After World War II Dutch Latter-day Saints engaged in a generous act that “would heal the hearts of bitter enemies,” said Sharon Eubank on May 14.
That epic story and its legacy stand, almost 70 years later, as an example of why the Church has a humanitarian outreach, said Sister Eubank, director of LDS Charities and a former member of the Relief Society general board.
Sister Eubank spoke at a “Pioneers in Every Land” lecture, hosted by the Church History Library and titled “That They Might Not Suffer.”
The address, held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, featured the work of LDS Charities during the year the organization is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
At the beginning of her remarks, Sister Eubank referenced a story of Dutch Latter-day Saints who raised potatoes after World War II. She said the real horror of that war began in Holland in late 1940 when Nazi troops overran the country in five days, leaving 40,000 civilians dead and destroying 400,000 homes.
Despite this, Dutch Church members — who grew potatoes in 1947 — determined to give their entire 70-ton crop to German Latter-day Saints.
When David O. McKay, then president of the Church, learned what the Dutch people had done he called it “one of the greatest acts of true Christian conduct ever brought to my attention,” said Sister Eubank.
“It is one thing to talk about brotherhood,” she explained. “It is a different thing entirely to act in brotherhood.”
Sister Eubank said today there are “pioneers in every land” whose charitable work — like the work of the Dutch who shared their crop — does much to “build charity and capability in people.”
The real, long-term effort of LDS Charities is to build character, she noted.
She said she believes “every person can give something of value and every person can receive something of value.”
Humanitarian projects sponsored by LDS Charities are, at their core, about rescuing the seed “of what is finest down deep inside each person and giving it an opportunity to grow and flower,” she said.
During her remarks, Sister Eubank referenced a 1985 invitation from then Church President Spencer W. Kimball inviting Church members to fast for famine victims in Ethiopia. The fast marked the beginning of what would become LDS Charities.
Sister Eubank said the letter from President Kimball inviting members to fast included a prophetic mandate to help the poor and needy: “We now feel that our people would like to participate more extensively in the great humanitarian effort to assist,” President Kimball wrote.
That letter, and the fast that came after it, set in motion the Church’s effort to “use our doctrine of following Jesus Christ to reach out to the poor and tackle the issues of poverty on the earth.”
In the 30 years since the Jan. 27, 1985, fast, the Church has sent $1.2 billion in assistance to those in need.
LDS Charities has also provided long-term aid through initiatives including wheelchairs, clean water, vision care, neonatal resuscitation training, immunizations, family garden projects and disaster relief, Sister Eubank said.
“It is being done by the hearts of the people,” she said.
She said there are three “foundational planks” in the platform of LDS Charities.
1. Humanitarian acts “rooted in a desire to listen, to heal, to cooperate, to respect” are as potent agents for change as anything on the earth, she said.
2. “Charity is more than aid,” Sister Eubank added, noting that true charity emphasizes dignity, human worth, cooperation, unity, sacrifice and assurance that no one is too poor or too marginalized to contribute something of value.
3. Humanitarian acts that foster real change come with a significant relationship, she said. “Everything is local. Our most powerful acts are in the place where we live.”
The Church’s welfare program helps the poor in the Church and humanitarian services is the Church’s outreach to those not in the Church. But the core principles of both programs are the same — “self-help not handouts.”
“It is about thrift not waste, it is about work not passivity, and it is about service not graft,” she said.
Through work, self-help, thrift and service each person grows in accountability and confidence. “Strong character is the ultimate sustainability,” she added. “Uncovering and protecting the inner richness of each individual soul is our reason for being.”
There is something every person can do to help another, she said.
“If you will brave the frontiers of your own love you will be a pioneer,” Sister Eubank said. “This world needs pioneers.”
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