President Laycock was already receptive to the possibility of such spiritual promptings. When he was set apart for this calling, Elder Richard Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told him, “At times, during your mission, you will be awakened in the middle of the night or the early morning hours with thoughts of specific things you should do for certain missionaries. Do not ignore these thoughts. They are promptings from the Holy Ghost who will communicate with you in the stillness of the night or the peace of the early morning hours. He will speak to you then because that is when you are still enough to hear.” Elder Scott further instructed him to keep a notebook beside his bed so that he could record these precious promptings. He said that by the next morning, we would be likely to forget the promptings if we didn’t write them down.
Thus armed, President Laycock was fully prepared when the Spirit whispered a warning to him. He describes it as follows:
Nearly two-and-one-half weeks ago, I was awakened at around 4:00 AM by just such a prompting. I did not hear a voice, but the thought was as clear as if it had been in the form of spoken words: “There is going to be an earthquake. Prepare your missionaries.” I sat up in bed and immediately remembered Elder Scott’s counsel. That morning I told Larry what had happened. He immediately set to work organizing our missionaries to prepare for an earthquake.
We set a goal and arranged our schedule so that we could visit every apartment in the mission to check for safety and to review with our missionaries what to do in case of an earth quake. What a wonderful experience we have had as we have met with them and shared scriptures with them about being spiritually and physically prepared. “…if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).
We instructed every missionary to have a “go-bag” (36 hour kit). We reviewed our emergency action plan with them of where to go and what to do if they had phone service and in case they did not. We gave everyone a paper with all instructions in English and Spanish, and we reminded them that “this life is the time to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32-34). We shared with them our thoughts and feelings about the need for spiritual and physical safety.
As the earthquake became more violent, the mission home groaned and wailed. The power died, so the whole city was black. The windows made a hideous screeching sound, and flying objects banged against swaying walls. The printer/fax machine, books, book ends, and fifty-pound television burst from the entertainment center and crashed to the floor, cabinets emptied, drawers flew open, the refrigerator moved, water sloshed out of the toilets, the floor jolted up and down as we ran across it trying to hold onto the walls to keep from falling down, and the piano toppled over like a small toy. As we made our way to the back yard, I remember thinking, “God is all-powerful. He is our only refuge from this horrible mess.” I prayed and prayed for Him to still the earth.
When we reached the back yard, we watched in terror. By the light of the moon we could see the swimming pool water form giant waves and crash out onto the rocks. House and car alarms screamed into the night…some from being crushed by falling debris and others, I guess, from the bizarre movement of the earth. I am not sure if the intense rumbling sounds came from the earth itself or from everything else that was shaking so violently. Finally, it stopped.
But because of the warning delivered to President Laycock, and he and his missionaries acting upon it, all 171 missionaries assigned to the Santiago East mission survived.
A question commonly posed not only by reprobate anti-Mormons, but also by honest people who don't understand revelation, is if the warning was given to the responsible civil authorities. The answer in this case is No, and for some good reasons:
(1). The Spirit prompted President Laycock to "prepare your missionaries". It didn't say "prepare your entire membership" or "prepare the country". When the Holy Spirit gives guidance, you obey the guidance given -- no more, and no less.
(2). No date, time, or location of the earthquake was provided by the Spirit. So if President Laycock had passed the warning to Chilean authorities, what could they have done with it? When would they begin evacuations? What part of the country would they evacuate? President Laycock wasn't given enough information to pass a credible warning to the Chilean government. Rest assured that if the Spirit had instructed President Laycock to pass the warning on to the Chilean authorities, he would have done so.
This may seem cold-blooded, but one of the secondary principles of the Gospel is that we are to experience adversity in this world at one time or another. To progress towards godhood, we must understand all the forces and emotions that govern existence; this requires us to experience BOTH good AND evil. Mortality provides us a learning opportunity where eternal judgment is temporarily suspended and man can repent. The Gospel of Jesus Christ mitigates adversity, but does NOT immunize against it. Our Heavenly Father takes no delight in the suffering of His creations, but He respects our voluntary decision to come down to this world, and His constant interference would defeat the purpose of that decision.
Our memories of the pre-mortal existence and the decisions we made may be obscured, in order to promote a more spontaneous mortal existence, but rest assured not only did each and every one of us volunteer to come to this earth, but we "shouted with joy" at the prospect.