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Calamities and Disasters

by Reed H. Blake

Calamities and disasters are sudden, unexpected events that cause extensive destruction, death, or injury and result in widespread community disruption and individual trauma. From its beginnings, THE CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints has sought to be prepared against natural disasters following admonitions such as "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" (D&C 38:30). Preparedness is carried out on both individual and institutional levels.

In their homes, members are encouraged to have food storage sufficient for a year and other essentials of emergency preparedness: clothing, bedding, fuel (where possible), and the like. Church members are also advised to have sufficient supplies to enable them to be completely self-sustaining for at least fourteen days without the benefit of electricity and clean running water.

On the organizational level, the Church response to disasters is administered by the Presiding Bishopric at Church headquarters, by the stake president, and by the ward bishop. Each ward and stake has lay specialists called to assist in welfare and emergency preparedness. Meetinghouses are equipped to shelter people displaced by disasters, and regional storehouses can be drawn on for basic supplies. Large-scale disasters are responded to through the office of the Presiding Bishop.

Historically, Latter-day Saints organized to cope with the handcart crises in 1856, the flu epidemic of 1918, postwar crises in western Europe after both world wars, the Teton Dam disaster in southeast Idaho, mudslides and flooding in many places, and hurricane destruction in the South Pacific. The Church attempts to be in constant readiness to handle such immediate needs as search and rescue, food distribution, and shelter management. In addition, it addresses itself to individual members' needs such as vocational training and emotional therapy, through the Welfare Services and LDS Social Services Departments of the Church.

(See Daily Living home page; Welfare and Humanitarian Assistance home page)

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Calamities and Disasters

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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