LDS leader encourages unbridled charity in group efforts

Charitable service is best done as a cooperative effort, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, U distinguished alumnus and member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in the first Founders Day Address of 2006.

The Bennion Center and Alumni Association invited Wirthlin to speak about the humanitarian efforts of the LDS Church on Feb. 21 in the Union Ballroom.

“The church is actively reaching out to the people of the world to give aid,” Wirthlin said. “We live in a time of great upheaval. Disasters both natural and man-made ravage the planet. It is also a time of great compassion and heroism.”

The LDS church works with established agencies around the world in performing charitable work, he said.

Natural disasters were rampant in 2005 and aid was requested from the church in 67 countries. Last year the church provided 1 million hygiene kits, 7 million pounds of food, 260,000 blankets, 1.3 million pounds of medical supplies and 2 million pounds of clothing to agencies around the world for distribution.

After the Asian tsunami, LDS church members in Hong Kong instantly began assembling hygiene kits, and the church purchased hundreds of motorcycles for aid workers to use in distributing supplies. When requested, the church provided tens of thousands of body bags.

All of these efforts were performed in cooperation with other groups, Wirthlin explained.

Members helped in whatever ways were needed. In one situation a village requested 700 copies of the Quran and the LDS Church complied.

After Hurricane Katrina, members in the region volunteered more than 350,000 hours of labor, and the church provided 200 semi-truck loads of food and emergency supplies, he said.

In Ethiopia, the church helped develop an easily digested porridge called Atmit that contains all of the nutrients starving children and elderly persons need.

In 60 developing countries across the world, the church provided 40,000 wheelchairs to people in need.

In each of these situations, the church produces or collects materials requested by other agencies, transports them to the places of need and then hands them over to the agencies to be distributed, Wirthlin said.

Cooperation without consideration of philosophical differences is essential for charitable work, he said. Quoting church president Gordon B. Hinckley, Wirthlin said political considerations will not dull his sense of mercy or thwart his responsibility to humankind.

Wirthlin concluded his remarks by telling of a woman dying of cancer who spent her last weeks stitching a bandage to be given to someone with leprosy.

Quoting St. Francis of Assisi, Wirthlin reminded members of the audience that when they die they will not be able to take with them what they have obtained, only what they have given away.

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