Voluntary Labor, Utah, The L.D.S. Church, and the Floods of 1983: A Case Study

November 1985 (VOL. 3, NO. 3)

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National attention was focused on Utah in the Spring of 1983 when an abnormally deep snow pack in the mountains combined with abrupt, very warm weather to cause sudden, severe flooding along the state\\'s densely populated Wasatch Front. Public officials were not prepared for what happened and they could not control the crisis generated problems with their own resources. A large, efficient, volunteer labor force was needed immediately to prevent serious flooding from becoming a disaster. The extensive media attention given to Utah during this period looked mostly at the way public officials and the people responded to the crisis.\r\n\r\nThis is a report of voluntary labor and the floods of 1983 in Utah. The only public, semi public, or private organization that could provide the number of volunteer workers that were necessary during the crisis period and supervise the workers adequately was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (L.D.S.).\r\n\r\nThe traditions, attitudes, and organization of the L.D.S. Church as they are important to the immediate delivery of large numbers of volunteer workers, equipment, and supervisors in an emergency period are investigated in this paper. The relationships between government in Utah and the Church are also examined to explain why the Church is relied on to supply the voluntary labor force for any mass emergency in Utah and how this is accomplished. The question is also addressed of whether or not the Utah experience would be either appropriate or transferable to any other area. There might be something to be learned from Utah that could aid disaster work elsewhere. \r\n