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Church courses, Employment Services promote temporal self-reliance

By Sarah Harris - Herald Correspondent | Sep 25, 2021

An associate at the new Deseret Industries in Houston, Texas, helps customers on April 15, 2021. (Courtesy Intellectual Reserves)

Personal agency is one of the greatest gifts of God, according to Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It is crucial for our earthly progress and our eternal salvation,” Bishop Causse said in a July 2018 Ensign magazine article. “By becoming self-reliant temporally and spiritually, God’s children progress in their ability to make choices independently and thus fulfill the measure of their creation.”

Self-reliance is about planning and preparing in a way that empowers one to exercise agency when faced with a challenge, according to Tim Robbins of the church’s Welfare and Self-Reliance Services department.

“If we take personal finance as an example, we each have different financial circumstances and challenges that we may face, but there are some principles that can help us create better financial stability,” Robbins said in an email.

Two of the ways the church promotes temporal self-reliance are through its self-reliance courses and Employment Services.

Self-reliance courses

Vivian Sapkin (left), Deseret Industries employee, receives instruction from Ben Maradiaga, manager of the Sugarhouse D.I., and Christy Peterson, manager of the Sugarhouse ERC.(Courtesy Intellectual Reserves)

The church offers self-reliance courses on personal finances, employment and education along with ones for starting and growing a business. The classes are available to both members and friends of the church in more than 130 countries and 36 languages.

“Self-reliance courses were created to help individuals learn and put into practice principles of faith, education, hard work, and trust in the Lord,” Robbins said. “During each course participants are invited to study and apply practical skills and spiritual principles, as well as teach them to their family members.”

Groups in the course consist of “small, action-oriented councils” of about eight to 12 individuals that meet for two hours a week for up to 12 weeks, according to Robbins.

“In the group, every participant has knowledge, experiences, and gifts that can help others learn and grow,” he said.

Facilitators from the local community lead the groups through course materials and invite all in the group to participate, rather than lecture.

Angelia Call, center, meets with Employment Resource Center staff in Sugarhouse. (Courtesy Intellectual Reserves)

“They also create an environment of love and support,” Robbins said.

The classes have continued virtually during the coronavirus pandemic when groups couldn’t meet in person.

“Self-reliance groups combine practical skills with spiritual principles to help people help themselves,” Robbins said.

Employment Services

Employment Services offers tools, programs and services in addition to the skills taught in the church’s self-reliance courses.

The church has been helping people find employment since its early years, according to Megan Burt, the director of the church’s Employment Services Division, and Joseph Doria, the manager of employment support.

Church service missionaries instruct students in the career workshop. (Courtesy Intellectual Reserves)

“This is directly connected to the Church’s divinely appointed responsibility to care for the poor and needy, and has taken many forms through the years,” Burt and Doria said in an email. “The earliest efforts date back to church-sponsored building and construction projects in Kirtland, Nauvoo and in the Salt Lake valley.”

The church’s Public Works Department was officially created during the winter of 1850 “to provide employment through the construction of public buildings and the establishment of manufacturing enterprises,” according to Burt and Doria.

“At the time, Brigham Young said, ‘The reason we have no poor who are able to work is because we plan to set every person to work at some profitable employment and teach them to maintain themselves,'” Burt and Doria said.

The church then established an employment bureau in 1896, the Employment Bureau for Women in 1921, Deseret Industries in the 1930s and the Salt Lake Region Employment Office in 1948.

“By the end of 1978, there were twenty-four employment centers in operation,” Burt and Doria said.

Elder James Comarell, a volunteer at the employment resource center, directs the job search efforts of two applicants. (Courtesy Intellectual Reserves)

The church now operates 74 employment centers throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as an employment website. The church began offering various virtual services and programs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The success of these virtual offerings proved to be one of the unique blessings of these challenging times,” Burt and Doria said. “Now, while physical employment centers are reopening, the virtual services offered during the pandemic will continue and are available to members throughout the US and Canada.”

Employment Services offers one-on-one help with job leads and resumes.

“Additionally, members can join local church-sponsored Active Job Search groups where they can meet with other job seekers in their local area (in-person or over Zoom) on a daily basis to share job leads, network, practice job search skills, and receive spiritual and emotional support,” Burt and Doria said.

One past participant overwhelmed with finding new employment thought the task was a one-person job until the Active Job Search group showed “there is a better way.”

“It was heartwarming yet very humbling as well to see so many of my friends come to my aid,” the participant said. “People are willing to help if they know you need it.”

Other services include daily Zoom workshops on skills from preparing for interviews to networking as well as a daily open forum for job search support and assistance questions.

“In addition to these options, our website, http://employment.ChurchofJesusChrist.org features many wonderful articles and resources to help job seekers, such as how to create a brief introduction, a ‘Me in 30 Seconds,’ or tips for dressing professionally for an interview,” Burt and Doria said.

Employment Services’ purpose is to “help members of the Church all over the world qualify for and obtain employment that leads to temporal self-reliance,” according to Burt and Doria.

“We believe that self-reliance is a principle of salvation, allowing members not only to provide the physical and spiritual necessities of life for themselves and their family, but also enabling them to serve others and live a life more like that of the Savior Jesus Christ,” Burt and Doria said.

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