Thursday, 16 July 2015

A Latter-Day Saints Take On Charity and Humanitarian Aid

As a “Mormon” woman, I truly see that my life is not only for me to seek knowledge and “Heavenly treasures”, but also to progress in humility, love and all the other virtues. Without Charity, I know that I would not be able to reach my full potential as Children of God. It’s an everyday task and pleasure to look for opportunities to help others.

In the Scriptures Latter-day Saints hold dear to their heart (the Bible – both Old and New Testament , the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price), we can read many times that Charity is one the most sought out virtue:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
  • Moroni 7:46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have notcharity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
  • 1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
  • Doctrine and Covenants 88:125 And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.
  • Ether 12:34 And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.

Helping others is not an only Christian feature; we can find this practice in many other religions and faiths. In fact, it’s at the core of nearly all the spiritual movements in the world to love one another and be good to them, and is known as the Golden Rule. It’s what I believe to be the foundation of fruitful Interfaith dialogue, because without Charity, which is the pure love of God (or divine love), nothing can be achieved to make Mankind progress.

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints has a long story of helping others, may it be the members of the Church in need, or people from other countries and religious denominations. A
2012 Penn study shows that American Mormons (= LDS) are more engaged than other communities in giving of their time and money. I'm also fairly certain that if studies were held in different countries, LDS would be among the most generous people of these lands too.

The Relief Society, founded in 1842 by Joseph Smith Jr, has a motto which states “Charity never faileth”. This organization of the Church assembles and unites all the women above 18 years old in strengthening each other spiritually and emotionally, and in developing our talents. The three goals are quoted as: Increase faith and personal righteousness, Strengthen families and homes, Seek out and help those in need

From the beginning, the women have made blankets for the poors, baked bread and cakes, harvested cereals or potatoes for populations in different countries after wars or disasters, prepared first-help kits or self-confidence kits (for women in prison or under chemotherapy), built food banks in many US states, gathered furniture and baby clothes for new parents with low incomes, raised funds for local humanitarian or social associations, donated blood, etc. Of course, the men have helped too! It’s part of their duty as Priesthood holders to be kind and generous to others.

After more than a century of actions here and there, the Apostles decided to better manage their international help. LDS Charities was founded in 1985 and since then has donated more than 1 billion dollars in cash and material assistance to 167 countries. Several programs have been set up: providing clean water, neonatal resuscitation, immunization program, vision program and wheelchair program (see the infographics). The humanitarian program also provides relief support after disasters such as the Haiyan typhoon, earthquakes, floodings, etc.

One fact is clear: the LDS Church does NOT work alone. Finding partners for their relief operations and charity programs is essential to have the best outcome possible. They have worked closely with the American Red Cross (although with recent revelations about how this NGO employs the donated funds, I don’t know how it will affect their partnership), the Red Crescent, Live United, All for Good, and others during the biggest natural disasters of recent years.

Recently, Elder Holland (one of the Apostles) has the great joy and privilege to give an address at the UK Parliament. He said:

"We all long for the day when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, but unfortunately religiously related violence is increasing, not decreasing, as we move into the 21st century,” and “These conflicts have led to humanitarian crises of staggering proportions around the world. The need to help remains enormous.” […] “Because considerable portions of these situations are caused by those espousing one kind of religious belief or another (as tragically misapplied as that belief may be), then it only seems right that others of equal but more constructive religious conviction ought to help remedy these situations and set right what has gone wrong. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sees its efforts at humanitarian aid in that light.”

Humanitarian aid
has a cost. But I think that I will speak for every member of my Church in saying that it’s a cost we are eager to pay. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring for us, so we have to prepare ourselves and also lend a hand to help those who are suffering now. Latter-day Saints believe that we are all brothers and sisters in spirit and children of God, our Heavenly Father. Being charitable to our spiritual family is essential!

However, I pointed out to a fellow member last April that we tend to be too “Church oriented” when it comes to service and humanitarian efforts:

"Yes I am a member of the Church and I know how much the Church does in Humanitarian Services. I have in the past donated several time throught the tithing bill or by internet on the LDS Charities website. However, I don't think we can always say "Church first, it's better..." like I have heard several times. There are NGOs that know the specific needs of a region, a village, etc. Charity can't be only seen through the prism of the (amazing) work of the humanitarian departments of our church. How could we say to non-members: "I'm generous and do good deeds but it always goes through the work of my Church and yes that helps everyone even those not of our Faith". I'm a convert, the only one from my family, and I want to help "all" men and women, because that is the Gospel. 
I support associations and NGOs from diverse backgrounds, and for me it's a way of showing God's love to other people. I would like to see more interactions between the members of the Church on a local level and other groups and religions. The Apostles are telling us to let our Light shine forth. By encouraging NGO that are there to implant autonomy, self-reliance, educative programms, etc, we enable the people to be stronger and wiser. As one of my dear friend says: "We can't convert everybody, but we can definitely try to make them ready for it!"

I have the hope and the desire to build kind and strong relationships with men and women, from other Faiths or no Faith, who work for the betterment of this world. An interfaith project, with my friends from my local ward (= a parish in the LDS Church) or just me, is something I’m actually planning for next year. I will be happy to share my experience with you during the 2016 Interfaith Ramadan series. Meanwhile, I wish you, dear reader, a year full of Charity and great meetings with like-minded people with whom you can progress. 

Eolia is a French mom of two young children (soon three!) who moved to Germany 22 months ago, following her husband in his new job. Baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints in July 2005, her first affiliation to a faith even if she already considered herself a Christian before, she kept her will of openness and of discovering the mysteries of the world. She refuses to stick labels on people and prefers to go with the flow (of the Holy Ghost or cosmic energy…) and doesn’t let herself be too overwhelmed by events. She knows she’s far from perfect and the image of pure kindness (just ask her kids how “mean” she can be when she says no), but that doesn’t stop her from taking another step on her journey toward God. And if she meets open-minded people from various backgrounds on the way, that’s even better! She blogs at La Cité des Vents, a bilingual blog (French / English).

Previous Interfaith Ramadan Post: Faith and Ketchup: A Christian Perspective on Fasting 


  1. Very nice article. I love the concept of being focused on charity during the ramadan. Like Eolia, I hope for more interfaith event centered on the charity :D

    1. Thanks for your input. Indeed, Charity is a virtue that Muslims focuse on during the month of Ramadan.


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