Tsunami

December 29, 2004 | 44 comments
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Belgium, December 29, 2004. For days now I have been confronted with TV-images of bloated and rotting bodies littered along shores, of parents crying over the corpses of their children, of living children staring dumbfounded into a camera and holding up a note with their name and the question “Seen parents?” – while it is almost certain, after three days, they have become orphans. Thousands of orphans and they still cling to their note.

It seems that in reporting about such disasters some media tend to focus on the material destruction, on the spectacular waves, on interviews with the living who have escaped. Occasionally you see, for a few seconds, some coffins or a crying person. Other media focus more and longer on the human horror, not for the show, but to make sure we understand the impact of this calamity and are encouraged to give very generously to the disaster funds. Tens of thousands killed, of which one third to one half children. It is beyond our ability to comprehend.

I reread 3 Nephi 8. This time those verses became poignantly real. It were not just cities sinking “into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned”. Now I had seen for myself innocent children swallowed by the raging sea. With my own ears I had heard the outcome – “great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually.”

This is also a disaster that struck indiscriminately the poor and the rich, the celebrities and the humble fishermen. Wealthy vacationers, newlyweds on their honeymoon, staying in hotels next to local towns and villages. This time not just inhabitants of a faraway country, but also thousands of tourists from our own countries. We read on the web the frantic e-mails of their families here, waiting in despair for a signal. All are affected.

Much can now be written about the fragility of life. About how we can be walking on a paradisiacal beach, and seconds later everything is destroyed and the sea leaves us with cadavers and the wailing of survivors who have lost parents, children, brothers, sisters. “Why am I left alive?” is their often heard question.

A Belgian reporter wrote: “At least, if we knew this was God’s wrath, it would make some sense”. Is that a valid thought or the summit of irony?

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44 Responses to Tsunami

  1. Christian on December 29, 2004 at 9:16 am

    I suspect the latter. I probably suspect that because my kneejerk response to news of the event was similarly cynical: “That’s the Lord’s way of saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to all those non-Christians.”

    You see, I must confess that events like this nudge me toward atheism. Sometimes it seems that what makes the most sense is the idea that things should not be expected to make sense, because there’s no cosmic power with a paternal regard for humanity.

  2. Rosalynde Welch on December 29, 2004 at 10:21 am

    Thank your for posting on this Wilfried; something needed to be written if only in commemoration of the loss. I must think more before I can comment intelligently, but I am grateful to be able to add my voice of sorrow.

  3. Charles on December 29, 2004 at 10:22 am

    Our life on this earth is but a brief breath when viewed with an eternal scope. The disasters are horrendous, the loss of life tragic. This was indiscriminate and cynicism can find an ugly spot to roost in even the best of people when the media focuses on destruction done to hotels and resorts. Who really cares that a resort hotel got leveled? The real loss is the life of those caught inside.

    But we should try to remember in death those lost are home again. Their time in our world and whatever pains they suffered in death will be no more than a ripping off of a bandage in thier eternal life to come. The greatest pain is for those left behind. Those without an eternal perspective, and those who don’t understand. That is why it is ever more important in events like this to act with love and charity and whenever possible share the gospel with those who really need it.

    The times are what we make them.

  4. cooper on December 29, 2004 at 10:38 am

    This tragedy has been weighing on me for days. Thank you, Wilfried, for taking the time to post about the Tsunami. I was disappointed with the lack of mention in the Bloggernacle regarding this unfortunate event.

    We need to be mindful about how blessed our lives truly are, and how much responsibility is ours to be grateful for our blessings. Compare this tragedy with one of the worst hurricanes in our history – Andrew – and we have no reason to not be grateful for living where we live. Andrew’s force killed 26 people and blew down a lot of homes, buildings, cars etc. This wall of water will eventually kill 200,000. The pestilence alone will kill thousands.

    If there was ever a time to donate to the humanitarian arm of the church it is now. We live comfortable lives, many of us never knowing hunger. It is a good time to reflect on how our lives, filled with stress and competition, are so different from most of the people in the world. We truly are blessed of the Lord. Maybe a trip to the temple to do some temple work might be in order too.

    It was remarkable to see stories about the biggest tragedy here in the states for the holiday season: Baggage handlers walked off the job in a sick out, people had their flights cancelled and couldn’t travel to see loved ones for the holiday. Hmmm…

  5. Gordon Smith on December 29, 2004 at 11:44 am

    Thanks, Wilfried. Like Rosalynde, I felt the need to write something about this, but what? Your concluding question has provoked some thoughts.

    The reporter’s question seems to me to be exceedingly self-absorbed. Thousands are dead, millions have had their lives changed forever, and the reporter is fretting about how it doesn’t make sense? I suppose that she was attempting to convey a sense of despair, but to me it conveys the sense that “it’s all about me.” This event has made me uncomfortable, and I don’t like it!

    This raises the question, how should we respond to such news? Unlike Christian, I do not find such events pushing me towards atheism, but I also do not find the hand of God in them. Indeed, I do not feel the need to “make sense” of such events at all, at least not immediately. In my view this should be a time to pray for the victims of the disaster and to go to their aid. Perhaps it is a time to reflect on our own blessings, but shouldn’t that be a secondary or tertiary concern?

  6. John Mansfield on December 29, 2004 at 11:57 am

    Taking Sri Lanka as one case, the World Health Organization figures give 120,079 deaths in the year 2000 out of that country’s population of 18,923,749. The New York Times reports this morning that 22,493 have been killed in Sri Lanka by the tsunami and 1 million displaced. Out of the displaced population, then, the number killed would normally be a 3-1/2 year supply of dead.

    That quantity of death (2%) is a significant burden, but the massive displacement seems even more important, particularly for those of us far away. What am I going to do about it? Send letters of condolence, or send money and supplies to stabilize a desperate situation? So, I don’t mind emphasis on the physical destruction.

    This tsunami situation is not quite the same as when an earthquake kills tens of thousands in a limited region, because the loss and destruction in this case are spread along thousands of miles of coastline. This isn’t one big disaster. It is hundreds of simultaneous ordinary disasters.

  7. Jim Richins on December 29, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    When I first heard the news during the holiday, I didn’t pay much attention. There is so much tremendous devastation and loss, my small and withered heart can’t bear it all at once. I did the same thing on 9/11…

    I don’t grieve so much for the dead. They are taken home, and I have faith that they have fulfilled their purpose on Earth. Furthermore, I know that no blessing will be denied them because of the tsunami.

    But, my heart aches for the survivors. The families torn apart, the injured (physically and emotionally), the orphans. The terrible tragedy that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Another awful aspect of this is there is nothing that I can do to take that particular pain away. But, that Savior can heal those pains, and surely will when the purpose of the pain has been fulfilled.

    Disasters such as this are permitted (perhaps even caused) by God at least for the purpose of providing the rest of us with an opportunity to serve (for through serving, grieving, caring for others, we become more like Christ).

    But, doubling or tripling my fast offering contribution for a month or two doesn’t really seem to be teaching me much…

    I imagine (in the Saturdays’ Warrior version of the Universe) that those 60,000 victims (is the number really up that high? How much higher will it go?) knew that they would serve their purpose by being called home early. It would be their final calling in this life to provide opportunities for others to become like Christ. Perhaps they felt it was a mixed blessing – on the one hand, fulfilling the purposes of God and on the other, knowing that parents would no be able to comfort grieving children.

    Elder Hafen from April Conference:

    “We cannot really feel charity—Christ’s love for others—without at least tasting His suffering for others, because the love and the suffering are but two sides of a single reality. ”

    I hope that through this tragedy, I can develop greater charity for others – not just by offering money in a little blue envelope on Sunday, but by *feeling* the pain of the victims and survivors.

    “mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort” indeed…

  8. Christian on December 29, 2004 at 12:51 pm

    I very much liked Gordon’s comment 5. Certainly prayers and aid to the victims should be our first concern, and I think his comment on the self-absorption of those who react like the reporter and myself has some merit.

    But I am curious to know more about Gordon’s view of these kinds of events. We have had several days to get used to this event, and prayers and donations don’t take large amounts of our time. There’s time enough to reflect on this now (or at least there’s been time enough since past tragedies of a similar nature). What do such events mean mean?

    One answer, like Jim R.’s comment 7, is that all the details of each life are known in advance by an omniscient God, and that he maintains all these things (including weather events of this magnitude) under his control. That seems logically consistent—possibly even necessary to—our theology, and it seems to be the point of view expounded at length in Neal A. Maxwell’s “All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience.”

    This view of God as micromanager, complete master of all details past present and future, while it seems to follow logically from our theology, doesn’t ring true to me in what seems to be a very “messy” universe (taken both on the whole and at many scales).

    I am intrigued by Gordon’s statement that “I do not feel the need to “make senseâ€? of such events at all…” Gordon, does this mean you don’t believe in God as micromanager either? What are some alternatives?

  9. Marc D. on December 29, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    In times like these I wonder why the Lord does not say to his prophet President Hinckley: ‘There is going to be a disaster so call the leaders of this and this country and tell them to evacuate these places.’ Is that asking too much?
    I don’t believe I will be able to develop more charity because of this disaster. What can I do anyway? Send some money?
    Do you think there will be people become closer to the Lord because of this tragedy or will there be a lot of people who will lose their faith because of it?
    A lot of questions, no answers.

  10. VeritasLiberat on December 29, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    “he maintains all these things (including weather events of this magnitude) under his control. That seems logically consistent—possibly even necessary to—our theology”

    I see it as the exact opposite. The God of Mormonism is not a micro-manager. Heck, he even lets us put mistakes in our scriptures, instead of dictating every word.

    As to what the natural disaster *means* — in itself, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a design limitation of a mortal world, like diseases and predators. What’s important is what meaning we will bring to it as we respond. Those who work to relieve the suffering and soothe the pain are acting as the agents of the Lord on earth. God is in them as they love “the least of these.”

  11. Jim F. on December 29, 2004 at 2:36 pm

    “Dumbfounded” is exactly the way to describe my thoughts about this disaster. I am struck dumb. I have made some philosophical reflections on the problem of evil. Those who are interested in such things may find them interesting. But philosophical reflection is beside the point as a response to something like this. It may sometimes even be an evil response to evil.

  12. Kaimi on December 29, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    I must admit I actually liked the original phrasing quite a bit — “numbfounded” seemed like a great coining of a phrase, to describe a state of being both dumbfounded and numbed at the same time.

  13. Gordon Smith on December 29, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Christian,

    Not much time right now, but here is a quick response. Being omniscient and being a micromanager seem like two different things to me. I believe God is omniscient, but I am not convinced that he is micromanaging, at least in the sense of intervening constantly in our lives. His omniscience allows him to understand us completely, to love us, and to work with us both in this life and in the next to become like Him. Perhaps I am missing something, but I feel pretty comfortable with just that.

  14. Jim Richins on December 29, 2004 at 3:10 pm

    The desire to attach some divine will to a natural disaster such as this is itself an attempt to assign meaning. For many people, the idea of a vengeful or capricious God is easier to understand (because it is easy to identify with these evil attributes in the world around us) than a random event of nature. Still, Gordon’s concept of a natural disaster being a consequence of our temporal existence is likely the best explanation – difficult as it may be for many people to comprehend.

    I do not know if there was any divine will manifest in the tsunami, or in earthquakes, volcanos, avalanches, hurricanes, or the like. Certainly, faith in God does benefit from some disasters because individuals are humbled or brought to repentance. Christ has said that he has called us by the voices of his servants, as well as thunderings, lightnings, earthquakes, and tempests. Surely, there is some measure of divine will fulfilled by these disasters. But did God reach out and shift the tectonic plates under the Indian Ocean in an attempt to call the Indonesians to repentance? I doubt it…

    Nevertheless, I believe I am in agreement with Gordon when I say that meaning is best assigned to a disaster based on how we react to it. Feeling vicariously some of the survivors suffering, and offering donations as well as prayers, are pretty much all I as an individual can do, however. My powerlessness to help is troubling…

    After a few moments of pondering, I now wonder if God – rather than calling Indonesians to repentance – is calling ME to repentance via this disaster. Repent of what? Probably my self-absorption, my selfishness, my ingratitude for the blessings I do have…

    DC 59 – “In nothing doth man offend God save those who confess not his hand in all things”

    I surely hope it doesn’t take the deaths of (now) 76,000 to get me to repent properly of these mortal weaknesses (and many others).

    Of course, why should it be that 76,000 deaths, including innocent children, motivates me to repentance, and not the Saviors own sacrifice for me. He was innocent too, yet was bruised for my transgressions.

  15. John Mansfield on December 29, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    I felt awe contemplating the rupture of a 600 mile fault section. That doesn’t happen every decade. Death happens every day, though. Of the six billion of us, around two million of us will die next week. Over a million of us are killed by floods each year.

  16. John Mansfield on December 29, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    Correction to #15: This estimate of annual flood deaths is an order of magnitude too high.

  17. Kristine on December 29, 2004 at 4:11 pm

    cooper, don’t mistake the “lack of mention in the bloggernacle” for lack of concern. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that anything I said would be hopelessly inadequate to convey my horror.

  18. Melissa on December 29, 2004 at 8:13 pm

    Like so many of you, I’ve struggled with how to respond to this tragedy. Here are the sequence of my thoughts:

    First, the timing is particularly painful. Just as many of us were eating leftover Christmas delicacies and playing with shiny new toys, received in commemoration of the gifts the Savior brings——we were made aware of the tragic suffering of people half a world away. The juxtaposition of Christmas trinkets and my own impotence to give real gifts of healing to these, our grieving brothers and sisters, has filled me with both anger and despair. I found it strange, in an indescribable way, that President Hinckley was speaking on live television at the very time this disaster was occurring. What are we to make of this?

    Second, the words of Helaman have repeatedly come to mind, “remember, remember that it us upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down . . . ” Of course, this disaster was not the metaphorical winds that Helaman speaks of, which are sent by the devil to bring us to an “endless wo.” Nevertheless, how are we to understand these sorts of *natural* disasters? Are we not taught to believe by certain stories in the Scriptures that God will protect us from events like natural disasters?

    Third, there is the problem of evil, which Jim has mentioned. One might say that there are many worse things that can occur than losing loved ones to death or experiencing the destruction of one’s home. The loss of one’s own salvation or the salvation of those we love, for example, might be considered worse. Still, this event is one that is theologically difficult to explain to others. No doubt I will be asked by colleagues when I return to school if this event doesn’t finally convince me that God is just a projection of the imagination afterall. I have no adequate response in the face of this sort of human suffering that will not seem flippant and lacking in compassion. Any answer I give will make Martha Nussbaum’s argument against Christianity seem warranted.

    Fourth, in April’s General Conference Elder Oaks spoke about preparaing for the second coming. As part of that talk he noted that the signs of the Second Coming are all around us and are increasing in frequency and intensity, and then mentioned floods, tidal waves, hurricanes and typhoons particularly. He also quoted D&C 88:88-92 ,
    “For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes. . . . “And . . . the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.
    “And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.” Talk about getting it right on the money! I can’t recall in my lifetime any more specific prophecy than this based on the last six months of weather. Furthermore, we don’t often think of weather patterns as being “testimonies” but in section 88 that is what they are called—-”the testimony of earthquakes . . . and the voice of the waves of the sea” and so forth. What a voice and what a wake up call!

    Fifth, the First Presidency issued the following statement today, “In association with other relief agencies, the Church is extending substantial humanitarian aid to the stricken people of southern Asia. We have representatives on the ground who are assessing needs and who are administering help. This coming Sunday, 2 January 2005, will be our regular fast day. In the present circumstances, we urge our people to remember in their prayers those in the devastated areas and to contribute most generously in fast offerings, which will make it possible for the Church to increase its aid to those whose suffering is so great.”

    I will certainly add my fasting prayers to everyone else’s and am glad to know that “we have representatives on the ground who are assessing needs and administering help,” but can’t help feeling like I wish I were among those “on the ground . . administering help” instead of here writing about it in the comfort of my own home finishing off the Christmas ham.

  19. Steve Evans on December 29, 2004 at 10:54 pm

    Let me add my voice to Wilfried’s and the others on this thread — this is a horrible, horrible thing. I don’t know why this happened, and I can’t figure out why God would allow it to be so. I was struck with a thought similar to Jim’s that somehow, the exercise of asking “whys” at this point may be an evil response to evil.

    For now, though, I’m trying to put some of those questions aside and just help out any way I can. For those interested or unable to figure out Google, I’ve posted on BCC a few resources for aid.

  20. Geoff Johnston on December 30, 2004 at 1:48 am

    I suppose there has never been a disaster that hasn’t caused some to cry out: “Where is God? Why did he let this happen?” Some here have wondered why God didn’t send President Hinckley to the rescue before the disaster. Several have called this disaster a great evil.

    A few years ago I finally read the Old Testament from cover to cover and came away with a startling conclusion: In general, God doesn’t much care about human life or death. It was startling because I and everyone I know care about it very much. But this life can and often does end in an instant and God rarely seems to intervene. The scriptures seem to say to me over and over that God only really cares about human choices and He mostly lets nature take its course, even when it cut many lives (or probations) seemingly short. In other words, He only seems to really care whether we are choosing right or wrong, to become more righteous or wicked, to repent or regress, to improve or worsen. I guess it is the ancient doctrine of the Two Ways.

    How can I defend this idea about God’s opinion of mortal life and death? Well I think the whole of scripture defends the statement, but logically it is not to hard to defend either. Elder Maxwell was fond of reminding us that “you’ve never seen a star that is older than you�. In other words, we are eternal and coming and going from this world is of little consequence to God. The choices we make in between mean everything. And this is true no matter who we are or where we live(d) in our mortal probation. The prophet Ezekiel said it best in chapter 18. Basically, the person who is repenting (improving, changing for the better or more righteous) is infinitely better off than the person who is not actively repenting. The parable of the talents adds more to this concept.

    So I believe there is no evil in death – no matter how widespread or tragic. There is only evil in choices. This horrible disaster is a chance for evil or good to occur… and both will. Charity will be shown and property will be looted. Some will act and others will ignore. For me it is a question of will I act and change for the better or ignore the pain of others. My plan is to do the one thing I know I can do… Open my checkbook and put off that planned purchase so some poor grieving Sumatran father can have a something to start rebuilding with…

  21. Wilfried on December 30, 2004 at 4:21 am

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I knew they were no easy answers from our limited perspective. But knowing we all share in the grief and in the search for answers is consolation in itself. Melissa gave a valuable reference to the talk by Elder Oaks about preparing for the second coming, with reference to D&C 88:88-92, which seems particularly timely in the present circumstances. As we can read in 3 Nephi, the coming of the Lord to the America’s was preceded by similar destruction. It is apparent that in the disappearance of whole cities both good and bad, both adults and children, were affected. It was part of a perspective that only a higher order could understand. We trust in that order. But it hardly makes the suffering less for here and now. As has been pointed out in the comments, the least we can do is respond with generosity.

  22. Jim F. on December 30, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    Geoff Johnston: I have a difficult time understanding what you say when you say “I believe there is no evil in death – no matter how widespread or tragic.” Do you separate the death of the person from her suffering, from the suffering of her loved ones? If not, isn’t your denial that these deaths are evil itself an evil thing?

    I am not denying that God has his purposes and can use these events for his will nor that life after this life is a good thing. Nor am I denying that from a divine perspective what seems horrible to us may not be as horrible. I don’t have to deny those to see events like this one as evil because of the pain and suffering that they bring to those who experience them.

  23. Geoff Johnston on December 30, 2004 at 8:00 pm

    Jim,

    It might be just a definition issue (let me know). It sounds like you would consider human pain, suffering, illness and death an evil thing. While I certainly agree that they are awful and undesirable things, I am defining evil more narrowly than that. I believe evil is always in the hearts of men. It is always a choice to do the wrong thing, to reject the light of Christ, to become more selfish, mean, and devilish. So neither the death of a person, her suffering, or the suffering of her loved ones is evil — each just exist as a result of our mortal state. Now if I have a chance to alleviate some of that suffering or comfort someone and I refuse to do so — that is evil.

    The problem with calling death and suffering from natural disasters evil is that we indict God of evil. I’m not comfortable doing that so I define evil as being necessarily a result of agency.

  24. Geoff Johnston on December 30, 2004 at 8:21 pm

    As an addition to my last post, Random House Dictionary defines evil as:
    1. morally wrong or bad. — This is the definition I am working with.

    However, the wider definition Jim employs are valid as well. My dictionary continued:
    2. harmful or injurious. 3. unfortunate or disastrous.

  25. LANA MORRIS on December 30, 2004 at 9:16 pm

    I feel so sorry for the loss of so many and wishing I could do something. I would consider it God sent if I coule adopt an orphan and give a lost child a home. I am a single 39 year old woman who can not have a child and no money to adopt. But I have a good job with health insurance and a warm stable home and would love a child and spend my life making it better for one… IF ANYONE HAS INFORMATION THAT COULD HELP ME or connections I would be blessed and honored………….Lana

  26. Sheri Lynn on December 30, 2004 at 10:10 pm

    I’ve studied geology enough to know that this event, despite its scope, is as unsurprising as a car crash. Heavenly Father set up a world that is more pitbull than lapdog. It is our challenge to learn about it and pay attention to what we learned. All of those people could have known about their risk, and most of them could have been warned in time. Is there not evil in the negligence of governments that did not prepare to be able to warn coastal residents that a tsunami was imminent? The image of dead children lying in rows with no one to claim them is certainly unpleasant to us, but who was responsible for the decisions that made their deaths inevitable? The children are surely in a better place, but there are those left behind who should take the warning from their guilt. Will they ignore it, make excuses, point fingers, rebuild and forget?

    We have an obligation to pay attention, as individuals and societies. Our own coasts are at similar risk and if we do not act accordingly to protect our families, cities, states, and their vital infrastructure, we are fools, for we can most certainly afford preparedness. There is no real excuse. We have seen this before, but we do not remember.

    I see people trying to decide if they ought to blame God because time and again we fail the physical, intellectual, and moral tests that He so plainly sets before us, His “rational” children.

  27. marta on December 31, 2004 at 12:29 am

    Lana Morris, Please do not neglect to consider local children. It may not seem to be appropriate in response to this specific tragedy, but many children in or near our own communities need homes, and local agencies are often able to provide financial assistance to adopting parents and are open to single parent placements. I propose that it is an appropriate response in that when we fill any need, we reduce total need.

  28. Jim F. on December 31, 2004 at 1:59 am

    Geoff: You’re right, we are not using the same definition of “evil.” But I think it is a mistake to limit the notion of evil merely to the result of choice. Doing so makes your argument work, but only by straight-jacketing our language: though few would deny (unless they were reflecting philosophically) that these kinds of events, or the murder of a loved one, or the death of one’s child is bad, even evil, you would require them to do so in order to make your claim, “there is no evil in death – no matter how widespread or tragic,” work. It is common sense that suffering is evil. Why deny that common sense? I don’t see why we have to “indict God for evil” if we do so–unless we insist that evil can only be understood as what is morally wrong.

    This is too brief, but I explain my view more fully in the reference in comment 11, if you’re interested. However, as I mentioned in the same comment, I don’t want to debate the why’s of this event or whether it is evil. As close as we are to it, that seems at least unseemly, a way of stepping away from the brute facts, perhaps sometimes even a way of turning a blind eye: philosophy as escape. I wouldn’t have debated the philosophical conundra surrounding “death with dignity” standing in the room where my father was dying. Neither should I turn this event into a philosophical problem rather than a problem of Christian love.

  29. danithew on December 31, 2004 at 8:57 am

    Geoff,

    I was thinking about what you are saying and it is quite interesting. One thought I have is that due to the atonement of Jesus Christ, God has the capability to dismiss death to a certain degree … mainly because the gift of the resurrection is in place. Those whose bodies and spirits are separated in death will inevitably have their spirits and bodies reunited in the resurrection.

    Then I remembered a Book of Mormon verse that uses the word monster. I did a scripture search on this word, that hardly ever shows up in the scriptures, and found that three of the times it does appear are in 2 Nephi. The term that is repeated three times is actually “awful monster” and it is used to refer to “death and sin.” It’s interesting to me that the singular “monster” is repeatedly used to refer to the devil, death and sin … maybe these three are somehow wrapped up in one — I would have expected that the term used would be the plural “monsters.” Here are the verses:

    2 Nephi 9:10
    O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.

    That verse is interesting because of the way the word “monster” is repeated. It could have been written only once but apparently that wasn’t enough. The next cited verse describes the “awful monster” as “the devil, and death, and hell” … so again the singular “monster” is being used to combine a number of terrible things.

    2 Nephi 9:19
    O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.

    And then the next verse also has the same list of “death and hell, and the devil” and describes them as “that awful monster.”

    2 Nephi 9:26
    For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.

    My feeling about this is that yes, death is a monster but that it is a monster that has been contained. Perhaps then God is saddened when this monster is unleashed all at once on so many people … but at the same time God has the complete assurance that any devastation that has occurred is temporary (from an eternal perspective).

  30. Amira on December 31, 2004 at 10:58 am

    Lana,

    International adoption in the aftermath of a disaster like this is really not practical. It is very difficult to know whether a child is truly orphaned- and doesn’t have any other relatives to take care of him or her. Individual countries always need to give the people in their own countires a chance to adopt domestically first before allowing foreigners to adopt. International adoptions also require a lot of paperwork and regulations to work through.

    I agree with Marta that there is great need here in the US, and it would be much quicker to adopt here and probably easier. However, after travelling in third-world countries, I have no doubt that the need in other countries is far greater, and I think international adoption is an excellent option. Just know that it is a long process with many ups and downs, and it is highly unlikely that you could adopt a child who was directly impacted by the tsunamis.

  31. Geoff Johnston on December 31, 2004 at 1:47 pm

    Jim,

    Like you I am concerned that discussing the nature of evil when so many are mourning and in need of comfort might appear to be a self-serving moral wrong in itself. However the only viable thing I can conceive of doing to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18: 9) in Asia, and “to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2: 19; also Mosiah 4: 26; D&C 38: 35; D&C 44: 6) is through my donation slip on Sunday. That decision has already been made.

    The fact is that disasters turn our minds to the big questions in life and after we do what we can to physically administer relief I believe there is no sin in discussing such an important doctrine.
    “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;” (D&C 88: 78; also D&C 88: 77; D&C 97: 14)

    So in the hope of becoming “more perfectly instructed” I respectfully disagree with a couple of you points in #28. While utilizing the primary definition of evil as “morally bad or wrong” and precluding the secondary definitions called for more explanation than I gave it, it is less of a stretch than using the secondary definitions and precluding the primary definition in order to avoid indicting God of moral wrong or bad. That is just what many are attempting to do when they call this disaster evil. You said “It is common sense that suffering is evil. Why deny that common sense?â€? That is debatable. While my dictionary agrees that it is common enough to use the word evil to mean “2. harmful or injurious. 3. unfortunate or disastrous.â€? It is still most common for evil to mean morally bad or wrong. So in the examples you gave: “the murder of a loved one, or the death of one’s childâ€?, murder fits all three definitions of evil cited; death in itself only fits the secondary definitions — not the primary definition. Why use the word “evilâ€? for death if the meaning you are after is not the primary meaning of “evilâ€??

    Why does any of this matter? Because “evilâ€? is a powerful and evocative word and a vital word we use to teach the gospel – and there is little in life more important than teaching the gospel. If we allow the word to become so diluted that it loses its primary meaning and becomes a catch-all for all things bad, harmful, or injurious we lose a valuable tool. (It reminds me of our exchange about the word “worthyâ€?). Perhaps it is already too late to change that dilution… I know I will be more careful to qualify my use of the word “evil” in the future.

  32. Greg on December 31, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    Danithew:
    Thanks for pointing out those verses. We don’t often use the term “monster” as a metaphor for death and hell, and it’s worth thinking about why Jacob does.

  33. Geoff Johnston on December 31, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for the insightful comment, danithew.

    The discourse by Jacob is very relevant to this discussion. I especially liked your observation that Jacob talks of a single three-headed (two-headed in v.10) monster rather than multiple monsters. I had not noticed that before. Jacob also makes it perfectly clear that because of the fulfillment of the “great plan of our God”(v. 13) by Christ that the temporal death head of the monster has no bite — it is no longer God’s concern and shouldn’t be ours. (Jacob recognized death as not an evil, but a simple fact when he said [v4] “For I know that ye have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come; wherefore I know that ye know that our flesh must waste away and dieâ€?. He can be calm about this reality because he concludes the verse with “nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see Godâ€?). But even with one head incapacitated, the monster is still a very dangerous one. Look how Jacob treats the subject:

    Verse 10: Jacob glories in the fact that God has prepared a “way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster” – we can win.
    Verse 19: He explains that God “delivereth his saints from that awful monster” – so we want to qualify to be called saints
    Verse 26: Jacob explains that in addition to saints, another group is spared from the monster’s remaining head(s). “For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster”. – Too late for anyone reading this to get this exemption, but very comforting regarding the children and others lost in the Tsunami.

    This helps illustrate the point I was trying to make originally — physical death really doesn’t matter much to God, but spiritual death means everything. Spiritual death is necessarily a result of our agency (thus those who do not have law are immune).

    That is why Jacob goes on to warn us against real and potentially lasting tragedies like despising the poor, persecuting the meek, setting our hearts on (and even worshipping) riches, being deaf or blind to God, lying, murdering, committing whoredoms, or worshipping other idols. (V 30-38). He then says in v. 39
    “O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.”

    The point of my original post is just this: God is only concerned about the monster’s deadly remaining head(s) – hell and the devil. It is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance, or lack thereof, that determines the damage the monster can do to us.

  34. Caroline Maggiacomo on December 31, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    My husband and are live in the United States and have been childless for years. We are interested in adopting an orphan from the Tsunami disaster.

    Is there anyone who can help us with this quest?

    Our thoughts and prayers always,

    Caroline and Kevin Maggiacomo

  35. David King Landrith on December 31, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Death counts notwithstanding, the region isn’t doing so bad that it can’t refuse help from jews.

  36. Megan on January 1, 2005 at 1:10 pm

    My heart goes out to the children who are without homes, parents, and family during this devestating time. You wonder why this could happen, and if there really is a higher power, or if it is just mother nature taking its course. Whose hands could take away so many lives??? Who is to cause for this devestation???
    I was talking amongst family, and you wonder where will all these children without homes go. Will they be placed in orphanages? Are there orphanages to place them in? Who can you contact to adopt a child, or two, that have no one, have nothing? Adoption in the United States is such a complicated process, but should these children be left to try to make it through life on their own, or be placed with a loving family who can provide them with the love and support that they need right now? Who can you contact to provide one of these children with that love? There are so many women unable to have children, unable to afford the cost of adoption, but, who want to show a child love and compassion. Why not give them the chance now?

  37. Wilfried on January 2, 2005 at 2:08 am

    Several commenters have asked about adoption. International adoption is a complex and delicate matter, which has become more difficult over the years because of tighter and justified control (people have sometimes unwittingly adopted stolen babies etc.). I read that in the case of this disaster in Asia, the advice is definitely against adoption abroad of orphans. Nearly all of these children would still have relatives and distant family in the area, or friends of their families and they would be the first choice for adoption. For other infants without relatives or friends, no doubt many local people, who have not been affected so dramatically, are willing to adopt. Moreover, for children above age three, the advice is given that it is less traumatic for them to remain in their own environment than to face another emotional breach by being transplanted to a totally different culture, language and climate. Now they can grieve with their own, comfort each other and become part of the common rebuilding. So it seems that giving generously to that rebuilding is the best we can do. Of course, all of us who want to reach out with open hearts, thinking of adoption, are to be commended for their great desire to help.

  38. danithew on January 2, 2005 at 12:25 pm

    To those who are asking about adoptions … I have heard that adopting children from China is easier in some cases than adoptions from other places and areas. My sister just recently adopted a little baby boy (newborn). In fact the child was here from Utah … but she has been learning something about adoption processes as a result of her efforts.

  39. Ana on January 3, 2005 at 7:52 pm

    To those asking about adoption, a few thoughts from an adoptive mom:

    It’s a common reaction, when there’s a big disaster, to want to help the children who were left without parents. Since I entered the “world” of adoption several years ago, I’ve seen waves of interest in adopting children from Afghanistan, from the AIDS crisis in Africa, from the families affected by 9/11 and several other events now mostly forgotten. I haven’t seen much in the way of fruits from any of those. Here’s the reason, I think:

    Unfortunately, adoption requires a long and often expensive process, which may not be possible when the infrastructure of an area had been as severely damaged as we see in South Asia right now. The nature of the crisis itself makes adoption extremely difficult. It will take years to sort out how to do the complicated process of international adoption from most of these areas. Some agencies do adoptions from India, so there could be processes in place. I haven’t heard of adoptions from Indonesia or Thailand.

    Especially when you’re childless and wishing for a baby, there’s an imbalance that seems so frustratingly illogical — there are children who need families, and families who need children. Why can’t it be easier to get them together? It helps to realize that while you might be a perfectly wonderful and fit family for a traumatized child, not every family is. Those who place children in families are responsible to some degree for making sure they place them in situations where their best interests will be served. To do that and to document it takes time and work and money. What we pay for in an adoption process is making sure that every child placed goes to a safe, stable, prepared family. (If only we could do something similar for the children who are born into the families where they grow up!)

    If you truly want to be a parent through adoption, study out all the options, all the needs, and use the Spirit to guide you to your children. They may be in India, in Haiti, in Detroit, in Kazakhstan or China or Ethiopia. Start with as clean a slate as you can regarding race, health, age and ability. Adoption is a spiritual matter and when you find the right path I firmly believe that things fall into place to bring children into the families where they can best grow up. Not that I believe in a Saturday’s Warrior type of pre-arranged family, necessarily, but I do believe God can help us create a family where we can be successful, or help us gather in all the children we are willing to gather.

    I guess what I really want to say is, don’t be discouraged if it seems like your impulse here won’t work out. Your response to the tsunami may not lead you to adopt a South Asian child, but you can let it open your heart to someone who needs you as a parent. Sometimes we’re led down a path by events like this.

  40. David H. on January 4, 2005 at 1:35 am

    It is hard not to view some divine purpose in such a tragic event. From D&C 88 http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/88/86-94#86 it mentions in the days before the Second Coming of “the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.” I don’t believe that those directly impacted by such events have failed to heed specific counsel from God’s prophet, and suffered His divine wrath, as was the case with the destructions of so many at his crucifixion. Rather I see this as one of many musical notes in a chorus, calling the people of the world to repent and prepare for the coming of our Savior. At first I had been half expecting some official statement from the Church along this line, but quickly realized that, like a conductor of a symphony, he is not able to point out each note of significance without disturbing the whole.

  41. David H. on January 4, 2005 at 1:47 am

    A family member who has a “divine calendar” from this author http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/divine.html told me that an important event was predicted to occur on the day of the Feast of Trumpets on the Enoch Fixed Calendar in the year of ATONEMENT on that calendar. That day only occurs once in 364 years, but this particular time is also at the beginning of the winding up scene for the earth when the trumpets will sound, causeing earthquakes, to warn the inhabitants of the earth of the impending judgments. That date corresponded with the earthquake and tsunami experienced in the Indian ocean. (I have no idea what these calendar events mean, but I was hoping that someone here might be able to explain them more than I can)

    This family member also mentioned two other similar dates on this calendar, Tue 4 Jan 2005 which is the day of Atonement in the Year of ATONEMENT on the Enoch Fixed Calendar, and also the day Sat 8 Jan 2005 which is the Feast of Tabernacles that year and also the day 13 Quake, symbolizing a day of large earthquakes. I wanted to post these dates before this was to occur just in case there may be something more than a coincidence should something occur.

  42. Walt Nicholes on January 5, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    Geoff Johnston and Sheri Lynn have it exactly right, in my opinion.

    Could God have prevented this disaster? Of course. DID He prevent it? Apparently not. Or at least we have no evidence that He intervened in any way. I can’t rule out that it might have been His intervention that kept it from being much worse, however.

    I note with interest that most land animals took higher ground before the waves hit. Did God have a hand in that? Perhaps. If humans had been attuned to the Spirit of God would they have taken higher ground? Probably.

    Did God, seeing that the fault needed to release, arrange for it to happen on a day and time when many people would be in church? I can’t rule it out, but the suggestion will be ridiculed by most.

    Was there ever a time when God, through any of many possible methods, may have warned against living on the beach? Was there a time when He warned about keeping the Sabbath Holy, was there a time when He warned against water sports of any sort?

    These are all interesting questions, but they all miss the eternal point. Why are we here? We are here on earth to gain a body, and to learn to distinguish good from evil by our experiences. Everything else can be adjusted for by the dual purpose atonement of Christ. It is sad for a child to lose a parent. God can compensate. Wo to anyone who takes deliberate action to cause a child to lose a parent. For that, God can only compensate for the loss to the child. It is sad that a person die before having many of life’s experiences. God can compensate for that. It is un-fixable if one intentionally takes an innocent life and causes that loss. That God will not fix.

    Agency and learning from our natural experiences and learning to listen to the promptings of the Spirit are all so critical to this mortal experience that God will rarely intervene. When He does it is usually for some higher good. The most important response to such a huge disaster (and to so many of life’s little ones) is to recognize that God COULD HAVE prevented it, but DIDN’T. And to see that in His wisdom that was the right choice.

    Walt

    PS: Much good will come from this. Already the reputation of the church is increasing and the opportunities for members to “test” themselves through this unfortunate event are plentiful. Nations heretofore closed to our missionaries will open. Individual experiences, related to this tragedy, will draw many into the Gospel. Watch and see. God, our Heavenly Father, is able to turn all things to His good. He is doing it already.

  43. Kaimi on January 5, 2005 at 8:14 pm

    FYI, some have asked about adoption, I just saw a story saying that the State Department does not believe that tsunami adoptions to the U.S. will be feasible:

    http://reuters.myway.com/article/20050105/2005-01-05T214108Z_01_N05358591_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-QUAKE-ADOPTION-DC.html

  44. Ana on January 11, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    One more link about adoptions, if anyone is still interested:

    http://www.jcics.org/Tsunami.htm

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.