Elder Holland on Japan: “These are solemn times; these are sober times.”

In response to the devastating events of the past several days in Japan which have resulted from an initial earthquake, followed by a tsunami and several large-magnitude aftershocks, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles gave a press conference moments ago.

In his comments, Elder Holland said that, “We want to express our sympathy and support for all of the people of Japan…For those anxious about their loved ones, all of our missionaries in those missions are accounted for.”

Elder Holland indicated that neighboring missions are being called upon to accommodate approximately 190-200 missionaries from the Sendai and Tokyo missions. Elder Holland also said that, to date, there have been no confirmed deaths among the membership in the Church in Japan, although the membership from 1 ward and two branches are still not entirely accounted for.

Elder Holland also stated that the Church is currently working with other organizations to ensure delivery of aid as quickly as possible, but that the process is still very early in the going and communication difficulties are making it difficult.

In response to questions about what Church members could be doing, Elder Holland stated that it’s too early to know specifically what donations are needed, but that the Newsroom will be used extensively to update members of the Church around the world as information about what donations are needed and when they are needed.

When asked about the organization of the Church in Japan to help, Elder Holland became emotional when speaking about the individuals involved for the Church’s organization working on site. “Some have been dispatched, and as needed, others will be.” Elder Holland said that there “are Bishops who have lost their homes…there are Relief Society presidents who have lost their homes…” but are nevertheless out looking for their fellow saints and neighbors, and are assisting in the organization of the Church’s relief efforts.

“We are not panicky, we are not fearful. The world and members of the Church have been through difficulties before…there is a great degree of confidence and support for the people [who have responded and continue to respond].”

UPDATE: The press conference and a Newsroom piece have now been posted here.


  1. Thanks for the quick transcription. Elder Holland’s compassion for everyone was really evident.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. Is video of the news conference up on the web anywhere?

  3. They’ll post it up on the LDS Newsroom site later today.

  4. Thanks Matt. I updated the post to include the link.

  5. Thomas Parkin says:

    Sure love Elder Holland. He’s lookin older.

  6. Contrast that with the wickedness spewing from Brother Beck’s nasty gob.

  7. lindberg says:

    Thanks for the pointer to the press conference.

    Things are really a mess over there. I sure wish I could figure me out a way to get over and help out for a while.

  8. Impossible to grasp the whole of the loss and suffering in events like this. Makes me want to hug my husband and kids extra tight tonight.

  9. thanks for the link. It is impossible to comprehend. My friend’s son on another side of the world is having a serious surgery to remove a lung. He’s 6. I’ve prayed a lot for him today. I can grasp one child.

    How do I fathom each of the unique, devastating, life changing siutations in Japan? I can’t even hold it all in my mind.

  10. don't know mo says:

    Is it possible for you to provide a link to the wickedness?

  11. #11, here you go.

  12. don't know mo says:

    Thanks, Scott B, for taking the time to do that

  13. Not wishing to disparage anything spoken by one of the Lord’s annointed to any degree. But I was just wondering: Over 1000 LDS misionaries in Japan, almost all of them young and healthy and strong, armed with the Spirit and with their righteous living. We sent them there to serve the people of Japan by teaching them the gospel. Now this triple disaster strikes Japan. At this point many are praying but few are going to be interested in changing religion.

    Instead of the LDS missionaries turning tail and running away to safety, maybe we should be sending them into the very heart of the disaster area to help out. How much could 1000 almost completely disciplined and obedient young men and women with largely good language skills accomplish working together? This kind of service might do more to open the hearts of the Japanese people than any amount of door-knocking, street meetings, English Class, baseball leagues or anything else.

    When I was in Okinawa we had a minor hurricane. The ZL’s wanted all of the misionaries to gather at the church (a large building with broad tall walls extremely vulnerable to high winds) constructed by Americans right after WWII. Even though I lived at the church, I found it quite easy slip out into the storm with my green companion and find dozens of young people gathered together to ride it out with nothing else to do but listen to me. I probably taught more people in those two days than in over a month of normal efforts. I think if I was a missionary in Northern Japan, I would give the ZLs the slip, send a short Email to my folks and head for Sendai to help anyway I could.

  14. Mike, there is a reasonable chance of a nucleur catastrophe of a very, very serious nature. This isn’t a “normal” disaster; this is unpredictable, nucleur gambling you’re advocating.

    I understannd totally the desire to have our missionaries serving in the area, but, if my son was in that mission right now, I would want him out of there – and I served in the Sapporo Mission.

  15. Ray:

    I didn’t say Fukushima, but Sendai.

    Most Japanese live in cities and seldom camp. A few are among the greatest mountaineers but the vast majority have little outdoor skill. Many LDS missionaries are Eagle Scouts and even if they are “Fake Mormon Eagles,” they still might have picked up most of the skills needed during this disaster. This would include building fires and temporary shelters, cooking on fires, finding food in the rubble, purifying water, basic first aid. The missionaries are also young and generally strong and could work 16-20 hour days doing the heavy labor of lifting and sifting through rubble for survivers. Later much work will be needed to clean up the mess. The missionaries would have innumerable opportunities to form genuine friendships that might later bear results.

    I was on a committee that evaluated our response to the disasters in Florida and later Katrina. One of the obvious conclusions was that volunteers with either military or scouting experience were far more useful. Many volunteers became liabilities when they went into the disaster areas unprepared and required the consumption of resources. We found that logistical support people were needed in almost as many numbers as actual workers. This required organization and discipline, two crucial characteristics that missionaries would bring to the table. One of the most important recommendations to prepare for future disasters was to strengthen scouting programs and broaden the experience of young women into these areas.

    I don’t think we really know what is going on at those nuclear reactors. I do believe the Japanese are the best nuclear engineers in the world. I understand the basic design of the reactor. A mass of enriched uranium is “ignited” and what keeps the chain reaction from becoming an atomic blast is that graphite is inserted into many holes drilled in the uranium which absorb neutrons and slow the nuclear chain reaction down. More graphite gives a slower nuclear reaction and less heat. Unlike Chernobyl, the graphite is above the uranium so when all systems fail it all falls into the uranium and automatically turns the volume of the reaction all the way down. It doesn’t turn it totally off. Oil circulates to cool it similar to water in a car cooling system and the pumps to move the oil require electricity which is now not available. It got hot enough to blow apart one building. Why standby pumps powered by fossil fuels (like a generator in your basement that runs on gasoline) are not working is not explained. Why they can’t get enough water in there is also hard to understand. Soldiers are willing to die for their country every day and the Japanese sense of honorable suicide seems oddly absent. I presume because the risk is really not that great to demand it and the media is whipping it for all it is worth.

    I think this disaster will be something far far less than Chernobyl where a few hundred died directly and something a little more than Three Mile Island where not one person died. More harm was wrecked on the environment by the methane derived from farting done in Congress during the Three Mile Island hearings than the small amount of radiation that leaked out. Before Chernobyl, more people died in the back seat of Ted Kennedy’s car than from radiatiion at nuclear power plants. Agenda driven and emotional organizations constantly exaggerate the deaths at Chernobyl and the risks while their political opponents bought off by big oil companies quietly neglect nuclear energy development while the government lies through their teeth, so we really will never know.

    We live in a sea of radiation, from the sun and the earth. Our DNA has repair mechanisms to undo some of the damage done by radiation. We have our teeth X-rayed every year. I get on an airplane and they X-ray me then flying at 30,000 feet exposes me to more radiation. I go down to the court house to straighten out some legal prolems and get X-rayed every time I walk in the door. My dad had his aorta repaired and he gets a CT scan every year. My hypochondriac in-laws in their mid 70’s and in excellent health hardly go 6 months without some diagnostic exposure to radiation. We have these clowns offering whole body CT scans and folks lining up around the block.

    Why is it different when a few people die of radiation poisoning than when a few people die of H2S gas in a coal mine and a few people die when an oil rig explodes and a few people die in car wrecks every day? Let it be remembered that the death toll from Three Mile Island was zero. The death toll from radiation in the first week of this Fukushima disaster remains at zero while perhaps 10,000 died in the tsunami.

  16. I forgot one other obvious point. The Japanese engineers are not going to let Mormon missionaries near enough to their ailing reactors to suffer any serious problems. I don’t think our missionaries should be evacuated any sooner than the general population.

  17. @Mike, was the Okinawa typhoon you mention the one in ’86? If so, I was there as well. We didn’t exactly heed the safety counsel and we went out to take pictures of ourselves leaning 45 degrees into the wind. Ah, to be young and foolish.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I am one of those parents whose son was at the epicenter of the earthquake. He spent a few days “roughing it”. And riding out the +100 or so aftershocks. The people, as well as the missionaries were worn out, and I can tell you, we didn’t know if our son was dad or alive for a day and a half. The church kept us informed as best they could under the circumstances. Just like you, Mike, our sons and daughters were willing to stay and help, but, the church chose to act on the best information they had, unlike other disasters chose to protect those they had direct responsibility for, the missionaries. I believe they made the correct decision, and unless you were there, you have no idea how bad it was, and what they saw, and experiences. I’m very pleased the church did this, and hopefully, when the missionaries can really help, and perform their calling to preach the gospel, they will return. we as parents have been through our own kind of hell during this time.