Mormons Reaching Out to Reduce Human Suffering
Examples of LDS Charities' initiatives in response to natural disasters include the recent 2013 devastation by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; the huge 9.0 earthquake that struck off Japan's north-east coast, causing destroyed towns as a tsunami followed; 1990's Hurricane Mitch in Central America; the 7.0 Haiti earthquake in 2010; 2005's Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.; the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Asian tsunami, and more. LDSC has provided millions of dollars in cash and emergency relief. In addition to emergency supplies, its long-term efforts are community development programs such as clean water, neonatal resuscitation training, vision care, wheelchairs, immunizations, food production, health programs, and similar ventures tailored to the specific requirements.
With a few paid staff and thousands of volunteers, LDSC manages this non-profit program, often in cooperation with governments, the United Nations, and other NGOs such as the Islamic Relief Worldwide. Over a million man-days of labor are contributed yearly by Mormon volunteers as initiatives are designed and executed by the church.
Finally, I should mention the rise of personal, private NGOs created and funded through donations from Mormon families. These have accelerated greatly over the past several decades, as Latter-day Saints have been inspired to do more, above and beyond the efforts of the institutional church. Since the 1980s, Mormons have designed and implemented around 300 social enterprises, seeking to do good in their local communities and around the globe. Most operate without church or government funding of any kind, seeking to simply be development or aid organizations reaching out to the poor. I've been privileged to start or co-found a number of these, such as Sustain Haiti, HELP International, MicroBusiness Mentors, Unitus, Care for Life, Mentors International, and so on. Some 30 organizations have grown out of my MBA courses at Brigham Young University, where Mormon social and economic teachings are taught, in addition to traditional topics such as strategy, team-building, entrepreneurship, and organizational design.
In sum, throughout its history, but especially in the last few decades, the LDS Church and the Mormon people have sought to more fully practice what Christians are called to do, drawing on Jesus' teaching (Matthew 25:40): "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Warner Woodworth is a Global Social Entrepreneur and Emeritus Professor of the Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University. Author of hundreds of articles and books, recipient of numerous awards around the world, he is a leading Mormon humanitarian and founder of some 30 NGOs.