According to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune, the LDS Church will be making a change to the “Threefold Mission of the Church” to better reflect our responsibilities as Christians.
The LDS Church is adding “to care for the poor and needy” to its longstanding “threefold mission,” which is to preach the LDS gospel, purify members’ lives and provide saving ordinances such as baptism to those who have died.
This mission first was coined by late LDS President Spencer W. Kimball in the 1980s and since then has been repeated as a mantra by the church’s more than 13 million members.
The new group of phrases will be described as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ “purposes,” rather than missions, and will be spelled out in the next edition of the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions , due out next year, church spokesman Scott Trotter confirmed this week.
“Caring for the poor and needy,” Trotter said, “has always been a basic tenet of the [LDS] Church.”
Elevating it to one of the faith’s major purposes brings added emphasis.
“This is a dramatic move and very important message,” said Jan Shipps, an Indiana-based American religion historian who has spent decades studying the LDS Church. “It’s not that Mormons haven’t already been caring for the poor and needy with its humanitarian program. It’s just that this moves it to the top of their priorities, along with proselytizing and temple work (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “New LDS emphasis: Care for the needy,” Salt Lake Tribune, 12.10.2009).”
I think this is a fantastic move, and I hope it helps the membership of our faith reconsider the role of being charitable and compassionate in their lives. I hope people consider this an invitation to look beyond the traditional means by which we try to help our brothers and sisters in need, look beyond the tithing/donation forms, the formal charity drives (things like MS drives, March of Dimes, etc). and disaster relief. Our faith and its members has generally done a pretty good job at that sort of thing. But I would like to think of this upcoming change as an invitation to broaden our perspective on caring for the poor. Can we consider how our daily lives and decisions impact those less fortunate around us? Our consumption decisions, our decisions about our business decisions, our employment decisions, all can have an impact on the needy and downtrodden. Can we consider them? So often I hear rather disparaging comments within LDS circles about the desperately poor whom we see around on the streets, outside shopping centers, or in our library. Can we look with more compassion on those we see around us every day who are in desperate circumstances?
This month we celebrate the birth of Him who gave us a priceless and otherwise unobtainable gift, who gave it not in some exchange, but out of pure love for all of us who needed his help. What better way to celebrate than to give to those from whom we cannot expect anything in return?