During our recent General Conference and in the October 2015 letter from the First Presidency, church leaders counseled us to prayerfully determine what we can do to serve in our neighborhoods and communities. They reminded us that each member covenanted at baptism to "comfort those that stand in need of comfort." But, how can we do this if we haven't done what we can to become self-reliant?
Elder Robert D. Hales said, “When we live providently, we can provide for ourselves and our families and also follow the Savior’s example to serve and bless others.” (General Conference, April 2009)
Elder Marion G. Romney said, “Without self-reliance one cannot exercise … innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? 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.” (Ensign, June 1984)
In the October 1856 General Conference, while the desperate handcart pioneers were still on the trail and in danger of starving and freezing to death, President Brigham Young said, "Your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the celestial kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains, and attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, ...otherwise your faith will be in vain."
Can we answer the call to serve? Are we ready to bless the lives of others in their times of need?
"Being somewhat fatigued after the day’s journey, I retired to rest quite early, and while I still lay wide awake in my bed I heard a voice calling me by name, and then saying: ‘The hand-cart people are in trouble and you are wanted; will you go and help them?’ I turned instinctively in the direction from whence the voice came and beheld an ordinary sized man in the room. Without any hesitation I answered ‘Yes, I will go if I am called.’ I then turned around to go to sleep, but had laid only a few minutes when the voice called a second time, repeating almost the same words as on the first occasion. My answer was the same as before. This was repeated a third time.
“When I got up the next morning I said to Brother Brown, ‘The hand-cart people are in trouble, and I have promised to go out and help them;’ but I did not tell him of my experience during the night.
“I now hastened to Salt Lake City, and arrived there on the Saturday, preceding the Sunday on which the call was made for volunteers to go out and help the last hand-cart companies in. When some of the brethren responded by explaining that they could get ready to start in a few days; I spoke out at once saying, ‘I am ready now!’ The next day I was wending my way eastward over the mountains with a light wagon all alone...
"I reached the ill-fated train just as the immigrants were camping for the night. The sight that met my gaze as I entered their camp can never be erased from my memory. The starved forms and haggard countenances of the poor sufferers, as they moved about slowly, shivering with cold, to prepare their scanty evening meal, was enough to touch the stoutest heart. When they saw me coming, they hailed me with joy inexpressible, and when they further beheld the supply of fresh meat I brought into their camp, their gratitude knew no bounds."