A chance to serve

Horrific accounts of devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina bring to the fore troubling questions that have beset mankind through the ages: Why must the innocent suffer? Why doesn't a merciful and omnipotent Almighty intervene to prevent or quell harm such as we have witnessed these past weeks in the Gulf Coast region of the United States?

Such questions will probably never be answered to the full satisfaction of everyone in mortality. Those who believe in God and have felt His blessings and healing in their lives must exercise faith that, at some point, all things will be made clear. Meanwhile, they draw comfort from the words of the Master, "All things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23), including having the fortitude to endure unthinkable disasters and make the best of whatever situation one encounters in life.

Latter-day Saints are helped toward this end by their understanding of doctrines pertaining to moral agency and the necessity for opposition in all things. As Lehi taught, righteousness, holiness, joy could not exist without opposition (see 2 Nephi 2:11-13).

It has been said that natural disasters and other forms of adversity and affliction alternatively bring out the best or the worst in people. Reports of despair and lawlessness emanating from the hurricane-stricken area are mitigated to some degree by accounts of heroism, generosity and pure love. We are stirred by the actions of numerous public safety personnel who, in many cases, having themselves lost all their material possessions, continue to work themselves to exhaustion rescuing their fellow sufferers.

In such acts of bravery lies an answer to the question: Why doesn't God do something? In fact, He is doing something — through the instrumentality of those who, using their own initiative and agency, elect to help those who suffer. Most of the time, this is the way our Heavenly Father functions to give comfort and solace to His children — by inspiring those who can to help. Thus, they who are better positioned receive the opportunity to partner with the Almighty in rescuing the distressed. In this manner, we have occasion to grow through the development and exercise of God-like characteristics.

As an institutional Church, we have developed a reputation for resourcefulness, immediacy and effectiveness in rendering aid to disaster victims. As reported in the Church News last week, state troopers blocking the way to Slidell, La., recognized the name of the Church and allowed free passage to relief workers at the Slidell Bishops' Storehouse.

Individually, every able and faithful Latter-day Saint has immediate opportunity to do something toward alleviating the suffering of Katrina's victims. Monetary donations for hurricane relief may be designated on either the fast offering or humanitarian lines on the tithing and donation slip. The Church will then channel donated funds in the direction where they are needed.

At times such as this, blessings come about as bonds of friendship and love are forged, not only between the givers and receivers of service, but between those who work together to aid the needy. In Draper, Utah, for example, local Church units are pooling their efforts with a large Catholic education center to put on a fund-raising dinner with proceeds going toward helping the suffering victims. Leaders of one stake sent word through bishoprics in the individual wards that this constitutes just "Phase 1" of stakewide efforts. In coming weeks, members will be called upon continually to help evacuees who are transported to Camp Williams, a military installation not far from Draper.

Our service will be needed continually as the relief efforts stretch into the coming weeks and months. Let us resolve now as a people to be equal to the task at hand.

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