Handbook 2:
Administering the Church


9.6 Welfare and Compassionate Service

Welfare and compassionate service are central to the work of Relief Society.

Under the bishop’s direction, the Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies share the following welfare responsibilities:

They teach principles of temporal and spiritual self-reliance.

They care for the poor and needy and encourage members to give service.

They help individuals and families become self-reliant and find solutions to short-term and long-term welfare concerns.

For more information on these welfare responsibilities, see chapter 6.

The following sections outline responsibilities that apply specifically to the Relief Society president and her counselors.


Family-Needs Visits

The bishop normally assigns the Relief Society president to visit members who need welfare assistance so she can evaluate their needs and suggest ways to respond to them. If there is not a woman in a home she visits, she takes one of her counselors, the Relief Society secretary, or the compassionate service coordinator with her.

To prepare for a family-needs visit, the Relief Society president considers information the bishop provides about the family and seeks guidance from the Lord.

The Relief Society president evaluates the family’s resources and prepares an itemized list of the family’s basic food and clothing needs. She gives this list to the bishop. She also may prepare a Bishop’s Order for Commodities form for the bishop to review and approve. She provides this service with sensitivity and understanding, helping those who receive assistance to maintain their self-respect and dignity.

The Relief Society president reports to the bishop on the general condition of the family. She reports any needs in the areas of food (for normal needs but not for food storage), clothing, home management, health, and social and emotional well-being. She also may share her assessment of family members’ work capabilities and the opportunities family members have for work.

The bishop helps the family develop a self-reliance plan. He also counsels with the Relief Society president regarding additional opportunities to help the family. In some cases, the most valuable assistance may include (1) helping a sister manage income and resources and (2) teaching homemaking skills such as cleaning, sewing, organizing, planning menus, preserving food, and promoting good health.

The Relief Society president and anyone who assists her keep strictly confidential any information they obtain during the visit or from the bishop.


Compassionate Service

All Relief Society sisters have a responsibility to be conscious of the needs of others. They use their time, skills, talents, spiritual and emotional support, and prayers of faith to help others.

Through the help of ministering sisters and others in the ward, the Relief Society presidency identifies those who have special needs because of old age, physical or emotional illness, emergencies, births, deaths, disability, loneliness, and other challenges. The Relief Society president reports her findings to the bishop. Under his direction, she coordinates assistance. She assesses the skills and circumstances of all sisters as she determines who may be able to help.

She may ask a counselor, a compassionate service coordinator, or ministering sisters to help coordinate these service efforts. She may also form a committee to help. Sisters can assist by providing meals, providing child care or home care, helping individual sisters improve literacy skills, providing transportation for needed medical assistance, and responding to other needs.



The ability to read and write helps members find employment and develop temporal self-reliance. It also helps them increase in their gospel knowledge and spiritual self-reliance. Each ward implements literacy efforts according to its needs and resources. When basic literacy skills are lacking among members, the Relief Society presidency works with the bishop and ward council to identify practical ways to help members improve these skills. Assigned leaders and teachers may use the Church’s literacy course, which includes the Ye Shall Have My Words student manual and teacher’s manual and a DVD for training teachers. In addition, Relief Society leaders may devote some meetings to literacy skills.