Living the Gospel

Different religions around the world are doing wonderful things to make the world a better place. In this episode, we’re going to take a look at how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pitches in with their incredibly huge welfare program. Let’s jump in.

Between about 1983 and 1985, Ethiopia was hit with the worst famine they’d seen in a century. One church source set the death toll at 400 thousand. The New York Times set it at one million. If (like me) you weren’t alive during this time… maybe you’re familiar with a couple of songs that promoted fundraisers in connection with this disaster. One is “We Are the World.” And the other you probably hear every December: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Spencer W. Kimball was president of the Church in ‘85. He called for 2 special Church-wide fasts. He asked members for each fast not to eat or drink anything for 24 hours, and to donate the money they would have spent on that food to the Church to aid Ethiopia. They raised over 11 Million dollars. It was this event that catalyzed the official beginning of the Humanitarian branch of the Church now known as Latter-day Saint Charities.

Funded by the donations of members and non-members, the goal of this branch is to simply follow Christ’s admonition to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the stranger, and to aid the sick and afflicted regardless of race, nationality, religion, etcetera. 100% of humanitarian aid donations–every penny–are used for humanitarian efforts. And the majority of those aided through Latter-day Saint Charities are not members of our faith. We don’t proselyte to them, we’re not trying to convert them. That’s not what this is about.

Under the umbrella of Latter-day Saint Charities, we’ve got several initiatives going on around the world. There are projects related to Emergency Response, Food Security, Vision health, Maternal and newborn care, clean water and sanitation, immunizations, wheelchairs, refugee resettlement, and various localized community projects around the world, addressing issues like homelessness and immigration.

The 2019 Latter-day Saint Charities Annual Report should come out sometime soon, but from 1985 until 2018, Latter-day Saint Charities had given over 2.2-billion dollars in assistance around the world. In 2018 alone we were in over 141 countries and worked on almost 3,000 projects with almost 2,000 partners. 

We team up with other relief efforts very often on different projects, including the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, Muslim Aid, UNICEF USA, and countless others.

Now, separate from but similar to Latter-day Saint Charities is the Church’s welfare program, which is funded locally by Latter-day Saint fast offerings. So while Latter-day Saint Charities you could say tackles major issues and disasters, the welfare program usually caters to members of our faith (and sometimes nonmembers) on a much more personal level.

To help fight hunger, the Church owns hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland; they’ve got orchards, canneries, granaries, processing and packaging plants, and pretty much anything else you can think of. What they grow usually ends up in what we call a ‘Bishop’s Storehouse.’ 

There are about 136 of these storehouses worldwide. They can act as distribution centers when disaster strikes, or whenever people need food, through the welfare program they can talk with their local bishop who will often send them to pick up what they need from the storehouse—the majority of which are just like little grocery stores, except everything is free if your bishop sends you there.

But the Church isn’t just giving people handouts. It also places a huge emphasis on self-reliance. If you can’t afford to put food on the table, we’ll get you food but we also want to get you a job or help you start your business and teach you how to manage your finances. Right now the Church operates 259 employment resource centers around the world that help provide training, experience, networking, and help for people looking for jobs. 

The Church also provides free local self-reliance classes, probably near you. The Church’s Self Reliance program is so good that we recently helped the NAACP rewrite our manuals for them to use as they work with underprivileged inner-city African Americans.

From Latter-day Saint Charities to the welfare program to employment and self-reliance, the Church is doing a lot of good in the world, the majority of which you will never ever hear about. I don’t work for the Church right now, but I used to, and for the short time that I did I was blown away by how much good the Church does around the world—massive projects that I otherwise would have had no idea were going on. 

When it comes to me personally and my faith—there are a lot of things I firmly believe in, and fewer things I can say I positively know. But I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a formidable force for good in this world, and it all circles back to following the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. Specifically, His words recorded in Matthew 25: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Check out the links in the description for more info on this topic. If you’re of a different faith than me, please let me know in the comments about the good things your faith is doing—and have a great day.

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