Monday, April 28, 2008

Buy Low, Eat High? Thoughts on Preparedness

This is a crazy time, with food prices and shortages and all.

I'm recalling President Hinckley's talk in 1998 when he read from Genesis 41 and then said:

I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future. But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.

So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings.

We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.

Of course, I cannot interpret the prophet's words for anyone else, but I can't help but feel that we are experiencing a glimpse of what stormy weather can look like, and what the impact of an interconnected worldwide economy can be. As he said, if something happens in one part of the world, it can affect us all.

I remember when a big storm hit the East coast when I was living there. It only shut things down for three days, but people went crazy and bought the stores out of bread and produce. I was stunned when it took a month for the produce to really come back up to a normal supply.

We are seeing similar panicking now. You can't just walk into Costco (or any grocery store, for that matter) and get a 25 bag of rice. You can't go to your cannery and pick up more than a couple of bags of food. And prices of what you can buy (such as wheat) continue to go up.

President Hinckley also talked a lot about avoiding consumer debt, about not living on the edges of our incomes. This situation we face now to me seems like a simple example of why this is wise counsel. If one has a fixed food budget, one cannot simply go and pay premium prices for commodities, unless one has some extra money tucked away...which is yet another element of preparedness counsel we have received.

I've also been struck by how the focus for food storage has changed from storing commodities first, to storing three months' worth of what our families regularly eat. Might such a focus also help us at times like this? If we are working on our three-month supply, do we really need to go out and pay premium prices for commodities right now? Might this be a good time to stock up on other foods that aren't getting so much attention? Plant a garden? Learn how to make bread? etc....

I dunno. I suppose for each family, the solution might be a little different, depending on budget and existing storage and typical eating patterns. But I've been thinking about the idea of 'Buy Low, Eat High.' If prices continue to soar, will I really want to pay bookoo bucks for a loaf of bread, or should I just make some (I need to use up that flour that is getting old anyway....)?

It is clear to me that prophetic counsel has the power to protect us from times of panic. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

How are you approaching things right now? Are you buying high? Are you going to ride it out and live on your storage? Are you ignoring the panic and storing other things?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Problem of Generalizing the Personal

Life is a journey, a process, a challenge. At the core of the plan that God has created for us is agency, and that means that a key part of the journey is making choices. Lots of them. Every day, every minute, we make choices - some small, some big.

Sometimes, especially with important decisions, we, of course, put lots of effort into making those choices. As members of the Church, we also often will seek guidance through prayer and personal revelation. Through the process, it's easy to become passionate about the answers we receive, about the decisions we make.

And with passion often comes the desire to share, even to proselytize. Herein lies a weakness I have seen in myself and in others. We sometimes assume that because our answer was right for us, that it will be right for others.

And yet, how often is there really One Right Answer?

There are truths that we are taught by our prophets, and I don't believe that doctrine is up for grabs. It is not within our stewardship to receive revelation about doctrine for the Church, or about the responsibilities of others' callings. We are told repeatedly that we receive revelation for our own stewardships, but not for others'.

But this principle applies to others' personal lives as well. We cannot take the revelation we have received for our own lives and apply it to others. That is not to say there is never a time and place to share our personal experiences and testimonies. There are also times and places to testify of true principles. The Spirit can help us know when and where these things may be appropriate. But I think we need to be careful about taking specific, personalized answers and trying to make them generally-applicable, especially when prophets of God have not done so. In the end, I am coming to believe we cannot do this without risking the violation of the principles of agency, and thus violating the plan of God at some level. Part of becoming like God is allowing for the agency of others.

How much room is there for personal revelation even with laws/commandments/counsel we know to be divinely inspired? Consider the following examples:
  • Word of Wisdom (have you ever met someone who wants to convince you that they are living the 'higher law' of the WoW by some specific that has never been preached over the pulpit? I sure have...)
  • Sabbath Day -- Have you ever actually met two Mormon families who apply this law in exactly the same way?
  • Multiply and Replenish -- As important as the commandment to multiply and replenish is, we simply cannot know what is right for another couple, another family. Even something as simple as "You'll just know when you're done" is not something that can be generally applied. We were recently reminded in the Worldwide Leadership Broadcast that we are not to judge others on decisions such as this.
  • Following the Prophets -- As passionate as I am about this topic, I see over and over again how each of our perceptions of what this means differs. My husband and I, as relatively close as we are on the topic, will sometimes find that we apply and interpret prophetic counsel in different ways.
  • Preparedness -- Again, we have some pretty clear counsel on this topic, but none of us is in a position to receive specific guidance for others on how to apply this counsel.
What about life choices, challenges, and situations, such as the following:

Public vs. home school -- Oh, my. Here again, the passion is intense. How many of you have heard a homeschooling family insist that there is no other righteous way to teach children, particularly when we live in such challenging times? Or, on the flip side, have you heard a public schooling family condemn homeschoolers for any number of reasons? Oh, my.

Work-life-family balance questions -- Even as the prophets have been clear about the ideal, for example about the general roles and responsibilities of fathers and mothers as outlined in the Proclamation and repeatedly taught by our leaders, there is still room for personal adaptation and revelation, and thank goodness for that, since there are so many variations in life situation, culture, needs, etc.

Intimacy in marriage -- Have you ever heard someone complain that we don't receive more guidance on this topic? I think that part of the reason we don't is because we are supposed to figure this out, with our spouses and with the Lord. I have heard professional counselors giving specific guidance about frequency, for example, and I just don't think that is appropriate. Of course, there is some good general guidance out there, but I think we need to be careful about taking on anyone else's specific answers in this tender, private, sacred element of married life.

Home birth vs. hospital birth -- A post I just read today explores the process of making such a decision. This is another one of those hot topics that I have seen sometimes bring out the worst in women. How I wish we could respect each other's space to make choices and trust that we are each doing our best! There is most certainly no One Right Answer in this regard.

Discipline of children, or dealing with marital or other family challenges -- There are, of course, spiritual and legal laws that draw some boundaries in these regards, but, usually, there is a lot of variation on how we can deal with the various kinds of challenges that can emerge in family relationships. This is likely one of the most important areas in life where we need the power of personal revelation, and where we need to be ever-so-careful about generalizing our approaches and answers to others. We can offer support when requested, but often, giving advice or counsel can be problematic. The best advice I think we can give is to encourage our loved ones to seek spiritual guidance through prayer, and, if necessary, through professional help.

These are just a few examples of many.

As someone who has always preferred nice, clean, clear-cut answers to questions in life, I have struggled with all of this. I still believe there are certain things that are Right. (I suppose there will always even be debate about where those lines are.) But still, even there, I realize I cannot take away what God has freely given -- the gift of agency. God will freely give us when we ask, and we can only hope that those we love and care about will seek God's guidance in all of their important decisions - and even ones that may not be so important. God wants to be involved in our lives, and He wants us to care about and be involved in each others' lives. But there are limits to that involvement, I think. We need to be careful about generalizing personal revelation or even simple personal choice. We need to respect the agency of others, and rejoice in the plan that allows us to discover, by our own experience, the good from the bad. And to discover the power of the Atonement when we/others make mistakes.

Am I generalizing too much? :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Mantle of an Apostle

OK, here's another thing that stuck out at me from Conference. I don't remember who it was (and I'm feeling too lazy to look it up) who mentioned that Elder Christofferson would be ordained (in other words, that he was not yet ordained). Perhaps that future ordination explains something I have noticed for years when our new apostles have been called. They speak the day they are called. They always give a sweet, humble talk. You can feel they are overwhelmed, and that they love the gospel and the Savior with all of their hearts.

But I have noticed, without exception that I can think of, that there is a difference the next time they speak. They are bold. They speak with authority and power. Of course, some of that probably comes with six months of experience, but I couldn't help but wonder if it also was that the mantle of the calling had descended on them.

Has anyone else sensed something like this?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spirit to Spirit

I have so much running through my head and heart since General Conference. And I have lots I want to write, but it is easier to do that with the transcripts.

But there is one thing that I wanted to capture for now. I loved what Elder Christofferson said about how he had received revelation, spirit to spirit -- he learned and felt things that words could not express. Moments like that are what cement my convictions of the truthfulness of the gospel. And they make life so sublime; they bring me so much joy.

I also think that simple, almost passing comments like his are sometimes the greatest gems of Conference. The older I get, the more I want to find those gems that I am convinced we get more than perhaps we realize.

Ah, I love General Conference!