The Duty of Every Man in the Day of His Strength

Prophet Statesmen, Albert E. Bowen

One of the tragedies of the world today is the unwillingness of people to assume responsibility . . . . The alternative to unwillingness to assume responsibility for one’s self is the willingness to shift that responsibility over to someone else. That always comes at a price—the price of independence and self-esteem. It is attributable to pure indolence. Man progresses, grows, develops strength of character and spirit by the assumption of responsibility. That is the inexorable law of life. Men must learn to make provision for their own future. Greatness and strength never came to any nation whose citizens had nothing more exacting to do than wrap their loins in a breech-clout, and dodge coconuts as they fell from the trees. The world has moved forward only under the energy and resourcefulness of those people and nations who have had to wrest a living from the earth through struggle with the elements and to provide in the growing season for the needs of life.

Old age is the winter of life. It is the duty of every man in the days of his strength to make provision for it. You can’t relieve him of that responsibility without doing a hurt to him, taking something out of his soul, weakening his manhood, destroying his energy and power of initiative, setting him back in his own esteem as he measures himself against the deeds of the doers.

Look at what has already happened. Anyone who has moved about with his eyes open the last ten or fifteen years cannot have missed seeing the disastrous consequences of such a course. In the early days of what has come to be called the “depression,” many who had been theretofore self-sufficient, materially, found themselves rather suddenly in distress. Their pride, self-esteem, independence of character, cultivated over a life-time, restrained them from asking or receiving relief. Many fought it out to the end. Others, and there is no thought here of speaking of them reproachfully, perhaps under greater stress, finally became beneficiaries of public gratuities, the provision of which there is also no disposition to condemn. This may have been temporarily necessary until a better organization for the aid of needy could be devised, and especially for people without affiliation in a church designed and organized as is our own Church to meet such contingencies. Having broken down the restraints and accepted gratuitous relief, an amazing transformation of attitude speedily took place—at least it would be amazing to one who had not given thought to the usual processes of human nature.

From being reluctant recipients they soon became eager ones, and before long demanding ones. They were asserting their claims as a matter of right and were demanding greater largesses. “Bigger and better” benefits became a slogan. It was not long until beneficiaries began to associate themselves in groups, and then to organize and exert group pressure for compliance with their demands, and finally to consolidate their voting power in political elections to compel recognition of their requests. Not only individuals, but municipalities and state governments scrambled for a dip into the Federal Treasury, moved forward by the slogan: “Every one else is getting it; we had better get ours.”

We need look no further for visible demonstration of the debilitating effect of looking to public aid as a permanent means of subsistence. The progressive disintegration of moral fiber, the decay in power of will and initiative, the destruction of the spirit and exhilaration of independent manhood follows swiftly, surely, inevitably. This is all at variance with the gospel principles by which men “work out” their own salvation.

Source: Albert E. Bowen. 1946, The Church Welfare Plan, p. 83-4, 1946. Albert E. Bowen (1875–1953) served as a mem­ber of the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prior to his call to full time church ser­vice he taught at Brigham Young Col­lege, then grad­u­ated with hon­ors from Uni­ver­sity of Chicago law school, prac­ticed law in Logan, Utah, and later Salt Lake City, where he also became involved in many impor­tant busi­ness ven­tures such as the Utah Con­struc­tion Com­pany, the Amer­i­can Sav­ings and Loan Asso­ci­a­tion, and the Utah Fuel Company.