As a new church member, you are asked to begin taking responsibility for your own needs and those of your family.
Provident Living means taking care of ourselves. We’re advised to prepare ourselves for any emergency: to gain an education or training, to stay out of debt, to build savings and a year of food to get us through the hard times. We might not be able to buy a year of food all at once, but we can buy a few extras each week, and over time, we’ll have enough. It’s less expensive to buy in bulk, so, when we’ve built our supplies and don’t have to buy everything every week, we’ll save money simply by being able to buy only on sale or in large quantities.
We first do everything in our own power to be able to take care of ourselves in hard times. This means that when the world falls apart, we evaluate our own resources to decide how we can take care of ourselves. We cut expenses and live more simply. When those resources come to an end, we turn to our families. Only then, when family can’t help, do we go to the church for assistance. In the Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 124, we read, “No true Latter-day Saint, while physically and emotionally able will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else”
When times do occur in which the church must help, it doesn’t send a monthly welfare check. Food is provided, other needs are met—those necessary to sustain life, not as we lived it before, but enough to survive very simply until we’ve gotten back on our feet. And it isn’t a handout. We’re asked to work for what we receive. The work may not always equal what we receive, but it’s assigned according to our abilities at the time.
This work allows us to maintain our dignity and self-respect. We aren’t people taking a handout. We’re proud, capable people working to support ourselves and our family. We know this is just a temporary place in a long life of hard work and service. Church welfare is never meant to be a permanent way to survive, but rather a stepping stone to self-sufficiency. “It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints,” President Joseph F. Smith wrote, “that a religion which has not the power to save people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here, cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, to exalt them in the life to come.”
The church offers temporary relief for physical needs, assistance in finding a job, literacy assistance, and other types of short term help required to help us become self-sufficient.
As the church allows us to sustain the most basic needs, we’re expected to continue doing our part. We accept callings and sign up for service projects. When we go to pick up our food order, we stay an extra few hours and work at the storehouse. We sign up to clean the building.
But there is more to it than just paying for what we get. It’s our responsibility to improve our skills so we can move away from needing help. If we can’t read, we get help learning to read. If we don’t know how to write a resume or look for work, we learn. We can learn to live on less money by improving our ability to cook from scratch or to sew. The church can teach you, but can’t do it for you.
The church’s internet website has a large section called Provident Living. On this site you can take self-taught classes on budgeting, food storage, and other aspects of being totally self-reliant.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.