How to Be a Humanitarian, Part 3

6 November 2020

Did you know there is an ethical code that humanitarians follow? Humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence are shared values that nonprofit aid organizations around the world embrace. As individuals within our communities, we can also keep these values as we look for ways to help one another.


Impartiality means that humanitarian aid must be given solely on the basis of need, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and offering assistance without discrimination. The principles of humanity and impartiality work together to provide a moral framework for humanitarian efforts. We recognize the humanity of others, and on the basis of their humanity, we give assistance impartially and without distinction between groups. The scriptures express the same idea by saying that “God is no respecter of persons” and “all are alike unto God.”1

As we participate in humanitarian work within our own communities, we can remain impartial when we:

  • Give priority to those in the greatest need.
  • Make no distinctions based on nationality, race, gender, religious belief, sexual orientation, class, or political affiliation.
  • Serve others without consideration for whether we believe they deserve help.

Prioritize those with the greatest need

When determining how to give aid, priority is given to those in the most distress and with the most urgent need. Jesus often left the crowd in search of the one. His primary concern was identifying the need and providing the healing. As He healed the leper, turned toward the woman with an issue of blood, blessed the woman scorned by the mob, and heard the father’s plea for his afflicted son, Christ weighed the urgency of their need and responded immediately. Even though there were many other good things He could have chosen to do in that moment, He acted on what was most critical.

We can follow this example to prioritize and reach out to those in the greatest need when we:

  • Identify and help those who are the most marginalized. This may take you well out of your comfort zone.
  • Become familiar with local charitable organizations and learn from them which needs are most urgent in your community.

While financial donations to global relief efforts are one way to serve, our greatest power lies in opportunities to personally engage with local issues and causes where we can provide ongoing service within our own communities.

Make no distinctions

When we are able to recognize the humanity of those around us, it becomes easier to look past differences and distinctions that may feel like barriers between us. As President Dallin H. Oaks has taught, “Knowing that we are all children of God gives us a divine vision of the worth of all others and the will and ability to rise above prejudice and racism.”2 Confronting our own biases and rising above prejudice and racism is a choice and requires work.

As you connect with and serve those around you, you can do so regardless of differences in race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, class, or political affiliation when you:

  • Proactively study to learn more about the values and beliefs of others.
  • Show humility and openness to understanding how individuals would like to be helped by you.
  • Question cultural stereotypes. Ask questions and connect with real people to get to know them as your peers.

As the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Latter-day Saint Charities heeds President Russell M. Nelson’s call to “lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice”3 and to promote respect for all of God’s children.

Give aid and opportunity without expectation

There are a variety of reasons people find themselves in need. Chronic needs can wear down confidence and hope. As humanitarians, it is not our role to determine whether those in need of assistance deserve our help. When caring for our neighbor, we can sometimes become preoccupied with whether a person has brought misery on themselves or whether we think their suffering is somehow just. But “are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have?”4 The role of a humanitarian is to provide relief, regardless of the cause of the suffering. Relief often comes in the form of a new chance to try, trust with a responsibility, and confidence they can do hard things and succeed.

We can overcome our concerns when we:

  • Respect the agency of others. What a person does with the assistance provided to them is their responsibility.
  • Do not expect a certain outcome or even gratitude for your efforts.
  • Free the person in need, and yourself, from your expectations, but help them be accountable for their own expectations and desires.

In Deuteronomy, God teaches us to “give generously to [the poor] and do so without a grudging heart.”5 When we free ourselves and others from our own expectations, we are able to give liberally and impartially to those around us who are suffering. Impartiality teaches us to:

  • Seek out those in the greatest need.
  • Root out prejudice and racism.
  • Give graciously to others in the same ways that God gives to us.