Author: Richardson, Frank D.
Latter-day Saints are taught to prepare for potential problems. Since the gospel is concerned with mankind's temporal as well as spiritual welfare, the Church considers any potential emergency that would adversely affect the quality of life or produce suffering to be a cause for advance preparation. This includes natural disasters, unemployment, disease, injuries, and other circumstances that could threaten life or personal well-being. The Church teaches its members to prepare for such emergencies.
The rationale for emergency preparedness is that by living providently and by acquiring in advance the skills and resources necessary to cope effectively with difficulties, Latter-day Saints can minimize or avoid the suffering that accompanies the unexpected. They can also have the sense of security and peace of mind (D&C 38:30) that are essential to spiritual development. They are also taught to work toward self-sufficiency-to provide adequately for themselves, to assist those in need, and to avoid unnecessary dependence upon the efforts or resources of others. They are told to put aside something when times are good so that they can care for themselves and others when times are bad. For Latter-day Saints, preparing for emergencies is more akin to saving for a "rainy day" than surviving "doomsday" (Kimball, p. 78).
For more than a hundred years, Church leaders have taught the members to store grain and other essentials that would sustain life in times of drought or famine (Essentials of Home Production and Storage, p. 17). The current guidelines for home storage are intended to apply internationally. They include having a supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, the fuel necessary to sustain life for one year (Benson, p. 33). Church guidance states, "We have never laid down an exact formula for what anybody should store. Perhaps if we think not in terms of a year's supply of what we ordinarily would use, and think more in terms of what it would take to keep us alive in case we didn't have anything else to eat, that last would be very easy to put in storage for a year" (Essentials, p. 6).
Home gardens, canning, and sewing have long been encouraged among the women by the Relief Society through homemaking lessons and workdays. Latter-day Saints are counseled to seek education and training opportunities that prepare them to adapt to changes in the working world, to avoid personal indebtedness, to maintain good health by eating and exercising properly, to learn first aid, and to know how to protect their lives and possessions against fire, flood, and theft. They are counseled to obtain life, medical, and property insurance where it is available. They are also urged to avoid panic buying, purchasing emergency resources on credit, pursuing fads, and giving official endorsement to specific brands, suppliers, or techniques.
Institutionally, the Church practices the principles of preparedness. Under the aegis of its Welfare Services, the Church's Welfare farms, canneries, and bishop's storehouses grow, process, and distribute commodities for consumption by those in need in the Church. These facilities maintain approximately a year's supply of inventory, in both production supplies and finished goods. Church-owned grain reserves are stored to help provide needs from harvest to harvest, with a suitable margin for some who may come into need during more prolonged economic downturns. The Church does not attempt, however, to maintain emergency storage for its entire membership. Long-term security against catastrophic emergencies depends upon the faithful preparation of individual members and families throughout the world.
Consistent preparedness has enabled the Church to participate in humanitarian projects to relieve suffering resulting from such catastrophes as World War II, the rupture of the Teton Dam in Idaho in 1976, food shortages in Poland in 1982, flooding in Brazil in 1983, earthquakes in Mexico City in 1985, hurricanes in the Caribbean and South Carolina in 1989, and other natural and man-made disasters.
Ecclesiastical units of the Church (wards, stakes, regions, and areas) are directed to prepare and maintain a written emergency response plan. The scope and level of detail contained in the plans vary, depending upon the nature and severity of emergencies likely to occur in each area. Emergency response plans generally address leadership and communication issues, reporting procedures, the location and extent of resources available for emergency response efforts, guidelines for the use of Church buildings as shelters, and the names and addresses of emergency-response specialists.
The presiding officers of all Church units are encouraged to coordinate emergency planning and response efforts with appropriate community agencies. The importance of good citizenship by all Church members in times of need is axiomatic.