“How Beautiful to Live in These Times and Be Prepared!” Ensign, June 1982, 16
With the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days there continues to unfold the plan of how the temporal affairs of this earth should be governed. With the gospel restoration, the Lord’s ways have been revealed to help mankind eventually build Zion. Thus, how beautiful is the revelation of the welfare plan, presently established in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a preparatory step toward living the law of consecration.
The magnitude of the idea of serving the many needs of people through Social Services, employment centers, and Deseret Industries causes me to rejoice. But what excites me more is the idea of having work projects and farms in order to produce goods for filling storehouses, for distributing commodities, and for giving work and service opportunities to the needy without any commercial or selfish interest.
Let me tell you why this has such personal meaning for me. With a European heritage and educational background, one readily develops a perspective of how in the last 250 years people have fought, struggled, and hoped for a just society that would overcome the destructiveness of slavery, poverty, and injustice so prevalent through the history of mankind. For example, the doctrines and philosophies of Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau, forerunners of the French Revolution, envisioned establishing a just society founded on their understanding of the principles of liberty, equality, and the brotherhood of man. Similarly, many other philosophers, teachers, poets, and dreamers, mainly from England and Germany, stirred up the minds and expectations of the people. Even Karl Marx, who was the intellectual offspring of Hegel and the constructing architect of communism, had as an initial vision the elimination of poverty and the establishment of a just and free society, developing restless expectations among many people of the world.
No man, however, will ever be able to achieve Zion unless he becomes an instrument in the hands of the Almighty; for only God can reveal the whole picture and process of attaining Zion. Through Joseph Smith this was again given to man, and with the restoration of the priesthood there have been revealed organizational details, necessary steps, and true principles upon which God’s Zion will be established.
To me, the Lord’s plan to bring peace and justice is overwhelming and stirs up hope in the hearts of righteous people throughout the world who hear of it. Evidence of this was just recently given again by a prominent European visitor who toured Salt Lake City’s Welfare Square with me. After learning of the dimensions of the Church’s welfare services today, he said with evidence of deep emotion, “I hope you know what you have. It seems to me that this is the only hope of mankind to master the future.”
Now that I have shared my feelings regarding the overall picture of the Lord’s revealed plan of welfare, let me approach one portion of the plan in which we as individuals are directly involved—the personal and family preparedness plan whereby we are to obtain a year’s supply of food and necessary supplies. May I share with you some experiences that I, along with millions of other Europeans, had in the days of devastation, total destruction, and starvation that became a reality for so many survivors of World War II. These experiences helped me to recognize and appreciate the basic necessities of life and to separate true needs from false wants. Since my conversion and because of my World War II experiences, I now have a deep appreciation for the revealed plan of a year’s supply for each member.
Frequently I am asked, “What were the most valuable items in the days of starvation in Germany?” The answer is difficult to believe, because some of the experiences we had seem to be totally illogical and contrary to human nature. The items of highest value were tobacco and alcohol, because people who live in fear and despair, who have not learned principles of self-control, tend to need in times of panic some drug to escape the dreadful awareness of reality. I have seen people give their last loaf of bread and their last meager supply of potatoes just to obtain a bottle of brandy. How fortunate we are as members of the Church that we learn to develop a feeling for the true values of life and the necessity of self-control, so that in times of need there will be no panic, but we will be prepared.
As for what we needed, the food item we relied on most was vegetable oil. With a bottle of vegetable oil, one could acquire nearly every other desirable item. It had such value that with a quart of vegetable oil one could probably trade for three bushels of apples or three hundred pounds of potatoes. Vegetable oil has a high calorie content, is easy to transport, and in cooking can give a tasty flavor to all kinds of food items that one would not normally consider as food—wild flowers, wild plants, and roots from shrubs and trees. For me and my family, a high-quality vegetable oil has the highest priority in our food storage, both in times of daily use and for emergency usage. When vegetable oil is well-packed and stored appropriately, it has a long storage life without the necessity of refrigeration. We found ours to be in very good condition after twenty years of storage, but circumstances may vary in different countries and with different supplies.
The second highest priority item for me and my family is grain in all its forms, preferably wheat and rye. When grain is well-packed and well-preserved, it too is easy to transport, easy to store, and will last for generations.
A third priority item is honey. Its value in daily usage is immeasurable. My family prefers honey rather than sugar because our experience supports some of the research findings regarding the preeminence of honey. Another reason I prefer honey is because during the starvation period in postwar Germany, honey could be traded for three times as much as sugar; its value was considered that much greater.
A fourth important food storage product is powdered milk.
These four basic items—oil, wheat, honey, and milk (or their equivalents in other cultures)—together with water, salt, and renewable basic foods such as potatoes and other vegetables, can satisfy nutritional requirements in times of emergency and also are valuable and usable in normal daily life.
You might ask, “What about the many other food items and desserts that play an important role in our eating habits?” I shall always treasure the great experience I had in those hard times, when I learned to appreciate food with the most balanced nutrients. When a person is very hungry, the taste of food will change for him. In times of emergency, the Lord seems to provide a way to help our bodies adapt. For instance, I remember well that when I was a child I did not like to eat bacon. I argued with my mother whenever she prepared potatoes fried with bacon instead of fried with vegetable oil or butter, not recognizing in my youth that sometimes this was the only way she could provide fat in our diet. Several years later when we were suffering from the severe food shortage, I remember that after days of being without food, the first edible item I could obtain, ironically, was a piece of bacon. I looked upon it as the best treasure I had ever achieved. I placed the pieces of the bacon between my teeth and my cheek and did not dare to chew it, simply because I wanted to savor and appreciate longer the wonderful taste of bacon. At that moment I could not understand how I could have ever disliked bacon.
In times of real hunger the human body seems to develop a natural craving for the things it needs most. An athlete who is preparing for a marathon has the same experience as he daily runs his ten miles in training. He will eventually develop a feeling for the real needs of his body; he will develop an appetite for the food that his body requires, and he will be repulsed by food items that do not add to his body’s strength. In times of affluence this instinct seems to diminish, and this is one of the reasons for much malnutrition in our modern world. It might also be of interest to know that there seemed to be much less sickness during those hard times. The rapid rise and frequency of heart disease, diseases of the vascular system, and diabetes began after the times of shortage in Germany. In spite of billions of dollars invested in medicines and hospitals for improving medical service, life expectancy rates in Germany are not rising—due, I think, to our modern poor eating habits.
When we think in terms of our own year’s supply of those foods and materials we use on a regular basis, we may feel that every family will have to store everything. This, of course, is not easy and seems to make storage difficult. However, let me offer this comforting idea based on past experience. We need to take into consideration that in difficult times, so long as there survives more than one family, there will be trading of valuable items. A free market will begin immediately to satisfy the needs of people, and items in greatest demand will set the price, bypassing the use of money. The ingeniousness of mankind becomes evident in times of need. When man is presented with a problem or challenge, if he is in a healthy spirit—which hopefully we are—he will find solutions that he never dreamed of. When a person has a good, healthy spirit, is able to adjust and is not afraid to use his imagination, he will find ways to survive.
There is a long way from the point of hunger to actual starvation, and there is much that one can do to stay alive in hard times, especially when one is mentally and physically prepared. A garden, even as small as a window box, is of great value, as is the skill to be able to plant and to grow things. Following the war, in addition to having a small garden, my family was able to obtain the milk we needed by keeping a milk sheep, which gave enough milk for our family for the greater part of the year. (I have not seen this species in America, but it was very common in Germany.) Besides milk, our sheep supplied us with wool to trade or to use for knitting items. During the spring of the year it would give birth to one or two lambs which could also be used for food or trade. Some of our neighbors had goats, but we preferred the sheep because of the wool and because sheep seemed easier to tolerate and to work with. They required very little extra care and were easy to satisfy. Also, all over the country, even the large cities, people began to keep rabbits in small pens, and children had the task of looking for grass, dandelions, and leaves in order to feed their rabbits. In addition, people kept hens, and chicken coops were prevalent in all places. Because grain was too valuable to feed to chickens, other sources of chicken feed had to be found. Children found ways of breeding worms, beetles, and flies to be used for this purpose. People also built small, wooden handcarts which could be used to transport items used for trading, which took place wherever people met.
There are some other observations one could also make: The true nature of people becomes obvious in times of real need. Good people become better; they get close to one another; they learn to share and become united. The strength that develops out of unity of the many good people becomes a real survival factor. On the other hand, people who lack emotional stability become cruel and ruthless under trying circumstances; however, they do not seem to become an overbearing threat because of the closeness and unity of the majority of the people. Therefore, strangely enough, those who have survived hardships look back with fond memories to the awful period of pain and destruction because they recall the closeness that developed as they united themselves to survive by sharing whatever they had.
How blessed we are to be taught in these times of plenty that we might prepare for times of need without undue haste. Even more wonderful is the realization that we can prepare ourselves without fear because we know that God lives, that He knows and loves each one of us, and that He is giving us direction in these latter days through a living prophet.
God loves us so much that He allows us to come to Him at any time with our personal requests for help and direction—that our eyes will be opened and we will learn to live with wisdom and patience in times of austerity, that we might learn by the Lord’s influence to identify our real needs.
What a comfort it is to read His revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38:30.)
The Lord wants us to be prepared.