What Self-Reliance Means in Mormonism

Mormonism Provides for the Temporal Welfare of its Members

“Temporal welfare” is a term that deals with people’s condition on earth.  A person who is starving cannot reach out and grasp the gospel of Jesus Christ and live it fully.  God has ever been conscious of providing for the poor, the sick, and the needy, so that they can be a position to avail themselves of the spiritual gifts extended to them, and then to help others.  Because of this, temporal welfare has always been central for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church.  The Church of Jesus Christ is well-known for its humanitarian efforts, and for its vast welfare program based on self-reliance.  Latter-day Saints have always been known for their industriousness, and it has been the pattern of The Church of Jesus Christ to establish organizations, systems, and co-ops for material and temporal support wherever it has been located.  Historically, Mormon settlements in New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and Utah have thrived in a remarkable way because of the industriousness of the Saints (active members of the Church).

"Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself. And I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him. for my commandments are spiritual." - Marion G. Romney; A painting depicting Christ as a young man, working with his father as a carpenter. Recently, I read an article that talked about self-reliance.  This is the kind of self- reliance that causes us to lean upon ourselves, our own talents and knowledge, and to think that we need no God, no religion.  This is the kind of self-reliance that is anti-Christ.  Christ means to show us our weakness, so that we will call on Him for aid.  He means for us to lay aside our unwarranted self-confidence and to realize that we are nothing without Him, but that with His grace as our daily help, we can become like Him and eventually dwell in His presence.  Mormons do a lot, since The Church of Jesus Christ has no paid clergy, but it is all meant to lead us to this surrender of our wills to Christ.  Mormons believe thoroughly that in losing our lives, we find them (Matthew 16:25).

The Self-Reliance that Is Anti-Christ

We see an example of false self-reliance in the Book of Mormon, which is the religious and historical record of a fallen people who lived on the American continent.  They were a branch of Israel, and their prophets taught them to look forward to the coming of Christ hundreds of years before He was born.  A prophet, Alma, who was also the chief judge, received a man who was brought to him because of his false preaching.

But it came to pass in the latter end of the seventeenth year, there came a man into the land of Zarahemla, and he was Anti-Christ, for he began to preach unto the people against the prophecies which had been spoken by the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ.

And this Anti-Christ, whose name was Korihor, (and the law could have no hold upon him) began to preach unto the people that there should be no Christ. And after this manner did he preach, saying:

O ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come.

Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers.

And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime  (Alma 30:6; 12-14; 17, emphasis added).

This certainly sounds like our day, wherein religion is being banished from the public square and anyone with a moral compass is criticized.  Korihor was the prime example of the kind of self-reliance that is anti-Christ.  What then, is the self-reliance that is so important in Mormonism?

The Self-Reliance that Leads to Christ

The Church of Jesus Christ creates programs,  and publishes pamphlets and web pages to guide its members toward the kind of self-reliance that leads people to Christ and help establish His kingdom on earth.  Self-reliance is discussed and taught in church meetings, too.  The kind of self-reliance that is most important is to have a deep, abiding testimony that Jesus is the Christ.  Should the world descend into chaos, it is this kind of personal testimony that can see us through in faith.  Mormons are not asked to be sheep, following blindly their prophets.  They follow their prophets not because they are blind, but because they see.  Through scripture study, personal prayer, and receiving personal revelation through the Holy Ghost, they receive confirmation before following.  Firm conviction enables them to move forward with confidence.   Likewise, a strong personal connection with the Savior enables them to receive spiritual promptings in emergencies, and this is a huge part of being self-reliant.

An apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Elder Robert D. Hales, has listed other ways Mormons strive to be self-reliant:

  • Be ready for rainy-day emergencies
  • Avoid excessive debt; be content with what we have
  • Use the resources of the earth wisely; don´t be wasteful
  • Prepare for the future by making spending and savings plans
  • Keep a family or personal budget
  • Teach children wise spending habits and help them save for the future
  • Obtain an education or vocational training
  • Find gainful employment

These ideas are fostered and promoted by The Church of Jesus Christ and members are called to help other members in achieving these goals.  Once we are spiritually and temporally self-reliant, we are in a position to care for ourselves and help others.  In preparing for “rainy day emergencies,” Mormons put together “72-hour kits” supplied with acute emergency needs.  These are for grab-and-go situations. (Imagine how things might have been different if everyone in New Orleans had these when hurricanes blew in.)

Mormons are counseled to build up a three month’s supply of foods and supplies they use every day, and then a one year emergency survival supply of staples, like wheat, beans, rice, honey, dry milk, etc.  They also build a supply of tools and clothing, and if possible, fuel.  They expect the Lord’s blessings when they are thus prepared in obedience to revelations given to modern prophets.  Many Mormons have had to rely on their emergency storage when they have been jobless, so this is not just for earthquakes and tornadoes!

Mormons try to teach a good work ethic in their homes, too.  This helps their children to learn gratitude, and the feeling of a job well done, the rewards of great effort.  Hopefully, most won’t grow up feeling entitled and will seek to be self-reliant adults.  Mormon missions do amazing things for youth, not only in maturing them, but in providing huge obstacles that can only be met with great faith.  Mormon missions help youth build the kind of self-reliance that them to Christ.

I suppose you could say that Mormonism is a holistic religion.  Because it is led by Christ, it is meant to heal the whole man or the whole woman, the whole child.  Christ means us to succeed, spiritually and temporally, and He has provided the way to do it.

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