A couple of weeks ago, our sacrament meeting theme was “Spiritual Self-Reliance”. Interestingly, most the speakers didn’t really speak about spiritual self-reliance. Instead, they mostly discussed our dependence on God and Christ. So I got to thinking…
The Church is a church of doing. We emphasize good behavior, acts of charity, ordinances, family home evenings, service, scripture study — even food storage. We have employment specialists and welfare services that are intended to help people be temporally self-reliant. Church leaders frequently teach of the evils of consumer debt and the need for financial preparedness.
Does the Church similarly emphasize spiritual self-reliance? In what ways? And for me, a more important question: what is spiritual self-reliance?
After all, the scriptures teach that we “rely wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.” In the particular passage just quoted, Nephi seems to be saying that up through baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, we rely wholly upon Christ. So there seems to be some room for interpreting that we become more “self-reliant” after that point. This would seem to be in keeping with the idea that salvation is free, but exaltation is not.
However, later on, Moroni speaks of those who were baptized into the church: “And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.” This seems to indicate that our reliance on Christ continues.
And one of the things I love most about Mormonism is its emphasis on the communal nature of exaltation and temporal salvation: it is not to be found merely in an individual relationship with God and Christ (though that is essential); it is to be found in building Zion and in the sealing together of the human family. In such a context, what does spiritual self-reliance mean? How does it relate to scriptures that warn against trusting in the arm of flesh? What about the Book of Mormon lessons about those who depend on their own strength rather than depending on the Lord?
And on the other hand, doesn’t the Lord want us to develop in our “independence in that sphere in which we are placed,” and isn’t the power “in [us], wherein [we] are agents unto [our]selves“? Is there a paradox that needs reconciliation?
What does spiritual self-reliance mean to you, and how important is it?