Members of the Randburg ward in Johannesburg, South Africa, welcomed the Honourable Minister Lindiwe Zulu to their congregational worship on Sunday 25 April.
South Africa’s Minister of Social Development was joined by several senior members of the department, as well as leaders from the provincial department of Social Development. After enjoying sacrament meeting at the chapel, the group travelled to the Africa South Area offices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Parktown, Johannesburg.
There they met with Elder S. Mark Palmer, the Area President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his wife Jaqueline and local church leaders including Area Seventy Elder Glenn Holmes and Area Organizational Advisor, Sister Tshidi Chokoe.
The purpose of the visit was for the government officials to learn more about the programmes of the Church, strengthen relations and explore ways the Church and the Department of Social Development could further partner together to achieve common interests.
The Church has had long-standing partnerships with various provincial and national government departments in South Africa through its humanitarian programs.
After the Church service, Minister Zulu said that she had been impressed by the commitment of the members. “I could see, and I could hear, and I could feel from the way that they were speaking that they speak from deep conviction, they speak from deep commitment – not only towards themselves as individuals, but contributing also towards the words of Jesus Christ, and contributing towards creating a better world,” she said.
Partners in sustainability
As the group met afterwards, Elder Palmer explained the Church principle of fast offering -- which helps to fund humanitarian efforts in the Church -- and self-reliance, which helps to lift members of the community to become self-sufficient and contributing members of society.
“All across the world, on the first Sunday of the month, members go without food for two meals, and they donate – at a minimum – what they would’ve spent on those meals. The formal humanitarian program of the Church started in 1984 with the drought up in Ethiopia. They called a world-wide fast and they raised $6 million, which they donated. And that was the beginning of what we know as Latter-day Saint Charities, which is our humanitarian outreach,” said Elder Palmer.
“We give irrespective of religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation. Irrespective of any classification, we seek to give.”
Elder Palmer said that the Church complements its charity and welfare work by teaching principles of self-reliance wherever possible. “We don’t feel we’re helping if we do something that’s not sustainable,” he said.
The Minister and her colleagues toured the Church offices and were introduced to the self-reliance, family history programs, as well as family-centred programs such as Family Home Evening.
“It was really exciting for me to see the programmes that the Church has in empowering people,” Minister Zulu told the group meeting afterwards.
Minister Zulu said that the notion of self-reliance is central to the aims of the Department. “The Department of Social Development is … about creating a conducive environment for people to take care of themselves,” she said.
“What the Church does, is what we believe in, and what we do, is what the Church believes in.”
‘It’s time that we held our hands together and made the change’
The Church’s focus on family could help foster social transformation, said the Minister. Whilst many households no longer consist of a traditional family set up of mother, father and children, the family unit itself continues to play a vital role in society, she said.
“It is through the Church that we can have programs that speak to behavioural change. That unit of family … that’s the base from where humanity and humankind continues to thrive,” said the Minister.
“Having seen what I’ve seen today …. it changes entirely my very own outlook towards possibly what we can do together. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] is creating a situation where we can work together to empower our people.
“It is time that we held our hands together and made the change.”