The Road to Self-Reliance 

Diverging Roads

'When you do not know where you are going, every road will take you there. In short, you can end up anywhere!' 

It is not often that a married man my age goes back to his dating days to share righteous principles that can lead to peace and joy in this life, and eternal life in the world to come.[1] But, the message I have for you takes me there. My wife — and my close friends at that time (or even now as most of them are still my close friends) — would most probably recall me saying something along these lines: “I find it difficult to date a woman who does not know what she wants from life.” I was not a member of the Church back then, but one thing I already clearly understood was that without a vision, the people perish.[2] Imagine the excitement when I later came across the noted scripture!

A more common saying for the same principle is that when you do not know where you are going, every road will take you there. In short, you can end up anywhere! The point is that I need to have a vision and a plan to accomplish anything good I really want to achieve in life. Living a life of defaults is neither fun nor filled with success. To be successful in one thing, I need to give up other things. Given that self-reliance has a strong relationship with education, diligence and focus amongst others; achieving self-reliance needs all of us individually and collectively as families to work hard and smartly for it. Determined to achieve it, we cannot afford the distractions that come our way, even if they seem good and necessary.

To illustrate what I mean, I use an example I have shared many times before. Striving to have as high an educational qualification as a person can is key to attaining self-reliance. Getting to this level requires the person to be disciplined in the use of his or her time. If I am serious about achieving this in as short a time as possible, I cannot, for example, do as much sport as I would like to nor attend all the parties I hear about. I found tertiary education to have some very sad endings when even very intelligent young people lost focus and ended up not studying as they should — resulting in them not graduating. Growing up, I also saw many young people who, having means to get education, chose instead immediate money from doing simple work — work which would not properly sustain their families later in their lives.

Success in self-reliance comes to those who are focused on achieving it and relentless in doing those things that deliver it. I love the example of Captain Moroni as summarised in the following words of scripture: “And now … Moroni did not stop making preparations for war… and he caused places of security to be built …. Thus Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies …. Thus Moroni, with his armies, which did increase daily because of the assurance of protection which his works did bring forth unto them, did seek to cut off the strength and the power of the Lamanites from off the lands of their possessions, that they should have no power upon the lands of their possession.”[3] This — combined with the recurring promise of the Lord in the Book of Mormon, that “if [we] will keep the commandments of God [we] shall prosper in the land”[4] — are meant to have us do our part to realise the blessings of the Lord in our lives!

The following, from the Church Handbook 2, is for me a great definition of what self-reliance is: “Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family.”[5]

Elder Robert D. Hales taught us the following on self-reliance: “Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we may hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide. At these times we should strive to come to ourselves and come back into the light of our Savior’s love.

These blessings rightfully belong to all of Heavenly Father’s children. Desiring these blessings, including a life of joy and happiness, is an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan for each one of us. The prophet Alma taught, ‘Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you.’

As our spiritual desires increase, we become spiritually self-reliant. … We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants—through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others. …

In addition to the spiritual self-reliance …, there is temporal self-reliance, which includes getting a post-secondary education or vocational training, learning to work, and living within our means. By avoiding debt and saving money now, we are prepared for full-time Church service in the years to come. The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need.”[6]

In the words of President Russell M. Nelson, “All of us can do better and be better than ever before”[7] on self-reliance as one of the fights in our mortality battle.

I close with the following words from the Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”[8] Things that need to be will be clearer to us as we follow the Lord’s example better in clear vision and mission, diligence, and focus! In the probation that this life is, ours is to faithfully and obediently do these things.[9] This way our best efforts[10] combined with the Lord’s blessings will lead us to the success the Lord has in store for us![11]

I testify that these things are all true. This is our probation individually and collectively as families: to work out our salvation with the Lord’s divine and thus infinite help.

[1] Tom Brady is an American football quarterback for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). Brady has played in nine Super Bowls, winning six of them, the most of any player in NFL history. He is considered by many sports analysts to be the greatest American football quarterback of all time. (Source: Wikipedia)

[1] D&C 59:23

[2] Proverbs 29:18

[3] Alma 50:1-12

[4] Alma 37:13

[5] Handbook 2: Administering the Church, Section 6.1.1

[6] Elder Robert D. Hales, “Coming to Ourselves: …”, April 2012 General Conference

[7] President Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better”, April 2019 General Conference

[8] John 8:12

[9] Abraham 3:25

[10] 2 Nephi 25:23

[11] D&C 82:10