I Have a Question


Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

What does self-reliance mean, and how do we become self-reliant in the ways latter-day prophets have directed?

Lauradene Lindsey, a member of the Bountiful Hills Ward and a stake missionary in the Bountiful Utah Central Stake.

Ever since the Lord commanded the restored Church and its members in 1832 to become independent and self-reliant, latter-day prophets have emphasized the importance of principles related to that directive (see D&C 78:13–14; Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1978, p. 79).

“We want you henceforth to be a self-sustaining people. … This is what the Lord requires of this people,” President Brigham Young said. “… It is our duty to be active and diligent in doing everything we can to sustain ourselves” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, pp. 293–94).

Church leaders have reiterated that message in our day. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “We feel the need to emphasize with greater clarity the obligation for members of the Church to become more independent and self-reliant, to increase personal and family responsibility, to cultivate spiritual growth and to be more fully involved in Christian service” (regional representatives’ seminar, 1 Apr. 1983, quoted in Ensign, May 1986, p. 24).

The responsibility for our spiritual, physical, emotional, social, and economic well-being rests first upon ourselves, then upon our families, then upon the Church, President Spencer W. Kimball said. He added: “No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able, will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life” (Ensign, Nov. 1977, pp. 77–78).

President Marion G. Romney, formerly of the First Presidency, was a clear advocate of this important principle. He declared that spiritual and temporal salvation can be obtained only through the principles of self-reliance and independence. He also stated that “all of our Church and family actions should be directed toward making our children and members self-reliant” and that the more self-reliant a Latter-day Saint is, “the more able to serve he becomes, and the more he serves, the greater his sanctification” (see Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 124; Nov. 1982, p. 92; May 1986, p. 23).

Church leaders not only have encouraged us to become self-reliant but also have reminded us that the gospel helps us to achieve self-reliance. “The Lord cares enough about us to give us direction for serving and the opportunity for developing self-reliance,” said Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Ye Are My Friends, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982, p. 122).

In the 1980s Church welfare methods underwent significant changes, and preparedness concepts for members became more preventive in nature. The time, talents, skills, and resources of families became an important part of the Lord’s storehouse. A renewed call came from Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to work toward self-reliance and to share resources with those in need (see Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord’s Way, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991, pp. 127–32).

Detailed instructions on self-reliance can be found in Providing in the Lord’s Way, a welfare guide published by the Church:

“The responsibility to provide for ourselves, our families, and the poor and needy has been part of the gospel since the beginning of time,” the guide says. “As disciples of Christ, we should give of ourselves—our time, talents, and resources—to care for those in need. We are better able to fulfill this responsibility if we are striving to become self-reliant, for we cannot give what we do not have” (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1990, p. 3).

Becoming self-reliant in the Lord’s way requires that we work physically, mentally, and spiritually in order to provide as best we can for ourselves and others. With work, which the First Presidency during President Heber J. Grant’s administration called the “ruling principle” of our church membership (in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, p. 3), we can become self-reliant in the following areas: education, health, employment, home storage, resource management, and spiritual, emotional, and social strength.

  • Education. Educational self-reliance requires the ability to effectively read, write, communicate, and do mathematics. We should study the scriptures, seek wisdom “out of the best books” (D&C 88:118), and take advantage of opportunities to increase our learning (see Providing in the Lord’s Way, p. 6).

  • Health. Keeping our bodies and minds healthy increases our ability to care for ourselves and others. Self-reliance requires that we live the Word of Wisdom, exercise regularly, receive appropriate medical and dental care, keep our homes and surroundings clean and sanitary, and avoid substances and lifestyles that would harm our bodies or minds (ibid.).

  • Employment. “He that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer,” the Lord has said (D&C 42:42). Preparing ourselves for a suitable occupation requires education, training, experience, and diligence. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said that our Heavenly Father expects us “to show our faith and appreciation by strenuous personal efforts to magnify the talents and opportunities he has given us” (The Lord’s Way, p. 116).

  • Home storage. Being self-reliant in the area of home storage means that we have adequate food, clothing, and shelter to provide for our family in case of either a short-term or long-term emergency. Self-reliant people are better prepared to help themselves as well as others in the event of natural disasters, loss of employment, or other unexpected challenges. “We are therefore counseled to store, use, and know how to produce and prepare essential items. We are more secure if we are able to provide for ourselves in times of adversity” (Providing in the Lord’s Way, p. 7).

  • Resource management. To manage our resources in a self-reliant way, we are instructed to pay tithes and offerings, avoid unnecessary debt, save money, meet our financial obligations, be frugal, use time wisely, and share our time, talents, and resources with the needy (see ibid.).

  • Spiritual, emotional, and social strength. Becoming spiritually, emotionally, and socially self-reliant includes the need to study the scriptures and words of the living prophets, shun evil and obey the commandments, exercise faith in Christ, pray frequently and fervently, adjust to change, recover from misfortune, and strengthen our relationships with family, friends, and neighbors (see ibid.).

Elder Oaks emphasizes the far-reaching effects of our labors toward self-reliance: “Our responsibility to provide for ourselves and our families is a vital principle in our relationship to God, to one another, and to civil government” (The Lord’s Way, p. 115).

Working toward becoming self-reliant brings temporal rewards (see D&C 38:30) as well as the promise of heavenly rewards. As we follow the inspired directions of our leaders to become independent and self-reliant as the Lord has directed, the Church will be able to “stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world,” that its members “may come up unto the crown prepared for [them], and be made rulers over many kingdoms” (D&C 78:14–15).

[photo] Inset photo by Steve Bunderson

How can we be “born again,” or as King Benjamin phrased it, how can we be “spiritually begotten” of Christ? (Mosiah 5:7.)

C. Richard Chidester, instructor at the Salt Lake City University Institute of Religion.

This question is at the very heart of the gospel and of our purpose on earth, because the atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to undergo the necessary change in our natures known as spiritual rebirth.

In order to be “born again,” the “natural man” must be put off so that we each can become a “new creature” in Christ (Mosiah 3:19; Mosiah 27:26; JST, 2 Cor. 5:16–17). This new creature, “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19), is spiritual in nature as opposed to carnal or worldly. In essence, the driving or controlling forces within us must be altered from carnal, selfish, natural desires and motives to spiritually driven desires and motives. The scriptures refer to this change in disposition, temperament, or character as a “mighty change” in heart (Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:12–14).

The Lord told Alma the Younger that without this change, we risk being “cast off” and “can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25–27).

Everyone born on earth will eventually die and become resurrected. Each of us, however, is responsible for overcoming our own spiritual death—separation from God because of sin—by becoming spiritually reborn. By turning to Christ and allowing his atonement to purify us from sin, we become spiritually reborn.

Key to this transforming process are the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances,” the Prophet Joseph Smith taught (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 162). It is only through faith in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, followed by repentance, baptism by immersion (representing rebirth), and “the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:13), that a new heart, or new spiritual nature, can come to us.

It was the faith that King Benjamin’s people had placed in his words about the coming of Jesus Christ and their willingness to repent and “to enter into a covenant with … God to do his will” that “wrought a mighty change in [them], or in [their] hearts, that [they had] no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2, 4–5).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that spiritual rebirth “takes place only for those who actually enjoy the gift or companionship of the Holy Ghost, only for those who are fully converted, who have given themselves without restraint to the Lord” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 101).

We become spiritually alive through the influence of the Holy Ghost as we actively seek, receive, and act upon its promptings. “If this change does not take place,” President George Q. Cannon said, “it is because the person who has been baptized and who has had the laying on of the hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost has not sought for these blessings with diligence. Everyone who submits to the ordinances of the Gospel with sincerity and determination to serve God will undergo this change” (Gospel Truth, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987, p. 140).

Spiritual rebirth, except in rare instances, is a gradual process. “It does not occur instantaneously,” Elder McConkie said. “It comes to pass by degrees. Repentant persons become alive to one spiritual reality after another, until they are wholly alive in Christ and are qualified to dwell in his presence forever. …

“Spiritual rebirth begins and ends with belief in Christ. When repentant souls turn to Christ and seek a new life with him, the processes of rebirth commence. When their belief in the Lord increases until they are able to do the works that he does, ‘and greater works than these’ (John 14:12), their rebirth is perfect, and they are prepared for salvation with him” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1973, 3:401).

The essence of being spiritually reborn is in following the enticings of the Spirit, which “giveth light to every man that cometh into the world … [and] hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.

“And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father” (D&C 84:46–47).

As we obey the promptings of the Spirit, we receive the light and truth necessary for greater degrees of spiritual rebirth. “He that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).