The Mormons' War on Poverty: A History of LDS Welfare, 1830-1990

The Mormons' War on Poverty: A History of LDS Welfare, 1830-1990

The Mormons' War on Poverty: A History of LDS Welfare, 1830-1990

The Mormons' War on Poverty: A History of LDS Welfare, 1830-1990

Excerpt

In the depths of the Great Depression, amidst the barrage of federal programs emanating from Franklin D. Roosevelt New Deal and the accompanying controversy, a flurry of headlines appeared in the national press. The Mormons had introduced a new program which would take care of their poor and point the way for other private organizations. As the Reader's Digest had it: "A year and a half ago,. . . one-sixth of the entire church membership were on direct relief. Today none of them are. The church is taking care of its own. . . . Within a year [every Mormon] was removed from the government relief rolls all over the country." The report was exaggerated but the program and the excitement were real.

IN NOVEMBER 1945, George Albert Smith, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called on Harry S Truman, president of the United States of America. People across the devastated continent of Europe faced a bitter winter and implacable hunger. The church asked for authorization to send food and clothing to its members there. "When will the supplies be ready?" President Truman reportedly asked. "Loaded and ready to roll," responded President Smith. And 140 railroad carloads followed the order.

DAM BREAK! The fracturing of the Teton Dam in the summer of 1976 released the pent-up waters of the Snake River, inundated 90,000 acres of Idaho farmland, and destroyed over 4,000 homes. Almost before the flood waters ended their eighty-five-mile rampage, trucks were rolling out of Salt Lake City and other LDS storehouses with food and clothing, followed by busloads of workers and trucks hauling heavy equipment to clean up the debris. That story could be du-

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