News Release

Relief Society and Young Women General Presidents Offer Love and Support in Maui Ministry

‘Because you, our friends, are mourning, we are mourning,’ President Camille N. Johnson said with President Emily Belle Freeman at a devotional for women affected by the Lahaina wildfires

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By Mary Richards, Church News

When Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson stood to speak to the women gathered in the Kahului Hawaii West Stake Center and those watching remotely on Sunday, September 24, she told them how much she loves them and how much Heavenly Father and the Savior love them.

“They are aware of your needs, both temporal and spiritual, and you will not be left comfortless,” President Johnson said.

Members of the stake and their neighbors were greatly affected by deadly and devastating wildfires on the island of Maui in August. Around 80 members of the Lahaina 1st Ward lost their homes, and five Latter-day Saints were among the nearly 100 who died.

“Because you, our friends, are mourning, we are mourning,” President Johnson told them.

Relief Society President Camille N. Johnson comforts a woman affected by the Maui wildfires in Kahului, Hawaii, Sunday, September 24, 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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She shared a message from the Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, that the women are loved, they are necessary and they are precious.

President Johnson was joined by Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman during the ministry visit to Hawaii. They conducted training meetings for leaders, visited with members, and held devotionals for youth and women in both the Kahului West and Kahului stakes.

President Freeman said she felt a strong feeling of resilience from the Latter-day Saints and from the youth in particular — “a resilience of faith that was more powerful than the grief.”

This was evident in the story of one young woman who shared with President Freeman that although she had lost everything in the fire — including her testimony journal — she had not lost her testimony, because she carries it with her always.

New Growth and Restoration After the Maui Fires

In the midst of sorrow and sadness and profound grief on Maui, there are signs of new life, shared President Johnson. Greenery has been spotted blooming again among the scorched leaves on the 150-year-old Lahaina Banyan Tree, a local landmark, giving people a sign of hope.

The first picture President Freeman saw in August during the fires was of the blackened tree. But she told the youth that the historic tree’s new green growth is a powerful reminder of the power of restoration.

“God can and will restore trees, but also people. Blessings can come from the ashes,” she said.

Members of the Lahaina 1st and 2nd Wards met together for the meetings, and they were grateful to be gathered together again — because many have been displaced and staying in other towns and hotels around the island. There is a power in gathering and finding strength together, said President Freeman.

Relief Society President Camille N. Johnson poses with Latter-day Saint women affected by the August wildfires in Kahului, Hawaii, on Sunday, September 24, 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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President Freeman asked the youth what they have been praying for: “It was a beautiful list. It shows the strength of their belief in Christ and the endurance of their faith.”

She talked to them about Peter walking on water and finding strength in the Lord. She bore testimony how Jesus Christ is the strength of youth.

Power in Temple Covenants

When President Freeman and President Johnson landed at the airport, they met a group of Church members who had landed at the same time after a trip to worship in the Kona Hawaii Temple.

“They had lost their homes and lost friends in the fire,” President Freeman recalled. “All the clothing they had on was clothing that was donated. What felt most important to them was to be in the house of the Lord and to remember His covenant promises.”

President Johnson spoke about those covenant promises in her devotional and told the women how she finds spiritual relief in her covenant relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Our Prophet has explained that ‘Whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants,’” President Johnson said.

Jesus Christ is the source of relief, she said: “When we build our spiritual foundation on Him, we have no need to fear.”

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson and Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman, both on the back row, gather with members of the Lahaina 1st and 2nd Wards in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 23, 2023. 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Providing and Receiving the Savior’s Relief

Even in their own extremity, the women from Lahaina are the conduit through which the Savior provides His relief to others, taught President Johnson.

“Many of you are used to being the givers of relief and not accustomed to being receivers. … It would be shortsighted to think that we only need to provide relief. We must also be willing to receive it.”

She explained that the Savior often sends someone to help comfort and mourn with those who are in need. And receiving those who bring His relief also means receiving the Savior.

“Providing relief is the way we keep covenants. Receiving relief is a way we help others keep covenants,” she said.

She said the Savior showed by His perfect example how to serve others and how to allow others to serve and fulfill their covenantal responsibility to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

“We find Christ when we serve Him and allow others to serve Him. How could we know the Master we have not served and who is far from our hearts and intentions?” President Johnson said. “But when we act as His hands and feet, and allow others to do so too, when it becomes second nature to do what Jesus would do, we drink liberally of His living water.”

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