Almost a year ago, I wrote an Examiner article titled, Momons, food storage, and the principle of provident living. In that article I discussed principles of provident living that have been taught by latter-day prophets for the past century. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints web site, www.providentliving.org, teaches simple, easy to learn principles of provident living and preparedness. Based on the inspired counsel of living apostles and prophets, members of the Church are advised to gradually and prudently set aside the following:
- A three-month supply of foods you and your family would normally eat
- Drnking water (enough for a couple of weeks)
- A financial reserve
- Long-term storage
A short visit to the Provident Living web site quickly reveals that this counsel is not intended to turn Mormons into “survivalists.” Instead, the precepts taught are more akin to the sensible precautions our grandparents and great-grandparents used to live by. If you were fortunate enought to have known your great-grandparents, you may remember that they had a pantry. When they went to the store, they restocked the pantry. When they prepared meals, they pulled the food from their own stocked shelves. If there was a blizzard or a hurricane that might prevent them from getting to the store, they didn’t worry about it too much. They already had food on hand. If the power went out, they didn’t worry about not being able to pump water into the house. They had some water in bottles or jars. Maybe they had a hand-pump well or a rain barrel. Older people who lived through the Great Depression learned to stock up, to be thrifty, to reuse items, and to take care of themselves. They learned to save for a rainy day. They were more self-reliant because of their efforts. These values of self-reliance are at the core of Mormons’ interest in personal preparedness.
Curiously, my earlier article on food storage received considerable criticism from some self-proclaimed adversaries of the Church. They scoffed at the notion of having a little extra food, water, and cash on-hand. The detractors fell into two camps. The first consisted of secular-minded skeptics who don’t believe in God and therefore reject prophets, prophecy, inspiration, and revelation. Their position was that no one can know the future, so anyone who follows a “prophet” is deluded or duped. They depict Mormons as a bunch of fools who are stockpiling for an Armageddon that they believe will never come.
The second group of critics were sectarian Christians who reject that there could be prophets and apostles beyond the times of the Bible. They reject outright the possibility of living revelators in our day. They take the position that any prophet today will be a false prophet. Thus, if God were to speak again, they would summarily dismiss whatever warnings, guidance, or counsel that he would give. They rely solely on the Bible, proclaiming a quality for it that it does not even assume for itself–that the Bible is the full, complete, and inerrant revelation of God to man and that there will never be anything else. As one of the critics said, “God long ago gave us everything we will ever need, and gave His Spirit as a seal of His eternal promise – as opposed to giving us some man made step by step plan for the exaltation of mere creatures.”
In either case, both groups of skeptics dismiss inspired counsel and guidance from prophets. Not a good idea.
Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, April 14th, a volcano in Iceland began to erupt. It had been dormant for around 200 years or so, underneath a glacier with a name so long that journalists avoid having to pronounce it. When Europeans went to bed on Tuesday night, they had no inkling about what was just about to occur. The eruption tossed millions of tons of ash and debris into the atmosphere.
If you’ve never dealt with volcanic ash before, it’s hard to comprehend. My family and I experienced two volcanic eruptions in Alaska that dumped ash all over Anchorage and the nearby areas. It is essentially finely pulverized glass. It’s heavy. It’s hard to clean up. A shovel full of the stuff weighs 20 pounds or more. It’s abrasive. If it gets on your car, and you brushed it off, it will damage windows and paint. It causes respiratory problems. It can contaminate water supplies. It damages engines, including jet engines.
On Wednesday, Europeans had to start coping with a growing and spreading chaos. The earliest headlines complained of the transportation problems. Air travel was disrupted. Some 3,000 flights were cancelled the first day. In the ensuing days, thousands more flights have been cancelled, hundreds of thousands of air travelers have been stranded. Airlines have lost some $200 million a day for the past few days. Yesterday, the headlines began to show a widening sense of concern. The volcano could keep spewing ash for weeks or even months. The ash will eventually come down. It could contaminate drinking water. It can harm cattle and crops. The disruption of transportation may cause food shortages in the UK. Shelves are starting to empty as a sense of alarm grows.
I certainly don’t believe that one volcano is going to bring about the “end of the world” for Europeans. However, natural disasters are common in the world. We don’t know when they’ll strike. Being prepared for them in some degree makes sense. European latter-day saints who followed the counsel of the modern prophets, and have some food and water set aside will experience much less stress and uncertainty over the disruptions that may occur because of the volcano.
Many good, Bible-believing Christians relied on their Bible to give them everything they ever needed and they did not prepare. Oddly enough, despite their faith in Christ, they find themselves in the same position as those who reject prophetic counsel because they don’t believe in God or anything at all.
The prophet Amos wrote, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) It has been his pattern from the beginning. Following the teachings of prophets always brings blessings. In past times, living prophets provided the counsel and guidance that was not available from their predecessors’ teachings. The word of the Lord to Adam didn’t help Noah build the ark. The revelations of Noah didn’t help Moses get the Israelites out of Egypt. The revelations of God to Moses didn’t help Joshua take down the walls of Jericho.
Every prophet brought new light and knowledge needed for the specific needs of his own era. As it was then, so it is today. If God is truly unchangeable, then his pattern will be the same today as it was anciently. In an era with challenges the ancients never dreamed of, would it not be reasonable to expect God to send prophets to address the challenges facing the faithful today?