SALT LAKE CITY — Over the weekend and on into Monday, Harvey's floodwaters displaced hundreds of Mormons, breached the faith's Texas Houston Temple, damaged meetinghouses, canceled Sunday worship services.
Leaders at the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City and local leaders in Texas activated the faith's humanitarian aid networks.
The temple sits at the intersection of Cypresswood Drive and Champions Forest Drive. Cypress Creek has flooded Cypresswood Drive, reaching the second story of some homes.
"It’s a veritable river going past the LDS Temple," said Michael Boyd, a member of the church's Olde Oaks Ward in Spring, Texas, where the temple is located. "The temple is an island now."
Temple President Marshall Hayes confirmed Monday night that the temple was flooding. "The creek became a river and the current is so strong that it’s been dangerous to even try and approach the temple," he said. Nearby Cyprus Creek rose by more than 20 feet. “It appears water to the depth of four or five inches has gone inside the temple," he added. “That includes a baptistry, a marriage waiting room, dressing rooms, kitchen and laundry. We haven’t been able to go inside so we really don’t know the extent of the damage.” The temple closed Saturday after the 11 a.m. session. Water also breached an adjoining building.
Church leaders have called for prayers.
"Elder Daniel Jones of the Seventy and President Marshall Hayes of the Houston Texas Temple have asked us to petition our Father in Heaven to stay the elements of this catastrophic storm so that residents of this great area may be spared the losses and devastation that are upon so many," Houston Texas North Stake President David Bertoch said in a message to nine congregations. "I know such prayers will be heard and answered. Let us exercise our faith on behalf of our afflicted brothers and sisters, all children of our Heavenly Father."
Traveling in kayaks and canoes, a dozen church members in yellow LDS Helping Hands jerseys plucked the family of Robert A. Boyd, a photographer known for calendars of his pictures of LDS temples, from their Spring, Texas, home.
The Boyds were in Utah last week for Education Week at BYU. Their flight home was diverted to New Orleans, where they rented a car and drove home. They arrived at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. Church services in the Wimbledon Ward were canceled. By midnight, it was clear the Boyds would have to leave, and church members arrived to help them move their piano.
Monday morning at 6, their bishop called and told them to get ready. At 7 a.m., the boats arrived to evacuate Boyd, his wife and mother-in-law, and the couple’s four children.
"We had flooding in the area last year," Boyd said, "but it wasn’t nearly as severe and didn’t affect us at all. We’re in a 500-year flood plain. We were helping others last year."
Michael Boyd, no relation to Robert Boyd, has measured 24.2 inches of rain on the rain gauge at his home since Saturday.
“Home are flooding now that have never, ever flooded,” he said.
Boyd and his sons set out at 8 a.m., parking in dry areas and wading through chest-deep water on some streets to reach homes and help church members and their neighbors move belongings to high ground and evacuate, if necessary.
Boyd’s wife, Kassie, is feeding first responders at her restaurant, the Chill the Milkshake Bar in Spring. After more than six hours of rescue work, Boyd was back at his wife’s milkshake bar on Tuesday afternoon, serving grilled cheese sandwiches. At the end of a phone interview he said, "It’s raining hard again."
Klein Texas Stake President Robert Ellis has congregated in one home with other stake leaders and is dispatching help where it is needed, said Boyd, who is the stake’s executive secretary.
At least one meetinghouse has been opened to shelter displaced persons.
Local LDS Church leaders are working to identify needs in their congregations and communities, Hawkins said. More meetinghouses may become shelters or be employed to stage relief and cleanup supplies.
Meanwhile, all Mormon missionaries in the region are safe, though several missions have been affected, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said.
"Significant precautions were taken before Hurricane Harvey's arrival to help missionaries remain safe," he said. "Each companionship gathered enough food and water to shelter for several days. Some missionaries were moved out of areas where the greatest potential for flooding existed."
Mission presidents for the three Houston-based missions asked missionaries to email their families and provided updates to families throughout the weekend. Missionaries in flooded areas are in contact with their mission presidents. Once the storm and flooding subside, missionaries will join local cleanup efforts.
Amy Schmidt lives in Spring, Texas, on the Spring Creek River, which overflows at 92 feet. It’s now at 96 feet. The water is up to the curb on her street. Neighbors have heard worry the river will rise to 102 feet, 109 if officials are forced to release more water from the Conroe Dam.
"We have trucks driving through with boats if people want to leave," Schmidt said. "That’s where we are now."
Schmidt is a member of the Westfield Ward in the Houston North Stake. Church was canceled yesterday because the building is flooded. Ward members are checking on each other through visiting teaching and home teaching networks. Some members have opened their homes to members who have had to evacuate their own.
Schmidt’s family moved all but their heavy bookshelves to their second story and plan to ride out the flooding. Her family helped other members pack belongings high in their homes and evacuate.
Schmidt walked through the water to the store, where lines are 40 minutes long. “People who lived through Ike and Allison, who have been here 30-40 years, say they’ve never seen anything like this. This is literally crazy.”
A neighbor has sewage backing up into her house.
Cheryl Driggs, a member of the church's Houston-area public affairs council and who also resides in Spring, said most of her subdivision is flooded, and most have evacuated.
"We are fortunate to be on high ground with power and water," she responded via Facebook Messenger. "The entire area is in an historically catastrophic weather condition like no one has ever seen or considered."
Church headquarters dispatched bottled water and hygiene and cleanup kits to supplement supplies at the regional bishop's storehouse near Houston on Friday. The three trucks were expected to arrive Monday.
Hawkins said church leaders, including President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, have reached out to offer encouragement and to pledge the willingness of leaders and church members to help in the recovery and cleanup efforts.
"We are praying for the people of Texas, and invite others to join us in those prayers," Hawkins said. "Anyone wishing to provide support for our efforts to aid to those in Texas is encouraged to make a donation to the church's Humanitarian Fund."