Perpetual fund to create opportunities

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    By Alex B. Leeman

    The first day of the 171st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ended on a promising note for young men and women of the church in underprivileged countries.

    President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of a Perpetual Education Fund as part of his priesthood session address.

    “There is an old saying that if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; if you teach him how to fish, he will eat for a lifetime,” said President Hinckley, explaining how the fund will help church members break the cycle of poverty.

    President Hinckley began his address expressing his concern with the dire economic state of many young adults in the church.

    “We have many missionaries, both young men and young women, who are called locally and who serve with honor in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Philippines and other places,” President Hinckley said.

    “They become excellent missionaries working side by side with elders and sisters sent from the United States and Canada. Then comes the day of their release … but many of them have great difficulty finding employment because they have no skills. They sink right back into the poverty from which they came,” he said.

    President Hinckley also expressed concern that members with limited abilities are less likely to become leaders in the church and more likely to need welfare help in the future.

    “Where there is widespread poverty among our people, we must do all we can to help them lift themselves, to establish their lives upon a foundation of self-reliance that can come of training. Education is the key to opportunity,” he said.

    The Perpetual Education Fund will assist members in gaining an education that will open doors of opportunity to them in the future.

    Based on the principles of the Perpetual Immigration Fund, which helped thousands of pioneers get to Utah in the late 1800”s, the Perpetual Education Fund will provide educational loans.

    The loans will then be repaid, with minimal interest, once the individual has completed his or her education and is gainfully employed.

    The fund will be administered locally through the Institute program and will be paid directly to schools.

    “This training must be done in the areas where they live,” President Hinckley said. “It will then be suited to the opportunities of those areas.”

    Members seeking financial assistance will meet with the local director of any of the church”s 1,950 Institute programs worldwide, who will accept applications and make recommendations for loans. They will be expected to attend institute classes, and the Institute director will monitor their educational progress.

    President Hinckley emphasized that the Perpetual Education Fund is not a part of the church”s welfare system, but rather a program designed to keep members out of the welfare system.

    Ivan Beutler, a professor in the school of family life at BYU, said the Perpetual Education Fund is not only an answer to the prayers of members in need, but also of member seeking to help.

    Beutler said the brethren have been approached in the past by people who want to help, but don”t know how to do it in a way that would be sure to bless the lives of the members in need.

    Following the principles of consecration and stewardship, Beutler believes the brethren have now devised a system that answers those concerns.

    “It is like an awakening. There is now set in motion a way for a whole group of nations … to have a chance in life,” Beutler said. “It gives them an inheritance. It gives people a way to be independent.”

    “This is a system that would help care for the poor … but care in a way that would help them lift themselves up,” Beutler added, saying that it will enable members to make an honorable living and an honorable contribution to their communities.

    According to Beutler, there isn”t an opportunity in most Third World countries for the poor to get loans, because the banks won”t give them a chance. He believes the Perpetual Education Fund will be a great investment.

    “These people are moral people,” he said. “When you give them an opportunity, they make good on it.”

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