The objective of the welfare program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to care for the needy while teaching principles that will allow needy persons to become self-reliant and retain their self-respect. The program also provides opportunities to all other members of the Church to serve — fulfilling the commandment Jesus Christ gave to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick.
Soon after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830, its leaders established bishops' storehouses, places where grains and other commodities donated by members as free-will offerings were stored and distributed to help needy members. In April 1936, the Church formally organized a welfare program to help Church members suffering from the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Today, that welfare program has expanded to all corners of the globe and assists people of all faiths.
- Funding for the welfare program is provided by donations from Church members. One Sunday a month, members of the Church go without two meals and give the money they would have spent on food to the Church.
- Needy people are identified by the leader (bishop) of the local congregation, with the assistance of the president of the Relief Society — a woman from the congregation who serves as the leader of the women’s organization. Congregation sizes are kept to within a few hundred people so local leaders can know their people.
- In some locations with high concentrations of Church members, welfare facilities may be substantial. Welfare Square near Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the largest concentration of such facilities. Buildings on the square include a cannery, a milk-processing plant, a bishops’ storehouse, a thrift store, an employment centre and silos where wheat and other grains are stored.
- Bishops’ storehouses have often been compared to supermarkets without tills. Food and household items are provided to those who cannot afford them and who bring a written requisition signed by their local bishop. Recipients of commodities are given opportunities to work for what they receive, to the extent of their ability. There are 129 bishops’ storehouses located around the world.
- Employment resource service centres provide a place where people can receive job training, learn to enhance their résumé and find job opportunities. There are 259 centres around the world.
- Deseret Industries is a nonprofit organization that both serves as an employment training facility and operates thrift stores. The thrift stores are open to the public.
- LDS Family Services is a private, nonprofit organization that provides counseling, adoption services, addiction recovery support groups and resources for social, emotional and spiritual challenges.