LDS general authority shares timely message about surviving life’s hurricanes

An unexpected visit with an LDS general authority at a movie theater last week resulted in a powerful lesson about surviving hurricanes.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, I attended the movie premiere for “Joseph Smith: American Prophet,” at Jordan Commons on an assignment for the Deseret News. In visiting with organizers before the event, I learned that more than 10 general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be in attendance.

With a box of popcorn, a drink and notebook in hand, I found a seat in the theater a few minutes before the starting time. As a Spanish-speaking returned missionary, my ears perked up when I noticed a distinguished-looking gentleman in the row below me speaking Spanish into his cellphone. It was clearly his native language.

As the man concluded, I said hello and asked where he was from. “Puerto Rico,” he said warmly. But introductions were cut short as his wife and a few friends arrived to take their seats. Minutes later, the lights dimmed and the presentation began.

As I came to find out, that man was Elder Hugo E. Martinez, a General Authority Seventy.

Elder Hugo E. Martinez, a General Authority Seventy and native of Puerto Rico.

According to his biography, Elder Martinez studied at the University of Mississippi in the mid-1970s and earned a medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine before embarking on a career as a physician and medical consultant. Along the way he served in various church leadership callings, including bishop, district president and president of the Guatemala City Central Mission.

After the credits rolled, we spoke about the movie. I found Elder Martinez and his wife to be friendly and more than willing to visit. In addition to commenting on the film, the couple even tolerated my gringo-accented Spanish.

As we continued to visit, I asked Elder Martinez about the pending arrival of Hurricane Maria on his native country of Puerto Rico. The couple expressed concern for their children and grandchildren but seemed optimistic. They knew Latter-day Saints would be blessed if they followed counsel to be prepared.

A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. (AP Photo)

Elder Martinez spoke from experience. In his October 2014 general conference talk, Elder Martinez recounted how in 1998 his family survived the extensive damage of Hurricane George in their home but went two weeks without running water or power. When their water supply ran out, church members “ministered to us by providing that precious liquid,” he said in his talk.

Then Elder Martinez asked me a question.

“Do you know how to survive a hurricane?” he said.

This photo provided by Frank Phazian shows flooding caused by Hurricane Maria near Le Raizet, Guadeloupe, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (AP Photo)

“How?” I said.

Elder Martinez suggested, with a knowing smile, I open the Book of Mormon and read Alma 58:9-11. I told him I would and wished the couple well. We shook hands and they walked away.

When I got out to my car, I pulled out my cellphone and read the verses. The words of verses 10 and 11 were especially powerful as I imagined all those dealing with natural disasters or their aftermath in Houston, the Gulf Coast, Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico:

“9. And now the cause of these our embarrassments, or the cause why they did not send more strength unto us, we knew not; Therefore we were grieved and also filled with fear, lest by any means the judgments of God should come upon our land, to our overthrow and utter destruction. 10. Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people. 11. Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for deliverance in him.”

When facing extreme elements, what more can a person really do but pray for deliverance? The idea of “pouring out your soul” in prayer was vivid and touched my heart.

This photo provided by Jenny Promeneur shows storm damage to her grandmother’s tool shed/dog house, caused by Hurricane Maria in Bouillante, Guadeloupe, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (AP photo)

Then came a deeper message. The principle is also applicable to anyone who is facing the hurricanes of life. We can survive those great storms through prayer. We can also find hope, increased faith and courage to keep going through the Lord’s peace and assurances.

The next morning I sent Elder Martinez a message thanking him for his time and spiritual thought. That day, Hurricane Maria pummeled the island nation, leaving at least 10 dead and much of the country without power or communications. The LDS Church decided to evacuate all missionaries and the overall recovery is expected to take years.

Despite all this, the optimistic smiles and hopeful expressions on the faces of Elder Martinez and his wife gave me assurance as I reflected on the message of prayer and ultimate reliance on the Lord.

“That is how you survive a hurricane,” he said.

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Trent Toone

My name is Trent Toone and I’m a journalist for the Deseret News, where I write for a variety of feature sections. I was raised in Northern Utah and graduated from the University of Utah in 2003. Since then I have worked for several newspapers and received various awards over my journalism career. I am the author of “No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story,” the sports biography of San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle. I served an LDS mission to Santiago, Chile, and spent a year teaching seminary. Like my father before me, I am a proud Eagle Scout. My wife Lisa and I have four children and live in Northern Utah. Feel free to contact me by emailing to trent.b.toone (at) gmail (dot) com.

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