Using Information Scent to Improve Web Usability

Information Foraging DeerOne of my favorite Web usability principles is called information scent. I like because, when properly applied, this principle makes websites tremendously more usable. Information scent has great correlations to search engine optimization and landing page optimization, and it uses the just plain fun and funny analogy of information foraging.

Information Foraging Theory

The theory of information foraging is referred to by Jakob Nielsen as one of the “most important concept to emerge from Human-Computer Interaction research.”  The analogy is a reference to “wild animals gathering food” compared to “how humans collect information online.”  Says Nielsen, “people like to get maximum benefit for minimum effort. That’s what makes information foraging a useful tool for analyzing online media” (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, June 30, 2003: Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster).

Information Scent: Predicting a Path’s Success

Using keywords, titles, and hyperlinks with good information scent will help site visitors find what they are looking for. Again, quoting Nielsen,“Information scent refers to the extent to which users can predict what they will find if they pursue a certain path through a website.”  But, he warns, “don’t use made-up words or your own slogans as navigation options, since they don’t have the scent of the sought-after item. Plain language also works best for search engine visibility.”

Just like animals in the forest, people tend to follow a strong information scent until they find what they are looking for. But as soon as the information scent dries up, they back track and start looking elsewhere, often going to a competitors website or heading back to the search engine. This is how Nielsen put it: “Predators following a strong spoor are firmly convinced that they’ll find their prey at the end of the trail, and thus are less likely to be distracted and wander off the path…[and] they’ll keep going as long as they continue to find links that seem to take them closer and closer to their goal.“

But Nielsen also reminds us the information scent along is not enough to satisfy information hungry visitors. If the quest ultimately yields no fruit, visitors will remember this and they’ll avoid those unfruitful hunting ground in the future. Ultimately, as has been said time and time again, content is king. “The two main strategies are to make your content look like a nutritious meal and signal that it’s an easy catch. These strategies must be used in combination: users will leave if the content is good but hard to find, or if it’s easy to find but offers only empty calories….Once their next morsel becomes a bit difficult to find, they can move to richer hunting grounds.”

Remember, “what the site actually delivers is more important, but you’ll never get experienced repeat visitors unless their first encounter is fruitful” (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, August 2, 2004: Deceivingly Strong Information Scent Costs Sales).

Recommendations to Improve Information Scent

Here are some best practice recommendations to improve the information scent on your site:

  • Use highly relevant keywords in the navigation menus, headlines, and hyperlinks.
  • Provide real value to end users, so they will want to return to valuable content hunting grounds.
  • Help visitors find what they are looking for quickly and easily with good information architecture and menus.
  • Encourage users to return. Keep content fresh and use social media and email newsletters to bring visitors back to your site.
  • Increase visit frequency by addressing users’ immediate needs.
  • Use intra-site linking liberally (link to other relevant pages within your own site).

All of these tips will help visitors know that your site is fertile hunting grounds for the things they are looking for. And as an added bonus, acting on these tips will also help your search engine optimization (SEO), landing page conversion, and overall site performance.

What Defines a Website?

what defines a websiteWhat is a website? Where does one website end and another begin? These questions about what defines a website are basic and may seem inconsequential to some people, but I have observed that the answer has a major impact on website usability and performance management. I have seen countless times in my career that the inability to define a website leads to organizational confusion, poorly conceived web strategies, en-user frustration, and lack luster performance against business goals.

Consistency Across Four Elements

A website is a group of web pages, content, tools, and features with a consistent experience across the whole of it. What defines a given website is its consistency in four areas: 1) domain (or sub-domain) 2) Site ID or Logo 3) Menu or main navigation and 4) the design, style, look, and feel. These four areas serves as a quadruple redundancy to help users know what site they are on, a foundational element in web usability. Without knowing what site they are on, users get uncomfortable and confused about what they can accomplish and how they can navigate to where they want to go.

This doesn’t mean that sites can’t share design elements and it certainly doesn’t preclude sub-branding. In fact, well designed sites can maintain the integrity of what is a website, per the definition above, while at the same time sharing interaction elements and design styles to communicate familiarity and consistency across a family of websites when that is desired.  And in fact, by adhering to the definitions of a website, families of websites get the best of both worlds: clean boundaries, usable interfaces, and the comfort and assurance that comes from an umbrella brand and style.

An Example of Well-Defined Websites

seminary and institute follow website definitions

These principles of what defines a website are perhaps best illustrated through an example. I am no longer, but at one time I was, the product manager of the two websites: the LDS Seminary website and the LDS Institute website.

  • Domain or sub-domain: The Seminary site is located at seminary.lds.org while the Institute site is located at institute.lds.org. These sites are similar in that they are both websites for programs of religious education for young people in the LDS Church. But the programs and assoc
    iated website have two different audiences: Seminary is for high schoolers, roughly aged 14 to 17, while Institute is for young adults aged 18 to 30. All Seminary program and related content and features is located on the seminary.lds.org sub-domain and Institute stuff is, of course, on the institute.lds.org sub-domain.
  • Site ID or Logo: Every site needs a unique site ID or logo. Using the same site ID on two or more different websites is sure to confuse users. Site IDs tell website visitors at a quick glance where they are and how to return to home, or the highest hierarchical page on the site. With the Seminary and Institute sites, each has a unique site ID. Both also share the site ID with the LDS Church logo. This is an efficient and effective way of communicating that both sites are sub-domains of LDS.org, yet they each have their own unique identity as well. They are children sites in the LDS.org family.
  • Main menu: The website menu is a road map to the content, tools, and features on the site. Since the content in each website is unique, every website should have a unique menu, structured to help visitors find content quickly and easily. In the case of the Seminary and Institute sites, each has its own distinct menu options.
  • Design, style, look, and feel: The last element of a unique website is the design or styles. The Seminary and Institute sites’ main differentiation is there color: Seminary = Green and Institute = Blue. Besides that, the sites share most styles and interaction elements, and that’s okay. Again, they are sister websites, and that is also communicated through the design.

Website Menu Principles and Purposes

website menu gap.com analysisCreating a website menu or navigation system is one of the most fundamental and crucial tasks in the Web development process. The menu and other navigation is a road map people use to find their way around your website, therefore it must be well constructed, easy to use, comprehensive, and intuitive. A poorly constructed navigation can cause confusion and frustration for end users. A good website menu  is generally a reflection of good information architecture and will give visitors confidence in the site.

There are many differing opinions about website navigation issues, and of course every site is different, however, for most sites, there is a common set of purposes and principles that should be followed to help ensure good usability. The following should not be construed as an exhaustive list, simply a starting point to help website stake holders think through site menu and navigation. Designing website navigation with the following principles in mind will help ensure that the site purposes are clearly communicated to the end-user to ultimately facilitate better ease-of-use and higher conversion rates.

Purposes of Website Menus

There are four main purposes to website menus or navigation:

  • Help visitors find what they are looking for. The menu and other navigation elements should let people know what is available on your site.
  • Tell visitors where they are. As visitors browse around the site, a quick glance at a well designed navigation should indicate where they are within the structure, or information architecture, of the site.  This is frequently accomplished with highlighted menu items, tab structures, breadcrumbs, or other visual queues.
  • Tell visitors how to use the site. A good menu should be intuitive for users and should help them know how to use the content and features they want quickly and without the need for additional instructions.
  • Give visitors a reference point. Whether visitors drill down into sub-pages of the site, or if the deep link into your site by coming from a search engine or other website, the menu serves as a beacon, or frame of reference. You want visitors to know how to get “home” and what other related content is available on the site, and if you’re lucky, they’ll want to know how to access it. The navigation should provide such knowledge and orientation.

Principles of Usable Website Menu Design

Here are seven high level principles to follow in creating user friendly menus and navigation:

  • Provide a consistent global navigation. Inconsistent navigation, removing menu options, and other changes in site navigation between pages can confuse and frustrate users.  Be consistent across your site so regardless of what page users are on or how they got to the site there is a clear path to high-level destinations, as well as a way back home. Being able to quickly navigate to all major site sections will help visitors see more of the available information and features.
  • Site search prominence. A large percentage of users’ first act on a website is to find and use the internal site search feature.  Giving search-oriented users what they want is a simple formula: a text box, a button, and the word “search.” Studies show users know what to do from there.
  • Use words people use. Be clear in your labels and do not use company-specific jargon. Titles of menu links should be short, descriptive, and intuitive. Users should easily understand what every link leads to (i.e. information scent).
  • Link to popular content and features. A study should be made of the content and features most used or desired by end-users, and links to those should be placed prominently in the navigation.  These decisions may also be business driven; if there are key sections and features that you want to steer visitors to, then make them prominent in the menus.
  • Breadcrumbs are good, but not enough. Breadcrumbs show users how they got to a section but they do not communicate where visitors are in the overall scheme of the site.  Like a road map, the menu should always make it clear where you are, what other destinations are available, that you can get between points with relative ease, and that you can easily go back to where you came from.
  • Conventions are your friend: Use them. Every publishing medium has conventions, and the Web has plenty of it’s own and some it has borrowed (shopping carts, site IDs, logos, even newspaper-like headlines).  Conventions are useful because they provide a reassuring sense of familiarity and communicate how things work quickly and without additional explanation.  Straying from the use of conventions can render features unfindable for users.  For example, items that can be clicked should look clickable (underlined text or graphics that clearly look like buttons), and the use of different colored links for items that have been clicked helps visitors remember where they have previously been and explore new areas.
  • Separate utilities from the main menu. Utilities are links to important features that aren’t really part of the content hierarchy.  They are things like help sections, FAQs, contact information, and perhaps even the shopping cart.  The utilities should be easily findable, but should be less prominent than the major sections of the global navigation.
  • Only site content goes in the site menu. The purpose of a site’s main menu is to help visitors find the content within that site. Links to other websites are not appropriate in a site’s main menu. When linking to other sites, do so within the content section of the web page and not from the menu.

Site ID: The Indispensable Element of Usable Web Navigation

Site IDs

Site IDs are a part of what defines a website and they are an indispensable part of providing a good user experience to visitors.  A site ID tells website users where they are more quickly and succinctly that any other technical or design element. In the world of the internet, where different websites are just a click away, every site and every page needs to clearly and consistently display the site ID.

What is a Site ID?

The site ID is the logo or word art at the top, usually top left, of a website. The site ID identifies the name of the site and sometimes includes a tagline. The site ID is often the logo of the website or company.

Site IDs help visitors know where they are and provide comfort and orientation and a quick way to navigate back to the top-level home of the site. A well implemented site ID is an important part of web usability best practices. Many websites unknowingly confuse their visitors with poorly implemented or inconsistent site IDs or no site ID at all.

This is what Steve Krug, author of the acclaimed web usability book Don’t Make Me Think, has said:

“The site ID or logo is like the building name for a website. At Sears, I really only need to see the name on my way in… But on the Web…I need to see it on every page.  In the same way that we expect to see the name of a building over the front entrance, we expect to see the site ID at the top of the page – usually in the upper left corner…Why? Because the Site ID represents the whole site, which means it’s the highest thing in the logical hierarchy of the site.” (Krug p. 63)

“And in addition to being where we would expect it to be, the Site ID also needs to look like a Site ID. This means it should have the attributes we would expect to see in a brand logo or the sign outside a store: a distinctive typeface, and a graphic that’s recognizable at any size from a button to a billboard.” (Krug p. 64)

There’s No Place Like Home

Jakob Nielsen, another authority on web usability called placing your website name and logo at the top of every page and making the logo link to the home page, one of his top 10 Good Deeds in Web Design. Site IDs, therefore, not only tell visitors what website they are on, but also how to return to home, or the highest hierarchical page on the site.

Krug also has weighed in on this: “One of the most crucial items in the persistent navigation is a button or link that takes me to the site’s Home page. Having a Home button in sight at all times offers reassurance that no matter how lost I may get, I can always start over, like pressing a Reset button or using a “Get out of Jail free” card. There’s an emerging convention that the Site ID doubles as a button that can take you to the site’s Home page. It’s a useful idea that every site should implement.” (Krug p. 66)

Without a consistent and persistent Site ID, users get lost. They get confused about what site they are on and what can be accomplished. Such users are more likely to abandon those website and web conversion rates drop. Successful websites are those that make their sites user friendly and a well-implemented Site ID is a vitally important part of that.

Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader

Book Cover: Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary LeaderRonald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader is a great book by Dinesh D’Souza, a former policy analyst for the Reagan administration. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and particularly, the leadership principles that can be gleaned from Reagan’s words and actions.

After being shot in a failed assassination attempt, Reagan was visited by Mother Teresa who said, “Because of your suffering and pain you will now understand the suffering and pain of the world. This has happened to you at this time because your country and the world need you.” (p. 207) Reagan was a rare and effective leader, the type of which the world needed at that time. While there may never be another Reagan, the world could certainly use more leaders like him, now and in the future. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

Reagan’s Personality

  • “Here was a man who had the most important job in the world, yet he seemed relaxed, even casual, about the way he went about it. He seemed determined to transform the size and role of the federal government, but he seemed curiously detached for its everyday operations…He was comfortable consorting with aristocrats and playing golf with millionaires, who considered him one of them, yet he was equally at home with miner and construction workers, who were convinced that he shared their values and had their interests at heart.” (p. 8 )
  • Reagan was undeterred by other’s opinions: “In 1994, Peggy Noonan wrote Reagan a letter, asking how he felt about the attacks on his reputation. Reagan replied that he wasn’t going to lose sleep over them.” (p 22)
  • “Instead of having superpower relations conducted exclusively through official communiques, Reagan preferred private exchanges in which he could meet Soviet leaders face to face.” (p. 187)
  • “Frequently Reagan would be moved by someone’s tale of distress and, without checking to verify the circumstances, would send a care package or write a personal check.” (p. 216)
  • “He did not sound like a politician,” author Richard Reeves observed, “which made him a great politician.” (p. 249)
  • “Reagan succeeded where countless self-styled wise men have failed because he had a vision for America, he was not afraid to act, and he believed in the good sense and decency of the American people.” (p. 264)

Reagan’s Leadership

  • “This study seeks to solve the mystery. In the process, I have turned my early impression of Reagan on its head, Previously I admired the man but had doubts about his leadership. Now I see that he had his faults as an individual but was an outstanding statesman and leaders.” (p 23)
  • “On Reagan’s watch, dictatorships collapsed in Chile, Haiti, and Panama, and nine more countries moved toward democracy.” (p 27)
  • “He understood the importance of the big picture and would not be distracted by petty detail…He had a Churchillian tenacity about his moral and political beliefs; no matter what anybody said, he would never give in.” (p 29)
  • “We meant to change a nation, and instead we changed the world.” (p. 32)
  • Visiting the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp, he honored the victims of the Holocaust saying, “Here, death ruled. But we have learned something as well. Because of what happened, we found that death cannot rule forever … We are here because humanity refuses to accept that freedom, or the spirit of man, can be extinguished … Out of ashes–hope; and from all the pain–promise.” (p. 234)
  • “One of Reagan’s most remarkable leadership qualities [was] his ability to maintain his course and not to be deterred even in the face of intense opposition.” (p. 235)
  • “Reagan didn’t seem to mind having people on his team who did not share his views … A weak minded man or an inflexible ideologue would have surrounded himself exclusively with like-minded people. Reagan, by contrast, valued multiple channels of information.” (p. 240)

Reagan’s Government and Political Philosophy

  • Reagan is famous for, at least partially and convincingly, setting the expectation that “a president is responsible for the things that happen during his tenure.” When running for president in 1980 against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, Reagan posed the question: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” (p 9)
  • To Reagan, the government’s approach to the economy could be summed up in the following way: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” (p. 53)
  • In his view, the most dangerous words in the English language were: “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” (p. 53)
  • Reagan would point out that even FDR attacked the government handout as a “narcotic” and a “subtle destroyer of the human spirit.” Roosevelt himself promised that government “must and shall quit this business of relief.” (p. 61)
  • When Reagan was informed that a growing economy was bringing in surplus revenues for the government, his immediate reaction was: “Give it back to the taxpayers.” (p. 67)
  • Reagan said he had no intention of hiring people who wanted a job in government; he wanted people of accomplishment from private enterprise who had to be persuaded to join the public sector. (p. 88)
  • “It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal establishment…It is not my intention to do away with government. it is rather to make it work–work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.” (p. 98)
  • Reagan described Washington D.C. as “an island, surrounded on all sides by reality.” (p. 219)

Reagan’s Results

  • “For eight consecutive years, the Gallup Poll pronounced him the most admired man in the country. When he left office, his approval rating was around 70 percent, the highest of any president in the modern era.” (p 10)
  • “Economist Robert Barro issued an economic report card for presidents, based on who did the most to boost economic growth and reduce inflation, unemployment, and interest rates…Reagan’s record on this score is the best of all postwar presidents.” (p 26)
  • “In 1983, the final year that the Reagan tax cuts went into effect, the U.S. economy commenced a seven-year period of uninterrupted growth…the biggest peacetime economic boom in U.S. history.” (p. 109)
  • “As for the middle class, Reagan’s critics are quite right that this group became measurably smaller during the 1980s…They moved up rather than down…During the 1980s, millions of middle-class Americans disappeared into the ranks of the affluent.” (p. 113)
  • “The top 5 percent of income earners, who paid 35% of the Treasury’s tax revenue in 1981, bore 46% of the tax burden in 1988…The Reagan tax cuts, which were attacked as a bonanza for the rich, actually extracted a bigger share of tax revenue from upper-income taxpayers.” (p. 116)
  • Senator Ted Kennedy, who opposed nearly every Reagan initiative, said, “Whether you agree with him or not, Ronald Reagan was an effective president. He stood for a set of ideas … and he wrote most of them not only into public law but into the national consciousness.” (p. 228)

Reagan’s Sense of Humor

  • During one of his political campaigns, he happily signed for a reporter a picture of himself in bed with a chimpanzee from Bedtime for Bonzo, writing across the bottom, “I’m the one with the watch.”
  • Referring to some 1960s counterculture protesters, Reagan said, “Their signs say make love, not war. But they don’t look like they could do much of either.” (p. 71)
  • “A recession,” he said, “is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” (p. 82)
  • Reagan was once informed that government subsidies had created 478 millions pounds of surplus butter. Reagan gasped. “Does anyone know where we can find four hundred and seventy eight million pounds of popcorn?” (p. 103)
  • A reporter yelled to Reagan, “You have blamed the mistakes of the past and you’ve blamed the Congress. Does any of the blame belong to you?” Without missing a beat, Reagan replied, “Yes. Because for many years I was a Democrat.” (p. 106)
  • After being shot in a failed assassination attempt and on his arrival at the hospital, he quipped to the doctors, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.” (p.206)

Family and Religious Values of Reagan

  • “I’ve always believed that we were, each of us, put here for a reason, that there is a plan, a divine plan, for all of us.” (p. 39)
  • Other stars lived in a complicated and fast-paced social world, but nto Reagan. “When the day’s shooting was over,” Nancy Reagan wrote in her autobiography, “he never stayed behind to have a drink with the fellows in the dressing room. He preferred to come home.” (p. 50)
  • As governor of California, on the way out of the office at 5pm, Reagan will call to his staff, “Hey, guys, get out. Go home to your wives.” When aides asked him who would get all the work done Reagan often replied, “It’s not that important. Go home.” (p. 65)
  • Reagan asked the evangelicals in an audience to “pray for the salvation of all those who live in totalitarian darkness” so that “they will discover the joy of knowing God.” (p. 135)
  • The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, Reagan once said, are “covenants we have made not only with ourselves, but with all mankind.” (p. 161)
  • “Reagan frequently complained about the vulgarity and sexual explicitness of contemporary films.” (p. 204)
  • After being shot in a failed assassination attempt, Reagan said, “I have decided that whatever time I have left is for Him.” (p. 207)
  • Reagan’s greatest regret was that he was unable to do more as president to protect the lives of the unborn and that America would never be “completely civilized” as long as abortion on demand was legal. (P. 212)
  • Aides who worked with Reagan reported “on several occasions he got down on his knees in the Oval Office and prayed with people who came to see him.” (p. 213)

Reagan on Freedom and Socialism

  • “You can’t control the economy without controlling people,” Reagan said in a campaign address for Barry Goldwater. “I suggest to you that there is no left or right, only an up or down: Up to the maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their humanitarian purpose, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have, whether the know it or not, chosen this downward path.” (p. 58)
  • Reagan questioned the very idea of government as a catalyst of social good. “Either we accept the responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American revolution and confess that an intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.” (p. 59)
  • “The best social program,” Reagan liked to say, “is a job.” (p. 68)
  • “Everyone feels sorry for the individual who has fallen by the wayside or who can’t keep up in our competitive society, buy my own compassion goes beyond  that to those millions of unsung men and women who get up every morning, send their kids to school, go to work, try to keep up the payments on their house, pay exorbitant taxes to make possible compassion for the less fortunate, and as a result have to sacrifice many of their own desires and dreams.” (p. 69)
  • “Freedom is … the universal right of all God’s children. Our mission is to defend freedom and democracy.” (p. 152)

Standing up to Communism

  • Reagan liked to quote Chambers and Solzhenitsyn: “Communism is a false religion that seeks to destroy the family, private property, and genuine religious faith in order to achieve a kind of earthly paradise.” (p. 75)
  • “The Soviet empire is faltering because rigid centralized control has destroyed incentives for innovation, efficiency and individual achievement.” (p. 140)
  • “There was one vital factor in the ending of the Cold War,” Margaret Thatcher said. “It was Ronald Reagan’s decision to go ahead with the Strategic Defense Initiative.” (p. 173)
  • Reagan advanced a case for missile defense that was not tactical but moral. Said he, “there was no way I could tell our people their government would not protect them against nuclear destruction.” (p. 190)
  • “Cardinal Casaroli, the Vatican secretary of state, remarked publicly that the Reagan military buildup, which he opposed at the time, placed unsustainable demands on the Soviet economy and thus precipitated the events that led to the disintegration of communism.” (p. 196)

Hatred of Reagan from Media and Intelligentsia

  • “Writing in Harper’s, Ncholas von Hoffman confesses that it was ‘humiliating to think of this unlettered, self-assured bumpkin being our president.” (p 14)
  • “Robert Wright of the New Republic pronounced him ‘virtually brain dead.'” (p 14)
  • “Right when [the elites] were busy sorting out the world’s problems, along came this corny Californian with no credentials or experience, armed with nothing but his own wacky ideas. He was able to oppose them successfully because he enjoyed a rapport with the American public that the elites never really understood.” (p 18)
  • From the New York Times: “The stench of failure hangs over Ronald Reagan’s White House.” (p. 106)

Ward Emergency Plan

The LDS Church Handbook encourages wards to “develop and maintain a simple written plan for the ward to respond to emergencies” (LDS Church Handbook 2: Administering the Church, see the section on Ward Councils). As the Emergency Preparedness Specialist in my ward, I was asked to put together our ward emergency plan. The plan has gone through several revisions as it has been read and edited by both our ward bishopric and the stake emergency preparedness specialist. Though the plan is not perfect, and will likely undergo future revisions, there have been requests to share it. Please find our ward emergency plan below, as well as several other emergency preparedness related documents and information that others in this calling may find useful.

Downloads

  • Ward Emergency Plan for Emergency Preparation and Emergency Response. Page one and two are designed to be passed out to every family in the ward. Page three and four are designed primarily for priesthood leaders.
  • Ward Emergency Preparedness Survey.  This survey serves two purposes, to inform priesthood leaders what resources are available in case of emergency, and to let them know in what areas the members of the ward are and are not prepared.
  • Stake Emergency Disaster Plan. This was created our stake. I don’t think they’ll mind me sharing it. Our ward plan was designed to fit into this plan.

Guiding Principles for Developing Our Ward Emergency Plan

Some, but not all, of the principles that guided the creation of our ward emergency preparation and response plan are:

  • Keep it Simple. Wards are to “develop and maintain a simple written plan for the ward to respond to emergencies.” (LDS Church Handbook 2)
  • Focus on the Family. “The family [is] the fundamental unit of society.” (The Family Proclamation)
  • Watch Over Neighbors. “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10: 36-37)
  • Utilize the Priesthood. “You don’t need any other organization. I have given you the greatest organization there is… Nothing is greater than the priesthood organization. All in the world you need to do is to put the priesthood to work.” (Harold B. Lee, welfare meeting, Oct. 3, 1970)
  • Take Individual Initiative. “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27)
  • Focus on doctrine more than behavior. President Boyd K. Packer has said that “true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior”, and that “the study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”
  • Have Faith. “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

Potential Disasters to Consider

As I began to formulate our ward emergency plan, one of the first things my mind turned to was thinking about the possible emergency situations that we need to prepare for. I considered many emergency situation, both temporal and spiritual. (As a brief side note, Elder Hales and President Uchtdorf have both discussed the spiritual side of emergency preparedness in recent general conference talks. Elder Hales encouraged us to be “spiritually self-reliant” and President Uchtdorf encouraged us to develop “spiritual strength” in preparation for “spiritual distress”. See Providing in the Lord’s Way and Coming to Ourselves.) With regard to the temporal emergency situations, these are some that we considered as we wrote up the plan (please note that the potential natural disasters in your area may be different than ours):

  • Higher Likelihood/Lower Magnitude: Loss of job/loss of income, Loss of a spouse (through death or divorce), Blizzard (home bound without power for several days), Evacuation due to fire threat, etc.
  • Medium Likelihood/Medium Magnitude: Severe drought or reduction in food supply, Major societal economic problems (runaway inflation, etc.), Minor Earthquake (5 or 6 on the Richter scale), Energy crisis (expensive or unavailable gas, rolling blackouts, etc.), and so forth.
  • Lower Likelihood/Higher Magnitude: Major Earthquake (7 or 8 on the Richter scale), World War/Nuclear Bomb/EMP, Outbreak of disease that requires quarantine or evacuation, House fire, etc.

Ward Emergency Response Plan Overview

  • Ward Emergency Response Plan OverviewFamily First. Each head of household ensures the safety and well-being of his/her family, tends to those needs first, and makes a report to the home teachers regarding needs and injuries. Each family should be contacted by their home teacher regarding needs and injuries, but if you don’t hear from them, try reaching out to them or your quorum leadership (EQ presidency or HPG leadership) or other ward leadership such as the Relief Society.
  • Next, check on neighbors. If you are able to do so without putting yourself or your family at risk, look in on your neighbors (members and non-members) and tend to their needs. Report their status to priesthood leaders as you are able.
  • Home Teachers. Each home teacher should summarize the information he receives and report the needs, injuries, and other pertinent information to his quorum leadership (block captains/home teaching supervisors or directly to the quorum presidency/leadership, depending on how your ward leaders decide to organize).
  • Quorum Leadership. The Elders Quorum presidency and High Priest Group leadership should seek out information on all families in their stewardship. They send a summary report of needs, injuries, etc. to the bishop (or bishopric member).
  • Bishopric. The bishopric gathers information on families in the ward and organizes resources to address those needs. They report injuries, needs, and other pertinent information to the stake leaders who will be in communication with local city and state agencies.

FAQs

In anticipation of potential questions, let me address two things: why is there so little about the role of the Relief Society and block captains.

Relief Society: This plan utilizes the sisters of the Relief Society in many ways. The the ward emergency plan should be reviewed and approved by the Relief Society and all other members of the ward council. If you download the ward emergency plan, you will see that the priesthood brethren are instructed to consult with and utilize the sisters of the Relief Society in the event of an emergency. Also, the family first directive to teach, prepare, and respond will frequently be handled by women, either jointly with their husband or as the head of their household if they are single. Women of the Relief Society will also be expected to follow the guiding principles of taking initiative and caring for neighbors. Having said all that, the role of the Relief Society could be flushed out more, and likely will be with further discussions and future versions of the ward emergency plan.

Block captains: Block captains are a convenient way to make sure everyone, member and non-member, in the geographic area of your ward, are looked after in the event of an emergency. Block captains can work well in areas with a high density of Mormons such as many neighborhoods in Utah, but they may not work as well elsewhere. I also think it is important that members of the ward not be confused by an additional layer of reporting. Members are more likely to know and be familiar with their home teachers, rather than a block captain. Block captains are a great way for the priesthood to organize itself, but it is not necessarily an effective way to expect the members to communicate in the event of a disaster.

62 Reasons Not to Vote for Barack Obama

I wanted to call this post 101 Reasons Not to Vote for Barack Obama, but I’ve only gotten to 62 reasons…so far. I’m going ahead and publishing it because I felt it would be better to get the information out there rather than delaying. I want as much time as possible to convince at least one person, hopefully more and preferably in swing states, to not vote for Barack Obama.

Of course there are plenty of additional reasons not to vote for Barack Obama, and perhaps I will add them in the coming weeks. If you have ideas of things I missed, please add them in the comments. The reasons are not necessarily in order of importance, but I did segment the reasons by the following categories.

Without further delay, my 62 reasons not to vote for Barack Obama are that he…

    Poor Economic Performance

  1. Is presiding over one of the slowest economic recoveries in recent US history. (see GDP Growth: Obama Presides Over Second Slowest Economic Recovery Since World War II)
  2. Has increased our national debt by over $5 trillion. Our country’s debt stood at $10 trillion when Obama took office. In August 2012 it stood at over $15 trillion dollars, a 50% increase in less than four years. (see Obama laments student loan debt, the national debt- not so much)
  3. Asked for only one term if he couldn’t turn the economy around. In 2009, Pres. Obama said, “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” (see GOP celebrates Obama 2009 comment: ‘One-term proposition‘)
  4. Spent billions on a stimulus that hasn’t worked. Within a month of taking office, Pres. Obama gave us a trillion dollar stimulus, of borrowed or printed money, and a promise of 3 million jobs by the end of 2010, but it has not worked. (see Obamanomics Has Failed)
  5. Has presided over major decline in household income. In the first two years of the Obama administration, household income fell by $4,000 (down 6.7%) and has yet to recover. (see U.S. Incomes Kept Falling)
  6. Thinks his economic plan worked. Talking about his tax policies and their influence on job and government deficits, in July 2012 Pres. Obama said, “Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked.” (see Obama: ‘Our Plan Worked’)
  7. Thinks private sector is doing “just fine.” He says, in fact, in June 2012, that we need to take more money from the private sector to give to city and state governments. (see Obama: “The Private Sector Is Doing Fine”)



  8. Inability to Help Create Jobs

  9. Has added virtually zero new jobs. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 0.1 million jobs created during the 3.5 years of the Obama Administration, the lowest in more than 60 years. (see Labor statistics tell Obama story)
  10. Is more interested in improving his golf game than the job market. As of August 2012, Pres. Obama has played 104 rounds of golf while in office, including 12 outings since the last meeting of his Jobs Council on January 2012. (see The Obama Golf Counter)
  11. Has presided over record unemployment rates. With 3 years with unemployment topping 8 percent, the U.S. is in the longest period of high unemployment since the Great Depression.(see CBO: Longest Period of High Unemployment Since Great Depression)
  12. Has overseen record low workforce participation. The number of people in the work force, the labor force participation rate, has fallen to 63.6 %, the lowest level since 1981. And in Aug. 2012 we hit a new record with 88 million Americans out of work. (see When An Unemployment Rate Decline is Bad News and Record Americans Not in Labor Force)



  13. National Security and Foreign Policy Problems

  14. Does not enforce immigration laws. In June 2012, Pres. Obama decided not to enforce immigration laws for certain individuals who came to the US illegally, allowing them instead to apply for work authorization. (seeObama administration to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants)
  15. Has cut the defense budget and put our national security at risk. The Obama administration has stated that America can make due with a smaller military. They have reduced the Army and Marine Corps as well as cutting new investments in weapons and defense systems. (see Obama cuts defense to the boneand Russian Nuclear sub sitting off US shores for a month)
  16. Has made the situation in Afghanistan worse. Violence has increased dramatically since Obama took office. Over 2,000 soldiers (1,500 from the US) have been killed there since January 2009 – more than two-thirds of the total who have died in the 11-year war. (see Obama lied about Afghanistan in DNC speech; glossed over worsening war and Casualties of Operation Enduring Freedom)
  17. Supported the Arab Spring leading to Muslim extremist takeover in Egypt and US diplomats killed in Libya. (see Just What Is The Muslim Brotherhood? and Useful Idiots for an Islamic Revolution and Protesters Storm U.S. Embassies in Yemen, Egypt and New Axis of Evil: Egypt’s Intelligence Head Met with Iranian Spy)
  18. Thumbs his nose at allies, soldiers of the greatest generation, and freedom loving people. In a rude gesture of contempt to a great ally, one of Obama’s first acts as president was to remove a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. (see Barack Obama sends bust of Winston Churchill on its way back to Britain)
  19. Has not supported Israel. Obama has never visited Israel and has taken steps to weaken that ally, the only democracy in the region. (see Obama won’t meet Netanyahu over Iran and Romney Ad Blasts Obama’s Record on Israel)
  20. Has skipped 56% of intelligence briefings. The middle east is on fire, with protests and attacks at our embassies all over the Muslim world. Meanwhile Obama is skipping more than half of his intelligence briefings. (see Why is Obama skipping more than half of his daily intelligence meetings?)



  21. Lack of Family Values: Marriage, Abortion, Education

  22. Refuses to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. The Obama administration announced in February 2011 that it would no longer defend the federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. (see Obama Administration Drops Defense of Marriage Law)
  23. Funds abortions. Two days after taking office in 2009, President Obama instituted policies to allow federal funds to be used for promoting and performing abortions in other countries. (see Funding Restored to Groups That Perform Abortions)
  24. Supports infanticide. As a state senator, Obama opposed legislation that would grant legal protection to babies that survive a botched abortion. (see When Obama Voted For Infanticide)
  25. Proposed to eliminate school choice in Washington DC. (see Obama’s Budget Ends Funding for D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and School Choice in D.C. Saved…For Now)



  26. Socialized Medicine, and Other Socialist, Near Communist, Tendencies

  27. Has taken control of one-sixth of the economy through his health care law. Unprecedented regulations, fees, subsidies, taxes, and rule-setting boards in Obamacare give the federal government control over the health care system. (see The Real Reason Obamacare Scares People)
  28. Is depressing economic growth with ObamaCare. As one example, an Indiana-based medical equipment manufacturer recently scrapped plans to open five new plants because of the health care law. (see Obamacare’s 21 tax hikes are killing jobs and Company scraps plans for expansion over ObamaCare device tax)
  29. Has turned over unprecedented law making power to government bureaucrats. The phrase “the Secretary shall determine” is found hundreds of times in the Obamacare legislation to describe future health care regulations. This is an unconstitutional usurpation of power. (see Obamacare encouraging government by edict, not law)
  30. Wants to control what you eat. It’s one thing to teach and encourage children to eat healthy, but President and Mrs. Obama do it through force, intimidation, and expensive regulation. (see New Rules for School Meals and First lady ribs Gabby Douglas about McDonald’s and Michelle Obama want to change the nature of food in grocery stores).
  31. Claims to be for the little guy, but is in bed with big business. GE’s CEO is appointed to Obama’s economic recovery board in 2009 and then in 2010, despite profits of $14.2 billion, GE paid no taxes thanks to the “green-energy” giveaways of Obamanomics. (see The Unholy Marriage Of GE And President Obama)
  32. Would rather redistribution wealth than create it. In April 2012, Obama touted the many ways he has taken from producers and “spread it around”: the bailout of GM, government takeover of student loans, and his health-care law, as he called for even more tax and spend. (see Obama Calls for More Redistribution of Wealth)
  33. Took over and nationalized all student loans. In 2010, Obama signed a law making the federal government’s Department of Education the sole provider of student loans. (see Feds take over student loan program from banks and Bill Upends System for College Loans)



  34. Failed Fiscal Policy

  35. Has bombarded Americans with new and higher taxes. ObamaCare contains 20 new or higher taxes on the American people, from the 10 percent “tanning tax” to the tax on comprehensive health insurance plans. (see Five major ObamaCare taxes that will hit your wallet in 2013)
  36. Undermined the free market with TARP/stimulus. This and the former administration have set the precedent of giving tax payer money to firms that, at its discretion, it deems worth supporting. That puts the government, not the free market, in the position of picking winners and losers in the economy. (seeTransforming America: The Bush-Obama Stimulus Programs and Obama Signs Stimulus Into Law)
  37. Has used stimulus money on wasteful projects and to pay off cronies. (see Solyndra’s failure is Obama’s, too and Treasury Dept approves huge paydays for execs at firms who received TARP bailout and Stimulus Funds for Green-Industry Grows Trees, But Few Jobs)
  38. Is a hypocrite on the national debt. Pres. Obama called the $4 trillion in national debt under the two terms of George Bush “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” Then in his first term proceeded to grow the debt by over $6 trillion. (see Obama calls $4 trillion national debt “unpatriotic”)
  39. Lost billions of tax payer dollars bailing out auto industry. The Obama Administration sold its shares of Chrysler for a loss of $1.3 billion, and US taxpayers stand to lose $16 billion for the GM bailout. (see U.S. Government Ends Chrysler Investment With $1.3 Billion Loss and Auto bailout price tag rises to $25 billion)
  40. Grows government at the expense of the private sector. During this recession, the private sector workforce has shrunk by 6.6% and lost more than 7.5 million jobs. Over that same period, the federal government workforce  has grown by 11.7%. (see Federal Workforce Continues to Grow Under Obama Budget)
  41. Has no plan to get government debt under control. Tim Geithner: “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term [debt] problem. What we do know is that we don’t like yours.” (see the Geithner ‘no plan’ video)
  42. Broke promise to cut deficit in half. In Feb 2009, Pres. Obama said “I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term.” (see Obama’s Broken Deficit Promise)



  43. Character Flaws and His Extreme Ideology

  44. Thinks all money belongs to the government. He has said he will not accept a budget that allows the well-to-do to “keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that [they] don’t need.” (see Obama Aims for the Money You Don’t “Need”)
  45. Has an enemies list and intimidates contributors to his opponent. The man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you) has targeted private citizens who contribute to the Republicans with intimidation and threats. (see The President Has a List)
  46. Is a hypocrite about playing by same rules. In his 2012 acceptance speech, he said twice that he thinks it is best if “everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules.” Yet his is the party of affirmative action (different rules for different skin colors), and the progressive tax system (higher tax rates for higher earners). He hand picks the winners and losers in the economy with bailout money, and he passes a healthcare law and then hands out waivers to a select few. (see More Big Companies, Unions Win Health Care Waivers)
  47. Dissed the Boy Scouts. The Jamboree marking the  Boy Scouts’ 100th anniversary was held in Virginia, right in the president’s backyard, yet he didn’t attend because he was too busy taping his appearance on The View. (see Obama skips historic boy scout jamboree)
  48. Failed to support law enforcement and instead played the race card. This event with Sgt. James Crowley and Henry Louis Gates Jr. showed Pres. Obama’s true colors, his cronyism, his view that America is racist, and his lackluster support for the police. (see Cambridge Cop, Disappointed in Obama’s ‘Stupidly’ Comment, Refuses to Apologize)
  49. Is incredibly arrogant. Pres. Obama has said, “I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it…a better speechwriter than my speechwriters…a better political director than my political director.” (see Obama Thinks the World of Himself)
  50. Thinks government is the source of all business success. Pres. Obama has told business owners and working professionals, “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own” and “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” (see Obama to business owners: ‘You didn’t build that’)
  51. Fosters a very partisan political tone. In 2010, Pres. Obama claimed democrat policies were pulling the country out of recession and “We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.” (see Obama To GOP: ‘Sit In Back’)
  52. Lies to score political points. Washington Post biographer David Maraniss has uncovered several lies that Pres. Obama has told throughout his books and speeches about his grandfather, parents, and girlfriends. (see Is President Obama A Pathological Liar? and Obama: ‘New York girlfriend’ was composite)
  53. Doesn’t take care of his own family. His half brother in Nairobi lives in a shanty.  His aunt in Kenya needs dental work. Pres. Obama hasn’t offered to help either. (see How I became George Obama’s ‘brother’)
  54. Does not play well with others in Washington. Obama, accepting no democrat responsibility for the economic mess in the country, in 2009 referring to Republicans said “I want them just to get out of the way …[and] don’t do a lot of talking.” (see Obama Tells Economic Critics to ‘Get Out of the Way’)
  55. Takes an inordinate number of extravagant vacations at the tax payers expense. The Obama’s took more than 5 extended family vacations per year in this first three years in office. (see Michelle’s ski trip marks 16 Obama vacations)
  56. Will take one stance during the campaign and another after the election. (see During missile defense talk, Obama tells Medvedev he’ll have ‘more flexibility’ after election)



  57. Poor Record on Energy and Environment

  58. Has made our country less energy independent. He did not approve the Keystone Pipeline, and he shut down oil production in the gulf. (see Obama rejects Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas and Gulf Lawmakers Plead With Obama to Ease Drilling Ban, Warn of Economic Blow)
  59. Lost millions of tax payer dollars giving loans to “green” companies. Solar-panel manufacturer, Solyndra, received a $535 million taxpayer-backed loan from the Obama Administration and soon thereafter filed for bankruptcy. (see House subpoenas White House for Solyndra documents and Taxpayers to Recover a Mere $24 Million from Solyndra; Networks Ignore)
  60. Showed poor leadership and poor judgment in the wake of the gulf oil spill. Pres. Obama made a bad situation worse. By proclaiming it the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history and then putting a moratorium on drilling, he has cost jobs, lowered property values, and devastated tourism. (see Our Real Gulf Disaster)



  61. Who He Chooses to Associate With: Friends and Advisers

  62. Gives us a tax cheat to run the Treasury. Tim Geithner failed to pay tens of thousands in self-employment tax between 2001 and 2004. (see Did Geithner Make an Honest Mistake?)
  63. Has an incompetent vice president. Biden’s gaffes, racists remarks, and just plain stupid comments are too numerous to mention here. Forbes recently called into question his mental capacity. We certainly do not want him as second in command. (see Joe Biden’s Gaffes Call For A Thorough Neurological Examination)
  64. Has given us a contemptuous, racist, partisan attorney general. Eric Holder has been voted in contempt of congress over the ‘fast and furious’ gun running scandal, and he refuses to prosecute the new black panthers for clear voter intimidation. (see Holder’s Black Panther Stonewall)
  65. Has domestic terrorist friends. Obama launched his political career from the home of two well known left-wing, radical terrorists, William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Obama also served together on the board of a Chicago foundation with Bill Ayers. (see Obama once visited ’60s radicals)
  66. Had a communist mentor influence his thinking. Obama’s political and “social justice” thinking was influenced by his decade long mentoring relationship with a prominent member of the Communist Party USA, Frank Marshall Davis. (see Obama’s Marxist Mentor)
  67. Brought an avowed, radical, revolutionary communist, Van Jones, into the White House. (see Obama Drafts Van Jones as Green Jobs Adviser and Van Jones, in His Own Words and White House Adviser Van Jones Resigns Amid Controversy Over Past Activism)



  68. Growth of the Welfare State and Dependency

  69. Took the work out of welfare. In July 2012, Pres. Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an official policy directive undermining the welfare reform law of 1996. The new policy guts the federal work requirements that have been the foundation of that law. (see Obama Ends Welfare Reform As We Know It)
  70. Partners with Mexico to boost food stamp enrollment. The Obama Administration has an agreement with Mexico to promote food stamps among Mexican nationals and migrant communities in America. (see USDA partnering with Mexico to boost food stamp participation)
  71. Has overseen record high food stamps usage. This is a sign of the economic hard times and the growing dependency of people on the government. (see Number Of Americans On Food Stamps Hits Another High)

Basic Principles of Self-Reliance

Work-Self-RelianceAs discussed in my post on the doctrinal basis of emergency preparedness, work and self-reliance are key aspects of having our physical needs met in good times and bad. These principles are, thus, essential to our temporal happiness. Our Father in Heaven, in his wisdom, has commanded us to “prepare every needful thing” (see D&C 109:8) so that, should disaster strike, we may care for ourselves, our families, and others around us.

The LDS Church teaches that families should become self-reliant in the following key areas:

  • Home and Food Storage
  • Finances
  • Education and Employment
  • Spiritual Strength

Home and Food Storage

LDS Church leaders have long encouraged members to prepare for unexpected emergencies in life by having a basic supply of food and water and other needs for the home. “We ask that you be wise as you store food and water and build your savings. Do not go to extremes; it is not prudent, for example, to go into debt to establish your food storage all at once. With careful planning, you can, over time, establish a home storage supply and a financial reserve” (message from the First Presidency, All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage, 2007). Families should always practice good sanitation and hygiene and obtain adequate medical and dental care, and in times of emergency, their home storage should include items to help them stay clean and healthy.

The Basics of Food Storage

Said former LDS Church President Gordon B, Hinckley with regard to food storage: “We can begin ever so modestly. We can begin with a one week’s food supply and gradually build it to a month, and then to three months” (To Men of the Priesthood, Ensign, March 2009). Here are some simple steps:

  • Three-Month Supply: Start by building a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet.
  • Drinking Water: Store drinking water for circumstances in which the water supply may be polluted or disrupted.
  • Longer-Term Supply: As you are able, slowly build a reserve of food and other supplies that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive.

The Basics of Family Finances

As noted above, Latter-day Saints have been counseled for many years to prepare for a variety of emergencies by having a little money set aside. “We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from this bondage. Save a little money regularly to gradually build a financial reserve” (see First Presidency Message, All Is Safely Gathered In – Family Finances, 2007). Here are some basic steps for complying with this counsel:

  • Pay Tithes and Offerings: The Lord has promised to open the windows of heaven and pour out great blessings upon those who pay tithes and offerings faithfully (see Malachi 3:10).
  • Avoid Debt: Spending less money than you make is essential to your financial security. Avoid debt and pay off what debt you have as quickly as possible.
  • Use a Budget: Make a plan of how you will spend your money and stick to it. Include Church donations, how much you will save, and what you will spend for food, housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, insurance, etc.
  • Build a Reserve: Include in your budget an amount to put away for a rainy day, and use that financial reserve only in emergencies.

Education and Employment

Getting a good education and employment are two pillars upon which self-reliance and temporal well-being rest. Members of the Church are advised by their leaders to get as much education as they can, including completing high school and attending college or a technical schooling where possible. “Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). Getting an education will help individuals develop their talents, find suitable employment, and make a valuable contribution to their families, the Church, and the community.

Spiritual Strength

Self-reliance also includes developing your own strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ so you can be self-sufficient spiritually. As Paul told the Philippians and as Moroni commented in the Book of Mormon, “Come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27, see also Philippians 2:12) Church members have been counseled to develop spiritual strength and their own testimonies by exercising faith in God the Father and Jesus Christ, obeying Their commandments, studying the scriptures, and serving their fellow beings.

We can also develop spiritual strength and personal testimony by following the counsel of the living prophets to prepare physically as outlined above. The Lord has said, “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal.” (D&C 29:34)

When we have developed our own spiritual strength, then we can be as Job who, even though his family and friends scorned him, he kept his testimony of Heaven, and said with confidence about the Lord: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…[and] he also shall be my salvation.” (Job 13: 15 – 16)

Doctrinal Basis of Emergency Preparedness

woman checking food for emergency preparednessAs I embark in my new calling as emergency preparedness specialist in my ward, I wanted to start by studying the doctrinal basis of emergency preparedness. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said that leaders, before rushing into the tactics of getting the job done, should start by stepping back and understanding the big picture. He said a leader should set the vision, focus on the Savior, and understand the why of what we are asked to do. Then you will be more likely to receive inspiration in figuring out how to get things done, and you will be much more likely to achieve your goal (from the Leadership Enrichment Series, November 9, 2011).

Heavenly Father Wants Us to Be Happy on Earth

The foundational part emergency preparedness, from a gospel perspective, was a little difficult for me to identify at first because it almost seems like a given that needs little verbalization: Heavenly Father loves us, and wants us to be happy, and doesn’t want to see us suffer.

  • During his mortal ministry, the Savior said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).
  • The prophet Lehi taught that “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).
  • The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255-256).
  • Jesus Christ suffered and died for us so that he would “know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12).

The Savior had mercy on the people during his earthy sojourn, and healed the sick and afflicted in Palestine and in the Americas. The Lord’s love and mercy to relieve suffering and grant blessings is found throughout the scriptures.

Fathers’ Responsibility to Provide for His Family

Of course, a major part of being happy in this life is having our physical needs met. Everyone needs the basics of food and shelter. The Family Proclamation teaches that “Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” This sentence doesn’t apply just to the good times; the Lord expects men to provide for the families come what may.

  • The apostle Paul taught that “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).
  • The Lord taught Joseph Smith, “And again, verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown; and let him labor in the church. Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways.” (D&C 75:28-29)
  • “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken; and if they are not found transgressors they shall have fellowship in the church. And if they are not faithful they shall not have fellowship in the church; yet they may remain upon their inheritances according to the laws of the land. All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.” (D&C 83:2-4)
  • “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God….Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” (D&C 88:119, 124)

It is clear that the Lord wants the physical necessities of life met for all individuals. Of course, as the Family Proclamation explains, there will be circumstances when a husband/father is not around. In those cases, family, friends should lend a hand to help meet those needs. “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”

Happiness through Work and Not Idleness

In 1936, the First Presidency outlined a welfare plan for the Church. They said, “Our primary purpose was to set up … a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3).

Work is an important and eternal principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God works and it brings him glory (see Moses 1:39). The Lord commanded the first man, Adam, to work saying “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” (Gen 3:19) and in the Book of Moses we are told that “Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him” (Moses 5:1). I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi taught that he “did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands,” and soon thereafter he said that “we lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:17, 27). Good work ethic is a fundamental part of individual happiness, self-worth, and prosperity.

Self-Reliance

One final gospel principle basis for emergency preparedness of that of self-reliance. The Church has long taught that the responsibility for each person’s spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being lies first with themselves, second with their family, and third on the Church. The LDS Church Handbook says, “Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family. As members become self-reliant, they are also better able to serve and care for others…Church members are responsible for their own spiritual and temporal well-being. Blessed with the gift of agency, they have the privilege and duty to set their own course, solve their own problems, and strive to become self-reliant. Members do this under the inspiration of the Lord and with the labor of their own hands.” (From the Welfare section of Handbook 2, 6.1.1 Self-Reliance)

Conclusion

As we seek for happiness in this life, we will be more likely to achieve it if we are prepared for any emergency. When we are self-reliant and understand the principle of work, we will be better prepared to care for our own needs and the needs of our families and others. We will have the temporal blessings of safety and security, and as we serve and help others we will be richly blessed with Heavenly rewards.

Emergency Preparedness Specialist Calling

A couple of weeks ago, I received a calling in my ward to be the “Emergency Preparedness Specialist.” Seeing how I know very little about this subject, I thought I would document what I learn in my blog. Having this forum to write about emergency preparedness, I believe, will also motivate me, help me learn more, and provide me a place to post the resources I find.

An “In Between the Lines” Calling

When a member of my ward bishopric called me into his office and extended a call for me to serve, I accepted without hesitation. I then asked if he had any information he could give me about the duties of the Emergency Preparedness Specialist calling. He directed me to look up what it says about the calling in the LDS Church Handbook. When I got home, I went to LDS.org to the online version of Church Handbook 2. I searched and was ultimately unable to find information on this calling, but I wasn’t sure if it was that the calling didn’t exist or if it was just usability problems on the website. I pulled out my wife’s hard copy of the handbook, and searched some more, and eventually realized that there was no documented calling titled “Emergency Preparedness Specialist.”

Some time later I ran into a member of the bishopric in the hall at Church one Sunday. He asked me how my calling was going, and I said I wasn’t sure where to start. He asked me if I had read in the Handbook about the duties of my calling. I said I had looked but was unable to find that specific calling. He responded, “Yeah, that’s one of those in-between-the-lines callings,” and encouraged me to seek the inspiration from the Lord on how to magnify the calling.

What the Handbook Does Say Related to Emergency Preparedness

LDS Church Handbook 2: Administering the Church discusses the concept of the ward Welfare Specialist. It says:

“Welfare specialists serve as resources to help the bishopric and to help Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society leaders perform their welfare duties. The bishopric may call an employment specialist to help members prepare for and find suitable employment. The bishopric may also call other welfare specialists to help members with needs such as education, training, nutrition, sanitation, home storage, health care, family finances, and the Perpetual Education Fund.”

In the section on Ward Councils, it says:

“They compile and maintain a list of ward members whose skills might be useful in responding to short-term, long-term, or disaster-caused needs. They develop and maintain a simple written plan for the ward to respond to emergencies (see Handbook 1, 5.2.11). They coordinate this plan with similar plans in the stake and community.”

In the section on Stake Council Meeting, it also talks about emergency preparedness:

“Counsel together about welfare matters. Plan how to encourage members to be self-reliant. Ensure that welfare resources within the stake are made available to the wards as needed. Develop and maintain a simple written plan for the stake to respond to emergencies.”

In the section on policies and guidelines, the Handbook also briefly talks about emergencies.

“During an emergency, the stake presidency determines whether or not to hold regular ward meetings. In a community-wide emergency or disaster, the stake president may assist legitimate disaster relief agencies by allowing meetinghouses to be used as emergency shelters. The Church retains control. Stake and ward leaders ensure that people who use the buildings observe Church standards of conduct, including the Word of Wisdom, while they are in the buildings.”

There is also a sub-section on Self-Reliance, from the Welfare section of the Handbook. It is too lengthy to include here, but I plan to discuss that in a later post.

A Road Map Before Hitting the Accelerator

The counselor in the bishopric has, since that time, flooded me with ideas about what to do with this calling. He has talked to me about emergency response plans for the stake and other wards, about home storage and 72-hour kits, about proper sanitation and the handling of dead bodies, about nuclear weapons attacks and EMPs (electro-magnetic pulses).  For me, moving forward on just about any of those items feels a bit like speeding up when one doesn’t know where he is going.

I think the next step is to develop emergency preparedness goals and plans based on gospel principles, the council of the living prophets, and the needs of the people in this area. According to the handbook, such plans and actions are ultimately the responsibility of the bishopric and ward council members. Yet, the bishopric seems to be looking to me to take the initiative to get it started. I will take that opportunity and begin by doing my homework, properly framing the issue and then, by counseling with the our councils, discuss possible solutions and hopefully arrive at God inspired results.