The teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints benefit every nation, race, and culture. View excerpts from the message President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, gave at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on May 26, 2011.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a global church, teaching principles and doctrines that have power to benefit and uplift people of every nation, race, and culture. That was the message President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, delivered to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
Church membership now exceeds 14 million. Since 1997, the majority of members live outside the United States. They live in 184 countries and speak approximately 170 languages.
“Since the days of Joseph Smith,” President Uchtdorf said, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has connected men and women around the world with their Heavenly Father and with His Son, our Redeemer, in a profound and spiritual way.” President Uchtdorf spoke to the council in Los Angeles, California, on May 26, 2011.
A Global Church
President Uchtdorf said all men, women, and children in the Church are encouraged to live honorable and charitable lives as they draw near to God. They are also expected to contribute to the growth of the Church. He said a new chapel is completed about every other weekday to provide worship places for an ever-growing membership.
Noting that part of the mission of the Church is to bless Heavenly Father’s children, to improve the lives of our fellow men, and to teach them to become self-reliant, he discussed how the growth of the Church’s welfare and humanitarian aid programs, as well as the Perpetual Education Fund, has paralleled the growth of the Church.
“It is important to recognize that the growth of the Church is not merely about numbers,” he said. “Our mission is to bring souls unto Christ. … Divine leadership principles are based on the commandment that ye love one another, and that is irrespective of religion. By reemphasizing this commandment, the Savior has made feeding His sheep one of our ongoing responsibilities, which cannot be dismissed.”
Building Righteous Societies
President Uchtdorf emphasized that the Church is committed to helping people throughout the world, regardless of cultural, geographical, or ideological boundaries.
Referencing the 13th article of faith, he said, “This basic declaration is part of our theology and describes the principles and ethics of our desired behavior. We are far away from being perfect. We know this. But our goals are high, our aims are high, our ideals are high. If such values would be adopted by all men, courtesy would overcome cursing, dignity would replace disgust, hate would diminish, love and respect for one another would increase across geographic and ideological boundaries.”
As people strive to adopt these values in their lives, they are exercising their moral agency, which President Uchtdorf defined as not only acting for oneself but also being accountable for those actions. Further, he explained that this accountability to oneself and to society starts in the home.
“We emphasize the importance of families and declare that no other success can compensate for failure in the home. We believe that happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “While love for family is certainly not unique to Latter-day Saints, … our conviction that families can be together forever has a doctrinal foundation that is unique to the restored Church. Through restored priesthood authority we unite families together not only for this mortality but throughout eternity.”
Helping Improve Lives
One hundred percent of the donations given to the Church humanitarian service fund goes toward relief efforts. This enables the Church to be prepared to help members and others in the event of a disaster.
“The Church does not wait for a disaster to strike before it mobilizes pallets of clothing, blankets, food, medicine, bandages, cleaning kits, shovels, and tarps, which are always being prepared for the next earthquake, flood, famine, or fire,” President Uchtdorf said. “Over the last 25 years the Church has responded to almost two thousand emergencies worldwide.”
He also explained that the Church has learned that humanitarian efforts are most effective when they are focused on long-term goals. The humanitarian effort now has core projects—aside from emergency response—to assist in eye care; to provide wheelchairs, clean water, and immunizations; and to train medical professionals to save the lives of newborns.
“As the Church goes about relieving suffering and helping those in need,” President Uchtdorf continued, “it attempts to leave the people in a better position to help themselves so that they are less dependent on others.”
President Uchtdorf expressed a great need for local leadership and greater effort to help others in this welfare work as the Church expands throughout the world.
“The Church of Jesus Christ will continue to focus on strengthening families, building righteous societies, and helping our brothers and sisters improve their lives—the world over—regardless of culture, language, or religious beliefs. I believe that these are worthy and righteous goals. We invite all to be part of these efforts. And there are many ways to be part of that. Many of you are exemplary bridge builders. You have created bonds between many nations, cultures, and religions. The world needs builders—especially bridge builders—not destroyers.”
Through local leadership, and because of the miracle that no ministry in the Church is paid, these bridges can continue to be built, President Uchtdorf said. “It takes courage and humility to put away old hatred. And I believe with all my heart it is within our reach to breach barriers of hate and build bridges of brotherhood and understanding between opposing cultures, beliefs, religions, and world views.
“In this time of uncertainty, mistrust, fear, rumors of war, and political road rage, is there still hope for integration and openness across different cultures, different religions, societies, and political interests? Is there still hope for virtue, moderation, and divine moral principles? My dear friends, my answer is clear and a very resounding yes, there is.
“Let’s never forget, God is not merely an abstract concept. … He lives. As we trust in God and listen to His voice, regardless of our faith and our religion, He will help us personally and collectively in these challenging times. There’s hope. There’s a great future ahead of us. It is in our hands to make it happen.”