By Laraine L. Thompson
In a recent conversation between women in the ward, the subject of self-reliance arose. What is it? How do we foster it? We all know that self-reliance is an intrinsic value in the church’s plan for each member’s “provident living.” Indeed, like the spokes on a wheel, the individual components of provident living, i.e., physical health, social and emotional strength, education and literacy, employment, resource management, food storage and emergency preparedness, and caring for others rely upon one’s determination to be self-reliant every bit as much as the spokes on a wheel would rely upon its’ hub for stability and strength. Self-reliance then becomes the hub of the church’s program to teach us provident living.
Inherent in self-reliance is the concept of confidence–confidence in one’s self and more importantly confidence in the Lord’s opinion that we are all qualified to accomplish whatever he asks of us. Nephi clearly teaches this concept in The Book of Mormon when he refuses to come away without the brass plates and replies instead, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments….save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” 1 Ne: 3:7. Nephi made a decision to demonstrate confidence. And it was and is a decision—an act of will!
In more modern times there is perhaps no one who displays confidence as an act of willful decision more than Mary Fielding Smith. She was of course, the widow of Hyrum Smith who was martyred along with his brother Joseph at Carthage Jail. Quite alone and without means she and her children, one of whom, Joseph F., would later become the prophet of the church, prepared to migrate west with the rest of the Saints in 1848. With ingenious tenacity she and her children struggled from Nauvoo to Winters Quarters. Once there, one of the men supervising the cattle in the pioneer company urged Mary to stay behind telling her that she and her family would only be a burden to the rest of the company and that she would either have to be carried or left behind at some point.
Undaunted and with all of the confidence in the world, Mary retorted, “I will beat you to the valley and will ask no help from you either!” Don’t you love this woman!
She and her children did indeed make that trek. It was not without further trials however. At one point one of her best oxen became deathly ill and was unable to continue the trek. Without that ox she was doomed. She found a bottle of consecrated oil and asked two priesthood brethren to administer to her sick ox. The men resisted; however, Mary, believing that the Lord would heal her ox, confidently insisted. The animal was blessed, healed, and Mary soon resumed her trip.
Her oxen became sick two more times. And two more times Mary insisted that they be blessed by the priesthood. Each time, they were instantly healed. Despite all impediments, Mary and her children made it to the Salt Lake Valley.
After a bitter winter that can so easily characterize the valley, food and shelter were scarce. Summer came and with her characteristic pluck and confidence, Mary planted and harvested a crop. Choosing her best produce, she headed to the bishop’s storehouse to pay her tithing. The tithing clerk, knowing of her poverty, urged her to reconsider a tithe. Mary’s rebuke? “William, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Would you deny me a blessing? If I did not pay my tithing I should expect the Lord to withhold His blessings from me; I pay tithing, not only because it is a law of God but because I expect a blessing by doing it!”
Mary’s confident self reliance continued throughout her life. She remained independent, raising chickens, sheep and cattle to help support herself and her family.
At her death, Joseph F. said of his mother, “Nothing beneath the celestial kingdom can surpass my deathless love for the sweet true, noble, soul who gave me birth—my own, own mother! She was good! She was pure! She was indeed a Saint! A royal daughter of God!”
Let Nephi and Mary serve as our examples as we confidently determine that we too will be self-reliant. Surely the Lord expects no less of us…….
Photo source: LDS Media Library