LDS Church celebrates its U.N. ties even as some members decry the organization

Faith announces another donation. “Together,” says presiding bishop, “we have been able to help millions in need.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Barron Segar, president and CEO of the World Food Program USA, drums at a celebration event for a self-reliance farmers group warehouse in Totota, Liberia, on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

Even as some Latter-day Saints decry the United Nations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues — even celebrates — its partnership with the global body.

This week, for instance, the Utah-based faith marked its 10-year collaboration with the U.N.’s World Food Program and World Food Program USA by unveiling yet another joint project: funding an emergency response hub in Barbados.

This relationship has allowed the relatively small global faith of 17 million members to bring food, shelter and immunizations to countries across the planet.

“Together, we have been able to help millions in need,” Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé said in a news release. “These efforts reflect our dedication to the two great commandments. We express our love for God by extending our help to his children, regardless of location or background.”

A combined donation of $2 million from the church and $2.3 million from World Food Program USA will allow the U.N. organization and other relief groups to bring speedier aid responses when disasters strike the Caribbean.

“We couldn’t imagine a better way to mark our 10th anniversary with the church than to do what we do best — build on our powerful relationship to help communities in need,” Barron Segar, World Food Program USA president and CEO, said in the release. “We are truly humbled and grateful for the church’s profound generosity and steadfast commitment during the past decade to help us end global hunger. The church’s support has helped transform millions of lives, helping at-risk communities to become self-reliant and build food security against incredible odds.”

In 2021, Caussé, who oversees the church’s vast financial, real estate, investment and charitable operations, sent a video thank-you to UNICEF, another United Nations agency, for its battle against COVID-19 and its long record of service.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Women serve up food for the schoolchildren at Careysburg Elementary School in Careysburg, Liberia, on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.

The faith contributed $32 million, one of its largest-ever humanitarian donations, in 2022 to the World Food Program to fight hunger, especially among mothers and young children, in dozens of countries. And last month it showcased how this collaboration is reducing food insecurity in Liberia, a country still trying to bounce back from a protracted civil war.

Overall, the church reported spending more than $1 billion worldwide in 2022 helping those in need.

Latter-day Saint outreach is intended “to relieve suffering, foster self-reliance and provide opportunities for service,” the release said. “The church follows the admonition of Jesus Christ to feed the hungry and care for those in need.”

Recognizing this well-established partnership and friendship, the World Food Program and World Food Program USA ran a full-page ad in The Salt Lake Tribune’s e-edition Thursday thanking the church and lauding it for its “commitment to eradicating global hunger.”

Still, there are Latter-day Saints, especially among politically conservative members, who see the world body as a force to be feared.

A group that goes by the name “Defending Utah” is sponsoring a lecture Friday in South Jordan titled “Presidential Powers — When Is War Illegal? Can the WHO. [World Health Organization] and U.N. really take us over by treaty?”

In recent weeks, the church’s newly appointed head of its communication department has come under fire from right-leaning members for his past work with the United Nations Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the global organization but is not part of it.

It is unclear how many Latter-day Saints oppose their church’s involvement with the U.N. and other international bodies, but their views are not likely to alter the faith’s associations.

“This relationship between WFP and [the church] comes at a critical time,” this week’s release stated. “Some 333 million people around the world face severe hunger — with 47 million on the brink of famine. Even so, government funding of humanitarian work is declining, forcing WFP to stretch every dollar to help as many people as possible. Without a dedicated support network (which includes the church), WFP could not meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable communities.”