Church Pandemic Preparedness, or the Apocalypse Bros

As the tide goes out, institutions that were swimming naked get revealed. Think about the Centers for Disease Control (so under control!), or any number of businesses that have apparently been operating with no capital cushion, within spitting distance of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, some other institutions ought to be gaining status, for being particularly well prepared and resilient.

There are some self-evident general principles here, that apply to both individuals and institutions. For example, this is not a good time to have debt or rental payments. It is not a good time for a high-trust, just-in-time, dispersed supply chain. It is not a good time to be operating on the too-clever-by-half razor’s edge.

It is a great time to have equity funding, a cash cushion, and outright ownership of your key assets (house, real estate required for your organization to function). It’s a great time to have been holding some strategic inventory. It’s great to be in a position to avoid contributing to panics, whether by selling securities or purchasing essentials.

For bonus points, it’s nice to be in a position to not just maintain continuity, but actually help other people. Would also be good to have taught other people preparedness while it could still make a difference. Finally, points for having taken some kind of reasonable approach to social distancing, without panicking, but towards the leading edge of the response.

So there are some report card categories. And sitting somewhere right around the top of the class is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The Church avoids debt and saves against a rainy day. It owns its real estate; making rent is not a concern. It has a century-long tradition of storing grain; stockpiles many other essentials (including medical supplies); and also maintains some in-country production of many key food items. And it budgets in a way that allows it to maintain a substantial cushion for disruptive times. (Ensign Peak Advisors, anyone?)

The Church teaches this stuff to its members by precept, not just example. Any member of the Church who is about to be foreclosed on in a TP-less McMansion had plenty of over-the-pulpit warning; members are taught to have a three-month emergency supply and minimize debt.

Meanwhile the Church has economic stabilization baked in. Members who do face a liquidity crunch can benefit from the Church welfare program, drawing on those stockpiled essentials and financial resources. Job search? There’s help there too. Affordable online education? Yep.

For a cherry on top, the Church seems to have been ahead of the curve throughout the response. Medical equipment previously stored at multiple locations (not just panic-bought stuff!) was sent to China in January, before the WHO “public health emergency” announcement hit (timeline for government actions). On Feb. 27 international travel in April from any location was being discouraged by the Church, a couple days before the initial U.S. travel restriction announcement that applied to only a few locations. Home centered church is old news, and all worship services were suspended worldwide effective March 12, shortly before the CDC recommended no gatherings of 50 or more people.  Beating the government to the draw on this sort of thing isn’t necessarily that high of a bar, but still, it has been cleared.

“Latter-Day Saints” is to KJV English as “Apocalypse Bros” is to the vernacular, so none of this should really be a shock. And it might be nicer to live in a world that wasn’t an object lesson in the Church’s wisdom. But as long as I’m stuck at home I can at least take some pride in being part of an institution so well-suited for our times.

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