Do you remember the last mission added to the church. I am not talking about a mission like “Antartic McMurdo Station Mission.” I am talking about the major missions or purposes of the church. Growing up in the church one of the “Sunday school answers” that I remember memorizing was the missions of the church:
- to proclaim the gospel
- to perfect the Saints
- to redeem the dead
I can still recall when on my mission hearing President Kimball outline this with a bit more detailed description:
I stated that the mission of the Church is threefold:
• First, to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people;
• Secondly, to perfect the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation;
• Thirdly, to redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the earth.
The origins of the 3 missions of the church apparently goes back at least to 1939 and the Apostle John A. Widtsoe where he states essentially the same 3 missions.
Then about 7 decades later around 2009 there seems to be a new mission added, that of “caring for the poor and needy.” This additional mission of the church seems to be significantly less emphasized, at least so far. I do think that the church is well known for “taking care of their own” as long as the individual is in reasonable standing with the church. I am not sure if the membership doing so well in this area allows some to mentally and emotionally check the “care for the poor and needy” box and go back to focusing on the other three areas.
Credit does need to be given for the church in giving resources such as food and items such as hygiene kits in time of need, especially in cases of natural disasters. Every bit helps. And on occasion the church will really marshal thousands of weekend warriors to go help hurricane, flood, earthquake, and other areas of need. Having participated in quite a few of these, it is great to see the effort. I also have heard many comment that after spending several weeks without a 3 hour block that they feel spiritually great! I for one don’t object to wearing the yellow shirts, but I don’t much care for seeing pictures of it on paid ads pushing, “look how great we are!” And to me it puts a bad taste in my mouth when I hear others describe it as “a great missionary opportunity.” I do like that the church encouraged service under the “justserve.org” and at least in our ward the rollout included an admonition that this is not a missionary activity – it is about giving pure Christ-like service. I have used this as a way to find out about service opportunities and it is great. A good choice by the church if you ask me.
But if we look at the overall continuous allocations of time, money, and people – the “caring for the poor and needy” gets the short end of the stick. Missionary work certainly tops the “people” side with many of the young men and women dedicating almost every waking hour for 18-24 hard months. Certainly lots of time and certainly lots of money are spent on the temples and temple work. I have not yet read it, but I have heard that “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power Hardcover” by D. Michael Quinn does shed a bit of light on the amount of assistance in cash might be small in comparison to the value of food and other items of assistance the LDS church contributes, especially in natural disasters.
Most will remember the conference talk, “Refuge from the Storm” By Elder Patrick Kearon in the April 2016 conference. Around that time President Linda K. Burton talked about, “I was a Stranger” with the same theme of helping refugees.
Since then I have only seen a small number of references on this topic such as the address in the last conference by Elder John C. Pingree Jr. titled “I Have a Work for Thee.” But reading this I get more of an emphasis on giving service as part of missionary work. More of “give the service in hopes they will join the church.” I have not seen any efforts by any member to assist in the refugee crisis.
I have seen a fellow member that I have seen bend over backwards to help other people in a very Christ-like manner tell their kids when seeing a homeless person, “Don’t give them any money. They made the choices that led them to be where they are.” This is a person that had to rely on welfare for a while between jobs. This bothered me for quite a while as I know this person is so good, but they clearly looked down on the poor and homeless. I came to think that some of this was the logical corollary of the property gospel. If living right and being righteous brings on prosperity, then not living right and being unrighteous brings on the opposite of prosperity.
It seems to me that the “caring for the poor and needy” mandate is in need of care!
- In your experience is this new mission of the church is the less emphasized of the missions of the church?
- If so, why? Is just that it is new and this will change over time? Is it just that members are SO busy with everything else that they just can’t get around to doing anything more?