Tips for Becoming Self-Reliant

The Lord has counseled us through His prophets to live providently, which means to live frugally and provide for the future. “I commend to you the virtues of thrift and industry. … It is work and thrift that make the family independent,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley, then First Counselor in the First Presidency (“‘Thou Shalt Not Covet,’” Ensign, Mar. 1990, 4). Learning to be self-reliant increases our ability to live providently and take care of our own needs, even during difficult times. The following summary of time-tested ideas may help individuals and families become more self-reliant.

  • Get an education. Both men and women need to pursue educational opportunities. Men need skills that will afford them opportunities to provide the necessities of life for their families. Educated women bless their families, and education prepares them to meet the challenge of raising a family in today’s complex world.

  • Obtain a year’s supply of food. Work toward having a year’s supply of basic food items with a long storage life. Then expand your food supply with a wider variety of foods that can be kept on the shelf for a year. Some members find it helpful to begin storage efforts by making survival kits with food, water, clothing, first aid supplies, and medication.

  • Store water. Since water is generally plentiful, it is easy to overlook this simple, basic necessity. Yet in times of unexpected natural disasters, a lack of clean and safe water is often one of the first crises that must be faced. It is suggested that families store a minimum of 14 gallons of water per person (see Essentials of Home Production and Storage [1978], 7).

  • Learn how to grow food in a garden. Gardening techniques are best learned step by step over a period of years. Even if your garden space is small, it can provide many fresh foods in your diet. Along with growing food comes the opportunity of learning to can, freeze, dry, or store the food properly. Though not difficult, these things do take practice in order to become proficient.

  • Prepare a first aid kit. Include things needed for emergencies, such as bandages, antibiotic ointments, and alcohol; slings; basic medications for upset stomach, diarrhea, and fever; needle and thread; and other basic supplies. Obtain a good booklet on first aid that lists needed supplies, or check with a pharmacy.

  • Get out of or stay out of debt. Learn the basics of staying on a budget, then manage your resources wisely. Set something aside each month in a savings account. Be cautious about buying on credit. If debt accumulates, use the principles discussed in One for the Money: Guide to Family Finance (item no. 33293) to reduce and eventually eliminate burdensome debt.

  • Learn to sew. Taking time to learn sewing skills enables a family to make and mend clothing, sew costumes, or make household items such as curtains or tablecloths. Basic skills practiced during a time of plenty may help a family in a time of need.

  • Learn how to make or refinish furniture. Acquire the skills to produce simple household furnishings. Those with tools and expertise can often create beautiful and useful articles. Others can learn to strip and refinish older pieces of furniture, reupholster chairs, or repair broken items.

  • Practice needlecrafts. The art of quilt-making, crocheting, and knitting can help provide clothing and bedding in a time of need.

[illustration] Illustrated by Joe Flores

Poetry to Grow On

“Poetry,” said the author Carl Sandburg, “is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” I have always liked that definition because it suggests that poetry is both beautiful and practical. Over the years, my husband and I were able to help our children develop a love for both aspects of poetry.

On Sunday evenings I took aside one child at a time and introduced a poem. We talked about the author, then I read the words with expression. I asked how they liked it, and we discussed its meaning. Sometimes I read over the poem two or three times to help them start memorizing it. During the week the child would practice it.

A week later, on Sunday afternoon, we shared our memorized poems as part of our family time together. I prefaced each presentation by telling something about the author, the times in which he or she lived, and whatever background I thought might interest the children. Then one of the children would stand and recite a poem. Afterward, we discussed its meaning as a family and whether we liked it.

We soon realized that our children were often shy about performing in front of the family, and the listeners sometimes giggled and fidgeted. We took this opportunity to work on poise for the performer and manners for the audience. Our persistence has paid off, and most of the children have developed a degree of confidence in standing before a group.

I tried to expose the children to all types of poetry, from Shakespearian ballads to humorous rhymes. Many poems exemplified values of the past and provided opportunities to teach about history and culture. Our children suggested that Mom and Dad take regular turns too. This helped all of our children not only to become acquainted with the great poets but also to develop sensitivity to the beauty of language.Ann M. Johnson, Sandy, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Beth M. Whittaker

Our General Conference Feast

General conference can be a challenging experience for young children—and thus for their parents. Over the years our family has developed traditions to make these important messages of the Brethren pleasant and enjoyable, even for our youngest children.

One month before conference we hold a special planning meeting during family home evening. In our meeting we hand out assignments. One person chooses a scriptural verse that becomes our theme for the conference activities. Our younger children help make decorations. This is kept very simple. Even just a few hand-drawn pictures colored by preschool children help them to get excited about conference. These decorations are then hung in the family room.

An elementary-age son or daughter is asked to plan a word game. A list is made of words we might hear during conference, such as faith, tithing, or prayer. These words are listed on a poster if we are watching conference on TV at home. If we are traveling to a stake center, we make paper score sheets with the selected words. We choose one session to be our “game” session, and we listen for the selected words. If we are home, we quietly raise our hands when we hear one of the words spoken. If we are in the stake center, we keep score on our papers. During this session, even our two-year-old listens!

We also plan a special menu of favorite foods. Each item must maintain a Sabbath-like simplicity so that Mother doesn’t have to spend extra time in the kitchen. If we travel to a stake center, we plan a picnic between sessions. Whatever our circumstances, we enjoy a spirit of quiet fun.

At times we have also provided a small gift for the children, such as a new notebook, coloring book, or sheet of stickers that we hand out at the beginning of a session. This often helps small hands to stay busy while listening to conference talks.

By planning ahead, we hope our children will always look on conference weekend as a time for a special feast, both temporally and spiritually. Because of these simple traditions, our children now cheer when we tell them conference is coming.Cynthia Watte Connell, Springville, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Joe Flores