LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology)

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Humanitarian and Development Work

Author: Matt Martinich

Posted: February 7th, 2014

Providing emergency aid principally constitutes humanitarian work whereas completing projects that strive to improve long-term living conditions and encourage self-reliance comprises development work.  Humanitarian and development work are acts of service generally carried out by senior missionary couples.  The Church does not discriminate on the basis of nationality, religious affiliation, or race and these projects aim to instill self-reliance and personal responsibility, foster community support, and achieve or reestablish sustainability.[1] 

The Church has worldwide capabilities for assembling and delivering humanitarian supplies from the United States.  In 1991, the Church established its Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The center acquires humanitarian supplies that cannot be obtained within locations in need of emergency aid and in a typical year distributes approximately eight million pounds of shoes and clothing, half a million hygiene and school kits, and 20,000 quilts.  The Church sends humanitarian supplies from its Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center to over 50 countries.  In addition to serving as a headquarters for humanitarian aid, the center also provides vocational training primarily to immigrants and refugees.[2]

Since 1985, the Church has provided humanitarian aid to 179 countries.[3]  Primary types of humanitarian activities conducted by the Church include distributing wheelchairs, delivering atmit (a porridge for feeding malnourished children and the elderly) to famine-stricken areas, conducting clean water projects, participating in measles vaccination campaigns, and providing tsunami relief, vision treatment, and neonatal resuscitation training.[4]  The Church has conducted at least one humanitarian or development project in almost every country in the world with only a few exceptions such as countries with high living standards.  The Church has conducted humanitarian and development projects even in countries with the lowest levels of religious freedom and poor relations with the Western world such as North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Mauritania, and Uzbekistan.[5]

LDS Charities constitutes the Church's primary humanitarian and development arm of the Church throughout the world.  In 2011, LDS Charities provided assistance to over two million people in 132 countries and completed 111 emergency response projects in 50 countries, conducted clean water projects that benefited 1.1 million people in 33 countries, distributed wheelchairs and walking aids to 57,000 people in 54 countries, trained 24,000 medical personnel neonatal resuscitation techniques in 33 countries, provided vision care for 51,000 people in 24 countries, initiated nutrition education and agricultural training for 51,000 people in 16 countries, conducted five immunization campaigns in five countries, and an additional 1,484 other projects in 101 countries.[6]  Additional projects have included donating medical equipment to hospitals and orphanages, supplying clothing and furniture to local aid organizations, organizing and delivering newborn and hygiene kits, literacy programs, providing shelter for emergency victims who have no place to live, and providing medical and dental work for the impoverish or disaster-stricken.  The Church often utilizes senior couples serving full-time missions to help coordinate the organization and completion of these projects.  The Church also has church-service missionaries who generally serve within their local area for at least eight hours a week.[7]  At year-end 2011, there were 9,251 welfare service missionaries.[8]

The Church has utilized service and humanitarian and development work as a passive means for finding investigators, expanding national outreach, and initiating formal proselytism efforts.  The Church's official missionary guide Preach My Gospel directs missionaries to teach converts about service in the fifth missionary lesson after converts are baptized.[9]  Service is also listed in the manual as one of the primary method for finding investigators, especially informal and unplanned opportunities that missionaries find as they conduct proselytism activities and travel to teaching appointments.[10]  Helping Hands is a service program that encourages ordinary members to perform service activities in their communities such as cleaning and beautifying parks, hospitals, and schools to help dispel misinformation about Latter-day Saints through demonstrating Christ-like service.  The Church has conducted Helping Hands projects in most areas of the world.  The Church identifies five points to conducting Helping Hands projects including helping the needy and improving communities, strengthening church members, sharing the gospel indirectly, building relationships with opinion leaders, and enhancing the reputation of the Church.[11]  Humanitarian and development projects have facilitated national outreach expansion in some countries.  For example, senior couple missionaries in Uganda reported in early 2011 that the fortuitous establishment of an LDS group in the city of Masaka occurred through a former investigator coincidentally meeting a senior missionary couple performing humanitarian and development work in the area.


[1]  "Why We Help," ldscharities.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  http://ldscharities.org/articles/why-we-help

[2]  "Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center," lds.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  http://www.lds.org/topics/humanitarian-service/center

[3]  "Worldwide Statistics," www.mormonnewsroom.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/

[4]  "Humanitarian Services," www.mormonnewsroom.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/topic/humanitarian-services

[5]  "Where We Are," ldscharities.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  http://ldscharities.org/where-we-are

[6]  "2011 Fact Sheet - LDS Charities," ldscharities.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  http://ldscharities.org/bc/ldscharities/content/english/articles/why-we-help/pdf/2011%20Humanitarian%20Summary.pdf

[7]  "Frequently Asked Questions," lds.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  https://www.lds.org/callings/missionary/church-service/questions

[8]  "Worldwide Statistics," www.mormonnewsroom.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/

[9]  "Service," Preach My Gospel, p. 87

[10]  "Go About Doing Good," Preach My Gospel, p. 168-169

[11]  "Helping Hands," lds.org, retrieved 8 January 2013.  http://www.lds.org/topics/humanitarian-service/helping-hands