Monday, February 9, 2009

LDS Church Sending Supplies And Volunteers To Help Ice Storm Victims In Arkansas And Kentucky Who Are Still Without Power

Although their efforts do not always get commensurate publicity, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participates in many disaster relief efforts in the United States and throughout the world. Assistance is provided to all in need regardless of religious affiliation; you can view an archive of disaster relief stories published by the LDS Church HERE.

And the many victims of the January bout of severe weather, to include ice storms, in Arkansas and Kentucky, are no exception. On February 7th, 2009, the Deseret News reported (official LDS news release HERE) that the Church is sending supplies and volunteers to help residents cope with the aftermath of the severe weather outbreak. Even now, thousands remain without power because the ice snapped so many trees and downed so many power lines.

The Church has provided three trucks filled with hygiene kits, blankets, cots, first aid kits, water, diapers, generators and chain saws. LDS work crews, many affiliated with the community service group Mormon Helping Hands, are helping in the recovery effort, and monetary donations have been made to the American Red Cross.

The Nashville Tennessean offers more details. About 500 LDS members from various stakes in Franklin, Madison, Nashville and McMinnville are heading to the area to help clear trees and repair homes. The crews are beginning in Fulton, Mayfield and Murray, Ky., where there are Mormon chapels. From there, the groups will be divided into teams and sent into the community, where they will help fellow church members and their neighbors (Mormon and non-Mormon alike). One LDS church leader in Kentucky compared the ice storm destruction to a Category 5 hurricane, saying that every single tree in his area is down.

As an added bonus, many of these same church members got valuable experience when they also helped to clean up in the aftermath of Katrina.

Some people question whether the LDS Church spends enough money on humanitarian causes. They will ask why we spend money on temple construction, arguing that the money should be given to the poor. But LDS dedication to the poor is irrefutable. We believe that it is important to care for God's children BOTH physically (through our international humanitarian program), AND spiritually (through our temple-building program). If one lacks life's basic necessities, it can be difficult to develop the spiritual. If one lacks a connection with God, it can be difficult for even the richest man to see meaning in life at all. We must attend to both humanity's physical and spiritual needs; to neglect one is to negate the other.

Another reason we spend money on "impressive" temples is that, unlike LDS chapels, temples are considered to be literal houses of God. Just as the ancient Israelites dedicated much of their resources to building a holy temple, Mormons believe that sacrificing to build temples is one way of honoring God. The beauty of the temple also helps those who worship there recognize that they are in a special place; it sets a spiritual tone that helps them draw closer to God.

While the Church does make great efforts to improve the living conditions of Mormons and "non-Mormons" alike, had many of these faithful members been forced to choose between monetary aid or the opportunity to worship in that temple, the choice would have been obvious. We must not neglect people's spiritual needs.

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