17) SELF-RELIANCE: Should a person or family be supported by others when capable of providing for themselves? What is the danger of accepting a “dole” – something-for-nothing handout?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

To give to the idler is as wicked as anything else. Never give anything to the idler. 1

Joseph F. Smith

There is such a thing as encouraging idleness and fostering pauperism among men. Men and women ought not to be willing to receive charity unless they are compelled to do so to keep them from suffering. Every man and woman ought to possess the spirit of independence, a self-sustaining spirit, that would prompt him or her to say, when they are in need, ‘I am willing to give my labor in exchange for that which you give me.’ No man ought to be satisfied to receive, and to do nothing for it. After a man is brought down to poverty and is under the necessity of receiving aid, and his friends give it to him, he should feel that it is an obligation under which he is placed, and when the Lord should open his way he would return the gift. That is the feeling we should cultivate in our hearts, to make us a free and independent people. The cultivation of any other feeling or spirit than this is calculated to make paupers, to degrade and bring mankind down to beggary, which is a most wretched condition for men to be in. It is a bad thing for men to think the world owes them a living and all they have to do is to beg or steal to get it…. there is no great need in this world [to give assistance] for men and women who are able to work and will not work.2

Idlers have no place in Zion. There should be no idlers in Zion. Even the poor who have to be assisted should be willing to do all in their power to earn their own living. Not one man or woman should be content to sit down and be fed, clothed, or housed without any exertion on his or her part to compensate for these privileges.3

Heber J. Grant

There is nothing truer than Brigham Young’s statement, that we should give nothing to people, unless they are not able to work, without requiring them to do something for it….4

I have had some of the most insulting letters that ever came to me, condemning me for not being in favor of the Townsend Plan (original name of Social Security), and that I must be ignorant of the plan. I am not ignorant of the plan… it is in direct opposition to everything I have quoted from Brigham Young and from the revelations of the Lord. The idea of allowing every man and woman who has reached the age of sixty years and wishes to retire from working to get $200 a month from the government! There is nothing truer than Brigham Young’s statement, that we should give nothing to people, unless they are not able to work, without requiring them to do something for it. . . . Let every Latter-day Saint who has a farm, farm it, and not try to borrow money to be paid back by the government. Let every man feel that he is the architect and builder of his own life, and that he proposes to make a success of it by working. “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work,” and rest on the seventh, and do not be willing to labor four or five days and then only half labor. 5

I desire to call attention to a statement by President Brigham Young: “My experience has taught me, and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out, to man or woman, money, food, clothing, or anything else, if they are able-bodied and can work and earn what they need, when there is anything on earth for them to do. This is my principle and I try to act upon it. To pursue a contrary course would ruin any community in the world and make them idlers. [People trained in this way have no interest in working.]” 6
And what would ruin a community would ruin a state, and I might incidentally remark, a nation also. 7

David O. McKay

We are placed on this earth to work, to live. It is our duty to strive to make a success of what we possess. It is the Government’s duty to see that you are protected in these efforts, and no man has the right to deprive you of any of your privileges. It is not the Government’s duty to support you. That is our reason why I shall raise my voice as long as God give me ability, against this idea that the Government will take care of us all, and everything belongs to the Government. It is wrong! No wonder, in trying to perpetuate that idea, they become anti-Christ, because that doctrine strikes directly against the doctrine of the Savior. No government owes you a living. You get it yourself by your own acts! – never by trespassing upon the rights of a neighbor. 8

I cannot help but think that there is a direct relationship between the present evil trends and the very marked tendency of the people of our country to pass on to the state the responsibility for their moral and economic welfare. This trend to a welfare state in which people look to and worship government more than their God, is certain to sap the individual ambitions and moral fiber of our youth unless they are warned and re-warned of the consequences. History is replete with the downfall of nations who instead of assuming their own responsibility for their religious and economic welfare, mistakenly attempted to shift their individual responsibilities to the government. None of the doctrines of our Church give any sanction to the concept of a socialistic state. 9

Harold B. Lee

If these words [D&C 68:31] are clearly understood, we have been told where the roots of all evil are to be found. Our children have not been properly taught by parents in the home. Our communities have adopted policies which encourage idleness instead of work for those who want to work for what they need, and have failed to adopt measures to see that idleness and unemployment are reduced to the absolute minimum.

In our day a pioneer leader, President Brigham Young, spoke as a pioneer statesman about the importance of work. Said he: “My experience has taught me, and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out, to man or woman, money, food, clothing, or anything else, if they are able-bodied and can work and earn what they need, when there is anything on earth for them to do. This is my principle and I try to act upon it. To pursue a contrary course would ruin any community in the world and make them idlers. [People trained in this way have no interest in working.]” 1011

When we teach, as we must, about the “dignity of work” and the “evils of the dole,” we are striking at basic conditions that must be met if poverty is to be coped with. . . . They are principles which, if violated, pre-doom a program to failure. 12

Suppose that tonight a telephone call comes to the father of a family where he is at work, bringing him the distressing word that his little son has ben hit with an automobile and has been rushed to the hospital, critically injured. This family is making only a very low income, just barely enough to keep the family together with food and the essentials. Now there faces the family immediately a doctor bill, a hospital bill–how in the world are you going to handle it?

I fear if I should ask you that question and have you answer it here, most of you would say: “Well, we will call on the fast offering funds.” And that is not the way the welfare program begins, and taht is where we make our error. In the first place, we start out with the individual himself. We do not move from that point until we have helped the individual to do all he can to help his own problem. Now, sentiment and our emotional sympathy might push us to other conclusions, but that is the first, and then we reach out to the immediate relatives of that family. We are losing the family solidarity, we are losing the strength that comes from family unity, when we fail to give opportunity and to help to direct a way by which immediate relatives of that family can come to the aid of their own. 13

In rendering [welfare] assistance, every opportunity must be given to those who are assisted to perform some labor or render some service for the assistance they are to receive. This is as fundamental to the program as the supplying of necessites. 14

I have a feeling that whenever we have among our leaders those who would say that the care of the needy should be left to public institutions and not to the Church, there we have men who lack the spiritual insight into the spiritual values involved in caring for the unfortunate. 15

We must never cease our striving until we have done everything we know how to do, to lift those now presently dependent, even upon the Church welfare program, to a point where they can be completely self-sustaining and independent. Now, keep in mind with all the crowding in of the socialistic reform programs that are threatening the very foundation of the Church. . . . Whenever we allow ourselves to become entangled and have to be subsidized from government sources—and we think that it’s the expedient way to do business in this day—or when we yield to such pressures, I warn you that government subsidies are not the Lord’s way; and if we begin to accept, we are on our way to becoming subsidized politically as well as financially.

May the Lord help us to understand these fundamentals that we have been taught over the years and guide us to that destiny which [the welfare] program is intended to attain, a full consecration, wherein we consecrate our lives, all that we have and are, not even withholding our lives if it were necessary for the upbuilding of the kingdom. Then only can we develop the faith necessary to an exaltation in the celestial kingdom. 16

Our children have not been properly taught by parents in the home. Our communities have adopted policies which encourage idleness instead of work for those who want to work for what they need, and have failed to adopt measures to see that idleness and unemployment are reduced to the absolute minimum. 17

You force our people to accept a subsistence allowance without giving them the opportunity for rendering some kind of service in return, and they are not going to get any pleasure or any satisfaction out of it. They are going to look for some other kind of, shall I say, dole plan where they can come as near to getting something for nothing as is possible. . . . If you want to make our people happy, then, don’t force them to receive what they need without giving them the opportunity to give in return. That is the law of life, and it is the thing that we have been trying to teach them from the beginning. 18

Ezra Taft Benson

I have seen this great nation decline spiritually. What happens to a nation collectively is but the result of its citizenry departing from the fundamental spiritual and economic laws of God: making the Sabbath day a day of pleasure; individuals and businesses giving license to immorality; and politicians dignifying the coveting of others’ possessions and property by stating, “We will take from the haves and give to the have nots.” At first we resisted this philosophy; then consented; next, demanded; and now have legislated. Politically, we licensed coveting what others had earned! 19

Occasionally, we receive questions as to the propriety of Church members receiving government assistance instead of Church assistance. Let me restate what is a fundamental principle. Individuals, to the extent possible, should provide for their own needs. Where the individual is unable to care for himself, his family should assist. Where the family is not able to provide, the Church should render assistance, not the government. We accept the basic principle that ‘though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.’ 20

A letter came to my office, accompanied by an article from the Brigham Young University Daily Universe, on the matter of BYU students taking food stamps. The query of the letter was: “What is the attitude of the Church on taking food stamps?” The Church’s view on this is well known. We stand for independence, thrift, and abolition of the dole. “The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.” 21

When you accept food stamps, you accept an unearned handout that other working people are paying for. You do not earn food stamps or welfare payments. Every individual who accepts an unearned government gratuity is just as morally culpable as the individual who takes a handout from taxpayers’ money to pay his heat, electricity, or rent. There is no difference in principle between them. You did not come to this university to become a welfare recipient. You came here to be a light to the world, a light to society-to save society and to help to save this nation, the Lord’s base of operations in these last days-to ameliorate mans social conditions. You are not here to be a parasite or freeloader. The price you pay for “something for nothing” may be more than you can afford. Do not rationalize your acceptance of government gratuities by saying, ‘I am a contributing taxpayer too.’ By doing this you contribute to the problem which is leading this nation to financial insolvency. 22

To live a higher law means we will not seek to receive what we have not earned by our own labor. It means we will remember that government owes us nothing. It means we will keep the laws of the land. It means we will look to God as our Lawgiver and the Source of our liberty. 23

I would respectfully urge you to live by the fundamental principles of work, thrift, and self-reliance, and to teach your children by your example. It was never intended in God’s divine plan that man should live off the labor of someone else. Live within your own earnings. Put a portion of those earnings regularly into savings. Avoid unnecessary debt. Be wise by not trying to expand too rapidly. Learn to manage well what you have before you think of expanding further. This is the kind of advice I would give my own, and is, in my opinion, the key to sound home, business, and government management.

I would further counsel you to pay your honest tithes and contribute generously to the support of the poor and needy through the fast offerings. Then store at least a year’s supply of basic food, clothing, and fuel. Then you will find these blessings will accrue: You will not be confronted with the danger of losing all you have because of inflation or depression. You will have security that no government can provide—savings and supplies for emergencies. 24

The fight for freedom is God’s fight. No matter what the temporary outcome; the Lord has endowed this matter of freedom with such everlasting repercussions, that it sifted the spirits of men before this world in the Great War in heaven. And it seems today to be the central issue that is sifting those who are left in the world. No one can delegate his duty to preserve his freedom, for the price of liberty is (personal) eternal vigilance. You cannot effectively fight for freedom and not be attacked–we also should not expect the Lord to do for us what we can do for ourselves. The basic purpose of life is to prove ourselves–not to be with the majority when it is wrong. Proving ourselves means showing whether or not we are going to stand up for freedom . . . Less spiritually advanced people have to be commanded in all things. Those who are spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord, and then prayerfully act–without having to be commanded. This attitude prepares men for godhood. Sometimes the Lord waits on his children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize. The more He has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward. Should the Lord decide at this time to cleanse the Church–and the need for that cleansing seems to be increasing–a famine in this land of one year’s duration could wipe out a large percent of slothful members, including some ward and stake officers. To be on the wrong side of the freedom issue in heaven means eternal damnation. How then can Latter-day Saints expect to be on the wrong side in this life and escape eternal consequences? Will they heed the counsel of the prophet and preserve their freedom? Those who want to lead the quiet, retiring life but still expect to do their full duty can’t have it both ways. This fight for freedom might never become popular in our day, and if you wait until everybody agrees in this Church, you will be waiting through the second coming! The Lord will not protect us unless we do our part. This devilish tactic of persuading people not to get concerned because the Lord will protect them no matter what they do is exposed by the Book of Mormon. Today in this freedom struggle, many gentiles are showing greater wisdom in their generation than the children of Light. A good deal of the responsibility lies with the Priesthood of this church as to what happens to America. 25

Today’s Socialists–who call themselves egalitarians–are using the federal government to redistribute wealth in our society–not as a matter of voluntary charity, but as a so-called matter of right. One Housing, Education, and Welfare official said, “In this country, welfare is no longer charity; it is a right. More and more Americans feel that their government owes them something.” (U.S. News and World Report, 21 April 1975, page 49.) President Grover Cleveland said–and we believe as a people–that though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. 26

Howard W. Hunter

From my own experience in business and as a lawyer and church worker, and from my firsthand observations in this country and other countries of the world, there appears to me to be a trend to shift responsibility for life and its processes from the individual to the state. In this shift there is a basic violation of the law of the harvest, or the law of justice. The attitude of “something for nothing” is encouraged. The government is often looked to as the source of wealth. There is a feeling that the government should step in and take care of one’s needs, one’s emergencies, and one’s future. Just as my friend actually became a slave to his own ignorance and bad habits by refusing to accept the responsibility for his own education and moral growth, so, also, can an entire people be imperceptibly transferred from individuals, families, and communities to the federal government. 27

Critics of independence, self-help, and self-reliance have their own theory. These critics believe that the national government can do most things better for the people than they do for themselves as individuals or through their state and local governments. I believe the closer to home you keep government the more effective it will be–and it will cost less.

These critics also believe that federal employees in Washington know more about your school, your farm, your business, your job, than you, the people, do in your own communities on your farms, in your businesses. You and I know that is not true–and we do not believe it. 28


D&C 42:42

Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.

Enos 1:20-21

And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.

And it came to pass that the people of Nephi did till the land, and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses.

Mosiah 6:6-7

And it came to pass that king Mosiah did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe his judgments and his statutes, and did keep his commandments in all things whatsoever he commanded him.

And king Mosiah did cause his people that they should till the earth. And he also, himself, did till the earth, that thereby he might not become burdensome to his people, that he might do according to that which his father had done in all things. And there was no contention among all his people for the space of three years.

Mosiah 9:9-11

And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits; and we did begin to multiply and prosper in the land.

Now it was the cunning and the craftiness of king Laman, to bring my people into bondage, that he yielded up the land that we might possess it.

Therefore it came to pass, that after we had dwelt in the land for the space of twelve years that king Laman began to grow uneasy, lest by any means my people should wax strong in the land, and that they could not overpower them and bring them into bondage.

Mosiah 18:24, 26

And he also commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support.

And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.

Mosiah 23:5

And they pitched their tents, and began to till the ground, and began to build buildings; yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly.

Mosiah 27:4-5

That they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself, laboring with their own hands for their support.

Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the grace of God.

Alma 1:3, 20

And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.

Yea, they did persecute them, and afflict them with all manner of words, and this because of their humility; because they were not proud in their own eyes, and because they did impart the word of God, one with another, without money and without price.

Alma 1:26, 32

And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.

For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible.

1 Timothy 5:8

But if any [man] provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Supporting Statements

Boyd K. Packer

If a member is unable to sustain himself, then he is to call upon his own family, and then upon the Church, in that order, and not upon the government at all. 29

L. Tom Perry

Independence and self-reliance are critical to our spiritual and temporal growth. Whenever we get into situations which threaten our self-reliance, we will find our freedoms threatened as well. If we increase our dependence on anything or any one except the Lord, we will find an immediate decrease in our freedom to act. 30

H. Verlan Anderson

Men may exercise unrighteous dominion upon one another through the agency of government in just as many ways as they can when acting outside its framework. The most common method, however, is by denying or interfering with the right to own and control property, one of the elements of freedom. …applying the Golden Rule, put yourself in “A’s” shoes. He has already given all he desires to charity. Are you not violating his conscience when you compel him to give more? Would you enjoy having someone dictate how much you must give to your church, a hospital or college? Would not this be a plain case of theft? And if you pass a law and legalize the taking and the giving, have you really changed the essential nature of the act? Haven’t you merely legalized stealing? 31

Marion G. Romney

Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know service is what godhood is all about? Without self-reliance one cannot exercise these innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak. President Heber J. Grant declared, “Nothing destroys the individuality of a man, a woman, or a child as much as the failure to be self-reliant. 32

We do not bless anybody when we do for them what they can do for themselves. 33

  1. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 275)
  2. Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1898, pp. 46-48; Gospel Doctrine, pp. 234-235
  3. Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, Apr 1899, p. 42; Gospel Doctrine, p. 236
  4. Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, Oct 1936, 13; Presidents of the Church Institute manual, p. 187
  5. Heber J. Grant, General Conference October 1936
  6. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 274
  7. Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, Oct 1936, pp. 6-7; Presidents of the Church Institute manual, 187
  8. David O. McKay, Statements on Communism and the Constitution
  9. David O. McKay, Official Policy, May 1967
  10. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 274
  11. Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, Oct 1972, pp. 61-64
  12. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 308; Regional Representatives Seminar Address, October 3, 1968
  13. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 309; Relief Society Magazine 33, December 1946, pp. 809-817, 841-842
  14. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, pp. 312-313; Relief Society Magazine 24, March 1937: 140-43
  15. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, pp. 320-321; Conference Report, April 7, 1944, pp. 85-89
  16. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 314-315; Welfare Agricultural Meeting, October 5, 1968
  17. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 313
  18. Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 324; Welfare Agricultural Meeting, April 9, 1966
  19. Ezra Taft Benson, “The Task Before Us,” American Dairy Science Association, Logan, Utah, 26 June 1979; The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 572 – 573.
  20. Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference, April 1977
  21. Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, October 1936, p. 3
  22. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 262; “A Vision and a Hope for the Youth of Zion,” in 1977 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: BYU, 1978], p. 78
  23. Ezra Taft Benson, The Constitution–A Heavenly Banner, Ensign, Sept 1987, p. 6
  24. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 262-263
  25. Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1965
  26. “A Vision and a Hope for the Youth of Zion,” in 1977 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: BYU, 1978], page 77.
  27. (Speeches of the Year 1965-1966, pp. 1-11, “The Law of the Harvest.” Devotional Address, Brigham Young University, 8 March 1966.)
  28. The Red Carpet, pages 158-59.
  29. Boyd K. Packer, General Conference, April 1978
  30. L. Tom Perry, General Conference, October 1991
  31. H. Verlan Anderson, Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen, page 37 — recommended reading in General Conference April 1972
  32. Marion G. Romney, “The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance”
  33. Marion G. Romney, General Conference address, Ensign, Nov 1977, p. 80
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