On December 26, 2004, a powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, creating a deadly tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. It was a terrible tragedy. In one day, millions of lives were forever changed.
But there was one group of people who, although their village was destroyed, did not suffer a single casualty. The reason? They knew a tsunami was coming.
The Moken people live in villages on islands off the coast of Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). A society of fishermen, their lives depend on the sea. For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, their ancestors have studied the ocean, and they have passed their knowledge down from father to son.
One thing in particular they were careful to teach was what to do when the ocean receded. According to their traditions, when that happened, the “Laboon” – a wave that eats people – would arrive soon after.
When the elders of the village saw the dreaded signs, they shouted to everyone to run to high ground. Not everyone listened.
One elderly fisherman said, “None of the kids believed me.” In fact, his own daughter called him a liar. But the old fisherman would not relent until all had left the village and climbed to higher ground. The Moken people were fortunate in that they had someone with conviction who warned them of what would follow. The villagers were fortunate because they listened. Had they not, they may have perished. — Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Journey to Higher Ground,” Ensign, November 2005, p. 16
Tragedies never triumph where personal righteousness prevails. — Elder Keith B. McMullin, “Be Prepared…Be Ye Strong from Henceforth,” Ensign, November 2005, p. 12
We have built grain storage and storehouses and stocked them with the necessities of life in the event of a disaster. But the best storehouse is the family storeroom. In words of revelation the Lord has said, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing” (D&C 109:8).
Our people for three-quarters of a century have been counseled and encouraged to make such preparation as will assure survival should a calamity come.
We can set aside some water, basic food, medicine, and clothing to keep us warm. We ought to have a little money laid aside in case of a rainy day. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, “If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, p. 62
This pattern is repeated not only in the lives of individual people but by cities, nations, and even the world. The consequences of ignoring the Lord and His prophets are certain and often accompanied by great sorrow and regret. In our day the Lord has warned that wickedness will ultimately lead to “famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven” until “the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God.”
It is important to understand, however, that many fine and good people are affected by calamities of man and nature. The early Saints of this dispensation were persecuted and driven from their homes. Some lost their lives. But, perhaps because they had endured so much, they developed an inner strength that was a necessary preparation for the work they were yet to do. — Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Journey to Higher Ground,” Ensign, November 2005, p. 18
Recently I read a newspaper article that cited statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey indicating that earthquakes around the world are increasing in frequency and intensity. According to the article, only two major earthquakes (earthquakes measuring at least six on the Richter scale) occurred during the 1920s. In the 1930s the number increased to five, and then it decreased to four during the 1940s. But in the 1950s, nine major earthquakes occurred, followed by fifteen during the 1960s, forty-six during the 1970s, and fifty-two during the 1980s. Already almost as many major earthquakes have occurred during the 1990s as during the entire decade of the 1980s. — Elder M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 31
Can you tell me where the people are who will be shielded and protected from these great calamities and judgments which are even now at our doors? I’ll tell you. The priesthood of God who honor their priesthood, and who are worthy of their blessings are the only ones who shall have this safety and protection. They are the only mortal beings. No other people have a right to be shielded from these judgments. They are at our very doors; not even this people will escape them entirely. They will come down like the judgments of Sodom and Gomorrah. And none but the priesthood will be safe from their fury. (See JS-Matt. 1:11.) — President Wilford Woodruff, in Young Woman’s Journal, Aug. 1894, p. 512
In this last dispensation there will be great tribulation (Matt. 24:21). We know that from the scriptures. We know there will be wars and rumors of wars (D&C 45:16), and that the whole earth will be in commotion (D&C 45:26). All dispensations have had their perilous times but our day will include genuine peril (2 Tim. 3:1). Evil men will flourish (2 Tim. 3:13), but then evil men have very often flourished. Calamities will come and iniquity will abound (D&C 45:27).
Inevitably the natural result of some of these kinds of prophecies is fear, and that is not fear limited to a younger generation. It is fear shared by those of any age who don’t understand what we understand.
But I want to stress that these feelings are not necessary for faithful Latter-day Saints and they do not come from God. — President Howard W. Hunter, “An Anchor to the Souls of Men,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, February 7, 1993
In 2005 Church Humanitarian Services responded to emergencies in 67 countries. Following is a list of much of the aid distributed by the Church during the calendar year:
- Hygiene Kits – 1.07 million
- School Kits – 480,000
- Newborn Kits – 80,000
- Cleaning Kits – 60,000
- Food – 7.6 million pounds (including 2.2 million pounds of Atmit)
- Blankets – 260,000
- Medical supplies – 1.3 million pounds
- Clothing – 2 million pounds
- Kitchen sets – 70,000
- Bedroom sets – 40,000
- Body bags (for tsunami victims) – 50,000
- Estimated days of donated labor by Church members – more than 57,138
— “Unprecedented Year,” Church News, January 14, 2006, p. 9
Presiding Bishop H. David Burton said he cannot recall another year in recent history that even comes close to paralleling the magnitude of disasters the world experienced in 2005 – “from the very, very severest earthquakes, to the tsunamis, to the hurricanes, to the floods, to the mud slides.”
In 2005 – dubbed the “year of natural disasters” by the World Health Organization – the Church responded to emergencies in 67 countries, distributing 1.7 million hygiene, school, newborn and cleaning kits; 7.6 million pounds of food; 260,000 blankets; 1.3 million pounds of medical supplies and 2 million pounds of clothing, said Garry Flake, director of Church Emergency Response.
“We take very, very seriously the admonition of the Lord to look after one another, and that charity is the pure love of Christ,” said Bishop Burton. — “Unprecedented Year,” Church News, January 14, 2006, p. 9, 11