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The morning was fresh and beautiful at the Haun’s Mill settlement. The children laughed and played and chased each other while the adults went about their daily tasks with no premonition. Yet many were living their last hours on this earth. The saddest part of that story is, had they followed the Prophet’s counsel the mob would have ridden in to find the settlement deserted.
John Lee was an eye witness to an important conversation on 26 October 1838. He recorded the Prophet Joseph’s words to Jacob Haun: “Move in, by all means, if you wish to save your lives.” (Writing of John D. Lee, p. 60. Several other books also include this quote.) Haun replied that if the settlers left their homes all of their property would be lost and the Gentiles would burn their houses and other buildings. Joseph replied, “You had better lose your property than your lives, but there is no danger of losing either if you will do as you are commanded.”
You know what happened and you know the pattern. A prophet speaks. Some give heed. Others do not. The consequence follows—and sometimes the consequence is death.
Thousands disregarded the Prophet Noah’s warning (the same warning that had been given to generations of those people for 300 years) and lost their lives in the flood. Neither the mob at Haun’s Mill nor the rising waters cared one whit for the excuses the people had for their disobedience. Neither will calamity or famine care for ours.
We, as members of the Church have received many clear warnings from our prophets, and continue to receive them. For instance, a plain spoken, specific message of guidance from our First Presidency in regard to food storage was inserted in the July 2007 Ensign. Members of the Church were told in clear terms to build a three-month supply of food that is part of our daily diet, to store drinking water, establish a financial reserve, and finally, to “build a supply of food that lasts a long time and that you can use to stay alive, such as wheat, white rice, and beans.” The message title was: “Family Home Storage: Get Started!” Its message was encouraging because the very wording indicated there was still time to start, time to heed, time to accomplish the necessary preparation, but that immediate action was called for.
I worked on the first version of this article on the five-year anniversary of 9/11—five years after the tragedy that shook Americans out of their false belief that such things never happen here. On October 6, 2001, in the Sunday morning session of October general conference, just days after the planes hit the twin towers, President Hinckley said, “We cannot provide against every contingency. But we can provide against many contingencies. Let the present situation remind us that this is what we should do. As we have been continuously counseled for more than 60 years, let us have some food set aside that would sustain us for a time in case of need. But let us not panic nor go to extremes. Let us be prudent in every respect.”
Three months after the Twin Towers tragedy (January 20, 2002) the First Presidency took the unprecedented step of issuing a special letter to leadership asking that food storage (specifically having a one year supply) be taught in every branch, ward, district, and stake in the Church. On the back of this letter, the First Presidency for the first time outlined the minimum of basic food items to be included in such storage: per adult 400 pounds of grains; 60 pounds of legumes (beans, split peas or lentils, etc.) 16 pounds of powdered milk, 10 quarts of cooking oil, 60 pounds of sugar or honey; eight pounds of salt; and 14 gallons (a two-week supply) of water.
Following this, the Church made a major change at the Bishops’ storehouses, creating monthly survival food storage boxes for one person at tremendously low prices. A person could purchase one a month. When they had twelve of these boxes they would have a year’s supply of basic food storage. This plan made the step-by-step completion of President Hinckley’s counsel possible for almost any member (with the obvious exception of those who live in countries where food storage is prohibited by law).
Since then, we have all heard many lessons and talks on this subject. We can never say that we have not been sufficiently warned.
Has Counsel Ever Been More Plain?
What will the consequences be if we choose to disregard the straight forward, consistent counsel of our leaders? Will our excuses feed our children when the time for preparation is past? Personal spiritual righteousness and gospel zeal in every other gospel arena cannot excuse an individual from obeying this counsel of the prophets and apostles.
We can think of many precedents where a member or a leader was trying hard in so many areas and doing a tremendous amount of good. Yet if they, like the leader of Haun’s Mill, at the same time ignore preparedness counsel given repeatedly by prophets, they can suffer the consequences.
Another famous historical example of this very issue is the Martin and Willey handcart experience. Here we see a group of good, righteous individuals and their local leaders ignoring counsel from prophets and apostles and suffering the consequences. They believed that their personal righteousness would protect them in their disregard for following the counsel of the apostles. (See B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.4, ch. 98, p.91)
How Does All This Apply to Us?
A well-known preparedness author gave me permission to use the following quote, which includes some of the strongest words from President Benson on the subject:
I can’t tell you how many times I have talked with people who are wonderful, faithful members of the Church, some even who are ward and stake leaders, who don’t have enough food storage to last more than a week or so. (Even when they have been well blessed in material possessions and income.) In our discussions about how the counsel for food storage has been repeated by every prophet for over 60 years, they commonly respond that with all of the other issues they are dealing with, food storage just isn’t very high on the priority list. Temple work, family history, missionary work are all much more important to them than food storage. However, some explain that if the Prophet made it a commandment, like they did with the Word of Wisdom by including it on the temple recommend interview, instead of just counsel, then they would move it up on the priority list.
They falsely believe that their personal righteousness will save them. After all, they are busy going to the temple, fulfilling Church callings, sending missionaries out, etc. in other words, doing the works of the righteous. Surely, the Lord will be merciful to them and take care of them despite their lack of attention to this small item.
They discount what President Benson taught on this point:“Should the Lord decide at this time to cleanse the Church—and the need for that cleansing seems to be increasing—a famine in this land of one year’s duration could wipe out a large percentage of slothful members, including some ward and stake officers. Yet we cannot say we have not been warned.” (“Commanded in All Things,” General Conference, April 1965)
Additionally, they commonly believe that those terrible things that have been prophesied won’t happen to the righteous and so they need not prepare for them. Many prophets, including President Lee and President Kimball addressed this terribly false notion, but President Benson said it best in his “Rue The Day” statement: “Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, and earthquake cannot happen here. Those who believe this are either not acquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or they do not believe them. Those who smugly think these calamities will not happen, that they somehow will be set aside because of the righteousness of the Saints, are deceived and will rue the day they harbored such a delusion.” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 265)
The Lord has warned and forewarned us against a day of great tribulation and given us counsel, through His servants, on how we can be prepared for these difficult times. Have we heeded His counsel? President Benson (then Elder Benson) said, “The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare for the Days of Tribulation” General Conference October 1980, Ensign November 1980, p. 33. Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.266) He detailed in that conference talk the importance of home production and storage.
It is a common quirk of human nature to believe that things won’t change drastically, or that since prophesied calamity hasn’t happened after so long of hearing about it in a way that touches their personal lives, terrible things couldn’t happen to us. However, the scriptures are very clear that these terrible cataclysmic events will come suddenly upon the heart of the Church, and then be poured out upon the rest of the world.
“Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of
wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of
lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith
“And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord.” (D&C 112:24-25)
It is noteworthy that President Hinckley quoted from this scripture in his famous Sunday morning talk given in general conference immediately following 9/11.
Are we listening? Are we heeding the words of our leaders? It is true that the rain falls on the just and the unjust (see Matt. 5:45). It is also true that obedience to the counsel to store food cannot guarantee temporal salvation and that spiritual preparation is a vitally important part of the package (a subject I plan to revisit soon). However, the immediate blessings of obedience to the clear counsel to store the necessities that could sustain life in the face of calamity are clear: The Lord has said, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).
If you google the scriptural phrase “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” one of the first results will be a talk by President Hinckley by that very title. He said, “The best storehouse is the family storeroom. In words of revelation the Lord has said, ‘Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing’ (D&C 109:8). Our people for three-quarters of a century have been counseled and encouraged to make such preparation as will assure survival should a calamity come . . . I am saying nothing that has not been said for a very long time . . . I have faith that the Lord will bless us, and watch over us, and assist us if we walk in obedience to His light, His gospel, and His commandments. He is our Father and our God, and we are His children, and we must be in every way deserving of His love and concern” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, 2005).
I am grateful for the promise that if I prepare I don’t have to live in fear. I’m taking an inventory and taking action to fill any gaps in my family’s storage. I know that obedience to the counsel of the General Authorities could save my life. Your obedience to that counsel could save not only your own life, but the lives of those most dear to you. Wisdom dictates that we take action today!
Author Note: Check out the website darlaisackson.com for information on the following books: Trust God No Matter What!, After My Son’s Suicide:
An LDS Mother Finds Comfort in Christ and Strength to Go On, and Finding Hope While Grieving Suicide: Opening Your Heart to the Healing Only God Can Give