The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has updated its official handbook, calling on members to extend support in their communities to refugees.
“Many people have fled their homes seeking relief from violence, war, religious persecution, and life-threatening situations,” reads the new instruction in the LDS General Handbook, one of the most influential texts in the church.
“As part of their responsibility to care for those in need, Church members offer their time, talents, and friendship to welcome refugees as members of their communities.”
The call to action, made August 4, is supported by two LDS scriptures focused on the importance of taking care of the poor:
The Book of Mormon, which they hold “clarifies Christ’s doctrine and brings the fullness of the gospel,” calls on the faithful to engage in such deeds as “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally….”
Similar appeals to tend to the needs of the poor can be found in the Book of Matthew, which, the church points out, contains some of “the most beloved passages of the Bible.”
The updating of the General Handbook is the latest in a series of efforts by LDS leadership concerning the issue of providing relief to refugees.
In a 2015 letter at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, the church’s highest-ranking body, the First Presidency, urged members to look for local opportunities to assist refugee resettlement.
In 2016, Church leaders spearheaded the campaign “I Was a Stranger—An Effort to Serve and Include.” The drive encourages church members to interact with community organizations that serve refugees.
“The focus has really been on refugees since then,” Laurie Maffly-Kipp, professor of history and religion at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a recent Religion News Service article.
The campaign is directed both at the grassroots level as well as the Church’s Relief Society.
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