On a metal storage shelf in the corner of my garage, dozens of multi-liter cans sit stacked on top of one another. They are filled with dehydrated carrots and pinto beans; wheat, oats, and powdered milk—enough food, at least in theory, to keep me, my wife, and our three kids fed for several weeks in the event of an emergency.
I am not a doomsday prepper, nor did I acquire this stockpile in a recent spasm of pandemic panic-shopping. I am, instead, keeping up an odd religious tradition that stretches back more than a century—one that I’ve always found slightly embarrassing and anachronistic, but that’s felt a lot more vital lately.
Like most lifelong Mormons, I grew up hearing about the importance of “food storage.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long encouraged its members to keep enough food, water, and emergency supplies in their home to last at least three months—counsel that has spawned a quirky subculture within the faith, complete with home-pickling seminars, dedicated Pinterest pages, and custom-made furniture for cleverly storing canned goods. While the most extreme practitioners tend toward apocalyptics, the Church offers a more practical reason for food storage: to ensure that “should adversity come, we may care for ourselves and our neighbors, and support bishops as they care for others.”