A group of Latter-day Saints organized to eliminate poverty lauded President Gordon B. Hinckley as the Humanitarian of the Millennium Oct. 10.
UNITUS, a non-profit organization founded in February by Church members wanting to eliminate economic suffering by raising millions of dollars for development projects in developing countries, presented the award during a luncheon in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City.
After accepting an inscribed crystal globe and a rare 1841 edition of the Book of Mormon printed in Liverpool, England President Hinckley congratulated the more than 500 members on their efforts to reach across the world.
"Poverty is everywhere," he said, noting that he has witnessed much deprivation during his vast worldwide travels. "It is here in this land. I have seen it here. It is in every other nation under the sun. . . . You are fighting and trying to change that and eradicate the great plague."
Through a web site, www.unitus.com, UNITUS attempts to connect those who want to help with humanitarian projects that match their interests. In addition to networking, the organization makes capital available to the poor through small loans, creates employee-owned businesses and cooperative ventures, and helps the impoverished receive an education. The organization has started a bakery in Kenya and has built schools in Peru.
President Hinckley told those attending the day-long UNITUS Summit that ignorance often accompanies poverty.
"Without education these people cannot be lifted, it is my firm conviction," he said. "Education is the key which will unlock the door of opportunity for those people."
President Hinckley also praised the organization for making microcredit loans. "It seems almost impossible that a few paltry dollars $50, $100, $200 can span the difference between walking in the mud throughout one's days or getting started in some entrepreneurship."
Heavenly Father, he said, does not enjoy seeing His sons and daughters walking in poverty. "I think our Father in Heaven would be pleased if they all prospered and did well enough to live comfortably and decently and properly."
UNITUS organizers said they hoped the summit would build awareness and encourage Church members to unite as a worldwide family of Saints.
President Hinckley called the people of the world neighbors. "We no longer can live in a little secluded area," he said. "We no longer consider ourselves isolated from the world."
Noting that the Church sends missionaries to distant lands, President Hinckley said they partake of a culture in the places they serve. "It has a tremendous and dramatic effect they never get over," he said. "They are experienced. They want to be helpful. They want to be generous. You are affording them an opportunity to be so."
Warner Woodworth, a UNITUS founder and a BYU organizational behavior professor, said the crystal globe awarded to President Hinckley symbolized the global reach of the Church as well as the potential good its members can have across the earth.
"Your personal example has inspired many of us and our neighbors to engage in a greater sense of stewardship in serving others," Brother Warner said to President Hinckley. "Your words have sunk deep into our hearts about helping the young adults of our Church, those of capacity, who need a ladder by which they can climb out of impoverishment so that they can make something better of their lives and make a contribution of significance themselves. . . .
"We look forward to helping to unify the Saints, build Zion and bring peace to the children of our Heavenly Father."
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