Catching the Vision of Self-Reliance
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“Catching the Vision of Self-Reliance,” Ensign, May 1986, 89

A Personal and Family Concern

Catching the Vision of Self-Reliance

One night the phone rang at the home of Russell Hakes, who at the time was serving as stake president. “President Hakes,” came a man’s determined voice, “I refuse to store powdered milk! The Church wants me to store powdered milk, and I just won’t do it!”

President Hakes could hear the emotion in the man’s voice. He assured him that the Church did not expect him to store powdered milk if he didn’t want to. “You can choose any kind of storage for your year’s supply; it’s up to you,” he said, trying to calm his caller.

“Well, I’ll be hanged if I’ll store powdered milk!” the man huffed, slightly appeased. “I have six cows!”

We can all appreciate the humor of this situation. When our leaders urge us to be self-reliant, to manage our resources wisely, and to be prepared for emergencies, they are not advocating any specific storage item as an indispensable part of gospel living. What they are asking us to do is invite the spirit of self-reliance and provident living into our homes.

Provident living—enjoying the present while providing for the future—is the opposite of crisis management. The goal is for each person and family to build a foundation of preparedness in the following six areas: literacy and education, career development, financial and resource management, home production and storage, social-emotional and spiritual strength, and physical health.

The Church has provided guidelines, resources, and ideas to help us attain this balanced preparation and its resulting peace of mind. Whether you live alone or are part of a family, the challenge is to take the basic guidelines and fill your own needs. If you’ll never use powdered milk, don’t store it! But prayerfully plan and invite the Lord’s guidance so you can live providently and obediently.

Let’s focus on two major areas—home production and storage, and financial and resource management—and see how some Latter-day Saints have approached the goal of provident living.

Home Production and Storage

President Ezra Taft Benson has urged each of us to be productive and to store what we produce: “You do not need to go into debt … to obtain a year’s supply. Plan to build up your food supply just as you would a savings account. Save a little for storage each paycheck. Can or bottle fruit and vegetables from your gardens and orchards. Learn how to preserve food through drying and possibly freezing. Make your storage a part of your budget. Store seeds and have sufficient tools on hand to do the job. If you are saving and planning for a second car or a TV set or some item which merely adds to your comfort or pleasure, you may need to change your priorities. We urge you to do this prayerfully and do it now.” (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 33.)

Depending on the area of the world in which you live, the types and amounts of food you choose to store will vary—as will the opportunities for home production. The Church has prepared an excellent resource handbook, Essentials of Home Production & Storage. (Available through Church distribution centers; stock no. PGWE1125; 50¢ each.) This helpful booklet gives a wide variety of practical suggestions.

Some may ask, “Why have a garden when we can buy produce inexpensively?” One of the important keys of home production and storage is the acquisition of skills. Sometimes we may be able to buy food inexpensively, but the skills and intuitive wisdom gained through gardening and other home production projects are worth more than the time and effort they require. In a sustained emergency, basic gardening, sewing, repair, construction, and production know-how are invaluable. Provident living helps us develop these skills—and build family unity by doing it—before an emergency.

Nathan and Hazel Calder, in their mid-seventies, are examples of the resourcefulness and self-reliance that come from heeding the counsel to live providently. Ten years ago they moved into a home with a small yard full of evergreen shrubs and lawn. They pulled out twenty-two large shrubs, opening up new garden spaces. They also removed two huge trees that blocked precious sunlight from their yard, chopping them up for winter fuel. Now the sun shines down on fourteen fruit trees, numerous berry and grape vines, a delicious variety of vegetables, and beautiful flower beds.

In the fall and winter, they quilt together and do a variety of handiwork projects for Christmas, wedding, and birthday gifts. Their home production skills have provided them with substantial savings on gifts—and considerable enjoyment.

“We live on a low income,” says Brother Calder, “so we have done all we can to make ourselves more self-sufficient and materially independent.”

The Lee Miller family learned to grow on their 40-by 150-foot garden “just about all of the vegetables we need for our family.” They eat their own home-grown produce during the summer and enjoy home-bottled fruit and vegetables in the winter.” (See Ensign, Feb. 1979, p. 27.)

Resourcefulness is often the key to success in home production and storage. When Linda Greenfield and her family agreed to tend a neighbor’s garden for three weeks in exchange for the vegetables they harvested from it, she had no idea what a blessing those vegetables would eventually be. On the first afternoon, they returned home with six large shopping bags filled with green beans. Two days later, they brought home three large laundry baskets of beans. The children helped with the picking, the cleaning, the cutting, and the canning.

Twenty-one days and 216 quarts of beans later, the neighbor returned to care for the garden. Linda had mixed feelings of satisfaction and puzzlement as she looked at her rows of bottled beans. “We just didn’t like beans that much,” she says.

Over the next few months, the family experienced several changes: a new baby, a new job, a move to a different part of the country. “We worked hard, but the business didn’t thrive. We learned to do without and to appreciate what we did have. … And we ate green beans.

“How many ways are there to serve green beans? There were soups, salads, casseroles, soufflés. They went with wheat, rice, and everything else. If any were left, they were pureed and baked into bread. Oddly, never in two years did we tire of beans. They were truly delicious and nourishing beyond what my nutrition education told me they should be.” (See Ensign, July 1983, p. 48.)

Some home production and storage goals you and your family may want to consider include: planting and caring for a garden; learning techniques of home canning, drying, or freezing foods; storing an adequate supply of basic food, clothing, and, where possible, fuel; storing an emergency supply of water; assembling—and knowing how to use—an emergency first-aid kit; storing seeds; and having adequate tools.

Financial and Resource Management

Individual and family budgets vary. But some things should be constant: paying tithes and offerings, saving money, and planning carefully to live within our means. Another important element is “resource management”—saving money by being self-reliant in temporal matters.

When Jim and Rosalie Cooper moved into their home twenty-three years ago, it had only two bedrooms—not much room for a family that eventually included twelve children! But the Coopers have never been afraid of major projects—such as digging a basement under their existing home. The whole family helped dig out the dirt and lay the cement floors and walls. Even the youngest children helped haul out small buckets of dirt.

“You just have to find the courage to start,” says Sister Cooper. “We take the time to check out excellent books from the library and read them so we can teach ourselves how to do things. It takes lots of work, but we have been able to teach our children valuable skills and have produced high quality work at a fraction of the cost.”

From the beginning of their marriage, Sister Cooper has augmented her husband’s wages by her efforts to save money at home. “I never considered that it was just Jim’s responsibility to support us,” she says. “Besides, it’s fun to be creative!”

Some of Sister Cooper’s financial wisdom includes buying winter clothes in late spring, and summer clothes in late fall—when they are on sale. She watches sales and often purchases food in bulk. She has taught her children to sew. And she has learned how to glean the harvest: Many farmers are happy to give her bushels of slightly bruised fruit that has fallen from their trees. “It’s easy to cut out the bruises,” she says, “and the fruit is delicious and ripe.”

Linda Duerig, a single mother with four children, is another resourceful manager. She and her children get up before dawn every day to share the responsibility of several newspaper delivery routes. Even the six-year-old helps fold and stack the papers. The children pay tithing, save for missions and college, and manage most of their own expenses with the delivery route paychecks. “It’s hard work, but it’s worth it to us,” she says. “We’ve set some financial goals as a family, and we’re determined to reach them.”

Another single parent, Sister Dolia Rodriguez of Guasave, Mexico, is also teaching welfare principles of self-reliance and resource management to her six children. When her oldest son, Martin, decided to go on a mission, she established a business making and selling yogurt. The proceeds currently help pay for Martin’s mission, and the other children who are old enough are helping—and learning valuable skills.

Some financial and resource management goals you and your family may wish to discuss are: paying tithes and offerings; properly budgeting your money; living within your income; planning major purchases and avoiding credit purchases when possible; working toward home ownership; getting out of debt; having a savings plan; providing financial security for times of disability and advanced age; and taking good care of your possessions.

“Life is made up of small daily acts,” said Sister Barbara B. Smith, former Relief Society general president. “Savings in food budgets come by pennies, not only by dollars. Clothing budgets are cut by mending stitch by stitch, seam by seam. Houses are kept in good repair nail by nail. Provident homes come not by decree or by broad brushstroke. Provident homes come from small acts performed well day after day. When we see in our minds the great vision, then we discipline ourselves by steady, small steps that make it happen.” (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 86.)

Catching the vision of self-reliance is an important part of our responsibility to live providently and help others in these last days. In this effort, the Lord is certainly our greatest resource. If we prayerfully invite his help and guidance—and act upon it—we will be prepared.

“If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38:30.)