Spiritual Self-Reliance

    Spiritual Self-Reliance

    Asia Area Presidency Message

    Elder Gerritt W. Gong - Asia Area President

    Great blessings come to us and those around us when we become temporally and spiritually self-reliant – and able to serve others.

    In the Church, “self-reliance” does not mean relying only on ourselves.  Ultimately it means faith and reliance on the Lord.  Self-reliance is a choice we make to come unto the Lord so He can help us help others.     

    During October 2014 General Conference General Authority training, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve invited the Area Presidency and Director for Temporal Affairs in each area of the Church to begin preparing for long-term Area self-reliance.  The Area Presidencies and Director for Temporal Affairs were asked to begin with meetinghouse priorities.  I will explain what we mean by meetinghouse priorities below.

    As you may know, our Asia Area is populous, vast, diverse, and complex.   Our Asia Area of the Church includes 22 countries and regions – from Mongolia in the north to Indonesia in the south, from Pakistan in the west to China in the east. Within our Area, Church experience and maturity varies.  We also have many different economic and societal situations.     

    As a Church Area, we are now invited, in a gradual, long-term way, to help each other toward self-reliance.

    Self-reliance means individuals and families who have “ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family.”[1] And, “as members become self-reliant, they are also better able to serve and care for others.”[2]  

    Long-term Area self-reliance comes from self-reliant stakes and districts.  Self-reliant stakes and districts are ultimately composed of self-reliant individuals and families.  Area self-reliance also includes other spiritual and temporal elements.   For example,  the  spirit of long-term Area self-reliance includes self-reliance in local missionaries; local temple, mission, and other leadership; family file names for temple work, etc., while recognizing the Lord will call His people to serve where He will.  

    Long-term Area self-reliance means constant focus on members.  We continually ask, “How will this approach look in 10 years?  20 years?” “What would this decision mean in terms of member time, energy, and financial commitments to participate in the Church now?”

    As a result of the new direction on self-reliance, the Area Presidency and Director for Temporal Affairs asked for a review of all meetinghouse projects.  Each will be considered carefully.  Some may change, be delayed, or even cancelled because of new meetinghouse priorities.   

    Areas As Pioneer Companies

    As part of General Authority training, we learned that Areas of the Church are like pioneer companies.  In the times when the pioneers were crossing the plains to the Salt Lake valley, they were organized in groups called companies.  The Doctrine and Covenants section 136:3 records, “Let the companies be organized with captains of hundreds, captains of fifties, and captains of tens, with a president and his two counselors at their head, under the direction of the Twelve Apostles.” 

    Today, similarly, Areas of the Church are led by three assigned General Authorities, under the direction of the Twelve Apostles. In the spirit of self-reliance, the pioneers provided for themselves, and also a surplus to help others.  Today, we are invited to do the same thing.

    Guiding Principles

    Some guiding principles can help us as pioneers in our area.

    1. Self-reliance—As areas mature and grow, they should become more self-reliant.

    2. Providing for others—Mature areas should continue to assist less-developed areas.

    3. Wise judgment—Authority and accountability should be paired with wise judgment to effectively manage resources.

    Elder M. Russell Ballard teaches, “As the Saints work to become completely self-sufficient, something very special happens that goes far beyond decreasing costs. … Something special happens to an individual or to a Church unit when the people become more independent and self-reliant. They feel more confident, positive, and assured, and they reflect these feelings in their actions.” [3] 

    These confident, positive, assured feelings, reflected in our actions, are what we hope for each member of the Asia Area of the Church.

    Meetinghouse Opportunities

                A first step in long-term Area self-reliance is to examine use, locations, costs, and maintenance of each meetinghouse. Even early examination indicates significant opportunities exist to reduce costs and better use our meetinghouses. This process of careful examination of meetinghouse use will require a multi-year, gradual, and sustained implementation period.

    Possible Meetinghouse Considerations

                As we examine meetinghouse use, possible considerations may include the following:

    1. Increase meetinghouse use to 4 Church branches or wards (instead of 2 or 3 branches or wards).

    2. Begin design and construction of a meetinghouse only after 3 branches or wards are ready to occupy it.

    3. Allow members to fill existing meetinghouses.

    4. Rent long-term or buy already constructed space where it makes sense.

    5. Adjust travel times to better use meetinghouses.

    In each case, we want meetinghouses to be as close and as convenient to our members as possible.  At the same time, we are aware of many places in the world, including developing countries in our Asia Area, where there are not yet places for our members to meet.  Some sacrifice may be required for developed areas where there are already many Church meetinghouses, to help developing areas also have places for Church members to meet.

    Blessings of Tithing Faithfulness

    Our tithes are used to build and maintain the meetinghouses where we meet and worship together.  We each receive blessings when we faithfully obey the law of tithes – when we are tithing faithful.  President Gordon B. Hinckley expressed it this way:  “The Church has the means to construct buildings, but the people will not be blessed unless they observe the Lord’s law of the tithe.” [4] 

    Blessings of Fast and Offerings

    We are commanded to “look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer.” [5] We are also told that “Blessings associated with the law of the fast include closeness to the Lord, increased spiritual strength, temporal well-being, greater compassion, and a stronger desire to serve.” [6]

    look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer

    The Lord Himself tells us:  “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way… for the earth is full, and there is enough to spare…”[7]   

    The Lord has ordained for all His children opportunity to receive the restored gospel.  He has also decreed to provide the necessary spiritual and temporal means to do so to “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people”[8] in “His own way.”[9]

    Fundamental doctrine will not change.  But the means and modes of establishing the gospel and administering the Church will adapt and adopt.  Self-reliance principles multiply spiritual resources by reducing dependence on constrained physical resources.  Ongoing inspiration and revelation can maintain unity of doctrine and spiritual ministration while program administration adapts as appropriate, beginning with meetinghouse priorities.   

    Long-term Asia Area self-reliance can reduce the cost structure of administering Church programs as local adaptations occur.  The gospel and Church can come to all the Asia Area in hastening and sustainable ways.  In the coming years, over time, we will find the spiritual and temporal resources needed to establish the gospel and Church in the Asia Area are already here.  The Lord has and will provide.

    We will be sharing more on long-term Area reliance in the coming months and years.  In the meantime, we want each member to know we love you.  We admire you.  We are grateful for you.  And we are grateful we each have the opportunity and blessing to become temporally and spiritually self-reliant such that we can receive the blessings from the Lord who lives, and serve and bless each other, as He would do.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.   ■

    Caption: Elder Gerrit W. Gong


    [1] See Handbook 2, 6.1.1

    [2] Ibid. 

    [3] See M. Russell Ballad, “Sacrifice and Self-Sufficiency,” Ensign, Nov. 1987 (www.lds.org/ensign/1987/11/sacrifice-and-slf-sufficiency).

    [4] Presiding Bishopric Presentation, General Authority Training, October 7, 2014; also see Gordon B. Hinckley, “The State of the Church,” Ensign, May 1991 (www.lds.org/ensign/1991/05/the-state-of-the-church).

    [5] See Doctrine and Covenants 38:35; emphasis added.

    [6] Handbook 2, 6.1.2.  

    [7] See Doctrine and Covenants 104:14-17.

    [8] See 1 Nephi 19:17; see also Doctrine and Covenants 90:11. 

    [9] See Doctrine and Covenants 104:16.