Down through the ages, prophets have called us to action – to prepare ourselves and our families both spiritually and temporally for tests and opposition. While Noah called the world to repent, he and his family followed God’s command to build an Ark. And Joseph with his coat of many colors was first betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, then became a ruler of Egypt – eventually ruling over his brothers, and saving their families temporally through his provident leadership. We learn from the Book of Mormon: “But behold, this was an advantage to the Nephites; for it was impossible for the robbers to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect upon the Nephites, because of their much provisions which they had laid up in store.” (3 Nephi 4:1)
Few in the world are willing to follow the counsel of modern prophets that real peace can be found through preparing ourselves spiritually to rely on God, and working temporally to be self-reliant. As President Ezra Taft Benson said, the world has it backward – advocating that man should be independent of God, while making a claim on government for temporal support.
For the past year I have encouraged readers to look at their home inventory of food and supplies as a kind of “General Store.” Why a General Store? Just generations ago, a General Store was the source of all the basic goods required to care for and sustain a family. A General Store stocked food, clothing, fabric, gardening tools, seeds, medications, shoes – everything you needed. There was a post office tucked in one corner and often a bank in another.
You too can create a General Store in your home and become ready for whatever may come. What can you do to get started?
1. Think of this project as self-reliance, not just emergency preparedness or food storage. It is only through being self-reliant that we are truly prepared to care for our families, and sometimes others as well.
2. Self-Reliance is more than food storage. Think back to our General Store. It is food, camping supplies in case of a disaster which drives us from our home, car kits in case we become stranded while traveling, 72 hour kits in case we need to flee quickly, stamps, cash, first aid, and medical supplies. If you are currently serving in Scouting, you may want to begin with items you can use while on scout outings, such as a camp stove. Camp stoves are a must have during any power outage, and part of a great General Store.
3. It doesn’t matter where or how you begin, just begin. The Lord will bless your efforts if you will just show your commitment by taking a first step, then a second. Purchase just two or three extra cans of food each week. Ask for camping supplies or a Dutch oven for your birthday or anniversary.
4. You are the best judge of what to stock. No one knows better than you how your family eats, what your job situation is, or what natural disasters may occur in your area. If your family loves peaches and doesn’t like apricots, don’t store apricots. I have seen charts that tell you to store 5 gallons of oil per person. I wouldn’t use that much oil in ten years, no less one, but you may. Make a list of the foods your family likes and start there to build a three month supply. Don’t forget spices and condiments which make an ordinary meal extraordinary.
5. Once you have decided which foods you want to store, begin stocking your store with a three month supply of those foods. Think about your storage in terms of the food pyramid. Store foods from each food group: fruit and vegetables, meat (proteins), dairy, and grains. If you don’t know how to cook with wheat don’t store wheat, at least not until you learn how to use it, but store other grains. The Church has never told us what we need to store, they have only made suggestions based on foods that are inexpensive, nutritious, and have a long shelf life. You must consider for yourself such issues as food allergies, food preferences and your ability to prepare items – thus, which foods to store. A dairy farmer would probably not store much powdered milk. You can have an excellent food store plan without a bean in sight.
6. Complete a three month supply of the foods you eat before beginning on your long term storage. Having three months of foodstuffs stored allows you time to plant and harvest fruits and veggies to supplement your long term storage. Remember the seeds I mentioned that you could always purchase at a General Store? Three months also allows you time to begin incorporating more of your long term storage items into your everyday diet.
7. Avoid debt. You should not go into debt for food storage or other items needed for your General Store. There are many ways to reduce spending and shop wisely to get everything you may need. Once self-reliance becomes a priority, the possibilities will begin to be obvious.
8. It is important to have some cash on hand. During a true emergency, banks may close and credit cards may become useless without the electricity to run card processing equipment. Again, start small and avoid the temptation to spend that pocket change. Every time you skip a meal out and eat at home instead, place the money you would have spent in a special jar and don’t touch it!
9. Educate yourself. There are many great books, forums, websites and blogs which can help. There are experts in your own ward and stake – ask them for help.
10. Be prayerful. Heavenly Father has always helped those who have made the sacrifice and commitment to live his counsel. He will help you too.
11. Never give up. If you get discouraged, ask for help. If money runs low, adjust your purchasing and/or re-examine your spending habits.
One Christmas we had a group of Young Single Adults in our home for an evening of gift wrapping. The YSA branch provides Christmas gifts for a few families in need every year, and this year we had seven families. We gathered in our home to wrap the gifts. As we proceeded, we realized some children in one family received great gifts while others might feel overlooked. As we began to make a list of things we would have to purchase, I retrieved a few boxes of new gifts stored in my attic. These were items I purchased at 60-90% off and stored for just such an occasion. By the time we finished, we had fabulous gifts for all and were left with just two gift cards to purchase to fill in the gaps. As we cleaned up the wrapping paper, one of the young men looked at me and said, “This is what preparedness really means, isn’t it?”
Those gifts I had stored had nothing to do with a natural disaster or emergency, but they were of great value in caring for the needs of others who were experiencing stress in their lives. I did not need to write a big check or do last minute shopping, my General Store met the need.
As Heavenly Father’s children, those who live provident lives are among the most blessed.
Ancient and modern prophets have warned that tough times will come.Surely, they will. Yet, we can live with a feeling of peace in our homes during such times if we take care to follow the steps that lead to self-reliance in temporal matters, and reliance upon God for spiritual understanding and comfort. The choices are up to us, for he trusts us to choose well.
The apostle Marion G. Romney taught: It has also been my intention to encourage all Latter-day Saints to review again their personal and family preparedness and to implement immediately the principles and practices that will ensure their self-sufficiency. If we will discuss these truths in our family councils and make a plan to do all in our power to live these principles, we shall all enjoy the promise of the Lord, If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.’
“More importantly, if we will live providentially and righteously, we will qualify for the greater promise: And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life.'” – Marion G. Romney, “Principles of Temporal Salvation,” Tambuli, Oct 1981.