LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology)

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Perpetual Education Fund

Author: Matt Martinich

Posted: December 30th, 2013

Announced by the Church in 2001 by former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) provides low interest education loans to needy individuals that would be unable to afford advanced education or specialized training otherwise to secure higher paying, more stable employment.  To qualify for a loan, all individuals must live in a PEF-approved country, be active, worthy members of the Church, receive endorsement by a local church leader, commit to pay as much of tuition costs while in school, complete a special workshop offered from institute called "Planning for Success", graduate from school, find better-paying employment, and fully repay the loan.  Single men also must be returned missionaries or have an approved exemption from missionary service and all single members must be enrolled and active in institute.[1]  Church leaders have modeled PEF after the Perpetual Emigration Fund that functioned in the nineteenth century to bring over 30,000 Latter-day Saints to the Salt Lake Valley from Europe.[2]  In 2012, the Church indicated that the official mission statement of PEF was as follows:

The Perpetual Education Fund has been established to provide worthy young adults with the support and resources necessary to improve their lives through education and better employment.  The PEF embraces eternal principles, including the importance of education, integrity, hard work, and self-reliance. It also encourages members to become “one”, as all are invited to give of their means to build the fund so an ever-increasing number of youth may be served.[3]

Within the first decade of operation, the PEF provided assistance to approximately 50,000 members in over 50 countries and successfully raised the income of graduates by three to four times more than their previous income.[4]  As of September 2012, PEF was available in 57 countries or dependencies (American Samoa, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Samoa, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).[5]

PEF has numerous implications for missiology and church growth regarding the development of LDS community, member activity rates, and financial self-sufficiency of the Church in individual countries.  The program has experienced good success among young adults who would be unable to obtain better-paying employment under ordinary circumstances.  Improved prospects for attaining higher salaries and stable employment in their home countries may reduce the rate of emigration of returned missionaries for vocational purposes.  The Church has struggled for decades in most countries to keep younger active members who have served missions to remain within their home countries.  It is unclear whether PEF has had any noticeable influence on emigration trends of active members to the United States and it may take until the year 2020 to determine whether there is any improvement in reducing emigration rates as a result of PEF.

PEF has in many ways supplanted the Church's previous efforts to open additional universities, colleges, and schools as indicated by the Church opening no additional educational institutions since 2001.  This stands as a major barrier toward the Church achieving sustainable growth in many countries where there remains a fragile and often transient LDS community.  The Church has achieved some of its most penetrating outreach and strongest growth in locations where church schools operate such as in areas of Oceania.  The Church in Kiribati stands as one of the most recent and obvious examples of the influence of church schools on church growth.  There were no known Latter-day Saints in Kiribati prior to 1970 and the first known converts joined the Church while attending Liahona High School in Tonga in the early 1970s.  In 1975, these student converts served as the first full-time missionaries ever assigned to Kiribati.  The Church opened a high school in Kiribati before there were even 500 members nationwide.  Today, 15% of the national population is nominally LDS; one of the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints in any country.  Although these findings may appear less impressive in light of the tiny population of many island nations in Oceania, there is a clear relationship between the founding of church schools and colleges and long-term stability and growth of the Church even in more populous countries with a relatively small percentage of Latter-day Saints such as the United States, Mexico, and New Zealand.  PEF is also only available to active, worthy church members whereas other church schools do not require students to be members of the Church although students are expected to follow certain worthiness and codes of conduct.

The greatest contributions of PEF to church growth appear limited to improving the living standards and economic conditions of active members, thereby enhancing the self-sufficiency of the Church in individual countries and possibly reducing the emigration of active members.

[1]  "Frequently Asked Questions,", retrieved 5 September 2012.

[2]  "The Perpetual Education Fund: A Bright Ray of Hope,", retrieved 5 September 2012.

[3]  "Mission Statement of the Perpetual Education Fund,", retrieved 5 September 2012.

[4]  "PEF Progress,", retrieved 5 September 2012.

[5]  "PEF Progress,", retrieved 5 September 2012.