Why Be Self-Reliant?
Well, brothers and sisters, what an honor it is for me to be able to share a few minutes with you today. I feel very humble and I am especially grateful because LDS Business College is an institution that I admire and I feel is giving a very important service to the young adults of the church and specially to return missionaries.
As an introduction to the message that I want to share with you today, allow me to tell you about The Academy for Creating Enterprise, the organization that I work for. The Academy is an organization that trains and helps members of the Church in developing countries to start and develop small businesses. Even though the Academy’s principal activity is business training, the main goal of the Academy is to help members of the Church to become self-reliant and to lift themselves out of poverty.
Lately in the Church we have heard much about self-reliance. In 2013, the Church started what is known today as the self-reliance initiative. The main objective of this initiative was to put members of the Church in the path of self-reliance and empower them to overcome poverty and become prosperous. Since the beginning of the self-reliance initiative over 500,000 members of the Church have received training and are in the pathway of becoming self-reliant. The Church defines self-reliance as “the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family” (see Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 2010, 6.1.1).
The Lord has promised on several occasions that if we keep the commandments we shall prosper. This promise is repeated more than 60 times in the Book of Mormon. “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (2 Nephi 1:20).
Now, you may ask, why do I share this with you? I hope all of you understand that one of the main purposes and reasons you have arrived at this great institution is to help you achieve your goals of becoming self-reliant and prospering in the land. I would be so bold to say that Heavenly Father wants you, and all his children, to be blessed with the abundance of the world. In the Doctrine and Covenants he said: “And it is my purpose to provide for my saints… For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare”(Doctrine and Covenants 104:15, 17). Brothers and sisters, Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous!
Heavenly Father does not want to see his children living in poverty. In the words of President Hinckley: “I believe the Lord does not wish to see His people condemned to live in poverty” (“The Perpetual Education Fund,” General Conference, April 2001).
Now, the question is: why? Why does Heavenly Father want you and me to be prosperous?
In the Book of Mormon, we find the story of when Nephi was asked to build a ship that is found in chapter 17 of first Nephi. Nephi starts by explaining that they have been traveling for the space of many years, and to be exact it was eight years that they were traveling in the wilderness. During that time, they suffered so much affliction. The women bore children in the wilderness, they lived upon raw meat, and they lived in tents. Finally, they arrived in a land that they called Bountiful, because of its many fruits (see 1 Nephi 17:5).
Now, put yourself in the position of Nephi’s brothers, when Nephi came and said that the Lord had commanded him to build a ship. Obviously, they complained and murmured. On the other hand, Nephi’s reaction was totally different. His reaction was “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” (see 1 Nephi 17:9). Why such a different reaction? I think the answer is in chapter 12, many years before this happened. This was even before they left Jerusalem. In chapter 12 of 1 Nephi, in the first verse, it says that the angel asked Nephi to “look, and behold” his and Nephi’s brothers’ posterity. But even before he sees them, Nephi was able to see the land of promise. That was the big advantage Nephi had. He knew where he was going, he had a vision. His brothers didn’t. How important it is for you to have a vision. You need to understand where you are going and why. You need to understand the why of your education and the why of your future career. And you need to understand why your Heavenly Father wants you to be self-reliant and prosperous.
President Thomas S. Monson has taught: “Self-reliance is a product of our work and under-girds all other welfare practices. It is an essential element in our spiritual as well as our temporal well-being.” He then quoted President Marion G. Romney: “Let us work for what we need. Let us be self-reliant and independent. Salvation can be obtained on no other principle. Salvation is an individual matter, and we must work out our own salvation in temporal as well as in spiritual things” (“Guiding Principles of Personal and Family Welfare,” Ensign, September 1986, First Presidency Message).
Let me present to you three main reasons why Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous.
The reason, number one, Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous is so you can provide for you and your family. This is a main responsibility for all members of the Church. The Apostle Paul counseled the priesthood and fathers of the Church when he said: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). As parents in the Church, it is our responsibility to provide for the material needs of our family—including food, education, healthcare, wholesome recreational activities, and to have the necessary provisions for emergencies. This responsibility cannot be delegated to the government, the Church, or any other organization. Being self-reliant enables you to maintain independence as a person and as a family. It gives you the freedom to act in accordance to the righteous desires of your heart.
The reason, number two, that Heavenly Father wants you to be self-reliant and prosperous is so you can help in the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth. Being self-reliant allows me and you to have the means to make financial contributions to the kingdom, and then be co-participants with the Saints in the construction and maintenance of temples, church meetinghouses and different Church programs—programs such as family history. And then, it also allows us to establish everything that is necessary to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Missionary work and the proclamation of the Gospel is another area where we as members of the Church have a vital responsibility. Not only have we the responsibility to share the gospel and invite all to come to Christ, but also as families we have the responsibility to support and pay for our children’s missions. On occasion, we will have to help pay for relatives or even other members’ missions. Some think that because they do not have the means to pay for their child’s mission, they are released of such responsibility.
Let me share with you a story that my bishop in Lehi shared with me. My bishop, who is a seminary teacher, told me about a young man who attended his early seminary class every day, but almost at the beginning of the class he would fall asleep. (I know that has never happened to you in any classes, I understand that, not even now). So after several days with this type of behavior, my bishop decided to talk in private with this young man. My bishop was very upset with the lack of respect this young man was showing for his class.
Even before my bishop as able to say anything, the young man started to apologize and asked my bishop for forgiveness because he was falling asleep during his class. The young man explained that every day he and his mother would wake up at 4:00 in the morning to cook tamales. Later in the day, his mother delivered the tamales to restaurants around the town. The young man added that with the money they are making from selling the tamales, they are paying for his sister’s mission who is serving in California.
My bishop said that he had to hold his tears, and then he said to this young man, “You can sleep in my class whenever you want. No problem.” I can imagine this young man’s sister serving with all diligence because she knows of the efforts of her family in order for her to serve the Lord in the mission field. I can only imagine the type of missionary this powerful young man will be when he goes on his mission in a few years.
I would also like to share a personal experience. When I joined the Church many, many years ago—I don’t want to say how many years ago, I was a very young man—I was 19 years old. And just a few weeks later, not even a week, I was called to be the clerk in the ward.
I had a great bishop. The bishop, one day, invited me to come into his office, and he invited me to go in a mission. I said “Bishop, I can’t go on a mission. You know it has been very difficult for my family that I joined another church. Now if I tell my mother I’m going to quit school to go on a mission, that is going to be very difficult for them.”
Then my bishop said, “Well, I understand, but you need to pray about it.”
And I said, “Oh yes, no problem. I’ll pray about it.”
So I went in my prayers, and I remember praying something like, “Heavenly Father, I know I need to go on a mission, but I know you understand that I can’t go. So we are even, okay?”
Obviously, I didn’t feel right with that type of prayer. I changed my prayer and suddenly, I had this very strong feeling that I needed to go, that I needed to serve. I went back to my bishop and said, “Bishop, I’m going to go.” He got all excited; he even opened one of the drawers in the desk, and he got the application—the missionary application—and we started working on it.
Then we would get to the financial part of who was going to support me for my mission, and he asked me, “How much money do you have?”
And then I really laughed. I said, “Bishop, I just joined the church a few months ago. I don’t have any money. I never planned on going on a mission.”
And then he said, “What about your parents?”
And then I really laughed. I said, “Bishop, they don’t want me to go. They will never support me.”
He said, “Well, just ask them.”
So I went home. I waited for a moment when my father was alone. I didn’t want my mother to be around; I knew her very well. So, I talked to my father. I said “Dad, you know this mission that I’m going to go [on]?”
He said, “Yeah, yeah”—they were very upset about it—and then I said, “Well, we need to pay for it.”
He said, “What? What do you mean? They are not even going to pay you for doing it?”
I said no. I explained that in the Church, missionaries pay for their own missions and families help pay for it. My father stopped for a minute, thought about it, and then he asked me “How much is it?”
I gave him the figure—and these were the years when missionaries would pay a 100% of their mission—and then he thought about he said “Well, I’ll pay 50% of it. I’ll give you half of the money.”
I said, “Okay, could you please sign here very quickly? This is what you need to file.” And I was very sure that my mother wasn’t around.
Brothers and sisters, I can tell you that, because of their support, they received many—plenty—of blessings. They were prosperous. They had enough and to spare, even after I went on my mission.
Being self-reliant allows you to dedicate your time and talents to the building of the kingdom of God. It will allow you to spend time in your callings, to do your family history, attend the temple frequently, and to engage in the work of salvation. Being self-reliant will give us the freedom of serving in the kingdom when and where we are most needed.
The third main reason why Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous is so you can help to take care of the poor and the needy. In the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “It is our solemn obligation, it is our certain responsibility… to ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees’” (“The Perpetual Education Fund,” April 2001Genereal Conference).
In the Book of Mormon, we have a good example of how to utilize the prosperity and abundance that Heavenly Father will bless us with. In Alma first chapter it talks about the prosperous circumstances that the members of church lived and what they did with it: “And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth.
“And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need” (Alma 1:29-30).
One of the goals of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to end poverty upon the earth. One of the characteristics of the perfect society of Enoch’s city, which the Lord called Zion, was that there were “no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).
You can start with this obligation today! Start by contributing liberally and generously to the fast offering fund of the church. As we are blessed with the abundance of the earth, it is our responsibility to give “liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church.”
I marvel to see the generosity of so many members of the Church. I have seen members of the Church making donations to many good causes. I know of good people who have been blessed with prosperity who prefer to give their money to help relieve the needs of others, rather than to buy a bigger house or a luxury car. Their joy is in the giving, not in the getting. The Savior taught this principle when he said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38). [My] personal experience with [my wife] Yolanda is that the more we give, the more we have.
My good friends, I congratulate you today. The fact that you are pursuing an education is a strong indication that you are on your personal path to become self-reliant. I wish you tremendous success in your studies and in your future career, and especially to those of you who will start your own businesses. Never forget that the purpose of your education and career is to help you become self-reliant and fulfill the purpose of your creation. In the same way that the ship was a means for Nephi and his family to get to the Promised Land, your education and career are a means for you to become self-reliant. Please do not confuse the means with the objective. Elder Robert D. Hales said, “Only when we become self-reliant can we truly emulate the Savior in serving and blessing others” (Robert D. Hales, “A Gospel Vision of Walfare: Faith in Action,” in Basic Principles of Welfare and Self-Reliance, booklet, 2009, 2). 
I want to recall the Lord’s promise made several times in the Book of Mormon, that if you keep the commandments “ye shall prosper in the land.” Never forget that Heavenly Father wants you to be prosperous. He wants to bless you with the abundance of the earth. But at the same time, always remember why: so you can support your family, so you can help in the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth, and so you can succor and bless the poor and the needy. Get involved now! You do not need to wait until you have all the riches of the world to start making a difference. Many organizations can use your time and talents. Even small monetary contributions can make a big difference.
Never forget who you are. You are sons and daughters of a Heavenly King. You are sons and daughters of God. You are the children of the promise. You are the children of the covenant. There are countless blessings and responsibilities waiting for you. But, more importantly, Heavenly Father is counting on you! You are the best He has!
I testify of the divinity of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the son of God. He was born of a virgin, and He lived on this earth, and He taught us the way. He chose the way, and through His sacrifice and Atonement, we have the opportunity to repent and to change our lives, and then we will be able to live with Him and with our Heavenly Father again. He lives today. He is a real person with a body of flesh and bones, but glorified and perfect. He directs this Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He is at the head of the Church, and He has called apostles and prophets to guide us and to help us, in this—the way of returning to Him and to Heavenly Father. Of this I testify in His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, amen.