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Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Prepper Too?

By Hildie Westenhaver

I’ve always been a fan of preparedness stuff my whole life. Even as a newlywed I made sure we had part of our closet set aside for food storage. I’ve been the Ward Preparedness Specialist a couple of times and it’s one of my favorite topics to discuss. I realize that I’m kind of unique in that respect. Most people DO NOT want to hear about preparedness of any sort. Try to mention a year-supply and they will suddenly find a reason to disappear.

Last Sunday I was asked to circulate a sign-up list for a new preparedness group in our ward. This preparedness group—not led by me, I should mention—will focus on whatever the members would like: gardening, canning, water storage, foraging, you name it.   As I poked my head into the Young Women’s classroom, the president said, “let’s just have everyone raise their hands who’s interested in Preparedness.” I wrote down the names of the women who were interested and paused. “Ok, everyone else,” I said, “when the world ends don’t come to my house. I’m going to remind you that you weren’t interested in preparedness right before I slam the door in your face.” Everyone laughed as I left the room.

I wasn’t joking. If you know what you’re supposed to do but don’t do it, I’m not bailing you out. Sorry, foolish virgin.

So what gives? We’re supposed to be prepared. Whether it’s by getting an education or life insurance or paying off debts or whatever. So many people just don’t care. And so many people don’t do anything.

Interestingly enough in the three days since an ebola case was announced in Texas, the state where I live, I’ve had several people call and text me about food and water preparedness. I’ve also talked to a couple of friends who refuse to think that ebola will change anything and are trying extra hard NOT to prepare right now. I guess to show that they’re not hysterical.

Ebola or not I just look around. This earth is in turmoil. Politically and socially things are in a sad state, but the Earth itself seems sick; like an old lady who is simply old and feeble. We haven’t treated her very well and I think she’s fed up.

So to me, extra preparedness is a smart move right now. But I feel like the only one.

What are your thoughts on temporal preparedness? Do you feel like it’s becoming a more important issue ? Is it too overwhelming to even think about? Do you think being spiritually prepared is enough? Or do you think of you’re prepared spiritually, you will feel inspired to prepare temporally too? Why do you feel it’s important (or not) to prepare for hard times ahead? Will there even be hard times ahead or are people making mountains out of molehills?

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About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

35 thoughts on “Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Prepper Too?”

  1. I have 9 months of food storage and a month of water. We don't have a basement or spare room, and I don't know where to stuff anymore. (Do I discard our holiday ornaments and garland to make space for more?) I worry I don't know how to cook without electricity…

    I also worry I am not prepared in the right way. Under what scenario would I be grinding wheat for my own bread for a year? Let alone I don't have a year of yeast unless I

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  2. Premature reply.

    Unless I have refrigeration for that year.

    And for some reason I expect I'd end up taking all the food to the ward bishop for distribution leaving my family to starve once we've fed everyone in the entire city.

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  3. I think that our number one priority is to prepare ourselves spiritually, so we can return to our Father in Heaven. That being said, we HAVE to be intelligent and prepare, not in a mass panic, but as our Prophets and other Leaders have taught us.
    Have some food storage (at least a 3 month supply of water, and food, and fuel, in case of our down times in life. We have faced many times of under employment and times between jobs (that don't pay much ever!) and we have been so grateful that we had things to eat.
    Be sensible about it. When you shop a sale for say canned baked beans, buy a couple more than you normally would. When you see a caselot sale, get a couple of cases of something you and your family eat all the time anyhow. Don't sell the farm so you can buy some wheat buckets, you know!? Be smart. Buy a little at a time, but do it the next time you go to the store.
    When you finish drinking a 2 ltr soda pop, rinse it out very well, and then fill it with water and date it. Do what you can.
    We recently had floods here, bad ones, no power… we have lantern flash lights, and candles and matches– AND a battery/solar/crank radio… that was my friend that night as I ended up being all alone with family stranded in various places. I ate a peanut butter sandwich for dinner, cos I realized I had no other way to cook other than our electric stove or microwave…. both useless. We don't have gas pipes this far out in the desert. Anyhow, try a little every day to build up what you need (AND make sure you have a set of scriptures in that 72 hr kit!!)

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  4. We have sufficient food stored (I think — how do you ever KNOW?) but I seldom use it, so am concerned about what I'll do when I need to make dinner from a bucket of wheat. I appreciate this post, because I've noticed I'm relaxing a bit into my abundant lifestyle, and it becomes too easy to believe this easiness of getting what we need will continue forever. I'm very interested in "last days scenarios" and frankly, don't know how we can guarantee that our temporal preparation will be of any use when the Big Earthquake here in the NW buries all our storage. Which is why the spiritual preparation is of paramount importance. But you're right — if you're feeling that, you'll do something about preparing for your temporal needs, too. I'm looking for land far away from a big city and buying a yurt (and taking my Mongolian daughter-in-law with me to set it up.)

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  5. Ultimately we will be saved by faith–but the paradox is that we show our faith by our WORKS. We obey, we prepare as best we can and then we trust God that He will help us. I am like Hildie and have always liked the idea of preparation (I remember the first big bag of wheat my husband and I bought–we opened it up and looked at it in awe. Red wheat (bleh). We had no idea what to do with it but we were glad we had it. We stored it behind the chair in our tiny student trailer living room.) My experience is that if you trust Him, Heavenly Father will help you–in all areas. Over the 20 years of my marriage I have learned SO. MUCH. about being prepared. I know LOTS of ways to use wheat now (and MUCH prefer WHITE wheat to red) and I use them regularly–our large family goes through 50 or so lbs of wheat a month. The main thing I have learned about being prepared though (beside the fact that there is no absolute one way to get prepared that will work for everyone) is that you can never be so prepared that you can stop relying on Heavenly Father.

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  6. Hildie,
    You are definitely not alone. Many in my immediate family, as well as several friends have woken up in the last few months and started prepping in earnest. It's surprisingly fun and gratifying to do.

    Being spiritually prepared is not enough because part of spiritual preparedness is listening to the prophet, who just said again in this month's Ensign to get prepping.

    Here's Ezra Taft Benson from a 1980 GC talk:

    "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.

    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?"

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  7. I'm not as passionate about food storage and preparedness in general as I used to be. I think it's really important to make sure people can deal with daily life rather than focusing on possible future problems. If you can do both, great, but I think the first is more important. Daily life can be challenge enough that potential disasters don't seem much worse.

    I do think preparedness is important though and I do what I can to make sure we are prepared. But there are a lot of times when my family can't be prepared in all the expected ways. For example, we move internationally often and I often can't ship food from one country to another. It often isn't practical (or even possible) for me to build up an extensive food supply before we move again. I also have to reconfigure the whole food storage thing in every country depending on the climate, what's available locally, whether I have a car and storage space, and so on. So if the worst happens it is likely that I won't be as prepared as some other people even though we will have tried.

    Other people are having a hard time feeding their families today, much less worrying about a potential disaster in the future. It's hard to know if someone was foolish and didn't prepare or simply unable to prepare and I hope others will be willing to help me if I need it and that if I'm lucky enough to be prepared that I can help others.

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  8. I think part of the reason people shy away from preparedness is because it is so overwhelming. Do I prepare for the grab a bag in the night, survive in the wild type of scenario or do I prepare for the unemployed for a year scenario? And where do I put all the stuff!!!

    I was "lucky" enough to experience the Snowpocalypse/Snowmaggedon that shut down the DC area a few winters ago. It was definitely not fun to be without heat and power for about a week in the dead of winter (don't worry, we decamped to a friend's house), but it was a blessing in that this non-life-threatening situation showed many of us what practical things we needed to do to be prepared in at least one type of emergency.

    I think preparedness is definitely becoming a more and more important issue. A few years ago I was prompted to focus on getting myself prepared; I spent my tax return on a combination of food storage and survival equipment. I know that I'm not ready for anything and everything, but I definitely feel peace of mind knowing that I've done what I can. Also, I totally enjoy the use of that survival equipment on summer camping trips!

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  9. Hildie, you are not the "only one", altho I know it feels that way. We have also "always" had a small supply of food storage. As a young mother, I could not imagine not having food for my baby, so we put up a ridiculous amount of applesauce (but we eventually used it all!). I have also been a food storage specialist, & a stake preparedness specialist, & enjoyed both callings, but found it interesting how many times, esp at the stake level, the ward people under me wanted to add guns & ammo to the storage. I do understand that there are bad people, but I believe in a God who can move mountains… and so I am not afraid. I guess that's a benefit of the Old Testament stories where the Lord fights the battles for Israel, when they are obedient.

    I was blessed to be in the Welfare Session, back when they had one, when we were counseled "you don't HAVE to share, you GET to share". There is a big difference there. Elder Packer told the story of a Brother Millet, who in the pioneer days of the church, divided the last of his flour with someone who had come to him in response to a prayer for help. Brother Millet responded that "if the Lord sent you for it, it isn't mine", & later recorded in his journal how good he felt to know that Lord even knew there was such a person as Brother Millet. I think that is the lesson of the widow of Zarapheth, and the other "starvation" stories of the Old Testament. If we are not willing to share when we get down to the last bits, then we are not allowing the Lord to miraculously multiply what is there, for the good of all. Having said that, we deal with celiac in our family, so most people would not be able to share much with us, even if they wanted to do so.

    We have planted the fruit trees & berry bushes we were counseled to plant over 20 years ago (twice – once in Idaho & once in Utah), and we are beginning now to be blessed again with the fruit from that obedience, as the trees are getting larger. I am content that the Lord knows what we have, & that He will use it as seems Him best.

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  10. It's not always that people are flippant when it comes to being prepared or not, so be careful in passing judgment. It is often a financial issue. I hear people say, "just pick up an extra can of beans when they go on sale," and I think, "I'm just grateful that they're on sale so I can afford groceries this month." I am a very organized person and I have dreams of beautifully stocked food storage (I have calculated out quantities and everything) and a year's worth of salary in the bank, but life has us living paycheck to paycheck right now. We do our best at putting a little away each month and we live a very modest lifestyle right now, but food storage isn't in the cards right now. I get uncomfortable when preparedness comes up (did you see the First Presidency message in the September Ensign), not because I am burying my head in the sand, but because I want to obey so badly and can't.

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  11. Hildie, If your name were never on your posts I feel confident I would still be able to identify them by your tone. It always makes me uncomfortable, the things you let out of your head! Listen, I had a mission companion just like you. Funny but I may have been a little scared of her. Interestingly enough she felt the same way you do about her food stash. She joked (I think she was joking) that she planned to sit on her roof with a rifle and pick off the people that tried to come after her food. Like with her, I can't tell if you're joking about slamming the door in people's faces… but I think there's a tender heart under that snark. I think you will open that door because the person on the other side may just be (especially in that moment) the least among you. I believe in you, Hildie!

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  12. I think it is important to realize that people have about 50 billion commandments they supposed to be living (at least it sure feels that way sometimes),and it's about impossible to work on all of them at once. I'm supposed to be working on financial preparedness, food storage, 72-hour kits and other forms of disaster prep, family home evening, personal and family scripture study, attending the temple more regularly, visiting teaching, compassionate service, magnifying my calling(s), attending all my meetings including weekday RS meetings, menu planning and budgeting and becoming a healthy cooking expert…. and the infinite number of other things I'm not focusing on as much as I should in my life. Preparedness IS overwhelming, especially when added on top of everything else we're supposed to be doing to return to our Heavenly Father on a daily and weekly basis. I have had times in my life where it has been a focus, times in my life (a recent unemployment episode comes to mind) where I have relied upon and been grateful for the efforts I made in the past, and plenty of other times where I'm prioritizing other equally important things that also need my attention. There has to be balance. We do what we can, when we can, and trust that God will provide and make up for our lackings. Other people are doing the same. Maybe those people that seem flippant about it or are not currently coming to a class on it are focusing on other gospel principles that need tending in their lives right now?

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  13. Agreed. Pay your tithing, have mom stay home with the kids, pay a generous fast offering, pay for extra youth service projects (be generous!) and all the extras your calling requires because the budget won't cover it but everyone still expects it… oh, and buy a year's supply of unhealthy food to store in your basement and haul around with you the next time your husband gets laid off and you have to pack everything up and start again in a new place…. No thanks.

    I do have some emergency supplies (food, water, first aid) because it just makes sense.

    And honestly, the 1 year supply is NOT EVEN RECOMMENDED anymore. Check out this link: https://www.lds.org/topics/food-storage?lang=eng. The message is shifting to encouraging members to have just a three month supply, although the preppers are ignoring this change to suit their own weird obsession.

    And I think buying wheat is just a stupid waste of money.

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  14. I was raised in a home where a three-month supply was the norm. I can only handle so much of the last-day scare scenarios emotionally (I agree with Amira in the sense of not living in fear of the future — it really can become an obsession and a religion in and of itself in ways that I think are inconsistent with our faith), but it's so practical (when possible) to have some simple, usable food on hand. It's how I cook — simple, predictable, inexpensive, storable. (When I was emergency prep person in my ward, I created this three-month supply blog to record some of how I use basic three-month supply items in my storage, fwiw: http://threemonthsupply.blogspot.com/)

    But I also think longer-term storage could be something we are asked to share, so I am not convinced that the foolish virgins thing applies completely to what we have been asked to do in a long-term sense. For example, our stake leaders have asked how much storage we have. I could totally envision being asked to bring what we have to a 'storehouse' in case of a local emergency to help "sustain life" (or maybe even a broader one — like the Church did during WWII).

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  15. I just checked your posted link. The recommendations are that we have a three month supply of food we normally eat, as you say, but if you scroll down a little further, the recommendation is still to put by a store of foods that will sustain life, for a longer period of time. I don't think you can accurately say that the preppers are " ignoring this change to suit their own weird obsession". When our children were younger, we made blender whole wheat pancakes every weekend, because everyone liked them and it helped us stay used to the wheat. I never could seem to get the knack of making whole wheat bread, tho, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise when we discovered that my husband and a daughter have celiac, and should not be eating anything with gluten, including wheat.

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  16. I'm not saying no thanks to food storage. I think it is solid advice and the prophets have been inspired. I wish I could, I just can't and wanted to point out that there are different reasons that people don't have it.

    Also, I'm one of those people that actually uses wheat, oats, rice, dried beans, etc., because they are cost effective and healthy for you. So I guess once we do have money, I will be ready to use my food storage. So there's that blessing of my situation.

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  17. I don't really know if I'd slam the door in people's faces. Part of me is big into consequences; why should my children starve so we can feed all the people in our ward who knew better but chose to ignore the teachings of every prophet we've had?

    But then I think, what if my best friend came asking? Maybe I'd throw a pack of ramen noodles out the door.

    I guess that's where spiritual preparedness comes in. If the Lord truly wanted me to share, I would do it. I would complain mightily of course, because that's what I like to do. So I will pray to know what's best when and if the world starts unraveling.

    In either case, though, I will be completely amenable to bartering.

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  18. The problem l have been having lately, as RSP, is the weird intersection that happens when preparedness admonitions meet up with hoarding mental illness. It really wreaks havoc on lives and wastes alot of money. Just in the past two weeks, cleaning up a home of a hoarder, where she was buried alive under cans and cans and cans of food. Rusted, leaking, dented, and more than 10 years expired stored in an un-air conditioned house. Now diabetic and in early dementia, she could eat nearly none of it even if it were good. And this person is not the only one in my ward with the type of problem. We're dying under the weight of OCD/ Depression type hoarders, Male and female, usually older and single. And every admonition to prepare and store triggers their anxiety and guilt, and reinforces their illness, so they keep buying the stuff from the storehouse that they cannot eat for dietary reasons and pile it around their apartments like fortresses of solitude. It makes me dread any preparedness specialist's announcements in my gut. We need clearer counsel on the mental illness of 0CD/ Depression-type hoarding.

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  19. I should add that cleaning these homes has turned me off of food storage. It probably isnt right, but all I and my teenaged daughter want to do any more is get rid of stuff from our own house. This has been very scary to us, and is more real and personal than doomsday scenarios.

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  20. We just moved and I donated the bulk of our food storage to the ward. Our RS president came over and got it and distributed it to the people in need. Lately I have been getting the #10 cans of dehydrated food, like pancake mix and macaroni because it has a 20 year shelf life. Right now we live in a very small town house and I have one shelf in the garage that is my overflow pantry. I am used to having most of what I need in the basement, and I am constantly running out of things I take for granted like flour and sugar.

    When our new house gets done I will start rebuilding our storage, storing only stuff we will use. I've also just started using dry beans.

    I also have a 4 year supply of toothpaste and toilet paper, and at least as years worth of ammo. Come willing to trade we'll talk. Come with evil intentions keep walking.

    And I'm loving the prepper shows. It makes us Mormons look normal.

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  21. The three month supply is recommended. Nowhere on the Food Storage page does it say "one year supply." Nowhere. The exact wording at the bottom of the page about longer term supplies is: "For longer-term needs, and where permitted, gradually build a supply of food that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive, such as wheat, white rice, and beans." I think this is a definite shift in messaging.

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  22. Hildie, this is why I still have wheat in our storage. Not nearly as much as recommended, but for us, it is something we can share. In fact, when we moved, we only moved the wheat that was in the buckets. We gave the rest to a family who we knew would use it. Since we don't use wheat any more due to the whole celiac thing, I store more beans , corn, and oats.

    I personally have never envisioned handing everything over to the bishop. Why on earth would any bishop want the added headache of trying to distribute food? I see it more like in the early days, where if you were in need, you went to the bishop and he sent you to someone "who might have some to share" (a phrase I have seen repeatedly in pioneer journals).

    Most of what we have is the fruits and veggies from our garden and trees, plus the turkey that I bottle when it is on sale at Thanksgiving. I'm not adverse to sharing with others, but they may not necessarily like what is available (like beets), and although I am willing to share, those with whom I share do not get to choose what they receive. Translation: if you don't like whole wheat anything, maybe you'd best prepare a little, since that is likely what will be available to share.

    One more thought. The worst "disaster" we have experienced in our 37 years of marriage was when my husband was laid off and out of work for ten months. I went to work, but I did not make what he can with a master's degree. If we had not owned our home, and had the fruit trees and our food storage, we would not have weathered that disaster nearly as well. Had we not owned the home, we would have lost it. Being homeless makes it hard to have a food storage at all. As it was, the new job was in Utah, not Idaho, and it took over a year to sell our home in Idaho. We now own the home we are living in here, and it was incredibly difficult to find a home that had an area I could use to make a fruit room. We looked at lots of homes in a year and a half. 2 had fruit trees: 1 had an apple tree, and 1 had a plum tree. I did not see much evidence in the housing market of people being obedient to the counsel to plant fruit trees and berry bushes, but that was in 2004-2006. Hopefully things are better now.

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  23. I am a fan of preparedness. But many people equate preparedness with food storage. I really dislike food storage at my own home for personal reasons, including limited space, expired food, and just my dislike of clutter in general. I was also recently the Relief Society president and I saw quite a few examples of food hoarding. I prefer to work on preparedness issues such as being debt free, being healthy, getting an education, and learning to live thriftily.

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  24. jennyinnc,

    To each their own, but I think food storage, water, and survival supplies is meant to help in case of contagion, massive earthquakes, war, and general mayhem. Living thriftily, being healthy, and having a graduate degree will only get you so far in such situations…

    If you don't believe we need to prepare for mayhem, see my quote above by Pres Ezra T Benson.

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  25. I know the importance of food storage, only because I've relied so often on it – often eating it down to the second last tin – when times are financially tight.

    I remember watching an old movie, set around the time of WW2, where they were discussing saving food, and one woman admitted buying extra lipstick. The women were aghast that she would do something "so selfish", but I always thought that the woman was brilliant – storing what you know will give you a boost (and something different to trade) in addition to the toilet paper and beans.

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  26. I used to be better about food storage, but two years after moving twice in two years, I realized I had about two weeks worth of cereal and a bunch of peanut butter.
    I do worry about some type of "Contagion" type episode (have you seen that movie?) in which we are quarantined for some reason, plus we get pretty frequent ice storms where we live in the Northeast. I realized that I would have better peace of mind if I followed the counsel to have three months of supplies, so I have started building up foods we eat (beans, tomatoes, pasta, rice, tuna, chicken, chocolate chips), and our water and toilet paper. I just feel more peace in my heart knowing that we have something.
    I also think that the Lord will expect us to share what we have with those around us, but I believe that he will be able to make miracles happen, and we will have enough to do that if we have faith. Of course, I live in a heavily non-mormon area— it is mentally easier to share with those who have not had the counsel to be prepared! 🙂

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  27. I find it interesting how strongly opinioned and defensive people are on this seemingly "boring" and "less important" issue. It makes me wonder why?

    This post is just one more in a long line of nudges I've been getting lately that are telling me I need to be more on top of our family's preparedness, so thanks, Hildie! It finally made me realize that maybe that's the spirit talking and I need to act! So, conference weekend we are planning on evaluating our water and 72 hour kits situation and making some small goals. Seriously, it is overwhelming, but I think once I just start acting, even in small ways, I'll have a lot more peace in my heart. The news lately: ISIS, Ebola, Hong Kong, has really gotten me down lately and cranked up my anxiety. I really think part of preparedness is simply the Lord given us an opportunity for blessings beyond just the end of days scenario. I know that even if nothing horrible happens to my family, we'll still be blessed by having been prepared and following the prophets' counsel.

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  28. As one who spent many years trekking back and forth across the ocean, food storage hasn't been my top priority. One of my friends did make it a priority and fed her neighbors and friends for two weeks several years ago when a huge earthquake devastated the island she lived on.

    Now that I'm living in my own home, I am making it a priority. I love lists that you give specific, concrete things to do each week. They work well with my personality.

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  29. My in-laws used up most of their storage when my FIL had cancer and my MIL had no time or energy to go to the store and plan meals. They were very grateful they had it because it was a life saver.

    It is definitely harder to store healthier foods.

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