2008: Dual Roles for Churches: Saving Spiritually and Temporally / Michael Otterson

This post is the text of a post on Newsweek Magazine’s On Faith website by recently-appointed new head of LDS Public Affairs, Michael Otterson, who is a convert to the Church.

See the original at this link.

Thanks very much,

Steve St.Clair
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Dual Roles for Churches: Saving Spiritually and Temporally

Churches are expected to help people get through difficulties. It’s what churches do, although I suspect that the public is only dimly aware of the countless and sometimes extensive aid programs run by religious faith groups.

One of the things that struck me most as a convert to the Mormon faith more than 40 years ago was the way in which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints emphasized spirituality on the one hand, with remarkably pragmatic attention to temporal needs on the other. In fact, I found something of an axiom in the idea that a religion that couldn’t save people temporally had no claim to do so spiritually.

I discovered among the Latter-day Saints a church not just engaged in preparing its people for the next world, but one which instilled in its members in tangible ways the need for provident living in the present – the need for self-reliance, for education and career development, and for charitable service to the needy when we have the means.

The more deeply I looked, the more remarkable the whole intricate system seemed. Resource materials on home finances. Detailed instructions on storing food for unforeseen emergencies. Welfare farms and canneries. Employment centers and thrift stores. Storehouses that resembled supermarkets but without cash registers, because the goods on the well-stocked shelves could only be given away, not sold.

What role does my faith play? It teaches principles of self-reliance. It values hard work. It encourages individuals to look to their own resources first, then to those of their family, and then the Church. It urges its members to avoid debt and live within their means. And for those who fall on hard times, it provides a support network and practical help while emphasizing the dignity of work and preserving the individual’s self-respect. For those fortunate enough to avoid such crises, it offers opportunities for unconditional service.

Last year alone, the Church placed nearly 90,000 North Americans in jobs or training programs, and helped another 137,000 in international areas. All of this is done without government subsidies. For anyone interested in the extent of these programs and how they help support not only Mormons but also people of other persuasions, a few minutes browsing these links will be worthwhile.

Family Finances
Family Home Storage
Employment
Welfare statistics 2007

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