WASHINGTON -- President Gordon B. Hinckley told the National Press Club Wednesday a secret to the rapid, solid growth by the LDS Church.
"The genius of our work is that we expect things of our people. They grow as they serve, and there are numerous opportunities to challenge them," President Hinckley said.He outlined such opportunities, especially expanding LDS humanitarian work, to a sold-out crowd of journalists. He is the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to speak at the club, where more heads of state have appeared than at any other forum except the White House.
President Hinckley joked that the gathering was intimidating "since I know who you are and what you do." He was not too intimidated, however, to challenge all present to use church family history libraries and Internet sites to trace their own genealogies.
"You may be surprised to find the names of your parents, of your grandparents, of your great-grandparents and of your great-great-grandparents, those who have bequeathed to you all you are of body and mind. You will feel a special connection to those who have gone before you and an increased responsibility to those who will follow," he said.
President Hinckley said, in a prepared text, that involving members of the church in volunteer service helps them grow through experience, helps strengthen and expand the church, and augments resources to serve others.
For example, President Hinckley said, many members learn leadership skills as they serve among the church's 60,000 missionaries worldwide, and their service and experience abroad also help build bridges among cultures.
"This cross-fertilization of languages and cultures is a tremendous thing. Conflict grows out of ignorance and suspicion. As we learn to know and appreciate those of various cultures, we come to love them," he said.
Their missionary service also has brought rapid church growth, and President Hinckley said that "no other church which has risen from the soil of America has grown so large or spread so quickly."
For example, he said he once had responsibility of overseeing church work in Chile when only 100 LDS members lived there. "A short time ago I was back in Santiago, and spoke to a congregation assembled in a large football stadium with 57,500 in attendance. I could scarcely believe what I saw."
The growth has brought challenges, including educating members in underdeveloped countries.
President Hinckley said, "We all know that education unlocks the door of opportunity for the young. And so we pour large resources into educating our youth."
He said that now includes setting up revolving loan programs to help youths in underdeveloped countries to attend college, which he said is similar to the church's old Perpetual Emigration Fund in pioneer times. In it, an immigrant paid back loans used to travel to Utah to allow others to follow.
Also, he said, the church is increasingly involved in micro-credit, "whereby small amounts are loaned to those for whom $100, $200 or $300 can spell an actual change in their future.
"From a bread shop in Ghana to a woodworking business in Honduras, we are making it possible for people to learn skills they never dreamed of acquiring and to raise their standard of living to a level of which they previously had little hope," President Hinckley said.
He said the church is also expanding humanitarian efforts to non-Mormons. "Last year alone, we sent humanitarian aid to assist with 829 projects in 101 countries, giving $11.2 million in cash and $44 million in material resources."
He noted that as he spoke, the LDS Church had rented two helicopters in Mozambique and Zimbabwe to fly rescue missions over flooded areas.
"Additionally, we have sent cash, and food, clothing and medicine are on their way to these suffering people. Those helped are not our members. Our humanitarian efforts reach far beyond our own to bless the victims of war and natural disaster wherever they may occur," he said.
President Hinckley also noted from where the money comes for such work. "It comes from the observance of the ancient law of the tithe."
He said LDS Church members pay tithing "cheerfully with faith in the promise of Malachi that God will open the windows of heaven and shower down blessings upon them. We do not pass the plate. We do not play bingo. We pay our tithing."
He added, "This law is set forth in 35 words in our scripture. Compare that with the rules and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service."
Hinckley was expected to take questions from the crowd, but that was to happen after Deseret News press deadlines.
The church said it will post the entire text of Hinckley's speech on the Internet at www.lds.org. It is also found on the Deseret News Web site at deseretnews.com. The C-Span cable TV network plans to rebroadcast the speech during breaks of its live coverage of Congress, but firm times have not been scheduled.