Monday, January 5, 2009

How much food is enough?

Did you know that if you went back in church history and fast forward to would see that the counsel regarding the length of time to store food for...resembles something like a food storage countdown. In my minds eye it's almost like watching the New Years ball it did several nights ago as millions counted down 5-4-3-2-1!!! Yippee!!! The difference is...when the ball drops that makes it where people need their food storage they won't be cheering!

One can't but help watch the trend in the counsel...and wonder if a conversation is going on with our Prophet and our Heavenly Father saying much like Abraham..."But Father...if they just store 4 years...will you feed them through the calamities?"..."Father will you still feed them and bless them if they only store one year?"..."Father how about if they just store 3 months of food?" Is there really anywhere else to go with the counsel? Will the next pamphlet suggest that we could start our storage with a bag of corn chips and a litre bottle of soda?

Early in the church President Brigham Young talked about having a 7 year supply...and a 5 year...and a 3 year. Not long after Brother Brigham came George Q. Cannon who talked about having a 2 year supply. Then Charles Nibley back in 1916 talked about having a 1 year supply...and the first presidency continued that ( wasn't always perfectly sequential) up until 1937 when President J. Reuben Clark said...

“Let every head of every household see to it that he has on hand enough food and
clothing, and, where possible, fuel also, for at least a year ahead. You of small means put your money in foodstuffs and wearing apparel, not in stocks and bonds; you of large means will think you know how to care for yourselves, but I may venture to suggest that you do not speculate. Let every head of every household aim to own his own home, free from mortgage. Let every man who has a garden spot, garden it; every man who owns a farm, farm it.” (Conference Report, April 1937, p. 26.)

It seems that the "at least" really took off when the prophet Harold B. Lee reminded us of President Clarks words in 1966...

“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 … just enough to keep us alive if we didn’t have anything else to eat. We wouldn’t get fat on it, but we would live; and if you think in terms of that kind of annual storage rather than a whole year’s supply of everything that you are accustomed to eat which, in most cases, is utterly impossible for the average family, I think we will come nearer to what President Clark advised us way back in 1937.” (Welfare conference address, October 1, 1966.)

It seems that was a turning point...where the one year supply was stripped down to be the bare bones minimum of "What it would take to keep you alive". After that point you find lots of talks on food storage where they refer to "a minimum of a years supply" and "at least a years supply".
That sort of talk was repeated for decades. Here are a handful of examples...

"The Lord has warned us of famines, but the righteous will have listened to prophets and stored at least a year’s supply of survival food." (Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare Ye,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 68)


"For over forty years, in a spirit of love, members of the Church have been counseled to be thrifty and self-reliant; to avoid debt; pay tithes and a generous fast offering; be industrious; and have sufficient food, clothing, and fuel on hand to last at least one year."(Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare for the Days of Tribulation,” Ensign, Nov 1980, 32)

I used another Ezra Taft Benson quote instead of another prophet because I like the fact that he let's us know that the counsel to store "at least one year" had actually been given for "over 40 years"

and here is a more recent quote...

"Similar blessings come as we obey the counsel of the prophets and live within our means, avoid unnecessary debt, and set aside sufficient of life’s necessities to sustain ourselves and our families for at least a year. This may not always be easy, but let us do our “very best,” and our stores shall not fail—there shall be “enough and to spare."( Keith B. McMullin, “Be Prepared … Be Ye Strong from Henceforth,” Liahona, Nov 2005, 10–12)

That is just a handful of the quotes that you would find by doing a search for "a minimum" and "at least" on Many of the quotes are the same quotes...only repeated by other general authorities over the years.

As one reads over the talks since time goes seems that less and less use the words..."a minimum" and "at least" and they just refer to "a years supply".

The next transitions deal more with what order we store things.

In 2002 the church came out with this statement...(bolded for emphasis)

"Church members can begin their home storage by storing the basic foods that would be required to keep them alive if they did not have anything else to eat. Depending on where members live, those basics might include water, wheat or other grains, legumes, salt, honey or sugar, powdered milk, and cooking oil. When members have stored enough of these essentials to meet the needs of their families for one year, they may decide to add other items that they are accustomed to using day to day." (Home Storage and Financial Reserves: First Presidency Message 2002)

So to restate...First comes long term storage...then what you are used to eating. Anyone who has some experience with food storage knows that you can store a lot more when you store the ingredients...rather than buying premade canned goods. It is simply a lot less expensive. This is the advice generally given out in the food storage world.

Then just 5 years later that council was flipflopped when in 2007 the "All is safely gathered in: family home storage" pamphlet came out. Then this became the counsel...

Where do I start?

Start by adding a few storable items that you typically eat, storing some water that is safe to drink, and saving some money, if only a few coins each week. Then over time, expand these initial efforts—as individual circumstances allow and where permitted—by storing a longer-term supply of basics such as grains, beans, and other staples.

Again a restate. Now it was no longer purchasing the inexpensive ingredients for a long term storage first...but instead to first purchase the foods that you "typically eat"...then a longer-term supply of basics.

The family home storage pamphlet clarifies the counsel by giving the starting goal of a 3 month supply of that food that you"typically eat".

One other really interesting thing happened with the reprint of that pamphlet. When it was first released...with a printing date of 11/ counseled us to have a "one year supply" of longer term storage. The current printing of that pamphlet dated 3/07 doesn't have the words "one year" anywhere on it! Where it said "one year" it now reads "longer-term supply"!! If you go to the provident living will find no mention of the "one year"! You will only find it if you look back at older talks. It's as if they are trying to distance themselves from telling us "how much" anymore.

So why are the prophets making the counsel regarding storage less...and less...and less?!! and why did the first focus change to foods that you regularly eat? It may have something to do with these words from Gordon B. Hinckley...
"We can begin ever so modestly. We can begin with a one week's food supply and
gradually build it to a month, and then to three months. . . . I fear that so many feel that a long-term food supply is so far beyond their reach that they make no effort at all."

It seems that they are trying to make the counsel...easier...and easier to try to get us to START to obey...and prepare...even if just a little! If the babies won't run...try to get them to crawl.

You can find...if you look...statements from the brethren going back to Brigham...that mention that the people aren't keeping the commandment to store food. As I mentioned in another article...that I have never seen a church statistic regarding storage where the number of LDS people who have more than a year of storage ever reached over 10%. Like a tithe of our people. Heck...I wish that our number were as good as the wise and foolish virgins! At least in that parable half of them were prepared! It's something to work to.

I once had a conversation with a man who is in church leadership who told me "If the calamities were going to last more than a year...then the church wouldn't be counseling us to store only a year's supply of food". I want to let you all know what a mistake I think this is. In the words of Neal Leash (whose documentation regarding this timeline I relied heavily upon)...

"We should not assume just because the Lord reduced his requirement from seven years to one year to accommodate our reluctance to be obedient, that there will not be seven years of need at some period of time."

Let me ask you this...Do you really want to store what the prophets have described as "The minimum to keep you alive!!!" I wonder if the people who want to store...just enough to stay alive when the calamities come...also just barely keep the other commandments the same way! "I do just enough contacts to my home teaching families to get some blessings"....or "I pay just enough of my tithing so I don't get burned!"

One last point. So how much is the church currently telling you to store?! Is it just 3 it some undefined amount of "longer-term storage"? The answer can be found on the adjacent page in the first presidency message...

"He has lovingly commanded us to “prepare every needful thing” (see D&C 109:8) so that, should adversity come, we can care for ourselves and our neighbors and support bishops as they care for others."

We are commanded to "prepare every needful thing"...and of course it is "not meet that we should be commanded in all things!" We are being told by THE LORD to have enough to care for ourselves...AND our neighbors...AND to support bishops helping others!!! So how much food is that going to take! Do you really need for the prophet to tell you the exact quantity! Does it drive you nuts to not have a list of exactly what you need to be obedient? Perhaps you would like to read in the Torah how many steps you can take on the sabbath!!

This position of not telling us what to store is not new...

"As to the foodstuffs which should be stored, the Church has left that decision primarily to the individual members. Some excellent suggestions are available from the Church Welfare Committee."(Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare Ye,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 68)

and here is one in a current publication "Providing in the Lords Way; A leaders guide to welfare"...

"Church leaders have never given an exact formula for what members should store. But they have suggested that we should begin by storing what would be required to keep us alive in case we did not have anything else to eat."

They have NEVER told us exactly what to store! Another key word in that last quote is the word "begin". The "suggestions" we are given on what to store are but a "beginning" to what we should store. If you can "sleep when the wind blows" having just the bare minimum of what the prophets suggest...and feel that you have done all that is required to be blessed for your obedience...I would ask you...have you done your "very best"?

Keith B. McMullin said in General Conference...

"As we do our very best, we can be confident that "the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail."18 We shall enjoy greater wisdom, security, peace of mind, and personal well-being. We shall be prepared, and because we are prepared, we "shall not fear."(Keith B. McMullin, "Lay up in Store", General Conference April 2007)

The promise is NOT...."If you store the minimum of what is suggested by the church...your food won't run out"...but instead "as you do your very best". We need to get past being hung up on the number of years to prepare for...and the quantity to store...and get into laying up in store enough to provide for as many people as we can. The real spirit of the commandment...not just the letter. This will bring us incredible peace of mind and many promised blessings. I pray that we can all "do our very best" and understand the truth Neal Leash put it in his book...
"The degree of our preparation will be equal to the extent of our obedience,
which will determine the measure of our peace of mind".


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