Earlier I wrote about Mormons who found evidence of God’s mercy or of His one true church in the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. A parallel thread in those documents was that the Lord was also vengeful, or at least millenarian. The Galveston Elders described how they and their message had been rejected; the News did likewise . In 1907, the Liahona mentioned Galveston as evidence of the Last Days, concluding: “A lesson to the inhabitants of the earth: repent, stop these practices and escape these calamities to come” .
Other authors did similarly. For example, a poem in the Young Woman’s Journal in 1913 used Galveston in a litany of disasters illustrating that “There is no safety anywhere / Upon the face of Earth” but, though attributing the events to God, specified that they are “To warn His wayward children / … / That only through His care, / And tender mercy, will they find / A haven anywhere.” Along the same lines, a stake president writing for the Liahona in 1920 found in Galveston a fulfillment of his 1894 patriarchal blessing, which promised that he would live “upon the earth when the elements would run lawless” .
Closer to the storm, in 1901, Apostle Matthias Cowley mentioned some of the public-relations cost in labeling Divine vengeance and illustrated a portion of Mormon feelings about the South . He began with a minister’s statement “that the Elders were claiming that the judgments of God had come upon the City of Galveston, Texas, because the inhabitants would not hearken unto the testimony of the Elder that traveled, distributed tracts and preached the Gospel in that city.” As I have demonstrated, at least some Elders, some times, were, in fact, so claiming. Elder Cowley continued:
I wish to say to you that the judgments of God do not come upon the earth simply to please the Elders of Israel. It does not please them to see the destruction of the inhabitants of the earth. That is not the idea at all. These judgments of god come upon the earth because…man has become indifferent and rebellious against the principles and authority which the Lord has established…. These judgments come upon the earth not simply because the Elders bear this testimony; but it should be put in another light, that the Elders desire to see the salvation of the people. …[A]and because they desire to see such desirable results, and because they have received a testimony…they have gone forth…and if calamity shall come upon the wicked, how can we help it? It is not in our hands to stay it. It was not in our power to provide for it. It is done by the purposes and determination of the Almighty, and is based upon conditions; and when those conditions exist, the results are bound to follow.
Thus, Elder Cowley endorsed the idea that destruction follows wickedness but recasts the missionaries as the lifeguard’s line and not the hangman’s noose. He then went all sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God about Southern cities.
If because a desolating fire occurred in Jacksonville, Florida, a few weeks ago and almost destroyed the property of the town—if it is a fact that John Z. Brown and other Elders who traversed the streets of that city and were turned out to sleep among the dry goods boxes, and were also mistreated by the police of that city, stood upon the streets and testified that if the people would not repent of their sins calamity would befall them, I cannot help it. It was not I who put the Spirit into their mouth. I could not if I would. It was done by the inspiration of Almighty God, and their words have been verified. If calamities recently overtook Birmingham, Alabama, and Meriden, Mississippi, and some other parts of the state which had participated in the shedding of the blood of A. P. Richards, and Joseph Standing, and John Gibbs, and William Berry, and the Condor boys, I cannot help that. I want to testify here this afternoon that the judgments of God will come upon the earth, and it will be in no imaginary way, it will come as a literal reality, a combination of the elements to purify the earth and prepare the way for the people of God to establish themselves in power upon the earth and to prepare the kingdom for the coming of our Lord and Savior to reign upon the earth.
Elder Cowley, like many of his co-religionists and as well-described elsewhere, preached from within a “kingdom” tradition—one that was in the process of being replaced by a more image-conscious, less-urgently millenarian Mormon “church” .
Much more recently, President Hinckley spoke about calamities in General Conference of 2005—only weeks after Katrina, Stan, Rita, and other disasters . He listed several tragedies including the 1900 Galveston storm and noted: “How portentous are the words of revelation…concerning the calamities that should befall after the testimonies of the elders…. [Quotes D&C 88:89–91] …What we have experienced in the past was all foretold, and the end is not yet.” President Hinckley, like the other cited authors (and following the Doctrine and Covenants), correlated calamity with rejected testimony but took a far less condemnatory tone.
For links to other posts in this series, please see here.
 “Elders at Galveston Safe,” Deseret Evening News, 1900 Sep 18, p. 4. Paragraphing changed; Peter A. Norton, Samuel Shaw, Horace L. Johnson, Heber N. Folkman, “The Disaster to Galveston. Four Latter-day Saint Elders Miraculously Preserved.” Deseret Evening News, 1900 Sep 22, p. 22. Paragraphing changed.
 Unsigned, “Ancient American Prophets,” Liahona, The Elders’ Journal 5, no. 23 (1907 Nov 23): 630-632. “These are the ‘last days’…referred to in…Nephi’s great prophecy [2 Ne. 37]. …And it would seem that the results…have already begun, as San Francisco’s terrible fate, and that of Galveston testify….”
 James W. Lesueur, “A Patriarchal Blessing and Its Fulfillment,” Liahona, The Elders’ Journal 17, no. 25 (1920 June 08): 423-425. Coral Jakeman Black, “O Safety! Where Art Thou?” The Young Woman’s Journal 24, no. 8 (1913 Aug): 489-490.
 Matthias F. Cowley, “Proper Observance of the Sabbath Day. Discourse delivered at the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday, June 23, 1901,” Deseret Evening News, 1901 Jul 27, p. 23.
 Elder Cowley’s experiences and fate are described in various books on Mormon polygamy. I take the church/kingdom distinction from Kathleen Flake’s The Politics of American Religious Identity.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Ensign, Nov 2005, p. 60-62. Paragraphing changed.