6. Welfare Principles and Leadership
6.1 Purposes of Church Welfare
The purposes of Church welfare are to help members become self-reliant, to care for the poor and needy, and to give service.
In 1936 the First Presidency outlined a welfare plan for the Church. They said: “Our primary purpose was to set up … a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. 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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3).
Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family. As members become self-reliant, they are also better able to serve and care for others.
Church members are responsible for their own spiritual and temporal well-being. Blessed with the gift of agency, they have the privilege and duty to set their own course, solve their own problems, and strive to become self-reliant. Members do this under the inspiration of the Lord and with the labor of their own hands.
When Church members are doing all they can to provide for themselves but cannot meet their basic needs, generally they should first turn to their families for help. When this is not sufficient or feasible, the Church stands ready to help.
Some of the areas in which members should become self-reliant are outlined in the following paragraphs.
The Lord has commanded members to take care of their minds and bodies. They should obey the Word of Wisdom, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, control their weight, and get adequate sleep. They should shun substances or practices that abuse their bodies or minds and that could lead to addiction. They should practice good sanitation and hygiene and obtain adequate medical and dental care. They should also strive to cultivate good relationships with family members and others.
Education provides understanding and skills that can help people develop self-reliance. Church members should study the scriptures and other good books. They should improve in their ability to read, write, and do basic mathematics. They should obtain as much education as they can, including formal or technical schooling where possible. This will help them develop their talents, find suitable employment, and make a valuable contribution to their families, the Church, and the community.
Work is the foundation upon which self-reliance and temporal well-being rest. Members should prepare for and carefully select a suitable occupation or self-employment that will provide for their own and their families’ needs. They should become skilled at their work, be diligent and trustworthy, and give honest work for the pay and benefits they receive.
To help care for themselves and their families, members should build a three-month supply of food that is part of their normal diet. Where local laws and circumstances permit, they should gradually build a longer-term supply of basic foods that will sustain life. They should also store drinking water in case the water supply becomes polluted or disrupted. (See All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage, 3.)
To become financially self-reliant, members should pay tithes and offerings, avoid unnecessary debt, use a budget, and live within a plan. They should gradually build a financial reserve by regularly saving a portion of their income. (See All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances, 3.)
Spiritual strength is essential to a person’s temporal and eternal well-being. Church members grow in spiritual strength as they develop their testimonies, exercise faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, obey God’s commandments,
Members’ Efforts to Care for the Poor and Needy and Give Service
Through His Church, the Lord has provided a way to care for the poor and needy. He has asked Church members to give generously according to what they have received from Him. He has also asked His people to “visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief” (D&C 44:6). Church members are encouraged to give personal compassionate service to those in need. They should be “anxiously engaged in a good cause,” serving without being asked or assigned (see D&C 58:26–27).
The Lord has established the law of the fast and fast offerings to bless His people and to provide a way for them to serve those in need (see Isaiah 58:6–12; Malachi 3:8–12). When members fast, they are asked to give to the Church a fast offering at least equal to the value of the food they would have eaten. If possible, they should be generous and give more. Blessings associated with the law of the fast include closeness to the Lord, increased spiritual strength, temporal well-being, greater compassion, and a stronger desire to serve.
Some opportunities to care for those in need come through Church callings. Other opportunities are present in members’ homes, neighborhoods, and communities, such as those coordinated by JustServe (in the United States and Canada, see JustServe.org). Members can also help the poor and needy of all faiths throughout the world by supporting the Church’s humanitarian efforts, by participating in disaster response through Mormon Helping Hands (where applicable), and by individual efforts to serve others in need.
Providing in the Lord’s way humbles the rich, exalts the poor, and sanctifies both (see D&C 104:15–18). President J. Reuben Clark Jr. taught:
“The real long term objective of the Welfare Plan is the building of character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers, rescuing all that is finest down deep inside of them, and bringing to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit, which after all is the mission and purpose and reason for being of this Church” (in special meeting of stake presidents, Oct. 2, 1936).
The Lord’s Storehouse
In some locations the Church has established buildings called bishops’ storehouses. When members receive permission from their bishop, they may go to the bishops’ storehouse to obtain food and clothing. But the Lord’s storehouse is not limited to a building used to distribute food and clothing to the poor. It also includes Church members’ offerings of time, talents, compassion, materials, and financial means that are made available to the bishop to help care for the poor and needy. The Lord’s storehouse, then, exists in each ward. These offerings are “to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, … every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:18–19). The bishop is the agent of the Lord’s storehouse.