By Sharon Eubank, Director, Latter-day Saint Charities
I had an interesting experience during October general conference of 2021. I was sitting in my chair on the rostrum, but the hall was largely empty because of COVID-19 restrictions. As the conference was concluding and we were getting ready for the closing prayer, I looked up across the hall. Way in the back, at the very back doors, I could see something: it sounds funny, but I thought it looked like angels dressed in white standing behind the last row of chairs. I was puzzled as I bowed my head for the prayer. When I opened my eyes again, I saw that they were not angels but women who were going to be serving the lunch. They were wearing white aprons, and it made them look like angels. They had come into the hall and were standing behind the chairs so they could hear the concluding testimonies of general conference before they went to work.
As I slowly understood what I was seeing, the Spirit spoke to me and said, “You might get to be the face of Latter-day Saint Charities, but there are unseen people all over the world who are making things work.” They are the ushers, they serve the lunch, they park the cars, they program the lights, they use their skills for the translation—all of the thousands of elements that make general conference viable are happening because of an army of unseen people. They will never show up in the Church News and they will not be on TV, but it is the way things work. It is true of general conference, it is true of Latter-day Saint Charities, it is true of the International Society, and it is true of every good organization we belong to. The little bits that we personally are able to contribute are seen by the Lord. He brings it all together in a great flywheel that begins to spin. I am thankful to be a small part of what the Lord is doing on the earth.
So many people in the world want to do good, but they are only one person, and they are opposed by many different forces in their societies. There is a great organizing power of the priesthood of God that brings people together in order. The priesthood establishes order over chaos so that good things can happen exponentially. I love the chance to connect with other well-intentioned people who want to do something good but who don’t have the benefit of an organization, of a system. They’re looking to connect with others, so when there is a disaster and they spy a bunch of people in yellow shirts who are working together, having fun, and cleaning up, they are attracted to that; they want to be part of that.
I have had the happy experience of having people from the local mosque or church come up to a group that is sawing up felled trees after a hurricane and say, “Can we wear those yellow shirts with you? Can we do this work with you?” That’s what this is all about. The Church of Jesus Christ facilitates order and systems that bring people of good hearts together.
I appreciated what Bishop Gérald Caussé said earlier in the [International Society Annual] conference, that every ward is a humanitarian organization. It is a very compelling idea that we have the resources in every small congregation to do something powerful and good in the world. That’s what a quorum is about. It’s what a Relief Society is about. Those are the basic organizations we belong to as adult members of the Church.
My JustServe colleagues were at a conference for the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C., recently. They were describing the JustServe platform and how it connects people from many faiths or organizations to local volunteer opportunities in their own communities. A man listening asked, “Who sponsors this? Who is paying for this?”
And my colleague answered, “Well, it was designed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The man said, “I knew it. Only the Mormons would do this for free.”
I am energized by the themes we have talked about today and the idea that we can each do things voluntarily and for free that will bless the people around us.
Often when I speak at different venues, individuals will come up to me afterward and ask, “What can I do? I love humanitarian work. I love refugees. I love this work. What can I do?” Your personal answer to that question is what I hope you will take with you today.
For myself, having attended the International Society’s conference today, I have determined three aspects of service I want to work on, and I am asking myself three questions: How can this be done more humanely? How can I waste less? Does what I am doing align with my core beliefs? In other words, are the things I feel as a Christian and as a Latter-day Saint being expressed by my actions every day?
I don’t know what your three things are, but I hope you act. I hope something we have heard actually changes our behavior.
When I drove to Provo this morning, I was listening to chapters in Exodus (Exodus 7–13) that are the Come, Follow Me assignment for this week. I couldn’t help but be struck by Moses and what he was trying to do. He is confronting an extractive, power-hungry regime. The Pharaoh of Egypt was bleeding Israelite slave labor dry to build his empire. Moses came before him with the word of God: “Let my people go.” When Pharaoh wouldn’t, Moses used the mighty priesthood to call down plagues. Even then, Pharaoh was still trying to negotiate: “Well, maybe you can leave, but only for one day.” Or “You take the men, but leave the women and children.” Imagine, he’s trying to haggle with the prophet of God because he doesn’t want to give up his power! Well, the Lord doesn’t negotiate.
He told Moses, in essence, “I’m going to make of you a kingdom of priests. I want you to bring my people out of slavery and come to the mount of God where they will make covenants with me and you will be my people.” You all know the story. For various reasons, the Israelites ended up living a lower law.
But today—the “latter days”—is a time Moses also foresaw. When the transfigured Moses appeared in the Kirtland Temple before Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, he restored the keys of the gathering of Israel (see Doctrine and Covenants 110:11–12). The restored gospel of Jesus Christ offers the way. Many here have been to the temples; we have been anointed and clothed. To do what? To help other people escape from spiritual slavery—from the extractive, power-hungry regimes that exist all over this world—and to become a kingdom of priests who will serve God and His children. Nothing energizes me more than this vision, this work.
It is a privilege to be gathered here with you today. There are hundreds of people affiliated with the Latter-day Saint International Society and millions of people around the world who are spiritually dedicated to the themes of inclusion, caring for the earth, and building peace. I thank the International Society for everything you do in furthering the idea that Zion actually can be built in our time and it can be built by imperfect people who have pure hearts. Because we have been talking about Moses, let me conclude my remarks with a few of the lyrics from “Redeemer of Israel” (Hymns, 2002, no. 6):
Redeemer of Israel,
Our only delight,
On whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day
And our pillar by night,
Our King, our Deliv’rer, our all!
. . .
As children of Zion,
Good tidings for us.
The tokens already appear.
Fear not, and be just,
For the kingdom is ours.
The hour of redemption is near.
I pray those words will be the glory of our days and leave these thoughts with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Remarks delivered at the International Society 32nd Annual Conference, held in Provo, Utah, on 4 April 2022, where Eubank received the Distinguished Service Award. As Robert Griffiths, President of the International Society, observed, “In 2020 alone, Sister Eubank oversaw 3,611 projects involving food security, clean water and immunization, maternal and newborn care, refugee assistance, and wheelchairs. In implementing these projects, which over the years have included work in nearly 200 countries and territories, LDS Charities has worked with over 2,000 partner groups.”
Join the International Society to see the full list of Distinguished Service Award recipients, read proceedings from previous conferences, and meet other Kennedy Center alumni and global professionals. To become a member of the International Society, visit international-society.org.