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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is launching a global initiative to promote service that includes a worldwide day of service next week to kick off a 25-day calendar of service opportunities.
The campaign, “Light The World,” will begin Thursday, Dec. 1, with Worldwide Day of Service to begin 25 days of opportunities leading up to Christmas Day to “light the world” in modern ways following themes that Jesus Christ taught in the Bible, according to LDS officials.
“What we’re trying to do with this campaign is for each of us to act in the way our Savior would act as opposed to focusing on gifts and gift-giving — to make ourselves available to others, to serve them, to help them (and) helping light their way,” said Steven King, manager of media for the LDS Church’s missionary department.
The overall initiative is overseen by the LDS missionary and welfare departments, with the latter focusing its time on the Worldwide Day of Service kickoff event on Thursday.
As part of a global initiative, videos will be produced daily during the 25-day countdown that was produced in 33 languages. Each video will provide a theme that relates to how Jesus’ teachings can positively affect a community.
“It’s focusing on two scriptures — one that says ‘I am the light of the world’ and another that says ‘ye are the light of the world,’” said Derek Westra, a representative from the church’s welfare department. “We’re focusing on those scriptures to help people understand that we can be a light; we can be positive force during the holiday season for good, following the example of Jesus Christ and serving others.”
The opening event, Westra said, will be an attempt to have more than 100,000 volunteers across the world participating in any form of service.
“We don’t know for sure that it’s a record, but we’ve heard if we were to reach 100,000 participants all serving for a singular cause on the same day, that would be the most that has ever been done,” Westra said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”
He said that LDS missionaries across the world — totaling roughly 74,000 according to church numbers — will participate, and are encouraging others, regardless of LDS Church membership, to also volunteer in one way or another on the day.
The welfare department is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, and officials figured it would be a perfect way to celebrate that, Westra said.
Participants are being asked to do small acts of kindness instead of large service projects, with the knowledge that many individuals are typically busy working on a weekday and the holidays can add to that.
The acts of kindness encouraged can be small, such as holding a door for someone, calling an old friend to check on them or inviting someone you may typically not have to dinner.
“What we don’t want to do is overburden individuals by having large-scale service projects organized — if someone wants to do that, then they’re more than welcome to,” Westra said. “But what we’re looking for is for people to just have an attitude of service in their hearts and to provide small and simple acts of service.”
The Worldwide Day of Service is also the first of 25 days of service as a part of Light The World. The 25-day calendar leads up to Christmas Day. The purpose is to focus on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ instead of the commercialization of Christmas in the weeks leading up to the holiday that celebrates his birth.
The church printed a calendar of 25 themes from Jesus’ example and ideas for how individuals could apply that theme in a form of service for that day in the community or with someone from their family.
For example, Dec. 5 is themed on Jesus healing the sick. One way to get involved with that theme is to donate blood that day. Another day is based on the theme that Jesus cared for his mother, with a suggestion for someone to call their mother that day.
“We’ve given ideas, but we’re really just hoping people in their own simple way — without adding burdens to an already busy season — take an idea in some small way to help someone else,” King said.
The idea, King said, has shown promise in other countries. He cited a recent event with community and various religious leaders in Johannesburg, South Africa, as an example.
After hearing of the idea, King said those leaders agreed it was an idea to help improve the community and began brainstorming ideas to get involved.
LDS Church officials are hoping the same result will happen elsewhere during the holiday season.
“We have lights — all kinds of lights on our houses, on our trees, on our dining tables,” said Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in a written release. “So if we link those wonderful traditions with the source of truth, even Christ as the source of light, it just made great sense to all of us that that would be the theme that we would employ this year.”