Staying Prepared

LDS families share their ideas.

When it comes to being prepared, “the simpler, the better” is a good approach.

That’s the formula some families have used to successfully handle personal and family preparedness. In essence, they all say: “We don’t do anything extraordinary. The simpler the approach, the easier it is to make things work.”

As is well known, all members of the Church have been encouraged to develop themselves in the six areas of personal and family preparedness. Perhaps—as the families we interviewed claim—their ideas are not that unusual. But they work. See which of the following might work for you:

Social-emotional and spiritual strength

“Each person should build spiritual strength to meet life’s challenges and stresses with confidence and stability by learning to love God and communicate with him in personal prayer, by learning to love and serve his neighbor, and by learning to love and respect himself through righteous living and self-mastery. Each family should understand that social-emotional and spiritual strength is a blessing that results from obedience to revealed principles of family living.” (Personal and Family Preparedness Standards, stock no. PGWE1191)

Several years ago, the Frank May family of Brigham City, Utah, dealt with two crises. On a September afternoon, Sister Becky May died suddenly. As the school-age children came home that afternoon, Brother May told them of their mother’s death. The seven children discussed with their father where their mother was and how they could be together again as a family. Their discussion was similar to many they had held in years of family home evenings.

“They were saddened and felt left alone—and they felt the loss,” says Brother May. “But they seemed to just have a way of knowing the bond was not severed. They knew they would see their mother again and that there was an adjustment they would have to make.”

Two weeks later, Brother May was seriously injured in an automobile accident and was hospitalized for weeks. But there was no despair among the children, who were cared for by their “Grandmere” May. An article in the Brigham City stake newsletter observed, “Our testimonies are strengthened; it is true indeed that personal strength can be derived from a knowledge of the gospel.”

The Mays had not used extraordinary measures to build reserves of faith and resourcefulness. But their activities, lessons, and prayers through the years had helped them prepare for the difficulties.

Many families build such resources.

For six years now, the Harold Brown family of Sandy, Utah, has been reading the scriptures for fifteen minutes every morning before breakfast. In that time, they’ve read a sixteen-volume illustrated version of the Book of Mormon three times and also eight other books.

“It’s easy to assume that our children know a lot more than they know,” says Sister Brown. “As we’ve studied the scriptures, we’ve had a lot of chances to talk about things that might not have come up otherwise.”

Family prayer is another learning time. “We don’t insist that the children always say certain things in their prayers. We’ve always wanted them to say what they feel.” So even though they have family prayer before breakfast and dinner every day, it doesn’t become routine. They try to be very practical in asking for things the children can relate to—such as help in Greg’s baseball game.

The Browns share fresh vegetables from their garden with neighbors and remember them with goodies on holidays, trying to teach the importance of serving others. This almost backfired, though, when they moved to a new home near an elderly neighbor who didn’t know their children. It was Valentine’s Day, and the children took a plate of cookies to the neighbor, who thought they were selling them. He said: “We don’t want any!”

“No,” the Brown children responded. “This is Valentine’s Day, and we want to give them to you!”

According to Sister Brown, the man just couldn’t thank them enough for the goodies after he realized they weren’t trying to sell him something. Since then, it’s been easier for the children to give and for others to receive.

Spiritual strength also grows as one learns to love and respect others. Brother and Sister Brown observe each child’s talents and provide opportunities for him to successfully exercise those talents.

For example, the six-year-old girl has a pretty singing voice. So she and her mother sit down at the piano for a few minutes every afternoon and sing songs together—just the two of them.

“It’s something kind of private—and special—between us; we don’t talk about it much. But we love it. She never lets me forget any afternoon. She thinks she can sing, and she can. I think that’s what children need. If they feel they can do something well, they’ll feel better about themselves.”

Financial and resource management

“The prepared person should establish financial goals, pay tithes and offerings, avoid debt, wisely use and preserve economic resources, and save during times of production for times of nonproduction.”

“We’ve tried to give our children opportunities to earn so they could also have opportunities to spend wisely,” says Sister Catherine E. Poelman, wife of B. Lloyd Poelman, president of the Tennessee Nashville Mission.

How do the children spend their money once they’ve earned it?

Tithing, of course, is automatic. And the Poelman children are saving for missions and college programs. President Poelman shows them the dollar-and-cents statistics of what a mission costs so that they have a specific idea of the amount of money they need and “they’re not just ‘saving for a mission.’” Each of the children has his own savings account.

“This type of training has been a great motivation to save and to spend wisely,” says Sister Poelman. “They know the facts and figures, and they are putting away a substantial amount of what they earn. When they see themselves getting closer to their goal, it becomes even more exciting for them.”

Besides the long-range saving program, the parents also give their children day-to-day financial training. “I’m a great one for buying things when they are at a good price,” says Sister Poelman. She often takes the children shopping to show them how to compare brands and prices. “I can send them to the store and rest assured that they will come home with a good value. They’ve gone with me enough times that they don’t buy without observing.”

The Poelmans are teaching their children how to avoid debt. Instead of buying on credit, they buy something and enjoy it while saving for the next purchase. And they don’t allow themselves to dwell on things that they don’t have money for. According to the Poelmans, “That is a way of life; it’s a rule that has brought quite a bit of peace into our home.”

The Poelmans’ resource management also includes teaching the children to sew, to mend, and to “be comfortable with a limited wardrobe instead of having to have a huge wardrobe every time they change sizes.” They have a big garden plot to “take the crunch off the grocery bill.” And both the boys and girls have daily chores around the house and property they are responsible for before they do other things.

Physical health

Every member should obey the Word of Wisdom and practice sound principles of nutrition, physical fitness, weight control, immunization, environment quality and sanitation, mother and child health, accident prevention, dental health, and medical care. In addition, each member should acquire appropriate health-related skills in first aid and safety, home nursing, and food selection and preparation.”

Frank Richardson of Bountiful, Utah, began running when he was about twenty-four. “I felt like I was eighty-four and was developing some extra baggage under my belt. I concluded that I was just too young to get old.”

So he started running around the circle at the university housing complex—eight-tenths of a mile. Then he worked up to three trips around the loop—about two and one-half miles.

When his sons were two to four years old, he began running around the track with them. “We found out that a three-year-old can run a quarter of a mile without any difficulty.” As the boys grew older, they increased their distance until last year they participated with their dad in the Golden Spike Marathon at Promontory, Utah, and the Memorial Day race at Provo, Utah.

But the Richardsons don’t feel they’re fanatical about their running. They don’t win first place in all the races; they just enjoy participating together. “It’s a fun, exciting experience,” says Brother Richardson. “The best part of it, I think, is the feeling that you can carry your body that distance. And being fit gives me a ready reserve of energy which I can employ in a lot of areas. If I didn’t run, I would feel tired and run-down after a day’s work, and I would never be able to muster the energy I need to accomplish what I want to.”

Besides getting physical exercise, the Richardsons make sure all family members are properly immunized, and they try to get plenty of sleep each night.

Sister Richardson balances meals so that the family eats three vegetables and two fruits daily. “We hardly ever buy ‘junk food,’” says Brother Richardson. “We rely a lot on fresh foods and whole grain cereals. And we all eat good breakfasts, usually whole wheat pancakes or whole wheat french toast. It takes time and effort on my wife’s part, but the children never go to school hungry. They always start off with plenty of energy.”

Home production and storage

“Each person or family should produce as much as possible through gardening, sewing, and making household items. Each person and family should learn techniques of home canning, freezing, and drying foods, and, where legally permitted, should store and save a one-year supply of food, clothing, and if possible, fuel.”

When it comes to home production and storage, the Lee Miller family of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, doesn’t think of just buying and storing, but in terms of becoming self-sufficient. In their forty-by-one hundred fifty foot garden, they can grow “just about all of the vegetables we need for our family.” They buy very few canned goods—only crushed pineapple, peanut butter (in six-pound cans), tuna fish, creamed soups (“which my wife uses as a base for lots of different casseroles”), and peas. “We bought peas last year only because we didn’t have space to grow them,” Brother Miller explains. “That should stop now, though, because we have learned to plant and harvest peas in the same space we use for corn later in the season.”

During the summer they eat home-grown fresh produce, and during the winter they eat their bottled fruit and vegetables and the carrots, cabbage, and beets left in the ground and covered with an insulating layer of mulch.

Since one of the children is allergic to wheat, the family stores several varieties of grains, which they grind in their own flour mill. Besides baking bread, Sister Miller tries out many recipes using the grains, legumes, and other stored foods.

When they lived in Utah, the Millers found that Deseret Industries was a good place to buy good quality clothing, fabric, and shoes for their year’s supply. They recommend flea markets and garage sales, as well. They have extra bedding and sleeping bags for every member of the family.

They store fuel, too. They have gasoline lanterns and fuel, kerosene lamps, extra wicks, extra chimneys, several gallons of kerosene, a hibachi and one hundred pounds of briquettes, a wood range and a reserve of wood, and plenty of candles, flashlights, and batteries.

Blessed with a father who was a jack-of-all-trades, Brother Miller learned to build, repair, and improvise, and he is teaching his sons to do the same. “We rarely hire anything done.” Sister Miller sews and alters clothing to help meet the family’s needs.

Literacy and education

“The prepared person reads, writes, and does basic mathematics; regularly studies the scriptures and other good books; and uses local resources to teach these skills and habits to all family members. Parents and children should take advantage of public and other educational opportunities.”

“My husband, Keith, and I sat down once and decided on some long-range learning goals for our family,” says Carolyn G. McMullin of Bountiful, Utah. “Then we had a family home evening and explained them to the children. Of course, the younger ones didn’t understand everything, but we took the time to interview each child personally and help each one set up some specific short-range goals.”

For example, the four-year-old decided to learn to write his name and tie his shoes. The five-year-old, who loves to sing, decided to learn a new song each week, to say all the letters of the alphabet, and to add, using the numbers 1 through 8. Another child is going to memorize the Articles of Faith.

Spiritual education is important to the family. In the mornings, they have a family devotional. Mom gets up and begins playing the piano while dad rounds up the sleepy children. They read and discuss the scriptures, usually tackling only a few verses each morning, so that the young children can understand them. “It’s really quite informal,” Sister McMullin says, “but it seems to be a good beginning to the day.”

Helping their children with school work is a high priority for the McMullins. Brother McMullin helps them with math problems and sometimes checks their work. He gives them spelling words, reads to them, and tells them stories.

The McMullins try to be aware of what’s going on in the world around them. “When we read the newspapers, we keep our eyes open for articles that would be of interest to children,” says Sister McMullin. “After sharing the articles with them, we have some pretty good conversations at the dinner table, drawing out from the children what they know, and helping them express what they have learned.”

They also go on field trips together. Once they went to a dairy and saw the cows being milked by a rotating milking stall. Another time, they saw a sow give birth at a pig farm. “My children stood there and watched three baby pigs being born. They watched how the little babies reacted, how they stood up immediately, walked around, and started nursing. It was really fascinating,” says Sister McMullin. They also visit the library regularly and check out books the children are interested in. And the older children read to the younger ones.

Career development

“Each head of a household should select a suitable vocation or profession and pursue appropriate training. Each young person should receive counsel to help him select a career that will satisfy family economic needs and provide personal satisfaction.”

According to the Richard Linfords of Salt Lake City, the Scouting program is one of the best ways for boys to become acquainted with the large variety of possible careers. Their twelve-year-old son has had experience with public health, first aid, safety, chemistry, atomic energy, music, dentistry, and architecture. In each area, he has learned what careers are available.

“Normally, he never would have been exposed to most of these areas,” says Sister Merilynne Linford. “But through Scouting, he has developed interests in a lot more areas than he would have otherwise.”

Both the boys and the girls work around the house. Sometimes they’re assigned to be the leader in charge of getting certain tasks done; other times, they’re the followers. Every summer, the girls learn a new sewing technique, and all but the baby know—according to their age and ability—how to cook or bake certain things.

Field trips to learn about different careers are common in the Linford family. They’ve learned about being a school principal from Grandpa Todd. They’ve visited a cheese factory, a fire station, a woolen mill, and a dairy; they’ve seen printers and car mechanics at work; they’ve gone to museums, concerts, and plays.

The Linfords have specific philosophies about educational and career development: (1) They feel that the girls should gain a great deal of career-related education, just as the boys do. Aware that about fifteen percent of all girls do not marry, they believe that training the mind of their daughters will help them to function more intelligently in society, single or married. (2) They try not to prejudice their children against certain jobs, classifying them as undesirable, but encourage them to find something that is useful and that they enjoy. (3) They try to teach them that nothing comes without hard work. And that a job has to be done well—it’s best to do more than is expected. (4) They believe that by showing interest in the children’s school work, they are encouraging them to work hard and to succeed.

Brother and Sister Linford continually work on their own education as well. Brother Linford frequents the library, checking out books that interest him. Sister Linford keeps her teaching certificate valid, has just written a children’s book, teaches piano lessons, and wants to learn to tune pianos.

You can do it, too.

This is what some families in the Church are doing in the six areas of personal and family preparedness. Their specific methods fit their own needs and their own families. But the standards are general enough that each individual and family can adapt them to fit their own situation. (Personal and Family Preparedness Worksheets can be ordered from Church distribution centers, stock no. PGWE1191, no charge.) Like Sister McMullin says, “You just have to realize that there’s no magic formula. You just need to spend the time.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Parry Merkley