In the summer of 2002 we had just moved to south Texas and Nate was working across the border in Mexico everyday. Addy was turning 3 and I was very pregnant with Jack. The news was full of reports of potential dirty bomb attacks and I was anxious and unsettled, and looking back, probably very hormonal. I felt constant uneasiness. I remembered the scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 38:30 that reads, “but if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” I took it to heart and realized that in order to quell my fear I needed to do something, to actively engage in a project. That’s when I built my first 72 hr kit. It was bulky and did require a Little Tikes wagon to transport, but hey, it was a start.
Since then my preparedness efforts have waxed and waned depending on our situation. Small living spaces and a student budget weren’t conducive to food storage when Nate was in graduate school. But then we decided to move back to California – the state where we had been living on Sept 11, 2001.
At that time we were in process of moving out of California to Pennsylvania. Nate had already started working in Pennsylvania and was scheduled to fly home the evening of Sept 11th. Of course he didn’t make it back to California that night. The movers were coming to pack up our house and ship out our cars the very next day. Addy was 2 years old and had no comprehension of the events of the day, but wanted to watch the footage over and over again – she found it exciting, like it was a fireworks display. And I was almost in a panic, reconciling just how much our world had changed that morning, and how my sense of peace and security were completely wiped out, all while trying to figure out how I was going to accomplish Nate’s extensive honey-do list before the movers came. But there was a young couple in our ward, the husband had been sent home from his job in one of the downtown LA towers, and the wife was Addy’s nursery leader. Thanks to them Addy and I weren’t alone, and we were ready when the movers came the next morning. The idea of moving back to California unleashed many of the feelings I had tried to bury after that experience, especially feelings of helplessness and isolation, and so I jumped into emergency preparedness and food storage as a way to eliminate the possibility of having to feel that way again.
Our preparation efforts should not just be for natural disaster, economic instability, or an unexpected change in our personal situation. We should be preparing for the time when we next meet the Lord. This Christmas season is perfect for reflecting upon the 1st time the Lord entered in to the world, and to ponder the preparations the world experienced prior to the birth of Christ. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the people for the culmination of the law of Moses and the coming of the Messiah.
Just as the world was prepared then, the world must experience preparations prior to His second coming. But when will that time come? We don’t know His time frame. No man does. But He has told us through prophesies - recorded in Matthew 24 and D&C 45 – of the signs and wonders that the time of His coming is near. The Lord declared “He that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man,” signs that will be shown “in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath”. These signs include wars and rumors of wars, a whole earth in commotion, the love of men waxing cold, and iniquity abounding. The Lord warned of desolating sickness, earthquakes, and famine and pestilence.
The commencement of these prophesies was fulfilled with the opening of the last dispensation by the Prophet Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel. Many of the rest of the signs and warnings can already be seen in our world. Numerous general authorities have warned that the natural disasters, the social unrest, and the spiritual storm of a degradation of morality are already raging and we can expect them to worsen until the Savior returns. It’s our responsibility as members of the church to prepare ourselves and the rest of the inhabitants of the earth for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So how do we prepare? Of course the temporal preparation matters – we’ve been instructed for over 75 years to “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing” (D&C 109:8). We are to prepare with stores of food, water, clothing, chocolate . . . and we’ve been counseled to eliminate debt. We demonstrate our obedience by adhering to this counsel. But no amount of physical preparation will compensate for a lack of spiritual preparation. In his October 2005 General Conference address President Eyring taught, "We will need to have developed and nurtured faith in Jesus Christ long before Satan hits us, as he will, with doubts and appeals to our carnal desires and with lying voices saying that good is bad and that there is no sin.” We must have faith and testimony enough to make clear the eternal perspective that knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ and the plan of Salvation has given us. The Lord instructed us (D&C 38:9) to “Gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome.”
President Eyring went on to suggest four ways to prepare spiritually –
The first is to feast upon the word of God. 2 Nephi 31:20 reads, “wherefore if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” We try to read the scriptures with the kids to help them learn the gospel and prepare to face an ever-challenging world. Addy loves to explain the interpretation of Lehi’s Dream. And Jack is the first to tell you how cool Ammon is – but what 9 year old boy doesn’t love a story filled with swords and a healthy dose of gore? And Ellie can tell you all about Nephi getting the brass plates from Laban. Though she does prefer to leave out the part about how Nephi got Laban’s sword.
The second way to prepare is to pray always. In the Doctrine & Covenants the Savior instructs (D&C 33:17-18,) “Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom—For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly”.
The third is to be a full-tithe payer. Russell M Nelson taught that an enduring commitment to be a full-tithe payer is essential to developing enduring faith. He also reminded us of D&C 85:3, where we learn that tithing will keep your name enrolled among the people of God and protect you in “the day of vengeance and burning.”
And the fourth preparation is to escape from sin and its terrible effects. Repent, and “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly (D&C 87:8). Holy places include the temple, a spirit-filled home, and the responsibility of missions and faithfully filled church callings.
I would add another preparation that has been mentioned in many Priesthood Session talks. A preparation that is specific to the brethren. Prepare to use the priesthood you hold to serve the people around you.
Shortly after we were married Nate and I were on a flight from SLC to Dallas. About an hour in to the flight a young man walking down the isle stopped and tapped Nate on the shoulder and explained that there was a sick woman on the plane that needed a blessing. He asked if Nate could help. Nate didn’t know this young man, or the sick woman. Regardless, he went with them to a galley at the back of the plane and anointed, sealed, and blessed that woman. What struck me in that moment was that Nate was ready, willing, and able – he was prepared – to give a blessing, no matter how inconvenient a time it seemed to be.
President Eyring spoke of always keeping a vial of consecrated oil close at hand so he would never have to spend potentially vital time searching for one when called upon to give a blessing. Brothers, please be worthy and willing to use the priesthood to bless those around you at any time. Remember the charge given in D&C 121:36, which reads, “That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.”
The preparations we are making are not just to benefit ourselves and our own families. They allow us to obey the commandment to love and serve others. We can then become as the Nephites who were described in the book of Alma (1:30), “They did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need”.
“But if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”. It’s a scripture that you hear often, and in many scenarios. I can’t tell you how many times my parents reminded me of that scripture when I was in high school and complaining about having to study for an exam. And soon Jackson will learn the Boy Scout motto – “Be Prepared.” And of course, we use that scripture to encourage emergency preparedness. But it’s important to recognize that preparation is not inoculation. After all, I’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this talk, but my fear of standing here in front of you hasn’t been alleviated. The scripture doesn’t say that you’ll be immune from trial, or guarantee that tragedy won’t fall upon you, or even that life will go the way you planned.
We know, of course, “that the rain falls on the just as well as the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). The faithful members of the church in Japan, Chile, Haiti, New Orleans and Joplin, MO and in other areas of the world that have suffered catastrophe stand as witnesses of that fact.
What the scripture does teaches us, however, is that a person who has prepared through their lives to meet Jesus Christ, whether upon their death or when He comes again, can look upon that day with peace and joyful anticipation, with confidence waxing strong in the presence of God (D&C 121:46). This confidence comes from a combination of our efforts and the Atonement of our Savior. For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23).
In closing I want to share with you a prophetic witness given by President Monson. He said: “I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments.” He continued: “My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”
I add my testimony to our beloved prophet’s. I know that our purpose here on earth is to become more like Jesus Christ. Peace of mind and of spirit can only be found by obeying the principles of the gospel. And in doing so we will be prepared to stand uprightly before the Lord, without fear, on that day when we meet Him again.
(From a talk given in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, December 18, 2011.)