Sunday, January 25, 2015

My church talk on preparedness: our prophets receive revelation BEFORE it's needed.

I gave this talk in sacrament meeting on January 25, 2015. I had to cut some parts out, but covered most of it. I started my talk with a summary of the parable of Gomer

Our Prophets Receive Revelation BEFORE it’s Needed. 

One of my early morning seminary students recently made a comment, “My friend asked why our prophets don’t get revelation like leaders of other churches do, like how certain churches are allowing gay people to be pastors.” Inside I was saying, “WHAT! What do you mean our prophets don’t get revelation? Of course they do.” A thought came to me to share, “Our prophets are so amazing that they get revelation before it’s needed. They don’t wait until they’re peer pressured into changing with cultural trends.” 

My student’s comment really got me thinking. The Family Proclamation came out in 1995, and I confess that my response was of this flavor, “Duh, what’s the big deal?” Since then we’ve seen how profound that doctrine on the family is as family is being attacked and redefined all over the place.

Family home evening was instituted in 1915. Perhaps some families back then responded with, “Duh, what’s the big deal? Our families are strong.” But now that we’ve seen families torn apart and divorce rates sky rocket, we see that God gave our prophets family home evening before it was needed. 

The Lord gave the prophet Joseph Smith the Word of Wisdom in 1833, and it wasn’t until 1948 that the first major studies showed that smoking caused serious health damage. Noah preached for 120 years telling people to repent. And then the flood came. 

Food storage and preparedness is one of those revelations that God has given his prophets before it was needed. We’ve heard it for over 75 years. Yet I’ve heard people saying, “The prophets aren’t emphasizing preparedness much any more so I don’t think it matters right now.” Inside I want to say, “WHAT? What do you mean it doesn’t matter any more. Of course it matters. The signs of the times are happening all around us.” 

Why Temporal Preparedness Matters. 

Have you experienced a time when your income was interrupted?  Were you grateful you had food storage to help you through, or did you wish you had food storage? Have you had a power outage where you were grateful you had some flashlights and candles, or a natural disaster and had to cook and heat your home without power? Were you glad you had supplies you needed, or did you wish you had prepared better? Have you entered a race or a musical performance where you were glad you prepared well, or did you wish you had prepared better?  

We know from prophets and scriptures that there will be some “adventurous” events between now and Second Coming. It’s part of the plan. President 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. ... 

We urge you to [get prepared] prayerfully and do it now.  I speak with a feeling of great urgency... 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” (“Prepare for the Days of Tribulation,” Ensign, Nov. 1980). 

I’m thrilled that we get to study President Benson this year in Relief Society and Priesthood, and I encourage those who have callings in other areas to at least skim the book to learn from this great prophet, or at least to read his life story in the beginning of the book. What an amazing man. If there is a modern prophet who knows the importance of food storage, it’s President Benson. As a new apostle, he was assigned to post World War II Europe for a whole year, where he saw the ravages of starvation, women crying being given an orange or a spool of thread. 

To anyone who thinks the prophets aren’t talking about preparedness any more, they are. 

  • President Monson wrote his whole First Presidency message about preparedness in the September Ensign of 2014. “We live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past” ("Are We Prepared?" Ensign, September, 2014).
  • This month Mormon Channel has put out a new video about getting started with food storage, along with a weekly blog post with food storage tips. 
  • Yesterday my husband, Bishop Edwards, got a flyer in the mail from the Layton home storage center saying, “Making a home storage resolution? Let us help!” So the Church is on it. 

Spiritual Preparedness Matters More. Obeying the Spirit, Obeying the Prophets, and Holy Habits are Vital Aspects of Spiritual Preparation. 

A while ago I met a return missionary at the temple who was serving during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. I asked what that was like for him. He said the mission president had planned on having a meeting that day with some of the missionaries in the mission, but then the president felt prompted at the last minute to invite more to the meeting, including all the missionaries serving on the coast. This missionary said his apartment was totally washed away, and he lost everything he owned, but that every missionary was safe. That mission president was spiritually prepared to obey personal revelation, even if it didn’t make sense. And the missionary was spiritually prepared to obey his leaders even if it didn’t make sense. Their spiritual preparedness saved lives.  

Two important aspects of spiritual preparation are becoming really good at obeying our leaders, especially the prophet, and obeying the Spirit. Sister Julie Beck said, “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life” (“And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit,” Ensign, May 2010). I agree with her. Elder Scott said, “We will never be prompted by the Holy Ghost to do something we cannot do. It may require extraordinary effort and much time, patience, prayer, and obedience, but we can do it.” He said that God will give us “inspiration to know what to do, and when necessary, divine power or capacity to accomplish it.” (21 Principles, Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit [2013] p. 12-14). 

An 8.8 earthquake happened in Chile in 2010.  President Larry and Sister Lisa Laycock were leading the mission. She said that one morning two weeks before the earthquake, “I was awakened at around 4:00 AM by ... a prompting. I did not hear a voice, but the thought was as clear as if it had been in the form of spoken words: ‘There is going to be an earthquake. Prepare your missionaries.’ I sat up in bed and immediately remembered Elder Scott's counsel [to write down promptings that come during the night or first thing in the morning so they would remember them]. That morning I told Larry what had happened. He immediately set to work organizing our missionaries to prepare for an earthquake.” 

The Laycocks visited every missionary apartment, and “brought specific instructions on what to do, supplied water purification bottles for the missionaries, told them how to create a 36-hour kit for emergencies and how to stay in communication should an earthquake strike. They prayed with each missionary and dedicated their apartments.” Sister Laycock said, “When the earthquake came, we were prepared. We did not experience the panic that many felt. We knew we were prepared. Because of the words of the Lord's chosen Apostle, Elder Scott, we had listened and heeded the quiet, but clear promptings of the Holy Ghost. We were blessed with peace in the midst of chaos.” (“In Chile: The Lord’s Earthquake Warning,” Meridian Magazine, February or March 2010).  

Ephriam Hanks is another example of spiritual preparedness of knowing how to obey personal revelation and the prophet. Ephriam had an angel visit him, telling him, “The hand-cart people are in trouble and you are wanted; will you go and help them?” He answered, “Yes, I will go if I am called.’ That happened three times that night.” ("Ephraim K. Hanks' Narrative").

So the next morning he went to Salt Lake City to see the prophet. Brigham Young told the Saints that there were Saints who needed their help, and asked certain men to prepare to go rescue them. After other men said they could be ready in a few days, Ephriam said, “I’m ready now.” Ephriam left the next day. He found the Martin handcart company in their starving, snowed in condition. He had prayed for a buffalo to bring to the starving Saints and saw one immediately after his prayer, which meat he brought to the Saints. Had Ephriam been one or two days later, the Saints may have all died. Ephriam’s spiritual preparedness helped save hundreds of lives. 

Elder Oaks told us,  “A 72 hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kid of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2004).

President Kimball taught that it’s the everyday holy habits that build our spiritual preparedness. “Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity—these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972] p. 256.)

Sister Linda Reeves also expressed the importance of prioritizing holy habits that bring spiritual preparation. She said, “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening” (“Protection from Pornography – A Christ-Focused Home,” Ensign, May 2014).  

I hope we aren’t just going through the motions with our holy habits. Going through the motions doesn’t bring enough spiritual power and armor of God that we need these days. I hope our prayers are sincere, and our scripture study is feasting. I hope we are putting effort into planning family home evenings that address the specific needs of our children, and being guided by the Spirit. 

Did you notice that most of the talks at our last General Conference mentioned the importance of following the prophets? Do whatever it takes to strengthen your testimony of our current prophet, Pres. Monson. I highly recommend reading his biography. Mike and Adam both read stories from it to our family on a trip before Adam’s mission. Even though I already knew Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet of God, through his biography, the Spirit witnessed again and again that we are led by a true prophet of God, who follows Jesus Christ at the head of this church. If your testimony of our prophet isn’t vibrant and strong, may I invite you to start today taking steps to strengthen your testimony. 

A Change in Counsel About Food Storage. 

I used to do public speaking about preparedness, and it was pretty straight forward because for years the Church taught us to store seven basic foods and even gave us the amounts that would sustain life for a year: “...Wheat or other grains, legumes [like pinto beans or lentils], salt, honey or sugar, powdered milk, and cooking oil. [And a lesser amount of water.] When members have stored enough of these essentials to meet the needs of their family for one year, they may decide to add other items that they are accustomed to using day to day” (First Presidency Letter, January 20, 2002). 

Then in 2007 the Church gave us new counsel in a new pamphlet called “All is Safely Gathered In.” I have some guesses about why the counsel changed in 2007. Perhaps because they saw that immediately after disasters, eating chili out of a can is easier than figuring out how to grind wheat. Perhaps it’s because we’re now such a worldwide church and Saints in Tonga might store coconut milk and dried mango rather than wheat and beans. It doesn’t matter the reason for the change. All that matters is that we know this direction came from the prophet, and we need to obey it. 

Here is the current counsel in this 2007 pamphlet “All is Safely Gathered In.” 
three-month supply of everyday foods that you’re used to eating 
long term foods

The easiest way to start with your three-month supply of everyday foods is to simply buy some extras each time you shop. Even though it might stress some people, I think it’s kind of cool that the Church isn’t giving us specific lists and amounts like they used to, because it gives each family the opportunity to pray about what the Lord would have them store. I still think the original seven basic foods and the amounts the Church used to recommend are a great way to build your long term foods. The cheapest way to get a year supply of survival food is to buy wheat. If you buy the bags from a local LDS storehouse  you can get an entire year supply of wheat for one person for less than $100!  That is around the price of many cell phone or cable TV bills. The Church will even ship cases of food storage to you. How easy is that?  You can find a food storage calculators online to help you figure out amounts of these basic long term foods for your family.  

In the recent President Monson message that I mentioned earlier, he included being careful with spending and getting out of debt. He also said, “Every family [should have a] supply of food, clothing, and where possible, other necessities of life.” Other necessities of life might include ways to live without power, heat, or water. It might include a 72-hour kit or a way to live outside for a time in case of earthquake or some other crisis. That’s why personal revelation is so wonderful, because we can pray like Ephriam Hanks and those mission presidents did and know from the Lord the specific things we need to prepare for what the Lord knows is coming for our specific families. 

Invitation to Kneel in Prayer and Ask God. 

I invite you to kneel in prayer before today is done, and please write down any thoughts that come as you are praying. Ask Heavenly Father if He wants you to become more prepared spiritually and temporally. Ask if there are any ways the Lord wants you to improve your holy habits. Ask if He will help you figure out where to start with your food storage. I also invite you to ask Him what amount of money He would have you dedicate to preparedness each month, and then treat it sacredly by paying it second, right after tithing. Because tithing and preparedness are both a matter of faith and obedience, right? You could use a special jar with a favorite preparedness quote taped to the jar.  Then each month pray that you’ll be guided in how to best use those dollars for preparedness, and watch the miracles happen. Take your concerns to Heavenly Father in prayer. If you feel like you don’t have time, money, space, or feel too overwhelmed to get prepared, tell Him that and ask Him to guide you to solutions. 

Then, when challenging times come, because we’ve been told by prophets and scriptures that they will, you won’t have to say like Sister Gomer did, “I told you so.” You will have obeyed the Lord, and you will be prepared. 


Gwen Mangelson said...

Wonderful talk! Thank you for sharing it! I just pray daily that more people will actually listen to talks like yours!
It makes me sad that most people think someone else will take care of them in times of need.

pat johnson said...

Wonderful talk. I think you were truly inspired. I hope some listened

tami said...

Beautiful! I wish I had been there to hear it delivered!

debbie said...

I enjoyed the spiritual preparedness part of your talk. Thanks for sharing

Becky Edwards said...

Qwen, Pat, Tami, and Debbie,

Thank you for your kind comments! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

- Becky Edwards