SALT LAKE CITY — In his travels and many interactions with presidents, prime ministers and ambassadors, President Russell M. Nelson said he has heard a consistent message.
These leaders want to thank The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its generous humanitarian aid and the strength of its members as loyal, contributing citizens in their respective countries. Other world leaders have visited the First Presidency asking for the church to be established in their countries.
“Why? Because they know Latter-day Saints will help to build strong families and communities, making life better for others wherever they live,” President Nelson said. “Regardless of where we call home, members of the church feel passionately about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Thus, our greatest joy comes as we help our brothers and sisters, no matter where we live in this wonderful world.”
President Nelson praised church members for their worldwide service and friendly reputation in helping their fellow men at the end of the Sunday morning session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference. He then detailed some of the work occurring around the world.
The church’s humanitarian outreach started in 1984 when a church-wide fast raised $6.4 million for people suffering from a drought in Ethiopia. Since then, Latter-day Saint Charities has contributed more than $2 billion to humanitarian aid. The motivation to help others stems from the Savior’s second commandment to love your neighbor, and resources are drawn from members who fast and contribute fast offerings, President Nelson said.
“This assistance is offered to recipients regardless of their church affiliation, nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender or political persuasion,” he said.
Among the assistance offered:
- Fighting hunger: To help combat hunger among Latter-day Saints, the church operates 124 bishops’ storehouses throughout the world that process approximately 400,000 food orders each year for those in need. In locations where no storehouse exists, bishops and branch presidents draw from fast-offering funds of the church to provide food and supplies for their needy members.
For those not of the Latter-day Saint faith, the church actively donates millions for food, clothing, temporary shelter, wheelchairs, medicine, clean water and more, President Nelson said.
- Clean water: There has been a special effort to assist communities without clean water in more than 75 countries. President Nelson shared one highlight from a project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where humanitarian missionaries helped a town with more than 100,000 people to dig a meter-deep trench to a mountain spring 18 miles away. It took three years of back-breaking work, but the mission was accomplished.
“By working together, the joyful day finally arrived when fresh, clean water was available to all in that village,” President Nelson said.
- Refugees: The church has assisted refugees to find relief from civil strife, the ravages of nature and religious persecution. In 2018, the church provided emergency supplies to refugees in 56 countries. Many church members have volunteered to help refugees find new homes in new communities.
- Clothing the poor: Millions of pounds of clothing collected through Deseret Industries are being distributed by bishops to members of their local congregations and other charitable organizations worldwide.
- Vision care: Last year the church facilitated vision care for more than 300,000 people in 35 countries, newborn care for thousands of mothers and infants in 39 countries, and wheelchairs for more than 50,000 people living in dozens of countries.
- Disaster relief: The church, with its members wearing yellow vests, has been recognized for being among the first responders in reacting to natural disasters, delivering relief supplies and offering volunteer assistance. In 2018, the church carried out more than 100 disaster-relief projects around the world to relieve the suffering of victims of hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes and other calamities.
“This kind of service, rendered by so many of you, is the very essence of ministering,” President Nelson said.
President Nelson concluded by saying these activities represent only a small portion of the church’s welfare and humanitarian efforts. Joy is the reward, he said.
“Giving help to others — making a conscientious effort to care about others as much or more than we care about ourselves — is our joy,” President Nelson said. “Especially, I might add, when it is not convenient and when it takes us out of our comfort zone. Living that second great commandment is the key to becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ,” he said, referring to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”