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- "Modern-day humanitarian effort is a wonderful manifestation of the charity that burns within the souls of those whose hearts are tender and whose hands are willing to help. This selfless service truly demonstrates the pure love of Christ" (H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop of the Church).
- I am deeply grateful that as a Church we are extending humanitarian aid when there is sore distress. We have done a great deal and have blessed the lives of many people who are not of our faith but who also are children of our Father. We will continue to do so for as long as we have the means. To all who have contributed to this effort we express our thanks (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Thanks to the Lord for His Blessings,” Ensign, May 1999, 88).
- Now, as a Church we have worked with others in lifting the sorrow and sufferings of those who are in distress. Our humanitarian efforts have literally blessed the lives of countless thousands not of our faith. In the terrible tsunami disaster, and in other disasters incident to conflict, disease, and hunger, we have done a great and marvelous work assisting others without worrying about who gets the credit. In February of this year the president of the American Red Cross presented to the Church the Circle of Humanitarians Award, which is the highest honor given by them. It is in recognition of the effort of the Church to extend the vaccination against measles to thousands and thousands of young people.... Countless lives have been saved, and much pain and misery have been avoided ... To the extent made possible by resources which come from the generosity of our people, we are reaching down to lift those in distress. Surely the Lord is blessing us as a people, and we must reach out to bless His needy wherever they may be (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Closing Remarks,” Ensign, May 2005, 102).
LDS Humanitarian Services
Humanitarian Services is just one department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints served by LDS Philanthropies. The Church throughout its history has always provided for those in need, but the first permanent humanitarian organization of the Church was created in 1955 at Brigham Young University. The Presiding Bishop of the Church, H. David Burton, who has the responsibility of overseeing LDS Philanthropies said,
- Present priorities include care of the world's poor and a greatly expanded employment support to elevate men and women from circumstances of need to the blessings of self-reliance. Gifts, bequests, and endowments for these initiatives extend personal reach around the globe to help victims of disasters, homelessness, hunger, and disease. Teachers receive needed training, facilities, textbooks, and supplies, weapons in their war against ignorance, poverty, and hopelessness. Orphans and street children find relief from the daily struggle to survive. Job training opens doors of opportunity. Micro-enterprise turns ingenuity into prosperity. Jobs appear where there were no jobs before. The unemployed find stability; the underemployed begin to realize their greater potential and create the surpluses that transform them from receivers to givers. These are effective opportunities, those that build lives. In caring for the world's poor and assisting with employment needs, we focus on actions that are both effective and cost effective. These two criteria ensure opportunities to give with confidence (H. David Burton, "Presiding Bishop's Report," 2005).
Within Humanitarian Services there are specific organizations to which individuals can donate time, money, or supplies:
- Emergency Response
- Wheelchair Distribution
- Clean Water
- Neonatal Resuscitation Training
- Vision Treatment Training.
Money and items can also be donated to the Humanitarian General Fund where the money or supplies are then given to an area that is in need.
Emergency Response is the part of the Church’s humanitarian efforts that most people are aware of. Funds and supplies in this area are used to help victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, tornados, and hurricanes, as well as other disasters due to wars or political unrest. Supplies in this area are gathered and stored before a crisis so that supplies can be sent within literally hours of an emergency. Volunteers are also on call so that if they are needed they can be reached and organized within a few hours.
Wheelchair Distribution is also crucial to helping those in need. Studies estimate that only one percent of people in the world who are physically disabled have a wheelchair. For the rest, being without a wheelchair means that adults cannot provide for themselves or their families, and children are often unable to attend school. By providing wheelchairs to those in need, the Church is able to give the lifelong gifts of self-reliance, education, and even self-respect.
The Clean Water service provides clean water and wells to people who otherwise would most likely contract deadly diseases because of polluted water. Studies estimate that nearly 3 million people, mostly children, die each year from diseases related to unsanitary water.
The Neonatal Resuscitation program sends doctors and volunteers to areas where infant mortality rates are high. They are able to teach people in the area how to resuscitate newborns as well as provide simple medical equipment. This service is greatly needed as it is estimated that 120 million newborns each year suffer from asphyxia during birth. Nearly 90,000 of these infants die because those who care for them have not been trained how to resuscitate them.
The Vision Treatment Training program teaches facilities and medical personal in developing countries how to treat preventable or reversible blindness. There are 45 million people in the world who are blind, and in developing countries being blind often means poverty. Saving a person's sight may very well save them and their families.
Facts regarding the LDS Humanitarian Program
Once a month, faithful members of the Church fast, typically skipping two meals. The cost of the meals (or more if the individual can afford it) is given to care for the poor. Because of this practice, the Utah government welfare spending is very low. Members of other faiths also benefit through LDS charity work.
The Church owns 400 welfare farms and 220 canneries/welfare storehouses to care for the poor. Members volunteer their time to staff these facilities. In 2003, over half a million man-hours were donated. One Church farm in Florida, the world's largest beef ranch, is over 312,000 acres.
The Church also has an extensive program to help the unemployed. In 2003, Church employment centers helped 85,000 people in the United States and Canada find employment. About the same number of jobs were found for members of the Church in foreign countries.
LDS Family Services, a Church organization, has 64 offices to provide adoption, foster care, and counseling services.
46 Church-operated thrift stores function in part to provide employment for the disadvantaged/disabled.
The LDS Church has sponsored Boy Scout troops since 1913. About 23% of all Scout troops in the U.S. are LDS-sponsored.
The Church has sent relief to victims of over 150 disasters since 1986 alone. Aid is provided regardless of any consideration, including religion, ethnicity, and nationality, and is valued in the tens of millions of dollars annually. In the last 20 years, 200 million pounds of food, clothing, and medicine were donated in 147 countries, almost all to members of other faiths. Aid is often made to countries where Mormon missionaries are banned by law. The LDS Church is able to send relief quickly because there is no need to wait for donations or purchase supplies. Church members donate regularly, and supplies are stored at Salt Lake and elsewhere, ready for distribution. The LDS Church also works with and donates extensively to other, non-LDS charities. While the Church's specific humanitarian programs are too numerous to list here, here are a few highlights:
- In 2001 the Church established what it calls the “Perpetual Education Fund.” Low-rate college loans are made to impoverished students in the developing world, students that could not otherwise obtain a good education. Over 10,000 loans have been made to date, and the project is expanding.
- The Church played an important role in the 2004 Asian-tsunami relief efforts. After working to address the population's immediate needs, the Church began working towards long-term progress, including livelihood restoration, health-care improvement (including operating-room construction, medical-equipment supply, and trauma counseling), and the reconstruction of community buildings (including homes, hospitals, schools, and mosques). In all, millions of dollars have been invested in this type of long-term aid.
- The Church has an extensive vision program in the developing world, where local health-care professionals are provided with the necessary training and equipment to treat vision problems. Under this program, 20,000 individuals have received eye treatment at a cost of one million dollars.
- Because world-wide only one percent of all who need wheelchairs have access to one, the Church has distributed over 100,000 chairs to the disabled in developing nations at a cost of $6.8 million.
- The Church has helped 1.8 million people in over 1,000 communities gain access to clean water at an average cost of only $2.50 per person. This service has included digging wells, providing water storage and delivery systems, and installing water purification systems. Mostly local labor was used, and local community leaders were trained in how to maintain the new facilities.
- At a cost of $3.5 million, the Church has sent doctors to developing nations to train local health-care professionals in neonatal resuscitation. Neonatal deaths due to breathing problems cost one million infant lives a year.
- Working with international partners (the American Red Cross, the 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), the Church donated $3 million to work towards providing measles vaccinations for 200 million children in 40 African countries.
- Church members donated 10,000 days of labor to assist Hurricane Katrina victims.
- The Church offers small-business loans to the impoverished in developing countries.
- So what's a typical year like? Take 2004...“In 2004, the Church provided $31.1 million (USD) in cash and materials in response to the hurricanes in Florida and the Caribbean, tsunamis in South Asia, war in Iraq, flooding in Colombia, and 110 other disasters.”
The Church has over 5,000 service missionaries (another site said 3,000) who work without pay to aid the poor.
Aside from providing service missionaries, the Church also has 61,000 proselytizing missionaries in over 300 missions in 165 countries, distinct from those mentioned above, who also work without pay. Trained in 17 missionary training centers scattered across the globe, these proselytizing missionaries provide those who are seeking God with more information about our beliefs. Roughly 93% of LDS missionaries are college-age, and 22% are female. Proselytizing missionaries are instructed to donate half a day each week doing non-proselytizing community service.
- Some are offended by this missionary program, likely because they confuse our religion with others that proselytize more aggressively.
- Mormon missionaries are instructed not to aggressively force their beliefs on others but instead to find and teach those interested in our message. While an occasional Mormon missionary many erroneously fail to follow this instruction, most follow it closely.
- Truth be told, this missionary activity is probably the most impressive of the Church's humanitarian programs. Many individuals who were seeking God have been forever enriched because a Mormon missionary left the comfort of his home to share a message that has brought him great joy.
LDS ecclesiastical leaders also work voluntarily and are not paid by the Church. Much of the janitorial staff is paid, as well as Church auditors and those in other non-ecclesiastical positions.
Helping to Prevent Measles in Africa
Humanitarian Aid to Myanmar, 2008LDS Newsroom story about aid sent to help Myanmar For article sources, see AllAboutMormons.com.
- Humanitarian Aid Services
- LDS Philanthropies
- Humanitarian Services Giving Site
- Emergency Resonse
- Steve Young and Sharlene Hawkes address misconceptions about humanitarian efforts and the Church
- Publicizing the Good Works of the Church
- News about the Church's wheelchair program
- Helping flood victims in the U.S. midwest, 2008
- LDS Newsroom: What Moves Mormons During Emergencies?