Publicizing Good Works

While visiting Church headquarters in Salt Lake City a few months ago, a group of journalists from Haiti offered an interesting suggestion: They asked the Church to do a better job of publicizing its humanitarian efforts. Haiti is just one country among many to which the Church has given significant aid. Publicizing that aid, these journalists explained, helps raise awareness of the plight many in that country find themselves in and also inspires others to donate to worthwhile causes.

Few stories are more uplifting than those dealing with humanitarian efforts that better the lives of others. Most are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan and are touched by his selflessness and kindness; it has no doubt moved millions to offer Christian service. The Church often wrestles over the issue of when humanitarian efforts should be publicized and when they should not.

Two New Testament scriptures seem to be somewhat in conflict regarding the issue. In the Beatitudes, Jesus taught that we should do our “alms … in secret.” Yet in another Bible scripture, Jesus tells his followers to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” 

Faced with the dilemma between publicizing the good works and results of its worldwide humanitarian efforts on the one hand and appearing self-promotional on the other, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attempts to find a balance and walk that fine line.

While the many humanitarian workers around the world go about their business humbly and modestly, they inescapably attract media attention. Though this is not the intention of the efforts, it raises the awareness of people across the globe to real problems facing God’s children.

If publicity contributes to this result, then that is an unqualified good thing. Nevertheless, drawing media attention to these efforts for its own sake is not the intention and works against the spirit of the effort itself. Therefore, the Church lets media attention come as a natural byproduct of the efforts themselves and does not try to force this awareness as some kind of missionary push or as an effort to seek public validation.

This humanitarian aid is supported by generous donations from individuals, corporations and foundations, many of which are associated with the Church, but not necessarily so. Thus, in the interest of showing how these donations are put to use, the Church sometimes considers it appropriate to provide a full picture of the progress and success of its various humanitarian projects. Furthermore, publicizing the logistics of emergency response projects that provide help during high-profile national and local emergencies allows people to respond to imminent crises, puts them in a better position to help those around them and motivates others to prepare for future disasters.

Publicizing of these efforts helps create a culture and environment that place value on Christian service. It also fosters valuable partnerships between the Church and various other humanitarian organizations that have a mutual interest in sharing best practices, methods and strategies.

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