I’ve been reading The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, by Niall Ferguson. It has me thinking about the counsel of wise men and prophets to be temporally prepared for the future—not only with savings in the bank, but with commodities in the home as well.
Today, despite the fact that the purchasing power of the dollar has declined appreciably over the past fifty years, we remain more or less content with paper money—not to mention coins that are literally made from junk. Stores of value these are not. Even more amazingly, we are happy with money we cannot even see. Today’s electronic money can be moved from our employer, to our bank account, to our favourite retail outlets without ever physically materializing. It is this ‘virtual’ money that now dominates what economists call the money supply. Cash in the hands of ordinary Americans accounts for just 11 per cent of the monetary measure known as M2.
…Money is a matter of belief, even faith: belief in the person who is paying us; belief in the person issuing the money he uses or the institution that honours his cheques or transfers. Money is not metal. It is trust inscribed: on silver, on clay, on paper, on a liquid crystal display. Anything can serve as money…And now, it seems in this electronic age, nothing can serve as money too.
The past several months have exposed cracks in the world financial system that should serve as a warning to the underprepared. However, even as we dwell within the chaos of the obvious, the learned of the world stand above in towers shouting that “all is well in Zion,” and that we need not alter our fiscal behavior—that we should even consume more in support of the collective economy. In the face of the obvious, the loudest voices still declare sound carnal security (2 Nep. 28:21).
The reason of the inspired is all the more valuable today. Said the 14th-century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, “Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.” Let no person or institution on earth shame you out of your right to be prepared for any potential material hazard.
Having food, water and emergency goods on hand is a sensible idea, but the instruction is not based on logic alone. The Lord tells us “all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given you a law which was temporal” (D&C 29:34). He instructed, “organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing” (D&C 88:119) because he loves us, and he knows we can better withstand adversity of all kinds when our physical needs are met.
We can’t eat a dollar bill, a gold coin, or an electronic check. We can follow Gordon B. Hinckley’s wise advice, added to a century of prophetic counsel on the topic, “In the day of plenty, prepare for the day of scarcity.”
For more, see the March 2009 issue of Ensign magazine, “Family Home Storage: A New Message.”