Latter-day Saint aid to Ukraine refugees models two-pronged service ideal, leaders say
‘We must seek to strike the balance of living gospel standards and serving actively in our ward or branch without becoming inactive in our non-church community,’ Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé said
Latter-day Saints welcoming Ukrainian refugees into their homes and societies across Europe are an example to the rest of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, two church leaders said Monday at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Church members are called to minister to others on both broad and individual levels, Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé said.
“The Lord invites us to be conscious of the broader world in which we live — something which the increased worldwide connectivity now facilitates — and, at the same time, to stay rooted and engaged within our immediate communities,” he said. “In other words, he expects us to form and strengthen associations on both a global and local scale.”
Bishop Caussé presented that concept during the annual conference of the International Society, a global network for Latter-day Saint professionals with international interests.
Later, Latter-day Saint Charities President Sharon Eubank said the church is using exactly the two-pronged approach Bishop Caussé suggested in its approach to the Ukraine refugee crisis.
“As comfortable as it may sometimes feel, disciples of the Savior are not meant to live in a closed community,” Bishop Caussé said.
“The culture of the church is intended to be inclusive rather than exclusive — to look outward rather than inward,” he added. “In accordance with the oft-cited maxim of being ‘in the world but not of the world,’ we must seek to strike the balance of living gospel standards and serving actively in our ward or branch without becoming inactive in our non-church community.”
On the one hand, church members can help on a global scale, he said during his presentation at BYU’s Hinckley Center.
“The fact that you are a member of this international society presupposes a longing on your part to cast your influence across the world,” he said. “My encouragement to you would be to act on those ‘macro-level’ desires, to use the modern blessings of technology and travel to extend your efforts for good far and wide.”
“At the same time,” he added, “I would ask you to not lose sight of the reality that — as with the mortal Savior — some of the most profound and lasting impacts you may ever have could be upon those with whom you associate individually at the ‘micro-level’ — those within your families, wards, neighborhoods and local communities.”
The International Society presented its distinguished service award to Sister Eubank, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency.
Sister Eubank said the church and its charity are involved in both large, multinational responses and “very small local pieces” as they respond to needs in and around Ukraine. Nearly 25% of Ukraine’s population has been displaced and more than 4 million people have left the country.
Food and supplies
Latter-day Saint Charities is working with the Ukrainian government, the World Food Program and United Nations High Commission for Refugees to provide food. It has 30 projects underway, including the provision of $5 million worth of food, she said.
“We are buying food in Europe, trucking it through those bordering countries and getting it into the pipeline that is going into the cities, and we’re letting the government of Ukraine do the distribution, as they should,” Sister Eubank said.
A Ukraine consul general to the United States visited Salt Lake City just over a week ago and thanked the church for providing what his country most needs, she said.
Meanwhile, leaders in local Latter-day Saint congregations — wards and stake councils — in more than half a dozen countries are providing detailed help to people on the move, from vehicles and transportation to language training, household goods, medicines and more.
One micro-local example is happening at train stations in Germany, where missionaries stand with signs in Ukrainian offering to help refugees navigate their way to their next destination.
As the church’s presiding bishop, Bishop Caussé oversees the daily financial and temporal affairs of the church, including Latter-day Saint Charities.
He identified patterns for the concept of global and local service from both the life, ministry and mission of Jesus Christ and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ.
“One of the great paradoxical but highly comforting truths of the gospel is that even though the Lord’s love and mercy are so vast as to encompass all — the full infinity of his creations — it is nonetheless infinitesimal in its reach, touching every one of his children in an amazingly intimate and individual way, as if he or she or us — you and me — were the only person on earth.”
Bishop Caussé said the church similarly shares its teachings, services and resources in a borderless way in every corner of the world, but its teachings and ordinances also impact individuals in very personal ways in their own languages and cultures.
He mentioned the First Presidency’s April 2020 letter about the pandemic. Those senior leaders said that the church and its members are committed to being good citizens and neighbors and reaching out and providing assistance to those in need.
Bishop Caussé said that injunction requires the ability to look outward.
Be good citizens
“I would ask how we can be good citizens and neighbors and reach out to those in need if we confine our interactions solely to those within our families and wards,” he said. “As vital and fulfilling as those relationships are, we must let our lights shine beyond just the doors of our homes and meetinghouses.”
The conference’s theme was “Building communities around the world: Latter-day Saint efforts in earth stewardship, peacemaking and refugee assistance.”
Bishop Caussé suggested that Latter-day Saints can build their communities by caring for their natural environments, serving others, strengthening unity and peace and welcoming others.
He said caring for the environment is a scientific and political necessity and a sacred duty, and that each person can use the earth’s natural resources “more sparingly and reverently.”
The conference proceedings can be seen on the BYU Kennedy Center YouTube channel at bit.ly/IntSoc22.