A Bishop Storehouse is a term used by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In most cases, it represents a specific location where food and common household items are stored, waiting to be distributed to those in need. The bishop of the congregation is the one responsible for managing the storehouse, supervising both the goods that come in and those that go out to the needy.
A bishop storehouse is funded through donations from the members of the congregation. Most LDS congregations have such a storehouse available which they supply constantly. The tradition was started by John Smith Jr. when he received a message from the Lord, telling him to store food in his name and help others when they are in need. Initially, the tradition was that every member of the church would have to fast on the Thursday and the food thus saved be donated to the storehouse.
However, in time people realized that it’s kind of hard to fast on a work day so the Church decided to decree Sunday as a day of fasting. Henceforth, people would fast on Sunday and donate the two meals saved to the church. In time however, the tradition started to ask for money instead, given the wide array of foods and goods available. The bishop would receive the donations and figure out what exactly should be bought (depending on the needs of the people and the storehouse).
Donations to the storehouse are not mandatory for the LDS community, but are strongly encouraged. Members usually make these donations during the Sunday meetings or right after these meetings, when officials of the church visit households to gather the donations from those who couldn’t give them at the meeting.
Aside from foods and goods, the bishop storehouses gather resources in terms of voluntary help from members. If other members are in need of help with different tasks, they can use the bishop storehouse in order to gather up the necessary workforce. All efforts are coordinated and managed by the bishop. The goods and services are not usually for sale or offer to the general public.
The general idea and purpose of a bishop’s storehouse is to help people in need. But the most important scope of the tradition is to help people in case of a disaster, as a part of the preparedness tradition which is prevalent in the LDS community. When a disaster occurs, the bishop will be in charge of distributing the goods to those in need. But in case of special circumstances (when there is not a disaster) and there is a person or family in need, the bishop will accord the help needed – be it material or in terms of help – in return for that person or family doing some community service (usually helping around the storehouse).
The storehouses are being maintained by community members who volunteer. They are managed by the bishop who will assign them different tasks.