Homelessness: The Repudiation of our Nation's Greatness

Forgotten amid the debate as to whether the federal government should be the one to provide for the poor is the reality that we Americans still have more than our share of poor among us.  The irony likely escapes many of us who think of ourselves as an exceptional nation--as a shining city on a hill.  No matter how we hope to approach the much needed solution, the reality is that the American house of cards is built on too much empire and too little charity.  In order to survive the coming economic storm, we have one alternative--to become more giving. Americans can learn a great lesson from the example of the LDS Church Welfare system.


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LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley observed, sadly, that
The plight of the homeless is a repudiation of the greatness of [the] nation [of America]. 
To be truly a great nation, we must be giving. Hinckley continued:
I commend most warmly those who with a compelling spirit of kindness reach out to those in distress, regardless of whom they might be, to help and assist, to feed and provide for, to nurture and to bless. 

Says the scripture:
5 Wherefore, be faithful; asuccor the bweak, lift up the hands which hang down, and cstrengthen the dfeeble knees.

6 And if thou art afaithful unto the end thou shalt have a bcrown of cimmortality, and eternal life in the dmansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father.
We have no time to be busy arguing whether the federal government should be the one to take care of the poor, especially as such condemnation often works to absolve us of noticing that poor and homeless exist all around us.Instead, we should spend our time searching out the indigent in order that we might give.

In another passage we are reminded:
16 And also, ye yourselves will asuccor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the bbeggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.


  17 Perhaps thou shalt asay: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— 

  18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

  19 For behold, are we not all abeggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
How can we give if we are not self-reliant? It is far easier, when we are in debt ourselves, to ignore the plight of the homeless or the indigent, incorrectly content to let them suffer in a bed they supposedly made for themselves.

An economic contagion has gripped the world.  We thought it was gone away, but it has remanifested itself in Greece, and it will spread. It will get much worse before it gets any better.  There will come a time when the only way we will be able to get by is if we do the very best we can to take care of our neighbor.  LDS Apostle Marion G Romney wisely counseled that
...it is consistent with the laws of heaven that one's right of reliance upon the Lord for protection against want is in direct proportion to his own liberality in sustaining the Lord's poor.

We've got to stop worrying about being fleeced by the federal government (which, in my opinion, does an atrocious job of taking care of the poor) and, instead start being effusive in our personal assistance to those who are less fortunate than we.  If it takes carpooling, so be it.  If it takes one less trip to the movies per month, that doesn't seem a hard sacrifice to make. If what is required is for us to invite a homeless family to share our home temporarily, that may be more difficult, but we will be blessed for it.

Americans have often been referred to as the most giving nation on earth. But are we anymore? I fear that we're mired so deeply in our own pleasantries that we have lost much of the ability to look outward anymore.

In addition to general domestic decadence, we have become a nation of empire, fearful of bogeymen under every bed and in every Middle Eastern cave. We have allowed illusions of empire, along with the enemies that empire creates, to turn us inward.  I'm sure some Americans wear the epithet of "empire" as a badge of honor.  They will live to be embarrassed by it.  As inconvenient as this fact may be for some, it is nonetheless a fact that America has dominated the globe wholly unlike any nation that could ever hope to call itself a shining city on a hill.

What is worse is that we are a nation of empire built on a house of cards.  It is unconscionable, since the Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Empire, that we have retained our imperial armies and navies. In that 20-year interim, whether our taxes had been used to feed the poor instead of to satiate our lust for empire, or whether our taxes were reduced in order to allow entrepeneurial Americans to allocate their resources to feed the indigent, the reality is that we would have had a much smaller poverty problem in America today.  We have nearly become as the wobbling Soviet behemoth that we once destroyed.

In order to weather the coming economic storm, Americans must decry the destruction of American empire.  And we must be more giving.  It is only through the calculus of giving that we thrive together.  LDS Church President Heber J Grant years ago related the following to Church Apostle Harold B. Lee:
The statistics of the Church and the income of the church have been graudally increasing, and increasing, and increasing; and that economically is not justified. There was nothing in our communities to make this advance in income...

Then [President Grant] added that the only way he can explain it is that we are now taking care of our poor, and our Heavenly Father is blessing us for it. He added that it was miraculous to see that since we started to take care of the needy in the Welfare Program, the income off the Church has increased and increased, and instead s the calamity howlers said we we would fail, we are better off today than we were before because we are taking care of the needy.

It has worked for the LDS Church.  The perfect economic storm is now likely upon us all. Americans no longer have any time to wonder and worry whether the federal government is justified in exacting taxes from us to provide for the poor.  It is time to act--to become more self-reliant in order that we might give.  It is likely that the only way we can weather the days ahead is to follow the example of the LDS Church, and to give like we've never given before.  As Marion G Romney testified
There is a great connection between the answering of your prayers and your contributions to the poor. If you will take of your substance and give to the Lord's poor liberally, the Lord will never leave you without the necessities of life.

Comments

  1. I'm impressed, Frank. If the federal government has a role at all, it should be a safety net WHEN INDIVIDUALS AND THE CHURCH HAVE DONE ALL THAT THEY CAN. I also appreciate the suggestion that we turn our swords into plowshares. Another thought: church leaders have warned against the rampant consumerism in society in and out of the Church. We need to become more provident and we need to support those whose arms hang down whether due to hunger, homelessness, or absence of the gifts of the gospel.

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