Senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent the weekend visiting and comforting victims of recent hurricanes on the east coast of the United States.
President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Kristen, led the delegation on visits to North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.
“What’s hit me is visiting members and seeing their faith,” said Sister Oaks. “They know that Jesus Christ is helping them.”
Joining President and Sister Oaks were Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Susan; Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and his wife, Carol; Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, and her husband, Bruce; and Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Seventy and his wife, Lynette.
“Afflictions and obstacles are the reality of mortal life,” President Oaks told hundreds of Church members gathered Saturday evening in Tallahassee. “If we are faithful and prayerful, the Lord helps us get through them.”
The Church leaders began Friday in North Carolina, visiting with members impacted by recent storms and workers volunteering in the cleanup. They continued their visits Saturday morning in South Carolina before traveling to Florida Saturday evening.
At the Saturday evening meeting, the Church leaders encouraged members to remain strong in the face of significant challenges.
“Your faith strengthens our faith, and your devotion makes us want to be more devoted,” said Elder Bednar.
“You have really borne the brunt of some tremendous natural disasters here,” added Sister Bingham. “The beautiful thing about that is you have reached out and loved your neighbors as yourselves.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott made a brief stop at the Saturday evening meeting to thank Church members for showing up and being ready to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, which left widespread devastation across the Florida panhandle.
Thousands of Church members have volunteered to help clean up, wearing the iconic yellow “Helping Hands” vests and serving people throughout affected communities.
In Panama City, Florida, a group from Mississippi spent Saturday morning clearing the yard of 70-year-old Shirley Daniels. She tearfully expressed her appreciation to the volunteers she didn’t even know who made a difference for her.
“You’re from God,” Daniels said. “You’re just angels as far as I’m concerned.”
President and Sister Oaks and the other leaders met with many Helping Hands volunteers on Sunday in special sacrament meetings before those volunteers headed out to continue their work.
“You are the Savior’s hands,” said Bishop Waddell. “You are doing what He would do if He were here.”
Jacob Fish, president of the Panama City Stake, said the leaders’ visits and encouragement means a lot.
“We’re all still in some degree of shock,” Fish said. “The fact that Church leaders are willing to come — and so quickly — to minister to the members and to the community at large means so much to us.”