By Cecily Markland
The welfare system of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not concerned solely with the temporal welfare of Church members. In addition, under the umbrella of LDS Family Services, the Church’s system “is committed to providing resources to strengthen home and family,” the website at www.providentliving.org explains.
For Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek, these services are administered from the complex near the Mesa-Tempe border that also houses the Cannery, Bishops’ Storehouse and other Church welfare offices. Other offices are located in Phoenix, Tucson and Snowflake. “We address the social and emotional needs for the members,” says Brad Barnett, LDS Family Services manager and a member of Grandview 2nd Ward, Mesa Central Stake.
With two other managers—Michele Hooper and Randy McBride—and six part-time staff, they provide services, including mental health counseling for Church members referred to LDS Family Services by their priesthood leaders. Consistent with Church welfare principles, members pay for their services or use their insurance. Bishops can pay for these counseling services through welfare funds, if appropriate.
“We also provide consultation to priesthood leaders about the social and emotional issues and needs of their members,” Brother Barnett says.
LDS Family Services oversees stake-based addiction recovery groups as well. At the request of priesthood leaders, “We set up the groups and train the group leaders,” Brother Barnett says, noting that the Church’s addiction recovery program is a 12-step program that incorporates gospel principles to help individuals struggling with pornography, drugs, alcohol and other addictions. “Some who have gone through the program become facilitators themselves. Often others who are in the recovery process help as well. It’s a gospel-principles based program, a spirit-driven, priesthood-supported program.”
Interested individuals whose stakes haven’t yet implemented an addiction recovery program can participate in one of the “76 groups going on in the area,” he says.
Also effective are the Church-designed programs to strengthen marriages and families. “The manuals for the addiction recovery program and the programs to strengthen marriages and families are a great resource to priesthood leaders and members alike,” Brother Barnett says.
Also through LDS Family Services, LDS couples wishing to adopt can, with ecclesiastical endorsement, use the Church’s certified adoption services. At the same time, any single expectant mothers, whether LDS or not, can receive free services, including options counseling, “so they can make decisions about the direction for their lives.” Single expectant parents can access services, regardless of their plans to marry, parent their child, or make an adoption plan. Services are intended to help these parents maintain their self-reliance and strengthen their relationship with the Church. Details about the adoption program are available at www.ItsAboutLove.org or through www.LDSFamilyServices.org
Among the many services and resources offered, Brother Barnett particularly enjoys working with missionaries. “We do pre-mission evaluations, we work with early release missionaries and with full-time missionaries who are dealing with various issues,” he says.
This, and the other work he has done with individuals over the course of his 13 1/2-year career, has been extremely rewarding.
“I love it,” Brother Barnett says. “I love being able to use my therapy skills and have a toolbox of gospel-based resources to help meet social and emotional needs.”
He believes these services will be increasingly more necessary as “the pressures of the world increase. The world is becoming a much different place in which to live, and the needs are becoming so great.”
He adds, “The adversary seeks to isolate people and to destroy the connections that exist in relationships.” Programs administered by LDS Family Services, on the other hand, are based on the fact that “’man was not meant to be alone,’ and we need each other.” While the adversary “scatters people, the Savior gathers.”
For more information, visit LDSFamilyServices.org. To access any of the services, individuals should talk to their bishop or stake president, or to make inquiries, call 480-968-2995.