Given the complexities of today’s world, achieving self-reliance is often felt as a daunting pursuit. However, if seen from the perspective of faith, it is a conquerable goal. The General Handbook of Instructions defines self-reliance as “the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family.”[i] The scriptures are a rich source of examples of how God’s children can achieve self-reliance. Consider Lehi’s party’s odyssey across the wilderness. Lehi left all his riches to follow the Lord’s will. Surely, while the hardships of the wilderness were alleviated by God’s direction - in the form of visions, angelic visitations and the guidance provided by the Liahona – still, the wilderness was a dreadful place and these people’s trek was filled with challenges. One particularly distressing episode is recounted in the Book of Mormon, when Nephi accidentally breaks his steel bow and returns to Lehi’s camp without food. In the face of such serious adversity, all members of Lehi’s party, including Lehi himself, begin to murmur against the Lord. Logically, without a reliable bow, they would obtain no food and perish. However, Nephi rises above the temptation to murmur and puts his trust in the Lord. As a sign of this trust, Nephi makes a wooden bow and an arrow with the scarce available resources and asks his now repentant father, as a prophet, to enquire of the Lord where he can find food. The revelation comes through the Liahona and Nephi obtains abundant food.[ii]
Nephi practiced the principles of self-reliance effectively. How can we do the same today? What can we do as our own sign to the Lord that we trust Him just as Nephi did? From a temporal perspective, we can “make our wooden bow and arrow” by starting an education program or a business. By completing the booklet My Path to Self-Reliance and joining a Church self-reliance group we can insert our temporal pursuits into a broader spiritual perspective. We receive more light on temporal issues when we see them from the perspective of faith. In this spiritual context, one particularly relevant sign to the Lord of our trust in Him is to live the law of tithing while we do our best in our role as providers. Most members of the Church are aware of God’s promise of blessings of temporal abundance for those that obey the law of tithing, as revealed through the prophet Malachi: “[…] prove me now herewith […] if I will not open you the windows of heaven […]”[iii] In a modern revelation, the Lord sets tithing up as necessary to “sanctify the land of Zion” and ultimately as indispensable for Zion itself to be built: “[…] if my people observe not this law […] behold, verily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of Zion unto you.”[iv] Zion is the holy place where those that are pure in heart gather together and live in righteousness.[v] It “cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom”[vi] and it is a place of defense and refuge.[vii]
Pondering on these revelations we may thus ask ourselves: Do I want to contribute to building Zion? Can living the law of tithing be a sign to the Lord that I trust Him? Do I understand that it is a celestial law that, together with others, will help me qualify for the joy of eternal life? Living the law of tithing has brought me and my family countless blessings. It is my prayer that all of us, the Lord’s saints, make tithing the mainstay in our search for temporal –and ultimately spiritual– self-reliance.
[i] Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 6.1.1.
[ii] 1 Nephi 16: 18-32
[iii] Malachi 3: 10-12
[iv] D&C 119: 5-6
[v] D&C 101: 16-22
[vi] D&C 105: 5
[vii] D&C 115: 6