By Eric Johnson
Pointing to Mormonism’s welfare program, relief supplies during times of disaster, and other humanitarian efforts, some Latter-day-Saints believe that “fruit” such as these legitimizes their church.
First, we must ask what exactly is meant by “good works.” An argument could be made that the welfare program in the LDS Church is very good, but the majority of the efforts are aimed at the adherents of this particular religion. While there is nothing wrong with taking care of the church’s own, should this be considered a reason to insist that Mormonism is true?
Second, as we reported in our book Answering Mormons’ Questions, when it comes to humanitarian efforts, the giving by the LDS Church pales in comparison to Christian organizations. For example, the Mormon Church gave $1.116 billion in humanitarian aid to 167 countries from 1985 through 2009. The totals included more than 12,000 tons of medical supplies, 61,000 tons of food, and 84,000 tons of clothing. Breaking this down over twenty-five years (1985–2009), an average of about $45 million worth of aid per year was given. During those twenty-five years, the church had an average membership of about 9 million members. For each year, this equates to roughly $5 annually for each member of the church. Even if the church decided to increase its giving by, say, ten times, it would still fall far short of the annual giving by three of the biggest Christian humanitarian agencies around the world. In just 2009 alone, Feed the Children distributed $1.2 billion worth of food, supplies, and aid, an annual total that is more than the LDS Church has donated over two and a half decades. In addition, World Vision ($1.1 billion) and Samaritan’s Purse ($294 million) took care of the needs of the less fortunate and responded in times of natural disasters. Should Christianity be considered “true” based on these numbers?
Finally, I agree with Christian philosopher Douglas Groothuis when he writes,
“A hearty, sturdy and insatiable appetite for reality—whatever it might be—is the only engine for testing and discerning truth. Truth is what matters most, particularly truth concerning our human condition in the world—its origin, its nature, its purpose (if any) and its destiny. Knowing the truth and living according to its requirements should be the hope and aspiration of the reflective person.” (Christian Apologetics, 16)
Thus, instead of asking what making the perceived fruit of a religion the emphasis, more emphasis should be focused on the doctrines. If what is taught is in complete contradiction of the Bible, the perceived fruit should take a distant second place.