Welfare and Humanitarian Aid
A major requirement for the Lord’s people is to remember the poor, the sick, and the afflicted. The Lord’s people stand condemned when they forget the downtrodden.
The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined (Psalms 10:2)
Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved (Doctrine and Covenants 56:16)!
For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land (Deuteronomy 15:11).
And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken. And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me (Doctrine and Covenants 42:30, 31).
Offerings for the poor and needy
Offerings made in the Mormon Church are anonymous. There are many ways to give in the Church. Tithing (one tenth of a person’s increase) supports all the programs of the Church, including education, communications, materials, and building churches and temples (although one may contribute specifically to a temple-building fund). Members can also make contributions to a local or general missionary fund, a Book of Mormon fund, a “Perpetual Education Fund,” and a “Humanitarian Aid” fund. “Fast offerings” are offered once each month. Usually on the first Sunday, Mormon fast two meals or 24 hours and give the value of the missed meals to the Church for the benefit of the poor. The Church urges its members to offer a generous fast offering.
The Welfare Program of the Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ extensive welfare program is a system unlike any other because it provides temporary relief while at the same time helping people help themselves. The fine-tuned program has been in operation for decades and is run almost entirely by volunteer labor. Although it was primarily established for members of the Church, the program also assists others who are struggling.
Based on the principle of self-reliance, the Church welfare system includes canneries, farms and factories throughout the United States that provide food and commodities for those in need.
In addition, thousands find jobs annually through its employment centers and on-the-job training at Deseret Industries stores. Thousands more add to their own home food storage to prepare for a rainy day.
“We teach self-reliance as a principle of life, that we ought to provide for ourselves and take care of our own needs,” suggested late Church leader Gordon B. Hinckley. “And so we encourage our people to have something, to plan ahead, keep a little food on hand, to establish a savings account, if possible, against a rainy day. Catastrophes come to people sometimes when least expected: unemployment, sickness, and things of this kind. The individual, as we teach, ought to do for himself all that he can do for himself.”
Another aspect of these teachings is the need to stock basic foodstuffs in case of any type of emergency. The Church operates over a hundred regionally located storehouses and home storage centers to help members gather their food storage. Other plants process specific food items, such as the peanut butter plant in Houston, Texas.
The concepts of provident living and caring for the less fortunate have been primary objectives of the Church from the very beginning. Based on the Christian principles taught in the scriptures, Church founder Joseph Smith reached out to immigrants, widows and orphans, providing them with sustenance in their stretched circumstances. Brigham Young, another early Church leader, established a Perpetual Emigration Fund to assist newly converted Mormons in their travels to the Utah territory. The fund, repaid to the Church when the recipients were financially able, circulated to help other traveling families.
Such hand-to-hand concern for others continued during the settling of the frontier lands, but gained additional attention during the Great Depression years of the 1930s. Strained financial situations, unemployment and overall discouragement led Church leaders to implement a more formal application of the self-reliance concepts.
In 1936, then-Church President Heber J. Grant announced “that the gospel plan not only takes care of our spiritual needs, but our temporal needs as well. Our primary purpose is to set up a system … under which the curse of idleness will be done away with, the evils of the dole abolished, and independence, thrift and self-respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help people help themselves.” A system of work projects and storehouses was then set up that bridged the unemployment gaps of the time and provided for the immediate needs of Church families.
Such a system endures today, a two-way system where one helps another in need and they both benefit. “If you build self-reliance in people,” noted Dennis Lifferth, managing director of the Church’s welfare program, “everybody grows; it is the essence of the welfare plan. Lives can be changed by personal interest and attention.” 
For more information on the welfare system of the Mormon Church, see the following articles:
Welfare Square, Deseret Industries, LDS Employment Resource, Provident Living During Tough Financial Times
The Church runs an extensive international humanitarian aid program.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides relief and development projects for humanitarian purposes in countries all over the world. Projects operate without regard to the nationality or religion of the recipients.
- Humanitarian service may include emergency response to natural disasters, such as an earthquake or a tsunami, or man-made disasters, such as the effects of war and famine. It may also be part of a longer-term effort to meet serious and more entrenched human needs, such as the need to alleviate disease.
The humanitarian aid program does currently have some special areas of focus—disaster relief, measles vaccination, wheelchairs for the crippled, newborn resuscitation, vision treatment, and access to clean water. The neonate resuscitation program educates medical practitioners on how to get air to struggling newborns. Students are also trained to teach others these skills, and equipment is provided by the Church. Over 400,000 infants have been saved through the program. (To read more, click here.)
The “Wheelchair Initiative” has brought new hope to many around the world:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is providing four wheelchair models and job opportunities for wheelchair recipients around the world to address their unique needs. The religious faith of the recipients is not a factor. Since 2001, the humanitarian services of the Church have distributed more than a quarter of a million wheelchairs in 95 countries. The wheelchairs have been designed for various terrains and needs so they can be used in homes, on paved sidewalks or on rough roads with potholes.
In 2006, 54,840 wheelchairs were distributed in 54 countries: Albania, American Samoa, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Barbados, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Along with providing more appropriate kinds of chairs, the Church is also emphasizing local production of some wheelchairs and the chance for recipients to be involved. This aspect of the initiative has been designed so markets are not flooded with imported chairs, hurting the local economy. Supporting local factories also augments the repair options for the wheelchairs because local parts are more available and mending can take place more quickly.
In addition, local manufacturing and repair means jobs are available for disabled individuals. The Church currently buys from factories in Kenya and Vietnam, where wheelchair recipients are employed. A third factory employing wheelchair recipients will open in South Africa in June.
As part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ vision treatment program, volunteer ophthalmologists assist medical care providers around the world with training and equipment to treat simple vision problems. Since 2003, the Church’s efforts have assisted 20,000 people. In 2006, training was conducted in 10 countries: Albania, Argentina, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kiribati, Mozambique and Nigeria.
The Church joins other agencies for the Measles Vaccination Campaign. In 2003, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated three million dollars to support a worldwide initiative that would provide measles vaccinations to children in 40 countries. The Church worked with the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. In 2004, the Church participated in a measles vaccination campaign in Madagascar. Some Church members volunteered their time by serving missions dedicated to the measles campaign. During 2006, the Church participated in measles vaccination campaigns in Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
In 2006, clean water projects were conducted in 32 countries benefiting over 1.1 million people in over 1,000 communities. Water sources depend on the area and needs of the communities, but may include wells, water storage, delivery systems or water purification systems. Community members are involved in the planning and implementation of each project and provide most of the labor for the project. Community representatives are then trained on the maintenance of the system installed.
For the Humanitarian Aid website of the Church, click here.
For more information on the Humanitarian Aid Program, including relief for specific disasters, click here.
To learn about “atmit,” a special porridge for starving people, click here.