Provident Living and the Relief Society
The foundational work of the
was described by Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Relief of poverty, relief of
illness; relief of doubt, relief of ignorance—relief of all that hinders the joy
and progress of woman. What a magnificent commission!”1
Relief of poverty – having what you need, both financially and materially, and knowing how to make it last as long as it is needed.
Relief of illness – having good health and knowing how to maintain it.
Relief of doubt – having faith and trust in a loving and all-knowing Heavenly Father and the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ.
Relief of ignorance – learning and knowing what is needed for a successful life on earth and to progress to the next.
When the Relief Society takes seriously the charge to relieve poverty, illness, doubt and ignorance, they will do so through the teaching, encouraging and practicing provident living and self-reliance. Provident living is defined as being "wise, frugal, prudent, making provision for the future while attending to immediate needs."2 Provident living is also an “orderly approach to using the resources, gifts, and talents the Lord shares with us”3 and “joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies.”4 “Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the necessities of life for self and family.”5 Provident living and self-reliance are two terms for the same principles.
The definition of provident living – being "wise, frugal, prudent, making provision for the future while attending to immediate needs" – can be further defined. To be frugal is to avoid unnecessary monetary expenditure; to be thrifty. To be prudent is to use good judgment or common sense in handling practical matters. So to live providently is to be wise, to avoid spending money unnecessarily and to use common sense in practical matters so that we can take care of immediate needs and provide for the future. The woman described in Proverbs 31 is an example of provident living. “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
“…with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard…
“She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
“She maketh herself coverings of tapestry…
“She maketh fine linen,…
“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”6
All members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have responsibilities for themselves, their families, and others. The Welfare pamphlet, Providing in the Lord’s Way: Summary of a Leader’s Guide to Welfare, lists the responsibilities of individuals and families:
“Church members are responsible for their own spiritual and temporal well-being. Blessed with the gift of agency, they have the privilege of setting their own course, solving their own problems, and striving to become self-reliant. Members do this under the inspiration of the Lord and with the labor of their own hands.
Elements of Self-Reliance
Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the necessities of life for self and family. As members become self-reliant, they are also better able to serve and care for others.
Some of the areas in which members should become self-reliant are outlined below.
Education. Education can enrich, ennoble, and provide understanding that leads to a happier life. Members should study the scriptures and other good books; improve their ability to read, write, and do basic mathematics; and obtain skills needed for suitable employment.
Health. The Lord has commanded members to take care of their minds and bodies. They should obey the Word of Wisdom, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep. They should shun substances or practices that abuse their bodies or minds and that could lead to addiction. They should practice good sanitation and hygiene and obtain adequate medical and dental care. They should also strive to cultivate good relationships with family members and others.
Employment. Work is the foundation upon which self-reliance and temporal well-being rest. Members should prepare for and carefully select a suitable occupation or self-employment that will provide for their own and their families’ needs. They should become skilled at their jobs, be diligent and trustworthy, and give honest work for the pay and benefits they receive.
Home Storage. To help care for themselves and their families, members should:
– Build a three-month supply of food that is part of their normal diet.
– Store drinking water in case the water supply becomes polluted or disrupted.
– Gradually build a longer-term supply of food that will sustain life.
Finances. To become financially self-reliant, members should:
– Pay tithes and offerings.
– Avoid unnecessary debt.
– Use a budget and live within a plan.
– Gradually build a financial reserve by regularly saving a little.
– Teach family members principles of financial management.
Spiritual Strength. Spirituality is essential to a person’s temporal and eternal well-being. Church members should exercise faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, obey God’s commandments, pray daily, study the scriptures and teachings of the latter-day prophets, attend Church meetings, and serve in Church callings and assignments.”7
By teaching provident living and the
practice of it, the Bishop’s Storehouse for assisting those in need is
subsequently enlarged and increased. “The Lord’s storehouse is not limited to a
building used to distribute food to the poor. It includes the faithful offerings
of time, talents, compassion, materials, and financial means of faithful members
given to the bishop to care for the poor and needy.”8 “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.”9 When we
are self-reliant we make it possible for us and the bishop to better serve
others and provide relief to those in need.
Provident living is essential. It contributes to spiritual growth. Elder McConkie said "Industry, thrift, and self-respect are essential to salvation."10 Marion G. Romney stated “Let us work for what we need. Let us be self-reliant and independent. Salvation can be obtained on no other principle. Salvation is an individual matter, and we must work out our own salvation, in temporal as well as in spiritual things.”11
Barbara B. Smith stated “Provident homes come not by decree or by broad brushstroke. Provident homes come from small acts performed well day after day. When we see in our minds the great vision, then we discipline ourselves by steady, small steps that make it happen. It is important to realize this correlation between the large and the small.”12
How can the Relief Society teach, encourage and help sisters make small steady steps toward provident living and self-reliance? Some ideas and suggestions are:
• Teach budgeting classes – how to set up a budget and use it.
• Teach finance classes – how to save and invest on a small scale.
• Teach classes on how to live frugally – food, clothing and home management.
• Teach classes on practical homemaking skills – cooking from scratch, sewing, mending, decorating, gardening, canning, dehydrating, freezing, etc.
• Have classes, fairs and workshops on food storage and emergency preparedness.
• Teach the use of the Home Storage Center.
• Teach food storage cooking, budget cooking, etc. through meals served at weekday Relief Society meetings and as the Relief Society President meets with those receiving Bishops’ Storehouse assistance.
• Work closer with ward/stake employment specialists to assist those in need.
• Teach better health through better nutrition.
• Teach practical exercise and/or form exercise groups.
• Teach food safety skills.
• Teach home and personal hygiene.
• Teach home nursing skills.
• Teach temple and family history work.
• Form temple groups for regular temple attendance.
• Help sisters understand how to invite the Spirit into their lives and recognize it working in their lives.
• Teach scripture study skills.
• Have gospel study groups and/or groups who attend institute classes together.
• Teach good communication skills.
• Ensure sisters have basic reading, writing, and math skills.
• Make sisters aware of continuing education options and opportunities.
• Teach basic computer skills.
• Teach how to share the gospel.
• Share successful family home evening ideas.
• Share parenting skills.
• Organize service projects that also teach skills.
• Organize service projects that ensure interaction between sisters and/or between sisters and those they serve.
• Involve more sisters in compassionate service.
Principles can be taught through displays,
handouts, in classes or one-on-one.
As we teach, encourage and practice provident living, we will relieve poverty, illness, doubt and ignorance and fulfill the purposes of Relief Society to increase faith and personal righteousness; strengthen families and homes; and seek out and help those in need. We will be rescuing others temporally and spiritually through answering life’s challenges and problems with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
1. John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, arr.
G. Homer Durham, 3 vols. in 1 (1960), 308.
2. Barbara B. Smith, “Teach LDS Women Self-Sufficiency” Ensign, May 1976, p. 118.
3. Victor L. Brown, “Welfare Services Essentials: The Bishop’s Storehouse”, Ensign, Nov. 1976, pp.112-113.
4. Robert D. Hales, “Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually”, Ensign, May 2009.
5. Providing in the Lord’s Way: Summary of a Leader’s Guide to Welfare, p. 1
6. Proverbs 31:13-27
7. Providing in the Lord’s Way: Summary of a Leader’s Guide to Welfare, p. 1-2.
8. Ibid., p. 3
9. Marion G. Romney, “The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance”, Ensign, June 1984.
10. Bruce R. McConkie, “Stand Independent Above All Other Creatures”, Ensign, May 1979, p. 92.
11. Marion G. Romney, "In Mine Own Way", Ensign, Nov. 1976.
12. Barbara B. Smith, “Follow Joyously", Ensign, Nov. 1980.