We can strengthen our family, community, and nation by modeling and teaching self-reliance and why it is important. Self-reliance has been described as the ability, commitment, and effort to provide for our own spiritual and temporal well-being as well as that of our family. By becoming self-reliant, we not only take care of our own needs but we put ourselves in a situation to be of greater assistance to those in need.
When President Brigham Young led the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, they found an isolated desert. President Young encouraged the pioneers to establish permanent homes. If the Saints were to be obedient to the Prophet’s counsel, they needed to developed skills that would lead to self-sufficiency. President Young trusted the women and their capacities, talents, faithfulness, and willingness, and he encouraged them in specific temporal duties. The principles that President Young encouraged the pioneer women to learn are still practiced in the Relief Society today: 1) learn to love work and avoid idleness; 2) acquire a spirit of self-sacrifice; 3) accept personal responsibility for spiritual strength, health, education, employment, finances, food, and other life-sustaining necessities; 4) pray for faith and courage to meet challenges, and 5) strengthen others who need assistance.
Relief Society sisters and other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to follow these same principles even though our specific duties may be different than our pioneer sisters.
When we say that we have self-reliance, we mean that we have the capability to provide for our own spiritual and temporal well-being as well as that of our family. Learning and applying the principles of self-reliance prepares us to recognize opportunities to care for the poor and needy as well as assist others to become self-reliant and prepare for times of adversity.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants – through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others.”
Elder Hales said that we should become self-reliant temporally, “which includes getting a postsecondary education or vocational training, learning to work, and living within our means. By avoiding debt and saving money now, we are prepared for full-time Church service in the years to come. The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need.”
I like that last sentence: “The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need.” This sounds so much less selfish than simply taking care of ourselves and our families! We cannot provide from an empty cupboard or comfort with an empty soul. We have to be on higher ground in order to help others! As we increase in our own self-reliance, we can strengthen our family, community, and nation.