Becoming Self-Reliant in the Lord’s Way

The Gospel and the Productive Life Teacher Manual Religion 150, (2004), 39–41


“From the earliest days of the Church, the prophets have taught Latter-day Saints to be independent and self-sustaining and to avoid idleness. True Latter-day Saints will not voluntarily shift from themselves the burden of their own support. So long as they are able, they will supply themselves and their families with the necessities of life” (Gospel Principles [1997], 182).

Help your students understand the need to develop self-reliance in the Lord’s way. As we learn self-reliance, we develop faith in Him that will lead us to daily seek His help. As we balance the Lord’s help and the resources and talents He has given us, we learn to care for our own needs and provide assistance to others.

Principles to Understand

  • Righteous self-reliance includes faith in and dependence on the Savior.

  • The gospel teaches us to become self-reliant temporally and grow spiritually and to help others do the same.

  • We have a responsibility to improve ourselves.

  • Self-reliance implies the development of skills and abilities in a variety of areas.

Teaching Suggestions

Righteous self-reliance includes faith in and dependence on the Savior.

Display a picture of Jesus Christ. Have students list examples of what He has done for them that they could not do for themselves. Read with the class some of the following scriptures and have students explain what they teach about our dependence upon the Lord:

Share with students the first paragraph of the above introduction. Write self-reliance on the board. Read Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s description of self-reliance on page 59 in the student manual. Have students look for Elder McConkie’s explanations about the meaning of the word self-reliance.

Ask students to share experiences when they took the initiative to do something and the Lord supported them in their efforts. (These might involve studying out a problem and making a decision based on that study, and then gaining confirmation from the Lord; getting the best vocational training available, and then receiving the Lord’s guidance toward appropriate employment; or working honestly to provide for one’s family, and then receiving the Lord’s help to manage resources wisely.)

The gospel teaches us to become self-reliant temporally and grow spiritually and to help others do the same.

Write July 24, 1847 on the board. Ask students what significance this date has in Church history. (President Brigham Young and the last of his pioneer company entered the Great Salt Lake Valley.) When the Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley they worked hard to transform an unsettled area into a thriving settlement. Share the following description of the pioneers by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency:

“They had traveled from the Missouri River, taking three months to cover the distance we cover in two hours by airplane. With faith in their capacity to do what needed doing, they set to work. Theirs was a philosophy of self-reliance. There was no government to assist them. They had natural resources, it is true. But they had to dig them out and fashion them. … They had skills, patiently learned, in masonry, the working of wood, the making and application of plaster, the setting of glass” (“The Faith of the Pioneers,” Ensign, July 1984, 3).

Nearly 100 years after the early pioneers entered the valley, a severe economic depression was impacting the world and unemployment was very high. The First Presidency organized a welfare program for the Church.

Share the following statement from President Heber J. Grant, in which he introduced the basic principles of Church welfare:

“Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3).


  • What does the Church welfare system teach about self-reliance?

  • What are some ways people can help themselves overcome generations of poverty?

  • Why is it honorable to seek gainful employment? (So that we can provide for ourselves and our families.)

Read with students the example in the “Application and Examples” section on page 64 in the student manual. Have them answer the question that follows it.

Read with the class the two statements from President Spencer W. Kimball on page 60 in the student manual.


  • What are the blessings of work?

  • What does the statement “work should be the ruling principle in the lives of our Church membership” mean to you?

We have a responsibility to improve ourselves.

Ask: Why is personal responsibility important in our lives?

Write the following statement on the board: We have a personal responsibility to improve ourselves.

Divide the class into four groups. Assign each group one of the four statements on page 62 in the student manual, from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Bishop Robert D. Hales, Elder Russell M. Nelson, and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. Have each group create an outline for a two-minute talk on the subject written on the board. Have them include in their talk the statement assigned from the student manual. Ask a representative from each group to present the talk to the class.

Self-reliance implies the development of skills and abilities in a variety of areas.

List the following categories on the board:

  1. 1.


  2. 2.


  3. 3.


  4. 4.

    Resource management

  5. 5.

    Social, emotional, and spiritual strength

Ask students to list ways they can become more self-reliant through education. Then have them read the material beneath the subheading “Education” on page 62 in the student manual.

Do the same for each of the five categories listed on the board.

Suggested Student Assignments

  • Ask students to pray about their needs and to discuss appropriate goals with a parent, spouse, trusted friend, or teacher. Ask them to write one or more goals from each of the five categories: education; health; employment; resource management; and social, emotional, and spiritual strength. Have them place a copy of their goals where they can review them regularly.