Priesthood Administration of Welfare Services

J. Thomas Fyans


It’s a blessing to have the sweet companionship of the Relief Society, with their heaven-sent special sensitivities, beside us in this great Samaritan effort.

Sister Smith has mentioned priesthood councils. To help in administering Church affairs, priesthood councils are organized at area, region, stake, and ward levels. These councils, in order to be effective, need to represent all Church programs so that there will be a correlating, coordinating, and resolving body at all appropriate levels. These councils, properly organized and functioning, assure a unified approach in moving forward the ecclesiastical and temporal work of the Church for the blessing of individuals and families.

Using approved guidelines and policies, the area council will annually review and submit for approval plans outlining major objectives for the area.

May we give special attention this morning to the important welfare role of these councils as part of the priesthood administration of welfare services.

The First Presidency has counseled priesthood leaders to carefully and prayerfully develop a plan that will foster local self-sufficiency of Church units. This is important in light of changing needs, rapid Church growth, the uncertainty of modern times, and the Lord’s commandment to the Church to care for members in need (see D&C 52:40).

Master planning

Welfare services master planning is the process of (1) developing a plan for teaching gospel principles and practices related to welfare services; (2) identifying needs of the poor, needy, and distressed; and (3) programming resources to meet those needs.

When the plan is fully implemented, there will exist within an area those elements of the Storehouse Resource System required under varying conditions to assist bishops in caring for the poor, needy, and distressed.

The scriptures remind us:

“And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple” (D&C 52:40).

We are very pleased with the initial reports received regarding how you are proceeding in this planning process. It is not expected that all areas will provide all the elements of the Storehouse Resource System, nor do we expect all areas to be on the same planning timetable. Because of geographic diversity, differences in membership clusters, and the variety of other Church priorities which impact on any given region or area, some councils will need more time than others to prepare their plans. We look to the Executive Administrators, in consultation with temporal officers, to control the speed, scope, and quality of this master-planning effort. We know the Lord will inspire you to plan for those activities genuinely needed in your areas. We counsel you to be deliberate and thorough so that the final product may guide the implementation of welfare services for years to come. A good plan will facilitate the orderly and timely raising of funds and the allocation of member time to appropriately balance the implementation of all Church programs and activities.

Role of the individual

Now let’s look to the individual. What is the role of individuals and families relating to temporal welfare? Let’s consider some basic points of emphasis:

Have a specific plan for physical fitness and social and emotional health.

Develop talents through education and prepare vocationally for financial stability. Avoid unnecessary debt.

Have one year’s supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, fuel.

Be willing to sacrifice by giving time, talents, and means—and that means a generous fast offering and a full tithe—in behalf of the Church, the community, and the needy.

As each individual and family applies the principles of personal and family preparedness in these four areas of emphasis, great security and peace of mind will enter every home.

Bishop’s order for services

There will be some who, regardless of preparation, will experience difficulties beyond their immediate ability to solve. We are grateful that the Lord has made provision for this.

Bishops, you have a sacred charge to assist the poor, the needy, and the distressed. You have at your disposal quorum, ward, community, and Church resources from which to draw the appropriate assistance. Traditionally, those of you living where storehouses exist have been able to secure food and clothing through a bishop’s order for commodities. However, you have not had this same method to secure services available through the Church-operated Storehouse Resource System.

We are pleased to announce today that a bishop’s order for services has been approved for use in areas where LDS employment centers, LDS Social Services agencies, and Deseret Industries units exist. These new forms will soon be distributed to all stakes where they have application. Through written order, bishops may now authorize their members to receive these vital services. With only a few legally required exceptions, members will receive these services only when authorized through this bishop’s order for services.

Through use of these two forms, the bishop’s order for commodities and the bishop’s order for services, all aspects of the Storehouse Resource System are responsive to member needs as determined by you, the local bishop. You control what is administered, be it goods or services. Because of the limited resources available to meet ever-growing service needs, these new instruments will ensure that those most in need are assisted. We wish to emphasize, brethren, that while the operating management for providing these goods and services is vested in temporal-line officers, they are made responsive to you, the bishop, through use of these order forms.

Annual service evaluation

The assignment for the managing of the diverse operations of welfare services was recently given to temporal-line officers. This organizational change lifted a heavy and time-consuming burden from the shoulders of bishops and stake presidents. However, since these operations exist for the purpose of serving member needs as determined by ecclesiastical officers, we remain vitally interested in the availability, quality, responsiveness, and appropriateness of the goods and services provided. To facilitate orderly feedback from ecclesiastical leaders to temporal officers on their overall level of satisfaction, the bishops’ council chairman, stake presidents, Regional Representatives, and, as indicated by Sister Smith, the Relief Society representative will be invited to annually evaluate the Storehouse Resource System. In effect, they will issue a report card indicating the extent to which their needs are being met and the manner in which they are being served. This formal evaluation, added to the ongoing communication of feelings and needs that regularly occurs in council meetings and other contacts, will ensure the harmony and unity necessary to accomplish the overall purposes of the Church. We hope each of you priesthood leaders will take advantage of this opportunity when it is extended to you through your region council.

Relationship of family resources to Church resources

During the last few months, I have had the stimulating opportunity of viewing the recently released Church movie entitled Welfare—Another Perspective. As most of you know, this is being shown in stake conferences during this second half of 1979. Each time I view this film, I feel a greater sense of pride and gratitude in the Church’s welfare system, including the sweep and scope of the Storehouse Resource System. However, I think it important to note, brothers and sisters, that the real welfare strength of this Church does not reside in the food stored in our storehouses, nor in the production capacity of our welfare farms, nor even in the important power our employment system has in helping to find jobs for members seeking employment.

The real strength of the Church lies in the savings accounts, the gardens, the income-producing skills, the home storage, the resiliency, the talents, and the testimonies of each individual member of the Church and in the family of which each of us is a part. Let us be ever mindful that the greatest blessing of the welfare system is derived by the givers and that each of us should work to be independent and self-reliant as families in order to be in a position to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters. Stated in plainness, each family unit’s personal and family preparedness activity is every bit as important as this vast and marvelous welfare system. The real strength of the Church does not ultimately lie in the financial and commodity reserves of the Church; rather, it rests in the reserves and strength of every household. May I illustrate.

Suppose for a moment that the four million plus members of the Church lived in an area approximately the size of the state of Utah. And suppose that we were worried about wild, ferocious animals coming into the land in which we lived. The streets would be unsafe, so we would decide to build a wall to protect us. Now, if we took the total reserves stored in all our Church storehouses and used these goods to build an encircling wall around this area, it would be one foot wide by one foot high stretching some twelve hundred miles. This one-foot-high wall would not deter many animals from entering our area of hoped-for safety.

Now, let us suppose that we would add to that one-foot-high wall the storage that the members of the Church would have if they were to have a year’s supply. We could then raise the wall another foot around this area the size of the state of Utah. And then another foot, and then another foot, and then another foot, and then another foot, and then another foot until we would have a wall over fourteen feet high.

The reinforcing steel in this wall would be the physical fitness and social and emotional health of the members. The anchor and corner posts—our educational and vocational preparation for financial stability and avoiding unnecessary debt. The binding mortar—our willingness to sacrifice time, talents, and means in building the kingdom.

You see, our total protection cannot come solely from the production of the welfare projects of the Church. It will come only as we combine with that production our individual family’s year’s supply.

May we capture the vision of our individual responsibilities in this great work. May we actively and consistently apply the welfare points of emphasis laid down by the Brethren. May we encircle the children of our Heavenly Father with this protecting temporal—no, spiritual—shield, because after all, all things are spiritual (see D&C 29:34).

I bear my witness of the divinity of this, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The First Presidency on 23 Jan 1970