Self-reliance is the condition of having enough education and/or training, wise management of money and other resources, spiritual strength, emergency preparations, physical health, and social and emotional well-being (Julie B. Beck). As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are taught to be responsible for our own spiritual and temporal well-being. We are taught to use our agency wisely while we set our own course in life and solve our own problems. Church teachings also include the fact that we are to rely on ourselves first, our families second, and the Church last.
While preparing temporally to care for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible is important, being prepared spiritually for a crisis is essential. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once stated: “We have been taught to store … food, clothing, and, if possible, fuel – at home
“Can we not see that the same principle applies to inspiration and revelation, the solving of problems, to counsel, and to guidance?…
“If we lose our emotional and spiritual independence, our self-reliance, we can be weakened quite as much, perhaps even more, than when we become dependent materially.”
Even when we have done all that we can to become self-reliant, we will still be dependent on Heavenly Father for His blessing and on each other for the human touch. The real key to understanding the importance of self-reliance is the understanding that we have a greater capacity to serve others when we are self-reliance. The other side of this “coin” is the fact that we should be willing to allow others to help and serve us in order for them to receive blessings too. The ultimate purpose for becoming self-reliant both spiritually and temporally is that the process prepares us to do good in our world and to return to the presence of God in the life to come.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “Our ultimate goal is to become like the Savior, and that goal is enhanced by our unselfish service to others. Our ability to serve is increased or diminished by the level of our self-reliance.”
President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able, will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life.”
The Church does not simply help people with a handout. It helps people to help themselves and to free themselves from dependence on any person or organization. What is the difference between a handout and a hand up? The latter is temporary while the first becomes permanent.
President David O. McKay stated in 1938 when the Church welfare program was first introduced: “The development of our spiritual nature should concern us most. Spirituality is the highest acquisition of the soul, the divine in man; `the supreme, crowning gift that makes him king of all created things.’ It is the consciousness of victory over self and of communion with the infinite. It is spirituality alone which really gives one the best in life.
“It is something to supply clothing to the [poorly] clad, to furnish ample food to those whose table is thinly spread, to give activity to those who are fighting desperately the despair that comes from enforced idleness, but after call is said and done, the greatest blessings that will accrue form the Church [welfare program] are spiritual. Outwardly, every at seems to be directed toward the physical: re-making of dresses and suits of clothes, canning fruits and vegetables, storing foodstuffs, choosing of fertile fields for settlement – all seem strictly temporal, but permeating all these acts, inspiring and sanctifying them, is the element of spirituality.”