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Lesson 7: Self-Reliance

“Lesson 7: Self-Reliance,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B (2000), 60–67

“Lesson 7: Self-Reliance,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, 60–67

Lesson 7


The purpose of this lesson is to help us be self-reliant.


On 9 February 1971 an earthquake shook California’s San Fernando Valley. Sister Ina Easton described some of the conditions following the earthquake:

“From early Tuesday morning, February 9—shortly after the earthquake hit—to late Friday afternoon, February 12, we had in our home 17 [to] 22 guests to care for. We had no electricity for a day and a night and no gas for heating and cooking or sufficient water for the time they were here.

“… It was a real challenge to care for so many with limited space and facilities. We were able to manage well under the circumstances, thanks to our wonderful guests and the Church food and water storage plan. … All of the stores were down that were near us. Roads were broken. We could not go to the grocery store. We were thankful and grateful for the food and water that we had stored. …

“We learned many things. Among them were good storage items: soap and detergents that dissolve in cold water; old towels … ; toilet tissue and paper towels; toothbrushes and toothpaste. … What about extra clothing—one change for each member of the family? First-aid materials are a must. We had cut feet and injuries everywhere. Some of them were not serious, but they became so because there were not supplies to bandage and care for them. Many children cried because they were hungry and uncomfortable. Babies were especially unhappy. Baby food, bottles, blankets, formula, and disposable diapers would have made the difference. … Some things people forgot in their hurry were heart pills and diabetic medicine. In some cases, it was really tragic.

“We found that a portable gas stove is a valuable thing to have. Its fuel is safe and easy to store. A gas lantern gives wonderful light when the electricity is gone. …

“There is much more that could be said, but the important thing for all of us to remember is that the Lord has told us to store food, water, clothing, and money, because someday we will need them. My testimony is that we did need them. By obeying the commandments given to us by our leaders, we had plenty and enough to share with our wonderful friends and ward members that were forced to leave their homes’” (Relief Society Courses of Study 1977–78, 78–79).

The Lord’s Plan

The Lord’s plan for Church members to be self-reliant is simple. It is that we do our best to provide for our personal and family needs by developing good work habits; being thrifty; gathering a home supply of items necessary to sustain us for at least one year; planning for our future needs; and maintaining physical, spiritual, emotional, and social health. Self-reliance begins at home, with the individual and the family.

  • Who is responsible to care for our needs and the needs of our loved ones?

If we cannot provide for our own needs, we should first seek help from relatives. For example, a person who is disabled may require more help than the immediate family can provide. In this case, other relatives should be asked to assist. Finally, if we cannot meet our basic needs through our own best efforts and the efforts of relatives, we can seek temporary help from the Church.

Being well prepared not only helps us care for ourselves, but it also helps us assist others in times of need. We grow spiritually as we give unselfishly of our means, time, and talents to help others.

  • Why do you think Heavenly Father wants us to provide for ourselves and our families?

  • How are we blessed when we help others in need?

Preparing Our Families

  • Display a poster of the Self-Reliance Chart (visual 7-a), or refer to the information on the chalkboard.

Members of the Church should become self-reliant in the six basic areas that follow.

Home Storage

Where legal and when possible, each person and family should have enough food to take care of basic needs for a minimum of one year. This means that we should grow and preserve food and then use and replace that food to avoid spoilage (see lesson 16 in this manual for a discussion on home gardening). We should also know how to make clothing and, if possible, store fuel and medical supplies. Production and storage help us care for ourselves, our own families, and others in times of need. (See Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 22, “Home Production and Storage.”)

  • How can we increase our self-reliance in home production and storage?

Physical Health

Our physical bodies are sacred, and it is important that we keep them clean, strong, and healthy. As revealed in the Word of Wisdom, we should eat nutritious foods and not consume alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful substances (see D&C 89). To avoid disease we should keep our homes and yards clean and receive the immunizations recommended for our area. We should exercise regularly, keep ourselves clean, and follow other practices of good health. As we keep our bodies healthy we are better able to care for our own needs and serve others.

  • How can we improve our physical health?

Spiritual, Emotional, and Social Strength

We should strengthen ourselves and our families spiritually, emotionally, and socially. As we do so we will be better prepared to work through problems and sorrows. Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

“It was meant to be that life would be a challenge. To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment, even some failure is normal.

“Teach our members that if they have a … miserable day once in a while, or several in a row, to stand steady and face them. Things will straighten out.

“There is great purpose in our struggle in life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 140; or Ensign, May 1978, 93).

When challenges come, we should love, support, and encourage one another. By helping each other, we develop the strength to overcome our problems. Elder Marvin J. Ashton told of a family that developed this kind of strength:

The youngest daughter suffered severe brain damage at birth and was never able to grow or develop normally. She died when she was 17 years old, but the family grew stronger during that time. Elder Ashton observed: “Constant care from a loving mother, patience and warmth from a kind father, and understanding from three noble brothers and a thoughtful sister made her presence special in the family. … [Her father] said, ‘Nothing that money could buy could have ever brought us together in love, patience, and humility like just taking care of her did.’ Here was a tragedy … turned into an opportunity for blessings” (“Family Home Storage,” in 1977 Devotional Speeches of the Year, 69).

As this story illustrates, a kind, prayerful, loving family relationship can be a great blessing in the life of every family member. Such a relationship should be the goal of every family. Elder Marvin J. Ashton explained:

“Often the greatest [helps] we receive come from within the ranks of our families. Sometimes the hands needed most are those closest to us. … God has decreed family members are to help family members. …

“We must take family members by the hand and show our love is real and continuing” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 131; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 104).

  • How can we develop and give emotional support in our families?

  • Why is helping, understanding, and loving others important to our peace and happiness? How can this help us prepare for the future?


In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord tells us that “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” and commands us “to bring up [our] children in light and truth” (D&C 93:36, 40). Each of us should learn to read, write, and do basic mathematics and then teach these skills to our children. We should study the scriptures regularly, as well as other good books, and read them with our children. We should take advantage of public and other educational opportunities.

  • Why should we and our families learn to read, write, and do basic mathematics? Why is education important?


When possible, we should obtain jobs that will enable us to provide adequately for our families and that will provide us personal satisfaction. Our employment should also be in harmony with Church teachings and allow us to fulfill our Church duties. In addition to obtaining such employment for ourselves, we should counsel our children and other youth in selecting an appropriate career.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton advised: “Make education a continuing process. Complete as much formal, full-time education as possible. This includes the trade schools. This is money well invested. Use night school and correspondence classes to further prepare. Acquire some special skill or ability that could be used to avoid prolonged unemployment” (“One for the Money,” Ensign, July 1975, 73).

  • Discuss the resources that are available to help class members develop their employment skills. Resources may include correspondence courses offered by universities, community courses for adults, internships, and on-the-job training. Find out from your bishop or branch president if your ward or branch has a welfare specialist who is responsible for employment. If so, explain that the specialist can help members find employment.

  • How can young men prepare themselves for a career?

Resource Management

To be prepared financially, we should learn how to live within our income. This requires setting up and managing a budget. A working budget includes making practical financial goals, paying tithes and offerings, and avoiding debt. In addition to a budget, wise management of our income includes buying food and other essential items when they are least expensive, avoiding waste, and, if possible, developing a savings fund to provide for emergency financial needs.

One family offered the following suggestion for managing family finances: “One thing that never works … is the attitude, ‘This is my money, so I’ll spend it the way I like.’ No matter whether the husband or the wife is bringing in the money, all the money should belong equally to both. Neither the husband nor the wife has the right to go spending ‘because it belongs to me’” (Orson Scott Card, “Family Finances,” Ensign, June 1978, 13).

  • How does wise use of money bring peace to the home?

  • Have class members ponder how well prepared they and their families are in each of the six basic areas of self-reliance.

Being Prepared to Help as a Church

The Lord has asked us to help one another in addition to caring for our own individual and family needs (see D&C 52:40). Sometimes our efforts to help others can be on our own initiative. Other times the efforts and resources of Church members are combined and used as directed by priesthood leaders.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained:

“The Church does not limit its relief efforts to its members but follows the admonition of the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said, ‘A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.’ He instructed members ‘to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted.’

“In a little over a decade, the Church has shipped more than 27,000 tons of clothing, 16,000 tons of food, and 3,000 tons of medical and education supplies and equipment to relieve the suffering of millions of God’s children in 146 countries in many parts of the world. We do not ask, ‘Are you members of our church?’ We ask only, ‘Do you suffer?’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 100; or Ensign, May 1999, 77).

The following are examples of disasters that required help from the Church to aid local efforts:

“In the devastating floods in Rapid City, South Dakota [USA], the Saints in that area responded immediately to assist the victims of the rampaging water. Clothing, bedding, and warm food were furnished through the efforts of the local Church organization. … Only one truckload of items, such as baby food, diapers, and blankets, [needed to be] shipped in” (Junior Wright Child, “Welfare Is the Church,” Ensign, Sept. 1973, 71).

Following the December 1972 earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua, in Central America, “the only thing sent to these Saints from [the United States] was typhoid serum. … All other assistance was acquired locally; the Saints in Costa Rica, arranging the relief supplies and working through government officials, administered the program” (Ensign, Sept. 1973, 71).

Elder Russell M. Nelson explained that “such cooperative efforts to help neighbors in distress transcend any barriers posed by religion, race, or culture. Those good deeds are latter-day love in action!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 91; or Ensign, May 1994, 70).

We need to prepare as a Church, as individuals, and as families to survive in emergencies. When the Church is fully organized in our area, we can work together to prepare food, clothing, and household items to be used in emergencies. This way, those who are in need and whose families have done all they can will receive this help. If we help each other in every way we can, we will be worthy to receive help if we need it.


As we actively work toward becoming self-reliant, our love for our families and others will increase and our testimony of the need for self-reliance will grow. With that testimony we will want to help others help themselves.

The Lord said, “All things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal” (D&C 29:34). The foundation of helping ourselves and others is love and charity. The Savior said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).


In your next family home evening, evaluate your self-reliance. Identify any weak areas, and make plans for improvement. As a home teacher, be aware of the needs of the families under your care. Encourage them to prepare themselves to meet their needs.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. Study Gospel Principles chapters 27, “Work and Personal Responsibility,” and 37 “Family Responsibilities.”

  2. Prepare the poster suggested in the lesson, or write the information on the chalkboard.

  3. Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.