Church Welfare Offers More Than Short-term Aid in Times of Need

“Church Welfare Offers More Than Short-term Aid in Times of Need,” Liahona, Feb. 2009, N1–N3

Church Welfare Offers More Than Short-term Aid in Times of Need

As the world faces growing uncertainty, many members are coming to more fully appreciate Church leaders’ frequent counsel to be prepared. However, adversity often comes unexpectedly. Unemployment, the loss of a loved one, or a natural disaster typically aren’t events one can mark on a calendar months in advance.

When calamity destroys self-reliance, the Church’s resources are meant to help members not only for the short term, but also in rebuilding their lives. The Church’s welfare program was developed to give assistance to those in need while teaching them principles of self-reliance and providing opportunities for them to develop it.

Church resources that are particularly relevant to current circumstances include bishops’ storehouses, LDS Employment Services, and the All Is Safely Gathered In pamphlets, which teach principles of provident living.

Bishops’ Storehouses

Soon after the Church was organized in 1830, Church leaders and members gathered to Kirtland, Ohio. In December of 1831, Newel K. Whitney was called to be the second bishop of the Church. As bishop, he was a steward over the temporal and spiritual needs of the congregation. Many of the members did not have much and had traveled to Ohio on foot, carrying everything they owned.

While staying at the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation to establish a storehouse: “It must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion” (D&C 78:3).

To accommodate the needy people in the area, Brother Whitney collected grains and other useful commodities to store and distribute to the poor. Thus, in Kirtland, the first form of a bishops’ storehouse was established.

Functioning much like that early storehouse, 146 bishops’ storehouses are serving people in need around the western hemisphere today. And in locations where an official bishops’ storehouse is not accessible, each bishop oversees a storehouse of sorts made up of the time, talents, and other consecrated resources of faithful Church members that the bishop can call on to assist those in need (see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidents and Bishoprics [2006], 18).

Just as the items found in Newel K. Whitney’s storehouse were the necessities, bishops’ storehouses today are stocked with essential food and home items.

Recipients of any commodities provided through the bishop are provided with opportunities to work, to the extent of their ability, in return for the items they receive. Assignments may include cleaning a meetinghouse or being of service to someone else who needs help. This gives the recipients a sense of ownership and accomplishment as well as an opportunity to give back.

Storehouses are funded by fast-offering donations from members of the Church throughout the world. Most of the work carried out at bishops’ storehouses is volunteer work, done by generous people wanting to help. In areas where access to a bishops’ storehouse is not available, bishops may use the funds from fast-offering collections. This money goes toward food and necessary items for specific individuals in need.

LDS Employment Services

Employment resource service centers located throughout the world offer free services for those who are looking for work or trying to improve their employment situation.

More than 100 centers are located in the United States, and more than 150 centers are located throughout the world in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America. The services are available to anyone, not just Church members.

Employment resource service centers offer help in finding job openings and opportunities and show participants how to better qualify for work.

Some of the services available include job postings, instructions on how to search for a job, one-on-one assistance, and career services. Classes include how to enhance a résumé, Internet training in computer skills, interviewing proficiency, and specific job training.

In 2006 more than 225,000 people around the world were placed in jobs. LDS Employment Services helps people find jobs quickly because of the networking available and new skills learned and applied.

Access to more information on LDS Employment Services can be found at Tips to help job applicants get hired, career counseling, educational funding information, and job opportunities are available on the Web site. A search by map shows the locations of employment resource service centers.

Financial Preparation

For decades Church leaders have counseled members to live within their means and to get out and stay out of debt. Doing so prevents unnecessary stress on marriage and family relationships and provides stability in an unstable economy.

President N. Eldon Tanner (1898–1982) of the First Presidency said: “Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances. They are in bondage” (“Constancy amid Change,” Liahona, Feb. 1982, 46).

In an effort to help Church members establish control over their finances and live a debt-free life, the Church has produced a pamphlet outlining the basics of family finances.

“Latter-day Saints have been counseled for many years to prepare for adversity by having a little money set aside,” the First Presidency wrote in the All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances pamphlet. “Doing so adds immeasurably to security and well-being. Every family has a responsibility to provide for its own needs to the extent possible.”

Members are encouraged to follow a few simple rules to get their finances in order. The first item on the list includes paying tithing and points out the blessings promised to a full-tithe payer. Other steps include avoiding debt by spending less money than is earned and using a budget. Recording expenditures helps reveal how budgeted funds are spent.

Gradually building a financial reserve is another way to be prepared for emergencies. Parents are encouraged to teach family members the principles of financial management, involving everyone in creating a budget and setting financial goals.

“We encourage you wherever you may live in the world to prepare for adversity by looking to the condition of your finances,” the First Presidency wrote. “We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from this bondage. Save a little money regularly to gradually build a financial reserve.”

Be Prepared

With the uncertainty of the world around them, members can find hope through heeding the words of the prophets and doing all within their power to prepare. Welfare services are one way people are preparing for and recovering from hard times.

Through bishops’ storehouses, LDS Employment Services, and learning how to put their homes in financial order, members can press forward, knowing that “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).

A service missionary helps a customer at a bishops’ storehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Photograph by Welden Andersen

People hoping to improve their employment situation participate in a career workshop offered at an LDS employment resource center.

Photograph by Robert Casey

The Church has offered guidelines for provident living to help members through difficult economic times.

Photograph by Robert Casey