... Last April in our priesthood meeting, I announced a new program. I spoke of the large numbers of our missionaries from South America, Mexico, the Philippines, and other areas. They respond to calls and serve with their North American brothers and sisters. They develop strong testimonies. They learn a new way of life. They are highly effective because they speak their native tongues and know the cultures of their native lands. They enjoy a wonderful season of hard and dedicated work.
Then they are released to go back home. Their families are living in poverty, and many of them fall back into the same situation from which they came, unable to move because of a lack of skills and the consequent difficulty in finding good employment.
I spoke to you of the Perpetual Emigration Fund, which was established in the pioneer era of the Church to assist the poor in coming from England and Europe. A revolving fund was established from which small loans were made, which made it possible for 30,000 to emigrate from their native lands and gather in Zion.
I told you we would apply the same principle and create what would be known as the Perpetual Education Fund. Out of the funds which would be donated by our people, and not from tithing funds, we would create a corpus, the earnings from which would be used to assist our young brethren and sisters in attending school to qualify themselves for better employment. They would develop skills whereby they could earn sufficient to take good care of their families and rise above the poverty level that they and their prior generations had known.
We had nothing in the fund at the time it was planned. But moving forward in faith, we established an organization, modest in its dimensions, to implement that which we felt was necessary. I am pleased to report that the money has come in, tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions. This has come from generous members of the Church who love the Lord and wish to assist the less fortunate of His people in rising in the economic world. We now have a substantial sum. It is not all that we need. We hope that these contributions will continue. The size of the corpus will determine the number who can be helped.
Now, six months later, I wish to give you a report of what has been accomplished. First, we called Elder John K. Carmack, who served so well in the First Quorum of the Seventy and who became an emeritus Seventy with this conference. He is an accomplished attorney, a man of sound judgment in business, a man of great ability. He has been appointed managing director, and though he is retired from the work of the Seventy he will give his full time to the prosecution of this endeavor.
Elder Richard E. Cook of the Seventy, who likewise has become emeritus, will join him in looking after the finances. Elder Cook was formerly assistant controller of the Ford Motor Company, a man experienced in worldwide finance, a most capable executive, and a man who loves the Lord and the Lord’s children.
We have worn out these brethren on one side, and now have turned them over to wear them out on the other side.
They have associated with them Brother Rex Allen, an expert in organization and training, and Brother Chad Evans, who has vast experience in programs of advanced education.
All contribute their time and expertise without compensation.
The program is up and running. These brethren have been very careful to get it off to a proper start with sound governing principles. We have restricted the area in which it will operate initially, but this area will be expanded as we have the means to do so.
These brethren have gone to work to utilize the existing organization of the Church. The program is priesthood-based, and that is why it will succeed. It begins with the bishops and the stake presidents. It involves the Church Educational System, the Employment Services offices, and others who work together in a marvelous spirit of cooperation. It was first implemented in Peru, Chile, and Mexico—areas where the number of returned missionaries is large and the need is great. The local leaders have been enthusiastic and committed. The beneficiaries are learning true principles of self-reliance. Their vision of their potential is greatly broadened. They are selecting good local schools for training and are using, to the extent possible, their personal, family, and other local resources. They are appreciative and willing and deeply grateful for the opportunity afforded them. Let me give you two or three vignettes.
The first is that of a young man who served in the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission. He lives with his faithful mother and nieces in a poor neighborhood. Their little home has a concrete floor, one lightbulb, the roof leaks, and the window is broken. He was a successful missionary. He says:
“My mission was the best thing that I have been able to do in my life. I learned to be obedient to the commandments and to be patient in my afflictions. I also learned some English and to manage my money, my time, and my skills better.
“Then, when I finished my mission, going home was difficult. My American companions went back to a university. But there is a lot of poverty in our country. It is very difficult to get an education. My mother does her best, but she can’t help us. She has suffered so much, and I am her hope.
“When I learned of the Perpetual Education Fund, I felt so happy. The prophet recognized our efforts. I was filled with joy. … There was a possibility I could study, become self-reliant, have a family, help my mother.
“I will study accounting at a local school where I can study and work. It is a short course, just three years long. I have to keep working as a janitor, but that is OK. Once I graduate and get a job in accounting, I will work toward higher education in international business.
“This is our opportunity, and we cannot fail. The Lord trusts us. I have read many times in the Book of Mormon the words the Lord told the prophets, that as we keep the commandments, we would prosper in the land. This is being fulfilled. I am so grateful to God for this great opportunity to receive what my brothers and sisters did not have, to help my family, to accomplish my goals. And I am excited to repay the loan to see others be so blessed. I know the Lord will bless me as I do it.”
Now, isn’t that wonderful? Now another. A young man in Mexico City was approved to receive a loan of approximately $1,000 to make it possible for him to attend school to become a diesel mechanic. He has said: “My promise is to give my best in order to feel satisfied with my efforts. I know this program is valuable and important. Because of this, I am trying to take maximum advantage of this for the future. I will be able to serve and help the poor and help counsel my family members. I thank my Father in Heaven for this beautiful and inspired program.”
A loan was recently approved for another young man from Mexico City, who served in the Nevada Las Vegas Mission. He desires to become a dental technician. His training will require 15 months of dedicated work. He says, “My promise upon finishing my studies at the technical school with the help of the Perpetual Education Fund is to repay the loan so that other returned missionaries can enjoy these blessings.”
And so we have begun this work of making it possible for our faithful and able young men and women to climb the ladder which will assure them of economic success. With greatly improved opportunities, they will step out of the cycle of poverty which they and those before them have known for so long. They have served missions, and they will continue to serve in the Church. They will become leaders in this great work in their native lands. They will pay their tithes and offerings, which will make it possible for the Church to expand its work across the world.
We anticipate that by the end of this year we will have about 1,200 in the program. Three years from now, we estimate there will be more than 3,000. The opportunities are there. The need is urgent. We may fail in a few cases. But the vast majority will perform as we expect, both young men and young women.
Our only limitation will be the amount we have in the fund. We again invite all who wish to participate to make a contribution, large or small. We can then extend this great work which will make it possible for those of faith and latent ability to rise to economic independence as faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Can you grasp the meaning of the tremendous work of this Church? Let me paint you a scenario. A pair of missionaries knock on the door of a little home somewhere in Peru. A woman answers. She does not quite understand what the missionaries want. But she invites them in. They arrange to come when her husband and other members of the family are there.
The missionaries teach them. Touched by the power of the Spirit, they respond to the message of eternal truth. They are baptized.
The family is active in the Church. They pay an honest but very meager tithing. They have a son or daughter in that family who is in his or her late teens. At the right time, the son or the daughter is called to serve a mission. The family does all it can to support him or her, and the remainder is made up from the missionary fund, which comes of the contributions of the Saints.
The son or daughter works with a companion from the United States or Canada. He or she learns English, while the companion’s Spanish is greatly improved. They work together with love and appreciation and respect, one for another, representatives of two great divergent cultures.
Upon completion of their missions, the North American returns home and goes back to school. The Peruvian returns home and is hopeful only of finding work of a menial nature. The pay is ever so small. The future is dismal. He or she does not have the needed skills to rise above such employment. And then comes this bright ray of hope. Well, brethren, you know the picture. I need not labor it further. The way before us is clear, the need is tremendous, and the Lord has pointed the way.
Elder Carmack recently came across an old account book. He brought it to me. We discovered that way back in 1903, a small fund was established to help aspiring schoolteachers qualify for greater opportunities through small loans to assist them while going to school.
It was continued for 30 years until it was finally dropped during the Depression.
I was amazed at the names contained in that old ledger book. Two became university presidents. Others became well-known and highly qualified educators. The ledger shows repayments of $10.00, of $25.00, of $3.10 interest, and such things. One of the beneficiaries of that program became a bishop, then a stake president, then an Apostle, and eventually a counselor in the First Presidency.
Brethren, we need to care for one another more diligently. We need to make a little more effort to assist those who are down at the bottom of the ladder. We need to give encouragement and a lifting hand to men and women of faith and integrity and ability, who can climb that ladder with a little help.
That principle applies not only with reference to our present undertaking in this fund, but in a more general way. Let us open our hearts, let us reach down and lift up, let us open our purses, let us show a greater love for our fellowmen.
The Lord has blessed us so abundantly. And the needs are so great. He has said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).
“And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
“Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
“And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
“And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
“And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
“And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:2–8).
Now note that Peter took him by the right hand and lifted him up. Peter had to reach down to lift the lame man. We must also reach down. ...