'If ye are prepared ye shall not fear'
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President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of the recent devastation from hurricanes in the Gulf States area of the United States as a backdrop for his theme "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" in his priesthood session address Saturday evening, Oct. 1.
Regarding the outpouring of help in the wake of the disasters, the Church president remarked, "Critics love to talk about the failures of Christianity. Any such should take a look at what the churches have done in these circumstances. Those of many denominations have accomplished wonders. And far from the least among these has been our own Church. Great numbers of our men have traveled considerable distances, bringing with them tools and tents and radiant hope. Men of the priesthood have given thousands upon thousands of hours in the work of rehabilitation. There have been three and four thousand at a time."
He mentioned two Area Seventies, Elder John Anderson in Florida and Elder Stanley Ellis in Texas, who have directed much of the effort. "But they would be the first to say that credit belongs to the great numbers of men and boys who have given assistance. Many have worn shirts that say 'Mormon Helping Hands.' They have won the love and respect of those they have assisted. Their assistance has not gone only to members of the Church in trouble, but to great numbers of those concerning whom no religious identification has been made."
He said women and girls in many parts of the Church "have rendered a Herculean effort in providing hygiene and cleaning kits by the tens of thousands. The Church has provided equipment, food, water and comfort."
Millions of dollars from fast offerings and humanitarian funds have been given by the Church to relief efforts, he noted.
President Hinckley emphasized that he does not say or infer that what has happened is punishment from the Lord. "Many good people, including some of our faithful Latter-day Saints, are among those who have suffered. Having said this, I do not hesitate to say that this old world is no stranger to calamities and catastrophes. Those of us who read and believe the scriptures are aware of the warnings of prophets concerning catastrophes that have come to pass and are yet to come to pass."
He cited the account of the great flood and the passages in Matthew 24 pertaining to the catastrophic events of the last days. And he read from 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon regarding the upheavals in the western hemisphere at the time of the Savior's death in Jerusalem.
He spoke of the plague or Black Death of the 14th Century, the destruction of Pompeii by a volcano in 79 A.D., and 20th century disasters in the United States, including the Chicago fire, tidal waves in Hawaii, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the hurricane in Galveston, Texas, in 1900.
"And more recently has been the terrible tsunami of Southeast Asia, where thousands of lives were lost and where relief efforts are still needed," he added.
"How portentous are the words of revelation found in the 88th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants concerning the calamities that should befall after the testimonies of the elders," President Hinckley remarked.
"Man's inhumanity to man expressed in past and present conflict has and continues to bring unspeakable suffering," he said. "In the Darfur region of Sudan, tens of thousands have been killed, and over one million have been left homeless.
"What we have experienced in the past was all foretold, and the end is not yet. Just as there have been calamities in the past, we may expect more in the future. What do we do?
"Someone has said it was not raining when Noah built the ark. But he built it, and the rains came."
President Hinckley said the primary preparation is set forth in Doctrine and Covenants 87:8, "Wherefore, stand ye in holy places and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come."
"We can so live that we can call upon the Lord for His protection and guidance," he observed. "This is a first priority. We cannot expect His help if we are unwilling to keep His commandments. We in this Church have evidence enough of the penalties of disobedience in the examples of both the Jaredite and the Nephite nations. Each went from glory to utter destruction because of wickedness.
"We know, of course that the rain falls on the just as well as the unjust (see Matthew 5:45). But even though the just die they are not lost, but are saved through the Atonement of the Redeemer. Paul said to the Romans: 'For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord' " (Romans 14:8).
President Hinckley advised: "We can heed warnings. We have been told that many had been given concerning the vulnerability of New Orleans. We are told by seismologists that the Salt Lake Valley is a potential earthquake zone. This is the primary reason that we are extensively renovating the Tabernacle on Temple Square. This historic and remarkable building must be made to withstand the shaking of the earth.
"We have built grain storage and storehouses and stocked them with the necessities of life in the event of a disaster."
He cited Doctrine and Covenants 109:8, "Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing," and then added: "Our people for three quarters of a century have been counseled and encouraged to make such preparations as will assure survival should a calamity come.
"We can set aside some water, basic food, medicine and clothing to keep us warm. We ought to have a little money laid aside in case of a rainy day."
He cautioned that his words should not occasion a run on the grocery store or anything of that kind. "I am saying nothing that has not been said for a very long time," he noted.
"Let us never lose sight of the dream of Pharaoh concerning the fat cattle and the lean, the full ears of corn, and the blasted ears; the meanings of which were interpreted by Joseph to indicate years of plenty and years of scarcity."
President Hinckley expressed his assurance and faith "that the Lord will bless us, and watch over us, and assist us if we walk in obedience to His light, His gospel, and His commandments."