'Am I my brother's keeper?' Church's collective reply

Citing news reports of suffering in Bosnia, conflicts in Africa and flooding in Georgia and Florida, President Thomas S. Monson in his priesthood session address Saturday evening posed the biblical question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9.)

"This evening I felt to present to you a response to this question which represents a collective reply from Church members everywhere and from the Church itself," said President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency.Since the two special fast days in 1985 called for by the First Presidency, humanitarian efforts by Church members have reached into every corner of the globe, he said. Church members have consecrated their means to provide food and clothing, establish immunization and infant feeding programs, teach basic literacy, dig fresh-water wells, foster village banks, create new jobs, sustain hospitals and orphanages, teach basic self-reliance and act in many other ways, he said.

He gave the following figures regarding Church humanitarian aid: total humanitarian cash donations, $23.75 million; total value of assistance, $72.48 million; countries served, 109; food distributed, 3,615 tons; medical equipment distributed, 243 tons.

"All of the foregoing is in addition to the conventional welfare program of the Church fundamentally financed through regular fast offering contributions," President Monson said.

He detailed Church humanitarian aid in Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, south Georgia, Florida and post-war Europe.

Recalling a drive to amass warm clothing to ship to suffering Saints following World War II, President Monson related that Elders Harold B. Lee and Marion G. Romney took President George Albert Smith to Welfare Square in Salt Lake City. There, they watched President Smith observing the workers as they packaged donated clothing and shoes to be shipped overseas.

"They saw tears running down his face. After a few moments, President Smith removed a new overcoat that he had on and said, `Please ship this also.'

"The Brethren said to him, `No, President, don't send that; it's cold and you need your coat.' But President Smith would not take it back."

President Monson commented that President Smith followed Paul's admonition to be an example of the believers in charity.

He told of a 1947 welfare project in Holland to grow potatoes. When informed of the hunger of Church members in Germany, Pres. Cornelius Zappey of the Netherlands Mission asked that potatoes be sent to them.

"I'm sure he worried, for the German armies and the Dutch armies had been in conflict with each other," President Monson said. "Would they respond? A Dutch widow who had received a sack of the potatoes heard that the bulk of the potatoes were to be given to the members in Germany, and she said, `My potatoes must be with them.' This hungry widow returned her sack of potatoes."

"May the Lord strengthen each of us who holds the priesthood, that each may learn his duty as his brother's keeper," he said.

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