A Unifying Field Theory of Preparation: A Principled Basis for Approaching Ready

Few people these days’ doubt that we are living in turbulent times, or that there are many calls for getting ready for tougher times ahead, even “tribulations”. Whether these messages and calls are generated by church groups, governmental agencies or commercial for-profit entities offering products and advocating better preparation – the messages are essentially the same: “get prepared!”

Know Your Why

The grounding and most fundamental principle related to anything “preparation” is to “know your WHY”! When you know why you are becoming self-reliant, the “HOW” becomes an easier, more pleasant – and even peace-filled experience.

Regarding peace, there is an oft-spoken LDS scripture verse that reads “…when ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” Given that we are never completely, finally, fantastically, and 100% prepared – and that this objective is always a moving target, the question could be asked, “will we ever be at peace about ‘being prepared’”?

My answer and my experience is an unequivocal “yes”.

Why?

For me, the answer is because I know my why.

As your motivations come into better focus and you begin taking steps toward being better prepared, peace becomes the by-product – not because you are complete, but because you are engaged in the process of ‘approaching ready’.

As soon as you begin in earnest to work your plan, not only does peace begin to appear, but the “how” also shows up. Answers, ideas, solutions and like-minded people come into your mind and life that will guide and direct you in helping you create and execute your own personalized plan for being better prepared and narrowing the gap.

Concern about the ‘gaps’ in preparedness can be lessened with the belief that we are blessed after doing our level best – regardless of where we are on the self-reliance path.

It’s a universal and time-tested truism that higher powers can and will make up the difference in times of need – at least for those who deserve it! Working your plan, the best you can, and having faith and believing that shortfalls will be filled in, allows you to claim blessings of peace – while still plodding along on what otherwise seems like a never-ending, if not futile, effort in approaching ready. In other words, a sense of peace is not only available for the (very) prepared, but for those on the path actively moving in that direction.

About Seven Years of Plenty, Oil, Seagulls, Quail and Manna – Who’s Responsibility Is it?

God’s promise that the oil cruse will ‘not fail’ extends to the widow who honors the prophet and has been obedient regardless of her financial standing. To others in unique situations he has sent seagulls, quail and manna – to sustain life in precarious situations not of their choosing and without ability to circumvent. But even Egypt’s Joseph was warned to lay in store for seven lean years of famine -and with that warning and preparation, they and Joseph’s family were preserved.

What if Joseph hadn’t? What if you don’t? Is it proper to expect “seagulls, quail or manna” if you have been warned – and did little if anything about it? In other words, it is important to understand that you can’t and shouldn’t expect God’s miracles to rescue you before you’ve used up your years supply – let’s call that day 357!

This not-so-tongue-in-cheek euphemism is another way of emphasizing the point that we’ve been asked and warned to set aside a years-supply of provisions to feed, shelter, protect, warm, and sustain our family’s lives. This is the “self” part of “self-reliance”. You are duty-bound to take responsibility for your own family! Period.

To that point, some don’t or won’t “get it.” They are simply not awake! Their plan is to “acquire” what they need on-the-fly at the time of need. Will this be your plan? What are you going to do when you are hungry or cold, or get sick – and there are no good solutions handy to you? Due to your own procrastination or unbelief or laziness, will you be begging (or worse) to acquire what you need to sustain life, or to tend to your shelter or health problems – at the time of need? Furthermore, is it your plan to expect or take what you need from those who are prepared? “Well, I sure know where I’m going when the you-know-what hits the fan – your place!” If this is your plan, do you think you’ll be able to “sleep when the wind blows?”

Instead of threatening others, why not just get prepared? Besides, the law of consecration is voluntary. What some want is socialism, where the powers-that-be expect or take from those who have and redistribute it. That’s not God’s plan, and never will be!

With that said, let’s agree that it’s not okay or fair to your children, grand-children, spouse or elderly parents – to have as your plan that you’ll forcibly acquire what you need from others! It’s simply not just or fair to those you would expect to be your providers, or to their families, who planned ahead and took the necessary steps they were prompted to take to make preparations to sustain themselves (not you).

Bottom line – it’s not right that one should ‘expect’ others (including church and God) to come to their aid whether willingly or by force – especially when they have taken little thought or effort to be prepared – especially knowing there has been ample warning and sufficient time (“seven years of plenty”).

We. Have. Already. Been. Warned.

It. Is. Not. Someone. Else’s. Responsibility. To. Feed. Clothe. Protect. Shelter. Heal. Sustain. You. Or. Your. Family. Period. This. Is. For. You. To. Figure. Out!

Common Objections: “I don’t Know How”, “It’s Not In The Budget”, “I Don’t Have Room”

It is important to not get hung up on knowing the “how” before your start, or even whether you have enough time or money or “know-how”. Needing everything “revealed” to you before you begin on the path – or even have the means or space wherewith to do it all, is not how God works. Plus it is a certain poison to your progress and will cripple you on your journey.

First, and according to God’s spiritual economy of heaven, we are told that He will not send new revelation where existing revelation and direction has been given and is sufficient. This does not take away from individual and family promptings, which are necessary to in fact know how to prioritize your family’s needs and activities. There is sufficient information available to figure out your “why”, and to begin at least with the master lists you will need to create that are the essence of blueprinting and mapping out your projected course. Knowing “how” will happen over time – once you begin down the path and know what you need to learn.

Objections of “no money” come up hollow in the face of oodles of discretionary money being spent on cell-phones, vacations, recreation, entertainment, 2nd cars, and so forth. Even if the progress is slow, it can at least be small and steady – step by step forward – especially if it focuses on the basics to start with and builds from there – many of which are very reasonable.

The objection of little room for food storage is put into perspective by former LDS Church President Harold B. Lee who is credited with having said, “If you knew what I knew you’d pile it [food storage] up on the floor and put a sheet over it and walk around it”. There are many creative ways to store food and provisions. Just ask around and get yourself and your excuses out of the way!

In the end, it all boils down to vision and values. It’s about how big your “why” is. How awake are you? How much do you think you’ll enjoy watching your family suffer needlessly, or how much joy will you take in forcibly stealing what you need to survive on! (If you think that’s being a bit melodramatic, take a trip through our recent national/world disasters and examine what it’s like living through relatively minor events like recent hurricanes (Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico), earthquakes (Mexico), extended power outages (Puerto Rico), plague (West Africa, Madagascar), and so forth – and now with fomenting trouble with certain Far East countries. Now magnify that and view it through the lens of projected “tribulations” where all will be affected.

“What If…?”

Ezra Taft Benson, former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and former United States Secretary of Agriculture has said:

“Today, I emphasize a most basic principle: home production and storage. Have you ever paused to realize what would happen to your community or nation if transportation were paralyzed or if we had a war or depression? How would you and your neighbors obtain food? How long would the corner grocery store – or supermarket – sustain the needs of the community?” (Ensign magazine Nov 1980).

This sets the stage for and gives suggestion for using the “What If…” question. If you’re having trouble acquiring motivation or developing the “why” question, asking the “What If…?” question helps with developing your “Why”. If you are still struggling with feeling the spirit of motivation – knowing your “why” – let me suggest this mental exercise. Take a few minutes to think through the “What If” exercise.

  • What if there is a long-term grid-down situation – prolonged electrical outage?
  • What if there is no food and empty shelves (for whatever reason)?
  • How long will your current food stores last if you can’t replace them or leave your home?
  • What if your car doesn’t work? Or there is no gasoline, or the roads are not passable?
  • What if there is no clean or potable water? How long before you’re thirsty?
  • What if the sewers aren’t working? Can’t flush the toilets?
  • How will you deal with your own human waste products?
  • What if there is no garbage pick up?
  • What if it gets really cold? How will you or your children / family stay warm?
  • How will you cook your food? What fuel source?
  • What if there is a war? Nuclear explosion? Volcano? Earthquake? Flood?
  • What if your house isn’t habitable? What if you need to evacuate your home?

What is important to you? What do you value? What degree of peace or bodily comfort do you want or expect to have during future times? What if there is an epic disaster ahead for your community? A complete ‘grid-down’ meltdown of the electrical grid? What if communication fails, or transportation is halted? What if your family is hungry, sick, injured or out of medication? What happens when others around you, in your neighborhood or in your church community are suffering the same plight?

What will you do then? How will you survive? How long can you watch your children and family suffer?

Whether you expect minor inconveniences or full-blown disasters and “tribulations”, your answers to these questions will help you test your values, zero in on your vision, and set your mind, hearts and hands toward solving both theoretical and real problems that potentially threaten you and your family.

This is your “WHY!” … and you become more and more ‘awake’!

Functional Preparation – The Magic of Lists

Being prepared and having a supply of provisions is a simple and straight-forward process. It’s actually downright formulaic. Guided by your “why” and your level of resources you obtain necessary food and non-food supplies and provisions, develop self-reliance skills, and work with others in your family/community to do the same. Sounds simple enough. Right?

This basic formula means that you make lists and work the lists!

  1. make a list of things you need and want, along with skills you want to have or develop
  2. obtain these items and skills using a prioritized plan, and
  3. store preparations safely and securely, learn what you need to learn, and check it off the list.

This is a ‘spiritual creation’ & ‘physical creation’ process. Develop a plan and work your plan. Part of that plan is to continually reassess and update your plan along the way.

It is helpful to start off with a list of what you have. Take inventory of your food, skills, energy sources, cooking methods, etc. Then make your best estimates as to what you think you lack. In other words, what’s your need?

With regards to skills, you will want to identify and develop self-reliance and preparation-related skills. Also, you will want to help develop and be part of a like-minded “community” (e.g. family, church, neighborhood, etc.) who will complement and supplement your activities and strengthen your vision and resolve. No one person can be or do everything. It does take a community. Going it alone is not a good strategy. (Still, it may not be a productive strategy to telegraph out what you’re doing – especially to those ‘not awake’.)

Of course, there are a “hundred and one” nuances to this, along with some exceptions. But by and large, this is the basic idea. When starting out it doesn’t help to over-think it or worry about what you don’t have or how big the project is. That will create fear and a sense of hopelessness, not faith and peace. As the self-reliance process moves forward, there will be opportunity for extended thought, revision, reassessment, new goals, etc. So – keep it simple! Especially to start with. It takes nothing but a pencil and paper and an hour or so to begin making a list and drawing a map of your preparation journey.

Prioritizing the List

When it comes to the lists, blueprints and roadmaps … it’s helpful to prioritize them both by time and importance. The combinations of these variables will look like this:

  • More Urgent – Near Term
  • More Urgent – Long Term
  • Less Urgent – Near Term
  • Less Urgent – Long Term

The objective is to assign an item on your list to its relative position in terms of importance and timing – meaning that an item is either less or more important, and should be done sooner or later. (In this context the term “urgent” is used to mean “relative importance”, not that it must be done immediately.)

The point here is that everything on the list is relative; relative to another item and how you are individually determined to approach the project based on its importance and timing as determined by your values and what your ‘promptings’ and common-sense tell you.

In this context, it should be noted that nothing on your list is “unimportant”. All items have value. And – there is no “right” or “wrong”!

What’s on the master list and how you prioritize it will be different from the list your neighbor makes for them. When you combine this process with common sense, inspiration & promptings, you will be able to further prioritize your list … and re-prioritize your list, over and over as needed. Your list will change over time especially as you receive further insight and expanded knowledge. It may also change “on-the-fly” as you encounter sales and promotions from commercial vendors and stores and yard sales, that will shift your timing based on ability to reduce expense and acquire something on your list that becomes available.

Here are some examples of how to prioritize. Again, everything on your list is there for a reason. But some are more important, urgent and timely than others.

Water in the first 48 hours is more urgent than having a supply of children’s games to occupy bored children in a quarantine situation. But if I had bored children I might want some school supplies and coloring crayons. Same for wanting first-aid supplies before getting field-medicine supplies or equipment. Both are important – one is probably more urgent and timely. The good part is – you decide! However you choose to proceed, operate with a dynamic “first-things-first” and “last-things-last” mindset.

The application of all this is that you’ll create a master list, with sub-categories on which you will rank-order (or at least know in your mind) what comes first, second, and so forth. Working from a list helps you know when you have enough of something, when its time to focus on something else, and knowing what to be on the look-out for when you are out and about shopping, going to thrift stores, garage sales, or working on food storage.

The ideas and activities of self-reliance, are both linear and parallel; linear in that it is a logical sequential process with each item on your list, and parallel in that you can (and should) be working on multiple items and categories at the same time in a parallel fashion. This also goes for acquiring and practicing skills.

As stated previously and to repeat for emphasis, a significant benefit of this “top down” approach is the peace-of-mind it creates. As long as you are operating on a foundation of vision and values, and are working from a flexible list, and are making progress – you will be far more likely to experience a peace that replaces fear and worry – all the while making solid progress even with small efforts.

By following this simple formula, regardless of where you may find yourself along the path, a greater sense of peace, comfort and confidence will attend your activities, for they will be purposeful and directed. The “what-if’s” will begin to fade into the background – not because you are no longer concerned about them, but because you are Approaching Ready.

Community and Like-Minded Groups

This leads to another thought that can profoundly impact your preparation mindset – preparation is individual, family and a community enterprise. Certainly, you don’t want to be the only person or household in your neighborhood with food and supplies!

Because this can affect your strategy and how you go about preparing it is worth thinking through your basic philosophy and values with regard to sharing, being “community minded”, and how much of a consecrated mindset you have (as opposed to going it alone or being a “lone-survivalist prepper”).

A community mindset and posture is always better in terms of working together to help meet the needs of all its members. This is especially true with varying skill-sets we each respectively possess – and can share.

There is nothing wrong with studying what we will call the “survivalist” approach. There are a lot of good ideas and skills and gadgets to consider and learn about – many of which prompt other thoughts and applications – all of which will help you plan through what should be on your own list.

If you approach ready with a “community” mindset it will help define the method and means you use in becoming better prepared. It can also make it simpler! Not everyone needs to have a grain mill, mechanics tools, surgical or suture kit, hunting rifles, etc. Many of these items can be shared within a community. This orientation will affect your list-building and preparation strategy in very real ways. It isn’t necessary for you to have “something of everything”.

“Skillful” Preparation – Don’t Forget the Skills

As mentioned above, in addition to “things” on your list should also be the inclusion of various self-reliance skillsets. Learning and developing skills especially in grid-down situations, times of emergency and disaster, or prolonged periods of suffering and turmoil, can be essential.

Therefore, don’t forget to learn and develop skills by reading articles and books, watching internet videos, attending fairs and seminars, and working with others to mentor you – so that you will know “how-to” when the need arises. (Hint: YouTube is a fantastic educational tool, along with numerous websites and blogs.) Then … be willing to mentor others with the skills you have and help foster a group-think that helps bless everyone in your like-minded community.

Development of and being part of a like-minded community has benefits that apply in both directions. This really is a two-way street. Not everyone can be a physician, dentist, engineer, farmer, hunter, herbalist, bee keeper, master gardener, etc. For selfish reasons and because it is impractical if not impossible to be 100% prepared with everything, your family will need to rely on the skills, and willing nature of others, just the same as they will rely on what you do best that they don’t.

Therefore, look to work together, befriend, form working relationships with and learn from people with specialized skills you may need in tough times. Skills you develop can be freely shared with others as you mentor and help others in a truly reciprocally-minded community of people who are becoming better prepared. Trust me, these people are there “in the woodwork” and are coming out … and they are looking for you as well.

To this end, practice and develop skills individually and with others. For example:

  • Cooking methods: dutch oven, solar oven, volcano stove, rocket stove.
  • Energy: Alternative energy sources: propane, solar, wind, batteries
  • Sanitation: Soap making, hygiene, waste management
  • Health: Herbal medicine, first aid, emergency field medicine
  • Food preservation: wet & dry pack canning, dehydrating, freeze drying, fermentation
  • Food storage basics: mylar bags, buckets, #10 cans, mason jars, meal-in-a-jar or bag, recipes for your food storage
  • Tools & transportation: Bicycles, hikingNon-food preparation, tools,
  • Emergency Prep: 72 hr kits, ‘bug-out’ or ‘bug-in’ supplies
  • Clothing: clothes and foot wear for all seasons, temperatures and duties
  • Shelter: Tents, camp stoves, etc.

This list is near endless….

Core Principles for Approaching Ready:

  • Know your “why”
  • Make and use lists; create, sift, sort, prioritize
  • Develop & mentor skills
  • Prepare with a like-minded and supportive community

As you develop and work with these core principles it will help remove fear, uncertainty and confusion. You will acquire focus and energy for your efforts. Directed by your “inner voice” you will be guided in all ways including list building, prioritization, and execution – all the while staying true to your higher vision and values.

Almost always, it requires a reshuffling of one’s values, worldview paradigms, and “what’s important” decisions. This includes budgeting concerns where decisions are required regarding discretionary expenses and of what’s truly important.

That’s why vison and “why” are important to this process. When parents and grandparent “get” that someday it will be more important to have a supply of food and medicines and sanitation measures available, instead of the extra vehicle, the Caribbean cruise memories, and so forth, then one could say their vision and “why” is sufficiently in place.

This mindset also affects time utilization. You may find your desires shifting with regard to aimless TV and entertainment, and decide that using more of that time to read, learn skills, making meals-in-a-bag, watching YouTube instruction on preparation and food storage skills – will help you move better towards being ‘at the ready’ for the future.

Caution About the Extremes

Wise people have counseled us to avoid the “extreme” and “extensive” for a reason. It remains obvious that what is expensive to one person may not be to someone else with more resources. For those with means, the process of acquiring preparation may be quicker and easier than for others. And, there is no reason why those with means can’t accelerate their preparations significantly – and even set in store to help others with less (the consecration mindset). But as a rule, we’ve been counseled to use caution with the extremes and to stay balanced and prudent as guided by common sense and intuition and inner voice.

In the final analysis, the proverbial elephant gets eaten ‘one bite at a time’. Item by item, line by line – working a purposeful plan of lists, driven by core values and a vision for being “at the ready”.

Bringing these thoughts together with this “unified field theory of preparation” yields a sensible approach to thoughtfully and methodically pursuing your efforts to become better prepared. Knowing that no one will ever be completely 100% prepared for everything leaves us with the notion that this is not a destination, but a journey as you are “approaching ready” all the while enjoying an increased sense of peace otherwise not available to those who sit idly looking on.

As mentioned above – it is not uncommon to hear the refrain “well, when things get tough I’m coming to your place!” To those who are preparing, this is threatening, but most of all it is an affront that wreaks of ignorance (if not arrogance) that belies the notion of personal responsibility and accountability. The solution is simple – when this happens invite them to become prepared themselves! Or to join your preparedness group.

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