The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church) and the American Red Cross have a similar mission: to help others in need. Both depend on an army of unpaid volunteers to get the work done. And sometimes their efforts overlap, as both organizations are often among the first to respond in times of natural disaster. So it’s no surprise that the two have partnered together for more than 25 years.
Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ and the Red Cross have been working to improve and coordinate their efforts on the community level so they are more prepared when disasters strike. Two years ago, the Church and the Red Cross signed a “memorandum of understanding” designed to improve their joint efforts in disaster planning, including training, drills, and identifying and using shelter locations.
This year, the organizations are taking their partnership to the next level—The Church of Jesus Christ has a goal of providing 200 volunteers to the charitable organization by the end of 2014, according to Kristy Denlein, volunteer services director for the Red Cross’ Utah region. The initiative began in Utah earlier this year, but both groups see potential to expand outside of the state. Denlein said:
The Red Cross and the LDS Church have a strong partnership nationwide, so I think it’s something here, modeling that good relationship with a community partner like the LDS Church, that could definitely be modeled throughout the country.
Prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ encourage members to be prepared for all types of emergencies—including natural disasters, job loss and long-term power outages, just to name a few. The Red Cross also teaches emergency preparedness so their volunteers are ready to help in times of need.
This joint effort will provide “breadth in our services and some depth in our responses through disaster preparedness and response,” according to Lynne Killian, who is one of the Red Cross volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ’s initiative. Denlein said, “It’s a great opportunity for the Red Cross. We’re enjoying working with our partners and we’re just excited to see … where it takes us through the year.”
The Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ
The mission of The Church of Jesus Christ is to rescue souls—sometimes physically as well as spiritually. Latter-day Saints are disciples of Jesus Christ, who taught that the greatest commandment was to love God and our neighbor. Sometimes that means sharing what we know about the gospel and the Savior, and sometimes that requires us to step up and help others in their time of need. The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of my favorites, and illustrates this point well. A Jewish man was walking on a road when two men attacked him, robbed and beat him and left him for dead. Two religious men walked past him and didn’t help. But the third, a Samaritan, stopped and helped the man. This is how disciples of Jesus Christ honor Him. Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), said:
This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep”—share my gospel with young and old, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging, and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do. We feed His lambs in our homes by how we live the gospel: keeping the commandments, praying, studying the scriptures, and emulating His love. … And we feed His sheep throughout the world by being good Christian neighbors, practicing the pure religion of visiting and serving the widows, the fatherless, the poor, and all who are in need.
… Like the good Samaritan, the Savior was continually reaching out to rescue, love, and nurture people around Him, regardless of their culture, creed, or circumstances.
Missionary service isn’t always young men in suits and ties knocking on doors—but it is always being an example of Jesus Christ, ready to serve.
Called to Serve in the Red Cross
Service is an integral part of The Church of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is part of the covenant (or two-way promise between a person and God, and the terms are set by God) that members make when they are baptized into the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ functions in large measure because of the unpaid volunteer ministry of its members, or its lay clergy. From the Sunday School teacher to the bishop (leader) of the ward (local congregation), all are unpaid volunteers.
But members do not campaign for their assignments. Rather, they are “called,” or invited, to serve in these positions by their local Church leaders, who pray and ask God whom they should call. Most members willingly accept assignments. What does this have to do with the Red Cross? The Church of Jesus Christ will fill their Red Cross volunteer positions through callings, church service and missionary assignments. Although many associate Latter-day Saint missionaries with young men in shirts and ties, some members are called to serve part-time or full-time in humanitarian assistance or other service missions.
Lynne Killian and her husband, Val, were among those called to serve a 24-month humanitarian service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ with the Red Cross. Lynne helps to oversee assistant programs, delivering Christmas cards to veterans and keeping the Red Cross office in order. Her husband, Val, works to ensure that emergency response programs, shelters and kits are all in place. Both are also taking multiple emergency preparedness classes.
The point, said Val, is this: “If you’re not trained and if you’re not proficient and if you haven’t an interest, then all you are is just one that needs help, rather than one that can give help.” And being of service to your neighbor is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. Val said:
We’re all members of the community. No matter what religion or race or creed we are. It behooves each one of us to help each other, to help our neighbor, to know what it means to be neighborly.
As disciples of Christ, we seek to emulate Him by serving those around us.
Helping Hands in Times of Need
In The Church of Jesus Christ, members believe in helping others. Latter-day Saint Helping Hands volunteers are hard to miss with their trademark yellow vests. But this is just one line of defense, so to speak, as we seek to take care of those around us. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained:
… Using funds donated by generous members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sends food, clothing, and other essentials to relieve the suffering of adults and children all over the world. These humanitarian donations, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade, are made without any consideration of religion, race, or nationality.
Our massive relief effort following the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami provided $13 million in cash and relief supplies. In addition, more than 31,000 Church-sponsored volunteers gave more than 600,000 hours of service.
Our humanitarian assistance to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in the eastern United States included large donations of various resources, plus almost 300,000 hours of service in cleanup efforts by about 28,000 Church members. Among many other examples last year, we provided 300,000 pounds (136,000 kg) of clothing and shoes for the refugees in the African nation of Chad. During the last quarter century we have assisted nearly 30 million people in 179 countries.
Rather than boasting, Elder Oaks’ remarks illustrate how one person’s contribution can really make a difference. Elder M. Russell Ballard said:
Honeybees are driven to pollinate, gather nectar, and condense the nectar into honey. It is their magnificent obsession imprinted into their genetic makeup by our Creator. It is estimated that to produce just one pound (0.45 kg) of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon.
Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part.
The same is true as disciples of Jesus Christ seek to do His work, serving others around the world. Each person’s contribution adds to the whole. And while each donation of time, money, energy or other resources may seem insignificant, when compiled together it adds up to a great work that blesses the lives of many people.
I have seen countless visual examples of this throughout the years, but I’d like to recount one experience. A member of our ward was struggling to get his hay bales from the field to his ranch, and the rain (and snow) was coming—which would ruin his hay. So another ward member organized an old-fashioned hay bucking party (without telling the owner of the hay). A small army of volunteers of all ages showed up at the hay field and loaded the bales onto trucks.
Then, to the owner’s surprise, at least a half-dozen trucks and trailers loaded with hay pulled up at his ranch and began unloading. This job was too much for one person to accomplish in such a short time. But with many hands, we were able to finish the job in one night. It was cold and wet, but there were no complaints—especially when several ladies brought out hot chocolate and cookies for everyone. And the tearful gratitude of the rancher and his family was a powerful reminder that God hears our prayers, and He often answers them through other people.
Ready to Help after Disaster in Austin, Texas
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ are also taught to be prepared. Because, in truth, when the storms come the time to prepare has passed. Latter-day Saints in Austin, Texas, saw a need for more preparation last fall as they were helping to clean up after massive flooding. The work of the American Red Cross of Central Texas was slowed because too few people were trained to conduct damage assessments—which is essential before those affected can receive aid. Kevin Christensen, vice chair of Central Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, said:
After the flood, we realized the need for more people to be trained to provide disaster assessments. The quicker an assessment is completed, the faster help can be provided to those in need.
More than 50 members of The Church of Jesus Christ teamed up with the Red Cross to receive disaster assessment training. Bill Dorman, disaster services volunteer chair for the American Red Cross of Central Texas, said that these newly trained volunteers can be deployed in a future disaster. He said:
There are three phases in the disaster cycle: preparedness, response, and recovery. LDS members can now work as part of a damage assessment team during disaster response. Providing accurate and timely disaster assessment is essential for good planning and to verify families’ disaster-caused needs.
Kent Huntsman, president of the Round Rock Texas East Stake (a stake is a geographic region consisting of a group of wards), said:
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we seek to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in our service to mankind. We are pleased to partner with the Red Cross as we prepare to assist those in need during times of disaster.
Their preparation will greatly bless the lives of others in an area that has seen flooding, tornadoes and flooding in recent years.
Emergency Preparedness Begins at Home
The scriptures teach us to be ready in all things— financially, spiritually and economically. Ezekiel 38:7 states: “Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.” Indeed, you can’t be a guard or a help to others if you haven’t taken care of your own house, so to speak. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ are counseled to gather a year’s supply of food and have money in reserve, among other things. Elder Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told the story of a woman who was striving to follow this counsel. He said:
Someone ridiculed her determination to gather her year’s supply. She had stored enough for herself and her husband, with some to spare for her young married children who were without the means or the space to provide much for themselves. She told him she did it because the prophets had counseled us to do it. He chided her, “In the crunch you won’t have it anyway. What if your leaders call everything in? You’d have to share it with those who didn’t prepare. What will you think then?”
“If that should happen,” she said, “at least I will have something to bring.”
I love this story because I have seen it played out from both sides on many different occasions. When we moved to Idaho about seven years ago, we hit some financial stumbling blocks, as did many others in our area. One husband and wife shared some of their food storage with us in our time of need—and were able to do so because they had it. At another time, we were able to share some food storage with another family because we had it. When we are prepared spiritually and otherwise, we need not fear. And we will be in a position to be a helping hand to others in need. That is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.
As another school year is winding to a close (I know it’s more than a month away, but according to my kids, the school year is almost over because they are done learning new things), high school seniors are planning their next move. For many young men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon” Church), this means deciding between going on a proselytizing mission for the Church first or taking a semester of college classes before their missionary sabbatical. Since The Church of Jesus Christ lowered the age requirement for missionary service for young men and young women (from 19 to 18 for males and from 21 to 19 for females), thousands more young adults are opting for missionary service.
This is especially true for young women. Before the age change, 15% of Latter-day Saint missionaries were young women. Now that has increased to 28%. And Utah colleges and universities are feeling the effects. Enrollment at Utah’s colleges and universities has dipped over the past 3 semesters since the October 2012 announcement lowering the missionary age. And enrollment of young women has dropped more than young men—4.2% of females compared to 3.8% of males. Utah higher education officials are concerned that this means fewer females will graduate from college, a valid concern given that the state ranks last in the nation for degrees earned compared to their male counterparts.
Young women in Utah start college at about the same rate as others around the country, but fewer finish four-year degrees, according to Susan Madsen, founder of the Utah Women and Education Initiative. She said that many Utah women drop out to get married and have a family, opting instead for two-year associate degrees. Madsen said:
Many women aspire to go to college but not necessarily to graduate. They’re thinking they’re going to get married and it’ll be great, and hopefully it will for them, but statistics show it doesn’t always happen that way.
But the discussion doesn’t need to be whether women should choose going on a mission over finishing college. Both prepare young adults for the rigors of life—which is what gaining an education is all about. Each of us has a different life path. I am the third oldest of eight kids—and the third oldest girl—in my family. I was the first of my siblings to graduate with my bachelor’s, and I’m very proud of that (maybe too much so, but when you’re the 3rd child, not much of what you do is the first in the family). Of my sisters, 3 went on missions and 4 have finished college. The one sister who served a mission and graduated from college also went on to earn her master’s. All of us have attended college, and the two who haven’t graduated are close (one is really close!). But the measure of our success isn’t in our college degrees or mission experiences, it’s in how we have applied what we learned from our experiences to our lives—and how we’ve passed it on to our children.
The Importance of an Education
My parents always told us that we needed to go to college. Underscored in this discussion were my grandmothers—both of whom were college graduates and elementary school teachers. One grandpa wasn’t able to finish his education as a young man, but he earned his bachelor’s at the age of 81. On the other side, my grandmother quit school and went to work so my grandfather could finish his education. When he had earned his degree in engineering, he turned to my grandmother and said, “Now that I’m done, it’s your turn. You need to finish school.” Decades later, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 55 and my grandmother supported their family—thanks to the education my grandfather insisted she obtain. As Susan Madsen pointed out, life doesn’t always work out the way we think it will, so we need to be prepared for whatever comes our way. In speaking to women, President Thomas S. Monson, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ, said:
We do live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. Statistics reveal that at some time, for a variety of reasons, you may find yourself in the role of financial provider. I urge you to pursue your education and learn marketable skills so that, should such a situation arise, you are prepared to provide.
Our education must never stop. If it ends at the door of the classroom on graduation day, we will fail. And we will need the help of heaven to know which of the myriad things we could study we would most wisely learn. We cannot waste time entertaining ourselves when we have the chance to read or to listen to whatever will help us learn what is true and useful. Insatiable curiosity will be our hallmark.
Education is important not only in this life but in our eternal progression. We take not only what we learn with us when we die, we take what we have become through our learning. President Eyring said:
The purpose of God’s creations and of His giving us life is to allow us to have the learning experience necessary to come back to live with Him in eternal life. That is only possible if we have our natures changed through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, true repentance, and making and keeping the covenants He offers all of His Father’s children through His Church. True learning must have a powerful spiritual component. That spiritual element, when it is effective, refines and uplifts the aims of our total education.
Thus our education never stops. We are always learning, growing and trying to improve ourselves. Life is our classroom, and experiences our teacher. In this respect, a mission is another educational opportunity.
A Mission is a School All its Own
A mission is a unique opportunity of learning and growth for young adults. There are few other times in a person’s life when all of his or her energies is centrally focused on one goal. Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), said:
We know that great things happen in the lives of those who faithfully serve full-time missions. Missionary service is not easy, but it is infinitely worth it. Those who serve and return home with honor have established a pattern of living and serving that will bless their own lives and the lives of generations to follow. They return better prepared to be strong leaders and teachers in the organizations of the Church. They return better prepared to be righteous fathers and mothers and able to teach their children the gospel. Full-time missionary service is a blessing for those whom the missionaries find and teach as well as for the missionaries themselves.
A mission is a learning experience like no other. Missionaries willingly give 18 months (for women) to 2 years (for men) of their lives in the service of a cause greater than themselves—in service to the Lord. They learn how to manage their time, budget their finances and discipline themselves. They learn interpersonal skills—and how to deal with rejection. They learn to be nice even when those around them aren’t. They learn grace under pressure as well as faith in God in times of trial. They learn to love others as the Savior does. They return home with an increased faith in God as well as an increased willingness to learn. Speaking of this drive to learn, President Eyring said:
When the Saints in Utah were still struggling to produce enough food, they started schools. They felt driven to lift their children toward light and to greater usefulness by education. That drive is more than a cultural tradition. It is the natural fruit of living the gospel of Jesus Christ. You see it today across the world as missionaries return home from their brief service in the field. Those who have planted the good word of God and have served faithfully invariably have awakened in them a great desire for self-improvement. And with that comes a desire to learn more and to gain greater skills.
The decision to serve a mission will shape the spiritual destiny of the missionary, his or her spouse, and their posterity for generations to come. A desire to serve is a natural outcome of one’s conversion, worthiness, and preparation.
And this desire to serve others and to improve oneself stays with the missionary throughout his or her life.
Preparation for a mission is important. A mission is a voluntary act of service to God and humankind. Missionaries support that privilege with their personal savings. Parents, families, friends, and donors to the General Missionary Fund may also assist. All missionaries, younger and older, serve with the sole hope of making life better for other people.
Raise the bar higher in your intellectual preparation. Take your schooling seriously. It is important to be able to read, speak, and write with intelligence. Expand your knowledge of the world around you by reading good books. Learn how to study. Then apply your improved study habits to learning the gospel of Jesus Christ. Consistently and regularly read from the Book of Mormon.
Young adults must also be prepared for the emotional and spiritual demands of a mission as well. Elder Perry said:
You must recognize that missionary service is emotionally demanding. Your support system is going to be withdrawn from you as you leave home and go out into the world. Many of the ways you use now to cope with emotional stress—like hanging out with friends, going off by yourself, playing video games, or listening to music—are not allowed by the rules of missionary conduct. There will be days of rejection and disappointment. Learn now about your emotional limits, and learn how to control your emotions under the circumstances you will face as a missionary. By doing this, you raise the bar to greater heights and, in effect, fortify yourself against emotional challenges during your missionary service.
… Prospective missionaries also must be prepared with the social skills needed to serve a mission. More and more, young people are isolating themselves from others by playing video games; wearing headphones; and interacting through cell phones, e-mail, text messaging, and so on instead of in person. Much of missionary work involves relating face-to-face with people, and unless you set the bar higher in the development of your social skills, you will find yourself underprepared. Let me offer a simple suggestion: get a job that involves interacting with people. As an increased motivation, set a goal to earn enough money from your part- or full-time work to pay for at least a significant part of your mission. I promise great blessings—social, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual blessings—to every young man who pays for a significant part of his mission.
Sister Missionaries Perform a Unique Work
Sister missionaries perform a unique work as representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ. Worthy young men are commanded to serve missions because it is part of their duty as bearers of the priesthood of God—which is the power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of His children. The late President Gordon B. Hinckley, until his death, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ, taught:
All young men who are worthy and who are physically and emotionally able should prepare to serve in this most important work. … There has been some misunderstanding of earlier counsel regarding single sisters serving as missionaries. We need some young women. They perform a remarkable work. They can get in homes where the elders cannot. But it should be kept in mind that young sisters are not under obligation to go on missions. They should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men, but some will wish to go (“To the Bishops of the Church,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, June 19, 2004, 27).
Women bring with them into the world a certain virtue, a divine gift that makes them adept at instilling such qualities as faith, courage, empathy, and refinement in relationships and in cultures. …
My plea to women and girls today is to protect and cultivate the moral force that is within you. Preserve that innate virtue and the unique gifts you bring with you into the world. Your intuition is to do good and to be good, and as you follow the Holy Spirit, your moral authority and influence will grow. To the young women I say, don’t lose that moral force even before you have it in full measure. Take particular care that your language is clean, not coarse; that your dress reflects modesty, not vanity; and that your conduct manifests purity, not promiscuity. You cannot lift others to virtue on the one hand if you are entertaining vice on the other.
These are the unique gifts and talents that young sister missionaries bring in the service of God. Young men and young women each bring different qualities to the table of life—and to missionary service—and both are needed in the work of the Lord.
Our Education Prepares Us to Serve
Whether we receive our education in the missionary service or the halls of higher institutional learning—or both—our education prepares us to help and serve others. This is one of the reasons that we are here on earth. President Eyring said:
The thirst for education can be a blessing or a curse, depending on our motives. If we continue to seek learning to serve God and His children better, it is a blessing of great worth. If we seek learning to exalt ourselves alone, it leads to selfishness and pride. …
The Lord and His Church have always encouraged education to increase our ability to serve Him and our Heavenly Father’s children. For each of us, whatever our talents, He has service for us to give. And to do it well always involves learning, not once or for a limited time, but continually.
I am a firm believer that the Lord will guide us—and our learning— throughout our lives as we seek to follow His will. And He will place us where He needs us. My oldest two sisters served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ. They came home more mature emotionally and spiritually. They were humble and had strong faith in the Lord and in His plan for each one of us. They had a deeper love and concern for others around them. And they were excited to apply the lessons they learned on their missions to their own lives. They served as powerful examples to us, their younger siblings, of how a mission can change you. (Not that they were bad before— they just came home better.) The beautiful thing about a mission is that as you strive to help other people change their lives for the better, the Lord also helps you to change your life for the better.
Jessika Jenson hails from Rigby, Idaho, and grew up snowboarding as well as dirt biking, wakeboarding, and mountain biking. Snowboarding, though, is her specialty.
Jessika first started snow sports skiing at a local resort and switched to snowboarding when she was only 10 years old. Since then she took her training into her own hands and entered every open competition she could. She started competing when she was 14 and found open competitions at local resorts like Kelly Canyon and Grand Targhee. Jessika’s talent made her a notable contender, and she quickly rose in the rankings.
Think about what it feels like to come home after a long day. Think about that relaxation you feel as you enjoy a hot shower and climb in a comfy bed with clean sheets. Now think about how you would feel if you didn’t have a bed, a shower, a home. Refugees from around the world come to the United States with practically nothing. The US has programs in place to help refugees start a life here, but the stipends given those refugees aren’t enough to cover all the costs of starting over from scratch. That’s where the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes in (this faith is often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church).
Deseret Manufacturing, a company owned by The Church of Jesus Christ, donates beds and bedding to refugees settling in Utah. Deseret Manufacturing works together with Salt Lake City’s Catholic Community Services, the International Rescue Committee, the Refugee Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, and the Utah Department of Workforce Services refugee office.
It’s January, and the internet is swimming in articles and blog posts about resolutions, goals, and change. These resolutions are often pretty standard: get in shape, save money, find a new job, try something new. Those goals aren’t bad, and if you’re committed to them, can actually be really good for you, but they aren’t the only ones you should consider as you dive into the new year. When you sit down to make goals for the new year, think about what you want to be and not just about what you want to do. Here are some ideas for resolutions you can make that will bring you closer to the Savior.
1. Seek out someone in need
Seeking out those in need can mean assisting the homeless, or stopping for that friend who needs someone to talk to. Resolve to be more aware of those around you and more attuned to the ways you can serve. Throughout Christ’s ministry, He was constantly aware of those who needed help, and He always served where He was needed. This year, let’s make a goal of being where we need to be and acting on those generous thoughts that cross our minds. Let’s serve in that wonderful way that the Savior did.
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