I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

The Church has instructed us to “store and save a one-year supply of food, clothing, and, if possible, fuel.” What kind of fuels can be stored and how?

Gary Hansen, chairman, BYU Department of Family Resource Management and William C. Stacey, supervising engineer, BYU Physical Plant In October 1973 general conference Elder Ezra Taft Benson gave us an outline for our answer: “Wood, coal, gas, oil, kerosene, and even candles are among those items which could be reserved as fuel for warmth, cooking, and light or power. Some may be used for all of these purposes and certain ones would have to be stored and handled cautiously” (Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 81).

In these times of uncertainty, problems ranging from a natural disaster to an oil embargo could cut off our source of fuel, and we may be left with no way to heat our homes or cook our food. Because of this, it is wise to store alternate sources of fuel, if circumstances permit. Those who live in apartment buildings with central heating systems and no alternatives may not be able to benefit from these suggestions.

Where fuel storage is possible, the main common fuels that could be stored are: (1) cut wood for stoves, space heaters, furnaces, or fireplaces; (2) lump coal for stoves, furnaces, and fireplaces; and slack coal for furnaces; and (3) oil for space heaters or oil-burning furnaces. Let’s take a look at each of these alternatives.

Wood. In some areas wood is plentiful and could easily be obtained for fuel. It is not nearly as efficient as oil in producing heat—it requires sixteen pounds of wood to produce the same heat that one gallon of oil will yield, though that will vary slightly from wood to wood. But wood is often more readily available than oil and can be burned in a much wider variety of heating units.

Approximately four cords of wood will last an average home (1,500 square feet) all winter if the minimum temperature is 0° F. (-18° C.). If the minimum temperature is -30° F. (-22° C.), add 40 percent. If you have the wood delivered rather than cutting it yourself, check it to make sure that it is clean, dry, and free from termites and other insects.

Wood may easily be stored outside, preferably but not necessarily under a tarp, heavy plastic, or a canopy. If the wood is to be stored inside, the bark should be stripped off first. It should be restacked every five years to prevent the buildup of debris, which could lead to spontaneous combustion. Chimneys should be cleaned regularly to prevent combustion in the chimney. Wood stoves should be ventilated properly and the flu system sealed to prevent leakage.

Coal. Coal is often a good alternative to wood, especially if you have a fireplace or a coal-burning stove or furnace. Coal is also good if your storage space is limited, since pound for pound it produces considerably more heat energy than wood (yet considerably less than oil). It is best to store coal in an outside area where there is no danger of fire damage. Some people have stored their coal underground with success. This is done by digging a hole, putting the coal in, and covering it with plastic and then six to eight inches of soil. Grass or a garden can then be grown over the storage area. One ton of coal requires approximately forty cubic feet of storage space. Six tons of coal are needed to provide heat for an average home through a normal winter (with a minimum outside temperature of 0° F.). Spontaneous combustion is always a hazard with coal, especially in piles of 1/2 ton or more. Coal should not be stored indoors.

Oil. Furnace oil is one of the most heat-efficient fuels available, and can easily and safely be stored in a heavy-gauge steel tank. Five hundred gallons per year are recommended for the average home. Those with an oil furnace or an oil- or propane-burning space heater are advised to have an extra amount of this fuel on hand for times of shortage or disaster. It will serve them much better than wood or coal.

Other kinds of fuel are also available, though none are likely to be as good as wood, coal, or oil. Gasoline and alcohol are very energy-efficient, but they are also very dangerous to store.

Butane and propane must be stored under pressure to prevent rapid vaporization. They burn very well in a gas-type furnace or stove, but the purchase of enough pressurized tanks to last through a cold winter would be quite expensive. Any oil-type fuels (butane, propane, kerosene, gasoline, and oil) form heavy vapors that can settle to the bottom of a basement. These can “puddle” and cause explosion or suffocation. These fuels should never be stored in a basement. Consult an expert on your particular storage problems.

Grains, peat, bagasse, and manure may also be used as fuels in an emergency. Most of these burn very rapidly and generally do not provide as much heat per pound as wood. They can be made more efficient, however, by tightly binding them together in small bundles or briquettes while wet or while under very heavy pressure.

Rubber tires may also be used in an emergency. Power tools are very helpful in cutting them into small enough pieces for a stove or fireplace. Tires are more energy-efficient than coal, but since they are so bulky a great amount of storage space is required for a year’s supply. An added disadvantage is that smoke from burning rubber is very difficult to control. Because of the smoke, tires are recommended as a short-term measure only.

In many areas in the world, types of fuels may be found that are not listed here. A combustion expert should be consulted before attempting to store or use such fuel.

For years members have been putting aside a year’s supply of food and other necessary household items, following the direction of the leaders of the Church. We should also seek to have a supply of fuel on hand. Like the ten virgins in the Savior’s parable (see Matt. 25:1–13), whether or not we have oil for our lamps may make all the difference.

Could the Church set up a pen-pal club for single Mormon adults from different areas?

Margaret Smoot, member of the Relief Society General Board It is likely that this question has been asked, at one time or another, by many single members of the Church who feel such a club might be an opportunity for new friendships, for sharing insights and information, and also for assistance in the meet-and-marry process. Most of the inquiries mention this last reason, and considering the ratio of single women to men in some areas, a pen-pal club may sound appealing.

Yet the answer lies in a careful consideration of the possible ramifications of such a programmed solution. Although the need is a valid one, Church sponsorship of a pen-pal club is an unsatisfactory solution for several reasons.

First, the logistics of planning and implementing the system would be difficult. Second, the danger exists that the system would be used by individuals for self-serving purposes. And third, the Church has responded, in a more traditional manner, to the needs of the singles by establishing the single-adult programs—Young Adults, Young Special Interests, and Special Interests.

Single members comprise approximately one-third of the total Church membership. Even given that only forty percent of those people would want to participate in a pen-pal club, the number of names needing processing, matching, and contacting might well reach 400,000 or 500,000. Such volume would require a computer and the full-time effort of a staff. Accelerated Church growth and the need to conserve Church resources make the costs of the project prohibitive.

Even if a letter exchange program were viable, some individuals, both within and outside the Church, might use the list as a quick, simple way to further self-serving goals or commercial plans. It is Church policy not to distribute names and addresses of members or organizational leaders. Although a pen-pal club theoretically would circulate through priesthood channels, the potential would exist for the list to go to individuals who would use it to send annoying or inappropriate mail.

It is questionable also that a pen-pal club would help encourage relationships leading to celestial marriage. Certainly that possibility is real; success stories can be found of couples who first became acquainted through letters and later, having met in person, got married. Conversely, many postal relationships flounder when the individuals meet face to face. In-person growth and development are crucial to a relationship.

The Church is sensitive to the need for single people to get to know each other, and provides single-adult activities on ward, stake, region, and sometimes multiregion levels. Firesides, conferences, seminars, retreats, home evening groups, interest clusters, dances, wards for singles, newsletters, and other social events can get single members together.

Working within Church programs, single Latter-day Saints adults can develop activities that facilitate the meet-and-marry process, that allow them to meet people outside their immediate stake or region, and that lead them to stronger, better relationships with each other and with our Heavenly Father. When the program was beginning, Elder Marion D. Hanks, a managing director of Melchizedek Priesthood MIA, stated that we should “not attempt to foster a program but a sense of who we are.” That admonition surely still applies today.

I feel that I’ve done everything I can to repent of a transgression, but I still feel guilty. What else can I do?

Dale F. Pearson, director, undergraduate social work program, BYU, and bishop, Pleasant View Fourth Ward, Provo, Utah Probably only your bishop can help you decide if you’ve done everything necessary to repent of a particular wrongdoing; but the problem of feeling guilty isn’t always a simple one. Guilt can be a healthy sign—serving notice that we’ve sinned and need to apply the Lord’s plan of repentance. But guilt after genuine repentance can also be extremely unhealthy, and some people suffer guilt long past any reasonable point or even when they haven’t done anything they need to feel guilty for.

People I’ve counseled who seem to have the first problem—they can’t stop feeling guilty even after repenting from a transgression—usually have another problem: that of very low self-esteem. They feel that there’s nothing they can do to gain control over their lives because they’re such worthless people. For instance, one woman I know made an unsuccessful suicide attempt after months of feeling desperately lonely and isolated from her family. She blamed herself for this isolation (“If I were a better mother, we’d be closer”) and after her attempted suicide simply switched the blame to another aspect (“How could I have committed such a terrible sin?”). Even though her husband, her bishop, and her stake president worked with her in a sustained and loving way to assure her of the Lord’s love for her, she refused to stop feeling guilty because she really didn’t believe she was worthy of forgiveness. In a way, feeling guilty was her reason for living because it enabled her to keep on punishing the “worthless” person she had become.

The second type of unhealthy guilt—feeling guilty for no apparent reason—frequently develops out of similar self-esteem problems caused by an individual’s inability to take charge of his life. I counseled with one such person, a forty-five-year-old successful business executive who really wanted to be working with youngsters instead. But he felt that he couldn’t ask his family to go through the life-style adjustment necessary for this kind of career change. He found himself avoiding work as much as possible because he disliked it, but he also found himself avoiding his family.

The healthy solution for both the sister and this brother was basically the same. They started making plans and carrying them through. As they saw that they could make decisions, their self-esteem rose, their guilt dropped, and they were able to see their guilt in perspective.

Someone who finds himself feeling guilty long after he has repented might try asking himself these questions:

  1. 1.

    Have I completed all the steps of repentance (recognition, remorse, confession if appropriate, restitution, etc.)?

  2. 2.

    Have I asked forgiveness of the Lord?

  3. 3.

    Have I allowed the Lord to take my burden by trusting his power to do so and his love for me?

  4. 4.

    Have I fully forgiven myself for my wrongdoing?

On the other hand someone who finds himself feeling guilty when he hasn’t done any wrong might ask:

  1. 1.

    Do I tend to see things as extremes—such as totally perfect or totally evil—rather than as a mixture of good and not good? Do I need to develop more balance?

  2. 2.

    Do I have close relationships with my family? Do I have good friends whose company I cherish?

  3. 3.

    Do I truly like myself?

  4. 4.

    Do I feel that the Lord truly loves me?

  5. 5.

    Why do I “need” to feel guilty?

Answering these questions honestly may pinpoint some areas where a person needs to work, honestly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully. Frequently it is helpful to talk over these areas with a trusted friend or Church leader. Sometimes professional counseling can be valuable.

Guilt is normal; it’s the danger that signal flashes when a transgression has occurred and needs to be repented of. But unhealthy guilt that persists for no reason, or even when repentance has been completed, can undermine our whole relationship with a loving Father in Heaven.