If World’s Doomed, I’m Grateful to Have a Mormon Mother

We were poor when I was growing up. So poor that we depended on free lunches at school, WIC food vouchers from the government, and occasional trips to the Church welfare office to eat.

But our daily struggle to survive didnt keep my mom from stockpiling food in preparation for the end of the world, which we –like most of the other Mormon families we knew — believed was to occur around the year 2000, give or take a few years.

A bushel of wheat will be worth a barrel of gold when the Second Coming nears, my mom would say as she stocked up on five-gallon containers of freeze-dried space food she purchased from a survival store in our small Northern Utah town. Our cellar shelves were packed with tins of Spam, cans of tomato paste, and bags of pasta and rice. They also held hundreds of home-bottled jars of fruits and vegetables. Lining the walls were three giant aluminum trash cans– like the one Oscar the Grouch lived in on Sesame Street — which housed our bags of whole wheat and powdered milk. We collected plastic milk containers, filled them with tap water, and lugged them down our splintered wooden steps to ensure we had plenty of water to get us by. And to keep our food supply going, Mom dug up our entire half-acre back yard and turned it into a garden.

We spent endless summer days weeding, watering and harvesting vegetables. When we werent doing that, it felt like every free moment was devoted to peeling, slicing, and bottling peaches, apricots, beans, carrots, beets and anything else we could get our hands on.

To keep us motivated, Mom talked about the last days. She said our Mormon-dominated valley would be covered in tents because the gentiles (non-believers) would descend on us for food. We would feed them, of course. But we also needed to save enough for our 1,500 mile trek to Jackson County, Missouri. Thats where we believed the Garden of Eden once stood and where the Second Coming would occur. Mom said we had to walk because the cost of oil would be through the roof — if oil was available at all — making fuel impossible to acquire.

By the time I was eight, I was so obsessed with the end of the world that I lay in bed at night calculating how much time I had left. If the world ended in the year 2000, which was the year my mom always referenced, I had only until age thirty-three. My gut ached at the unfairness of it all. I didnt worry about food. We had that covered. I worried about getting cheated out of my time on earth. I suffered full-on panic attacks trying to think through how I would possibly have enough time to enjoy life (sin), and still have adequate time left over to repent and be saved when we finally made it to Jackson County.

I left the Mormon religion soon after leaving home and refused to have anything to do with the Church — including preparedness. Planting a garden, however small, was out of the question. Just the thought of stepping foot inside of a Costco made me want to throw up. I got into the habit of shopping daily for the food I needed for that evening and the following morning.

I spent so much time stressing over the future as a child that once I reached adulthood, I had enough and vowed to focus on the present. But given the recent uprisings in the Arab world, the ongoing economic crisis, and the devastating tsunamis, earthquakes and tornados wreaking havoc across the globe, Im starting to rethink my position.

What if my mom is right? What if the world really is headed for one big, catastrophic collapse? Even the Mayan calendar ends in 2012. Shouldnt my husband and I be a little prepared?

We do have what my mom has sent us in the surprise UPS packages that occasionally show up at our door tin foil space blankets, hand crank flashlights, a five-pound bag of hot chocolate mix and a ten-pound bag of instant potatoes. But at the moment, we dont have enough water stored to make the hot chocolate or instant mashed potatoes let alone keep us from dying of dehydration.

A friend and I have talked about the need for a wine and preparation evening that involves stuffing personal backpacks with an emergency kit, a three-day food supply and a little cash. Im even working up the resolve to give Costco a try. But if things get really bad, Im grateful to have a Mormon mom who loves me despite our opposing views on religion.

Im certain my mom didnt have me in mind when she talked about gentiles descending on our valley. But if I can find a way to get my family and friends from Seattle, where I now live, to her house in Northern Utah, I know shell welcome us with open arms.

I also know there will be a whole cellar stuffed with food and water waiting for us.

Ingrid Ricks

Ingrid Ricks is a Seattle-based writer and speaker who focuses on overcoming adversity and embracing life. She is the author of Hippie Boy: A Girl's Story, her memoir about a feisty teenage girl who escapes her abusive Mormon stepfather by joining her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond -- until his arrest forces her to take charge of her life. Hippie Boy: A Girl's Story is available as an eBook and paperback on Amazon & BN.com.

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16 Responses

  1. kuri says:

    There are no guarantees, of course, but the trends for humanity are very positive, both in terms of health and wealth and of violence. As I’ve said before, if humanity were to disappear tomorrow, this — right now, today — would have been its Golden Age.

  2. Goldarn says:

    This hit home for meI had figured out really early in life that the End of The World would happen when I was 35. Everyone knew that we didn’t know the hour or the day of His coming, but we knew it would be about the year 2000. There didn’t seem to be much need to prepare for the distant future, not if He was going to arrive and end everything.

    Of course, the whole “End of Times” stuff is just opinion, and always was, and apparently I was supposed to know that.

  3. chanson says:

    Great story!!

    It reminds me of when I was a kid! My dad’s hobby was restoring an antique Model-A Ford. It was cool, and he did a beautiful job on it. Part of the justification for this expensive and time-consuming hobby was the Millenium. (We weren’t poor, but with five kids you have to watch the ol’ budget.) Anyway, this car could theoretically run on ethyl alcohol (moonshine) (not that we actually tested it or anything). So, once petroleum became impossible to come by, and all the faithful were walking to Missouri, our family would be riding there in style in our Model-A Ford!

    It’s sad to see these sorts of unique doctrines get de-emphasized — they can be fun! 😉

  4. Ingrid says:

    kuri…I think you’re right…amid all of the chaos and suffering in the world, it also seems that there are lots of great examples of kindness, humanity. And I have to say..I’m so grateful that my mom and I can see beyond our religious differences and that love, sharing and being there for each other is what matters.

    Goldarn — sounds like we had very similar experiences. Except you had two years of living and fun on me:)

    chanson — love your story. Wish I would have been riding to Missouri in style. I was dreading that walk…

  5. Chino Blanco says:

    Fun stuff. Reminds me why I hang out here. We’ve been to some strange places together and we didn’t even know it at the time.

  6. Alan says:

    Every time I’m at my mom’s, she tells me to get paper bags from under the counter and go “grocery shopping.” By that, she means, go to the pantry dedicated to canned storage and fill those bags up. There’s also an entire bedroom full of stacked boxes of canned goods from a Mormon cannery.

    I usually just get the stuff I’ll use right away, like tuna, soups or diced tomatoes (I live in an apartment), but every once and a while I’ll take those large cans of dried beans or potatoes. My partner and I already buy 50 lb bags of rice that we go through fairly quickly, but that’s the Asian in us and not the Mormon. Seems like things that can be stored for 5+ years are inexpensive, healthy stuffs, so I’m kinda drawn to food storage products for financial/health reasons.

    Given how much food my mom stores, though, she must have knowledge about a very near apocalypse that she’s no longer public about. She’s just quietly maintaining a haven for when it comes.

  7. chanson says:

    Regarding the end of the world — I wouldn’t worry too hard about the Mayan calendar. Every calendar system is going to eventually hit large round numbers, and when you draw a calendar, you naturally get to some point where it’s not useful to explicitly write out the logical extension of which dates will come next. Hell, my calendar is ending this week. I’ve got to go buy myself a new one…

    However, having some reserves on hand just in case is reasonable (as long as you really are rotating them). And if you’re worried about long-term problems (like worldwide shortages of food, fuel, and other resources), you might consider more sustainable provisions, rather than a finite stockpile. Some examples from our blog community include some people who bought an oil press (potentially a fun hobby and also useful in the event of collapse of civilization). Also Chandelle has taken up farming, partially motivated by sustainability concerns.

  8. chanson says:

    Kuri @1 — have you read that Stephen Pinker book that you linked to? I’ve been thinking about reading it, but the reviews I’ve seen indicate that it may be a bit of a disappointment.

  9. Goldarn says:

    @RE the Mayan Calendar: I find it impressive that it lasted until 2012. Our nation couldn’t manage to think 30 years in the future when we invented computerized calendars. 🙂

  10. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    I’ve never forgotten the day I accompanied my mother to the grocery store to pick up a few items. As we walked down an aisle, the spirit impressed on her the importance of a year’s supply , so she filled 3 carts full of groceries and also purchased 17 cases of food.
    I remember because I was the one stuck loading and unloading the food from the Buick Electra’s enormous trunk (as well as the back seat).
    Then there’s the time she bought a ton of wheat. (I don’t know if was an actual ton, but it sure seemed like it.) She bought some contraption for grinding wheat, because she was going to make her own bread. Unfortunately, no one explained to her there were many varieties of wheat and she had purchased the variety used for making hardtack.
    Everyday for lunch, my sandwich consisted of TVP between two bricks. Everyone at school quickly learned not to trade lunches with me.
    But I suppose if the end of the world did come, making hardtack would be a handy skill.

  11. Goldarn says:

    Wow! Someone else who’s Mom had a Buick Electra. Small world (but, as you say, really REALLY big trunk). If the End Of The World did come, you’d easily be able to fit all your food storage inside for the trip to Jackson County.

    As for wheatwhen my father died, we had to clean out the house. We pulled a large dumpster into the drive way, and we had to carry the wheat out from the basement garbage cans in white buckets and dump it. When the service replaced the dumpster, the full one left a trail of wheat all the way up the street.

    My parents’ house had been flooded a few years before, and one of the wheat bags had a hole in it. That wheat was one of the worst smells I’ve ever smelled and I’ve been to countries with open sewers.

    My mother tried to get me to take the wheat home with me. It was 30 years old, but so what? I told her I would if I could get 10 kernels to sprout (meaning it was still good). The fix was in, of course, and I didn’t need to take the wheat. 🙂

  12. chanson says:

    @9 excellent point! We’ve really got to get a per-comment “like” button around here. 😉

  13. kuri says:

    chanson @8,

    I just finished it. The overall thesis — the decline of pretty much all forms of violence over centuries (and indeed millennia) — is compelling and is convincingly presented. (Although there are certainly points that can be quibbled with.)

    At 700 pages of smallish print, the book drags a bit through the late middle chapters, but overall the writing is quite lively for non-narrative non-fiction.

  14. chanson says:

    Sounds interesting! Maybe I should read that book next. I’m currently reading Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, and it sounds like Pinker’s book might be a good follow-up.

  15. Ingrid says:

    I love these stories — so interesting that we all have such similar experiences. My mom is so concerned about the survival of my daughters, my husband and myself that she has stepped up her food storage shipments to twice a month. I now have a stack of packages that say they are all good for 30 years. Beans, pasta, potato flakes, etc. Hot cocoa must be a real commodity when times get tough because thanks to my mom, I know have three ten pound bags of hot cocoa mix.

    OK…this is completely off subject but since everyone is discussing books, I have to share my news. My Memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story was just reviewed for Booklist Magazine the official magazine of the American Library Association. It comes out in mid-Feb and they gave it such a great review. I’m SO EXCITED I can hardly think right now!!

  16. Taryn Fox says:

    Personally, I find it sacrilegious to hoard food. >.> I think hoarding resources when others are going without is a big part of why there’s global unrest right now, and I think it’s not nearly as useful a survival strategy as building social capital and public resources.

    Having said that, I agree that everyone should have at least three days’ worth of supplies on hand at all times if possible, and I did learn some useful things from my time in the LDS church.

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