Relief Society Lesson 13: Peace and Contentment through Temporal Self-Reliance

“We teach self-reliance as a principle of life, that we ought to provide for ourselves and take care of our own needs.”

1 – Work is Good. Helping Ourselves

President Hinckley from the lesson:

“I believe in the gospel of work. There is no substitute under the heavens for productive labor. …. 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.”

More for the lesson:

“Everybody works. We put people to work. We expect great things of them, and the marvelous and wonderful thing is they come through. They produce. Hard work moves the work of the Lord forward, and if you have learned to work with real integrity it will bless your lives forever.”

As the teacher, you’ll be ‘preaching to the choir’ in this section on work. Mormons are good at working hard. (Many non-members comment about the hard work of their Mormon peers.) It’s nice to discus topics that we already do well, so enjoy the pat-on-the-back.

Further discussion: It could also be interesting to discuss an area where the Mormon community struggles: balance. I do not think we are as good at balancing our work with self-care or with grace. It’s been my impression that our Mormon community sometimes sees SELF-CARE as SELFISH and GRACE as the EASY WAY. So, it could be an interesting discussion

2 – Helping Others

From the lesson:

“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.”

This quote from President Joseph F. Smith could make an interesting discussion point: “a religion which will not help a man in this life will not likely do much for him in the life to come.”

I find this interesting as a single woman, because members of the church often tell me to “wait until the next life” for my blessings. We often tell this to our gay brothers and sisters. This quote seems to say the opposite. What do you think?

A note on poverty from the lesson:

“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. …”

We know that educating women (specifically) brings much success in the area of self-reliance. Perhaps have a guest speaker who has worked overseas with women’s education. Perhaps use to the Relief Society “I Was a Stranger” program as an example.

More from the lesson:

“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.”

Elder Holland’s talk from General Conference in 2014 is a great resource on the topic of poverty. See it HERE.

On Church Welfare from the lesson:

“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.

Of note: I would avoid comparisons between the church’s welfare system and any specific country’s welfare system. The church has a good welfare system, but it is not scalable to levels of government welfare programs. The church is also not set up for long term aid like government welfare programs.

More on welfare from the lesson:

“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.”

Of note: I would be careful with quotes like this one that use words like “curse” and “evil”. Issue of poverty, education, and welfare are complex. And the topics tend to be politically charged.

Using Jesus’ example of service to needy, sick, and poor – can inform our own discussion. From the lesson: “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.”

3 – Managing Emergencies / Catastrophes

The Lord has said, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).

From the lesson:

“Prophets have encouraged us to prepare ourselves spiritually and temporally for catastrophes to 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.15

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.”

4 – Avoid Debt

From the lesson:

“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. …

We are carrying a message of self-reliance throughout the Church. Self-reliance cannot obtain when there is serious debt hanging over a household. One has neither independence nor freedom from bondage when he is obligated to others.

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.

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. …”

Of note: Be gentle around this topic. Remember that many people/leaders of the church have struggled in this area too. Additionally, debting can be a compulsion and there may be people in the room with this addiction, so be gentle. Suggest Debtors Anonymous as a possible resource.




Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents - and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

You may also like...

6 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    Watching the 27,000 sqft house going in up the street for a young LDS couple with two children has been interesting. So glad we didn’t buy into the ‘we have to build a mcmansion’ mindset. A modest home with enough money in savings and investments to retire early is our mantra.

  2. Caroline says:

    Great leasson,Suzette!

  3. Caroline says:

    Are you going to do lesson #14? I keep checking back and don’t want to miss it if you are. Thanks!

  4. Anne says:

    Please help! I just found out I am teaching lesson 15 this Sunday (the Holy Priesthood). I am in a new ward and very nervous. I want to be true to my feminism and my individual understanding but also teach in a way that does not exclude or upset people. Any words would be helpful. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.