Church Welfare Reform

Our stake has a problem. We are in the red when it comes to the welfare program. This means that we give out more in financial assistance than we take in in fast offerings. I understand it is almost a 3:1 ratio. This is embarrassing since we understand that there are third-world countries that are in the black – taking in more fast offerings than they give out in assistance. It is also our understanding that places like Idaho and Utah are way in the black in this area.

I believe this problem has three main components: People who feel entitled to assistance from the church, bishops who are to charitable toward them, and members who do not pay a generous fast offering.

One branch in our stake is taking steps to reverse this trend in their branch. The stake leaders are taking notice. The branch president has written out a strict policy for those receiving financial assistance. This policy has been sent to the bishops and branch presidents in the stake to consider for implementation. I was sent a copy of it by a friend who asked what I thought. Personally I think this goes to far, but something has to be done. I am going to cut and paste this policy for your review. Let me know what you think. Keep in mind this is just what one branch president decided to do, and not an official church wide thing.


The following is a list of items that apply to all members of the ________Branch who receive financial assistance. While struggling financially, it is important to remember that you should alter your lifestyle and avoid luxuries that do not help you progress toward financial freedom. The items below will help you live within your means and eventually you will become self-reliant once again.

1. Before asking for financial assistance from the Church, you must first exhaust all resources possible such as the following (NOTE: you will be asked about all of these items before receiving assistance):Liquidate all financial assets such as 401K, IRA’s and Roth IRA’s, savings accounts, stocks, bonds.

Liquidate all unnecessary assets such as extra automobiles (including project cars), motorcycles, quads, snowmobiles, expensive audio and video equipment, tools and equipment that are considered luxuries (riding lawnmower if you can get by with a push mower, tractor if you can get by without it, etc).If you have consumer debt (credit cards, layaway, personal unsecured loans), you must negotiate with the creditors and work out a plan for either deferring interest and payments until you can afford to begin paying or reducing the amount of the debt due to hardship. The Church will not help you pay bills so that you can pay down your consumer debt. The Church will not help you protect your credit rating – it will only help sustain you with the necessities of life for the short term until you get back on your feet. If the creditors will not negotiate with you, you might consider defaulting on the unpaid balance (this will be discussed with your budget counselor if you are unsure what the best course of action is). Cancel all subscriptions to magazines (except for church magazines), book clubs, etc.

If you have a car loan and you have more than a $2,000 balance remaining, consider selling it and getting less-expensive vehicle. Exceptions to this will be extremely rare so be prepared to be asked to sell it. If you have a mortgage payment or rent payment that exceeds a reasonable level, you must be prepared to sell your home and move into a lower-cost home or rental. After completing the items above, you must turn to family and even extended family for help. This help might include one or more of the following:Moving in with them if possible and getting rid of your residence.

Sharing their food or vehicle if possible.

Receiving financial aid from them (either IOU’s or charitable donations).After turning to all family members, if you still need assistance then turn to federal and state government programs (social security, Medicaid, FIA, food stamps, WIC, etc.) as well as community programs such as United Way (habitat for humanity, etc.).

2. No cable TV, satellite, purchasing video games, purchasing movies or fictional books or any other form of home entertainment that requires money. You must make use of the public library instead of purchasing these things.

3. Only one telephone service – if you have a cell phone then the land line must be cancelled and the cell phone service must be a plan that costs $50/mo or less.

4. No internet service that requires money (job searches can be done at the library where there is a fast and reliable internet connection). If you want email in your home, there are a couple of free services that you can sign up for.

5. Reduce utility bills by setting your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower in the winter and 78 degrees or warmer in the summer. Utility bills over $100 per month are unacceptable.

6. No eating at restaurants. This is a luxury and the Church provides food to sustain you through your financial struggle – the food from the Bishop’s Storehouse is all that you should be eating unless you receive free food from another source.

7. If you own a home and have a yard, you must have a vegetable garden to help supplement your food supply and also to learn skills in home food production, which helps lead to becoming more self sufficient. The Relief Society and Priesthood can help (if called upon) with the tilling, planting, nurturing, harvesting, and then canning or freezing.

8. The cleaning of the church building each week will be the sole responsibility of the welfare program. A team leader will be appointed to direct the efforts of the work crew each week and ALL welfare recipients are required to attend without exceptions (this means the entire family – all should participate). Elderly and disabled recipients will be given tasks by the team leader according to their abilities and should still attend each week.

9. You might be assigned by the branch presidency to help another member who is in need of assistance if we feel it is appropriate. If given an assignment, please accept it with a good spirit. We wouldn’t ask you to do something unless we felt it would benefit not only the recipient but you as well.

10. You must attend church each week, including Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society.

11. You must attend all of your assigned meetings such as RS Enrichment and Stake Priesthood Meetings.

12. You must remain 100% each month as a home teacher or a visiting teacher if you have been given assignments.

13. Each recipient will be given a budget counselor and is required to disclose all financial information to their assigned counselor and be willing to fully comply with the guidelines set forth by the counselor. The recipient is required to keep ALL receipts (even for a $.50 pack of gum at the gas station) while receiving assistance so that the budget counselor can get an accurate account of your spending each month.

14. All food orders will be given to the relief society president before the required date. Any exceptions to this must be worked out with the relief society president ahead of time. The relief society president will not be responsible for making sure you fill out the order form and get it turned in. If the recipient cannot pick up their food order, they must work it out ahead of time with someone else that is traveling to pick up food orders at the Stake Center. If the recipient fails to pick up the food and the truck driver must take it back to the storehouse, they will not receive food until the next food order. The relief society president will not purchase groceries to make up for a food order that was not picked up.

15. If you are given a check to pay a bill or fuel for your car, you must return all receipts promptly to either a member of the branch presidency or to one of the clerks. NOTE: this is required for financial auditing purposes and we must be able to provide a receipt for all checks that are issued by the Church.

16. You must keep and study the handout that you have been given and be prepared to give an update to your Branch President (or an assigned budget counselor if appropriate) at least monthly on the progress you are making toward achieving self reliance by growing in the following areas:Education – study scriptures and other good church books, GED, trade courses, apprenticeship, college education, etc.

Health – obey word of wisdom, exercise regularly, medical and dental care, personal hygiene, home cleanliness.Home storage – store, use, and know how to produce and prepare essential items.Resource management – Pay tithes and offerings, avoid debt, satisfy all of our promised obligations, be frugal, use time wisely, and serve others by sharing our time, talent, and resources with them. Social, emotional, and spiritual strength – Again, study the scriptures and other good church books, obey God’s commandments, be humble, pray frequently and fervently, strengthen relationships with family members, neighbors, and friends, shun things that are immoral or just not spiritual, work toward worthy goals, adjust to change and recover from misfortune.

17. You must actively work toward increasing your income. Your budget counselor will work out a plan with you to receive weekly progress updates so he/she can help you better. These updates might be in the form of a list of all applications or resumes submitted, a list of follow-up phone calls or visits, etc.

46 Responses to “Church Welfare Reform”

  1. 1 Wade September 25, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    Wow! Clearly the Branch President has no intentions of giving church aid to anyone. And if he does dole anything out to anyone, he will be violating his written policies because no one who abides by the rules for assistance will ever be in need of church funds.

    How long have his policies been instituted? And what has happened to the numbers in his congregation since?

  2. 2 Peter September 25, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Draconian indeed. I don’t agree with several of the policies, but I agree with the principles motivating them. Even still, a few of those requirements (sell your home, utility bills over $100 denied) would be very difficult to comply with. Of course, the role of the Church is not to fund the lifestyles of its members. There is definitely a need for a balance, and I can at least appreciate the effort to make it manageable.

  3. 3 Eric Nielson September 25, 2006 at 8:18 pm


    This is quite new and I do not know the details. I am lead to believe that they are getting ‘results’. That is why the stake is looking into this.


    Yes, there are quite a bit of strict rules here. 100% hometeaching was interesting.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson September 25, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    Oh, and one thing I was surprised was not listed. Paying tithing doesn’t seem to be on the list.

  5. 5 Stewart Foss September 25, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    It would seem he is trying to teach people to fish instead of handing out fish. As long as the rules are implemented with charity and the spirit there should be no problem.

  6. 6 BrianJ September 25, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    I served in a branch that was probably similar or worse off than the one described here. I think the branch president could have saved time and ink if he had simply written, “Do not ask for assistance because you will not get it.”

    My dad, who was just released as bishop, said that when he was first called he asked a couple former bishops what one thing they would do differently. Each of them said, “I would be more generous with financial assistance.”

    One of the rules seems particularly irresponsible: “Liquidate all financial assets such as 401K, IRA’s and Roth IRA’s, savings accounts, stocks, bonds” Many people seek assistance due to short-term crisis: lost job, medical emergency, natural disaster. To suggest that a family should liquidate retirement savings simply because they need help with 1-2 months’ rent will cost them a lot more in the long run.

    I also stared at the utility bill limit. I don’t know where this branch is located, but frugal people throughout the Northeast commonly pay well over $200 per month to heat their homes in the winter.

    Sorry to be so negative, but Rule 11 also needs some ammending: Enrichment is not assigned, it is optional.

    To end on a positive note: I agree with the motivation behind the rules. The branch president is clearly trying to do something to make things better, even though it will make him very unpopular. I wouldn’t measure “success” by putting a branch in the black, though.

  7. 7 Wade September 25, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    I wouldn’t measure “success” by putting a branch in the black, though.

    Well said!

    I too understand the motive behind these policies. But more than half of them say one thing: “you’re not getting any assistance”. I honestly don’t know/see how anyone would ever receive funds if the policies are enforced. I’m positive these policies will “work” if the objective is to get into the black (because there will be virtually nothing going out). But I echo what Brian says: it’s just not a good measure of success.

  8. 8 mullingandmusing (m&m) September 25, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    I wonder if this is how it is in writing, and if they might be more flexible on a case-by-case basis. I don’t know that I would be comfortable making blanket statements, because some situations are really such exceptions and involving short-terms needs.

  9. 9 Eric Nielson September 26, 2006 at 6:35 am


    Thanks for your comment. Some might question that the individual who wrote these policies has that charity and spirit in him.


    You bring a good perspective here. Many would advise bishops to err on the side of being charitable. THe utility bill was interesting to me as well. Michigan winters with recent gas bills can be steep.


    I hope this is the case. This does not seem to me to be a ‘one size fits all’ situation.

  10. 10 WillF September 26, 2006 at 7:21 am

    Is there a corresponding letter to the rest of the branch requesting that they be more generous with fast offerings?

  11. 11 Eric Nielson September 26, 2006 at 9:29 am



    Excelent question. I’ll try to find out.

  12. 12 Anon BP Member September 26, 2006 at 10:01 am


    I appreciate you showing this. I am part of a very new branch presidency somewhere in the midwest. We have been worried about being too generous lately and some of the ideas here are good. However, the tone of the letter and the severity of some of the requirements is completely outside of the spirit of charity and compassion. I feel that this Branch President has decided that welfare recipients are second class members and thus should be talked down to. There is no respect, only distrust conveyed in thsi letter. Plus, the idea of struggling parents having to take young children to cleaning duty every week and explain to them why is simply appaling to me. We are all equals and share responsibilities and be loved and respected despite economic status.

    The system is abused, but it is a good system. I have never payed a fast offering with the idea that it would be horded nor have I been concerned with someone taking it unrighteously. I hope that this president can see that this initiative is completely outside of the intended spirit of the welfare program. He may be put in position to need it someday.

  13. 13 Anon BP Member September 26, 2006 at 10:02 am

    “We are all equals and share responsibilities and be loved and respected despite economic status.”

    Teaches me to not proofread!

  14. 14 Eric Nielson September 26, 2006 at 10:26 am

    BP Member:

    I agree with you. Hopefully as others review these policies they will be modified somewhat. Especially the tone.

  15. 15 Eric Nielson September 26, 2006 at 10:35 am

    My wife just called me. She serves in the relief society program. The Stake President just called and said he wanted to meet with each relief society presidency about some new policies regarding welfare. Stay tuned!

  16. 16 Bookslinger September 26, 2006 at 11:53 am

    I don’t think any of us have problems with the sick or elderly who can’t work.

    But I think most of us would have problems with a family or individual receiving church welfare who also has or does:
    – cable or satellite TV.
    – a fishing boat, or other expensive hobby gear.
    – a land line, and 1 or 2 cell phones.
    – goes out to eat fast food several times per week.
    – gets a car loan for way too much car than they need, lives pay-check
    to pay-check, then whines like crazy when they get laid off
    and can’t make the car payment.
    – goes to 1st/2nd run movie theaters, paying $5 to $9 per ticket instead of the $1.00 movies.
    – rents or buys DVDs as soon as they are released, paying premium prices instead of the $1.00 rentals.

    And most of us probably know church “welfare queens” (or kings), who are always on the outer fringe of church activity or even outside of church contact, but come back when they have an emergency or need help. (I have to be careful here, because I was inactive for 15 years, and came crawling back to church after a divine butt-kicking, and the first thing I asked for was help moving.)

    Personally, I’ve tried to help out friends in the past (before coming back to church), and usually got burned.

    So what I do is offer to PAWN or BUY some of their stuff when they ask for a loan. That way, if they don’t pay me back, I have their “pledge” to keep, to use, or to re-sell. And I try to buy something of theirs that I can use, or easily pawn or sell.

    I still have a nice steel wok and a cast-iron french-fry cutter from one guy, who needed money to pay a utility bill, and he promised to pay me back “right away” years ago. He died within a year or so of the transaction, so I kept it. I call it my John So-And-So Memorial Wok.

    Another guy in a bind “sold” me a set of Star Trek Original Series on DVD. I paid this guy double what he would have received at a pawn shop, but a little less than what I would have spent on Ebay. Again, it was for temporary needs, but he never got enough money to buy the set back. But I like having it, so I’m not upset, and he still got more money than any other quick way of disposing of it.

    I learned to put IN WRITING, how long I’ll hold on to something before reselling it, and what the buy-back price is (same as selling price, no interest.) Because friends who borrow money from you tend to have bad memories.

    And if the person is able to buy it back (only happened once), everyone is happy. I helped out a friend, and the other person got the temporary cash they needed. But for the vast majority of times, they didn’t pay me back, so I ended up with the stuff, but it was something I could use, or re-sell, so I didn’t feel cheated by the borrower, and the friendship remained intact. And the borrower got to keep his dignity.

    I just learned to say “I’m not a bank, I don’t loan money. You can either take your TV or stereo to the pawn shop, or let me see if you have anything I want to buy from you. But if you want charity, see the Bishop.”

    A problem with people is that we think we have a “right” or an “absolute need” for many things. This applies to those who can support themselves too.

    There are plenty of areas where fully active self-supporting saints also make “unbalanced choices”, that are just as incorrect, and in some cases, maybe unrighteous, even more so than the bad decisions that got someone to the point where they need church welfare.

    1. Do we go out to restaurants and movies, but don’t have a year supply of food?

    2. Do we spend $50/month on cable/satellite, but don’t have a sufficient retirement nest egg? (taking into consideration present value of future needs, etc.)

    3. Do we engage in expensive annual vacation trips, but don’t have savings set aside for going on a mission when we retire?

    4. Do we spend time watching TV (American Idol, Survivor, 24) but don’t spend enough time doing home/visiting teaching?

    5. Do we read Farms/Fair/BYU-Review/Bushman/Grant/Signature, but don’t read the weekly Sunday School and Priesthood/RS lessons, the Ensign, and the conference talks?

    So yeah, it’s easy for me to think that the guy who wants church welfare should first sell his bass boat, but I’m not doing evertyhing that I should be doing either.

  17. 17 Doc September 26, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    I wonder if this Branch president has recently read King Benjamin’s sermon regarding giving to the poor. Are we not all beggars? There but for the grace of God geos he.

    I have to believe a more generous fast offering is going to do much more for the closeness, spirituality and good of the ward than any list of beaurocratic rules ever could. In a culture as obsessed as ours over self reliance, falling short is a humiliating experience. Adding to the humiliation step by step until all that remains is people with no dignity whatsoever just to receive help is no way for us to conduct ourselves. Near as I can tell, people are reluctant enough to ask as it is now.

    Somehow I have a hard time picturing the Savior making it a priority to get people off the welfare rolls if there was a budget shortfall. It is much more easy for me to see him giving the pharisees a tongue lashing over their tight purse strings.

  18. 18 Doc September 26, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    “2. Do we spend $50/month on cable/satellite, but don’t have a sufficient retirement nest egg? (taking into consideration present value of future needs, etc.)

    3. Do we engage in expensive annual vacation trips, but don’t have savings set aside for going on a mission when we retire?”

    Are you sure you are okay with the elderly getting our welfare funds? Uh-oh, sounds to me like the elderly and widows were just asking for it. We better add these to the list, with only returned couple missionaries eligible in that group. Those people.

    I am kidding of course. Thank you for reminding us that all of us are beggars before God. All of us fall short. All of us have some aspect of selfishness that could use much more work. 😉

  19. 19 Bookslinger September 26, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Near as I can tell, people are reluctant enough to ask as it is now.

    In my area, and from what I hear from other areas, I think it’s the other way around. Too many people see handouts from the bishop not only as ways to “tide them over” the bumps, but also as long term means to sustain their lifestyle.

    I remember someone reporting on the ‘nacle that a Stake Pres in Tennnessee came up with a similar list, which is where I got the bass-boat thing from.

    The admonishment around here seems to be, okay, you’ll get your “emergency check”, but before you get another, you’re going to have to cancel the cable/satellite and do other things under the advice of a financial counselor. The list isn’t official, and it doesn’t sound as strict as the above list, and it does have exceptions. But it is along the lines of using up your own resources before requesting access to the sacred funds of the church. After all, many people do really sacrifice to make those generous fast offerings.

    In adult sessions of ward and stake conference we have leaders telling us to be ready for the “no cable/satellite” rule, because they were tired of church-welfare-applicants pouting and whining when asked to ditch the dish.

    Are you sure you are okay with the elderly getting our welfare funds?

    I realize you were being sarcastic. But there do exist some problems in that area. We have a case of grown kids who appeared (have to qualify it) to be not taking care of their mother/grandmother because they thought it’s the church’s job.

    I didn’t think it affected me until one day when we were moving her, and we had members, full time missionaries, sister missionaries, retired missionaries, and the bishop helping this little-old-granny-lady move, and not one of her able-bodied sons or grandsons was there. It made me go hmmmmmm.

    Bishops and branch presidents have a tight-rope to walk. Too strict and they shatter someone’s fragile testimony. If you lose the parents, you lose their children too, who might otherwise become real contributors to the kingdom. If the bishop is too loose, he’s squandering sacred funds that many people have made real sacrifices to contribute, and that could have been used in better ways to build up the kingdom.

    And that last part is true because overall the church does transfer a lot of tithing money into welfare expenditures. Nationwide, and church-wide, fast offerings come no where near meeting the welfare expenditures. At least that’s what GA’s have said.

    Now that said, I’ll confess that:
    1) I’ve been to the “First Bank of Mom and Dad” more than once in my lifetime. My own financial history is not without embarrassment.
    2) I’ve previously gone as long as 2 years without seeing my mother in another state after my father passed away. (Granted she lives over 1,000 miles away though and saw other family members regularly.)

    So yeah, it’s a balancing act. “With what measure ye mete…”

  20. 20 Eric Nielson September 26, 2006 at 3:12 pm


    Interesting experiences you have had. Along those lines, my brother-in-law just got a divorce and has financial problems. My wife has wanted to help him out. He is an artist, and my wife likes his work, so we occasionally by some of his art. We at least have something to show for what we give, and he does something to earn it. I love the story about your memborial wok. You are alos right about bishops being in a tough spot.


    Yes, one wonders what King Benny would say if he saw our day. The same thing?


    This all boils down to the spirit of discernment and following the spirit to me. An absolute one-size-fits-all policy seems to stifle that. I don’t think I would want a blanket policy if I were in that spot.

  21. 21 Anon BP Member September 26, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    “This all boils down to the spirit of discernment and following the spirit to me. An absolute one-size-fits-all policy seems to stifle that. I don’t think I would want a blanket policy if I were in that spot. ”

    Amen and amen

  22. 22 Serenity Valley September 26, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    Am I the only one who noticed the BP’s 30 years-out of date belief that home food production is cheaper than what you get at the grocery store? If you buy store brands or generics, that’s certainly untrue–and the time this guy is telling people to use for food production could be used much more productively (in an economic sense) working as a sales clerk.

  23. 23 Eric Nielson September 27, 2006 at 5:12 am

    Might be the only one SR.

    It may be just another deterant.

  24. 24 Eric Nielson September 27, 2006 at 6:35 am

    Sorry that should be SV.

    I had some more thoughts on this. One of the problems I have with such a policy is that it would ‘force’ you to treat everyone the same. If I were a bishop, God forbid, I would want to treat people differently according to their circumstances.

    If there were a long-term active member who had attended church, accepted callings, paid tithes and offerings, etc., I would feel like writting them out a blank check. They’re good for it.

    On the other hand somebody only shows up every once in a while when they can’t pay their gas bill, and doesn’t do all the things members of the church should do I would want to show them the door.

    In addition, I would want to do what I felt was right.

  25. 25 Dave September 27, 2006 at 10:18 am

    Okay, so this unit of the Church is adopting means-testing before providing assistance, much like government agencies do. So if the Church is moving from the LDS model to a government assistance model … why run two programs? Why solicit fast contributions from members of the stake who already pay taxes to support means-tested government programs? Why maintain a facade that the LDS program is an exercise in charity when it requires members to make themselves paupers as a precondition to receiving assistance?

    The message stake members should take away from this (assuming the new policy is made public — more likely the leaders will keep it secret) is they should use their disposable income to lay up savings against a rainy day themselves, because they won’t get any help from the Church. If the bishops aren’t going to give out assistance, they should not be asking members for contributions.

  26. 26 Bill September 27, 2006 at 10:51 am

    I thought it was pretty funny that you can still subscribe to Church magazines. Can’t someone just borrow it from another member, or check the internet. Better yet, send a subscription to the local library where someone can browse it while picking up other reading material or audio-visual entertainment.

  27. 27 Eric Nielson September 27, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    Ineresting thoughts Dave. Perhaps someday we will be taxed instead of giving offerings.

  28. 28 Doc September 27, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    And it is a wicked and a slothful servant who needs be commanded in all things. For me, resorting to taxing would be a sad day indeed.

  29. 29 Carl Youngblood September 27, 2006 at 9:17 pm

    The funny thing is, in the US, if almost anyone followed the practices outlined in this letter, his cash flow problems would be solved in short order. I firmly believe that it is nearly impossible to be truly poor in this country if you are industrious and motivated to learn and progress. Everyone I have met who is not wealthy is quite idle, and many completely uneducated people I have met who are hard workers are at least able to make ends meet, far more easily than my friends in third world countries.

  30. 30 Eric Nielson September 28, 2006 at 6:32 am

    Doc, You’re right. I was certainly not suggesting it.

    Carl, Good point. I have hear it said of the church welfare system that it’s purpose was to do away with the curse of idleness.

  31. 31 Doc September 28, 2006 at 10:28 am

    First of all, I want everyone to realize that I absolutely do not condone taking advantage of the church regarding welfare. Some of the suggestions on the list are quite reasonable. Others are deeply flawed. SV pointed out the problem with food production. Is it really wise to sell a reliable car to buy one that could break down at any time thus causing a very large bill that you completely lack funds to repair, perpetuating your problem. Downsizing can make sense in certain situations if done wisely.

    Here is the biggest problem. How capable is this family of proceeding with all this in the midst of a seriously stressful crisis? I have had the experience of giving help to members in need as a home teacher. One member that comes immediately to mind was a lady that had serious issues with paranoia that repeatedly cost her employment. What she needed issue number one was professional help from a psychiatrist. I pleaded, begged for help from the bishop to get her a ride, transportation, something to get a referral and visit to a psychiatrist. Instead what I got was repeated statement that the ward could not keep bailing out her rent if she kept losing jobs. Before long the window of opportunity closed and I was no longer allowed into her house because I was possessed with a demon. Score one for industry.

    What happens when someone faces a severe personal crisis (i.e. layoff) that sends them into a deep depression. How is reviewing gum receipts going to help them on the road to self sufficiency. The statement by Carl that anyone who is not wealthy is idle smacks of some serious judgement and is quite reminiscent of the “friends” of Job. Seriously, who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly. I absolutely agree that welfare should be all about doing everything to get another onto their feet. It is certainly no long term solution. But these “answers” seem little more than beauracracy directed at diverting and turning away. I just hope the BP realizes that as he has done unto the least of these, he has also done unto the Savior himself.

  32. 32 Doc September 28, 2006 at 10:52 am

    PS Eric,
    In regard to the King Benny speech, I assume you have heard the Mormon saw our day, had limited space, massive records to abridge, every inch was precious argument.

  33. 33 Eric Nielson September 28, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    Nice thoughts Doc.

    Benny and I go way back.

    When I re-read his speech, it sure seemed that he was talking of bear necessities. Not SUV payments and cell phones.

  34. 34 Eric Nielson October 3, 2006 at 7:27 pm


    There is a big meeting of Bishoprics and Relief Society presidents in the Stake this Sunday Evening. Word has been sent that our stake is the worst stake in the United States when it comes to being in the red in welfare. My wife will be attending. We shall see.

  35. 35 Wade October 3, 2006 at 7:35 pm


    Tell the Stake Presidency they don’t need a meeting, they can just read this post and the ensuing thread. 🙂

    Keep us updated!

  36. 36 madhousewife October 3, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    I agree that this list of rules seems designed to pre-empt anyone asking for assistance. It’s most depressing.

    While I’m all for expecting people to tighten their belts and cut back on luxuries, liquidating every last one of your assets seems both extreme and unwise. But what is really bothering me is the statement that you should be applying for government assistance before asking the church for help. A) The church is so much better at helping people than the government is. B) Why have a church welfare program at all, if our people aren’t our responsibility, but the government’s?

  37. 37 Eric Nielson October 4, 2006 at 6:38 am


    I can keep you updated. I don’t think I will tell anyone about this. (Actually I should not even be in the loop. My Branch President friend really should not have told me about this.)


    THanks for your comment. I am not entirely sure, but I think seeking government assistance before seeking church assistance is what the welfare manuals of the church recommend. Seeking help from the church should be somewhat of a last resort. We should be generous as individuals with our family and friends, but as a church?….

  38. 38 madhousewife October 4, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Well, there are some government programs–Medicaid, for example–that the church can’t and shouldn’t be expected to replicate. But IMO government aide should be for people who don’t have family or a community to turn to. If the church really encourages people to turn first to the government, which is so much further removed from them than the church is (and an inefficient model of charity if ever there was one), then I am not a fan. Maybe I should stop paying my fast offering and become a socialist. (Just kidding.)

  39. 39 Eric Nielson October 4, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    I admit I am confused about where government aid should fit in the priority list.

    I’m glad I’m not a bishop.

  40. 40 madhousewife October 5, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Yeah, me too. I mean, I’m glad *I’m* not a bishop. I’m sure you’d make a fine bishop. At least I have no reason to suspect otherwise. 🙂

    I think what really irks me is not the government vs. church issue–obviously there are cases where it’s appropriate for people to apply for government programs–but the idea that the church is a last resort. It doesn’t seem very…churchy. Isn’t the point of having a church welfare program to integrate spiritual relief with temporal relief? Isn’t that its strength? I’m envisioning a ward member becoming homeless and the church saying, “Well, have you checked to see if there’s room at the shelter? I hear the local soup kitchen makes a good chili.” Rather off-putting. It seems like we could just refer people to the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities, too, if we really wanted to conserve our resources. Or maybe we could stop baptizing poor people. Then we wouldn’t have to home-teach them either.

    Okay, that was too sanctimoniously sarcastic, even for me. As you implied, ministering to the poor is a complex issue, fraught with room for error. I’m glad I’m not a bishop–or a RS president.

  41. 41 Wade October 5, 2006 at 5:38 pm


    In case you haven’t noticed, you’ve made the BoJ Hall of Fame.

  42. 42 Eric Nielson October 6, 2006 at 6:35 am


    I agree with what you are saying, I just don’t think it is a perfect world. There are those who will take advantage of a overly-charitable church. You can’t help everyone, so who do you help? It seems there must be a line somewhere, and is really a matter of where that line is drawn. Not an easy call.

  43. 43 anon October 13, 2006 at 10:19 pm

    Onto another irresponsible type of church member.

    Since this branch prez is on the “live responsibly” warpath, send him out to hundreds of wards around the US that have parking lots lined with luxury cars and sedans each Sunday. Truth be told, Christians should be indistinguishable from each other in their lifestyle. There is a minimum all need to sustain life, having basic needs met and modest entertainment. All excess should be given to help others maintain this same baseline.

    Sure, someone could be irresponsible and need help paying their bills. But is the person with the 6 figure income in the half a million dollar house in an area where the middle class comfortably find NEW homes with 2K square feet for under 150K or existing homes for 100K any less irresponsible? No. The former has denied THEMSELF of what they need. The latter has denied MANY whom they could have helped with basic needs.

    When people take all their excess and seek to elevate others to have the same as them, then they are within range of meeting the most humble example of Christian living . Until then, they are nothing more than the culturally religious who like Christianity just so long as it doesn’t impede on their wants.

    There was a thread on a self agrandizing blog a couple years ago about this. It was a bunch of people who went to school for a long time on their way to big incomes rationalizing why it was okay to have nice things. One has to wonder what was their motivation, if not career satisfaction and being of service.

    It’s easy to go without coffee, movies on Sundays, tank tops, wine with dinner. It’s easy to spend 10-20 hours a month fulfilling a calling. It’s very, very easy when compared with living in the scary city versus the clean suburbs, buying a used car versus a Mercedes suv, shopping at the thrift store and day old bakery versus The Gap and a gourmet bakery and sending all that excess to nations where they don’t even have clean drinking water.

    The sin isn’t making the excess money. The potential for sin is what one does with it. If the middle class and wealthy of all lds wards humbled themselves to curtail the wants spending and dedicate all that to others’ needs, there would not be hungry children anywhere on the planet. There would not be illiteracy. There would not be women without alternatives in bad situations. There would not be many things – disease, famine, even some wars would end. There would be compassion the world has never seen. You can buy a new red ipod and $10 will go to Bono’s “One” charity. It’s a good organization. $10 is a token gesture – a pittance! Buying a used Taurus when you can afford a 50K Hummer and sending $45,000 to Africa, THAT is charity.

    Mother Theresa said, “I ask you one thing: do not tire of giving, but do not give your leftovers.”

    This is not easy. However those who strive for it will become more solid Christians in the process.

  44. 44 Joel December 6, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    I’m wondering what is the update with the decision on the welfare program?


  45. 45 Eric Nielson December 6, 2006 at 4:08 pm


    From what I have observed from the outside, individual bishops are still the one’s who are making the decisions. They are being told in general how bad things are in this stake (apparently we are the worst stake in Michigan, and Michigan is one of the worts states in the US in this area). I have heard no official word personally. My bishop is quite laid back and will probably be one of the most lienient in our stake.

    In general I agree that this should be the bishops decisions. I think that the new branch president (who produced this ‘policy’ on his own) might be going through an unrighteous dominion phase in his calling, and may mellow out a little over time.

    Again, it seems each bishop is being allowed to do what they think is best. And they are sharing ideas and approaches with each other.

  46. 46 bill trimble October 13, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    i think its funny that my church will pray for me to find a job but wont help me out. i guess christians are not there except for sunday. oh well after i lose my house i guess it will be good

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