Since its early days, the Mormon church has run highly effective relief societies and special programs to aid the needy within its fold. (See this list’s 1936 and 2001 entries for descriptions of some large-scale efforts that attend to the welfare and educational needs of fellow church members.) In 1985, LDS Charities was set up to methodically offer humanitarian services to people of other religions across the globe.
That year, the church collected a special “fast-offering” (where congregants skip meals and donate what they would have spent on themselves) and earmarked it to help famine victims in Ethiopia. When officials traveled to that country to decide how best to use the $6 million raised, they found staggering need. A second fast-offering of about the same size was collected later in the year, and that led to a gradual institutionalization of overseas humanitarian work.
Today, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may designate their gifts for developing-world aid in a variety of ways. The church covers all administration and overhead so that every penny given to LDS Charities goes to direct services and care. Since 1985, more than a billion and a half dollars have been donated, helping 30 million people in 179 countries without regard to religion or culture. In addition to disaster relief and emergency services, favored projects include long-term initiatives in clean water, food production, immunization, and vision care.
- Background on the founding of LDS Charities, lds.org/church/news/viewpoint-1985-fast-marked-beginning-of-lds-charities?lang=eng
- 2014 Annual Report of LDS Charities ldscharities.org/pages/2014-annual-report?lang=eng