero nonetheless.

Michael T. Powers
HeartTouchers@aol.com

Copyright © 2000 by Michael T. Powers

Write Michael and let him know your thoughts on this story!

Michael T. Powers, the founder of HeartTouchers.com and Heart4Teens.com, is the youth minister at Faith Community Church in Janesville, Wisconsin. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart Kristi and proud father of three young rambunctious boys.

He is also an author with stories in 29 inspirational books including many in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and his own entitled: Heart Touchers “Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter.” To preview his book or to join the thousands of world wide readers on his inspirational e-mail list, visit: http://www.HeartTouchers.com
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[Editor’s Note] This story is posted with the permission and courtesy of the author, Michael T. Powers.

(This is not part of the article but was added in the email story that I received) One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC that is not mentioned here is… that if you look at the statue very closely and count the number of ‘hands’ raising the flag, there are 13. When the man who made the statue was asked why there were 13, he simply said the 13th hand was the hand of God.

We need to remember that God created this vast and glorious world for us to live in, freely, but also at great sacrifice.

Let us never forget from the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terrorism and all the wars in-between that great sacrifices were made for our freedom… Remember to pray for this great country of ours and for those still in conflict around the world. Pray also for all our servicemen and women around the world.

God Bless You and God Bless America.

Everyday that you can wake up free, it’s going to be a great day.


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