With the failing economy, many have had to turn to the government to keep their family afloat. But this is not the case for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Their church's sophisticated private welfare system is providing a means of support and self-sufficiency to their members in these times of need. The amazing part? It's run almost entirely with donations and volunteers.
The nationwide system, called the Bishop's Storehouse, provides basic food and essential household items to struggling members. Almost the entire stock is produced through Church agricultural properties, canneries, and light manufacturing operations. All of the work is performed by Church volunteers and recipients, making the system virtually independent of the commercial economy. They have also established Deseret Industries which is a nonprofit, vocational rehabilitation facility and a thrift store. Both resources are sustained by the contribution of time, talents and resources of its members.
The first versions of the storehouse started in the 1840's, when LDS members journeyed to the Salt Lake Valley to escape persecution. They created storehouses of grains and other goods to easy the travel of the later groups. During the Great Depression, former-president of the Church, Heber J. Grant said that he received revelation from God about the welfare system created by the New Deal.
"Our primary purpose was to set up, insofar as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self-respect be once more established among our people," said Grant.
Aside from the 10% tithing that the thirteen and a half million members donate toward the building and maintaining of temples and meeting houses and the sustaining of missionary work, they also fast for two meals every month. They then donate the money that they would have spent on food, known as a Fast Offering, to church leadership who then distributes the funds based on the needs of the members. Usually the bishop doesn't give money directly to the person being assisted, but pays directly for what the member needs (groceries, medical bills, etc).
The Latter-Day Saints have also been advocates of maintaining a year of food storage, something that has been encouraged at meetings and conferences for years. They are provided with the resources and counsel to help them build this back-up plan in case of disaster or emergency. Now, the food storages that have been in preparation for so long are becoming the cornerstone of survival to those whose income has been diminished by increased nationwide layoffs.
Additionally, last year the Church challenged its followers to establish a 72-hour kit for each member of every family to use in the event that a family must evacuate their home quickly. Lists of recommendations for these kits are provided here.
So what can we learn from Mormons? We can take some of their preparations tips to help feed and sustain our families during these hard times. Maybe with just a little extra determination, we can ease our future hardships as well.