BATON ROUGE, La. — Two apostles and three other senior LDS leaders journeyed to flood-ravaged Baton Rouge and environs Saturday and Sunday, where they visited some of the more than 5,000 Mormon volunteers from a dozen or more states who are helping muck out the homes of flood victims.

President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came with Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of that quorum. Accompanying them were Elder Richard J. Maynes of the church’s Presidency of the Seventy; Bishop Dean M. Davies, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; and Sister Neill F. Marriott, second counselor in the presidency of the church’s Young Women organization (Sister Marriott is a Louisiana resident, hailing from Alexandria).

They visited a food bank in Baton Rouge that had been displaced by the flooding from storms that hit the area beginning Aug. 11. There they made a substantial donation of money and food.

They toured one of four makeshift “command centers” set up at LDS meetinghouses.

They went to a Baptist church at the nearby city of Gonzales, where yellow T-shirted “Mormon Helping Hands” volunteers — children and adults, males and females — were removing tons of flood-ruined material from the interior.

And they went to work sites, where they comforted and encouraged flood victims benefiting from the services of the volunteers.

At a temporary location for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, the LDS leaders met with the city’s mayor, Kip Holden, and with Mike Manning, president and CEO of the food bank.

“I woke up on a Sunday morning preparing to do distributions in response to the flooding and found 4 feet of water in our facility,” Manning recounted. “So we lost basically our offices, lost over 500,000 pounds of food, and we lost all of our forklifts and our rolling equipment with the exception of one truck they were able to rehabilitate.”

By the following Tuesday, the food bank was back in operation in temporary quarters, Holden said. “We’ve been bringing in food and distributing it ever since, just like we did before, on a daily basis, but on a different pace with rented equipment and with tired people.”

President Nelson replied, “We’re so grateful for the work you’re doing, and we’d like to facilitate your excellent work to some extent.”

On behalf of the church, Elder Ballard then presented Manning with a check for $50,000. Then Bishop Davies read a letter stating that three semi-truck loads of food, over 80 percent of it coming from the church’s own storehouses, would be delivered to the food bank on Thursday.

“This contribution is made possible by individual donations from many members and friends of the church,” he read. “They have responded with compassion to the invitation to give generously to the relief of those who are impacted by natural disasters and other hardships here and throughout the United States.”

Mayor Holden then presented President Nelson with a certificate making him an honorary mayor of Baton Rouge and with a cap emblazoned with the slogan “Baton Rouge shall rise again.”

At the church’s Zachary Ward meetinghouse in Baker, command center director Andy Maas explained to the visiting church authorities the volunteer operations.

Workers come in from many surrounding states to give their services, he said. Teams receive work orders to go to various homes and other locales, where they “gut” the structures, stripping the framing of drywall and taking out furniture and other items that were contaminated in the flooding.

The debris is stacked on the streets at curbside to await picking up by crews with heavy equipment dispatched by the municipalities. In some areas, streets almost resemble landfills because of the extent of the stacked debris.

The service is provided free of charge, Maas said, to needy residents who request it.

And Mormons are not the only ones helping. At the Zachary Ward command center, Anna Luke came to the meetinghouse from the New Beginnings Church of God next door. She saw three LDS Church members outside preparing food and said, “I didn’t know ya’ll had your own food.” She had come, she said, to invite the LDS Church to send its workers next door for jambalaya and fried fish. Luke was a volunteer herself who had come from Houma, Louisiana, to give her services to the New Beginnings congregation, whose building had been damaged in the flooding.

After visiting with crews helping residents of homes on site in Baton Rouge, the LDS leaders drove to neighboring Gonzales, where the St. Amant Baptist Church had sustained extensive flood damage. An immense pile of debris in front of the building told the tale, with “Mormon Helping Hands” volunteers from Chattanooga, Tennessee, dragging out more debris and adding to the pile.

“It’s wonderful to see people like you help other people,” senior pastor Melvin Meister told President Nelson. “That’s what this country was built on: people helping people. We read about it in history, talk about it, and here it’s happening today.

“This is putting us back to how it was when I was a kid.”