The second great commandment of the Lord, to “love thy neighbor” and reach out to those in need, is at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ, said Bishop Gerald Caussé, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in discussing the Church’s humanitarian response to COVID-19.
“I believe that for every disciple of Jesus Christ, this is part of our DNA,” Bishop Caussé said in a video released by the Church on Tuesday, June 30. “And we go and find those that are in need and try to help them, whether it is in our own community or far away in other countries. This is really at the center of our religion.”
Highlighting how the members of the Church have continued a longstanding tradition of service and love for those in need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Caussé detailed the ways the work and service of members of the Church and Latter-day Saint Charities have blessed the lives of people around the world during the global crisis.
“COVID-19 is having an impact in everybody’s lives around the world,” he said. “… Over the past three months, we have sent 15 additional truckloads of food and other commodities, per week, to charitable organizations and other food banks in the United States and Canada. Each of those truckloads can feed 1,400 people for about a week. This is possible because of a long-standing tradition of the Church to store food.”
President Russell M. Nelson explained recently that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the largest-ever humanitarian project the Church has led, with more than 630 projects in over 130 countries.
“Where does all that money come from? Mostly from our members,” President Nelson said. “Their voluntary fast offerings have actually increased, and their voluntary contributions to our humanitarian funds have increased greatly, and members have prepared and provided personal protective gear for caregivers. Thousands of Relief Society sisters have made more than five million surgical masks.”
The Church’s humanitarian response to the pandemic began with a large donation to hospitals in China — the epicenter of the outbreak at the time — which included 220,000 N95 masks, 6,500 pairs of protective coveralls, and 870 pairs of goggles. The initial donation was made in partnership with Project HOPE and was carried out through assistance from FedEx.
Later, as cases of COVID-19 spread across the world and throughout the U.S., the Church made a sizable cash donation to their long-term partner the American Red Cross to support a campaign for greater public awareness of a blood supply shortage and advocate for more donors to contribute. The Church also worked with other key partners like the Salvation Army, Feeding America, Convoy of Hope, United Way, Partnership for Native Americans and other organizations through cash and service donations to distribute food and hygiene supplies to people in need throughout the nation.
In Utah, the Church and Latter-day Saint Charities partnered with IHC and University of Utah Health to produce more than five million surgical masks for use in Utah medical centers. Relief Societies and volunteers from nearly 500 stakes in Utah were invited to join in sewing 1 million masks per week. In the end, some 5.7 million masks were sewn by more than 50,000 volunteers.
Additionally, a special section of the Church’s JustServe website was dedicated to COVID-19 volunteer relief efforts to highlight community-based efforts to help during the pandemic. Some of the projects include blood drives and efforts to sew cloth masks for community use.
Many Church facilities, including bishops’ storehouses and other food processing plants have had to adapt their operations during the pandemic as they often rely heavily on senior missionaries — who are considered at high risk from the virus — to operate. To fill the gaps in their labor forces, many Church members in lower-risk categories have stepped up to volunteer. And despite the implementation of extra sanitation and social distancing measured to protect volunteers working in these facilities, production of commodities produced at the bishops’ storehouse have increased by approximately 30%.
The Church accomplishes a lot as an organization, Bishop Caussé said, “but we shouldn’t forget that it all comes from the members, reaching out to those in need.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ, members of the Church strive to emulate His example, not only by preaching the gospel, but also by finding those in need and offering the care, help and love of the Savior. That work is done by the members, he explained, adding, “We couldn’t be more grateful for the generosity of the members of the Church.”
This time of uncertainty is unleashing the compassionate hearts of the people, said Sister Wendy Nelson in talking about the scope of the COVID-19 relief efforts contributed by Church members.
President Nelson added, “I’ve learned that these emotions of fear, isolation and danger are best handled by immersing oneself in the care of other people.” The road ahead will be bumpy, he continued, but the destination will be serene.