proclaiming the gospel and human security
This is the second article in the ‘human dignity series’, where we compare the human dignity triangle with the three-fold mission of the LDS church to invite all to come unto Christ. Proclaiming the Gospel is normally understood as being addressed by the Church’s missionary efforts across the world. We discuss here an expanded concept of proclaiming the gospel, that includes the missionary imperative to respond to human security needs. Human security normally implies food security, personal security, a stable and secure environment, including access to health, water, clothes and shelter.
Joseph B. Wirthlin in the Ensign article Inspired Church Welfare (May 1999) explains that “It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints that a religion which has not the power to save people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here, cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, to exalt them in the life to come”. In Wirthlin’s mind, ‘the temporal and the spiritual are linked inseparably. As we give of our time, talents, and resources to tend the needs of the sick, offer food to the hungry, and teach the dependent to stand on their own, we enrich ourselves spiritually beyond our ability to comprehend’.
LDS humanitarian services
Thus the Church’s ability to save people temporally, meaning physically and financially, predicates our ability to save people spiritually. As we proclaim the gospel in a world suffering from the inequalities of man, there needs to be a link first and foremost between what we teach and the assistance we provide. The Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin speaks of the LDS church’s humanitarian effort and explains that, ‘the Church does not limit its relief efforts to its members, but follows the admonition of the Prophet Joseph Smith, when he said, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race”. He instructed members ‘to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted.”
Wirthlin then gives an overview of the Church’s humanitarian efforts summing the work done in the 1990s. “In a little over a decade, the Church has shipped more than 27,000 tons of clothing, 16,000 tons of food, and 3,000 tons of medical and educational supplies and equipment to relieve the suffering of millions of God’s children in 146 countries in many parts of the world. We do not ask, “Are you members of our church?”, We ask only “Do you suffer?”
the missionary imperative of responding to human security needs
We have seen how the Church has had to remove missionaries from countries that have degenerated into violent conflicts, and that proclaiming the Gospel is therefore dependent on peaceful, or at least on a stable and secure environment, both for our missionaries and for the people to whom we preach. To respond to the demands of human security, what does the church do at the conflict prevention level, both in political terms and at the community level? Still very little. We teach that contention is of the devil, but do we teach that peaceful conflict transformation is of God? Our understanding of conflict and of how the LDS church may contribute to resolving societal disputes needs to be heightened in order for us to continue to preach the Gospel to nations suffering from direct violence: ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore’.