Thursday, September 17, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
We are the Burnetts. My name is Misty and my husband is Phillip and our little munchkin is Carson. He is 13 months old. Phil and I met at the Weber State Institute of religion. We have been married for 3 ½ years. We moved here in March so that Phil could go to school at BYU. He is fulfilling one of his major dreams by going back to school and getting a degree in sound recording technology. He also works out of our house processing mortgage loans. I got a degree in Family Studies from Weber State. I stay at home with Carson.
I have been asked to speak on Self-reliance. The term self-reliance encompasses a few different aspects. One is spiritual self-reliance, another is temporal self-reliance. Both are essential to our eternal progression, but I will be focusing in temporal self-reliance.
The church handbook states that “The Savior has commanded the Church and its members to be self-reliant and independent. To become self-reliant, a person must work. Work is physical, mental or spiritual effort. It is a basic source of happiness, self-worth, and prosperity. Through work, people accomplish many good things in their lives. As people become self-reliant, they are better prepared to endure adversities and are better able to care for the needs of others.” In this quote we are told that we are commanded to learn to work and provide for ourselves, we must always be progressing and developing.
Through the research I have done for this talk, I have found 5 Steps that are essential to becoming self-reliant:
1. Seek answers to life problems through the spirit. Moroni 7:16 The spirit of Christ is given to every man” This promises that every man can get answers to life’s problems, including how to become self-reliant, by seeking answers through the spirit. As we more fully come to understand that every good thing in our lives comes from the Lord, we will begin to rely more on Him and he will bless us and help us to become more self-reliant
2. Honestly appraise our needs and the needs of others. We can do this by asking ourselves a number of questions: How well are we listening to the spirit? Do we live according to the guidelines laid out by the Church? Are we living within our means? If not, what can we do to live more within our means? Sometime sacrifices and adjustments will have to be made in order to live more appropriately. The Spirit can guide us when choosing what adjustments need to be made in our lives. We need to have open communication with our spouses and our families in order to do these appraisals. Family councils are a great place to have discussions regarding family finances and becoming self-reliant. They are also great places to teach children the importance of living within your means. If children participate in the family budget, they should be able to understand the reasoning behind your financial choices.
3. We must learn to discern between good and evil. Every man and woman has the right given to them through the Lord to choose what we believe and what we will do. In 2 Nephi 2:27 we read: “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh…they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediator of all man, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.” As we learn to listen to the spirit, we will be able to discern better between good and evil and between our worldly desires and our holy desires. We can seek the Lord’s council when we are contemplating big purchases and he will help us to understand if it is a righteous desire.
4. We must master the ability to think straight. Benjamin Franklin said: “The foundation of all happiness is thinking rightly.” Part of thinking straight is using common sense to solve some of life’s problems. Our lives will be much simpler if we master the ability to stop and think about our problems and decisions before acting.
5. Finally, after learning and implementing all of these things, we must go to work. The Lord has commanded us to work. Doctrine and Covenants 42:42 says: “Thou shalt not be idle. For he that is idle shalt not eat the bread, nor wear the garments of the laborer.” Work is what we do and self-reliance is the product of the work we do. We work towards achieving the skills necessary to provide for our needs, then we implement those skills to bless our lives and the lives of others.
Marion G Romney said: “Let us work for what we need. Let us be self-reliant and independent. Salvation can be obtained in no other principle. Salvation is an individual matter and we must work out our own salvation in temporal as well as in spiritual things.”
One of the most important ways to become self-reliant is to learn to manage our finances. The world that we live in is dominated by debt. It is much too easy in this world to finance the things we want. Far too many of us have a substantial amount of debt and not nearly enough savings. The Church has always counseled us to stay out of debt whenever possible. Of course, it may be necessary to acquire a mortgage to buy a house, or to get a loan to go to school, but in these situations, the Church has counseled us to these things modestly and make choices that are appropriate to our situation. The solution to staying out of debt is to budget our income appropriately, to live within our means and save both supplies and money for the future.
President Hinckley has said that “We have been counseled again and again concerning self-reliance, concerning debt, concerning thrift. So many of our people are heavily in debt for things that are not entirely necessary. When I was a young man, my father counseled me to build a modest home, sufficient for the needs of my family, and make it beautiful and attractive and pleasant and secure. He counseled me to pay off the mortgage as quickly as I could so that, come what may, there would be a roof over the heads of my wife and children. I was reared on that kind of doctrine, I urge you as members of this church to get free of debt where possible and to have a little laid aside against a rainy day.” For me, one of the most important words in that quote was a modest home. That means we don’t have to buy the biggest, nicest house on the block. Even modest homes can be made beautiful and inviting. The thing that makes any home the most attractive is to have the Spirit of the Lord resting there.
We are encouraged to be prepared for the future by storing a years worth supply of food. President Hinckley went on to say: As we have been continuously counseled for more than 60 years, let us have some food set aside that would sustain us for a time in case of need.” Many of us plan to work on our food storage some day. It’s very easy to say that we will get it when we have a house or when we have the room to store it. However, President Ezra Taft Benson has said that: “The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.”
The best store house that the Church has is the homes of the families who have prepared their years supply of food, clothing and other necessities, a reserve of money to meet emergencies, and adequate home, health and life insurance.
As we are achieving self-reliance, we are better able to serve those around us. Our church is a church based on the service of its members. Marion G. Romney said: “Without self-reliance one cannot exercise the innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned and most important of all; spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.”
The church has implemented its welfare service to assist members in their goals to become self-reliant. The goal of the welfare program of the Church is to care for the needy while teaching principles that will allow them to become self-reliant and to build their self-respect.
Funding for the welfare program is provided by donations from the Church members. This is where our fast offerings go. Once a month we are asked to go without two meals
and donate the cost of those two meals to the fast offering fund.
Needy people are identified by the bishop with the help of the relief society president. Home and visiting teachers provide a vital role in helping to identify those individuals who are in need of assistance. Bishops evaluate the individual’s circumstances and needs. If they are in need of temporal assistance, such as food and household items, the bishop gives them vouchers to take to the bishop’s store house. They are given opportunities to work for the items they receive, to the extent of their abilities. The assistance given is temporal and partial. The goal of the welfare program is to build independence and self-reliance, not to build dependence. The assistance that is given is to help with basic life sustaining needs, not to maintain a certain standard of living so those who are in need of assistance will most likely need to alter their standard of living. The Church encourages individuals to do all they can to help themselves first, get help from their families, if possible second, then if they are still in need they may receive church assistance.
Employment resource centers are also available to provide job training and help people to build their skills to find and acquire a job.
In closing, President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The world would take the people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.” This is why the welfare program is so successful. It changes people so they can change their own situations. It assisted where needed, but also encourage growth and change. The individuals who receive assistance are better people because of it.
Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are at the center of everything. The Church welfare program was created by them. They want us to succeed, to be happy and live productive lives. I know that if we follow their instructions, we can learn to become self-reliant and by doing so we will be happier in this life, and better prepared for the life to come.
I am so thankful for this church and the direction it gives me in my life. I know that it is the Lord’s true church and Joseph Smith restored it through the power and inspiration of our Heavenly Father. I am so thankful to live in a time when we have modern revelation and a prophet who receives it. I know that President Thomas S. Monsen is called of God. I am so thankful for the personal direction my family receives from our Father in Heaven. I know that when we pray to him and truly listen for an answer, He will direct our lives. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen.
Mine came next:
Throughout my life, I have had the experience to see varying degrees of financial security. I served my mission in India, which allowed me to see the poverty of a third world country. Though there were places and cities that had McDonalds, (Sorry, they didn’t serve beef, so there were no “Big Macs” but you could get a Maharaja Mac made from chicken.) I even came across Ruby Tuesdays. However, a few miles away you could see the struggling conditions of sewer-less neighborhoods, Cement houses, dirt floor dwellings with no heat, no cooling, and no electricity.
Though there was a huge disparity in India between the “have” and “have-nots” we have seen examples in the scriptures and the gospel that “having”(in the worldly sense) is not always the pathway to happiness. I have seen often times, that the “have nots” have been happier, more willing to serve and enjoyed greater piece of mind than those that “have.”
Right now in our country, we are experiencing financial unrest that most likely many of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes. Whether this has affected us directly or indirectly, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have been shown the pathway that we may take to maintain peace and happiness in our lives, whether we feel that we are on the “have” or the “have not” side of things.
While researching and reading about things we can do, I realized something about the way the Brethren of the Church teach Self-Reliance and Provident Living that intrigued me. When I think about Self-Reliance, I think of Food Storage, Budgeting, Staying out of Debt etc. But the talks I found that had the phrases “Self-Reliance” and “Provident Providers” didn’t necessarily speak about those things as ways we could become more self-reliant or fiscally responsible. Each of the talks did teach the following principle which I believe is on the forefront of the Leaders of the Church’s minds when teaching Self-Reliance. This principle was stated very well by President Ezra Taft Benson:
“The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people. And then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard, gave a talk on March 11th 2004 at the Marriott School’s Center for Economic Self-Reliance at BYU that outlines 5 steps we can take to become Self Reliant Physically and Spiritually, following the principle given by President Benson.
His first step is to Find Answers through the Spirit:
(QUOTE)“People need to realize that regardless of their circumstances, as desperate as those may be, they are entitled to the Light of Christ in their lives.” (END QUOTE)
As stated in Moroni 7:16. (READ)
Elder Ballard Continues (QUOTE)“The promise is that every son and daughter of God can find, through the Spirit, answers to the challenges in their lives, including how to become more self-reliant.” (END QUOTE) Thus, the beginning of self-reliance is Christ-Reliance. As we understand our relationship to God, that we are literally his sons and daughters, and that Christ is our elder Brother, we begin to realize that we will find the quickest and straightest path to self-reliance if we turn to the Spirit for direction.
Secondly, Appraise Our Lives and the Needs of Others.
The following questions may help us do that:
How well are we listening to the Spirit?
Are we living according to the eternal truths and doctrines of the restored Church of Jesus Christ?
For how do we expect to raise ourselves from the “slums” of our circumstances, if we are continually wallowing in the mud that is so attractive to the natural man?
Can we effectively appraise the needs of others by the prompting of the Spirit?
If we are having trouble seeing beyond our own circumstances, and “have not,” one thing I suggests is to lose ourselves in the service of others. I know that as I have seen the challenges and struggles of others, it has made me grateful for the challenges which I am facing. By the end of the service, I find myself saying… “You know what? You can keep your trials, and I’ll keep mine.” : ) By seeing things in the perspective that God knows you, and will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able to bear, you will begin to properly appraise your situation, and begin to seek help from Him who can make your burden light, and direct you down the path that will begin to take the slum out of you.
Third, we need to Choose. Ultimately, the choice is between good and evil.
READ (2 Nephi 2:27)
Benjamin Franklin had this to say about choice:
(QUOTE)“We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. WE choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we’ve selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.
Those who believe there is one God who made all things and who governs the world by his Providence will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who hold in reverence that being who gave them life and worship Him through adoration, prayer and thanksgiving will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who believe that mankind are all of a family and that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who believe in a future state in which all that is wrong here will be made right will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who subscribe to the morals of Jesus will make many choices different from those who do not.
Since the foundation of all happiness is thinking rightly, and since correct action is dependent on correct opinion, we cannot be too careful in choosing the value system we allow to govern our thoughts and actions. And to know that God governs in the affairs of men, that he hears and answers prayers, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, is indeed, a powerful regulator of human conduct. “ (END QUOTE)
By us choosing the value system that God has outlined in the scriptures, and in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, we afford ourselves the opportunity to be guided by Him through His value system aided continually by revelation, as we seek to become self-reliant.
Fourth: Master the ability to Think Straight. As Franklin said “The foundation of all happiness is thinking rightly.” Part of thinking straight is using common sense in solving life’s problems. Elder Ballard states: (QUOTE)“Often in my ministry have I heard the sad tale of those who are struggling to become self-reliant but in fact are becoming more dependent upon others because of their inability to think straight and apply common sense in the decisions they make. Much of life’s misery centers in the lack of using common sense…Helping people to think straight and use common sense will, in my judgment, always be a very important step in helping them to reach economic self-reliance. It is part of teaching our children and others to walk in the ways of truth and soberness and to love and serve on another. Part of thinking straight is listening-being able to listen to the promptings of the Spirit.” (END QUOTE)
I recently talked to a friend of mine that was going through some emotional difficulties. While speaking to her, I could tell that her thought processes were jumbled and she was at a stand-still and feeling helpless because of her distress. I believe I was impressed to suggest to her that she needed to focus in on what her next course of action was. She really had 2 options. One was to the right, and the other to the left. By thinking straight, and focusing on her next step, she would not being paralyzed by her situation, and be able to take control. Then she could begin to move forward to alleviate herself from her emotional indecision.
We may find ourselves at times paralyzed by our circumstances, no matter what they may be, but by thinking straight, we are able to progress and begin to change our circumstances for the better.
Fifth: Seek the Lord’s Guidance and trust in Him.
In D&C 76:5-10 we read (READ)
As I think about the difference that those 5 steps and principles would make in the lives of those whom I have seen in poverty and even those that I would consider to the be in the “have” category, struggling with becoming Self-reliant, I am able to see that the Lord does speak through his chosen prophets and Church Authorities in our days. I have seen miracles take place in relation to people becoming self-reliant, and harvesting the blessings of the Gospel.
I think about a Branch President Vincent, in Coimbatore, India a city in the southern region of the country. He worked as a Air Conditioning Repair Man for School Buildings in the surrounding area. Himself, his wife, and his 2 kids lived in a 1 bedroom, 1 kitchen dwelling combined probably would be smaller than most of our living rooms. Outside were the facilities for the bathroom. Though many of us would categorize him in the “have nots” he definitely wouldn’t. See, they had saved for more than 3 years, to take a trip to Hong Kong to get sealed in the temple as a family, and they were scheduled to make the trip later that year. He knew the value the gospel added to his life, and knew that the crowning blessings of the gospel he was entitled to, and that in his mind definitely put him in the category of the “have’s.” He had everything necessary for himself and his family. Food, Shelter, and most importantly, the Blessings of the Gospel.
Though they may not have had everything that the world had to offer, or even everything that they would have liked to, they were able to appropriately prioritize what they needed, recognize their blessings, and were some of the happiest people I ever met on my mission.
As we prioritize what we need, seek the guidance of the spirit, appraise our own lives, choose based upon a the values the Lord would have us choose, use common sense, and seek the Lord’s guidance, we will be able to see the path the Lord would have us choose to become self-reliant and obtain the lasting peace and happiness that only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can afford.