On 8 November 2013, the Philippines was struck by a powerful category 5 tropical cyclone. Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, destroyed over a million homes and left more than 6,200 people dead. As of January, 2014, bodies were still being found. Included in that devastating loss were the homes and lives of family and loved ones of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon” Church by the media and others). In the wake of the storm, relief and rebuilding efforts continue by The Church of Jesus Christ in some of the hardest hit areas as there are still many residents without shelter.
Mormon Helping Hands Help to Rebuild Storm Torn Community
One of the principles of the gospel that Mormons are taught from an early age is the importance of serving others. They understand that when they are in the service of their fellowman, they are in the service of God. And so, when disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines occur, they are ready and willing to render assistance wherever needed with their reward being the blessing of knowing that they are able to bless the lives of others through their humble efforts.
Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevens and President of the Church’s Philippines Area, Elder Brent H. Nielson, recently met with other local Church leaders in Tacloban, where workers in yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests were busy constructing new shelters for those who had lost their homes. One of the homes that they witnessed being built was that of a widow, her daughter, and her grandchild.
Bishop Stevenson remarked that President Monson and the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ had directed the humanitarian efforts to take place after viewing images of the mass destruction that had taken place in the Philippines, and they also expressed “a deep love for the members of the Church and the members of the community in this devastated area.”  Bishop Stevenson further commented that even after a couple of months of disaster response and relief efforts, there is still much to be done as there are still many people without a secure place to lay down and rest at night.
The Wake of the Storm Brings Blessings
One of the immediate blessings brought about by the storm is that the community is able to draw closer together as people learn new skills and are able to help their neighbors to return to a state of normalcy in their lives. Not only are they able to have new homes built for themselves, but with their new found skills, they have become a valuable part of the relief efforts as they help rebuild their community.
Ricky Gonzolez and Jenalyn Barantes took shelter with their families at a Mormon chapel when the typhoon hit. Barantes said her home was destroyed when coconut trees fell on it. She and her family did not have the means to fix it, but volunteers helped her build a new house, and she is now helping another family construct a home. “I learned to work together with those who are also in need here so we can recover from [the typhoon] together,” said Barantes. “We are happy that the leaders of the Church helped us.” 
Gonzolez is learning how to build homes for his family and others after his home was destroyed in the typhoon and he lost his job after the business where he was working closed its doors. “We know we need to help one another so that work can be completed quicker,” said Gonzolez, who is grateful for the Church’s relief efforts. “I can say that they are very good and they are quick to respond.”
Bishop Stevenson stated that the principle of welfare (caring for the poor and needy) is being demonstrated, while at the same time, the principle of self-reliance is being put into action. “One of the things that we’re trying to do is provide materials while [recipients] provide labor. Anyone who is receiving a shelter is also working to build that shelter themselves.” 
Local Church leaders and humanitarian representatives are also meeting with local community leaders to give vocational training and certification to people who have learned carpentry skills. The training is being provided through the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund (PEF). To assist with that training, 10 master carpenters have been brought in to teach the local trainees. In order to be certified by the government, the trainees must demonstrate what they have learned by building 10 shelters. In addition, they will receive a toolbox from the Church, and an opportunity to seek gainful employment.
And so, another blessing brought about by the storm, is the blessing of restored hope. To many who may have felt there was no way out of the situation that they have found themselves in, they can now see that there is a light at the end of a seemingly dark tunnel, and as the psalmist declared, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—have often heard the adage: Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. This is precisely what is happening with an abandoned Mormon meetinghouse near downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church of Jesus Christ donated the site to the American Cancer Society in 2011 for the Hope Lodge—housing for cancer patients and their caregivers while they undergo treatments. And the American Cancer Society recently partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity to salvage usable materials for building homes for Salt Lake Valley families in need. 
The three-story, brick building—built in 1951, mostly by local members of the ward, or congregation—housed the 13th Ward until 2008, when the congregation was moved to another location. The Church of Jesus Christ donated the 2.2-acre lot, worth an estimated $4.2 million, to the American Cancer Society in 2011. When the donation was announced, Glenn McKay, director of real estate for The Church of Jesus Christ, said:
I’m sure there will be some mixed emotions on the part of those who built this building with their own blood, sweat and tears. But I can’t imagine a better use for this property than what it’s going to be used for. 
Uniting Forces for a Common Cause
Ed Blake, executive director for the Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity, said the partnership symbolizes a continuing legacy of giving people a place to call home—for cancer patients as well as families in need. It is definitely a cycle of charity and caring for the poor and needy that is befitting to a former house of the Lord. 
Throughout the summer, volunteers from local businesses will “harvest” still-usable materials—including carpet, metal bathroom stalls, sinks, toilets, doors, bathroom and light fixtures, crown and base molding, speakers and cabinets. Volunteers will also remove nails to either use in other projects or sell. Some of the maple wood from the church building will be used in the Hope Lodge. Construction on the lodge is set to begin in spring 2014. Habitat for Humanity will use the materials they glean to build homes as well as in the thrift store. 
Pam Higginson, regional vice president for the American Cancer Society, pitched the idea to the society’s board after learning of Habitat for Humanity’s need for materials, and the board approved the arrangement. She said that although the two charitable organizations have different goals, they were able to “combine forces to work toward a common cause.” 
An unofficial video made by Mormon Joshua Brown followed Mormon volunteers as they cleaned up hard-hit areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. CNN’s Christina Zdanowicz said, “From the vivid imagery to the emotional interviews with residents affected by Sandy, Brown’s video takes you to a place that lost it all. The arc of the story goes from the despair people face to the hope they feel when volunteers come to save the day” (Sarah Petersen, Mormon Helping Hands video nominated for CNN award, Deseret News, April 4 2013). Although the video did not win, it captured the hearts of many and was widely circulated around the Internet.
Mormons began volunteering in the cleanup effort the day after the hurricane. Congregations were assigned locations after consultation with various local government officials and traveled by bus or car—some even flying in from other parts of the country at their own expense just because they wanted to help—to begin arduous cleanup. They tried not to impact the area any more than necessary so they camped out and brought all their own resources, including water. Many of the areas were without power and water. Volunteers included missionaries, who suspended their proselytizing work during the crisis, and ordinary Mormon adults and teenagers who gave up weekends to participate. Church services in many areas were cancelled because so many chose to volunteer.
Hurricane Sandy clean-up
They donned the now-familiar yellow vests that identified them as participants in the Mormon Helping Hands program. This allowed organizers to keep track of their volunteers and also allowed those receiving services or requesting them to identify the participants. They un-flooded basements, cleaned off mold, removed trash and debris, assisted home owners in sorting out what could be saved, listened when people needed to grieve, and did whatever else was needed. Some neighborhoods had received no help at all the first week—not even from the government. When hundreds of Mormons suddenly descended on their neighborhoods beginning the day after the storm, offering to help without wanting anything in return, many homeowners were moved to tears. They had been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that had to be done. Read more
Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization, can literally say “thanks a million” to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—for a recent food donation. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ collected and donated more than a million pounds of food to the organization. 
“The commitment from our supporting partners helps make Feeding America’s work possible and provides hungry Americans with food, hope and dignity every day,” said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America. “Thanks to the generosity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this most recent donation will provide the equivalent of 625,000 much-needed meals.” 
The Church’s donation of canned goods includes fruit, vegetables and legumes that will be distributed to families in need at community pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across the nation. The nonprofit organization, based in Chicago, supports more than 200 food banks. “Feeding America will distribute the food based on three factors: the number of clients served by a network food bank, the level of poverty of its clients and the food bank’s need for a particular food product on the list of donated items.” 
The Utah Food Bank is a member of the Feeding America network and will receive 250,000 pounds of the donation. 
“This donation from the LDS Church could not have come at a better time for [us],” said Karen Sendelback, CEO of the Utah Food Bank. “The food will help fill a large need over the summer for our fellow Utahans who struggle to put food on the table each day. We are so very grateful.”  Read more
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church, recently dedicated several water wells and latrine facilities for those in need in the suburbs of Monrovia, Liberia, according to an allAfrica.com article.
Elder Richard Miles, the director for the Displaced Camp project in Brewerville, said construction took more than 6 months and that the project will improve sanitation for the women and children of the area, according to the article. The dedication took place April 2, 2013.
Elder Miles said that based on a survey conducted last year, The Church of Jesus Christ determined a real need for the project. Elder Miles said the community once hosted Sierra Leonean refugees who were repatriated and reintegrated into Liberian Society, according to the article. But Elder Miles said the community was left vulnerable after aid agencies pulled out of the area. Read more
A Mormon apostle fills the same role as the apostles who served under Jesus Christ and who ran the church after His death. They proclaim the message of the Savior’s divinity, ministry, and resurrection, they lead and govern the church, and they provide training and counsel.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes nicknamed Mormons, has a quorum consisting of twelve apostles, plus two additional apostles who serve as counselors to the prophet. Although headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, they spend considerable time traveling the world to meet with Mormons in other countries. Following are some recent trips made by Mormon apostles:
Mormon Leader Travels to New Zealand and Samoa
Dallin H. Oaks traveled to New Zealand, where he spoke to an audience of Mormons and their guests in Wellington. He offered encouragement in the art of being Mormons in a place where the faith is a minority. President Uchtdorf suggested they get to know their neighbors, be a part of the community, serve others, and search for common ground when speaking to them. He reminded them that Mormons don’t believe being a Christian is something you do for a few hours at church, but is something you are every moment of your life. He reminded listeners to stand as witnesses of Christ at all times. Read more
The organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mistakenly referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others) is in its infant stages. The Church of Jesus Christ was organized in the early 1990s, and since its inception, nearly 7,000 people in this East African nation have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, and are now members of the global faith.
“Missionaries are baptizing [new members] almost every Sunday,” said Ugandan Jimmy Carter Okot, President of the Kampala Uganda Stake (a stake is similar to a Catholic diocese). “The Church is growing rapidly and the members are very faithful.” 
“People are looking for a solid anchor in a world of shifting values,” said Gordon B. Hinckley, former Church president. “They are welcomed as new converts and are made to feel at home. They feel the warmth of the fellowship of the Saints.” 
President Okot, with the assistance of other Stake leaders, spend their time teaching congregational leaders how to care for those of whom they have immediate stewardship, as well as, how to reach out to friends and neighbors that are not of the LDS faith. Their task is to help the young leadership to first understand the scope of their responsibilities, and then to have them go forth and perform those duties. They teach how to strengthen members of the Relief Society, the women’s organization, and to provide guidance to youth in the Young Men and Young Women programs and to children ages 18 months to 11 years in what is called Primary.
President Okot has only been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ for the past decade, and has said that his path to membership began the day he walked past the construction of a new church building. There he noticed a sign that read: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visitors Welcome.” Yearning to know more, he listened intently as the full-time missionaries taught about Jesus Christ.
He later spoke with two Sister missionaries who expressed their fervent belief in the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ. He gained strength from their powerful, heartfelt testimonies. He recalls, “When they shared their feelings about the Book of Mormon, immediately I had a very strong and powerful feeling.”  He continued with the missionary lessons and was baptized the next week.
A decade later, President Okot has matured as a leader of the LDS Church. He has served a full-time Mormon mission. He has also served as a lay leader of multiple congregations and is now serving as the Stake President of the Kampala Uganda Stake. “I’m grateful to witness the Church flourishing; everyone has a part to play,” explained President Okot. “As a stake, we are able to solve our own challenges.” 
Latter-day Saints in Uganda attend six wards (congregations) and five branches (a smaller congregation) in the villages and communities of Kajjansi, Mengo, Mutungo, Ntinda, Seeta, Entebbe, Kabowa, Kololo, Makindye, Mukono and Nsambya. The six wards comprise the Kampala Uganda Stake, the first Stake in Uganda, created in January 2010.
The organization of The Church of Jesus Christ and its leadership in Uganda operate the same as any other congregation of Latter-day Saints around the world. If a person were to attend worship services on any given Sunday in the United States, Italy, Japan, or even the nation of Africa, he will find congregations singing sacred hymns, offering gratitude through prayer, partaking of the sacrament of bread and water in remembrance of the Savior’s sacrifice and sharing their beliefs.
The Church in Uganda has come a long way, President Okot concluded. As the leadership understands the doctrine of the Church and gains experience, they are strengthened. “The Lord is blessing us; He hasn’t left us alone.” 
The word apostle comes from the Greek “apostolos” meaning “one sent forth.” An apostle, therefore, is one sent forth to serve as a special witness of Jesus Christ. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest presiding body in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly referred to by the media and others as the Mormon Church), is one of those special witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Elder Holland, accompanied by his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, recently paid a visit to several European countries. He began his visit on Saturday, 23 February 2013 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, where he spoke at a meeting of several congregations in the Apeldoorn area about the importance of spreading the Church’s beliefs and referred to the Church’s recent creation of 58 new missions across the world.
“Elder Holland stressed the fact that Christ’s work does not take place in church buildings, but just the opposite,” Lisette Dalliga, a member of the LDS Church’s congregation in nearby Zwolle: said. “Christ spoke to the people on the streets, on the market square and along the shore of the lake. Everyone needs the gospel (and) we should reach out our hands to them.” 
Dalliga further stated that those in attendance during Elder Holland’s address were blessed by the messages of love and inspiration that he shared.
On 25-26 February 2013, Elder Holland spent time in England. During his time there he spoke to missionaries at the LDS Church’s Missionary Training Center, met with several members of Parliament and participated in an interfaith dinner and outreach focus group. Elder Clifford Herbertson, a church leader from Great Britain, commented:
An important part of Elder Holland’s visit to London was to meet with a number of influential political, faith and community leaders. One particular event, a private dinner held in the BYU London Centre, created tangible goodwill and understanding that was recognized and appreciated by all those that attended. Doors were opened during Elder Holland’s visit that will greatly bless the lives of many. 
London’s Hyde Park Chapel which was rededicated on 30 June 2012, and recently remodeled to function as a church meetinghouse and a visitors’ center for those interested in learning about the Church of Jesus Christ, was also visited by Elder Holland. As he had completed a two-year Mormon mission in Britain during the early 1960s, visiting the Hyde Park Chapel was particularly special for him.
“It is a wonderful memory just to be in this building. … I was in this building when it was dedicated, so my memories in this building and in this mission mean everything to me,” Elder Holland said during his visit. “I go all over this world telling missionaries how much my mission meant to me, and to be home, to be in the land of my mission and in the building where I served so much of it is a very, very special experience.” 
He also spent several days in Germany. From 28 February through 1 March 2013, he instructed mission presidents during a seminar held in Frankfurt, Germany. On 2 March, he spoke to members of the Church of Jesus Christ in Berlin, Germany, and participated in an outreach focus group. He concluded his time in Germany on Sunday, 3 March, by speaking to Latter-day Saints from the Leest and Potsdam congregations. He said he thought he was the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to visit those congregations and that he felt like home. In his remarks he spoke about the congregations’ importance in the LDS Church’s work, including bolstering missionary numbers and building temples across the world and assured the members that all the work they do is important.
Vivienne Meier, a member of the Potsdam congregation, said she was grateful for Elder Holland’s visit to her congregation.
“I was very surprised when I heard he was coming, but very happy, too,” Meier said. “His message just really touched my heart. … We were all just in a different dimension hearing him speak. We all felt so good and so happy.” 
Elder José Teixeira, President of the church in the Europe Area, commented that having Elder Holland in Europe was a special experience for all involved.
“As we traveled throughout Europe with Elder and Sister Holland, we saw the goodness of an Apostle of the Lord,” Elder Teixeira said. “The members of the Leest and Potsdam branches in Germany, in particular, will never forget the blessing it was to have Elder Holland in their midst and the blessings and love he left with them.” 
On 10 December 2010, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visited the island of Guam and organized the country’s first stake (an administrative unit composed of multiple congregations.) Just a little more than two years later, another Apostle of the Lord, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve visited the Western Pacific island during his first stop on an almost two-week long visit to the Asia North Area.
He was accompanied by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson; Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Kathryn Callister; and Bishop Dean M. Davies, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and his wife, Sister Darla Davies. Elder Michael T. Ringwood, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, and Elder Koichi Aoyagi, all of the Seventy and members of the Asia North Area Presidency, also accompanied the Church leaders at various times during their visit.
The visit to the area began on 23 February 2013 with a Priesthood Leadership Conference in Guam. Following that meeting, Elder Nelson held special meetings with members, missionaries, and local Church leaders in Japan. He also met with Japanese government leaders. The visit ended on 3 March 2013 with a military district meeting in Okinawa, Japan.
Elder Nelson commented to the Church News that it was a wonderful assignment to be with the people in that area of the world, but no matter where he is, his message remains the same. He stated in part:
“We can learn two things from the [Asian] people,” he said. “First is honesty, and second is a reverence for ancestors.”
“We are here to teach and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel restored,” he said. “That is the way to find joy and purpose in life. While the world and the people of the world do the best they can in darkness and in despair, they can’t find happiness any other way. So ours is a message of peace and joy, of strengthening families, bonding husband and wife, children to their parents, and people to their ancestors … that they can all enjoy eternal life in the presence of God when their sojourn on earth is over.
“Most people live from day to day without a thought of what they will do after this life is over, so we try to give them that eternal perspective. This mortal experience is just act two of a three-act play—the best is yet to come.” 
Elder Nelson further stated that one of the main highlights of the visit was when he and Sister Nelson were able to attend the Temple in Tokyo, Japan.
“It is a great blessing to have two temples in Japan, and a third one (located in Sapporo) is under construction,” he said. “We went to the Tokyo Temple and did an endowment session. We did proxy work for [Sister Nelson’s] ancestors. That’s what we do now—we don’t just go to the temple and draw names of unknown people; we take family names.” 
Sister Nelson, along with Sister Callister and Sister Davies, divided up and made special visits to some Church members. “They did a lot of good,” Elder Nelson said. “They accomplished a great work, maybe even more valuable than what we did with the area review. They were in their homes and took pictures—it was pretty tender.” 
On 3 March 2013 a special meeting was held with the Okinawa District—a district for American military personnel and their families.
“It’s pretty rare for us to meet with a military district,” he said. It was also during his visit to Tokyo that Elder Nelson, along with the Area Presidency, met with two local government leaders—Fumio Kishida, minister of foreign affairs for Japan, and Sadakazu Tanigaki, the minister of justice for Japan.
“They spoke in glowing terms of the Church, expressing gratitude for our help following the earthquake, for the high moral standards and responsible citizenship of Japanese Latter-day Saints,” he said. “They were very warm and friendly, and we expressed our gratitude to them for their making it [possible] … for our missionaries and visitors such as us to come into Japan.” 
Japan has six missions. Elder Nelson remarked that after President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement concerning the change in age requirements for serving a full-time mission for both young men and young women, there still remains a “wave of excitement throughout the entire earth”, and the excitement among missionary age young people in Guam and Japan matches that of the rest of the world.
Describing the next generation of Church members—the youth and young adults—he met on his travels, Elder Nelson said that they are “bright, light-filled young people” who “know who they are, and they know where they are going. … It is fun to teach them because they are so very receptive. They are the cream of the crop.” 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mistakenly referred to as the Mormon Church by people of other faiths) has dedicated a new house of worship in the United Arab Emirates. The half-acre parcel on which the Abu Dhabi Stake Center is built was donated by the Crown Prince of the Abu Dhabi Emirate. The building is located in an area surrounded by other religious structures.
The new 14,000-square-foot building was dedicated on 22 February 2013 by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest presiding group within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) The building consists of three levels and includes a chapel, offices, classrooms, and a small cultural hall. In keeping with the local culture, one of the architectural features of the building is a dome-shaped steeple. The building, constructed of concrete masonry with a stucco finish, is part of the Middle East Africa North Area which encompasses 20 countries, with Morocco on the west and Afghanistan on the east. It is the only building in the area constructed by the Church of Jesus Christ solely as a meetinghouse for its members.
Dewan Architects and Mazcot Construction, both Emirati companies, were architect and contractor on this unique project.
Elder Larry S. Kacher, Area Seventy (members of the Third through the Eighth Quorums of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ are designated Area Seventies), said, “We are so grateful to those in the Abu Dhabi government who have been so accepting of other faiths that they are willing to donate land to allow those not of the Muslim faith to worship as they desire. Those government officials in Abu Dhabi have been an example of tolerance and kindness to all who come here and, in return for such consideration, are willing to respect the local laws and traditions. We are grateful to them.” 
Elder Holland dedicated the building as part of the stake conference in Abu Dhabi on Friday morning, with Friday being the day the Sabbath is observed in this part of the world. A total of 413 people attended the meeting in the stake center and another 637 watched a webcast in other buildings throughout the stake. An unknown number watched via the Internet. Later that evening, a devotional was held in Dubai and the proceedings were broadcast to other buildings in the stake (an administrative unit composed of multiple congregations, or wards, comparable to a diocese in the Roman Catholic Church.)
The stake covers four countries in the area: The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. The Church of Jesus Christ does not do any proselytizing in the area and membership is made up of Latter-day Saints primarily from North America and the Philippines. The nations of the workers and supervisors who constructed the stake center were equally international in their background, coming from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
“The building is very well equipped to transmit our meetings to members around the region,” said Robert E. Bateman II, president of the Abu Dhabi stake. “In terms of electronic technology, remotely controlled cameras and projection capabilities, it may be one of the most advanced in the church.” 
James Morris, who served with his wife, Sheila, as church service missionaries for the construction of the building, said, “When in the construction phase, the engineer on site for the construction company made the comment: ‘I have been instructed by my director to make sure that the construction of this building is to be of the highest quality, because it will be a holy place of worship for hundreds of people.’” 
Brother Morris also said, “We have been befriended by the ministers of other Christian churches in the neighborhood. They dropped by after the dedication to congratulate us on such a fine building, and have proposed having a joint social with their congregations.” 
Elder Kacher said, “The construction of the chapel has already been a great blessing in the lives of the members. I remember the first time I entered the completed chapel just a few months ago. I was overcome by a feeling of peace and reverence, more so than any other chapel I have ever entered. It is as if there is a special purpose for this, the first Church-built chapel in the Middle East. …