Timeline: A Look Back at the Church Welfare Plan

  • 22 March 2011

“The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.” —President Heber J. Grant, 1936

On its inaugural day in 1936, President David O. McKay affirmed the divinely inspired roots of the Church’s welfare plan: “[The welfare program] is established by divine revelation, and there is nothing else in all the world that can so effectively take care of its members.”

The welfare program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not only a way to help members in temporarily difficult circumstances, but it also stresses self-reliance as a way of life, including education, health, employment, family home production and storage, family finances, and spiritual strength.

Seventy-five years have come and gone. Economic cycles have run their course and begun again. The world has seen huge societal and cultural changes, and the Church has seen monumental growth. 

But the words spoken of the Church’s welfare plan on that day in 1936 are just as true today as they were then. Here’s a look back at the formation and progression of the welfare program over the past 75 years.

Brief Historical Timeline of the Church Welfare Plan


  • President Heber J. Grant announces the Church security plan in April general conference. 
  • By October conference, the General Church Welfare Committee is established.


  • The first central bishops’ storehouse is set up in Salt Lake City.


  • The Church begins construction on Welfare Square.
  • The Church Security Plan is renamed the Church Welfare Plan.
  • In Salt Lake City, the first Deseret Industries thrift store opens.


  • Welfare Square’s first storehouse is completed.
  • The Church’s first Welfare Square cannery starts operating.


  • President David O. McKay dedicates the Welfare Square grain elevator.


  • Welfare Square’s milk-processing plant begins operation.


  • The Church ships large amounts of food, clothing, and other relief supplies to Europe at the end of World War II.


  • A regional employment office is established in Salt Lake City.


  • The Church completes a milk-processing plant on Welfare Square.


  • The Deseret Pasta Plant begins producing pasta.
  • The new Welfare Square cannery is completed.


  • The Church expands welfare projects and production to Mexico, England, and the Pacific Islands.


  • LDS Social Services (now LDS Family Services) is created as an official Church corporation under the direction of Welfare Services.


  • Welfare facilities expand throughout the United States and Canada, and a new bishops’ storehouse is completed on Welfare Square.


  • The Emergency Response committee is formed.


  • Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay are the first countries to receive employment centers outside the United States.


  • U.S. President Ronald Reagan visits Ogden, Utah’s welfare facilities. “If, during the period of the Great Depression, every church had come forth with a welfare program founded on correct principles … we would not be in the difficulty in which we find ourselves today,” he said (quoted by Thomas S. Monson in “A Provident Plan—a Precious Promise,” Ensign, May 1986, 62). 


  • The Presiding Bishopric of the Church is designated to direct the welfare program.


  • The Church Humanitarian Services program is inaugurated.


  • The Humanitarian Service Center is formed. Surplus clothing and other goods are sorted for shipment around the world in response to poverty and disasters.


  • LDS Charities is formed to smooth the progress of humanitarian aid in several countries.
  • Welfare Square renovation begins.


  • LDS Social Services expands its programs and becomes LDS Family Services.


  • Welfare Square is rededicated following its renovation.


  • Welfare Services launches providentliving.org.
  • Humanitarian Services outlines four major initiatives: neonatal resuscitation training, clean water, wheelchair distribution, and vision treatment.