Ask A Latter-day Saint: Self-Reliance

By Jeff Borders

Is Self-Reliance A Spiritual Practice?

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to re-evaluate their situations in life. Questions arise like: Can I provide for myself or my family while facing layoffs and furloughs? Can I put food on the table, when a lot of the food we eat is gone at the store? When will I be able to find toiletries and soap? While the latter of these was the basis for many jokes regarding toilet paper, it struck at the heart of what it meant to be prepared and self-reliant should disaster strike. And let’s be honest, disaster doesn’t have to take the form of a pandemic, it can be as simple as mounting hospital bills, a layoff, or a bad snowstorm.

For Latter-day Saint, the practices of self-reliance are a principle of our faith journey and are spiritually and temporally connected at their core.

But what exactly does self-reliance even mean?

Our initial reaction would be to think of the tangible goods. People who have well stocked pantries and a good nest egg in the bank to get them through rough patches in life.

At its heart, self-reliance is the ability coupled with the effort to provide for spiritual and temporal well-being of ourselves and our families. But self-reliance goes much further in its call to help others. Because once we are living principles of self-reliance we can them help others in times of adversity.

This practice for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints goes back to its earliest days when the Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. President Brigham Young encouraged the saints to learn to love work, to sacrifice for others, to accept personal responsibility for spiritual growth, health, education, and employment, among other things. Then they were encouraged to go out and help and strengthen others who were in need of strengthening.

These principles are still echoed today.

Here is the key: when we practice principles of welfare and self-reliance, we can be in a place to help our brothers and sisters just like our Savior would.

In 2011, Latter-day Saint Apostle, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said the following: “Sometimes we see welfare as simply another gospel topic—one of the many branches on the gospel tree. But I believe that in the Lord’s plan, our commitment to welfare principles should be at the very root of our faith and devotion to Him.

Since the beginning of time, our Heavenly Father has spoken with great clarity on this subject: from the gentle plea, “If thou lovest me … thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support”

Whether it’s bettering our education, saving for a rainy day, not spending above our means, or storing food and toiletries for times when we can’t go to the store, these principles are still as relevant today as they were ever.

If you haven’t already, now is a great opportunity to look at your life and see where you can make adjustments to see where you are self-reliant and where you can improve. Because rest assured, this mortal life’s challenges aren’t just one pandemic and they are done. These adversities are varied and often times difficult. But if we practice sound principles of self-reliance and welfare, we might be able to weather the storms just a little bit easier, not alone, but together. 

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