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Self-reliance in a world of want and upheaval

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 26, 2021

Courtesy Intellectual Reserves

Early families in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had rely on themselves and then help others.

In the Old Testament telling of the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, we learn they lived in a beautiful garden, called Eden. They wanted for nothing. The ground gave off mists that watered and produced food spontaneously for them to eat.

The Bible says that after the couple were tempted by Satan and they partook of the forbidden fruit, they could no longer stay in the garden, nor could they converse face to face with God.

Adam and Eve were sent into the world where they had to till the ground, herd sheep and cattle, and live by faith and prayer — they had to be self-reliant both temporally and spiritually.

And so it has been since that time until the present day; men and women must care for themselves, then their family and then their neighbors and so on.

According teachings from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accepting and living the following principles of self-reliance will help individuals receive the spiritual and temporal blessings promised by the Lord:

Courtesy Intellectual Reserves

Elder Robert D. Hales (1932-2017) was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was very involved with the Welfare Department.

1. Exercise faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Be obedient to God’s laws, principles and promptings.

3. Act. Individual accountability and action activate blessings.

4. Serve and be united.

“Only when we are self-reliant can we truly emulate the Savior in serving and blessing others,” said Elder Robert D. Hales (1932-2017), of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Courtesy Intellectual Reserves

Volunteers at a church cannery preparing peaches to be canned.

The LDS Church has developed numerous tools for its members to use that will help them become self-reliant on topics such as debt, education, employment, family finances, food storage, gardening and health.

After the Latter-day Saints had gathered in the Salt Lake Valley, which was an isolated desert, President Brigham Young wanted them to flourish and establish permanent homes. This meant the Saints needed to learn skills that would allow them to become self-sufficient. In this effort, President Young had great trust in the capacities, talents, faithfulness and willingness of the women, and he encouraged them in specific temporal duties. While the specific duties of Relief Society sisters are often different today, the principles remain constant:

  • Learn to love work and avoid idleness.
  • Acquire a spirit of self-sacrifice.
  • Accept personal responsibility for spiritual strength, health, education, employment, finances, food and other life-sustaining necessities.
  • Pray for faith and courage to meet challenges.
  • Strengthen others who need assistance.

President Brigham Young instructed the Saints, “Instead of searching after what the Lord is going to do for us, let us inquire what we can do for ourselves.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, p. 293.)

President Heber J. Grant declared, “Nothing destroys the individuality of a man, a woman or a child as much as the failure to be self-reliant.” (Relief Society Magazine, October 1937, p. 627.)

The history of teaching self-reliance in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints goes back to its founding. It was in 1831 when the Prophet Joseph Smith received by revelation the Law of Consecration.

Courtesy Intellectual Reserves

Image of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who received by revelation the Law of Consecration.

“An 1828 dictionary defined ‘consecration’ as ‘the act or ceremony of separating from a common to a sacred use,'” notes Casey Paul Griffiths in his paper “A Covenant and a Deed Which Cannot Be Broken.”

Griffiths contends that, over the decade’s, members of the church have placed consecration in the past as something that saints used to practice, or far into the future when it will be practiced again.

“While the law of consecration for the early Saints in Kirtland or Nauvoo was markedly different than today’s present practice, Saints in all ages make the covenant to offer their resources to the sacred us of God’s kingdom,” Griffiths said.

The Law of Consecration is basically this: Members take what they need and are ready at any time, if needed, to give their excess to the church to help raise up others in need.

Griffiths notes that the earliest mention of an organized form of caring for the poor is found in the January 1831 revelation in which the Lord commands the Saints that certain men should be appointed among them to “Look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer.” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:35).

Courtesy Intellectual Reserves

Church President Brigham Young brought the Saints west and encouraged self-reliance.

“A mistaken impression has arisen within the church that the law of tithing, given in 1838, replaced the law of consecration,” Griffiths said. “In many ways, the law of tithing required a greater sacrifice than the Law of Consecration; consecration required members to give their surplus after their needs were satisfied, but tithing required 10% before any of their needs were met.”

Griffith’s contends that the most “enduring practical implementation of the Law of Consecration was born out of one of the worst economic catastrophes in history.”

It was during the Great Depression of the 1930s the idea of a storehouse where food and commodities could be gathered to distribute to the poor and needy came about.

This new “storehouse” was called the Church Welfare Program.

“Church leaders of the founding generation never became comfortable identifying the Church Welfare plan as the same thing as the law of consecration, but the ensuing generations began to recognize the fulfillment of the principles of the law in the new plan,” Griffiths said.

As time progressed, church leaders became more comfortable in seeing the Church Welfare Program as another iteration of consecration, Griffiths added.

The latest iteration is the combining the Church Welfare and Self-Reliance programs.

“The program blossomed and grew over time and every stake (compare to diocese) had a welfare project,” said Gordan Carmen, director of production and distribution in the Welfare Department.

At one time, there were more than 65 canneries owned by the church throughout the United States. With modern technologies and the need to adapt to society and become more efficient, there are few canneries now, but they are open year-round with multiple shifts. The old canneries were open just a few weeks a year, Carmen added.

While the Welfare Department is set up primarily to help members of the church become more self-reliant, the humanitarian arm including Latter-day Saint Charities focuses on people in need no matter what religion they may be, according to Carmen.

The Welfare and Self-Reliance programs offered by the church have become so well-known that leaders of organizations, nonprofits, religious leaders and elected officials from around the world have requested tours through Welfare Square in Salt Lake City.

Welfare Square includes a bishop’s storehouse, a cannery, a dairy, grain storage, a Deseret Industries thrift store and an employment center.

This could only happen through the generous donations of members of the church, Carmen said.

“Our members are encouraged to live the law of the fast and go without food for 24 hours or two meals. The amount they would spend on those meals is given as a fast offering. The only purpose is to help those in need,” Carmen said.

Recently, the church has added free classes for members to study and lift each other by learning principles of self-reliance by not only growing their own food, but also by furthering their education, understanding how to control personal finance. They learn how to seek employment and then how to get better employment or develop entrepreneurship.

“Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement,” said President Thomas S. Monson. “Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.”

Hales added, “The Lord expects us to help solve our own problems. … We are thinking, reasoning human beings. We have the ability to identify our needs, to plan, to set goals and to solve our problems.”

“The Lord cares enough about us to give us direction for serving and the opportunity for developing self-reliance. His principles are consistent and never changing,” said Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915 to 1994) of the Quorum of the Twelve in the November 1981 Ensign church magazine.

The Daily Herald/Standard Examiner in the next few pages will offer the reader insight as to the LDS Church Welfare Program, becoming not only temporally self-reliant in our homes, but also individually spiritually self-reliant. We hope these messages will help the reader as they look at their own skills of self-reliance and use these commentaries to make life’s journey a more enjoyable trip.

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