SAN DIEGO, Calif. Members of the Poway California Stake who lost their homes to the wildfires that ravaged San Diego County the end of October were buoyed up by a visit from Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Elder Cook spoke to about 30 family members during an intimate meeting in the stake center Relief Society room during a tour of the area Saturday, Oct. 27. Members in the Poway stake were the hardest-hit by the fires, losing at least 18 homes.
Already scheduled to be in Southern California to preside over the Irvine California Stake conference over the weekend, Elder Cook said, "President Hinckley and the First Presidency asked me if I would come down and visit with you and share with you their love and their concern and their blessing." He also said he was representing his brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve and expressed their love and concern.
He visited two families of the Escondido California South Stake at their homes which had been burned to the ground and told them of the First Presidency's concern for them as well.
During the meeting in the Poway stake, Elder Cook said, "The scriptures are clear that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. ... Unfortunately, fires in San Diego County do the same thing."
He said, "Don't say, 'Why me?' That's not a fruitful area to explore. It doesn't help. But is there something that will be learned or something that will be a blessing to you in your life? You may look back on this sometime far in the future and say, 'Yes, that experience in some ways helped refine me, helped me understand the Atonement better than I had understood it before."'
Drawing on the essence of a quote he attributed to early Church Apostle Orson F. Whitney, he said, "There is nothing that we experience, there is nothing that we go through, there is no sadness that we have that doesn't contribute to our refinement and help us develop ourselves and prepare us to return to our Father in Heaven."
He blessed the people that they "might have peace, that there might dwell up in your hearts a feeling of well-being and of love and appreciation for the Savior and for those who are around you who are serving you and that you'll have a sense that you are loved and that the members of the Church are praying for you."
Elder Cook began his four-hour visit at the Escondido California South Stake Center where California National Guard soldiers housed in the building lined up in formation in the parking lot to greet him. Their commander, Lt. Col. Kurt A. Schlichter, told Elder Cook the National Guard was grateful to the Church for letting the troops stay in the building and providing for them. He called the Church's hospitality "very touching."
Elder Cook responded, "On behalf of the Church, we are grateful for the service you do around the world."
Sgt. David Cramer, representing the Escondido Police Department, also thanked Elder Cook for the Church's willingness to house the troops who were providing vital support to his force in securing and protecting areas that had been burned.
After shaking hands with each of the soldiers, Elder Cook moved down the parking lot to greet missionaries as well as young men and young women, with their leaders, clad in the Church's bright yellow "Helping Hands" T-shirts. They were on a lunch break during a long day of service.
From there, he met with Barry and Jennifer Speer at their home which burned down only 10 months after they finished the four-year labor of building it and moved in.
Elder Cook's next two visits were to the homes of Howard and Brooke Foyt, and Brian and Errin Arnold. The Foyts told Elder Cook they felt blessed that even though the guest house where they had their food storage burned down, their house was spared. The Arnolds told Elder Cook that even though their house burned down, they felt blessed the garage where their food supply was stored was spared.
Concluding his visit, Elder Cook was taken to a residential area heavily hit by the fires. There he greeted youth of the Poway stake in their "Helping Hands" T-shirts providing service at the burned homes of people who were not members of the Church.
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