PROVO — Providing welfare and humanitarian aid throughout the world can feel like a daunting task, but it can be accomplished through principles of love, tithing and fasting, hard work, self-reliance and the righteous leadership of local priesthood leaders.
That was the central message shared by Bishop Gérald Caussé, first counselor in the presiding bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the 25th annual conference of the LDS International Society at Brigham Young University on Monday.
The theme of the conference was “The church and humanitarian assistance.”
“The goal of the church goes beyond simply making monetary and physical resources available,” Bishop Caussé told a crowd of several hundred gathered in the Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center. “It contemplates the spiritual progress and eternal salvation of individuals and families. The application of principles — the means, resources and programs developed by the church — may vary from one country to another and may be adapted to each environment.”
Many of the LDS Church’s newest converts live in developing countries amid poor economic circumstances. They live in modest conditions or poverty without education or stable employment. The need to reach out and help is greater than ever, said Bishop Caussé, who has experience in international business and the food industry.
However, established church welfare programs in the United States cannot be automatically transposed into these countries with scattered members and insufficient infrastructure, Bishop Caussé said.
“How then can the church fully ensure its welfare mission throughout the world?” Bishop Caussé asked. “How do we fly to the relief of the poor and needy wherever the church is being established?”
Responding to those questions, Bishop Caussé outlined five doctrinal principles for the development of LDS Church welfare programs throughout the world.
First, loving our neighbor is an essential requisite of salvation.
Second, welfare is based on the observance of the laws of tithing and of the fast.
Third, the beneficiaries of welfare participate through their work and service.
Fourth, the goal of welfare is to help people and their families become self-reliant.
Fifth, local priesthood leaders act with their keys.
Bishop Caussé said the principle of “self-help” is in force more than ever, especially in countries affected by poverty or natural disasters. As an example of success, he described what happened after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed much of the central region of the Philippines.
Once through the initial phase of emergency intervention, leaders realized that thousands of members needed homes. A training program was organized where members could be trained and certified in various construction skills. With a tool bag provided by the church, each trainee first helped build his own house before helping to build nine other homes. To date, the majority of houses have been rebuilt, and in the process, the heads of families have gained skills and employment, Bishop Caussé said.
“It would have been easy to provide a one-stop solution but our first objective was that the Filipino Saints be given the opportunity to take charge and earn their self-reliance,” Bishop Caussé said. “I believe this is one of the most remarkable successes in the history of church welfare.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a solution that “knows how to adapt to every horizon, every culture, and every political and economic system,” Bishop Caussé said.
“Its principles are universal and eternal, resting on fundamental spiritual laws. The welfare resources of the church are limitless because they rest on the keys of the priesthood that are exercised by the hundreds of thousands of local leaders and on the consecrated service of millions of Latter-day Saints.”
Robert Hokanson, manager of major initiatives for LDS Humanitarian Services, followed Bishop Caussé by expanding on similar themes related to church humanitarian efforts. He spoke of the importance of coaching and mentoring young Mormon leaders in these countries when situations arise rather than stepping in and taking over. He highlighted one positive example of a young priesthood leader who orchestrated relief efforts for those under his stewardship in the Philippines.
When local priesthood leaders understand the Lord’s storehouse and the local resources available, they don’t have to rely as much on church headquarters in Utah for solutions, Hokanson said.
“All you need to do in the world is put the priesthood to work; that is all. That is the example we saw in Haiti and in the Philippines,” Hokanson said. “We really are blessed with an inspired organization as a church with the opportunity and resources the Lord has given us. There is enough and to spare, and the Lord intends for us to provide for the poor and the needy.”
Following their presentations, Bishop Caussé and Hokanson both participated in short question-and-answer session.
Frederick W. Axelgard, senior fellow in international relations with the Wheatley Institute at BYU, was impressed with both presentations.
“What is striking is the really broad applicability of the welfare principles and the ability to make a difference,” Axelgard said. “The applicability demonstrates that no matter where you go in the world, you can count on that kind of insight coming from local leaders and from people who want to help themselves.”
The LDS International Society was organized in December 1989, and it now has more than 3,000 members representing more than 40 nationalities and languages in various career fields. Its mission is to encourage communication and contact among experts in international business, law, education, humanitarian service and other professional activities, according to its mission statement. Where possible, it also provides support for the international programs of the LDS Church and BYU.
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