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Bored in Vernal christianity, Culture, history, Mormon, news, religion, surviving 26 Comments

Our new news feature will present an LDS look at current events with an opportunity for our readers to interact from a Mormon viewpoint.  Your thoughts are welcome–just remember we all bring a different slant to the table, and be respectful.

Hurricane season is here, with the most recent tropical storm Dolly leaving hundreds of thousands of people in South Texas without power.  An estimated 236,000 people were left without food, power, or other services for several days.  Retired Lt. General Russel L. Honore, who was leader of Joint Task Force Katrina before retiring, is now urging Americans to develop a culture of preparedness.  Since I was in Texas for tropical storm Allison, I saw firsthand how LDS wards reacted in an emergency.  One of the most impressive experiences I had during that disaster was the chance to use and share food storage items.  So I was taken aback this week when a member of the Church advocated using firearms to protect our stash, stating: “That’s why the Church tells us to keep a gun with our food storage!”

To be fair, we were discussing the events of the Last Days, and some of the recent apocalyptic fiction which pictures anarchy in the days leading up to the Second Coming.  Do you think Mormons are being trained to help and to share during times of disaster so that we will have these skills in case of a larger emergency?   Why do some members still retain a hoarding mentality and attribute it to directives of the Church?

Among all Americans, Mormons are perhaps the best prepared and the best equipped to survive a disaster. But what is our responsibility toward those who are not prepared?  Of course, we never know how we will react in times of stress.  But I like to think that I would share what I had with those in need, even if it meant less for my family.  I believe that principles of a Christian religion would teach that we do not take the lives of others, even to save our own.  That’s why I would never place a gun with my food storage.

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Comments 26

  1. I was with you right up until, “I believe that principles of a Christian religion would teach that we do not take the lives of others, even to save our own.”

    If you meant this only in the context of protecting food storage, I agree. Otherwise, I believe that while Christian principles can support a position of non-defense-even-to-save-our-own-lives (e.g. Anti-Lehi-Nephis), Christian principles also support a position of defending our own lives.

  2. I have had this same discussion and laughed out loud when it was even suggested that one might have to “protect” their food storage.

    We are Christians, after all. You might remember the crazies in Idaho that came to the conclusion that if a 1 year supply was good, a 3 year supply was even better and you’d better have fortification to protect it from the heathens in a sort of Porter Rockwellian manner. I don’t know if they had grenade launchers, but close to it! 🙂

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  4. I would hope all under the “Christian” banner would see fit to help as much as possible and sacrifice our own needs to help others.

  5. I have a good friend in my ward that is actively studying the end times stuff. Many of us go through a research project like that to satisfy our needs. A couple years ago, I gave him a rather exhaustive research collection of LDS doom and gloom material I assembled when I was looking into the matter for myself. So he comes to me to talk about it now and then.

    He approached me last year with an idea about a few families in the ward secretly banding together in anticipation of society falling apart. He wanted people who were “in the know” about all this stuff, and who had prepared well. He was talking about even having to defend our stashes against other ward members who had not prepared. We would have regular meetings, guns and a whole plan to gather together and defend ourselves.

    I just had to stop him right there. I reminded him that it isn’t about winning or losing the survival game as individuals. What would he do if his neighbor (not even a member) came to him asking for a little food for his children? Was he going to shoot the man? No. That is not how you “win the game.” I’ll be blunt. Personal survival is only a small part of the end-times equation. How you play the game is vastly more important than who owns all the poker chips in the end.

    I don’t personally own a gun. I am thinking about getting one lately, but it would not be for shooting people who are hungry and need some of my food.

  6. I am a college student, a musician, and a bachelor. If anyone REALLY wants to break into my house and steal my 2-year stash of ramen noodles… they can have them. Seriously.

  7. I think the core issue here is the duration of one’s perspective. If our whole focus is on this life we can get a little short sighted at times. I don’t know anyone who wants to die a miserable lingering death by starvation. At the same time, we’re all gonna go, sooner or later. I made the choice to add firearms to my preparedness supplies primarily so I’d be able to hunt if the circumstances required it. I also decided that I would use deadly force to protect the lives of wife and children. The only examples I can think of from the Book of Mormon where righteous individuals took someone else’s life were in the context of war or in order to preserve an entire nation.

    Truman Madsen gave a talk in Provo in 2007 about Pioneers. In it, he spoke of the difference between those who died on the plains in the dead of winter and the Donner party. I don’t recall his exact wording, but the core message was that the Saint died held in each other’s arms.

    Perhaps its time to refresh our understanding of the laws of consecration and sacrifice.

    -df

  8. I am a life-long, mostly Utah Mormon and have never heard the “gun with your food storage” thing. Sounds like some wacked-out, Bo Gritz-Mormon cross-over craziness to me. I am with Biv – – we share what we have to the extent we can. On a lighter a note, I remember a friend telling me her plan for food storage was to stockpile chocolate, then barter with her neighbors for other necessities. I like chocolate better than a gun.

  9. Some of our most extreme Evangelical brothers do suscribe to a survivalist mindset, which can be seen in books such as “Patriots”, where a group of “Christians” prepare ahead of time for the comming colapse of America as a nation by setting up a compound and training on military tactics. And who can blame them? It’s not hard to look at the Scriptures and at the sad state of our nation, with our economic and constitutional decline, and extrapolate to a likely future. As for me and my house, while I do own a weapon, in case of natural or other disaster we will share openly as much as we can. I expect to find my safety in the Last Days by following the Profets. If they ever say gather in each state and nation, we’ll do that. If they say come to Zion, we’ll do that. If they say sprinkle the blood of a lamb on my door frame, I’ll do that. I guess my point is help others in the many preparatory disasters we surely will have, and when the Brethern speak, obey.

  10. I would never consider defending my food storage at gunpoint – and I have never heard of the Church encouraging us to keep weapons as part of our storage. Sometimes, people just think too hard.

  11. I’d rather be in a position to pull off a “loaves & fishes” situation than to try to fend off starving people with a gun. Now, if there are post-apocalyptic zombies, maybe. As for putting weapons in food storage for hunting, wouldn’t rat traps be more practical? Gross, but just saying. And lots of barbecue sauce.

  12. BIV- I’m with you. When it comes down to kill or be killed, I guess I’d choose “be killed” because I’m well aware I’m going to die one day anyway and at least I’d like to do it being the person I’d like to think I am.

    One person is going to walk away from that hypothetical situation. I don’t want to be the one living with the knowledge that I had taken a life. And, in case anyone is wondering, I’m not really comfortable with anyone doing it on my behalf either. Rather, I feel burdened by the people who, in domestic or international theaters, brutalize their own lives to “keep the peace”. Their choice — most people’s choice — and I respect it. But I think they and their near and dear pay a very high price indeed and I feel my personal responsibility for it.

  13. Based on my understanding of Jesus, if I were going to kill my neighbors because they were trying to take my food (which implies I was not willing to share it with them initially), I’m thinking it wouldn’t be so convenient to remain alive and well-fed at the point where Jesus actually arrives on my street. That is, if He brought those horsemen with him.

  14. Bored in Vernal,

    This topic may be for another time, but it has me thinking now.

    Since I didn’t ask you to concede that you were wrong, rather that those who defend their own lives may also be acting in a Christian manner; and since your subsequent post seemed to indicate that you were not willing to concede even that, then I am going to assume that you believe it is un-Christian to take the life of another, even in self defense. If that assumption is wrong, disregard the rest of this post.

    Since Christianity is based on scriptural canon and Mormon Christianity is based on revelation, it would be helpful if there was either scriptural or revealed support for the argument. The Old Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Coventants, Pearl of Great Price, and modern revelation don’t support the argument, so that leaves the New Testament.

    The problem is, until His work was finished and he let himself be crucified, there is no evidence that Christ’s life was in danger. For example, when the Jews wanted to kill him, he walked through the crowd and they didn’t see him. Luke 4:28-30. Since Christ was never forced to defend himself from violence, his life provides no example for non-self-defense. The glaring exception is when his work was done on the earth. But unless we can know that our work is done on the earth, I don’t see that as a good example of non-self-defense. And nowhere that I can think of does Christ verbally teach us not to defend ourselves when our lives are in danger. (e.g. “turn the other cheek” is not the same as “bare your jugular to your foe”)

    So while I can understand a personal decision to not ever take the life of another, I don’t think that non-self-defense can reasonably be argued as the only truly Christian position.

  15. Wow, I’m surprised that no one has said they would defend their home and family from those who would use force. According to the Book of Mormon defending your family is justification to shed blood (Alma 43:47, Alma 61:14). I include protecting my food storage as part of defending my family, especially in times of need.

    Would I share? You bet.

    If dire circumstances were to come to the nation or the community we live in, I would think the wards would have members gather our resources to the chapel, and there have armed priesthood (Annie Oakley types as well) keep order.

    The Book of Mormon goes to great effort to teach the followers of Christ that war and self defense are justifiable. Some of the greatest prophets were men who knew how to use weapons to bless their family and nation when called upon to do so (Alma 48:11-18).

  16. Foodstore?Infected by flour moths,since my husband has been unable to maintain it appropriately-the last thing on his mind as he tries to provide for and care for a sick wife and two sick kids.I ask myself what was the point?My mother,a lone parent ,paupered herself ,and our childhood,to hoard two years worth of food,which all had to be disposed of when she became too old to live independantly.Sure hope you guys will share with my children,come the time.It won’t be my priority,should I recover.I will certainly be able to find more joyful things to spend the money on,like a vacation.I suggest we all find something more life enhancing to do with our children.Whatever was it all about?

  17. Wayfarer brings up a good point about food storage. It’s simply not reasonable for every member of the church to do it, and everyone will be prepared to share with them. I’ve often wondered about today’s strong emphasis on food storage. Seems like the counsel on food storage began during a time when the culture was much more agrarian and food distribution was more local. Is it just as valid today? Last year we had a series of blizzards here in Denver and foodstuffs in grocery stores began to get low. But it was for a matter of days, not weeks, because food is generally pretty available even during difficult times. Of course, things could, and may, change drastically.

  18. Adam, Uncharacteristically for me, I will back down for now. A scriptural case can be made that self-defense is A Christian option. Obviously, I don’t think it is the BEST one. If you look at the progression in the scriptures of acceptable human conflict, you see that the standard becomes higher and higher. OT peoples were let into battle by their prophet and their God. BoM people the same, with some notable exceptions. But the reader is treated to the horror of war and bloodshed. NT instructions lead us away from these teachings and into a frame of love and pacifism. I find it hard to see a true follower of the Savior, who loves his neighbor equally as himself and his family, especially having an eternal view of existence, who could actually kill another human being.

    But that’s just me.

    Jared, I, too, am surprised that not many people said they would use violence to defend home and family. I have heard this rhetoric a lot more around the wards than on the blogs.

    Wayfarer and Lisa, I wonder if the emphasis on food storage is on the cusp of a great change. Already we have heard more about having a reserve of money and more of a focus on storing basics for the short term. But it’s interesting that as the Church is softening its stance, the nation is encouraging more and better preparedness. (see link to General Honore in above post)

  19. I’ve never heard of encouragement from the Church to keep guns, though I suspect most Mormons are pro-gun-rights and supporters of the Second Amendment.

    I would bet that most Mormons who are willing to put together a food store are also willing to stock up their arsenals (for hunting more than for defense, even if self-defense is a bonus side-effect of possessing firearms).

    I have firearms and carpentry tools in my preparedness reserve.

  20. Bored in Vernal,

    A scriptural case can be made that self-defense is A Christian option. Obviously, I don’t think it is the BEST one.

    Fair enough. FYI, I don’t care whether I have the “right” argument or not, rather I wanted to understand your position. I wanted to know on what basis you would have asserted that self-defense was un-Christian. I understand your point of view of the progression of scripture, since the New Testament definitely teaches peace and non-conflict, though I don’t extend the principle so far as to discourage killing in self-defense.

    The reason the killing-in-self-defense principle doesn’t apply to food storage is because there’s a difference between an imminent death and a distant possibility (or even a probability) of death. I feel justified defending myself if my life is threatened now, but not if someone’s actions create a possibility that I may die in the future. There are too many chances for myself and God to keep me alive in the second scenario for the killing to be called self-preservation.

  21. I wonder if these are very modern responses to this question. How many times in history (past and recent) have people had to protect food as the means of fighting starvation? How (do) did they cope with the dilemma and what were the outcomes? I think there is difference between sharing your food and losing all means of feeding your family.

  22. I always thought the whole gun thing was in case you ran out of food storage, you could go find someone who had plenty, and if they wern’t ready to loan you some of theirs, that the gun would help influence them to see the good of providing for those who were in need.

    So there will be 2 groups. One with a years supply of food, and the other group with guns. Should be interesting….

  23. First off, I want to do a quick Thankamony to ya’all for your posts. They really have helped me see other points of view as I have been questioning “defending my own stash.”

    I guess I am ONLY now thinking of EXTREME situations where a gun would be necessary for both hunting and in defending my family. I would think that if we really did need to use more than one months worth of food, people would become pretty desperate…especially since there aren’t that many of us who have a storage of food.

    So…here are my two questions.

    In one of these extreme situations, should we really not defend ourselves and our “stash” if someone came in and tried to force us to give them all we had?

    In the most extreme situation (nuclear attacks) our ecomony could possibly be down for more than a month or longer. Am I alone in thinking this is a possibility?

    Feel free to make fun of me slightly since I am from Montana but I really would like to hear your opinions. Thanks.

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