“Perpetual Education Fund Fulfills Prophetic Promises,” Liahona, May 2011, 141–43
Ten years ago President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) outlined a problem—the inability of many returned missionaries and other worthy youth in developing areas to escape poverty—and provided a solution: the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF). A revolving fund that would be established using donations from members and friends of the Church, the PEF would supply educational loans to young people with the expectation that they would prepare for gainful employment in their communities and repay the loans so that others could have similar opportunities. He said the Church would rely on volunteers and existing Church resources to succeed.
When President Hinckley stepped to the pulpit on March 31, 2001, and laid out a vision of the Perpetual Education Fund before the priesthood of the Church, it was evident to many that the Lord’s prophet had received direction.
The potential for failure might have seemed to loom as the PEF’s newly appointed leaders rushed to begin providing loans by autumn of 2001, as President Hinckley had directed. Outside of the prophet’s inspired outline there existed no business plan, no detailed proposal. The program was organized using the text of President Hinckley’s conference talk as its charter. Hundreds of loan applications were flooding into Church headquarters even as directors were being called and the basic structure of the program was being formed.
But miracles were already taking place. Within the first year, millions of dollars were donated to the program. Several individuals whose backgrounds made them uniquely qualified for the work of the PEF were immediately available to serve as volunteer directors. The infrastructure necessary to support the PEF globally had already been laid in the form of Church Educational System institute programs and Church Employment Resource Centers. Whatever was needed fell into place quickly, providing the program with what President Hinckley reported in April 2002 to be a “solid foundation.”1
Rex Allen, currently serving as volunteer director of training and communications for the PEF, said, “Long ago, Moses stretched his staff over the Red Sea and the waters divided. President Hinckley mirrored this same faith when he held his prophetic mantle over the dark sea of poverty and initiated PEF.”
“It is a miracle,” President Hinckley confirmed repeatedly.
After 10 years, though, the greatest miracles may be just beginning.
In his announcement of the PEF and in later addresses, President Hinckley promised several blessings would flow from the PEF. Each is being fulfilled with increasing momentum as more participants graduate from the PEF and repay their loans.
“[Participants] will be enabled to get good educations that will lift them out of the slough of poverty,” President Hinckley said.2
As of February 2011, nearly 90 percent of those who have sought work after completing their schooling have found employment. Some 78 percent of those now employed say that their current employment is an improvement over what they had before receiving training. The average income after schooling for PEF participants is three to four times greater than income prior to schooling, representing a vast improvement in economic status.
“They will marry and go forward with skills that will qualify them to earn well and take their places in society where they can make a substantial contribution,” President Hinckley declared.3 Just over one-third of current PEF participants are now married.
Elder John K. Carmack, executive director of the PEF, says: “One of the most encouraging outcomes of the PEF so far is that we are seeing that young people gain more hope. This hope gives them the courage to get married and to move forward in their lives.”
As they do so, their growing families look forward to brighter futures.
“As faithful members of the Church, they will pay their tithes and offerings, and the Church will be much the stronger for their presence in the areas where they live,” President Hinckley said.4
In some areas where the PEF has been in operation for several years, as many as 10 to 15 percent of current Church leadership consists of PEF participants.
“Participants have encouraged other young people to use PEF loans and to break out of poverty,” said Rex Allen. “After 10 years we are seeing the circle of hope expand as those who have been blessed share the blessings with others.”
“[The PEF] will become a blessing to all whose lives it touches—to the young men and women, to their future families, to the Church that will be blessed with their strong local leadership,” President Hinckley promised.5
More than 47,000 people have participated in the PEF since fall 2001. That’s not counting the extended families that are supported and inspired by family members participating in the PEF, the wards and branches that benefit from members who have a greater capacity to serve and contribute, and the local economies that need skilled workers to grow.
“Imagine the impact as you consider all who are affected,” Brother Allen said. “This extends to those who donate to the PEF—the donors, their families, their wards and branches—all are blessed by their contributions.”
“Within the grasp of almost all Latter-day Saints is the ability to give something regularly to this fund and to other worthy endeavors,” Elder Carmack said. “President Hinckley’s invitation helps those who contribute to the PEF as well as those who [use it to] improve themselves to draw closer to our Savior.”
President Hinckley’s prophetic vision of the Perpetual Education Fund has been realized as the influence of this inspired program continues to spread throughout the world, and it will continue to be realized in ever-greater numbers as donations continue and loans are repaid, allowing a new generation of participants to improve themselves and their situations.
To learn more about the Perpetual Education Fund, please visit pef.lds.org.