In 1830 about 6 people met in a small farmhouse and organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, often called the Mormon Church. Just sixteen years later, after much persecution and the murder of their leader Joseph Smith, about 14000 members were driven out of their homes and made the approximately 1,000 mile trek across the great plains to what later became the state of Utah. Here they established settlements which became towns and cities throughout the area. This great feat could not have been accomplished without divine leadership and much personal sacrifice.
Although our church is still relatively small, we are now able to assist not only our own members but others who are suffering throughout the world. Some rather unique programs have been instituted to enable us to do that in an effective, organized way. For many years members of the church have observed “Fast Day”. On the first of each month we abstain from two meals and make a donation called a “Fast Offering” which is used exclusively for humanitarian purposes, mostly within the church. In 1985 two special fast days were observed and more than 6 million dollars was raised for famine relief in Africa. That same year the church inaugurated the “Humanitarian Services” program for the express purpose of relieving suffering during times of emergency and addressing the needs of the chronically poor throughout the world. Every dollar that is donated to this program is used to help those in need without regard to race or religion. Most of the administration and distribution of this aid is done by volunteers and the church absorbs overhead costs. Since 1985 one hundred and seventy nine countries have received aid through this program.
For many years church leaders have recruited volunteers from their congregations to provide assistance when there was a need in their communities or in communities near by. Recently groups of Mormon volunteers in South America who went out to serve began wearing yellow t-shirts with “Mormon Helping Hands” printed on them. In 1998 church authorities adopted these symbols church wide as a way of identifying Mormon volunteers. Hopefully it indicates that they are from a reputable institution, while also making more people familiar with our church. This year my son and his 16 year old son wore those t-shirts as they traveled from Rhode Island to spend some weekends helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
This is a very brief and probably over simplified explanation of LDS charities. You can learn more and also read how the church is helping in the Philippines on the church website.
by: Nola Smith, a Mormon Great Grandma