I was asked to speak in church today about emergency preparedness. I’m the emergency preparedness coordinator for my neighborhood. Because there are so many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here in Utah, most cities prefer to work closely with the Church to organize emergency strategies. And so it came that my bishop asked me to take on the job of making sure people in my neighborhood know what to do in the event of a disaster. That’s also how it happened that I was asked to speak about being prepared for emergencies at church. During the worship service no less. No pressure.
Anyway here is most of the talk:
How prepared are you for an emergency?
- Have you done a family fire drill or talked about what to do in the event of a fire?
- Do you have 72-hour kits for your family?
- Do you have an emergency savings fund?
- Do you have a 3-month supply of food you will actually eat?
- Are you out of debt?
- Are you continually learning and enhancing your education?
Our church leaders have taught us the importance of being prepared for emergencies. As the neighborhood emergency preparedness coordinator I’m not here to make you feel guilty about all the things you haven’t done. I’m here to help you see ways you can improve your ability to navigate troubled times in life. I’m here to encourage all of us to see what we can do to be better prepared to serve and minister to our families, friends, and neighbors when a disaster or emergency happens. If you need help to Google how to do any of the specific things I’ve mentioned so far, please contact me. I’m pretty good at internet searches. I have a feeling that many of you are as well, but I realize that not everyone is.
Let me talk for a little bit about some people who were prepared for emergencies.
Not long after the sign of Christ’s birth was given to the Nephites in America, people started doubting what they’d seen with their own eyes, thanks to Zoramite dissenters and the cunning words of the Gadianton robbers.
3 Nephi 2:1-2
“And it came to pass that thus passed away the ninety and fifth year also, and the people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen— 2 Imagining up some vain thing in their hearts, that it was wrought by men and by the power of the devil, to lead away and deceive the hearts of the people; and thus did Satan get possession of the hearts of the people again, insomuch that he did blind their eyes and lead them away to believe that the doctrine of Christ was a foolish and a vain thing.”
And then something scary happens. Giddianhi The Evil (that’s my personal expanded version of his name), sends the chief judge of the Nephites, Lachoneus, a letter, telling him how good the Gadianton robbers are and how they will wipe the entire nation of the Nephites off the face of the earth in a bloody slaughter.
3 Nephi 3:11-12
“11 And now it came to pass when Lachoneus received this epistle hewas exceedingly astonished, because of the boldness of Giddianhi demanding the possession of the land of the Nephites, and also of threatening the people and avenging the wrongs of those that had received no wrong, save it were they had wronged themselves by dissenting away unto those wicked and abominable robbers. 12 Now behold, this Lachoneus, the governor, was a just man, and could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi, the governor of the robbers, but he did cause that his people should cry unto the Lord for strength against the time that the robbers should come down against them.”
And so their leader, Lachoneus, has all the Nephite people gather together in one place, with all their belongings and animals, and then they build a huge fortification around themselves. Then he gathers an army from among them to guard them from the robbers. And there they are, all together in the land of Zarahemla, with their SEVEN YEARS OF FOOD STORAGE.
But here’s the thing – all the physical preparation in the world will never be enough if you aren’t mentally and spiritually prepared as well.
Here’s what Lachoneus told the Nephites, who had really been struggling with their faith at this time:
3 Nephi 3:15-16
“15 Yea, he said unto them: As the Lord liveth, except ye repent of all your iniquities, and cry unto the Lord, ye will in nowise be delivered out of the hands of those Gadianton robbers. 16 And so great and marvelous were the words and prophecies of Lachoneus that they did cause fear to come upon all the people; and they did exert themselves in their might to do according to the words of Lachoneus.”
And then he got the Nephite army super-organized and appointed Gidgidoni The Good to be the commander of the whole army.
3 Nephi 3:19-21
“19 Now it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains, (save it were in their times of wickedness) some one that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy; therefore, this Gidgiddoni was a great prophet among them, as also was the chief judge. 20 Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands. 21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.”
3 Nephi 3:19-21 https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/3?verse=19&lang=eng#p19
Now, at first glance, it might seem like this was a pretty weak response to the grave threat they were faced with. Just sit and chill – who does that when you have the leader of an army of stalkers sending letters threatening to wipe you out?
3 Nephi 3:25-26
“25 And they did fortify themselves against their enemies; and they did dwell in one land, and in one body, and they did fear the words which had been spoken by Lachoneus, insomuch that they did repent of all their sins; and they did put up their prayers unto the Lord their God, that he would deliver them in the time that their enemies should come down against them to battle. 26 And they were exceedingly sorrowful because of their enemies. And Gidgiddoni did cause that they should make weapons of war of every kind, and they should be strong with armor, and with shields, and with bucklers, after the manner of his instruction.”
So while they were waiting, Captain Gidgidoni The Good, helped the people prepare for a future war. We’ll come back to this in a minute.
3 Nephi 4:5-7
“5 And it came to pass that in the nineteenth year Giddianhi found that it was expedient that he should go up to battle against the Nephites, for there was no way that they could subsist save it were to plunder and rob and murder. 6 And they durst not spread themselves upon the face of the land insomuch that they could raise grain, lest the Nephites should come upon them and slay them; therefore Giddianhi gave commandment unto his armies that in this year they should go up to battle against the Nephites. 7 And it came to pass that they did come up to battle; and it was in the sixth month; and behold, great and terrible was the day that they did come up to battle; and they were girded about after the manner of robbers; and they had a lamb-skin about their loins, and they were dyed in blood, and their heads were shorn, and they had head-plates upon them; and great and terrible was the appearance of the armies of Giddianhi, because of their armor, and because of their being dyed in blood.
8 And it came to pass that the armies of the Nephites, when they saw the appearance of the army of Giddianhi, had all fallen to the earth, and did lift their cries to the Lord their God, that he would spare them and deliver them out of the hands of their enemies.
The armies of Giddianhi The Evil see this and get all happy and excited thinking, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, but boy, were they so wrong.
3 Nephi 4:10
“10 But in this thing they were disappointed, for the Nephites did not fear them; but they did fear their God and did supplicate him for protection; therefore, when the armies of Giddianhi did rush upon them they were prepared to meet them; yea, in the strength of the Lord they did receive them.”
3 Nephi 4:10
This battle was the most brutal bloodbath of any up to this point in Nephite history, but the Nephites fought hard and won.
3 Nephi 4:13
“13 And it came to pass that Gidgiddoni commanded that his armies should pursue them as far as the borders of the wilderness, and that they should not spare any that should fall into their hands by the way; and thus they did pursue them and did slay them, to the borders of the wilderness, even until they had fulfilled the commandment of Gidgiddoni.”
3 Nephi 4:13
Here’s a note I wrote in my scriptures a couple of years ago:
23 May 2016 In case you might have thought Gidgidoni was cowardly, wimpy, or soft at all for not wanting to attack first. When the earlier verses say he prepared his people (3 Nephi 3:14-16, 25-26), it might have been a bit of an understatement. These people worked HARD to gather all their stuff and uproot their families to move. Then when they got there they had to build homes and a massive wall around as a fortification against the murderous robbers. This couldn’t have all been fun, and cherries and chocolate. This was hard, uncomfortable work. But they did it. They put a lot of effort into preparing and protecting their families, so when they finally did face the bloodthirsty robbers
I think they had decided they were sick and tired of negotiating a repentance clause into surrender contracts – especially for Gadianton robbers.
Okay, so a quick rush through a bunch of spoilers to the story. (Read the book, it’s better than the movie. Haha.)
Giddianhi The Evil gets killed, followed by his successor, Zemnarihah, who gets hung by the Nephites and the Gadianton robbers are slaughtered. I know it sounds brutal, but some things are worth fighting for.
The Nephite people rejoice and give thanks to God for protecting them.
3 Nephi 4:33
“33 And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; and they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction.”
3 Nephi 4:33
Being prepared enables us to better reach out and serve others in their own time of need.
I remember the winter when I was 10, two weeks before Christmas, our family’s friends’ home burned down. They were left with nothing – some charred pots, and a few very smoke damaged clothes. Someone in the community had an empty home that they offered this family to live in until they could figure out what to do next. Others donated clothing and essentials. My mom collected the charred pots and scrubbed them with SOS pads until they shone again.
Remarkably, just a few days before Christmas, this family held a pot-luck dinner party at their house to express gratitude to everyone who helped them, but I have always felt like we were the ones who had been blessed.
“24 And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me. 25 And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself. 26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just? 27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”
Doctrine and Covenants 38:24–27
Heavenly Father tells the early saints (and us) that there will be brutal wars and hard things of our own that we will have to face, but He encourages them (and us) to do what we can to prepare.
“30 I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. 31 And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless.”
Doctrine and Covenants 38:30–31
In closing –
I know that we have been blessed with an abundance of knowledge, tools, and wise leaders who prayerfully try to guide us so that we can be both physically and spirituality prepared and safe. As we minister to our families and others around us through our efforts to prepare for emergencies, both physical and emotional, I know that Heavenly Father will bless and magnify our efforts.
God can accomplish great things with our seemingly small, but diligent acts. Never underestimate the power of obedience and humility as we seek to serve with love. We are led by a living prophet and have been given good counsel to prepare us for the challenges that will come our way. When we follow the Lord, he will lead us safely home.