One of the wonderful experiences as we meet with members throughout Africa is having question and answer sessions. Sometimes we hear the question: “What will the church do for me?”
Variations of the question include:
- I have served a mission for the church … now how is the church going to help me get a job?
- How will the church help me get an education?
- I am struggling with my testimony – how will the church help strengthen my faith?
- How will the church help me find someone to marry?
- Some of my family are no longer active – what will the church do to reactivate them?
- We are poor. What will the church do to help us become self-reliant?
These questions are usually well-intentioned but they show a misunderstanding of the principles of spiritual and temporal self-reliance.
President Boyd K Packer told of receiving a phone call from a bishop in the United States, whose son was in an Army basic training center. The father said, “He’s been there for three weeks and has not been to church yet; is there something you can do to help?” President Packer investigated the circumstances. He then shared: “Can you picture the following: in the barracks, a few feet from the young man’s bed was a bulletin with a picture of the temple on it and a listing of the meeting times at the Base chapel. He had been told at orientation that if he wanted to know about church services he simply had to talk to the chaplain.
“He had been told before he left home that the church had a wonderful program to help young men in military service. He was assured the church was doing everything to take care of our men and that we would find them, and look after them and bring the full church program to them. He had therefore lain back on his bunk, propped up his feet, put his head on the pillow, and waited for the church to do everything for him. He waited for three weeks and was disappointed enough that he called his father, the bishop, to say the church had failed him.
“Now this was not malicious. It was just that he had been brought up with the idea that the whole effort and duty of the church was to look after him. He had missed the point that the whole effort of the church is to give him the opportunity to serve someone else. He had been weakened by a dole system and was now in mortal spiritual jeopardy because he would not act for himself.”
When the Lord invited Peter and Andrew to follow Him, He did not say come follow me so I can provide programs that will make you rich and take care of you. He said come follow me and I will make you fishers of men. When He was asked the two great commandments He did not talk of church programs. Instead He told us what we need to do: love God and love our neighbors. As we read in the Gospels, He teaches us the importance of serving others, finding the lost sheep, as well as taking our talents and magnifying them.
Although we have wonderful programs in the church and dedicated and faithful leaders who minister to us, “church members are responsible for their own spiritual and temporal well-being. Blessed with the gift of agency, they have the privilege and duty to set their own course, solve their own problems, and strive to become self-reliant.” (Handbook 2) And as stated in the 2017 Area Plan our objective is to take personal responsibility to work to improve our lives.
Recently Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to our Area. While meeting with the Area Presidency we discussed together how to help our many members who desire and are trying to become temporally self-reliant. He then taught this powerful concept: Self-reliance has a purpose which is to help us be able to serve. We need to teach that self-reliance is not the end goal but is a means to the goal of service.
May we each take personal responsibility for our temporal and spiritual welfare and not be like the young man President Packer described. Here are a few suggestions:
· Teach our children that a mission is not something the church provides for us but is an opportunity to serve others. Help them take financial responsibility by saving from a very young age. Help them prepare spiritually by reading the Book of Mormon daily.
· Take responsibility together for the spiritual welfare of our families by parents and children counseling together about how we can better honor the Sabbath, read the scriptures and pray together.
· Look for those in your ward or branch whom you can love and serve rather than wondering why more people are not reaching out to you.
· Determine that you will act in faith rather than be acted on. Pray as if everything depends on the Lord and then get up off your knees and go to work as if everything depends on you.
· Make use of all the wonderful resources available through the church to help us become self-reliant but always with the motivation that we can serve and bless others.
Consider these oft quoted scriptures:
When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God (Mosiah 2:17).
Before ye seek for riches seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them and ye will seek them for the intent to do good - to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted (Jacob 2:18, 19).
Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees (D&C 81:5).
Instead of asking; “What will the church do for me?” how much better to ask “What can I do for the church and to strengthen my brothers and sisters?”
I am thankful for the faith and goodness of the Saints in this part of the world and know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides the answers to all our problems. Jesus Christ has established His church on earth once again so that we can receive the saving ordinances, including the marvelous blessings only available in the Holy Temple which are needed to return back to our Heavenly Home. As we use our agency to act in faith, Heavenly Father will bless and guide us on our path to becoming spiritually and temporally self-reliant.