The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called its members to action Friday, urging them to "help our Haitian brothers and sisters."

"Our hearts are filled with sadness as we have watched the suffering in Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake," said Presidents Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf in a prepared statement. "We turn to the example of Jesus Christ, who reached out to 'lift up the hands which hang down' and 'strengthen the feeble knees.' "

From the Dominican Republic, Bennie Lilly, Caribbean area welfare manager for the church, reported Friday that the need in Haiti is "tremendous."

The LDS Church is sheltering more than 5,000 people — both members and non-members — in nine Haiti chapels. As aid workers travel from chapel to chapel passing out basics such as food, water, shelter and medical supplies, thousands more reach out to them, begging for help.

The LDS Church's relief work could stretch on as long as a year, Lilly said."This is going to be a long-term process," he said. "Right now we're trying to meet basic needs. I suspect in the future we'll be supplying help with housing and reconstruction."

Many church members have been generous with their money, but more is needed, the First Presidency said.

"We are keenly aware that many in America are dealing with economic challenges caused by the recession," the statement reads. "However, we are appealing to members to donate to Church Humanitarian Services as their means allow."

The presidency also asked church members to "supplicate God for a spirit of calm and peace among the people."

"People are frightened, bewildered, and wholly uncertain about their future," their statement said.

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Lilly said many Haitians are so frightened they will not sleep indoors for fear of an aftershock.

"Their houses may be perfectly sound, but they are still afraid to go stay in them," he said. "This is a hugely emotionally impactful experience."

To make a contribution to LDS Humanitarian Services visit lds.org and click on Humanitarian Services Emergency Response. Church members can donate using a tithing slip.

e-mail: estuart@desnews.com