After multiple Sunday meetings focused on preparedness, I think the best advice I heard came when Relief Society ended and several women in various stages of life lingered a little longer.
“I would have more food storage but I keep giving all my money to my kids,” said one woman in her early 60s.
“Just say no,” came the stern advice from another with a smile on her face who has adult children of similar ages.
“I know I should, but I just can’t,” she said.
She feigned shame knowing she was surrounded by women with deep-rooted maternal instinct who were no strangers to sacrificing for the sake of offspring.
I was instantly reminded of every flight attendant’s safety instructions to put an air mask on yourself before helping children in case of an airline emergency. Then I rehearsed in my mind the pivotal moment in the biblical allegory of the 10 virgins when five with lamps full of oil said no to sharing with the unprepared. They weren’t selfish. They just knew what it took to be ready for the bridegroom.
Since then, I’ve thought of other important ways to say no while preparing for the unexpected.
• Say no to steamed wheat. Despite the example of President George Albert Smith’s dietary preferences, no one should have to eat a bowl of wheat buds when times get tough.
Solution: Yes, store wheat but also get a grinder and substitute a little wheat flour into every baking recipe. And then store other more palatable hot cereal solutions that your kids would actually eat both today and during an apocalyptic catastrophe.
• Say no to the pressure of having a year’s supply of food if it causes you to go into debt or defy local laws or logic. President Gordon B. Hinckley talked about sensible preparation in a 2005 general conference talk, and the pamphlet "All Is Safely Gathered In" encourages a three-month’s supply of food your family eats every day.
Solution: Your food storage should be a rotating pantry of accessible well-balanced favorites rather than a bunker of stuff you’ll throw out in 20 years. Buy a little extra each month and build wisely.
• Say no to fear. Many of my generation are not motivated by fear tactics when it comes to anything in life and especially on the topic of emergency preparedness. I prefer to be prepared because I’m wise, not because I’m preoccupied with the possibility of horrendous tragedy.
Solution: Remember the scripture “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30) and then apply the truth in the other direction: “If ye don't fear, ye shall be prepared.” Fear can be paralyzing, and when it comes to preparedness, it should not hold you back from trying. Fear can also cause someone to go emotionally overboard on a plan of action. So find some sane middle ground. When building a first-aid kit for our family or helping to plant a garden, I’m more motivated by the Book of Mormon scripture in Jacob 6:12, “Oh be wise; what can I say more?”
• And finally, say yes to water storage and purification solutions. Say yes to alternative fuel sources. Say yes to saving money for those rainy days. And say yes to protecting important documents and keepsakes.
Now, go and help others do the same.