I really enjoyed Bishop Brown’s discussion of how the Church welfare system worked in the 1977 welfare session of General Conference.  Those are still the basic elements, although relying more on general social services outside of Utah.

In the spirit of the last post on sharing basic Mormon practices that may be of interest to followers of the Way, I thought I’d share a couple of basic experiences with the Church welfare system from the inside.

  •  A recent ward council meeting.  Wards are congregations, and the ward council is a group assembled by the Bishop and his two councilors normally about once a month (in some places more often).  It consists of the leaders of the ward’s different organizations for men and women and whomever else the Bishop wants.  The meetings are confidential, so in the following some details are suppressed and/or slightly tweaked
      • about half the meeting was taken up discussing spiritual needs of specific people in the ward boundaries.


      • the Bishop brought up a household that has been very needy in various ways for a long time and makes requests of lots of different people.  The Bishop reiterated his ruling that no one is barred from helping them, but no one should feel obligated to or guilty for not helping them.  He also reiterated that any official help given by any of the ward organizations must be approved in advance by him.


      • The Relief Society President (the woman in charge of the adult women’s organization) reports that one of her councilors has spent a long time developing a relationship with an older woman in our ward who is West Texas proud but who finally admitted that she is struggling financially.  The councilor got details about her meager pensioner’s income and her expenses.
        • The ward council then discussed the possibility of subsidized housing but rejected it because of the housing rules did not fit the older woman’s situation.
        • Some of her various needs were discussed.  The bishop decided that he did not want the ward giving her a monthly subvention to help with food, but that the ward would help pay for a couple of medical items she needed.  An assignment was made.
        • The council went over her expenses. Someone noticed that her utility expenses seemed really high for her very small home.  In the discussion one of the men who visited her monthly (her home teacher) figured out a probable mechanical cause for the high expenses and he and the Relief Society President’s councilor’s husband were assigned to investigate the utility bills and fix it.
        • Finally, the bishop stated that this woman would feel better receiving help if she were helping herself: the full-time missionaries in the ward responded with a service suggestion and were assigned to approach her about it.


    • Years ago, I lost my job unexpectedly.  I had cash in the bank (the Church suggests 3-6 months) and thought I’d get another job right away, so I was not too worried.  We got lots of love and spiritual fellowship from our ward during that time.  We also got temporal help.  The bishop approached me and said he knew I was too proud to ask for help but that he had talked to my dad, who was going to pay my mortgage until I got a job again, and that he as going to authorize me to go to the Bishop’s Storehouse (a regional church basic grocery store only for the indigent that doesn’t take payment but that requires a referral from a bishop–the food is charged at cost to the referring bishop’s ward).  I said I didn’t need it.  He said that maybe I didn’t, but that my reserves would go a lot farther if I took the help now, instead of waiting until I was desperate.  He went over our family’s food buys with me and my wife and approved a grocery list for us (we were only allowed to shop for what was on the list).  The requirement was that I sign up for some volunteer service hours at the Bishop’s Storehouse and show up each week for the weekly church cleaning, which normally one would only do once a quarter or so.  I turned out to be jobless for something like 8 months, and through rigid economy, odd jobbery, and the help we received from family and the church, our reserves just stretched to meet it.

    Other Posts from the Welfare Session of the April 1977 General Conference

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