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Nine Great Mormon Stories of Service during Devastation


The Mormon Church is a church of love and labor. Whenever disaster strikes, the Church and its members immediately step in to help. Mormons try to follow Jesus’s counsel when He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

The Mormon Church charities support humanitarian efforts worldwide through the generous donations of time and money that members and others contribute. The Church also uses the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City to prepare humanitarian supplies to be shipped wherever they are needed and to help train people who want to become more self-reliant by developing work skills. In addition, the Church calls on Mormon Helping Hands, a program that provides community service and disaster relief through volunteer labor rather than money and materials.

Below are nine stories of how the Mormon Church and its volunteers have provided organized service and support to people and communities in need.

1. Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, hit southeastern Texas on August 25, 2017, and caused major devastation in Houston through August 30. In the flood-soaked neighborhood of Thornwood, where numerous homes were ruined, more than 11,000 Mormon volunteers donned yellow Helping Hands shirts and spent several days gutting, mucking, and helping restore houses.

2. Hurricane Irma

Just two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit, another Category 4 storm, Hurricane Irma, battered Florida on September 10 and 11. The following Sunday, a group of local Mormon Helping Hands volunteers held a one-hour, morning worship service and then headed out to work in Jacksonville neighborhoods. They spent the day clearing debris from roads and from people’s yards. Despite the exhausting work, those volunteers, along with hundreds of others, returned for several more weekends to clean up the mess from Hurricane Irma.

3. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

In 2005, within four weeks of each other, sister storms Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita hit Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Even before these storms hit, the Mormon Church had gathered supplies and had meetinghouses ready to use as shelters. After the hurricanes, Church volunteers helped with relief efforts. In addition, nearly 200 truckloads of food, medical supplies, hygiene kits, cleaning kits, and other supplies were distributed throughout the southeastern United States. Thousands of Mormon volunteers donated their time to assemble relief kits and to help with cleanup efforts. 

4. Moore, Oklahoma, Tornado

On May 20, 2013, a powerful tornado ripped through the city of Moore, Oklahoma, leaving a trail of debris and devastation. The next weekend, approximately 2,500 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers spent 15,000 total hours cleaning up dozens of neighborhoods and assisting tornado victims. The Mormon volunteers worked side by side with other groups, doing whatever was necessary to bring comfort and aid to those affected by the tornado. Local Church leaders continued to organize service projects in the area until volunteers were no longer needed.  

5. Joplin, Missouri, Tornado

On May 22, 2011, nearly 50 tornadoes raced through the midwestern United States. One of the hardest-hit cities was Joplin, Missouri, where more than 150 people died, thousands of people were injured, and countless homes were either partially damaged or completely destroyed. The Mormon Church sent a truck loaded with relief supplies, and a local Mormon bishop turned his home into a command center to coordinate relief efforts. During the weeks that followed, hundreds of Mormon volunteers worked 4,236 hours sawing, raking, and clearing all kinds of trees, brush, and debris.

6. Arkansas Tornado

A destructive twister swept through a region of central Arkansas on April 27, 2014. Downed trees caused most of the damage, so over the ensuing weekends, Mormon volunteers helped remove trees using tractors, chainsaws, and other equipment. In addition, about a thousand Mormon Helping Hands volunteers sorted through the debris, working with the American Red Cross and Team Rubicon. A local Mormon women’s organization tied more than 50 quilts and assembled office kits, which included paper, envelopes, stamps, and other items for tornado victims. 

7. Manila Typhoon

A tropical storm hit the Manila area of the Philippines in August 2012. The storm caused severe flooding, which killed more than 70 people and affected more than 900,000. After this natural disaster, Mormons living in the Philippines assembled and distributed food and sanitation kits, along with clothes, blankets, home supplies, and other items to people affected.

8. Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake rattled northeastern Japan, triggering a massive tsunami. Hundreds of thousands of buildings were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to evacuate. The Mormon Church donated $13 million to support relief and recovery efforts, and the Church supplied more than 250 tons of food, water, bedding, clothing, hygiene supplies, and fuel. In addition, more than 31,000 Mormon volunteers donated 608,000 service hours. 

9. Refugees from Syria

Since March 2011, more than 150,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan to escape violence in their homeland. Another 150,000 have fled to Turkey, and more than 150,000 have fled to Lebanon. With all the refugees in these areas, refugee camps have needed massive amounts of supplies. The Mormon Church has responded by providing much-needed relief in the form of medical provisions, food, baby formula, hygiene items, clothing, and blankets.