Recent natural disasters in the United States and elsewhere remind us that even the most prepared among us sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by the elements. The resulting destruction and human suffering throughout those affected areas in the world seem beyond our comprehension.
But what is encouraging in all this tragedy is the willingness of others to donate time, resources and money to help relieve the suffering of those affected most by the disasters.
Among Latter-day Saints, the brethren have counseled members who wish to help to do so through established funds the monthly fast offering and through the humanitarian fund. As the cleanup in many areas continues and as new threats from Mother Nature appear it is well to recognize that the outpouring of aid and donations is simply a response to assist those in need. Certainly the outpouring of help and relief has only just begun with both government and charitable organizations collecting tens of millions of dollars to help those who have lost their homes and loved ones. Sometimes we may feel it is our Christian duty to assist where we can. Other times we may extend our resources in an effort to comfort family members, friends or others who have been devastated by tragedy.
Even our efforts to secure our homes and property allow us to go the extra mile in helping others, who may have less than we have or who may have suffered more than our individual losses.
The Lord has counseled: "And they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them (Doctrine and Covenants 38:35).
The stories told by survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita are heart-rending and sobering. When all is taken from you, what is it that remains? The survivors say it is the love of family, the generosity of others and the need of but a few basic staples to help in the healing process.
First there is a need for shelter, then food, then medical care, then the opportunities to rebuild. Only when those basic necessities are secured can we turn our attention to helping others. That is why throughout the history of the Church our leaders have counseled us to be prepared with a year's supply of food and clothing that we may endure the hardships ahead and we may be able to assist others in need.
This warning to be prepared is directly from the Savior's admonition: "Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
"Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:41-45).
President Brigham Young said, "The question was asked a great many times of Joseph Smith by gentlemen who came to see him and his people, 'How is it that you can control your people so easily. It appears they do nothing but what you say; how is it that you can govern them so easily?' Said he, 'I do not govern them at all. The Lord has revealed certain principles from the heavens by which we are to live in these latter days. The time is drawing near when the Lord is going to gather out His people from the wicked, and He is going to cut short His work in righteousness, and the principles which He has revealed I have taught to the people and they are trying to live according to them, and they control themselves' " (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 470).
After assuming leadership of the Church, President Young declared, "We do not allow ourselves to go into a field to plough without taking our religion with us; we do not go into an office, behind the counter to deal out goods, into a counting house with the books or anywhere to attend to or transact business without taking our religion with us. . . . We are the most religious people in the world; but the principles of eternity and exaltation are of no good to us, unless they are brought down to our capacities so that we practice them in our lives" (Ibid, pp. 8, 14).
Today, our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, has said, "Each of us is responsible for the welfare and the growth and development of others. We do not live only unto ourselves. As we serve with diligence, as we teach with faith and testimony, as we lift and strengthen and build convictions of righteousness in those lives we touch, we magnify our priesthood. To live only unto ourselves, on the other hand, to serve grudgingly, to give less than our best effort to our duty, diminishes our priesthood just as looking through the wrong lenses of binoculars reduces the image and makes more distant the object" (Stand a Little Taller, p. 230).
In times of crises, their words provide comfort and guidance, and we, in turn, must do what we can within our means to assist those less fortunate.