Saturday, December 20, 2008


Will work for food? The Mormons really let you-
The Denver Post December 18, 2008

I've lit candles with Hindus in Malaysia, raised toasts with Muslims in Tunisia and danced with Buddhists in Bangkok. I never thought about breaking bread with Mormons in Salt Lake City.

They've been made into organized religion's comic strip, what with the mysterious underwear, weird liquor laws and more rules than the monastery I visited in China.

But there is one aspect of Mormon culture that not even Bill Maher could satirize. It stands in a 13-acre lot just south of downtown Salt Lake City.

If you've been there, you've seen Welfare Square without knowing it. Its trademark white grain elevator stands 178 feet high. It holds 16 million pounds of wheat.

That's only part of the food the Mormon Church gives to the needy. The guiding principle: Come for food, but work for it later. From 60 to 200 people of all faiths come through what they call the bishop's storehouse every day.

''Government welfare is primarily a dole system,'' said James Goodrich, group manager of Welfare Square. ``We think that dole leads to dependence rather than encourages people to be independent. We've chosen to stay independent.''

Fiftyish and wearing a dapper suit, Goodrich hails from the tiny town of Tridell, Utah. He went on a mission to New Zealand and has a master's degree in public health from Brigham Young University.
The system works like this: Mormons in need go to their bishop, who spends two weeks evaluating their needs. They fill out a form and take it to the bishop's storehouse, which is like a well-stocked small-town grocery. It has about 145 products ranging from fresh bread to canned tomatoes to cartons of milk. There are 139 bishop's storehouses nationwide.

Then comes the twist: ''It's the bishop's role to find something the family can do to work for what they've received,'' Goodrich said. ``They may cook meals for a widow who's ailing. They may tend to children so a woman can go to the doctor. They may clean the buildings where we work. People receive according to their needs and work according to their abilities.''

It's not just church members who are eligible. ''It's up to the bishop,'' Goodrich says, but ``the majority are not members of our faith. If they're willing to work, we'll provide them with some food.''

I asked him if this was a subtle way to populate the flock.

''It is not an objective,'' he said. ``If an individual is desirous [to learn] about the church, we are certainly willing to accommodate. But we do not . . . seek welfare converts.''

In 2003, Ethiopian officials impressed with the church's efforts asked if it could help produce atmit, a nourishing porridge. It was originally made out of oat flour and goat's milk, but BYU helped the church develop a powdered product that could be reconstituted with boiled water. They added vitamins and minerals and a little salt and sugar for taste. In the first year, the church sent 600 tons of it to Ethiopia.

''Here, look at this,'' Goodrich said.

He handed me a picture of a bald 8-year-old girl who weighed 20 pounds. Next to her was a 6-month ''after'' picture.

Her smile was nearly as big as her hair.
This article was sent to me by a friend and I located the article online at the above Miami Herald url, but apparently photo is not available online for non-subscribers. I would assume her hair is as big as some of the BYU co-eds.'

1 comment:

davers said...

This was really cool.

Somehow the Church PR office needs to do a better job getting info like this out there.