Chapter 31: Thrift, Industry, and Self-Reliance

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 225–33


President Brigham Young knew the value of hard work in preparing the Saints to build the kingdom of God. He counseled the pioneers, “Instead of searching after what the Lord is going to do for us, let us inquire what we can do for ourselves” (DBY, 293). President Heber C. Kimball, President Young’s friend and Counselor in the First Presidency, worked many days in the fields with him and later remembered that time as follows: “[Brother] Brigham and myself used to work hard, side by side, for fifty cents a day and board ourselves; we had seventy-five cents a day when we worked in the hayfield; we would work from sunrise to sunset, and until nine o’clock at night if there was sign of rain. We would rake and bind after a cradler for a bushel of wheat a day, and chop wood, with snow to our waist for eighteen cents a cord, and take our pay in corn at seventy-five cents a bushel” (DNW, 30 July 1862). President Young emphasized the importance of thrift, industry, and self-reliance, saying: “They who secure eternal life are doers of the word as well as hearers” (DBY, 290).

Teachings of Brigham Young

We should work hard and use our time wisely to serve our families and build up the kingdom of God.

What have we? Our time. Spend it as you will. Time is given to you; and when this is spent to the best possible advantage for promoting truth upon the earth, it is placed to our account, and blessed are you; but when we spend our time in idleness and folly it will be placed against us (DBY, 290).

We have to give an account of the days we spend in folly (DBY, 290).

Of the time that is allotted to man here on the earth there is none to lose or to run to waste. After suitable rest and relaxation there is not a day, hour or minute that we should spend in idleness, but every minute of every day of our lives we should strive to improve our minds and to increase the faith of the holy Gospel, in charity, patience, and good works, that we may grow in the knowledge of the truth as it is spoken and prophesied of and written about (DBY, 290).

Idleness and wastefulness are not according to the rules of heaven. Preserve all you can, that you may have abundance to bless your friends and your enemies (DBY, 290).

Everything connected with building up Zion requires actual, severe labor [see 2 Nephi 5:17]. It is nonsense to talk about building up any kingdom except by labor; it requires the labor of every part of our organization, whether it be mental, physical, or spiritual, and that is the only way to build up the Kingdom of God (DBY, 291).

Is not the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God on earth a temporal labor all the time? (DBY, 290–91).

This is the greatest wealth we possess—to know how to direct our labors rightly, spending every hour advantageously for the benefit of our wives and children and neighbors (DBY, 290).

We will have to go to work and get the gold out of the mountains to lay down, if we ever walk in streets paved with gold. The angels that now walk in their golden streets, and they have the tree of life within their paradise, had to obtain that gold and put it there. When we have streets paved with gold, we will have placed it there ourselves. When we enjoy a Zion in its beauty and glory, it will be when we have built it. If we enjoy the Zion that we now anticipate, it will be after we redeem and prepare it. If we live in the city of the New Jerusalem, it will be because we lay the foundation and build it. If we do not as individuals complete that work, we shall lay the foundation for our children and our children’s children, as Adam has. If we are to be saved in an ark, as Noah and his family were, it will be because we build it. If the Gospel is preached to the nations, it is because the Elders of Israel … preach the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth (DBY, 291).

My faith does not lead me to think the Lord will provide us with roast pigs, bread already buttered, etc.; he will give us the ability to raise the grain, to obtain the fruits of the earth, to make habitations, to procure a few boards to make a box, and when harvest comes, giving us the grain, it is for us to preserve it—to save the wheat until we have one, two, five, or seven years’ provisions on hand, until there is enough of the staff of life saved by the people to [provide] bread [for] themselves and those who will come here seeking for safety (DBY, 291–92).

stores in Salt Lake City

Cooperative stores in Salt Lake City around 1869. President Young encouraged home industry, thrift, and self-reliance among the Saints.

The Lord has provided an abundance in the earth for our use.

I say to my brethren and sisters, come let us learn how to gather around us from the elements an abundance of every comfort of life, and convert them to our wants and happiness [see D&C 59:18–20]. Let us not remain ignorant, with the ignorant, but let us show the ignorant how to be wise (DBY, 294).

The Lord has done his share of the work; he has surrounded us with elements containing wheat, meat, flax, wool, silk, fruit, and everything with which to build up, beautify and glorify the Zion of the last days, and it is our business to mould these elements to our wants and necessities, according to the knowledge we now have and the wisdom we can obtain from the heavens through our faithfulness. In this way will the Lord bring again Zion upon the earth, and in no other (DBY, 294).

It is our duty to be active and diligent in doing everything we can to sustain ourselves, to build up His Kingdom, to defend ourselves against our enemies, to lay our plans wisely, and to prosecute [perform] every method that can be devised to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth, and to sanctify and prepare ourselves to dwell in His presence (DBY, 294–95).

While we have a rich soil in this valley, and seed to put in the ground, we need not ask God to feed us, nor follow us round with a loaf of bread begging of us to eat it. He will not do it, neither would I, were I the Lord. We can feed ourselves here; and if we are ever placed in circumstances where we cannot, it will then be time enough for the Lord to work a miracle to sustain us (DBY, 294).

People are contending, quarreling, seeking how to get the advantage of each other, and how to get all the wealth there is in the world. … But suppose we go to work to gather up all that there is in the bosom and upon the surface of our mother earth and bring it into use, is there any lack? There is not, there is enough for all. Then do look at these things as they are, Latter-day Saints, and you who are not Latter-day Saints, look at things as they are. And I do hope and pray for your sakes, outsiders, and for the sakes of those who profess to be Latter-day Saints, that we shall have good peace for a time here, so that we can build our furnaces, open our mines, make our railroads, till the soil, follow our mercantile business uninterrupted; that we may attend to the business of beautifying the earth (DBY, 295).

We should be wise in using the resources the Lord has given us.

The riches of a kingdom or nation do not consist so much in the fulness of its treasury as in the fertility of its soil and the industry of its people (DBY, 297).

Time and the ability to labor are the capital stock of the whole world of mankind, and we are all indebted to God for the ability to use time to advantage and he will require of us a strict account of the disposition we make of this ability; and he will not only require an account of our acts, but our words and thoughts will also be brought into judgment (DBY, 301).

All the capital there is upon the earth is the bone and sinew of workingmen and women. … Labor builds our meetinghouses, temples, courthouses, fine halls for music and fine schoolhouses; it is labor that teaches our children, and makes them acquainted with the various branches of education, that makes them proficient in their own language and in other languages, and in every branch of knowledge understood by the children of men (DBY, 300).

Never let anything go to waste. Be prudent, save everything, and what you get more than you can take care of yourselves, ask your neighbors to help you consume (DBY, 292).

Take things calm and easy, pick up everything, let nothing go to waste (DBY, 292).

Never consider that you have bread enough around you to suffer your children to waste a crust or a crumb of it. If a man is worth millions of bushels of wheat and corn, he is not wealthy enough to … sweep a single kernel of it into the fire; let it be eaten by something and pass again into the earth, and thus fulfil the purpose for which it grew. Remember it, do not waste anything, but take care of everything (DBY, 292).

It is to our advantage to take good care of the blessings God bestows upon us; if we pursue the opposite course, we cut off the power and glory God designs we should inherit. It is through our own carefulness, frugality, and judgment which God has given us, that we are enabled to preserve our grain, our flocks and herds, … houses and lands, and increase them around us, continually gaining power and influence for ourselves as individuals and for the Kingdom of God as a whole (DBY, 292).

Use just enough of your earnings to make your bodies and your families happy and comfortable, and save the residue (DBY, 292).

If you wish to get rich, save what you get. A fool can earn money; but it takes a wise man to save and dispose of it to his own advantage (DBY, 292).

We should build good homes and create beautiful communities.

Let the people build good houses, plant good vineyards and orchards, make good roads, build beautiful cities in which may be found magnificent edifices for the convenience of the public, handsome streets skirted with shade trees, fountains of water, crystal streams, and every tree, shrub and flower that will flourish in this climate, to make our mountain home a paradise and our hearts wells of gratitude to the God of Joseph, enjoying it all with thankful hearts, saying constantly, “not mine but thy will be done, O Father” (DBY, 302).

Beautify your gardens, your houses, your farms; beautify the city. This will make us happy, and produce plenty. The earth is a good earth, the elements are good if we will use them for our own benefit, in truth and righteousness. Then let us be content, and go to with our mights to make ourselves healthy, wealthy, and beautiful, and preserve ourselves in the best possible manner, and live just as long as we can, and do all the good we can (DBY, 302).

Every improvement that we make not only adds to our comfort but to our wealth (DBY, 302).

It is your right, wives, to ask your husbands to set out beautiful shade and fruit trees, and to get you some vines and flowers with which to adorn the outside of your dwellings; and if your husbands have not time, get them yourselves and plant them out. Some, perhaps, will say, “Oh, I have nothing but a log house, and it is not worth that.” Yes; it is worth it. Whitewash and plaster it up, and get vines to run over the door, so that everybody who passes will say, “What a lovely little cottage!” This is your privilege and I wish you to exercise yourselves in your own rights (DBY, 200).

Make good houses; learn how to build; become good mechanics and business men, that you may know how to build a house, a barn, or a storehouse, how to make a farm, and how to raise stock, and take every care of it by providing proper shelter and every suitable convenience for keeping it through the winter; and prove yourselves worthy of the greater riches that will be committed to you than this valley and what it can produce (DBY, 302).

I have been into houses which have not had the least convenience for the women, not so much as a bench to set their water pails on, and they have to set them on the floor, and yet their husbands will sit there year after year, and never make so much improvement as a bench to set the pail on. Yet they have the ability, but they will not exercise it (DBY, 198–99).

Let the husband make an improvement upon his kitchen and pantry and upon his bedrooms for the benefit of his family, and improve his gardens, walks, etc, beautifying your habitations and their surroundings, making pavements and planting shade trees (DBY, 198).

William Carter plowing

William Carter plowing at his home, St. George, Utah, 1893

We should be self-reliant as families and as a people.

We want you henceforth to be a self-sustaining [self-reliant] people [see D&C 78:14]. Hear it, O Israel! hear it, neighbors, friends and enemies, this is what the Lord requires of this people (DBY, 293).

Ye Latter-day Saints, learn to sustain yourselves. If you cannot obtain all you wish for today, learn to do without that which you cannot purchase and pay for; and bring your minds into subjection that you must and will live within your means (DBY, 293).

Who are deserving of praise? The persons who take care of themselves or the ones who always trust in the great mercies of the Lord to take care of them? It is just as consistent to expect that the Lord will supply us with fruit when we do not plant the trees; or that when we do not plow and sow and are saved the labor of harvesting, we should cry to the Lord to save us from want, as to ask him to save us from the consequences of our own folly, disobedience and waste (DBY, 293).

Implied faith and confidence in God is for you and me to do everything we can to sustain and preserve ourselves; and the community that works together, heart and hand, to accomplish this, their efforts will be like the efforts of one man (DBY, 293).

Brethren, learn. You have learned a good deal, it is true; but learn more; learn to sustain yourselves; lay up grain and flour, and save it against a day of scarcity. Sisters, do not ask your husbands to sell the last bushel of grain you have to buy something for you out of the stores, but aid your husbands in storing it up against a day of want, and always have a year’s, or two, provision on hand (DBY, 293).

Instead of searching after what the Lord is going to do for us, let us inquire what we can do for ourselves (DBY, 293).

Whatever the Latter-day Saints have gained has been obtained by sheer wrestling and unconquerable resolution (DBY, 294).

Suggestions for Study

We should work hard and use our time wisely to serve our families and build up the kingdom of God.

  • What was President Young’s counsel about the use of “every minute of every day”? (See also Alma 34:33.) Why is time such a precious gift? What principles have helped you improve the way you spend your time?

  • Why are idleness and wastefulness contrary to the “rules of heaven”? (See also Doctrine and Covenants 42:42.)

  • Why will building Zion require all types of labor? In what ways must we labor mentally, physically, and spiritually to build Zion?

The Lord has provided an abundance in the earth for our use.

  • How will the Lord “bring again Zion upon the earth”? In what specific ways can we help build Zion?

  • President Young said that “in the bosom and upon the surface of our mother earth … there is enough for all.” Why then do you think there is so much poverty in the world? What can we do in our families, Church organizations, and communities to share with each other what the Lord has given us? (See also Jacob 2:18–19; D&C 104:14–18.)

We should be wise in using the resources the Lord has given us.

  • Why should we “not waste anything, but take care of everything”? How might we apply President Young’s counsel on this subject to food storage and emergency preparedness?

  • How do we “cut off the power and glory God designs we should inherit”?

  • How can we apply President Young’s counsel, “A fool can earn money; but it takes a wise man to save and dispose of it to his own advantage”?

We should build good homes and create beautiful communities.

  • What did President Young say the Saints should do to make their “home a paradise and [their] hearts wells of gratitude”? What can we do to make our homes and communities more beautiful? (See also D&C 82:14.) How do beautiful surroundings help us physically, emotionally, and spiritually?

We should be self-reliant as families and as a people.

  • What was President Young’s advice about how to live within our means? Why are these simple guidelines sometimes difficult to follow? What are some specific ways we can ensure that we live within our means?

  • Evaluate what President Young said about sustaining ourselves, and consider what you have done to ensure that your family will be self-reliant in a time of need. Make a plan for increasing your self-reliance in your family and community.

  • How is diligent labor a demonstration of faith? What is the relationship between self-reliance and relying on the merits of Christ?

  • President Young urged the Saints to take care of themselves, but he also counseled them to unite in their communities. How do our efforts to sustain ourselves and build our communities work together? How have the efforts of others helped you to be more self-sustaining?