President Marion G. Romney said, “Welfare is not a program of the Church; it is the essence of the Church” (qtd. by Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Now Abideth Faith, Hope, and Charity”, Ensign, July 1973, p.35).
Shortly after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, a commandment was given to take care of the poor:
- And now, I give unto the church in these parts a commandment, that certain men among them shall be appointed, and they shall be appointed by the voice of the church; And they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them; (Doctrine and Covenants 38:34-5).
Since that time, the Church and its members have done their best to follow the Savior's example of charity by helping those in need. In 1935, during the hard years of the Great Depression, the Welfare Program was instituted as a worldwide program.
The Church runs numerous programs that fall under the umbrella category known as the Welfare Program. One of these programs is the donation, collection, and disbursement of fast offerings. Each month the members of the Church are asked to fast from food and drink for two meals. They are then asked to give the Church the money they would have spent on those meals. This money is first given to help any of the needy in the ward; any excess is sent to other areas with people in need.
LDS Family Services is also another part of the Welfare Program. Although LDS Family Services is a separate corporation, bishops (who oversee local welfare needs and distribution) refer members of the Church who are in need of its help. LDS Family Services provide adoption services, counseling for unwed parents, placing children in foster homes, and therapy and counseling for families or individuals experiencing other problems.
Another part of the welfare program is the Bishop’s Storehouse. The Bishop’s Storehouse is a place where goods are kept to be distributed to those in need. It is filled with food and other household items such as soap, food, and clothing, some of which are produced by the Church. When a family or individual is going through a hard time, they can go to their bishop and he will help them decide what they need.
The Church also provides employment programs. The Church has set up centers around the world where people can go and get help finding a job or learning marketable skills. The Church also runs a program known as the Perpetual Education Fund. Through this program, people can apply for aid from the Church to pay for their schooling. After they have completed their education they are asked to return the money they used so that others will be helped. Anyone can donate to this fund as well.
Humanitarian Services is also an extension of the Welfare Program. Humanitarian Services provide aid to those in need because of disasters or poverty and functions internationally, serving the needy without regard to their race or religion. The Church provides food, water, vaccinations, clothing, and school supplies. Donations can also be given to this area of the Welfare Program through the Humanitarian Fund. Members of the Church are encouraged to help in this effort by making kits. Kits are divided into categories such as hygiene, school, and baby kits. Kits are already assembled and ready to go when disaster strikes. Therefore, Church humanitarian aid is often the first to arrive at a disaster site.
Ruling Principle of Work
The First Presidency said in 1936: "Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, 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. . . . Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership." (Conference Report, October 1936, p. 3.)
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground. . . ." (Genesis 3:19.) This commandment, given to Adam, applies to all men. The Church Welfare plan provides for a "hand up," not a "hand out," as men and women are offered assistance in ways that contribute to their long-term ability to become as self-reliant as possible, and in ways that maintain their self-respect and belief in their own individual capacity.
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