Doctrine and Covenants 38:30, 42: 30-31; 42; 58:26-28; 104:13-18; Our Heritage, pages 108-9,111-14.
The first reference for this lesson seems pointed and timely given harrowing times we live in. Beginning with the scripture before D&C 38:30 to give context, we are told:
“Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of men in your own land.” I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. “And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless” (D&C 38:29-31).
What a confidence-building line that is: “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” We think of our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, in the conference after 9/11 telling us in sober terms that missiles had just been launched, weeping over the darkness of terrorism, and then giving us counsel that pierced directly to our bone marrow: we should get out of debt, we should have a year’s supply of food and other necessities, and “to have a little laid aside against a rainy day.”
It was grave counsel given our times, but what is most striking about it is that it is nothing new. As we find ourselves in a new crises with modern-day Gadiantons who infest their own mountains and strongholds, we see that we are given the counsel we have long been given. In all times, whether in a radically new kind of war on a dark terrorist network or in economic hardship knocking our personal well-being, the counsel is the same.
For the war we are in which is vivid before us, is the same old war we have already fought. We are veterans of a war with Satan and his goal for us has always been captivity and bondage. As Nephi said:
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” 2 Nephi 2:27.
God want us to be free. Satan wants us in chains, terrified and bound. While God has given us the welfare program and taught us principles of self-reliance to help us temporally, these are ultimately spiritual programs. That means they impact not just our temporal, physical lives here, but our eternal lives as well, because ultimately they are about our freedom-liberty and eternal life-Christ’s great offering to us.
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve said it this way, “Independence and self-reliance are critical to our spiritual and temporal growth. Whenever we get into a situation which threatens our self-reliance, we will find our freedoms threatened as well. If we increase our dependence on anything or anyone except the Lord, we will find an immediate decrease in our freedom to act” (As Quoted in The Church News, Oct. 12, 1991).
President, Joseph F. Smith said: “It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints, that a religion which has not the power to save the people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, and exalt them in the life to come” (quoted in L. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 1958, p. 425, n. 16).
That the temporal well-being of the Saints is one of the Lord’s concerns is clear from the beginnings of the Restoration. Within a year of the organization of the Church in 1830, Latter-day Saints began to gather to Ohio. Many sold valuable farms for a pittance to come, arriving in destitution. The Saints were instructed through revelation (D&C 42:34) to consecrate their surplus properties to the Church for the care of the poor.
Yet, the welfare system as we know it today, was not inaugurated until 1936 in the midst of the Great Depression when President Heber J. Grant was seeking to find a way to help members of the Church be more self-reliant in the face of the economic shambles of their times. The First Presidency said of this program: “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 to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (Our Heritage, pp. 108-111).
This would be a welfare system unlike any the world had seen, for it was of the Lord’s devising and in the Lord’s way-which is always to uplift and develop the capacities of his children. The cardinal principles of the program were self-reliance and consecration, both designed to help foster liberty in those who participated.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks noted,
“At the doctrinal or theoretical level, there is a rich opportunity for confusion over the principle of self-reliance. For example, some have experienced confusion in how the principle of self-reliance applies to the twin goals of temporal well-being and spiritual salvation. The true principle is self-reliance in temporal matters and ultimate total dependence on our Savior, Jesus Christ, in spiritual matters. As Nephi taught, ‘It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Ne. 25:23.)
“In common with C. S. Lewis, the perceptive author of The Screwtape Letters, I believe that one of Satan’s most effective techniques is to pretend to accept a true principle and then act so as to corrupt it. Thus, Satan would surely like to corrupt the practice of self-reliance in order to make us self-reliant in spiritual things (thinking we can “work out our own salvation”) and largely dependent on others in temporal things. He desires this corruption since misunderstanding of either role of self-reliance forestalls an important part of the personal growth that the Father’s plan seeks to afford us. A misunderstanding of both relationships is doubly devastating.
“There are powerful forces at work to beguile us into self-sufficiency in spiritual things and to lure us into some degree of dependence in temporal things. It is easy for Latter-day Saints to fall prey to those forces.” (Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord’s Way, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991).
The Church has recommended that we seek self-reliance in these areas: literacy and education; career development and counseling; financial and resource management; home production and storage; physical health; and social, emotional, and spiritual support. Self-reliance means that we learn to live providently.
In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Daniel Ludlow wrote:
“Latter-day Saints view education as a spiritual, as well as a temporal, obligation.
All members are expected to take advantage of available educational opportunities. Church leaders counsel parents to read to their children, teach them, and encourage them to study the scriptures and other good literature and to communicate well in writing and speaking. Church organizations reinforce these family efforts. Instruction in family relations strengthens the family’s ability to meet its challenges. People are given counsel to help them select careers in which their talents and skills can be used in meaningful employment. Adults and youth are expected to become proficient through appropriate training. The Church accepts responsibility for arranging for career counseling, encouraging access to training, providing assistance as necessary, and motivating members to assist each other in finding employment.”
“Church directives teach members to establish financial goals, pay tithing and fast offerings, avoid excessive debt, pay their obligations, use their resources wisely, and pursue a regular savings program. Keeping property in good repair is also encouraged. LDS families are taught to grow and preserve fruits and vegetables, sew clothing, and make household items. Every family is urged to be prepared for emergencies and to maintain a year’s supply of food, clothing, and, if possible, fuel. The Word of Wisdom obliges members to avoid tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee, and harmful drugs. Church organizations teach principles and skills of nutrition, physical fitness, immunization, sanitation, health, accident prevention, medical care, and the maintenance of a healthy home environment. Members are also advised to carry adequate health and life insurance when feasible and to avoid questionable medical practices.”
“Avoid debt like the plague,” said President J. Reuben Clark. “Debt and its ever-present offspring, interest, are merciless taskmasters. Interest becomes your constant companion. It never goes away, never takes a rest, never has a day off.”
Despite their best efforts, however, there are times when people need help. None of us are guaranteed complete security and financial hard times may befall any of us at any time. Accidents and illness can produce unexpected and overwhelming medical costs. Misfortune may is no respecter of persons. Unemployment and inflation can eat up hard-earned savings n a blink. And often with economic stress comes personal challenges such as discouragement and frustration, strained relationships and tense days.
Those who are economically deprived for reasons either within or beyond their control (Mark 14:7) are to be provided with short-term emergency help, then assisted to a state of self-reliance, if possible, and provided with support if not. But, the underlying principle is that the provided assistance should exalt, rather than demean, the poor.
We are all ultimately beggars before the Lord, dependent on his gifts to us, and in this life, it is reasonable that we are occasionally in need of the help of one another. Giving when you can and receiving when you need help are all part of the Lord’s plan of development for our eternal souls.
Do Not Neglect the Poor
Elder Russell M. Nelson has reminded us that “when the Lord sent prophets to call Israel back from apostasy, in almost every instance, one of the first charges made was that the poor had been neglected.” In fact, responding generously to the needs of the poor is a paramount interest of the Lord’s who makes it a recurring theme in his words to us. This is not merely a commandment to do when it is convenient or when our surpluses are so bountiful, it is painless. John the Baptist observed, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise” (Luke 3:11)
Elder Dallin Oaks observed, in fact, that taking care of the poor was the only was we could obtain essential blessings:
“The prophet/king Benjamin declared that we must impart of our substance to the poor, ‘such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief’ for the sake of ‘retaining a remission of [our] sins from day to day, that [we] may walk guiltless before God.’ (Mosiah 4:26.)
“After teaching the fundamental principles of the gospel (including the Atonement and the necessity for faith, repentance, and prayer), Amulek continued: ‘And now . . . do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need-I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.’ (Alma 34:28.)
“In modern times the Lord told his people they ‘must visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief’ (D&C 44:6), and ‘he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple’ (D&C 52:40). The Lord commanded his saints to ‘learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.’ (D&C 88:123.) President Marion G. Romney explained the importance of these commandments by relating them to the Savior’s statement that when he comes in his glory, he will divide his people ‘as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.’ (Matt. 25:32.) He said, ‘The test on which the division [will] be made on that great day [will] be the care given to the poor and the needy.'”
We will be in a position to render that service to others, if we have first lived providently and with self-reliance ourselves.