Chapter 13: Peace and Contentment through Temporal Self-Reliance

During 2017, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The quotes from Hinckley are in bold, with my comments following. If you would like to see the church manual online, go here. Latter-day Saints study this material on the second and third Sundays of each month (thus, chapters 1-2 are January, chapter 3-4 are February, etc.)

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley

As we work with integrity, our lives are blessed forever.

I believe in the gospel of work. There is no substitute under the heavens for productive labor. It is the process by which dreams become realities. It is the process by which idle visions become dynamic achievements.

A little play and a little loafing are good. But it is work that spells the difference in the life of a man or woman. It is work that provides the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the homes in which we live. We cannot deny the need for work with skilled hands and educated minds if we are to grow and prosper individually and collectively.

I have discovered that life is not a series of great heroic acts. Life at its best is a matter of consistent goodness and decency, doing without fanfare that which needed to be done when it needed to be done. I have observed that it is not the geniuses that make the difference in this world. I have observed that the work of the world is done largely by men and women of ordinary talent who have worked in an extraordinary manner.

Christians believe in hard work as well. Second Thessalonians 3:10 says, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” There are many other verses where the Bible commands hard work., including:

  • Proverbs 10:4-5: “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”
  • Proverbs 12:11: “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”
  • Proverbs 12:24: “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”
  • Proverbs 13:4: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
  • Proverbs 28:19-20: “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. A faithful man will abound with blessings,  but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.”
  • 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Children need to work with their parents—to wash dishes with them, to mop floors with them, to mow lawns, to prune trees and shrubbery, to paint and fix up and clean up and do a hundred other things where they will learn that labor is the price of cleanliness and progress and prosperity.

 Many in our younger generation don’t have a work ethic. It is important to show our children how to do work, including manual labor, in their early years. As Proverbs 22:6 puts it, Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Too many parents baby their child(ren) and it shows when they become adults.

We have a responsibility to help others lift themselves and become self-reliant.

There is an old saying that if you give a man a fish, he will have a meal for a day. But if you teach him how to fish, he will eat for the remainder of his life. …

May the Lord grant us vision and understanding to do those things which will help our members not only spiritually but also temporally. We have resting upon us a very serious obligation. President Joseph F. Smith said … that a religion which will not help a man in this life will not likely do much for him in the life to come (see “The Truth about Mormonism,” Out West magazine, Sept. 1905, 242).

Where there is widespread poverty among our people, we must do all we can to help them to lift themselves, to establish their lives upon a foundation of self-reliance that can come of training. Education is the key to opportunity. …

It is our solemn obligation … to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5). We must help them to become self-reliant and successful.

I believe the Lord does not wish to see His people condemned to live in poverty. I believe He would have the faithful enjoy the good things of the earth. He would have us do these things to help them.

The individual, as we teach, ought to do for himself all that he can. When he has exhausted his resources, he ought to turn to his family to assist him. When the family can’t do it, the Church takes over. And when the Church takes over, our great desire is to first take care of his immediate needs and then to help him for so long as he needs to be helped, but in that process to assist him in training, in securing employment, in finding some way of getting on his feet again. That’s the whole objective of [the Church’s] great welfare program.

Those who have participated as the recipients of this program have been spared “the curse of idleness and the evils of the dole.” Their dignity and self-respect have been preserved. And those myriads of men and women who have not been direct recipients, but who have participated in the growing and processing of food and in scores of associated undertakings, bear testimony of the joy to be found in unselfish service to others.

No one witnessing this program in its vast implications and in its tremendous consequences can reasonably doubt the spirit of revelation that brought it about and that has enlarged its practical power for good.

We shall go on in this work. There will always be a need. Hunger and want and catastrophes will ever be with us. And there will always be those whose hearts have been touched by the light of the gospel who will be willing to serve and work and lift the needy of the earth.

I have to admit that the Mormon Church does do a good job with its welfare program. The organization the Mormons have is beneficial when their folks have hard times. There are things Christians can learn from the Mormons, and this is one aspect that they certainly do well.

Prophets have encouraged us to prepare ourselves spiritually and temporally for catastrophes to come.

We teach self-reliance as a principle of life, that we ought to provide for ourselves and take care of our own needs. And so we encourage our people to have something, to plan ahead, keep … food on hand, to establish a savings account, if possible, against a rainy day. Catastrophes come to people sometimes when least expected—unemployment, sickness, things of that kind.

This old world is no stranger to calamities and catastrophes. Those of us who read and believe the scriptures are aware of the warnings of prophets concerning catastrophes that have come to pass and are yet to come to pass. …

We can so live that we can call upon the Lord for His protection and guidance. This is a first priority. We cannot expect His help if we are unwilling to keep His commandments. We in this Church have evidence enough of the penalties of disobedience in the examples of both the Jaredite and the Nephite nations. Each went from glory to utter destruction because of wickedness.

 We know, of course, that the rain falls on the just as well as the unjust (see Matthew 5:45). But even though the just die they are not lost, but are saved through the Atonement of the Redeemer. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord” (Romans 14:8). …

Our people … have been counseled and encouraged to make such preparation as will assure survival should a calamity come.

We can set aside some water, basic food, medicine, and clothing to keep us warm. We ought to have a little money laid aside in case of a rainy day. 

We have a great welfare program with facilities for such things as grain storage in various areas. It is important that we do this. But the best place to have some food set aside is within our homes, together with a little money in savings. The best welfare program is our own welfare program. Five or six cans of wheat in the home are better than a bushel in the welfare granary. …

We can begin ever so modestly. We can begin with a one week’s food supply and gradually build it to a month, and then to three months. I am speaking now of food to cover basic needs. As all of you recognize, this counsel is not new. But I fear that so many feel that a long-term food supply is so far beyond their reach that they make no effort at all.

Begin in a small way … and gradually build toward a reasonable objective. Save a little money regularly, and you will be surprised how it accumulates.

The Mormons have a food storage program. Mormon families are encouraged to keep enough food storage for, I believe, two years. My local Costco in Utah sells food storage packs, with dehydrated foods and other supplies, as a starter pack. I think it is wise to have back-up supplies in times of need. However, I wonder how many Mormons will be placed in harms way if a disaster does take place, as the church’s promotion of this policy is known by many. If you are hungry and you know your LDS neighbor has plenty of food, there may be a temptation to take the supplies by force.

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. … 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.

The time has come to get our houses in order. …

President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in the priesthood meeting of the conference in 1938, [said]: “Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1938, 103).

I recognize that it may be necessary to borrow to get a home, of course. But let us buy a home that we can afford and thus ease the payments which will constantly hang over our heads without mercy or respite. …

Wisdom dictates that we should not get overwhelmed with debt. Christian financial counselor Dave Ramsey teaches the principal of eliminating debt, which makes good sense. Too often people want to “have it all” and max out their credit cards, only to bemoan the burden after they get their bills.  

In managing the affairs of the Church, we have tried to set an example. We have, as a matter of policy, stringently followed the practice of setting aside each year a percentage of the income of the Church against a possible day of need.

One can only wonder how much this might be. The Mormon Church does not release its financial statements. 

I am grateful to be able to say that the Church in all its operations, in all its undertakings, in all of its departments, is able to function without borrowed money. If we cannot get along, we will curtail our programs. We will shrink expenditures to fit the income. We will not borrow. …

What a wonderful feeling it is to be free of debt, to have a little money against a day of emergency put away where it can be retrieved when necessary. …

I urge you … to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.

This is a part of the temporal gospel in which we believe. May the Lord bless you … to set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your [family] and peace in your hearts.

Overall this chapter is in line with what Christian pastors would teach. The advice given here is straightforward. Guard your money carefully. Watch out for unnecessary debt. Live within your means. Have goals with money you save, including that proverbial “rainy day.” Doing these things will benefit the wise. From experience, I can tell you that raising a family without the stress of financial problems is so much easier than the alternative!


To read other reviews of the Gordon B. Hinckley manual, click here.