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The Church of Jesus Christ does this more than any other organization

American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern talks to BYU student while he donates blood on the Provo, Utah, campus.
American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern, left, talks to BYU student and blood donor Ryan Best, 24, during a visit to a Red Cross blood drive at BYU in Provo, Utah, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. McGovern received the BYU Marriott School of Management’s International Executive of the Year Award.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

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Two national leaders visited BYU over the past week and described one specific way that bridges of understanding are built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern made a remarkable statement about the church’s contributions.

“So many church members give the gift of life by donating blood,” McGovern said when BYU’s Marriott School of Business honored her as the International Executive of the Year on Friday.

How much blood does the church provide?

“We get 100,000 units of blood from the church every year. There is no organization, no institution anywhere that comes close to that,” she said.

American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern speaks to BYU MBA students in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 24, 2021.
American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern shares leadership lessons with a class of BYU MBA students at the Marriott School of Management in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 24, 2021.
Jaren Wilkey/BYU

Then she drew the direct line between faith and service.

“Over the years, I have grown to appreciate the strong connection between faith and service,” said McGovern, who is Jewish. “I see this commitment not only in my own faith, but in the faiths of many others, and certainly in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s reflected in the missions you serve. It’s reflected in the staggering amount of charitable giving that you give. It’s reflected in volunteer involvement by so many members. And it’s reflected in the powerful work that Latter-day Saint Charities does around the world. ...

“From a very personal perspective, I am in awe of your community’s commitment to faith and service. On behalf of the American Red Cross, we are so very, very fortunate to have the church as such an important partner.”

Martin Luther King III also linked faith and service during his visit to BYU. He told me in an interview that his relationship with the church began with an act of service by church members. Actually, it was 1,500 acts of service. You can read my story about that here.

King also praised the church for its collective service around the world, and in his forum address at BYU’s Marriott Center on Tuesday, he made a statement that echoed President Russell M. Nelson’s call for church members to “build bridges of cooperation instead of walls of segregation.” (President Nelson once shared with me the genesis of that phrase.)

King said:

“Service is a powerful healing force that builds bridges of hope, trust and kindness over gulfs of alienation and distrust. It is a potent force for transformation because it establishes a connection between the server and those who are served.”

I asked Latter-day Saint Charities President Sharon Eubank about the church’s Red Cross donations.

“The church’s university campuses hold blood drives and we put out appeals for donations on Just Serve when there’s shortage,” she said, “but mostly it’s ward and stake drives.”

She told me the church’s relationship with the Red Cross goes way back.

“It started with Emmeline Wells, who met Clara Barton,” Sister Eubank said. Wells served as the church’s fifth Relief Society general president from 1910-1921. Their relationship began before that.

“The Relief Society started the first Red Cross chapter in Utah to provide relief kits during the Spanish-American War (1898),” Sister Eubank said.

My recent stories

Martin Luther King III asks BYU students to rise up and create his father’s ‘beloved community’ (Sept. 28)

How hurricane relief in 2008 led Martin Luther King III to speak at BYU on Tuesday (Sept. 27)

Afghan refugee crisis now largest relief effort for American Red Cross (Sept. 24)

As COVID-19 surges, First Presidency asks for masks in temples, urges vaccination (Sept. 22)

Programming notes:

1. There will be two extra editions of ChurchBeat this weekend during general conference. One will hit your inbox soon after the final session on both Saturday and Sunday.

2. On Sunday evening, you can watch Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Latter-day Saint Charities President Sharon Eubank and Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy, take part in a panel discussion they videotaped in Italy. The discussion kicks off BYU’s 28th annual International Law and Religion Symposium. Watch the panel here.

What I’m reading

The secretary to the First Presidency gave a behind-the-scenes look into what goes into the 91,000 hours of preparation it takes to host, broadcast, record and translate a general conference.

KSL-TV will air eight new church-related specials on conference this weekend.

The Associated Press wrote about the church’s efforts to help Haitian refugees at its short-term migrant center in Houston. I visited the center in June and told the harrowing story of one migrant family’s journey to that safe haven.

Here’s a grassroots example of service, 50 Latter-day Saint women in one area helping a specific community with specific needs.

These photos of huge steel pipes being inserted beneath the Salt Lake Temple to strengthen the foundation are striking.

Gail Miller and the Miller family, who recently sold the Utah Jazz, have now sold the Larry H. Miller automotive businesses in an effort to continue to diversify and engage in community philanthropy.

The church has a new emotional self-reliance course.

I love stories of people who overcame bystander effect, a psychological phenomenon that discourages people from intervening in an emergency situation when in a crowd. People are more likely to take action when alone. This story describes how an NFL player heroically ran to the aid of a woman being assaulted in a park.

I first got to know BYU statistics professor Shane Reese when we talked about his work on a model to detect cheating by an NBA referee. Now he is the university academic vice president. BYU recently posted a Q&A with him about vaccination rates.

COVID-19 is now the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history, reported National Geographic.

Behind the scenes

Black BYU students raise their right fists in solidarity and to show respect as Martin Luther King III in Provo, Utah.
Black BYU students raise their right fists, center, in solidarity and to show respect as Martin Luther King III leaves the stage at the Marriott Center after delivering a forum assembly address in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 28, 2021.
Tad Walch, Deseret News
Martin Luther King III speaks to a large forum audience at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 28, 2021.
The view from press row on the floor of the Marriott Center as Martin Luther King III speaks to a large forum assembly audience at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 28, 2021.
Tad Walch, Deseret News
American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern received the 2021 International Executive of the Year Award from BYU.
American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern holds the 2021 International Executive of the Year Award, a bust of Brigham Young, awarded by BYU’s Marriott School of Business in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 24, 2021.
Rebeca Fuentes, BYU