Last week we spent a few days without running water due to a broken well. A few months ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we spent five days without power. That meant we also had no water, since our water comes from an electrically-run well. As I wait for another storm to start, I feel secure, knowing we are ready to handle whatever happens.
Mormons are taught to be prepared for emergencies. This is not the doomsday prepper trend often featured on television. It is simply a matter of being able to take care of ourselves if a storm takes out our power or keeps us from shopping, if we lose our employment and can’t afford groceries, or if we are ill and can’t get to a store.
During the hurricane, we got through in good shape. We had a camp stove for cooking, simple foods, water containers, and lighting. We don’t have a bunker full of things. We keep our storage in the basement and it is enough to get us through a storm or a round of unemployment. (When you are self-employed, income can be very uneven.)
Mormons start by putting together a three-month supply of the minimum they would need to survive for three months if there was nothing else. These include staples such as wheat, flour, sugar, and beans. They also store cleaning supplies and anything else they might need. Then they gradually begin stocking up on other things. It’s comforting to know you never really have to go to the store if you don’t want to.
Having food storage is pointless if it sits there and goes bad. Mormons rotate their storage, using what is there and then replacing it. This means if they go to the store, they place the new food in the basement and then bring up the oldest food to use. They don’t store more than we can use before it goes bad.
Of course, there is more to being prepared than merely having supplies in the basement. In case of unemployment, it is important to have savings and no debt. This makes it easier to get through the financial difficulties. Mormons are taught to live below their means so they have money on hand if they need it.
They also learn to get a good education—both men and women—so they can qualify for meaningful and satisfying employment if they need it. To assist with this, the church operates several universities, although Mormons also attend other public and private colleges around the world. Within each congregation, members can receive literacy training from the Relief Society, the official women’s auxiliary. There is also an employment specialist in each congregation who helps members prepare resumes and learn to interview or conduct a job search. Mormons are also encouraged to continue learning new skills throughout their lives, whether through formal programs, church opportunities, or their own personal study.
Many Mormons have turned the skills they develop at church into skills that get them better jobs. Because the Mormons have a lay church, all work is done by volunteers. Nearly every Mormon has at least one “calling” and they are assigned. The callings are changed often, exposing Mormons to a variety of types of work and opportunities to learn new skills. Children begin giving brief sermons, called talks, at age three, and the sermons for the regular services are given by ordinary members, not the bishop, who is the lay pastor. Everyone twelve or older takes turns speaking and most speak about once a year. This gives them public speaking experience. In addition, members teach classes and lead organizations. Even the teens run their own programs with guidance from adults. This is one reason so many Mormons hold high-level leadership positions in government and business. They have been learning leadership skills since they were young and these skills serve them well in the business world.
For Mormons, being prepared brings peace of mind. The Bible offers several situations demonstrating that God expects us to be prepared for emergencies. For instance, Noah was told to build and stock an ark before the rain began. Joseph helped the Pharaoh develop an emergency preparedness plan during the good years that took them through the bad years, even allowing them to help others during the famine. God is happy to help us, but sometimes that help involves making it possible for us to prepare ourselves for our trials. During the trials, we feel peaceful and safe. When we come through them successfully, we emerge with renewed faith in God and positive self-esteem.