When the Lights Go Out …

Because we live in an area that experiences frequent power outages, our family has learned that knowing what to do when the lights go out begins with what we do before the storm. Perhaps some of our ideas can help you prepare for similar emergencies.

Our emergency candle box is our first secret for weathering a blackout successfully. In this box we have matches, candles, extra wicks for kerosene lanterns, and a small flashlight. We keep kerosene lamps and extra bottles of kerosene nearby. When the lights go out, we can go straight to the box and light our first candle.

We never use an unshielded candle beyond the first few minutes, though. Fires are a major hazard during power failures, because people try to light their homes with candles. Kerosene lanterns or camping lanterns, placed securely on level surfaces out of children’s reach, provide more light with less risk. We keep our lanterns filled and trimmed, ready for use. If you must use candles, put them in a secure place out of the reach of children.

We have a wood stove that provides heat during power outages. If you don’t have an alternative heat source, conserve the heat already in your house by hanging blankets or large towels over doors and windows. Close doors leading upstairs, downstairs, or into unused rooms. Fill hot-water bottles or plastic jugs with hot water to warm feet or beds. If you live in an area with cold winter temperatures, consider investing in a nonelectric space heater to use during emergencies.

Keep the ingredients for an emergency dinner on hand. A simple hot meal, prepared on a camp stove, barbecue grill, or wood stove, can make everyone feel better. Our family’s favorite “blackout meal” is hot dogs roasted over the coals in our wood stove. Sometimes we heat soup or beans on top of the stove. Once we even baked an apple pie in a Dutch oven. If you use a camp stove or a barbecue for cooking, be sure that you do so outside, on a porch, or in a well ventilated area.

Open your refrigerator and freezer as seldom as possible. They are well insulated and should keep food safe for several days if the air inside them is cold. Evaluate your needs before you open the door so that you can remove everything for a meal at one time. If it looks as though the power is going to be out for more than two or three days—which is rare in these days of buried wires—cover freezers with layers of blankets to further insulate them.

Sometimes, power returns with a stronger-than-usual surge of electricity. To prevent damage to delicate and costly appliances such as computers, televisions, and videocassette recorders, unplug them during the power outage.

If you have prepared adequately, you can settle in and read or play games together by lantern light. Instead of a disaster, the blackout could become a time that your children will remember all of their lives.Kathleen J. Hanna, Raymond, Washington

Threefold Family Home Evening

When my husband and I asked ourselves how we could teach our children the gospel, a single thought pressed upon our minds—family home evening. We decided to use the threefold mission of the Church as the regular format for three of our family home evenings: the first family home evening is dedicated to proclaiming the gospel; the second, to perfecting the Saints; and the third, to redeeming the dead.

Proclaiming the gospel. Some of our family home evening activities include writing our testimonies in several copies of the Book of Mormon to be given to acquaintances with whom we wish to share the gospel; sending packages and letters to full-time missionaries; and inviting recently returned missionaries to our home to share their missionary experiences with us. We also enjoy inviting our friends of other faiths over to share our family home evenings. Other times we focus on the practical side of preparing for a mission, such as starting a missionary fund, learning to cook or to sew on a button. Lessons can be on basic gospel principles, preparing spiritually for missionary work, or memorizing scriptures.

Perfecting the Saints. Family home evening is the perfect time to teach faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can share stories that build faith and encourage sacrifice and service. Our activities include organizing our home, working on gathering a year’s supply of food, and preparing 72-hour kits. Sometimes we visit the sick, the lonely, or those in need of a bit of good cheer and take them a “love basket.”

Redeeming the dead. Together, we have found great excitement in researching and recording our family history and in submitting names to the temple. We visit the temple grounds, look through old photo albums, and write in our journals. Sometimes we invite members of our extended family to our family home evening to tell us stories of their lives or those of our ancestors.

We also go hiking, swimming, roller skating, kite flying and star-gazing. We visit nearby museums and libraries, go for drives in the country, have picnics, work in the garden, and play games as well as do arts and crafts. Every family home evening activity, lesson, prayer, and scripture helps strengthen our family commitment to be together forever.Tracie Sneed, San Antonio, Texas

Ten Tips for Bigger and Better Choirs

Nearly every ward choir director knows how frustrating it is not to have enough people participate. Many able ward members feel they are just too busy to sing in the choir. But you can build up your choir if you improve rehearsals. When word gets around that choir practice is fun, more and more people will make the time to come.

Following are some ways you can do it:

  1. 1.

    Always warm up. Voices need to be warmed up before exercise just as muscles do. Scales or simple hymns can work equally well.

  2. 2.

    Sight-read. Occasionally, people like new music. Add variety to rehearsals by letting the choir sight-read a new hymn from the hymnbook.

  3. 3.

    Sing a cappella. Nothing improves intonation and precision more than singing without accompaniment. If choir members are uncomfortable singing with no accompaniment, try singing a familiar hymn a cappella, or even the chorus of such a hymn.

  4. 4.

    Have sectionals. Learning notes by rote can be boring. Splitting up into groups makes this job go twice as fast.

  5. 5.

    Rehearse beforehand with your accompanist. You can’t hold the choir’s attention if you’re having director-accompanist discussions during the rehearsal.

  6. 6.

    Plan ahead. It is better to practice a piece of music for ten minutes during six rehearsals than to practice it for one full hour during two rehearsals. Always work on several numbers at each rehearsal.

  7. 7.

    Learn the difference between correcting and criticizing. When you correct your choir, they get better. But no one responds well to negative criticism.

  8. 8.

    Keep them singing. Remember that your choir can’t chat and sing at the same time. Few people can argue with a downbeat.

  9. 9.

    Have the choir stand for part of the rehearsal. Not only does this make for better singing, but it prevents fatigue.

  10. 10.

    Show your love. Share with the choir your testimony of the messages contained in the music you are singing. Tell them often how much you appreciate their talents and service.Susan J. Denney, Denton, Texas

Voices from Our Past

“Was I really that little?” my five-year-old asked when the new baby came home. It’s sometimes hard for children to identify with the wrinkled baby that cries all the time or the sibling that is just learning to talk.

But my husband and I hit upon an idea that seems to help and fascinates children of any age. Each of our children has their own voice tape, which we began recording when they were newborns. The tapes contain everything from baby coos and gurgles, early words and songs, to the first stumbling attempts at reading simple primers.

Every six months or so, we sit everyone down for family home evening and update the tapes. The children love to hear themselves, and we inevitably end up listening to the whole tape every time. We have lots of fun laughing and crying over these voices from the past, and it helps the children to be more patient with those younger than themselves when they can hear that they really were that little once.Geanie M. Roake, South Jordan, Utah

[illustrations] Illustrated by Brent Christison

[photos] Photography by Matt Reier