Since its beginnings, the Church has been involved in helping not only its own poor and needy but also those of other faiths. For example, during World War I the United States government needed wheat for the war effort and asked to purchase wheat that had been stored by the Relief Society. The Church offered it free, but the government insisted on buying it. When the war was over, the money was used to replenish the wheat storage.
In the mid-1980s, a severe drought caused great suffering to millions of people in Africa. The Church held two special fasts to raise money, particularly for the people of Ethiopia. After those fasts, the Church formally organized the Humanitarian Service Division of Welfare Services, which is funded entirely by free will donations.
The guiding purpose of Humanitarian Service is to strengthen families through relief and development activities among the world’s poor and needy populations. From 1985 to 1997, the Church assisted in more than 2,785 relief and self- reliance projects in more than 146 countries. In 1997 alone, the humanitarian effort sponsored 568 relief and development projects. In 1997 approximately 400 Welfare Services missionaries, including full- time couples, were serving humanitarian missions in more than 45 countries.
Ferguson, Isaac C. “Freely Given.” Ensign 18 (August 1988): 10-15.
Monson, Thomas S. “Our Brothers’ Keepers.” Ensign 28 (June 1998): 33-39.
Van Orden, Del. “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” Church News, 29 November 1997. 3.
GLEN L. RUDD