When we borrow our strength†from the label on our shirt, sweater, shoes or dress; from our association with a club, an "in" group; from our position of influence, power, and prestige; from our car, beautiful house, or other status symbols and trappings; or from our good looks, stylish clothing, fashionable appearance, clever tongue, or degrees and credentials, we do so in order to compensate from being impoverished and hollow inside. But by doing so, we reinforce our dependency on these symbols, on living by appearances, on extrinsic values, and we build weakness within.
The doctrine and practice of personal responsibility and personal effort collide with individual traditions and local cultures in many lands. We live in a world where there are large differences in income and material possessions and where there are many public and private efforts to narrow these differences. The followers of the Savior are commanded to give to the poor, and many do. But some gifts have promoted a culture of dependency, reducing their recipientsí need for earthly food or shelter but impoverishing them in their eternal need for individual growth. The growth required by the gospel plan only occurs in a culture of individual effort and responsibility. It cannot occur in a culture of dependency. Whatever causes us to be dependent on someone else for decisions or resources we could provide for ourselves weakens us spiritually and retards our growth toward what the gospel plan intends us to be.
The gospel raises people out of poverty and dependency, but only when gospel culture, including the faithful payment of tithing even by the very poor, prevails over the traditions and cultures of dependency. That is the lesson to be learned from the children of Israel, who came out of hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt and followed a prophet into their own land and became a mighty people. That lesson can also be learned from the Mormon pioneers, who never used their persecutions or poverty as an excuse but went forward in faith, knowing that God would bless them when they kept His commandments, which He did.
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