5 Highlights for “Helping the Poor and Distressed” by Elder Oaks

by | Nov 24, 2022

two hungry children neo impressionist painting

5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions

See also Teaching Helps

I profoundly admire Dallin H. Oaks. He is well-versed in what our most prominent critics have to say, and he addresses those allegations without an ounce of shyness or apprehension. He sacrifices his reputation to uphold core truths and doctrines that pop culture and public opinion reject. The world identifies him as a whipping post, and he presses forward anyway. Ever ready.

Elder Oaks tackles the toughest topics head-on despite fierce winds and holds the Savior’s line. He is willing to be the unpopular one, which substantially blesses us. Nonetheless, today’s topic is a pleasant one!

You can find Elder Oak’s full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit right in with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.

All blue quotes by Dallin H. Oaks (unless otherwise noted).

Possible Quote Sequence

  • .I would do 1, 2, 4, 5, and 3. Please do not expect to cover them all. We’re here to discuss these topics because that is how people learn. Discussion deepens the concepts. It’s better to do just 2 quotes with lots of discussion than 5 quotes with very little discussion.

Quote #1 (900 million)

Have you heard the urban legend about the selfish Latter-day Saint Church? (We’re not humane and public-spirited with all our money.) Businessweek and other “professional” outlets have written articles that speculate the Church’s wealth figures, cash flow, etc., and then proclaim how uncharitable Latter-day Saints are per member. The usual trick? They isolate the monies spent on natural disaster relief (the only figure published before 2021) and turn a blind eye to the accessible evidence of abundant charity administered through various channels.

To cite Businessweek, “$1.3 billion in humanitarian aid in over 178 countries and territories during the 25 years between 1985 and 2010.”

These numbers aren’t based on any official figures from the Church; it was entirely from their poor interpretation of a one-page fact sheet about a particular type of outreach.

Last Conference, Elder Oaks blew apart the false tattlings of our stinginess. (I love Elder Oaks!)

A few months ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported the extent of our humanitarian work worldwide for the first time. Our 2021 expenditures for those in need in 188 countries worldwide totaled $906 million—almost a billion dollars. In addition, our members volunteered over 6 million hours of labor in the same cause.

Those figures are, of course, an incomplete report of our giving and helping. They do not include the personal services our members give individually as they minister to one another in called positions and voluntary member-to-member service. And our 2021 report makes no mention of what our members do individually through innumerable charitable organizations not formally connected with our Church.

Let me also share a heart-warming Pew Center Research headed up by the University of Pennsylvania that also tells a more accurate story about individual Church members:

“If you add all the numbers together, you have about 430 hours [annually for Mormons] — and I’m rounding the number — which amounts to 8.2 hours weekly. If I go to the monthly, which is about 36 hours, compare this to the three to four hours [for the average American]. This is the level of how much members of the Latter-day Saints Church are doing — much more than all other members of American society. If we take the value of the hours volunteering for an average member of the Latter-day Saints, it’s about $9,140 annually. This is a major, major contribution.

“…To conclude, we found a group of people that are most generous in our society. Through their theology of obedience and sacrifice and strong commitment to tithing and service, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints are the most pro-social members in American society. We couldn’t believe the findings. But that’s what we have. Thank you. (Ram Cnaan – March 2012)

Possible discussion questions: How do you feel about your church’s focus on outreach and service? Why is it essential to double-check stories we hear from the news media? Have you ever given service? How do you feel about providing service? Why is it important to give service everywhere, not just through church callings? (We have been given many gifts, insights, and talents, and they are designed to be given on behalf of others.)

Quote #2 (others)

The Church of Jesus Christ is committed to serving those in need, and it is also committed to cooperating with others in that effort. We recently made a large gift to the United Nations World Food Programme. Over the many decades of our humanitarian work, two organizations stand out as key collaborators: projects with the Red Cross and Red Crescent agencies in dozens of countries have provided the children of God crucial relief during natural disasters and conflicts. Likewise, we have a long record of assistance with Catholic Relief Services. These organizations have taught us much about world-class relief.

We have also had fruitful collaborations with other organizations, including Muslim Aid, Water for People, and IsraAID, to name just a few. While each humanitarian organization has its own areas of specialization, we share the common goal of relieving suffering among God’s children. All of this is part of God’s work for His children.

Possible discussion questions: Why are everyone’s efforts at humanitarian aid valuable? (All of it is part of God’s work.) Have you ever been involved in community service outside of Church? What was it? How can we look for opportunities to serve in our communities?

Possible group activity: Have your group use their smartphones and look up justserv.org – you may have to input your zip code. Ask, what kinds of service projects come up?

To my surprise, photographing gravestones at a small cemetery near us came up. We’re out in the middle of nowhere! Today was an unusually warm day for Thanksgiving week, so my husband and I went and checked this out. It is the sweetest thing to contribute unexpectedly.

Quote #3 (repeat)

This is a bit of a repeat – use it to deepen understanding if needed.

Despite all that our Church does directly, most humanitarian service to the children of God worldwide is carried out by persons and organizations having no formal connection with our Church. As one of our Apostles observed: “God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. … It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people.” As members of the restored Church, we need to be more aware and more appreciative of the service of others.

God’s might and dominion are everywhere – so are His children who answer his call to serve. We need to be mindful and honor that!

Possible discussion questions: Is it okay to contribute funds to another charitable organization? How can we show more appreciation to other organizations that serve humanity? (be grateful for them, it is not a competition.)

Quote #4 (you)

God inspires many organizations and individuals to do much good…more of us should be recognizing the good done by others and supporting it as we have the time and means to do so.

Possible discussion questions: Can we serve more? What happens to the quality of our life and sense of belonging when we serve more? Can offering service give life more purpose? Can serving give someone else’s life more meaning?

Elder Christofferson recently said: “Although we rarely think about it, much of our belonging comes from our service and the sacrifices we make for others and for the Lord. Excessive focus on our personal needs or our own comfort can frustrate that sense of belonging.”

Quote #5 (all)

All of the humanitarian efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seek to follow the example of a righteous people described in the Book of Mormon: “And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, … and they … were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church.”

I testify of Jesus Christ, whose light and Spirit guide all of the children of God in helping the poor and distressed throughout the world.

Possible discussion questions: The scripture Elder Oaks cites is Alma 1:30 – what impresses you about that verse? The scriptures repeatedly describe charity as serving those who are naked, hungry, thirsty, or sick. Can people sometimes feel entitled to the point that they ask that their materialism and consumerism be funded by charity? What do poor and distressed mean?

poor: badly off, stricken, destitute, penniless, meager

distressed: wretched, tormented, wrecked, distraught, afflicted

Last possible question: Have you ever helped someone poor and distressed as Alma, Christ, and other prophets define them?


Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Oak’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.

Final Comment

Bless your heart for researching, preparing, and giving this lesson. It’s a refreshing perspective on service. Have faith in your ability to pick your group’s most important quotes and questions. You were asked to give this lesson for a reason!

Put the quotes in any order that makes sense to you. If you would like tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.

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  1. Brixter

    Thank you! It is very helpful for my EQ class.

    • Shawnie Cannon

      You are welcome! I hope it went well.


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