Just yesterday, for perhaps the 13,764th time, somebody confidently — and somewhat angrily — assured me that, while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does an okay job of helping its own members, it never gives anything to anybody outside its own membership.
This is, of course, flatly false.
I still recall fondly the Florida newspaper story a few years ago reporting that two churches had especially distinguished themselves by their organized and effective relief efforts in the wake of a devastating hurricane: The Mormon Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I’ve visited Indonesia, where the Church gave very large amounts of aid — and continues to do so — in the Indonesian province of Aceh following the catastrophic 2004 tsunami. BYU Arabic students on our most recent intensive study program in Jordan devoted some of their time in the area to helping the local service missionaries unload and distribute Church aid to refugees from the Syrian civil war. Medically-trained friends of mine have participated in Church-sponsored delegations to train local physicians and nurses in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East in effective methods of neonatal resuscitation. Members of my ward with the requisite background (e.g., in engineering) have been and continue to be involved, by assignment, in fresh-water and vaccination projects worldwide, on behalf of the Church. I know people who were directly involved with Church relief efforts in Japan following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there, and they gave wonderful accounts of the work that was done. A friend with supervisory responsibilities in Manila and the Philippines says that, if members of the Church were aware of the full extent of Church help during recent natural disasters in the Philippines, they would be extremely proud — as I was, some time ago, watching private video footage of the distribution of wheelchairs by the Church to indigent people in the Third World who, heretofore, had been restricted to their homes or able to get around only by sliding on a piece of cardboard. As some of my critics insist on pointing out, I have a heart of stone and a passion for callous, hateful cruelty, but that video brought tears even to my unpracticed eyes.
And so on and so forth.
Anyhow, the proximate reason for this blog entry is something that arrived in my email just this morning:
It will, I know, be met with jeers in some quarters. Too little! Done only for advertising purposes! I’m content, though, to reflect that, while those who who enjoy sneering continue to sneer, the Church and its members continue to do good worldwide. If there’s going to be a division of labor on this matter — and I rather suspect that there is one — I much prefer to be on the side of the divide with my fellow Latter-day Saints.
P.S. I’ve encountered weird, wholly counterfactual claims even on the matter of the Church’s generally-acknowledged programs to “take care of its own.” My favorite such encounter came in the hallway at an academic conference in Binghamton, New York, quite a few years ago. A professor from an eastern university told me that she admired our in-house welfare program, but that she didn’t like our policy regarding bankruptcies. Curious, I asked her what she meant. ”You know what I mean,” she bristled. ”Your church will fund business start-ups through a couple of bankruptcies. But, if the business goes bankrupt a third time, the person who gets assistance from the Church is obliged to commit suicide.” I thought, at first, that she was joking. However, when I realized that she wasn’t, I pointed out that (a) the Church doesn’t fund private, individual business startups. Doing so would be a direct violation of Church policy. Then, more importantly, I observed to her that (b) the notion that the Church advocates suicide in any case, for any reason at all, is completely false. She was adamant, though, and she advised me, rather huffily, to go home and learn more about my church.