A Spirit That Goes to the End of the Line
It all begins with what they just sang, doesn’t it? That we are children of our Heavenly Father—a Heavenly Father who knows each one of us by name, and where we are and where we live and our needs, and He knows the needs of many people around the world. And then He realizes that we can reach out and help one another.
From the 26th chapter of 2 Nephi, I thought of this scripture as these young men were singing. For he said, “He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black or white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (v. 33). I think the question then, comes to us: If our Heavenly Father has said through his prophet that all are alike unto Him—there’s no distinction, everyone is equal—then we have to ask ourselves the question: Are all alike unto me? Do I treat everyone the same? Do I strictly adhere to the same teaching?
President Monson has said so aptly: “Along your pathway of life, you will observe that you are not the only traveler. There are others who need your help. There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save.”
You know, during the last 22 years, the Church has reached out in a very vigorous way, worldwide, to assist people. Now, it has been a real success. It has been a wonderful thing to do. And as was mentioned, the Church has reached out in 167 countries. I’ve had the privilege of being in 87 of those countries, and I have found that the members of the Church there have made a difference in the lives of their neighbors and friends.
Just two or three little observations, and then I’ll show you some pictures. I’ve determined that we are successful in what we do because we are part of the inspired Welfare Services Program of the Church. The whole essence of welfare is self-reliance—that we go to school, that we learn, that we support ourselves, that we take care of our own needs. And then we turn around and we reach out as far as we can to help others. So the Church is successful in its emergency response and its humanitarian work because we adhere to the same principles as Welfare Services. With our storehouses, with our supplies, with our members that are so willing to donate time and effort, we can reach out at lightning speed. When some organizations are determining what they might do or what the needs are, we’ve responded. We’ve been able to place trucks of goods just outside the footprint of a hurricane, and then have been able to move in immediately.
Ken Hackett, who is a good friend of mine and executive director of the Catholic Relief Services worldwide, said to me once, “Wherever we go, the Mormons are always there, and they’re usually there before we are.”
I said, “Can I quote you?” and he says, “Yes. I think you’ll quote me whether I say you can or not.” We are there, and we’re grateful to be there. And President Monson and others are generous, as the resources of the Church are established, so that we can do that. And the members of the Church are so very, very generous.
The assistance that we do worldwide doesn’t come from a government grant we receive or from other funds. It comes just from members of the Church across the world donating just a little extra—first of all donating as they should to the fast offering funds of the Church, and then donating a little extra to the Humanitarian Fund. And those little extras go together to allow us to respond in a very effective way, very often and usually not with cash directly, but in kind and assistance as it happens. We have distributed hygiene kits and school kits and quilts and blankets and food boxes and medical supplies.
The second observation I have made is that everything we do has a spirit that goes to the end of the line. How do I know that? Because I have been there. I have had the privilege of representing you in the distribution of these goods on the other end of the line. And as you give a hygiene kit to someone in need, there’s a spirit to it. Besides the toothpaste and the bar of soap and other things that are in it, there’s a spirit that carries all the way to the end of the line, because of the sacrifice of Church members making it possible.
The third observation is that people around the world are grateful for what is done for them. People want to care for themselves. Most people aren’t asking for a handout, and people are very, very grateful. They have said, “Will you please go home and thank those that have made the difference?” So you’re part of that group that I would say thank you to for making the difference.
President Marion G. Romney gave a very wonderful quote when he said, “There’s an interdependence between those who have and those who have not, and the process of giving exalts the poor and humbles the rich. Both are sanctified.”
So we have the givers and we have the receivers, and both are sanctified and both are edified. I’d like to tell you a little bit about the givers and a little bit about the receivers. Out at the Humanitarian Center—and if you haven’t been there, particularly if you’re from another country or out of state, sometime you ought to have a tour and just see the items that come together and the things that go out. They’re packaged, and there’s a message that they come from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We don’t put proselyting packets in it; we don’t put invitations to attend meetings. It’s just pure humanitarian help. Of course we hope that this will help people come to Christ, and that they could receive the saving ordinances. But we don’t do anything as an ulterior motive. It’s an Ammon approach. It’s feeding the sheep. It’s tending the horses, and then waiting when the king calls you and the work goes forward. We have so many that do so much.
There’s a little note came on this quilt: “Hi. We’re from Ivins, Utah. This is a little town [they said] that’s about the size of your family pet. It’s down near St. George. But we’re some of the nicest guys that live in the state of Utah. We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We worked long and hard on this quilt. We got poked by needles and cut by scissors, but we did it to help people in need. We hope this makes a difference.”
And it does make a difference. Young Women make quilts. Do you know, we have shipped literally thousands of quilts. A blanket is a wonderful gift, but the quilt carries a message all the way to the end of the line. I remember one time out to the Humanitarian Center of seeing another little note on a quilt that had the most clashing colors of red and orange I had ever seen. A little boy had penned a note and he said, “Whoever gets this quilt, I hope you like it because I picked out the material all by myself.” There is a spirit that really goes to the end of the line as these things happen.
I remember one time out to the Humanitarian Center helping a woman in the front door, and I said, “What have you brought us today?”
She said, “Thirty-eight baby blankets, and I made them all this week.” She said, “I’ve sewed and I’ve sewed and I’ve sewed. My husband went on a trip. It’s an addiction. I wish he would have taken the sewing machine cord. Oh, not really.” And then she just drops them on the counter and out she goes.
I was there when another wonderful group of sisters was there and I stepped over to them. I said, “What have you brought?”
They said, “We want to tell you about what happened at home first.” And then they said, “We are the stake Relief Society presidency in central Utah, in the little town of Genola, Goshen Utah Stake. And they said, “We’ve put a quilt on every Tuesday morning at our stake center and anybody who wants to come in and put in a few stitches or catch up on a little bit of gossip or anything, we’re just grateful to have them stop by.”
“But,” they said, “there’s a special sister in our stake that we wanted to come. She was depressed. She was discouraged. She would hardly leave home. She wouldn’t get up and get dressed. It was a challenge for her and a challenge for her family. We said, ‘Come over and help us.’ She said, ‘Oh, I think I’d ruin the quilt.’
“So after about the third time, she said, ‘Okay, I’ll come and I’ll watch.’ So we sent the word out to all of the sisters that we knew were regulars, ‘When you come and you quilt, just let those pieces of yarn lay, don’t pick them up, because we think we have somebody that will pick up the yarn.’”
And then they said they asked her to do that, and she said, “Well, I guess I could do that.” And so she picked up the yarn, and then she became a regular yarn picker-upper, and then later she began to quilt.
Do you know, a few months later I saw that same group of sisters out to the Humanitarian Center and I said, “How’s my sister that you’ve been helping out?” I never knew her name.
They said, “Oh, she’s just wonderful. She’s moved from our community now, but she still sends packages back of goods to come into the Humanitarian Center.” What we do to help others blesses us. It makes a difference for us, doesn’t it?
The school kits have been a wonderful gift. I remember one time taking the ambassador for Kenya and his wife through the Humanitarian Center. She took the school kit and dumped it all out, pencils and paper and scissors and erasers. She said, “I wish I could have had one of these when I went to elementary school under a tree in Kenya. Would you send one of these over for every student in Kenya?” Well, we send out about half a million a year of these.
I don’t know if we have anyone here from Haiti, but Haiti’s a country with a lot of challenges. The minister of education from Haiti was here at the Humanitarian Center. She saw the school kits. She had an idea. She went home and she talked to our area leaders, and she said, “Could we have school kits?” We’ve shipped 100,000 school kits to Haiti. And then we’ve shipped the components of another 100,000 kits so that our members of the Church in Haiti can have the privilege of putting them together and getting them out, so that we can have that kind of a young man, who doesn’t have paper and pencils, to have something to work with.
Isn’t it marvelous that we are able to reach out? We provide food. We’ve done a lot of food boxes, particularly with the hurricanes that we’ve had lately. These are groups that come together and box food, and as that box of food is opened up, they realized that it is often product that has been produced on our farms, has been canned in our canneries, has been boxed in our storehouses and it’s been given to them. And there’s a spirit that goes all the way to the end of the line.
I want to show you about some of the other things that we do. Let me tell you just one story, and then we’ll talk about the measles campaign. These boxes of food are reminding me of an experience that we had in El Salvador not long ago—oh, several years ago. There was an earthquake in El Salvador. We have sixteen stakes, or we did at that time, members of the Church in El Salvador, and many, many in need. Following the lead of area leaders and the approval of the Brethren here, we set out an airlift of food boxes and hygiene kits to El Salvador. Then the word came back to us from a man by the name of Roberto Kriete, chairman of the board of Taka Airlines, the regional airlines in Central America, where he said, “Anything you need to get into El Salvador, you take to my terminal in the Los Angeles Airport, and we’ll bring it down, space available.”
That was a wonderful offer. Airlifts are expensive. So we began to put pallets down there, and they began to put them on their planes, and it went down and it blessed members of the Church and it helped the community, and several months later I was invited into El Salvador along with a member of the Area Presidency, at an appreciation dinner for those that had done a lot to help with the earthquake. And as I was there representing the Church, my fortune was that I was seated right next to Roberto Kriete.
I said, “Mr. Kriete, we are so grateful for what you did to help us get our goods into El Salvador. Do you know that you took in the equivalent of seven truckloads of goods for us?”
He said, “I know that.”
I said, “You also have to know that there was a little bit of jealousy with some other humanitarian organizations, that you were favoring us.”
He said, “I know that as well.”
I said, “Why would you do us the honor?”
He said, “Three reasons: First,” he said, “when you brought that first planeload of goods into El Salvador, they brought me a hygiene kit and they brought me a box of food. And I looked at it, and I said this is exactly what our people need right now. I knew I would be bringing what they need and I wouldn’t be hauling junk on the airlines.”
I said, “What’s the second reason?”
He said, “Well, the second reason is kind of personal. My family and I landed in Las Vegas, rented a mini-van, saw the sites up through Utah, went to Yellowstone, flew back to El Salvador. No one really knew who we were. But as we crisscrossed across the state of Utah and elsewhere, people were so friendly that even my children started to say, ‘Well, Dad, it’s those friendly Mormons again, isn’t it?’”
And I thought, I thank the Lord for all the friendly Mormons across the state of Utah, and the assistance we give.
I said, “What’s your third reason?”
He said, “Well, that’s the most important of all. My third reason is Sam Pace.”
And I said, “Who is Stan Pace?”
“Well, he’s one of you that walks the walk. He doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s a consultant with a company that helped me restructure the airlines. He’s a marvelous man. He’s a good father. I think he helped me restructure my family more than anything else. I would have done it all for Sam Pace.”
And I thought, I am so grateful for members of the Church that make these kinds of opportunities happen, that we were able to build that kind of friendship and that kind of assistance.
Let me tell you about the measles campaign. You know, this has been a really exciting experience. We want healthy children around the world, and about the year 2000, the World Health Organization said, “You may not hear about measles in the United States very much anymore, but there are 47 countries around the world where we still need to get children vaccinated.” Only about 50% were vaccinated, and it was resulting in about 900,000 worldwide deaths from measles, from the most vaccine-preventable disease there is. And so World Health and Red Cross and UNICEF and other organizations came to the Church and said, “Would you help fund vaccinating children—it’s going to cost about a dollar a vaccination—so that we can catch up around the world and get children vaccinated, and we can cut this mortality rate from about 900,000 a year to less than 100,000 in a ten-year period.”
I went to Zambia at the direction of the Brethren and observed this, and recommended that we do it. But then the most wonderful part of it all was that when President Hinckley approved this, with the vision of a prophet, he said, “Let’s not only put money towards doing this, but wherever we have members of the Church, let’s have them be a voice in their community of telling others that we can vaccinate our children. Can they help get the word out?”
And so, five years later, 35-some-odd countries later, 60,000 Church volunteers have helped get the word out. They’ve marched in parades, we hired a town crier in Benin to get the word out, our members in Nigeria put the aprons on and helped man the vaccination posts, other members put on a badge and started going out door to door. We have had thirty couples go out in Africa on a short-term basis and organize members of the Church, because we want it to be a local initiative of the Church that they do. We had the Primary children sing to us in Nigeria, and then all roll their sleeves up and receive their measles shots. And it’s not very much fun.
But the Church has made a real difference. In Benin you receive your vaccination card, and in Nigeria and many other places around the world your thumb is painted to show that you have been vaccinated. It has made a marvelous difference.
I can think enough to suggest that maybe we put money towards it. But I’m grateful for President Hinckley and the Brethren who said, “Let’s put our members to doing this.” It was reported in meetings I was at a month ago that there were 198,000 deaths in 2007. We have dropped the mortality rate on an annual basis from 900,000 worldwide to 200,000, and we’re with them for the haul of going on down. There’s another spot or two, to show you where this is happening outside of Africa as this has been done in Mongolia.
But you know what? Again, it’s the givers and receivers. The givers—our youth and others in Mongolia as they put up posters, they got the word out. They were unified. They came away with a great blessing.
And then President Hinckley was always saying to us, and President Monson since then, “Now, what percentage of our own children are vaccinated?” Well, you can’t go give the message and not have your own children vaccinated, so it’s been a great work. Mongolia, can you see those twins? We don’t want to lose either one of those twins.
The Philippines has a lot of strength to it and so we had a humanitarian couple that had worked in Africa go in and do several days’ training, and then they had couples from all across the Philippines that organized 10,000 young adults—10,000 like you—that did just this. They put on a yellow vest that said, “Mormon Helping Hands,” and started out to tell families with children to get the message out. And World Health and many other organizations have come back and said, “We couldn’t have done it without you. We can provide the vaccine, we can do surveillance, we can be cautious, we can do everything. But if we don’t get the people out, we can’t be successful.”
That’s just one of the things that the Church has been involved with and it has been an exciting forum.
You know, I wanted to share with you that a year ago, we saw the Ohio Midwest flooding. In the town of Findlay, Ohio near Toledo we met Bishop Jones. He was a marvelous leader with vision. He called on the leaders in Cleveland to come in and help out. As they came in and began to pick up and clean up, one man said to the group that was there, “You’re not from here, are you?”
They said, “No, we’re from the Cleveland area.”
He said, “You wouldn’t know that I’m the Methodist minister in this town, would you?”
They said, “No, sir, we wouldn’t.”
He said, “But I lost something special that I intended on reading—it was given to me by a couple of your young men—in my flood. And I was wondering if any of you could get me another copy of the Book of Mormon.” And then they worked and helped him and he said, “You know, I am so impressed with you folks that I’ve got to ask for a Sunday off so I can come to your meetings.”
They went to another place, and they helped an elderly man clean his home, and as they came out they saw a flag in a tree. With Scout training, those young men and the young women too said, “Let’s retire the colors.” So they called the man out and they brought the flag, tattered and torn, down and they pulled it out and folded it and put it into a triangle and handed him his flag as the last thing they did. They said, “We all left with tears in our eyes.”
I want to share with you just a few of the other things that we’ve done in the last year. Peru, in the area of Pisco about three hours south of Lima, had a devastating earthquake. Fifteen thousand homes shook down within a few minutes. We are in the process of building 400 homes for Church members, where they’re doing a lot of work. But as soon as this happened, Mrs. Garcia, the First Lady, had been here and toured the Humanitarian Center and had attended General Conference. She got a hold of the area presidency and wanted to know if we could provide some of the medical supplies that she had seen at the Humanitarian Center. So we flew in medical supplies and hygiene kits. But the most marvelous thing again were the members of the Church. Members of 23 stakes in Lima came out to help brothers and sisters and neighbors and many others, first of all to make sure and rescue all the survivors, then to help bury the dead, then to help them into provisional tents and other shelters. And then, to rebuild homes with the few dollars that are given by the Church and a lot of labor that is given by the home recipients, making sure that it has the rebar and the other things that are needed. You see the final product of stalwart, good members of the Church, with a little home that had been rebuilt where they had lost their home. It’s been a marvelous thing to see what we’ve done.
Some of you are from southern California. You remember the fires, the devastating fires across San Diego and up in Running Springs and up above San Bernardino and other places. In the Poway California Stake, just to help out, they decided they could make a sifter for all the families that lived—members and nonmembers—within the confines of their stake, so that they could help them sift through the ashes. It paid off. I was out where two sister missionaries found a one-carat diamond in their sifting, and the woman was ecstatic to think that it had been found.
Our youth had a great experience as they did that. We distributed about 18,000 cleaning kits, and in that cleaning kit are brushes and liquids and other items that are needed, and then people were around right behind to help clean up. The wonderful experiences that happened as this occurred. You know, one member of the Church said, “Our wonderful volunteers shoveled, cut, carried, sorted, sifted, raked and swept. They did it with smiling faces. Most were filthy, sufficiently sore and very wet. I thought I knew the Saints. I’ve taken the sacrament with them. I’ve gone to the temple with them. But now I know them.”
Who are you—the giver or the receiver? That’s the missionaries from the California Carlsbad California Mission. Can you see someone there you know? Is there someone here? Step up and show us who it is. That’s exciting. I was showing this to a group that came out to the Humanitarian Center from BYU—Idaho, and one of the sisters said, “Well, I’m there.” Right there. Our missionaries are absolutely loved and appreciated and we get so many notes and thoughts.
You know, we hadn’t even finished with the fires of California and we had the flooding in Centralia, Washington south of Tacoma. Again, the cleaning kits, the volunteers that were out, the experiences that were there, the mud, the filth. But there we were, involved in the excitement that went on.
And then we shift forward a little bit and maybe you remember in the spring, the earthquake in China, and you think, “China? Can we help in China?” Of course we can, and the Church wants to be there and the Brethren have the vision and they approved it. The members from Hong Kong all went down and across the border out of Hong Kong and put together 10,000 living kits. And then these living kits, which are some food and some other basic items that were put together, were transported into the area of need. And when our priesthood leaders went into that part of China, they were allowed to be there and to help with the distribution to the end of the line. We didn’t do it for the TV camera that was there; we didn’t do it for any other purpose than just reaching out to the individual need. It changes hearts. It changes minds. It changes feelings. It helps those in need. It’s a win-win.
And then, more recently, we helped with the 2008 hurricanes that we’ve gone through—Ike and the rest of the family. Our chapels have become temporary bishop’s storehouses. Do we help those who are not of our faith if they come to our door? Absolutely. At the Pine Trails building in Houston, we couldn’t get our truck unloaded and we had a line of people a block long. We helped them all. We were there and provided other supplies. But again, we had the volunteers that came and the missionaries that were involved. And as they scrubbed and they helped, they made a difference. One set of missionaries told me that in the Texas Houston Mission that as they finished their work, the wife said, “You just have made my husband his happy 82nd birthday.” So they all stood around in their yellow t-shirts and sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
Then at another place, they were cleaning out on the perimeter of a property and a man came out. They asked permission to come onto his property to clean, and they began to work away at it. And then he came out with a pen and a pad of paper and he said, “I want all of your names and all of your addresses. I just happen to be the mayor of Katy, Texas, and I’m going to issue a proclamation recognizing the Mormons and the work you have done in this community. And I want each of you missionaries to have a personal copy of that proclamation.
And then another group of missionaries said, “Well, we had an interesting experience. We asked a woman if we could clean up her yard, and she looked us over and said, ‘Yes, if you will pick up every twig and you will clean it perfectly.’ And they thought, ‘Boy, she’s snippy. She’s difficult to deal with.’”
She went into the house and they cleaned and they worked and then she came out and offered to pay them. She thought she had hired them. And they said, “No. We’re missionaries. We’re just here to help out.” And there was great satisfaction as that happened.
Just before I read President Monson’s quote, Sandra and Don Barnes said, “The soap and towels and toothpaste were such a welcome sight in Slidell, Louisiana. Our friends who are members of your church have always been there for us, but they couldn’t be this time, so you came instead.”
And then another woman wrote. She said, “I want to thank you for all you have done for us. The box of canned goods was great. I just had soup and the Son is still shining.” Son, S-o-n. Another person said, “I looked at the hygiene kit and I looked at the bar of soap. I’m a Baptist. I wondered if I washed with it if I’d wash the Baptist off of me and make me a Mormon.”
And then another person wrote, “I’m speechless. God answered my prayer today. Tears rolled down my cheeks as your church members cleaned away the debris. I’m a nurse. I’m used to giving, not receiving. What they did reminded me of what Christ did for me on the cross. I can’t convey my gratitude to you.”
So striving together we can feed children, we can provide hope, we can preserve lives. And it again is that adage, the great teaching of our Savior: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these…”—who have you done it unto?—“ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). I bear witness to you that the work of reaching out to people around the world by the Church in a humanitarian way by the members of the Church in a sweet, wonderful way, the donations that come, the things that go out, make a difference. Thank you, each one of you, for who you are. You’re here to prepare so that you can have those opportunities of giving throughout life. But don’t forget as you’re here as students that you can give, you can be a humanitarian. You can be kind to each other. You can reach out to those that are in need. As you do so, you’ll feel better. Life will be better, and your testimony of the Gospel will be strengthened.
I bear witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of the prophetic calling of President Monson, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.