Russell M. Nelson recently contributed an opinion piece to Arizona Central, a USA Today newspaper, as part of his visit to the Phoenix area. In part, he focused on the “best of humanity” revealed in the recent Paradise, California tragedy:

… In Paradise, we witnessed utter devastation. The city was destroyed. The aftermath was staggering — families homeless, businesses gone, children still haunted by the night they fled for their lives.

But that tragedy also revealed the best of humanity — first responders racing to help others as their own homes burned, families helping older neighbors out of harm’s way, residents and neighbors working tirelessly to help the refugees.

As we tried to comfort those still reeling from the disaster, they seemed more concerned about how we were doing in our time of loss.

As we tearfully looked into each other’s hearts, the blackened chimneys and a sea of ash seemed to fade into the background. Our shared faith that God would heal our hearts and help us rebuild our lives knit our hearts together in love and allowed us to experience “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). We flew home sobered by what we had seen but also inspired by the goodness of so many. We were comforted by the reassurance that God watches over His suffering children.

If there is anything I’ve learned in my 94 years of living, it is that a life with God is far better — more filled with hope — than one without Him. Faith in God is, and has always been, the pre-eminent force for good in this world. It is the most enduring source of peace for minds and hearts.

What we experienced in Paradise, with men and women whose hearts were open to God, stands in stark contrast to much of what we see in the world today. I fear that many are standing on the edge of a spiritual and emotional precipice. Not long ago, belief in God was a given and expressions of faith the norm.

But in recent years, we have experienced a shift from a world in which it seemed impossible not to believe in God to one in which faith is simply an option — and far too often subject to ridicule.

So, Nelson uses the goodness of those in Paradise and surrounding areas as a way to call attention to those “whose hearts were open to God” and contrast this to what we see in an increasingly secular world.

The only problem with Nelson’s assessment: as of 2010, 66% of those in Butte County, California (the county in which lies Paradise) do not claim any religious tradition. So, assuming the “Nones” also helped during the crisis (a 2014 study published in Science found that “Religious and nonreligious participants did not differ in the likelihood or quality of committed moral and immoral acts”, so a safe bet), then a super-majority of those helping in Paradise were not likely religious at all!

Acknowledgement: opinion piece h/t /u/Chino_Blanco here.