—Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–27
We are self-reliant when we take responsibility for our own physical and spiritual welfare. Through our own efforts and with guidance from our Heavenly Father, we can experience the feeling of self-worth that comes from being truly self-reliant.
Help your family understand the value of self-reliance by telling the following story:
The owners of a Rocky Mountain resort lodge kept an eagle in a large cage for their guests’ entertainment. The eagle was well cared for and grew into a healthy, noble bird. But one day a group of visitors expressed resentment that so wild and beautiful a creature should be confined. The lodgekeeper opened the door of the cage, but the bird would not leave. Eventually the eagle left, but he died soon after that. He had long since forgotten how to hunt for his own food, and with no one to feed him, he could not survive.
Discuss the story of the eagle. Contrast the strengths of a person for whom everything is done with those of a person who must work, make his own decisions, and solve his own problems.
Help your family members evaluate their own self-reliance by asking them to silently answer these questions:
Do I adhere to my standards when I am with friends, or do I go along with the group’s?
When I am faced with a difficult job, do I try to get others to do it, or do I do it myself?
Do I have to be reminded to do my chores and other duties, or do I do them on my own?
Ask similar questions that apply to your family.
Have your family think of the pioneers who settled in the Salt Lake Valley when it was a wilderness. List some of the ways they were self-reliant (examples could include growing their own food, making their own soap, weaving their own fabrics, and sewing their own clothing). Contrast their situation with ours.
Tell the following story.
When twelve-year-old David broke his arm, his father insisted that he could still do his chores and homework for himself. Although the first few days of milking the family cow with one hand produced very little milk and a very unhappy cow, David was soon bringing in buckets of milk. He learned to write with his left hand well enough to complete his term paper, and by the time Scout camp came, David had learned self-reliance. He earned six merit badges. (See Ron and Sherri Zirker, “Teaching Teens Self-discipline,” Ensign, Apr. 1982, pp. 17–21.)
Explain to your young children that they are being self-reliant when they dress themselves and put away their toys without being told. Help them make a chart by drawing things they can do for themselves. Help them choose one thing they will work on learning to do for themselves. When they have shown self-reliance in doing it for one week, have them add it to their chart.
Read the following quotation:
“The responsibility for each member’s spiritual, social, emotional, physical, or economic well-being rests first, upon himself, second, upon his family, and third, upon the Church. Members of the Church are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent to the extent of their ability. (See D&C 78:13–14.)
“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 work to the extent of his ability to supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life. (See Gen. 3:19, 1 Tim. 5:8, and Philip. 2:12.)” (Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p. 120; or Ensign, May 1978, p. 79.)
Discuss how this specifically applies to your family. List ways your family is striving to be self-reliant.
Examples: We grow our own vegetables. We work to earn money to pay our bills. We are assembling our food storage. Examine areas where your family could become more self-reliant. Perhaps your family could produce more of their own food or clothing or learn to do their own car repairs. Set goals and make definite plans to accomplish them.
Read or summarize 1 Nephi 15:1–11. Contrast Nephi’s attitude with the attitudes of Laman and Lemuel.
How could Laman and Lemuel know these things for themselves? (See verse 11.) Explain that even though their father was a prophet, they could not gain the celestial kingdom through his testimony. Each brother had to develop his own testimony.
Read the following:
“This Church relies on individual testimony. Each must earn his own testimony. It is then that you can stand and say, as I can say, that I know that God lives, that He is our Father, that we have a child-parent relationship with Him. I know that He is close, that we can go to Him and appeal, and then, if we will be obedient and listen and use every resource, we will have an answer to our prayers.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Self-Reliance,” Ensign, Aug. 1975, p. 89.)
Illustrate the idea that we cannot live on borrowed light: Darken a room and give one person a flashlight. Instruct everyone to draw a picture of something. The person holding the flashlight can help, but if he is not always near, the others will flounder. Discuss how everyone needs to have his own light. Liken this to the strength of a testimony and the need to know for oneself that the gospel is true.
Explain that as we learn, grow, and live the gospel, it is as if we climb higher and higher up a ladder. Each of us has his own ladder to climb. We can encourage and help one another, but each must do his own climbing. Reread 1 Nephi 15:11. Bear testimony that, if we are trying, the Lord will help and bless us so that we will be able to achieve salvation.
Have family members select and work on an area of the gospel in which they would like to become more self-reliant, such as gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon, doing the right thing when friends are not, learning to fast, or completely reading a book of scripture.
Read 1 Nephi 3:7. Discuss how the Lord has prepared the way for us to keep his commandments. Explain that, along with the scriptures, the prophets, and other helps, the Lord has given us ourselves. Each of us came to earth possessing many talents and abilities, and the Lord expects us to use these talents and abilities to accomplish many things.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–28 and discuss what the Lord expects us to do for ourselves. For example, a Primary teacher is called to teach a class each week. What could he or she do to enrich this calling, without having to be asked by the bishop or Primary president? Ask your family to suggest situations which apply to them.
Tell the story of the Brother of Jared (Ether 1:33–3:6), emphasizing that while the Lord gave the Brother of Jared many instructions, the Lord expected him to also show self-reliance. He did what he could before asking the Lord to provide the light for the stones. (See Ether 2:23, 3:3–4.) Emphasize that, like the Brother of Jared, we must do our part first.
Acts 20:32–37 (Paul worked to supply his own personal needs.)
Galatians 6:7–9 (As we sow, so shall we reap.)
2 Nephi 5:17 (Nephi taught his people to labor.)
2 Nephi 10:23 (Ye are free to choose.)
Mosiah 27:4–5 (People of Mosiah were self-reliant.)
Alma 1:26–27 (People of Alma were self-reliant.)
Doctrine and Covenants 46:7–8 (Ask God in all things.)
Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–28 (Not to be commanded in all things.)
See also “Accountability” in the Topical Guide.
“I Pledge Myself to Love the Right,” Children’s Songbook, p. 161.
“I Want to Live the Gospel,” Children’s Songbook, p. 148.
“Dare to Do Right,” Children’s Songbook, p. 158.
“Do What Is Right,” Hymns, no. 237.
“Choose the Right,” Hymns, no. 239.