In recent years, the importance of being ready for floods, hurricanes, or even unemployment has been made clear. Those who were prepared had less to worry about than those who did not. Mormons are noted for their preparedness habits—not for a doomsday scenario, but for the ordinary challenges of life. Whether there is no money in the budget for food this week, an illness that makes shopping hard, or a blizzard that leaves them snowbound, Mormons are ready to settle in and wait it out.
There are many examples in the Bible of God helping people to know the importance of preparedness, rather than sitting back and expecting God to wait on them hand and foot. While God does help us, He expects us to do our share. For instance, when the floods were coming, God told Noah to build an ark and fill it with provisions and animals. He did not do it for Noah, but He did teach him how to do it. Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s vision to mean the Egyptians needed to spend the years of plenty saving food for the lean years, a decision that saved many lives. Visions, of course, come from God.
Mormons also put something aside during the good times to prepare for the bad ones. Their emergency preparedness plans are very simple and non-extreme. They put aside enough basic survival food—wheat, sugar, water, and other essentials—to sustain them three months if there was nothing else to eat. Then they store a year or so of other food and items they’d want to have in emergencies. These include hygiene and personal care supplies.
If water supplies are gone, they have water to use. Homes with wells run by electricity lose water every time the power goes out, but water supplies in cities with regular city water can also become contaminated or non-functioning in an emergency. During a blizzard, it can be difficult to get to a store. When unemployment or other financial emergencies happen, a Mormon can stop shopping for non-perishables for a while and use the grocery budget for other things. This often keeps them from needing to accept charity assistance, and that leaves the charitable and government funds for others.
Mormons are also taught to avoid debt, since that increases the cost of purchased items and can cause unemployment to become even more difficult to survive. They try to live below their means an build a savings account they can rely on when they lose their jobs or have an unexpected expense. Replacing the washing machine from savings costs less than using credit and having to pay interest.
Part of self-reliance is making sure we have the skills to earn a good living. To this end, Mormons are encouraged to get good educations. Women who plan to stay home with their children are also taught to finish school so they can work if the need arises. The women in the Relief Society, the women’s auxiliary, runs a literacy program for both men and women and covers any aspect of literacy a congregation or outsiders might need—reading, writing, computer use, or help learning to raise literate children, for instance.
Mormons also learn to be prepared to find new jobs. Each congregation has an employment specialist who can help people learn how to write a resume or cover letter, interview, and search for positions. They don’t find jobs, but they do offer the skills that allows the person to get one on his own. This is essential because then they always have the skills without being dependent on others.
Self-reliance preserves self-esteem, keeps us safe from ordinary life challenges, and helps us to become everything God knows we can be.