Everyday, it seems, the media report announcements of more job layoffs. The number of companies, both large and small, announcing cutbacks is staggering, but little is said, unfortunately, about what happens to those let go.
For those suddenly without employment, the future certainly looks grim. We often identify ourselves by what we do or where we work. In essence, we take on the characteristics of our job, and so when joblessness strikes us, or even someone very near to us, the first thing that suffers is our self-esteem.
If we have been employed for a long time at one particular task, we can only see ourselves doing that same task. Leaving a job to search for another can be a frightening undertaking, especially in uncertain economic times. Sometimes the period of unemployment can be relatively short, especially if we are trained in areas that are in demand in other industries or areas. Other times, we may go months without finding something suitable to provide income and satisfaction.
President Harold B. Lee, whose life and teachings we are studying this year in Relief Society and priesthood quorums, was all too familiar with the problems associated with people out of work. As president of the Pioneer Stake and as a Salt Lake City commissioner he was asked by Church leaders to help devise a Churchwide response to the Great Depression. The result was the Church's welfare system, whose tenets and workings formulated in the 1930s continue to this day.
"When a home is shattered because of the needs of food and shelter and clothing and fuel," he wrote, "the first thing we have to do is to build a sense of security, a sense of material well-being, before we can begin to lift the family to the plane where we can instill in them faith. That is the beginning, but unless we have the objective of what we do as to the building of faith, the mere giving of material aid fails." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church — Harold B. Lee, p. 168.)
President Lee realized that the need to work is as much a spiritual endeavor as a physical one. When work is interrupted or unavailable to us for whatever reason, our spiritual needs suffer along with our temporal ones.
The story of Joseph in the Old Testament reminds us to prepare for lean times during times of abundance, to put aside reserves to use when circumstances are rough. Pharaoh heeded Joseph's warning that seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine. If we work on our own reserves when things are going well, we can weather the storms more easily.
"And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare. . . ." (Doctrine and Covenants 104: 15-17.)
Church members need to continuously practice those welfare principles instilled by our leaders: Pay an honest tithe. Avoid excessive debt. Live within our means, and work continually to upgrade job skills. Learn to do many household repairs ourselves. Do routine maintenance on equipment to avoid having to replace it before its time. Store adequate food and fuel — not just for emergencies. Store what we eat, and eat what we store. These are just some of the counsel we have received over the years.
If we practice these principles, we can help ourselves during difficult times or lend a hand to assist those less fortunate.
President Lee said, "You show me a people who 'have a mind to work,' to keep out of the bondage of indebtedness, and to work unitedly together in an unselfish service to attain a great objective, and I'll show you a people who have achieved the greatest possible security in the world of men and material things." (Teachings, p. 172.)