Cedar City Welfare Facility Dedication

Cedar City Welfare Facility Dedication

The Work of Transforming Souls - Bishop Gérald Caussé

Additional Resource

April 19, 2017

Dear brothers and sisters, what an honor and pleasure it is to be with you today as we dedicate a new welfare facility in your beautiful city! To all who have labored long hours to make this day a possibility, please know of our deep appreciation. I extend thanks to the many Church leaders and members who have given so generously of their time, resources, and talents. I am also pleased that the leaders of this community have been and continue to be so encouraging and supportive. We recognize several in attendance here tonight, among whom are Mayor Maile Wilson of Cedar City, along with the city manager, members of the city council, and leaders from the chamber of commerce. We also recognize Mayor Donald Landes of Parowan, who is here with his city manager, and extend a special welcome to Pastor Jerry Vanlwaarden of the Westview Christian Church and Reverend Lee Montgomery of St. Jude’s Episcopal Church.

I also wish to thank the leaders of the Cedar City Utah West Stake for the inspiring remarks and beautiful music you have provided this evening, and also for the support that you will provide as an agent stake to help this new Deseret Industries operation function and flourish. I likewise express appreciation to President Smith, who will continue to serve as advisory board chairman for the LDS Family Services office.

This is a wonderful year of celebration for the Saints in Cedar City. Along with you, we joyfully anticipate the dedication of a magnificent house of the Lord later this year. While the opening of the temple this fall may generate more public attention than the opening of this new welfare complex, the two events are not unrelated.

If we study the record of the Savior’s mortal ministry, we find numerous instances in which He resorted to the temple to teach and worship there. But when the Savior was not in the temple teaching, where would he normally be found? He provided the answer to this question when he stood up in a synagogue in Nazareth early in his ministry and read the following words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, . . . [and] to set at liberty them that are bruised.”[1]

In speaking of this verse, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland observed that “on the way to His ultimate atoning sacrifice . . . , Jesus’s first and foremost messianic duty would be to bless the poor, including the poor in spirit.”[2] And thus we can see that both the new temple, where the glorious plan of salvation will be taught, and this new welfare facility, where many will find healing and deliverance from a variety of challenges and afflictions, are both central to the mission of the Savior and His Church.

A beloved friend of the Church welfare system, Elder Glen L. Rudd, who just passed away in December, remarked on various occasions that he had served as both the president of a temple and the director of a Church welfare facility and that, with regard to the spirit that he felt in each of these settings, he could not tell a difference. I believe that is because it is essentially the same work—the Savior’s work of redeeming and exalting souls—that takes place in both. While time and distance may separate those to whom the Savior ministered personally and those who will come here to Deseret Industries and LDS Family Services to find relief, the source of healing power will be the same. All who come to labor in any way within these walls will be participants in the Lord’s work and will have the opportunity to partake of His spirit.

I am aware that, notwithstanding the comparatively small population of Cedar City, it attracts thousands of visitors every year because of its scenic beauty and its celebration of the arts. I am myself a lover of great art and literature and recognize that Cedar City is home to the nationally renowned Shakespeare festival. One of the works that has no doubt been featured in this festival on multiple occasions is Shakespeare’s classic tragedy King Lear. Among the memorable characters in that play is a young nobleman named Edgar, son of the Earl of Gloucester, who finds himself displaced from his position due to problems within his own family. Fearing harm to his own life, he flees from his home and assumes an existence of hardship and poverty, donning, in his own words, “a madman’s rags; t’assume a semblance / That very dogs disdained.”[3] He remains as a beggar and later as a peasant through most of the play, almost causing us to forget his original rank as a young man of noble birth. Then in the final act he is reconciled to his father and restored to his rightful station.

I would perhaps not be true to my own heritage if I failed to point out another famous story of personal transformation from the French literary tradition! The celebrated Broadway musical has brought worldwide attention in the past decades to Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables. In my office hangs a painting depicting the seminal scene in the story in which Jean Valjean, a hardened ex-convict who has nearly lost all feeling of humanity as a result of two decades of imprisonment and hard labor for a minor offense, kneels before the bishop of Digne, who presents him with two silver candlesticks. Ironically, these candlesticks are a gift following an unsuccessful attempt by Jean Valjean to rob the bishop of a basket of silverware. Apprehended as he tries to escape town, Jean Valjean is escorted by three gendarmes back to the cathedral to return what he has stolen before he is again thrown into prison. To Valjean’s utter astonishment, however, the bishop dismisses the gendarmes, telling them that the silverware was his gift to Valjean, along with the two precious candlesticks, which he claims that Valjean had inadvertently left behind. The bishop’s parting words to Valjean would change the direction of his entire life: “Jean Valjean, my brother, . . . it is your soul that I buy from you . . . and I give it to God.”[4]

Brothers and sisters, metaphorically, this new welfare facility will become the stage upon which these classic stories will be reenacted in real life and with real children of our Father in Heaven. Like Edgar of King Lear, many men and women will come to Deseret Industries or LDS Family Services in the midst of some of their greatest personal challenges. Some, also like Edgar, may come as a result of mistreatment or neglect by those who should have been their protectors. When they arrive, they may have forgotten—or possibly have never realized—that they have a noble birthright and heritage as children of an exalted Father. Through the intervention of caring job coaches, development counselors, or LDS Family Services counselors, they will rediscover—or perhaps discover for the first time—their divine potential.

Like Jean Valjean, some may come trying to recover from prolonged hardships, harmful habits, or economic difficulties. Like the bishop of Digne, inspired priesthood and Relief Society leaders will be able to see beyond those challenges and discern each person’s capacity to build a brighter future. By partnering with those who serve in the welfare operations, leaders can help lift these individuals to temporal and spiritual self-reliance, as former thought patterns and behaviors give way to gospel-based practices that facilitate their ability to maintain a livelihood and also to lead a productive and joyful life.

I am especially touched that the character who served as the turning point in Jean Valjean’s life was a bishop. Doctrine and Covenants 84:112 teaches us that “the bishop . . . should travel round about . . . searching after the poor to administer to their wants.” In my current role, this divine charge weighs continually upon my mind. I am sure the same is true for the bishop of every ward as he recalls that the scriptural description of Zion specifies that there were “no poor among them.”[5] President Monson, in speaking of the bishops’ role, stated: “Theirs is a sacred trust. Frequently that which counts most is recorded least. The visit to the elderly, the blessing to the sick, the comfort to the weary, the food to the hungry may not be recorded here, but I am convinced that they are known above.”[6]

One of our greatest desires as a Presiding Bishopric is to provide the bishops of the Church, and those who serve alongside them, with effective resources to assist them in their responsibility to care for those in need. Deseret Industries and LDS Family Services are some of our most powerful tools for achieving this goal. May I share a quote from one Utah bishop who learned for himself the value of these services:

“Living in a middle-class neighborhood with a high concentration of multi-generational Church families, I assumed when I was called as bishop that the welfare needs in my ward would be light, . . . but I soon learned that behind nearly all the doors of my neighbors’ homes lay challenges that were not visible to the outside observer. Following a visit to one home where there were several children, the Relief Society president alerted me to some possible temporal needs. I was able to learn from the parents, who had been quietly exerting all their efforts to make their budget stretch, that some of their children had been sleeping on the floor for several months. Though they were fiercely independent, I managed to persuade these parents to allow me to order some beds from Deseret Industries for their children. Imagine the expression of their teenage daughter, who was certain she would receive a hand-me-down bed of lower quality, when she learned instead that a newly manufactured bed would be hers.

“Just around the corner was another family who kept mostly to themselves. From a home teacher, I learned that the father rarely left his basement. I was able to obtain a meeting with this humble man and learned that the recent passing of his own father, for whom he had also worked most of his life, had thrown him into both depression and unemployment and had triggered a relapse into a substance abuse habit. I convinced him to accept a referral to work at Deseret Industries, where he was assigned to a job coach who praised him and his abilities so much that he eventually began to believe her. He became an excellent employee, and his new self-image showed in his countenance every time I met with him.

“Six houses down from that family was a distinguished young couple who, to my surprise, showed up in my office one day in a state of extreme agitation. Acting on a spiritual prompting, the wife had asked the husband if he was viewing pornography. She was unprepared for the emotions that his reluctant but affirmative response would unleash in her. They failed to see how their marriage could go on. In addition to the spiritual counseling, Church articles, and priesthood blessings that I provided them as part of the healing process, I also referred them to an LDS Family Services counselor and LDS recovery support groups. These resources brought peace to the sister’s troubled mind and instigated changes which, over time, have made their marriage stronger than it has ever been.
           

“Having learned early in my calling of the power of the Church’s welfare resources, I have gratefully used them over and over again. They supplement the efforts of my ward council in a remarkable way, and I thank the Lord for the inspiration that has led to the formation and expansion of these welfare operations.”

Brothers and sisters, I echo the sentiments of this bishop. I testify that the services that will be provided in this facility contribute in a remarkable way to the “real long term objective” of the Church’s welfare plan, which is not just to clothe bodies and furnish homes, but to transform souls—souls who, like Shakespeare’s Edgar, Hugo’s Valjean, or even members of our own wards, may have lost sight of their own worth and capacity, and are in need of those who, in the words of J. Reuben Clark, can “rescu[e] all that is finest down deep inside of them, and [bring] to flower and fruitage the latent richness of [their] spirit[s], which after all is the mission and purpose and reason for being of this Church.”[7] In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Now, will you bow your heads and join me as I dedicate this facility and its sacred work to the Lord.

 

[1] Luke 4:18.

[2] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Are We Not All Beggars?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 40.

[3] King Lear, act 5, scene 3, lines 223–24.

[4] Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, volume 1, book 2, chapter 12.

[5] Moses 7:18.

[6] Thomas S. Monson, “The Bishop—Center Stage in Welfare,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 90.

[7] J. Reuben Clark Jr., in special meeting of stake presidents, Oct. 2, 1936.

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