Obedience and Self-Reliance




Display an hourglass. Each grain of sand represents a person and the narrow part represents rules and commandments. We may feel restricted as we go down the narrow part of the hourglass, or as we are asked to obey leaders, teachers, and parents. But rules exist to allow us to pass through to a world of freedom and happiness, like the bottom part of the hourglass. If we disobey, we may never know the freedoms we are entitled to, like being trusted, serving a mission, and receiving personal revelation.  


Write a different commandment on fifteen popsicle sticks (tithing, honesty, etc.). Have someone read the commandment on just one stick and then break it. Read the rest of the sticks and stack them. Give someone the stack and ask him or her to break them together. If you are only keeping one or two commandments, it may be easy for Satan to break you, but if we are doing out best to keep them all, Satan will have a much harder time getting to us. 

The Right Track

If you got a train set for Christmas, pull it out. Use the track and the different courses to demonstrate the importance of choosing the right. As the train approaches a spot where it can continue, or veer off on another path, point out how small the change in direction is. Then follow the train and compare how far away it is from the “correct” track. Obedience to small rules may seem insignificant, but disobedience can lead down a path far from the right.


Don’t Let the Colors Touch the Ground

In 1863, escaped slave William Carney, twenty-three, joined the fifty-fourth Massachusetts Colored Infantry’s C Company and was ordered to advance on Fort Wagner. With the premature communications of the day, each side’s flag was an  important visual contact for soldiers and its display and protection was of significant consequence. A fallen flag meant surrender.  

Sergeant John Wall carried the U.S.flag out front until a rifle bullet brought him down. Sergeant Carney was close and threw his rifle aside to catch the falling colors before they touched the ground. Another bullet hit Carney in the leg, but ignoring the pain, he lifted the flag high and continued to lead the advance. 

He gained entrance to the fort and planted the flag until another group of soldiers attacked. Needing to flee, he wrapped the flag around the staff to protect it and ran. Making his way through a ditch, chest-deep in water, he still held the flag high. Another bullet struck him in the chest, one in the right arm, and again in his right leg, but Carney continued on, never letting the flag fall.  

Carney finally reached safety after one more bullet had grazed his head. He collapsed among the cheers of Union soldiers and said, “Boys, I only did my duty. The flag never touched the ground.” 

Carney’s wounds healed and he was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900. 




In order to be available to administer relief to the poor and needy, we must teach ourselves and our families the importance of becoming self-reliant. Use these lesson ideas to help illustrate the role each family member can play—if each is self-reliant—when others are in need of help.


Pillar of Faith

This home evening you’re going to take your family to the local university, state capital, or museum—any building that has those beautiful, strong Greek columns out front. Explain the structural integrity of the columns and their role in supporting the roof. Because each column can bear its own weight and a portion of the roof, the structure stands and will last for years. Just like the columns, as members of the family grow older, each can work toward self-reliance, thus supporting the family unit. 

Standing Tall

Stand everyone in a tight circle with their feet slightly apart so they have a firm stance. Have one person stand in the middle and tilt, while everyone else catches him and helps him stand upright. Just as firm stances helped catch someone who was a little off-balance, when you are firm in your faith or firm financially, you can help others who may be slipping. Next, show the person who fell how to stand firmly, just as you would teach those who need help to stand on their own.

When I Grow Up. . .

Talk about self-reliance with your family and give everyone a  piece of paper. Give them about five minutes to write a few goals like being able to afford schooling, serving a mission, or paying cash for his girlfriend’s engagement ring. Talk about preparing for those goals by saving a certain amount each week or gaining a testimony of a certain principle taught in the mission field. Have each person outline an individual plan for how he or she is going to reach these goals.

Doing His Part

When the Lord commanded Nephi to construct a ship, Nephi knew he would need tools in order to build it. But Nephi didn’t ask the Lord for the tools; instead he asked only where to find the ore to make them.  

The Lord told Nephi where he could go to find ore, and Nephi skillfully retrieved the ore from rock. He struck stones together to make fire, then from beast skins he made bellows to help blow the fire. When the fire was ready, he used the heat to melt the ore and make the tools.  

In October 1991 general conference, Elder L. Tom Perry told this story in a talk called “Becoming Self-Reliant.” “This is one of the more interesting stories we have in the scriptures,” he said, “because it tells of an instance in which the Lord provided help but then stepped aside to allow one of His sons to exercise his own initiative. I have sometimes wondered what would have happened if Nephi had asked the Lord for tools instead of a place to find the ore to make the tools. I doubt the Lord would have honored Nephi’s request. You see, the Lord knew that Nephi could make the tools, and it is seldom the Lord will do something for us that we can do for ourselves.”


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