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Hopkins – Emergency Prep Talk 072907

Hopkins – Emergency Prep Talk 072907

       This past week has been a very spiritual week for the Hopkins family. On Wednesday, Corey Bodily, Allen Myers, and I were set apart by the Stake Presidency as the new Elders Quorum Presidency. We were honored to experience the power and warmth of the laying on of hands from five of the Lord’s most righteous and dedicated servants: Presidents Pugh, Holbrook, and Back, along with Brothers Jones and Molina.

       Then on Thursday, my wife and I were able to attend the Temple, to be reminded again that our day-to-day lives are only a preparatory stage in our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan for each of us. And for the last three days, our son Brandon was privileged to join nearly a dozen other young men from our ward to experience the rugged and breathtaking beauty of our Lord’s handiwork during the Teachers’ High Adventure Camp in the Grand Teton National Park.

        But even amid this great bounty of the Spirit, reality can quickly settle in. Wednesday evening, after the setting apart, Brother Jones came up to me and, with his usual innocence, said, “I wonder if I could ask you a favor.” Still filled with the spirit of service from the wonderful blessings we had just received, I thought that maybe he needed some boxes moved, or some chairs rearranged. No such luck.

You can tell by my presence here on the stand what the “favor” was.

Brother Jones then asked me to speak on emergency preparedness. Of course, I accepted, but afterward I started thinking, “I’m really not the right person for the job.” If I had been truly prepared for an emergency, I would have already had this talk written ahead of time, right?

Seriously, being called upon to give a talk is a very spiritual experience in its own right. It’s humbling to have the responsibility to serve, if just for a few moments, as the Lord’s personal representative, to be able to state His great principles in a way that, hopefully, will touch even one person’s or one family’s lives.

It’s also enlightening, when assembling a talk, to discover how much we have already learned about so many important topics, and that—for the most part—we merely need to re-dedicate ourselves to putting those principles into practice.

In preparing for this talk on emergency preparedness, I was immediately reminded of one of most important spiritual lessons I ever learned—long before I joined the Church—and it’s a lesson that has become a constant guidepost throughout my life.

As many of you know, I am a convert to the Church, and did not join until I was in my 30s. In fact, I had barely heard of the Church until that time. But I was fortunate to have attended a variety of other Christian churches as a youth. And, after graduating, I attended a Southern Baptist college in Liberty, Missouri—ironically, just down the street from the Liberty Jail. Every day, just before dinner, 40 or 50 college students would gather in the Student Union for what was the equivalent of a testimony meeting.

We would sing a number of songs during those meetings. The song that I recall most vividly was a popular Christian folk song called, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” Perhaps some of you have heard it before. It’s a song about the Second Coming of Christ… and how He can return when we least expect it.

A portion of the lyrics reads:

Life was filled with guns and war…

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold.

I wish we’d all been ready.

A man and wife sleep in bed.

She hears a noise and turns her head.

He’s gone.

I wish we’d all been ready.

Two men walking up a hill.

One disappears and one’s left standing still.

I wish we’d all been ready.

The song goes on to conclude:

There’s no time to change your mind

How could you have been so blind?

The Father spoke; the demons died.

The Son has come and you’ve left behind.

As a young man just beginning to contemplate the meaning and mortality of life, these concepts had a profound effect on me. Singing this song, perhaps 20 or 30 times over the course of a year, ingrained in my mind the need to always be ready—to live my life in a way so that, if the Savior were to come tomorrow, I would be prepared to face him, without shame or sorrow.

Now, many decades removed from those consuming concerns of youth, life goes on in rather ordinary fashion. Days begin and nights end in predictable uniformity. The windows of Heaven open briefly with a comforting laying on of hands or a few reflective moments in the Celestial Room in order to remind us of our eternal potential. But our days are mostly business meetings and church meetings, yard work and homework—and, yes, even preparing church talks.

For most of us, fortunately, the most troubling chaos that we face in our lives is little more than a disorganized garage or a stack of bills waiting to be paid.

Even so, even amidst the pedestrian concerns of our day-to-day lives, a voice sometimes arises that calls us to attention. For me, one of those voices came during the Priesthood Session of the October 2005 General Conference.

I love listening to the Conference talks every six months, and I especially love listening to President Gordon B. Hinckley. His gentle, self-deprecating humor. His wise and quiet counsel. His obvious, boundless love for all those whom he serves. But during this particular talk, he sounded more like the Jeremiah of the Old Testament than the gentle leader we’ve come to know and love.

       His talk came shortly after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and reflected on the fragile nature of our world. May I quote briefly from our beloved Prophet?

“This old world is no stranger to calamities and catastrophes,” he said, “Those of us who read and believe the Scriptures are aware of the warnings of prophets concerning catastrophes that have come to pass and are yet to come to pass.

“If anyone has any doubt concerning the terrible things that can and will afflict mankind, let him read the 24th chapter of Matthew. Among other things the Lord says: “Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. …

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”

He went on to enumerate many of the disasters recorded in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, as well as those of modern days. “What we have experienced in the past was all foretold,” he says, “and the end is not yet. Just as there have been calamities in the past, we expect more in the future.”

And then he asks the most important question of all: “What do we do?”

The question has a corollary: Will we truly be ready? Or will we only wish we had been?

The truth is, we all know what we need to do. We have heard talk after talk about how to prepare for the possibility of disaster. The Church has issued a number of publications to help us to be ready. Included among these is a series of recently produced pamphlets entitled “All Is Safely Gathered In.” The Church’s web site contains a bounty of information on this and related topics.

And just yesterday, the most recent Ensign arrived. On page 30 we find an article entitled: “Are You Prepared?” The article begins: “At one time or another, nearly every family will face accidents, illness, unemployment, or other emergencies that will require them to depend on the resources they have stored.” Facing the heading is a box that lists more than a dozen previous Ensign articles on related subjects. Quotes from eight different Prophets, all the way back to Brigham Young, are cited.

And if that weren’t enough, there is a handy pull-out card describing the basics of family home storage and featuring brief messages from Presidents Hinckley, Monson, and Faust.

Yes, we know what to do. And in cases where we don’t, we know where to look.

The good news is: if we are prepared, we can survive even the worst disasters. President Hinckley noted, in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, that “there has been a great outpouring of help. Hearts have been softened. Homes have been opened. Great numbers of our men have traveled considerable distances, bringing with them tools and tents and radiant hope. Men of the Priesthood have given thousands upon thousands of hours in the work of rehabilitation. There have been three and four thousand at a time… We cannot say enough of thanks to them.”

On a more personal level, JoAnn Hibbert, at the time a Relief Society instructor in a Bountiful, Utah, ward, wrote in the Ensign in June 1980 about the sudden illness of her husband upon their return from a mission in Brazil. The news they received was worse than expected: though still relatively young, her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And then, shortly before her husband passed away, further disaster struck. Sister Hibbert returned home to find her house in flames—and almost all her possessions destroyed.

But even amid these multiple disasters, generosity was overflowing. Prepared and ready to give whatever was needed, her neighbors and her ward responded. Years later, Sister Hibbert would reflect: “I pause so many times as I enter the home where I now live. There’s Nielsens’s couch, Memmotts’s lamp, Jenkins’s stand and lamp, Murphys’s chair. So many blankets have Gibsons’s name on them. The silverware is Ashbys’s, the canister set is Jorgansons’s, the chairs are Johnsons’s, and so goes my list. Everything we have right now belongs to someone else.”

Aren’t our own lives the same way? Do we not owe so much of our success and security to the help and kindness of others?

The truth is, in the midst of disasters of any kind, we respond. And we know what we must do in order to prepare for these inevitable circumstances—whether as individualized as the loss of a home or as widespread as a hurricane or an earthquake.

But the question remains: when these disasters come, will we truly be ready? Or will we only wish we had been?

I would like to conclude by speaking for a moment about an even more important form of emergency preparedness—preparedness of a spiritual kind. Elder Henry B. Eyring wrote in November 2005 that: “Most of us have thought about how to prepare for storms. We have seen and felt the suffering of women, men, and children, and of the aged and the weak, caught in hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, and droughts. One reaction is to ask, ‘How can I be prepared?’

“And there is a rush to buy and put away whatever people think they might need for the day they might face such calamities.

“But there is another even more important preparation we must make for tests that are certain to come to each of us. That preparation must be started far in advance because it takes time. What we will need then can’t be bought. It can’t be borrowed. It doesn’t store well. And it has to have been used regularly and recently.

“What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. It is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which everything for us in eternity depends. That test is part of the purpose God had for us in the Creation.”

There are many in our own ward who have endured trials and challenges—some transient, some everlasting—and have found the emotional and spiritual strength to endure.

Indeed, in the face of disaster, it is this spiritual strength that will be the most important determinant of our ability to endure. But like food storage and emergency supplies, this spiritual strength can be stored up only in advance. As Elder Eyring says, building up that strength takes time.

Will we be ready with that strength when the need for it arises? Or will we only wish we had been ready?

But there is an even more important reason for that spiritual strength and the commitment that it requires, and that reason relates to our eternal purpose. Elder Eyring explains: “The great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage. And the tragedy of life is to fail in that test and so fail to qualify to return in glory to our heavenly home.”

Elder L. Tom Perry cites the Scriptures to make this same point. “A lesson on preparedness was taught by the Lord in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew,” he wrote in the May 1981 Ensign. “It tells about ten virgins awaiting a marriage celebration. Five were wise and prepared. Five were foolish and not prepared. The five wise virgins were welcomed into the marriage feast upon the arrival of the bridegroom. The five foolish virgins were off to the store buying supplies, and upon their return found the door closed. The cry to the Lord to open the door was met with the response, ‘I know you not.’”

When we meet the Lord at the bar, as He judges our eternal fate, will we really be ready? Or will we only wish we had been?

As tragic as they are, most of life’s disasters are passing. For the things of this world are passing. What matters most is what we do, what we learn, and who we are.

Yes, in order to protect our personal well-being, our families, our neighbors, and others whom we may never know personally but who one day may need our help—we must be prepared. That readiness comes from physical preparation, of course—from food storage and fuel stocks and 72-hour kits and all of those items that we know, all too well, that we need to commit ourselves to collecting.

But even more so, that readiness comes from ongoing spiritual preparation—preparation that comes only with time, only with practice, and only with the greatest of faith. It is the kind of preparation that will determine whether we go on to walk with the Lord into eternity, or whether we are among those who are left behind.

The Book of Mormon describes this choice: “Cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God,… and remember, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.”

       Whatever challenges may lie ahead, whatever disasters may face us as individuals or as a community, will we truly be ready, or will we only wish we had been?

I believe the answer to that question—a question that first began to occupy my mind many decades ago—is a very optimistic one. As I stand here today, I am confident not just in our past preparations but in those that lie ahead. Knowing the strength of the wonderful individuals in this ward, I am know—when the time comes—that we will be ready.

In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

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