“…are we responsible to look after the well-being of our neighbors as we seek to earn our daily bread? The Savior’s Golden Rule says we are. Satan says we are not.” -Dallin H. Oaks
Christ taught that every gospel law and prophetic teaching hangs on the first two commandments; to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and to “love thy neighbour as thyself.”
To put the kingdom of God first in our lives is to constantly seek opportunities to serve, since serving our fellow man means serving God (see Mosiah 2:17). Service, therefore, is the lifeblood of prosperity. The greater our prosperity, the greater our responsibility and opportunity to serve.
As Marion G. Romney taught, “Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse.”
Interestingly, what often inhibits this ideal is not the selfishness borne of hedonism or materialism. Rather, a misguided sense of personal responsibility may prevent us from sharing our material blessings with others. Taking self-reliance out of gospel context leads us to self-centeredness, pride, and a lack of compassion.
We were both raised to place a high premium on self-reliance. We were taught the virtues of the free market, the value of hard work, and the principle of sacrifice. We believed to depend on others for our sustenance and well-being is the product of a flawed character. Though we did strive to serve, in some ways our perspective was tainted by judgment of those who were not temporally self-reliant.
Our perspective was honed after we approached our bishop in tears, ashamed to petition for assistance, and forced to surrender our pride. Although much of our situation was caused by our own mistakes, the truth is that we were also impacted by circumstances way beyond our control.
After being humbled, we developed a much deeper and, we hope, purer sense of compassion. We’ve realized that everyone, no matter how responsible, hard-working, and righteous, suffers hardship. We’re far less prone to judge those struggling economically. King Benjamin’s warning and unmistakable counsel in Mosiah chapter four was seared into our hearts:
“Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
“But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” -Mosiah 4: 17-23
We’ve realized that the whole point of being self-reliant is to increase our ability to serve others. Self-reliance is the opposite of selfishness and is the gateway to meaningful and sustainable Christian service. As Marion G. Romney taught,
“Self-reliance is not the end, but a means to an end. It is very possible for a person to be completely independent and lack every other desirable attribute. One may become wealthy and never have to ask anyone for anything, but unless there is some spiritual goal attached to this independence, it can canker his soul.”
President Romney continued:
“We lose our life by serving and lifting others. By so doing we experience the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.
“Knowing that service is what gives our Father in Heaven fulfillment, and knowing that we want to be where He is and as He is, why must we be commanded to serve one another? Oh, for the glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts. In that day there will be no need for a commandment because we will have experienced for ourselves that we are truly happy only when we are engaged in unselfish service. Let us use the freedom which comes from self-reliance in giving and serving.”
Gratefully, our experiences have intensified our desire to serve. Furthermore, we’ve learned how to allow others to serve us, which has been even more difficult. We’ve learned that being ashamed to depend on others through temporary hardship is simply pride disguised as responsibility. The willingness to be served is equally important as the desire to serve.
To be continued…
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