Self-Reliance - by Sister Winnie Whelan

Self-Reliance - by Sister Winnie Whelan

The purposes of Church welfare are to help members “become self-reliant, to care for the poor and needy, and to give service.” Notice that ‘self-reliant’ comes first, because it is only when we are self-reliant that we then have the ability to be God’s hands to reach out to the poor and needy and to serve others.

What is Self-Reliance?

What is Self-Reliance?

“Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family”. It is interesting to note two things in this definition:

spiritual temporal
  1. that self-reliance requires commitment and effort on our part;

  2. we often think of self-reliance as being synonymous with self-independence/being financially independent. Self-reliance is much more than that. It has the spiritual element that we often overlook.

Church members are responsible for their own spiritual and temporal well-being. Self-reliance is a principle given way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. President Marion G Romney explained: “The obligation to sustain one’s self was divinely imposed upon the human race at its beginning when God said to Adam and Eve, ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.’ (Genesis 3:19)

Exercising Self-Reliance

Exercising Self-Reliance

The welfare handbook instructs, “We must earnestly teach and urge members to be self-sustaining to the fullest extent of their power. No Latter-day Saint will…voluntarily shift from himself the burden of his own support. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Almighty and with his own labours, he will supply himself with the necessities of life.”

Blessed with the gift of agency, members have the privilege and duty to set their own course such as planning their own future, education and career, solve their own problems, and strive to become self-reliant. Members do this under the inspiration of the Lord and with the labour of their own hands.

“When Church members are doing all they can to provide for themselves but cannot meet their basic needs, generally they should first turn to their families for help. When this is not sufficient or feasible, the Church stands ready to help.”

That means we should always turn to our family first when we need help, be it of temporal or spiritual in nature.

Elder Boyd K Packer shared an interesting experience that illustrates this principle. He had a student who came to his office to seek advice on whether he should or should not marry. Elder Packer knew the student’s father who was a patriarch in the church. This was the counsel he gave the student:

“Go home this weekend. Talk to your father, get him in a bedroom or some private place, tell him your dilemma, ask him for his counsel, and do what he tells you to do.”

Are we not sometimes guilty of taking an easy way out by hastily going to our church leaders for advice instead of thinking through our problems first? As a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, we have the light of Christ within us to help us distinguish between right and wrong. Do not just go to the Lord or the church leaders with a problem and expect him or them to solve it for us. Follow the counsel that the Lord had given Oliver Cowdery about working it out in our mind. Measure the problem against what we know to be right and wrong, then make the decision and present it before God, and He will cause our bosom to burn within us if it is right.

Church leaders are also counselled not to be “doling out counsel and advice without first requiring the member to call on every personal resource and every family resource before seeking a solution of [their] problems from the Church.” “If we are not careful, we can lose the power of individual revelation.” - Elder Packer

Elder Packer also shared another interesting experience that illustrates how important it is for members to develop self-reliance. He had a phone call from a bishop seeking his help. The bishop had a son who had been inducted into the military service and was at an army basic-training centre. He was very worried that the son had not been to church for three weeks. He described his son as a very active and faithful LDS who had never missed a church meeting.

Elder Packer related: “I made an investigation of the circumstances. Can you picture the following: in the barracks a few from his bunk was a bulletin board with a picture of the Salt Lake Temple on it and a listing of the meeting times at the base chapel. He had been to an orientation for all new inductees…He had been told that if he wanted to know about church services to talk to the sergeant on duty, or he could contact any chaplain’s office and that information would readily be given to him. He, however, had been told before he left home that the Church had a wonderful program to help young men in military service. He was assured that the Church was doing everything to take care of our men and that we would find them and look after them and bring the full Church program to them.”

So this young man simply just waited for the Church to do everything for him. He waited for three weeks and was disappointed enough that he called his father, the bishop, to say that the Church had failed him.

The Church has wonderful programs in different auxillaries to reach out to its members and strengthen their testimonies. Auxillary Presidencies tried their best to encourage and motivate members to attend the activities. We, on our part, however cannot just sit and wait for the programmes to come to us. Self-reliance requires commitment and effort on our part to seek them out and to make ourselves available.

The handbook outlines six areas to help members develop self-reliance:

  1. Health  

They are to take care of their minds and bodies through obeying the Word of Wisdom, eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, controlling their weight and have adequate sleep. (Staying up late over the hand phone and internet is bad for our health).

  1. Education

Education is a very important tool to help lift people out of poverty and help them develop self-reliance. They should obtain as much education as they can, including formal or technical schooling to help them develop their talents and find gainful employment so that they can make a valuable contribution to their families, the Church and the community.

I am a firm believer of the importance of education. My parents were poor. Growing up, I witnessed much financial struggles in my family. When I was in my early teen, I told myself that I want to study hard and use the education pathway to lift my family out of poverty. The Lord opened the way for me and I eventually had the opportunity to pursue a tertiary education, and landed myself in a stable job that provided sufficiently for myself and my family. As a teacher to young teenagers, I often shared with them how important it is for them to treasure the opportunities they had been given to study, and they must give their best in learning and do well so that they can be self-reliant and provide for themselves and their future families someday.

  1. Employment

Members should prepare for and carefully select a suitable occupation or self-employment that will provide for their own and their family’s needs. They should become skilled at their work, be diligent and trustworthy, and give honest work for the pay and benefits they receive.

  1. Home storage

To help care for themselves and their families, members should build a three-month supply of food that is part of their normal diet. They should gradually build a long-term supply of basic foods that will sustain life. They should also store drinking water in case their water supply becomes polluted or disrupted. This counsel has been given for years. Once I heard a friend laughed – “I have one year supply of clothes and shoes, but not food!” When the time comes and we are tried, our clothes and shoes and costume jewelleries would not save us and our family!

  1. Finances

They should pay tithes and offerings, avoid unnecessary debt, use a budget and live within a plan, and within their means. The Lord does not care what kind of house we live in – HDB or condo or landed house. What He cares is that when we move in, we live righteously in it.

Members should gradually build a financial reserve by regularly saving a portion of their income. Even a small 10% saving is better than no saving at all.

  1. Spiritual strength

Spiritual strength is essential to a person’s temporal and eternal well-being. Church members grow in spiritual strength as they develop their testimonies, exercise faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, obey God’s commandments, pray daily, study the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets, attend Church meetings, and serve in Church callings and assignments.

In today’s technology, the Lord has made spiritual resources accessible to us through the smart phones. At the click of our finger, the gospel library is opened up, and we can read or listen to the scriptures, the conference talks, magazines or manuals anywhere we go. No one can ever say they have no time for spiritual matters. It is a matter of putting it as our top priority in our daily schedule.

Let us strive to follow the inspired counsels given in the handbook – to be self-reliant spiritually and temporally, so that we can be more effectively used by God to serve his children.

I am very grateful to be a member of the church. The gospel teachings embrace all aspects of our lives – spiritual and temporal. When we live the standards of the Church, the Lord blesses us and helps us rise above our potential so that can become the man or woman He sees in each of us.

I know the Church is true, that we have a living prophet on earth, and that Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Redeemer.

by Winnie Whelan

by Winnie Whelan