Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 11: Provident Living: Applying Principles of Self-Reliance and Preparedness

“Chapter 11: Provident Living: Applying Principles of Self-Reliance and Preparedness,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (2006), 114–23

“Chapter 11,” Teachings: Spencer W. Kimball, 114–23

Chapter 11

Provident Living: Applying Principles of Self-Reliance and Preparedness

Wise and provident living is a lifestyle that builds character and increases our temporal, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball

As a young couple, Spencer W. Kimball and his wife, Camilla, “knew they weren’t rich. But they had work and ability. They knew how to manage their own money, living within their income, saving for the future.”1

The Kimballs lived through times of widespread economic difficulties—World War I (1914–18), the Great Depression (1929–39), and World War II (1939–45). Having experienced these challenges, President Kimball concluded, “What I have seen with my own eyes makes me afraid not to do what I can to protect against the calamities.”2

Among the things he saw were the struggles of others: “All my life from childhood I have heard the Brethren saying, ‘get out of debt and stay out of debt.’ I was employed for some years in the banks and I saw the terrible situation that many people were in because they had ignored that important counsel.”

In addition to his bank work, Spencer kept the account books for some of the local stores. “One of the shocking things of my life was to find on the books the accounts of many of the people in the community that I knew. I knew them. I knew approximately what their income was, and then I saw them wear it away. In other words, I saw they were buying their clothes, their shoes, everything they had ‘on time.’

“And I found that it was my duty to make the bills at the end of the month for them. And many of them couldn’t pay at the end of the month. They couldn’t pay even the installments that were arranged for them. And having been reared in a home that took care of its funds, I couldn’t understand it. I could understand how a person could buy a home on time or perhaps could even buy an automobile on time. But I never could quite understand how anybody would wear clothes they didn’t own. Or eat food that they had to buy ‘on time.’”3

In his teachings President Kimball addressed not only financial issues but also other matters related to provident living, such as personal responsibility, work, and home food production and storage. He said: “Let us practice the principles of personal and family preparedness in our daily lives. ‘If ye are prepared ye shall not fear’ (D&C 38:30).”4

Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball

We are responsible for our own social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and economic well-being.

The Church and its members are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent. (See D&C 78:13–14.)

The responsibility for each person’s social, emotional, spiritual, physical, or economic well-being rests first upon himself, second upon his family, and third upon the Church if he is a faithful member thereof.

No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able, will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life. (See 1 Timothy 5:8.)5

As we travel and visit the people throughout the world, we recognize the great temporal needs of our people. And as we long to help them, we realize the vital importance of their learning this great lesson: that the highest achievement of spirituality comes as we conquer the flesh. We build character as we encourage people to care for their own needs.6

No amount of philosophizing, excuses, or rationalizing will ever change the fundamental need for self-reliance. This is so because:

“All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, … as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.” (D&C 93:30.) The Lord declares that herein lies “the agency of man” (see D&C 93:31), and with this agency comes the responsibility for self. With this agency we can rise to glory or fall to condemnation. May we individually and collectively be ever self-reliant. This is our heritage and our obligation.7

We have placed considerable emphasis on personal and family preparedness. I hope that each member of the Church is responding appropriately to this direction. I also hope that we are understanding and accentuating the positive and not the negative. I like the way the Relief Society teaches personal and family preparedness as “provident living.” This implies the husbanding [prudent managing] of our resources, the wise planning of financial matters, full provision for personal health, and adequate preparation for education and career development, giving appropriate attention to home [food] production and storage as well as the development of emotional resiliency.8

We have been counseled to participate in home food production and storage.

The Lord has urged that his people save for the rainy days, prepare for the difficult times, and put away for emergencies, a year’s supply or more of bare necessities so that when comes the flood, the earthquake, the famine, the hurricane, the storms of life, our families can be sustained through the dark days.9

We encourage you to grow all the food that you feasibly can on your own property. Berry bushes, grapevines, fruit trees—plant them if your climate is right for their growth. Grow vegetables and eat them from your own yard. Even those residing in apartments or condominiums can generally grow a little food in pots and planters. Study the best methods of providing your own foods. Make your garden as neat and attractive as well as productive. If there are children in your home, involve them in the process with assigned responsibilities.10

I hope that we understand that, while having a garden … is often useful in reducing food costs and making available delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, it does much more than this. Who can gauge the value of that special chat between daughter and Dad as they weed or water the garden? How do we evaluate the good that comes from the obvious lessons of planting, cultivating, and the eternal law of the harvest? And how do we measure the family togetherness and cooperating that must accompany successful canning? Yes, we are laying up resources in store, but perhaps the greater good is contained in the lessons of life we learn as we live providently.11

We encourage families to have on hand this year’s supply; and we say it over and over and over and repeat over and over the scripture of the Lord where He says, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46.] How empty it is as they put their spirituality, so-called, into action and call him by his important names, but fail to do the things which he says.12

As we become more affluent and our bank accounts enlarge, there comes a feeling of security, and we feel sometimes that we do not need the supply that has been suggested by the Brethren. … We must remember that conditions could change and a year’s supply of basic commodities could be very much appreciated by us or others. So we would do well to listen to what we have been told and to follow it explicitly.13

We should work for what we receive.

With regard to all phases of our lives, I believe that men should help themselves. They should plow and plant and cultivate and harvest and not expect their faith to bring them bread.14

Work is a spiritual necessity as well as an economic necessity.15

Work brings happiness, self-esteem, and prosperity. It is the means of all accomplishment; it is the opposite of idleness. We are commanded to work. (See Gen. 3:19.) Attempts to obtain our temporal, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being by means of a dole violate the divine mandate that we should work for what we receive.16

We cannot be too often reminded that Church welfare assistance is spiritual at heart and that these spiritual roots would wither if we ever permitted anything like the philosophy of the dole to enter into our Welfare Services ministrations. Everyone assisted can do something. Let us follow the order of the Church in this regard and insure that all who receive give of themselves in return. May we be on guard against accepting worldly substitutes for the plan to care for his poor in this, the Lord’s own way.17

The Lord’s way builds individual self-esteem and develops and heals the dignity of the individual, whereas the world’s way depresses the individual’s view of himself and causes deep resentment.

The Lord’s way causes the individual to hasten his efforts to become economically independent again, even though he may have temporary need, because of special conditions, for help and assistance. The world’s way deepens the individual’s dependency on welfare programs and tends to make him demand more rather than encouraging him to return to economic independence.

The Lord’s way helps our members get a testimony for themselves about the gospel of work. For work is important to human happiness as well as productivity. The world’s way, however, places greater and greater emphasis on leisure and upon the avoidance of work.18

It is right to work. Every man and woman and child should work. Even little children should learn how to share, to help do the housework and the yardwork, to plant gardens, to plant trees, to pick fruit, and to do everything that needs to be done, because that makes strong characters out of them and builds their faith and character.

We want you parents to create work for your children. Insist on them learning their lessons in school. Do not let them play all the time. There is a time for play, there is a time to work, and there is a time to study. Be sure your children grow up like you know they ought to grow.19

Work should be the ruling principle in the lives of our Church membership. (See D&C 42:42; 75:29; 68:30–32; 56:17.)20

We can become economically self-reliant by saving, avoiding debt, and living within our means.

Are you prepared for and protected against death, illness, a long-continuing, crippling illness of the breadwinner? How long can you go if the income stops? What are your reserves? How long could you make your many payments on home, car, implements, appliances? …

The first reaction is: We just cannot do it. We can hardly get by using every cent of income monthly. … If you can hardly get by when you are earning increasingly, well employed, well, productive, young, then how can you meet emergencies with employment curtailed, illness and other unlooked-for problems arising?21

You must not spend all you make. Money must be put aside for missions and for schooling for your children. They can assume responsibilities and take little jobs whereby they can also help to raise these funds and instead of spending those little accumulations, they will save them for these great purposes. It may mean that the parents of today will go without many things that they would like, but tomorrow will come the harvest.22

Avoid debt. … Today everything is seemingly geared toward debt. “Get your cards, and buy everything on time”: you’re encouraged to do it. But the truth is that we don’t need to do it to live.23

We wonder what our people will do who have been spending their all and more. If employment and income should reduce, what then? Are you living beyond your means? Do you owe what you cannot pay if times became perilous? Are your shock absorbers in condition to take a shock?24

Plan and work in a way that will permit you to be happy even as you do without certain things that in times of affluence may have been available to you. Live within your means and not beyond them. … Purchase your essentials wisely and carefully. Strive to save a portion of that which you earn. Do not mistake many wants for basic needs.25

Let us as individuals, as families, and as wards and stakes learn to live within our means. There is strength and salvation in this principle. Someone has said that we are rich in proportion to that with which we can do without. As families and as a Church, we can and should provide that which is truly essential for our people, but we must be careful not to extend beyond that which is essential or for purposes which are not directly related to our families’ welfare and the basic mission of the Church.26

Preparedness is a way of life that brings its own rewards.

Preparedness, when properly pursued, is a way of life, not a sudden, spectacular program.27

We could refer to all the components of personal and family preparedness, not in relation to holocaust or disaster, but in cultivating a life-style that is on a day-to-day basis its own reward.

Let’s do these things because they are right, because they are satisfying, and because we are obedient to the counsels of the Lord. In this spirit we will be prepared for most eventualities, and the Lord will prosper and comfort us. It is true that difficult times will come—for the Lord has foretold them—and, yes, stakes of Zion are “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm.” (D&C 115:6.) But if we live wisely and providently, we will be as safe as in the palm of His hand.28

Suggestions for Study and Teaching

Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.

  • Given that our lives are connected with family, friends, the Church, and the community, what do you think it means to be self-reliant and independent? (See pages 116–17.)

  • President Kimball taught that “social, emotional, spiritual, physical, [and] economic well-being” are elements of provident living (page 116). In what ways does spiritual well-being relate to the other elements?

  • As you study the section that begins on page 117, think about how well prepared you are for “the storms of life.” How can we become better prepared?

  • What benefits can a garden bring to a family beyond providing food? (See page 118.)

  • President Kimball said that “work is a spiritual necessity” (page 118). What spiritual benefits have you experienced through work? In what ways can we help our children learn the importance of work?

  • What do you think the difference is between a want and a need? What attitudes can help us manage our wants? (For some examples, see pages 120–21 and the stories on pages 115–16.) What benefits are there in having a budget? What help is available to guide us in budgeting our resources?

  • Read the section that begins on page 121. In what ways does preparedness bring day-to-day rewards?

Related Scriptures: Genesis 41:14–57; 2 Nephi 5:17; D&C 29:8–11


  1. Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball (1977), 99.

  2. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 372.

  3. In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 166–67.

  4. In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 114; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 75.

  5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 124; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 77–78.

  6. In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 123; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 77.

  7. In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 120; or Ensign, May 1978, 79.

  8. In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 125; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 78.

  9. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 374.

  10. In Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 170–71; or Ensign, May 1976, 124.

  11. In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 125; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 78.

  12. In Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 171; or Ensign, May 1976, 125.

  13. In Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 170; or Ensign, May 1976, 124.

  14. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 370.

  15. In Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 107; or Ensign, May 1981, 80.

  16. In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 124; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 77.

  17. In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 119–20; or Ensign, May 1978, 79.

  18. In Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 172; or Ensign, May 1976, 125.

  19. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 360–61.

  20. In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 124; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 77.

  21. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 372.

  22. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 371–72.

  23. In Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 171; or Ensign, May 1976, 125.

  24. In Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 7; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 7.

  25. In Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 107, 108; or Ensign, May 1981, 80.

  26. In Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 63; or Ensign, May 1981, 46.

  27. Regional representatives’ seminar, Sept. 30, 1976, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 8.

  28. In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 125–26; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 78.

family gardening

“Let us practice the principles of personal and family preparedness in our daily lives.”

father and son fixing engine

“Work brings happiness, self-esteem, and prosperity. It is the means of all accomplishment; it is the opposite of idleness.”