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Jon M. Huntsman, Sr. in his office on December 17, 2000. Photo by Jason Olson

Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast. This will be given April 8, 2018.

Giving is good for the soul. That’s what a well-known billionaire learned after a life of sharing his wealth with others. Jon M. Huntsman Sr., who recently passed away, made it a habit to give generously throughout his life. Some might think it’s easy for a billionaire to give away money. But in reality, it’s the size of your heart, not the size of your bank account, that matters when it comes to giving.

Jon Huntsman grew up poor, but through hard work and tenacity, he built a successful chemical company. He was well known for his business achievements and beloved for his generosity. He gave to countless causes and countless people, sometimes through public donations but more often through personal gifts known only to the recipient. His giving amounted to a billion and a half dollars over his lifetime.

One of his dear friends observed, “(Jon) did not become a philanthropist when he grew rich. He gave freely when he was poor” (see “Businessman, philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman Sr. dies at age 80,” by Lois M. Collins and Dennis Romboy, Deseret News, Feb. 2, 2018).

Shortly after he and his wife were married, they started giving $50 a month to charities while living on only $330 a month. As Jon’s income grew, so did his donations.

Two causes were especially dear to Jon’s heart: education and cancer research. After a meeting with other billionaires, he observed that they needed “the joy of seeing the thankful tears of a cancer patient or seeing a kid go to college” (“Jon Huntsman on Giving Away $1.2 Billion,” by David Whelan, Forbes, May 18, 2011).

Research has shown that “giving … makes you a (healthier), stronger, more prosperous, happier individual. It makes you a better citizen. It makes communities stronger. … And that means all of us are needy. We all are in a state of need to give all the time” (“The Privilege of Giving,” by Arthur Brooks, Marriott Alumni Magazine, winter 2008).

2 comments on this story

No, we aren’t all billionaires, but we all have the need to give. Even if our offering is small, the act of giving blesses both giver and receiver.

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