Mormon Helping Hands Program Completes First Decade of Service

Service rendered by members of the Church around the world comes in many forms, but over the past 10 years that service has usually come in one color: yellow.

Whether rendering emergency aid after a natural disaster or cleaning up the local park, the Mormon Helping Hands program, with its bright yellow tabards or T-shirts, has become a welcome sign of hope for those in need during the past decade.

Mormon Helping Hands is a priesthood-directed Church program that, teamed up with the welfare program of the Church, contributes to relief efforts and facilitates other service projects around the world.

In the Beginning

Officially established in 1998, the Mormon Helping Hands program was created as a way for Church members in South America to reach out and serve their communities. Starting in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile, Church leaders designated an annual day of service for members to give of their time and efforts in a prepared service project.

During this first official organized effort, tens of thousands of Church members of all ages in South America collaborated to participate in a multinational service project. In an effort to strengthen and beautify their communities, members spent time repairing and painting schools and hospitals and cleaning parks, streets, and other public spaces.

Not long after the first service day, the idea spread to Brazil, where service continued and the program began to grow. By 2002 the organization had been named one of the most important volunteer organizations in Brazil because of the good it brought to the people.

Today, millions of hours of service have been donated by hundreds of thousands of volunteers in all areas of the world. What began as a multinational service project in a few countries of South America turned into a worldwide relief effort for people in need. The program currently operates in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and the Pacific.

Providing Relief

After Hurricane Ike stormed through the southern United States in 2008, work crews were organized to help with cleanup. Members in southeast Texas joined together to clean up debris left in yards and to distribute hygiene kits, cleaning kits, and food boxes in areas devastated by the storm. Local bishops’ storehouses stocked with food, water, tools, and other necessary supplies provided resources for those in need.

When flooding killed some 20 people in the midwestern United States and left thousands homeless in 2008, Church members and missionaries donned yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts and helped with sandbagging and other relief efforts. The Cedar Rapids Iowa Stake set up a relief warehouse filled with the wheelbarrows, shovels, and work clothes the Church sent. As part of the area most heavily affected by the flooding, the stake also received funds to purchase power washers and generators. The community accepted the relief efforts with gratitude.

Improving Communities

While disasters provide opportunities to serve, no disaster is necessary to involve members in reaching out to their communities. Working to improve communities gives Church members the opportunity to give their time and talents to bless others in need and to show that their community is important to them.

In November 2007 more than 100,000 members in Africa participated in a continent-wide service project cleaning up communities. Their efforts included cleaning and landscaping the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa; planting more than 50 trees in Olivenhoutbosch, South Africa; filling potholes and clearing glass and rubble along roads in Kitale, Kenya; and repairing playground equipment.

At the conclusion of the project, Nikki Bishop, CEO of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, commented that “the difference this is going to make to the children, parents, staff, and visitors will be enormous. We are deeply grateful. The project has gone tremendously well, transforming the hospital. I am delighted and thrilled.”

Strengthening Members

One of the important principles taught by Jesus Christ and lived by His followers is that of service: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

Not only do Mormon Helping Hands projects accomplish much good for those in need by making use of the time and talents of members, but they also bless those rendering the service. They help members become more sensitive to the challenges others face. As members follow the example of the Savior, their testimonies are strengthened, and by serving together, members become more united.

“First of all, it helps us internally,” said Mike Martin, then president of the Pretoria South Africa Stake, after the 2007 All-Africa Helping Hands Day. “We are better able to bond with each other, and it develops unity; but really it is great just to be out there in the community, see some of the issues that people face, and try in a small way to make a little bit of a difference.”

Building Bridges

In partnership with government leaders, education officials, and private businesses, some 50,000 Church members and friends worked together in April 2005 to improve the conditions of 200 schools in São Paulo, Brazil. Painting doors, cleaning classrooms, and repairing desks were some of the ways volunteers served in the schools.

Such service events bring many different groups of people together; these people improve the areas and form friendships. Relationships developed while giving service can build bridges of understanding and strengthen relationships with officials and the community.

Mormon Helping Hands projects are not meant to be proselytizing activities. Rather they are meant to be opportunities to promote Christian service that might not otherwise occur.

In September 2006 members in the Bristol England Stake worked within their community to improve a struggling community farm. In one day members were able to work on a wheelchair access path; paint; dig; clean; and build educational toys, bird boxes, and feeders for the farm. More than 2,500 hours of service were given, and the improvement was noticeable. The local mayor visited the farm, expressed his gratitude, and said how impressed he was with what had been accomplished.

Through the Mormon Helping Hands organization, Church members worldwide have rendered service, improved communities, and formed friendships. The service projects have not only touched lives but also have deepened the faith of those involved and built bridges in communities and organizations.

Mormon Helping Hands volunteers in Louisiana, USA, help clear debris following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Photograph by Craig Dimond

Young women in Hong Kong assemble hygiene kits for those in need.

Photograph by Normon Burningham

Elder David A. Bednar Visits Cebu Saints

Latter-day Saints from the five stakes in Cebu were delighted in August 2008 when Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, together with his wife, Susan Bednar, visited the Philippines. From August 15 to 17, 2008, Elder and Sister Bednar spoke to and visited with the Saints and missionaries during several meetings in Cebu. Elder Bednar also presided over the Cebu Philippines Central Stake conference.

Young Single Adults

At a multistake young single adult meeting, Elder Bednar emphasized the importance of meaningful prayer and personal revelation. “Pray in faith. This requires effort, commitment, and persistence. Faith in Christ leads to righteous action. We press forward after praying in faith by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father.”

He also taught the Saints, “Revelation is real and available to every member of the Church who has been baptized, confirmed, and admonished to receive the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, described in the scriptures as a still, small voice, usually communicates with us in ways that are quiet and subtle. Taking the Holy Spirit for our guide is essential for our spiritual growth and survival in an increasingly wicked world.”


Elder Bednar taught members about the temple during the Cebu Central Stake Saturday evening session of conference. “There soon will be a temple closer and more easily accessible for you,” he said. “Look with anticipation for the blessings that will come to your families as you make and keep sacred temple covenants. Prepare earnestly for and take advantage of every opportunity to attend the temple.”

Elder Bednar explained that the adversary relentlessly attempts to destroy families and to deter members from attending the temple. Elder Bednar counseled, “Pattern your homes after the temple—make each one a house of learning, a house of prayer, a house of order” (see D&C 109:8).

Homes should be places of learning—a place where inspired questions are answered with the assistance of the Spirit, where the gospel of Jesus Christ is learned and obeyed. “Our homes can be a spiritual refuge when patterned after the temple,” added Elder Bednar.


In a meeting expressly for the youth, Elder Bednar invited them to properly prepare for missionary service with the help of the Lord. “Study the scriptures daily and be obedient to all of God’s commandments. When you live the gospel, you can help encourage others to do the same,” he said.

“The gospel provides answers to why we are here and where we are going, which strengthens us and helps us obey the commandments,” he explained. “When you know and fully understand that you are a child of God, you will not violate the law of chastity and other commandments. … When we choose to do wrong, we have forgotten who we really are. As you come to understand that you are a chosen son or daughter of God, obedience will naturally follow.”

“Do not underestimate the spiritual capacity of the youth to understand and live the gospel. They have spiritual depth, yearnings, and desires,” Elder Bednar told the parents and leaders present as the devotional concluded.

Elder David A. Bednar greets members in Cebu, Philippines.

Photograph by Randy Tan

Web Extends Distribution Services’ Reach

For many members of the Church who need essential Church materials and supplies, such as pictures, temple clothing, scriptures, or other distribution items, getting to a distribution center can be costly and time consuming, even with many such centers around the world.

“We still have many, many members of the Church who are hours away [from a center] who can have products right at their fingertips—shipped directly to their door so they don’t have to travel to a distribution center,” said Jim Christensen, manager of product development for Church Distribution Services.

Distribution Services uses the Internet to expand the shopping options available to many members of the Church, though language, currency, and location do prevent some from using the online services. Country Web sites have been created to serve specific areas throughout the world.

Included in those areas is a site based in Argentina, a site based in Australia, and a site for members in the United States and Canada. A Web site hosted in Germany and designed to serve most of Europe is currently being developed. Other sites are planned for future development.

Members can access all of the sites by going to and clicking on Country Sites at the top of the page.

The materials offered online are available for the same price as at distribution centers. Items ordered from the U.S. Web site and shipped to addresses in the U.S. and Canada are sent without shipping fees.

Materials ordered from country distribution sites are shipped from local distribution centers when possible to avoid international shipping fees and import and export duties that members would have to pay.

The site often gives purchasers more options than a distribution center. “There is a greater selection,” said Steve Argyle, presentations coordinator for Distribution Services. “At local distribution centers there are often space restrictions. Online you can get everything that we offer.”

From Clothing to Curriculum

The Web site allows buyers to purchase items or leads them to where they can find more information on what they are looking for.

The Web site has a section entitled “New Items,” which identifies products recently made available, such as pictures of newly dedicated temples, current issues of the Church magazines, and other new products.

Curriculum items are currently available through the Web site in English, Spanish, and French. Gospel study materials, manuals, catalogs, and other resources are available to benefit homes, wards, and branches. Church units can order curriculum material for all auxiliaries for the year from the site, along with specific materials catering to the needs of members in their units with limited sight or hearing or other disabilities.

Information regarding family history work, including supplies for family history centers, census information, hints on how to begin, and other useful resources are available to help those who would like to get started in family history work. Software downloads are also available through Distribution Services.

For artwork seen in the Church Materials Catalog, visitors to the Web site can search by title or by artist, making prints more readily available to members around the world.

Finding the Right Way

Brother Argyle said that Distribution Services makes materials available to members in a variety of ways, including telephone, fax, and mail orders. The Web sites are one more way to achieve that goal. “The Web site is just one part of a plan that makes Church materials accessible to all Church members,” he said. makes Church materials available to members worldwide.

Training Meetings Available Online

The First Presidency has announced that no Worldwide Leadership Training broadcast will be held in 2009. A letter to priesthood leaders suggests that leaders review previous broadcasts and use them for continuing instruction according to unit needs.

Proceedings of broadcasts from 2006, 2007, and 2008 are available online in many languages. The meetings were broadcast over the Church satellite system and are available in a variety of formats. Meetings prior to 2006 were distributed in booklet form.

The 2008 training session, titled Building Up a Righteous Posterity, is available in text, audio, or video format in 12 languages and in audio formats in 61 languages. The broadcast included messages from President Thomas S. Monson; President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and a roundtable discussion with Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Holland; Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president; Susan W. Tanner, then Young Women general president; and Cheryl C. Lant, Primary general president. The broadcast originally aired on February 9, 2008.

The 2007 training session, titled Teaching and Learning, is available in text in 22 languages, in audio in 10 of those languages, and as video in American Sign Language, English, and Spanish. Included in the training were messages from President Thomas S. Monson, President Boyd K. Packer, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. The meeting was held on February 10, 2007.

The 2006 training session, titled Supporting the Family, is available in text in 38 languages, in audio in 10 of those languages, and as video in American Sign Language, English, and Spanish. The broadcast featured President Thomas S. Monson, Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Bonnie D. Parkin, then general president of the Relief Society.

To access the online material at, go to Gospel Library and click on Worldwide Leadership Training.

Proceeds of the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting for 2006, 2007, and 2008 are available online in many languages.

Temple News

Mexico City Temple Rededicated

President Thomas S. Monson formally rededicated the Mexico City Mexico Temple on November 16, 2008, after 19 months of renovation. President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, also attended the rededication.

After functioning without interruption for 25 years, the temple closed its doors on March 31, 2007, for remodeling. In October the temple opened for a public open house. Guided tours were offered from October 20 through November 8, 2008, excluding Sundays. Latter-day Saints from the region then attended two dedicatory sessions.

The temple serves approximately 264,000 members of the Church who live in Mexico City and the states of Mexico, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Morelos, Baja California Sur, Michoacán, Hidalgo, Puebla, Querétaro, and San Luis Potosí.

The Mexico City Temple was the first of 12 temples constructed in Mexico and was originally dedicated on December 2, 1983.

The history of the Church in Mexico City traces back to 1875, when President Brigham Young sent Daniel Jones along with a small group of missionaries to Mexico City, where they distributed brochures to several Mexican leaders. One of these brochures fell into the hands of Plotino Rhodacanaty, who later became the first member of the Church in Mexico. In November 1879 the Church’s first branch in Mexico City was organized with Brother Rhodacanaty as branch president.

Currently, the Church has 212 stakes and approximately 1,120,000 members throughout the country.

Mexico City Mexico Temple

Laie Hawaii Temple Closes for Renovations

To return the temple to its original beauty and bring it up to date with current temple standards, the Laie Hawaii Temple closed on December 29, 2008, for renovations. The renovation is expected to be finished in approximately 18 months, and the temple will be rededicated after the project is complete.

Members in the Laie Hawaii Temple district will have access to the Kona Hawaii Temple. The Laie Hawaii Temple was first dedicated by President Heber J. Grant in 1919 and was later rededicated after renovation and expansion in 1978.

Laie Hawaii Temple

London Temple Celebrates 50 Years

More than 500 members met on Sunday, September 7, 2008, in a special devotional to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the London England Temple by President David O. McKay (1873–1970).

Elder Patrick Kearon, Area Seventy, presided over the meeting. Seven previous temple presidents were also in attendance.

Graham Dunn, current temple recorder and second counselor in the Crawley England Stake presidency, quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith: “It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given” (D&C 128:9).

Current temple president Michael Fagg noted the impact the temple has on the community and testified that “the temple truly is the house of the Lord, and He’s invited us to join Him there.”

The fireside was attended by the leaders of both the West Sussex and East Sussex County councils, along with Lord and Lady Teviot, who are both highly involved in family history work. Lady Teviot serves as president of the Federation of Family History Societies.

A special display was set up in the foyer of the meetinghouse showing archive photographs of the building and dedication of the temple. The photographs were also published in a program given to everyone who attended.

London England Temple

World Briefs

Church Museum Gets Name Change

To align itself with other Church entities, including the new Church History Library now under construction, the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City is now the Church History Museum. The museum showcases the Mormon experience, with permanent galleries as well as temporary exhibits on specific themes. There are guided as well as self-guided tours. The museum is open Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.

British Genealogist Lectures in Salt Lake City

Distinguished British genealogist Colin R. Chapman lectured at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in October 2008 on the topics “Was Your Ancestor Really Married?” and “Genealogy in Early British Censuses, 1086 to 1841.” Mr. Chapman helped establish six British county genealogical societies and is the author of 14 books on family history. He was involved in developing the three-letter Chapman County Code, which has become the international standard in family history work.

Family History Consultants Supported Online

To help support family history consultants, the Family History Department is developing new online tools and services. Access to up-to-date training and new systems, services, and products are some of the resources available. Information, updates, and helpful hints will be e-mailed periodically to registered participants. Consultants can register at with their unit number and Church membership number.

Additional Sharing Time Ideas, March 2009

The following are additional ideas Primary leaders may use with the Sharing Time printed in the March 2009 Liahona. For the lesson, instructions, and activity that correspond with these ideas, see “Mine House Is a House of Order,” on pages F4 and F5 of the children’s section in this issue.

  1. 1.

    Show pictures that represent different responsibilities of a father (teaching his children in family home evening, serving in the Church, providing for his family, spending recreational time with family members, working on a home improvement project, and so on). To show that fathers have many responsibilities, have children identify what the father is doing in each picture. Teach and discuss the responsibilities of a father found in paragraph 7 of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49). Sing the second verse of “The Family Is of God” (Liahona, Oct. 2008, F12–F13).

    Have children role-play while you tell the story of Nephi, emphasizing the influence and role of his father, Lehi (see 1 Nephi 1; 2). Beforehand, make name tags for the children to wear that represent characters in the account. Involve as many children as possible. Bear testimony that one of the most important responsibilities a father has is to lead his family. Encourage the children to write a note expressing their love for their father and to give it to him.

  2. 2.

    Have several older children come to Primary prepared to sing a song or hymn about mothers or about families. Every time they come to the word mother, have the pianist pause so the children who are singing can whisper “mother” into a different child’s ear. At the end of the song, have those children whisper it to the children on both sides of them. Ask the children to raise their hands if they know what sharing time is about. Teach the responsibilities of a mother as found in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” paragraph 7. Help the children understand that nurture means “to help grow and develop.” Beforehand, write on pieces of paper some things a mother does to nurture her family. Put the papers in a container. (Examples: listening, making dinner, rocking a baby, giving a hug, reading to a child, and so on.) Have children take turns choosing a paper and pantomiming the action while the others guess what it is. Sing the third verse of “The Family Is of God” (Liahona, Oct. 2008, F12–F13). Bear testimony of the influence of mothers.

  3. 3.

    Play the following guessing game. Make labels that say “grandfather,” “grandmother,” “uncle,” “aunt,” and “cousin.” Choose an older child to wear a label on his or her back. Show the label to the Primary, except for that child. Tell the child that the label represents a member of a family. Have the children give the child clues to guess which label he or she is wearing. (Examples: I live in your grandmother’s house. Or, I am your grandmother’s son. Or, I am your mother’s brother.) Repeat for each label.

    Teach that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are all part of our family and that Heavenly Father planned for us to support and help each other. Invite the children to think of times when an extended family member helped or supported their families. Ask the children to think of an extended family member they could help in some way. Help them make a sack puppet to represent this person (see “Puppets,” Teaching, No Greater Call [1999], 176–77). Have the children sing a song or hymn about families using their puppets. Ask a few children to show their puppets and tell what they can do to help that person. Have the children take their puppets home as a reminder to discuss with their parents what they felt they could do to help a family member.