To assist women in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, where some must walk miles to find clean drinking water for their families, Latter-day Saints have helped create community wells.
Stories about the Church's worldwide humanitarian efforts, such as that in Sierra Leone, along with suggested ways that individuals can make service a part of their daily lives, are highlighted in "Love Thy Neighbor," an exhibit on display at the Los Angeles and Washington D.C. temple visitors centers.
The exhibit is a series of photographs and short films that give examples of the Church's outreach to the poor and needy while also encouraging visitors to follow counsel recorded in the book of Luke in the New Testament to go and do likewise. The Los Angeles exhibit opened in August 2010 and will remain there permanently, while the one in Washington D.C. is a traveling exhibit that will rotate to another visitors center after October.
According to Mark Lusvardi, director of public programs in the Missionary Department, the exhibit is based on the Savior's two great commandments recorded in Matthew:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matthew 22:37).
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Matthew 22:39).
Brother Lusvardi said he hopes the exhibit inspires people to stop and consider ways they and their families can also serve.
"While the Church helps coordinate life-saving humanitarian service efforts around the world, members can also serve in their local communities, neighborhoods and families," he pointed out.
Elder Don Olsen, director of the visitors center on the grounds of the Washington D.C. Temple, said the message resonates with those who want to follow the Savior's example of love and service.
"This is a facility dedicated to the work of the Lord, and those who come to see the exhibit will get a better idea of what the Church teaches and the reasons why our members are so willing to serve," he said.
At the exhibit, a sister missionary escorts visitors past large photos of people helping others. She takes the group to a small theater area where they view a five-minute film about the Church's humanitarian efforts before she leads them into a room of lighted panels where they can view short films in English and Spanish about projects initiated either by the Church or by individual members.
The panels are inscribed with verses from Matthew 25:35-40, reminding that service to others is actually service to the Lord. For example, the panel "I was hungered" shows thousands of Church members in the Madera Vineyard in California, picking grapes that will be turned into raisins to feed people around the world. Another story features a sister who allowed her backyard to become a neighborhood vegetable garden.
Another panel, "I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink," describes conditions in Sierra Leone where the work of LDS Charities in providing wells not only has made life easier and safer, but also has brought jobs to the area.
In a third panel, "I was a stranger and ye took me in," Church members are shown helping residents of Chile rebuild their homes after an earthquake. Yet the narrator makes the point that someone in need can live down the street as well as across the world.
The final panel, "I was sick and ye visited me," explains how the Church has provided more than 300,000 state-of-the-art wheelchairs to 90 countries, and how such a gift has changed the life of Jose Peres, a polio victim from the Dominican Republic. It also shows neighbors of a mother of two children with physical disabilities building a ramp to her front door.
In a recorded message at one end of the room, President Thomas S. Monson urges members to go into their communities to find ways to serve. At the other end, visitors can add their own service ideas to an interactive computer screen.