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New Mormon women’s leader preaches the value of interfaith aid in U.N. speech

First Published      Last Updated Apr 14 2017 10:13 am


‘Focus on Faith’ » New Relief Society president talks about pooling forces with other faiths in a joint charity effort.

A mere 12 days after assuming her new role, Jean B. Bingham stepped to the dais Thursday to make her first major speech as head of the LDS Church's worldwide women's organization.

It wasn't just any stage or any audience: It was at a United Nations panel discussion before a global crowd.

Her message to delegates attending the New York event: Interfaith cooperation is key to meeting the humanitarian needs of the planet's most vulnerable and suffering peoples.

"While our beliefs and convictions may vary," said Bingham, who recently became general president of the all-female Relief Society for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "we are united with other faiths in our commitment to a higher cause that transcends our personal interests and motivates us to give of our substance, our time and our energies on behalf of our fellow men and women."




Bingham noted that the Relief Society, which represents Mormonism's 7.1 million women, has a rich 175-year history of assisting in charitable work. Through its LDS Charities organization, the Utah-based faith has helped millions in disaster-stricken regions, as well as refugees from the world's war-torn areas, with food, medicine and other assistance.

"Having said this," Bingham added, "I must emphasize that were LDS Charities left to do this work on our own, our impact would be limited."

She noted that interfaith efforts stretch beyond financial support to enlisting critical "human resources — those remarkable individuals within our organizations whose compassion, skill and devotion combine to reach others on a deeply personal level."

With that in mind, LDS Charities has long joined hands with other religions to help alleviate human suffering. Bingham specifically pointed out for praise the Islamic Relief organization's "Day of Dignity" program aiding the homeless, and the Episcopal Migration Ministries' emphasis on helping immigrants find employment.

"When we reach out to other faith-based organizations," Bingham told the U.N.'s "Focus on Faith" forum, "there is a certain affinity — a shared language, a common motivation — that allows our resources to complement each other."

She added that, "Our common purpose lends power to our work. Governments and U.N. agencies recognize it, and they rely heavily on faith-based organizations to extend the reach of their services."

Bingham's speech — a transcript of which was released by the LDS Church — came on the heels of her return from a UNICEF field visit to Uganda in March. Along with her Relief Society first counselor, Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities, Bingham visited the Bidi Bidi resettlement center, which is serving refugees arriving from South Sudan and other African countries plagued by drought and civil unrest.

"In meeting the newly arriving refugees, I could see the relief wash over them as they exited the crowded buses to find a friendly welcome and a hot meal," Bingham said. "As I observed teachers and children in classrooms and on playgrounds, I felt the sense of order and security that a safe learning space and caring teachers can bring to the lives of displaced children."

During her U.N. address, Bingham harked back to the inaugural meeting of the LDS Relief Society some 175 years ago last month. At the time, Emma Smith, the organization's first president and wife of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, predicted the newly formed women's group would "do something extraordinary."

"And indeed, when you can mobilize 7 million women, each doing what they can according to their own time and resources, there is no limit to what they can achieve," Bingham said. " ... Every faith-based organization echoes that same sentiment. We all desire to accomplish 'something extraordinary' — and, working together, we will."

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