The LDS Church's Perpetual Education Fund — implemented to assist worthy members in Third World countries with their education — has drawn contributions in the millions of dollars. It is currently helping about 1,200 LDS students but will be helping more than 3,000 by the year 2004.
During his talk to priesthood holders Saturday night, President Gordon B. Hinckley said the fund is a version of the 19th-century Perpetual Emigration Fund that helped many members of the faith find their way to Utah.
The new fund will help young people in Asia, Africa and Latin America find their way to a successful life. Currently funds are being distributed in Chile, Peru and Mexico with Brazil about to be added to the list.
The fund provides loans which will be repaid at the nominal interest rate of 3 percent after a student graduates.
Elders John K. Carmack and Richard E. Cook, just released Saturday as general authorities, are administering the fund without compensation.
The loans are handled by area presidencies working through the Church Education System and Church Employment Resource Services. Funds come from members and friends of the church. The money can only be used for tuition, books and fees and it is paid directly to each participating school. Students have from five to 10 years to repay the loan to the church so others may, in turn, reap the same benefits.
In an emotional plea, President Hinckley stressed the need for members of the church to "open our hearts," "reach down and lift up," "open our purses" and "show greater love for our fellow men."
"The Lord has blessed us so abundantly," he said, "And the needs are so great."
He also spoke of a similar fund sponsored by the church at the turn of the century to help LDS school teachers. He counted two university presidents and a former member of the First Presidency of the church among those who benefitted from that program.