17. What was Harold B. Lee asked to help with after organizing Christmas for more than half of his stake during the depression?
“It was Christmas 1931 and Harold B. Lee was serving as a new stake president in the Pioneer Stake in Salt Lake City. The country was in the early years of terrible economic times, now called the Great Depression. His stake had more than seven thousand members, and close to 60% of them were out of work. Few had any money to buy food and other necessities. Many people were facing dire circumstances.
But the Lee family had been blessed. That Christmas they enjoyed opening their gifts and feeling all the excitement of a wonderful holiday. Later that morning, two of the Lee’s daughters dashed to the neighbor’s house to share their excitement, but they soon came home crying. “What in the world is the matter?” asked their father. The girls said that the neighbor family had no Christmas! President Lee had forgotten the needs of the family and that the father had been out of work for a long time. The Lee family “tried to make up for [their] lack of thoughtfulness” by sharing what they had, but it seemed too little too late. With others around them in want, their own Christmas was spoiled.
Pres. Lee was unhappy about that Christmas, and he didn’t sleep well afterward because he was worried about all the families in his stake. He felt that somehow he had let them down. That night as he knelt in prayer, he said, “God grant that I would never let another year pass but that I, as a leader, will ‘know’ my people. I would know their needs. I would be feeling after the ones who needed most my leadership.”
By the time the next Christmas arrived, Pres. Lee was prepared. He had conducted a survey among stake members and found that more than half needed help – almost 5,000 people out of more than seven thousand. He found out that this number included a thousand children under ten years of age who would probably receive little or nothing for Christmas. Armed with this information and with time to solve the problem, he determined that this Christmas would be different.
Before December even arrived, Pres. Lee had mobilized all the members of the stake and created a stake welfare program. They began to collect money, food, and broken and used toys. Everything was stored in a warehouse. That warehouse became like Santa’s workshop as parents in the stake donated time and work to repaint, repair, and clean the toys and make them like new. Stake members sewed new clothing and repaired furniture, worked on construction projects, and helped farmers with their crops. Pres. Lee said, “If you wanted to get the spirit of Christmas you had to only step in and see that.”
Pres. Lee and the other stake leaders determined that every home in the stake would have a Christmas dinner, and they got donations of turkeys, oranges, roast beef, nuts, and candy to make that happen. That yer they provided more than 1,000 Christmas dinners to those in need.
The General Authorities watched with interest what had happened in the Pioneer stake, and President Lee was soon asked to help the whole Church get organized in much the same way. What eventually evolved was the Church’s welfare program as we know it today.”
Are there any important things or people this Christmas that you may have overlooked?
Taken from: Laura Willes, Christmas with the Prophets, p. 112-113