Having read this blog post recently (No Poor Among “Them”) from a former Mormon Bishop about how the Church treats the poor, I thought I would share this:
Letter written by myself as Bishop of Helston Ward to the Stake President expressing my ethical & doctrinal concerns about the introduction of the Helping Hands programme in 2007
My concerns: Are our motives pure?
Bruce C Hafen made the excellent point that:
“It is possible to do good works without love, but impossible to love without doing good works.”
I believe charitable works need to be done in the spirit of real love, not of wanting to gain acceptance or recognition. If carried out with the express purpose “to be seen of men,” then the goodness involved in the good works is tainted by these desires.
If charitable endeavors are done for the wrong reasons, then it is counterfeit love we are showing. In truth it cannot qualify as real charity at all, it’s a different sort of act altogether and worst of all, other people will identify it as such and our efforts to win acceptance and recognition will backfire, and at the least be in vain, or at worst give us a reputation for trying to gain favour and doing good things for the wrong reason i.e. “To be seen of men”.
By doing charitable works “to be seen or men” we will warp our perception of the world. When our actions are counterfeit, when we think we are doing our best, we are not. It is a form of self deception.
Not only will the public perception of the Church be that we only do humanitarian service for Public Relations reasons, but our own members will also realise that service for its own sake is not good enough unless it’s publicised.
I believe other people will not be taken in by our self-deceived, counterfeit actions. Sadly, I think we will gain acceptance and recognition for all the wrong reasons, and other people will rightly be suspicious of us. I believe they will interpret our actions in the wrong light and will say “The Mormons do charitable work for publicity!” And we can’t deny it, because it is the truth.
There is also a very real risk here of teaching our members, especially our very impressionable youth and Primary children the wrong message. Of teaching them that “to appear to be doing good is more important than actually doing good”. That, recognition for our actions is more valued than the actions themselves. We have always been taught by our Church leaders to carry out acts of charity in secret. We have continually been taught to do anonymous acts of kindness and “let not our left hand know what our right hand doeth.” This would seem to be right and good because firstly, the saviour himself taught this principle, and secondly it keeps our motives pure by not giving us recognition for the act from others.
(“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verity I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shalt reward thee openly.” ~ Matt 6: 1-4).
There is risk of devaluing the words ‘good’ and ‘kind’ by making them describe behaviour that merely appears to be good.
Shoud we not rather be encouraging genuine acts of kindness from our members!? Where, with hearts filled
with love, they receive promptings of the spirit to treat others considerately and to show their love by numerous acts of generosity, following the saviour’s example and not wanting, in fact even trying to avoid, recognition or praise for the good acts carried out on another’s behalf.
I have friends and relatives who are not members of the Church who would be appalled to think that the main reason we are organising ‘Helping Hands’ is to “Bring the church out of obscurity!” rather than to do good works out of pure love.
It is no use anyone now trying to say difrerently. I tried to rationalize away my bad feelings about this programme by saying to myself “maybe they have got the emphasis wrong and actually the main purpose is to do good works,” but I couldn’t get away from the fact that it is being led and organised by the Public Afrairs Councils in the Wards and Stake, and the main objective to “Bring the Church out of obscurity” was stressed again and again.
The other thing I am concerned about is the fact that we are not supporting ‘Make A Difference Day’ when we were the main single contributors of the event in the UK. What sort of publicity does this give us? Have the implications of this programme been fully thought through?
Outcome: As a result of my thoughts expressed in this letter I got agreement from my Stake President that members of my Ward could be exempt from wearing the Hi-Visibility Helping Hands tabards. We continued to offer service in the local community in the discreet way we had done for many years. In fact, a short while after this discussion with my Stake President, a local civic leader, who was totally oblivious to my concerns about the high profile Helping Hands programme of the Church, commented to our High Priest Group Leader that he respected our Church members for the way they gave service without thinking of recognition or reward.
I wrote another blog post on this in more detail 18 months ago: