Sierra Leone, Mexico, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Lousiana, Las Vegas, California, Somalia—the number of disasters in the past few months is astounding.
It feels like just when one ends, another one begins—horrible and devastating in a completely new way, and the sheer amount of relief resources needed for those affected continues climbing upward.
But even though these disasters have been heartwrenching, there's something that feels even worse to me.
The dismissive, cold, shrug-your-shoulders response of "must be a sign of the times."
We know that in coming days the "earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man" (D&C 88:87), that there will be "the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds" (D&C 88:90), "the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light" (D&C 88:87), "the moon shall be bathed in blood," (D&C 88:87), "the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig tree" (D&C 88:87), and "all things shall be in commotion" (D&C 88:91).
But that doesn't give us an excuse to sit back, put our feet up, and watch human suffering with only a mild interest and vague sense of sympathy because "things like this will just keep happening."
These are human beings, our spirit brothers and sisters, suffering. Do you think they really care right now about political, racial, or economic differences when their world was just ripped apart at the seams?
They're suffering now; they're starving now; they're dying now and some people don't even blink an eye at that.
Luckily, some people still care, and the Church continues to give aid to those in need, inspiring us to do the same.
Who didn't feel a spark of hope to see so many pictures in the news of yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirts worn by missionaries and Church members? Who didn't love members of the First Presidency more after seeing them in Houston and Puerto Rico speaking words of peace and comfort to members there? And that's not even factoring in the Church's Humanitarian Aid Fund and donations of food and clothing.
That's why it's so disappointing to see some members tucked safely behind TV screens, far away from these conflicts, passing judging and showing little compassion. Some blame governments, others blame socio-economic class, and some blame "the times" for these disasters, but that doesn't mean we should do nothing about them.
I know what is happening in the world today is terrifying and the need seems overwhelming. It's not difficult to see this scripture coming true where ". . . fear shall come upon all people" (D&C 88:91).
But we still have to honor our covenants and "mourn with those that mourn" and "comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18:8–9).
There are no "ifs" in these covenants. There's no if they don't take advantage of us, if they repay us, or if they show that they are self-reliant. Our covenants show us how we are supposed to serve others, no matter "the times" or any other excuse.
And it really doesn't take that much to serve others. As Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said in general conference, we can donate to the Church's Humanitarian Aid Fund and we can pay a generous fast offering. We can also go to Church websites like "I Was a Stranger" and find out how we can serve refugees in our own communities. We can assemble hygiene kits, donate blood, give gently used clothing and household items to Deseret Industries and other organizations, create a food drive, volunteer at a local charity or hospital, the list goes on and on for the service we can offer abroad and in our communities.
There is no lack of service opportunities in "the last days" and we need to be ready to give of ourselves in whatever capacity we are able.
As President Monson said in his October 2009 general conference talk "What Have I Done for Someone Today?”:
“We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us. . . .
“. . .Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these. . . ,ye have done it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40)."