Editor’s note: The following story comes from a biographical article written about Sister J. Anette Dennis, the newly called First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. You can read the full article and learn more about Sister Dennis on Church News. In this story, Sister Dennis and her husband were serving as mission leaders of the Ecuador Guayaquil West Mission in 2013.
Less than a year into their mission, Brother [Jorge] Dennis had an unsettling dream. When he had the same dream a month later, he and Sister [J. Anette] Dennis felt it was important to prepare their missionaries in case of a natural disaster. Working with their young sister missionaries who had been trained as mission nurses, they developed emergency preparedness plans for each zone, including safe gathering places, so the missionaries would know and practice what to do and where to go in the event of an earthquake. They also began an even greater emphasis on spiritual preparation—obedience, repentance and reliance on the Savior’s Atonement.
Almost exactly two years later, on April 16, 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Ecuador, which killed almost 700 people and injured about 16,600 others.
Because of their preparations, both temporal and spiritual, the missionaries knew what to do and where to go after the earthquake. Most reported that even with buildings falling around them and people screaming and running in utter chaos, they felt at peace because they knew what to do and felt prepared if it was their time to go. There were many miracles that day—before, during and after the earthquake. Not one of their missionaries was killed or injured, even though there was destruction and death all around them.
It would be years later, upon studying President Russell M. Nelson’s talk in the October 2020 general conference “Embrace the Future with Faith,” that Sister Dennis recognized that she and her husband had been led by the Lord to do the very things the Prophet spoke about.
“I suddenly realized that we had done the same things President Nelson counseled us to do to prepare for the future. He told us to create ‘places of security,’ prepare our minds to be faithful to God and never stop preparing. That’s exactly what we did with our missionaries during those two years before the earthquake and we saw miracles happen because of it.”
Sister Dennis, who has been serving on the Primary General Advisory Council, will begin her service as First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency on August 1.
You can read the full feature story about Sister Dennis at Church News.