What Do Mormons Believe: Self-Reliance

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the welfare plan of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church Security Plan—which would later be renamed the Church Welfare Plan—was first announced in April 1936 in the Great Depression era by president Heber J Grant. The program helps people through temporally difficult circumstances in order to help them become self-reliant.

“The intent of the Church’s welfare plan … involves promoting self-reliance as a way of life. President Thomas S. Monson has taught that self-reliance—’the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the necessities of life for self and family1 —is an essential element of our temporal and spiritual well-being.2

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What Do Mormons Believe: Thoughts on Service

Jesus Raising Jarius' DaughterThis last week a question was received asking about service, a pretty broad topic to be sure.  As I’ve pondered what to write in response, I kept thinking about how important the principle of service is in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In Mathew 25:31-46, Christ teaches us a little about the final judgement.  He makes it clear how much our standing will depend on the service we give others.  In verses 34-40, He addresses those who have filled their lives with service,

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.”

What strikes me most in these words is the attitude of these righteous people.  They served without thought of what they would get out of it.  They even seemed surprised that they were being rewarded for their acts of kindness.  Christ spent His life this way – compassionately serving those around Him – and has commanded us to follow His example (3 Nephi 12:48, Mathew 5:48).

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the first sacred promise we make is at baptism.  This promise is to follow our Savior’s example of service and act as He would.  In return, we are promised forgiveness for our sins and help through the gift of the Holy Ghost as we repent.  Alma, a great missionary and prophet in the Book of Mormon, describes this promise and our commitment to follow Christ (Mosiah 18:8-10),

“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they my be light:

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life-

Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

Serving others as selflessly as Christ did takes practice for me.  However, as I keep trying I can feel the Savior’s love for those I’m helping, and I develop a more Christ-like love for them too.  I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that His atonement is the greatest act of service and love anyone could do for us.  He truly is the perfect Examplar.

Service and Spiritual Eyes

I recently gave birth to my second child, a girl. I was and am feeling extremely blessed. Not only for her presence in my life, but because I was the recipient of so much service from others. I am getting gifts and free babysitting from neighbors and friends and family  and starting to feel a little to spoiled. I prayed for opportunities to serve others, but with a newborn and a two year old, I knew I couldn’t go out and clean someone’s house or bring them dinner or anything. I felt that all I could do was sit and wait for the Lord to send me people to help or tasks to fulfill for others.

Then a few weeks ago, sitting in Sunday School, feeling selfish again, the spirit was strong in the meeting and it gave me a deeper insight into my prayer: I had been serving people for the past 2 weeks. I thought of at least 3 instances where I had helped people, (even getting someone a job!), and the important service that I was giving my own children. Without even thinking about serving, or making sacrifices, I had helped plenty of people. It felt so good to have the spirit open my eyes to that realization, I can’t explain it, but it solidified my testimony that the Lord will answer prayers and that He is aware of us in our circumstances. It wasn’t answered the way I thought it would be, but when are they?

Mormon Fellowship – Visiting and Home Teaching

When my family and I moved to south Texas three years ago, we joined a student Christian group for married couples.  It was a great little diversion once a month–to get out, talk with others who are devoted to religion and Christ, and to learn about what they believe and (we hoped) let them see that Mormons can be normal people.

One term that came up several times in conversation with them was “fellowship”, which I came to understand as a sort of social network  of other Christians (like that group); to lend support, help each other and just provide friendship.   I thought at the time, what a great idea, but also, how sad that “fellowship” isn’t built into their churches already.  I’m not claiming that Mormons are perfect at fellowshipping, because there are plenty of former Mormons who will say we really stink at it, but it is built in to the Church’s organization. And although there are some places in the church that don’t do it well, I’ve been in many places that do it perfectly, and it is a blessing to everyone involved.


The Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching programs are two complementary programs within the Church that provide “fellowship” from two different groups.  Home Teachers are men, anywhere from age 14-110 who are paired up into a companionship (like our missionary program) and then they are assigned usually three or four families within their same ward (congregation) to visit monthly.  While visiting them, they teach a spiritual thought from the First Presidency (the Prophet and his counselors), get to know the family generally, and assess any needs or concerns that they have.  They are the first point of contact for that family if there is a problem.  It may sound like having assigned friends, but it is a lot more substantial than that.  Home Teachers are assigned by the leaders of the Priesthood quorums by inspiration and after serious prayer.  It’s amazing to see some of the home teaching miracles that happen because just the right person visited at just the right time.  While the first visit or two may be a little awkward, especially if you are new to a ward (whether recently baptized, or recently moved), Home Teachers quickly become comfortable friends.  Growing up, our family had one home teacher for years.  Lanny.  He was also our neighbor across the ditch bank, and he took us all out to Chuck-a-Rama every Christmas.  He got to know us really well and we got to know him really well.  He wasn’t just an assigned friend, he really cared whether we were okay and was happy to help.

Visiting Teaching is about the same thing, only it is women, and they just visit women–not their entire families.  Every woman in the Church who is over 18 years old is a member of Visiting Teachingthe Relief Society, and are assigned visiting teachers.  These relationships are some of the dearest in my life.  Again, at the beginning it may just feel like assigned friends, but there is a real power in having people visit you in your own home, who really care about you.  I look forward to their visits every month.  They are also assigned by the Relief Society President after receiving inspiration about how to pair up  the companions and who to assign them to.  I think this is an especially inspired program because of the inherent social needs that women have.  We need to talk!  We need friends!  If we are new to an area, or to the Church, we need someone to sit by at our meetings.  We need someone to call if we are stuck sick in bed.  And visiting teaching gives a woman 6 possible friends automatically: their companion (who are often the dearest friends of all), the two visiting teachers who come to them, and the three ladies that they visit.  And because it is a church-wide system, there doesn’t need to be awkwardness, or worry that we are stepping on someone’s toes.  It’s just a lovely way to “fellowship”.

Prophet: “We are appealing to members to donate”

As you well know, the people of Haiti are in desperate need.  The earthquake that hit near the capital has already decimated the population and more are in danger as their injuries and wounds lie unattended.  People from around the world have been congregating on the island to help, including an airplane full of returned LDS missionaries who served in Haiti, know people there, and speak the language fluently.  Here is a brief account from one of those former missionaries serving as a medical doctor to the Haitian people he loves.

President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors have sent a message to all Mormons to contribute to Church Humanitarian Services, even despite current economic hardships:

Our hearts are filled with sadness as we have watched the suffering in Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake. We turn to the example of Jesus Christ who reached out to “lift up the hands which hang down” and “strengthen the feeble knees.”  We are keenly aware that many in America are dealing with economic challenges caused by the recession. However, we are appealing to members to donate to Church Humanitarian Services as their means allow in order to help our Haitian brothers and sisters.  Many have already contributed and others are anxious to do so.

Money is not the only need in Haiti. People are frightened, bewildered, and wholly uncertain about their future. In addition to what people can do in helping with food, water and shelter, there needs to be a calming influence over that troubled nation. We invite our people everywhere to supplicate God for a spirit of calm and peace among the people as urgent aid and reconstruction efforts continue.

I would like to extend this appeal to all those who read this blog.

There are many noble charities you may give to.  If you donate to Church Humanitarian Services, one hundred percent of your money will go towards helping those in need.  None of it goes to administrative overhead expenses.  None. That is where I’ve sent my donation, and I intend to send more as I continue to reevaluate my wants and needs.

Please also pray for the survivors.  Distress, panic, and fear are their worst enemies right now.  Pray for angels to attend to them.  Pray that they will feel Heavenly Father’s love.  Pray that they will be given assurance of their future, and ask Him what more you can do.