Personal agency is one of God’s greatest gifts, according to Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“It is critical to our earthly progress and eternal salvation,” Bishop Causse said in an article in Ensign magazine in July 2018. “By becoming temporally and spiritually self-reliant, God’s children develop in their ability to make independent choices and such to fulfill the measure of their creation. “
Self-employment is about planning and preparing to exercise agency when faced with a challenge, said Tim Robbins of the Church’s Welfare and Self-Employment Services Department.
“Taking personal finances as an example, we all have different financial circumstances and challenges we may face, but there are some principles that can help us create better financial stability,” Robbins said in an email .
Two of the ways the church encourages temporary self-reliance is through self-employment courses and job placement.
The Church offers self-employment courses in personal finance, employment, and education, and courses in starting and growing a business. Courses are available to Church members and friends in more than 130 countries and 36 languages.
“Self-employment courses are designed to help individuals learn and practice the principles of faith, education, hard work, and trust in the Lord,” said Robbins. “During each course, participants are invited to study and apply practical skills and spiritual principles, as well as to teach them to their family members.”
According to Robbins, groups in the course consist of “small, action-oriented councils” of around eight to twelve people who meet for two hours a week for up to twelve weeks.
“In the group, each participant has knowledge, experiences, and gifts that can help others learn and grow,” he said.
Facilitators from the local community guide the groups through the course materials and invite everyone in the group to participate rather than speak.
“They also create an environment of love and support,” said Robbins.
Classes continued virtually during the coronavirus pandemic when groups were unable to meet in person.
“Support groups combine practical skills with spiritual principles to help people help themselves,” said Robbins.
The labor administration provides tools, programs, and services in addition to the skills taught in Church self-employment courses.
According to Megan Burt, director of the Church’s employment services department, and Joseph Doria, employment support manager, the Church has been helping people find employment since its early years.
“This is directly related to the church’s God-given responsibility to care for the poor and needy and has taken many forms over the years,” Burt and Doria said in an email. “The first efforts go back to church-sponsored building and construction projects in Kirtland, Nauvoo and in the Salt Lake Valley.”
The church’s public building department was officially created in the winter of 1850 “to create jobs by building public buildings and establishing production facilities,” said Burt and Doria.
“At the time, Brigham Young said, ‘The reason we have no able-bodied poor is because we plan to get every person into lucrative employment and teach them to support themselves,'” said Burt and Doria.
The Church then established a Labor Office in 1896, the Women’s Labor Office in 1921, Deseret Industries in the 1930s, and the Salt Lake Region Labor Office in 1948.
“At the end of 1978, there were 24 employment centers in operation,” said Burt and Doria.
The Church now operates 74 employment centers in the United States and Canada, as well as a recruitment website. The Church began offering various virtual services and programs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The success of these virtual offerings proved to be one of the unique blessings of these challenging times,” said Burt and Doria. “While the physical work centers reopen, the virtual services offered during the pandemic will continue and will be available to members in the US and Canada.”
The labor administration offers individual help with job offers and résumés.
“In addition, members can join local, Church-sponsored active job search groups, where they can meet other job seekers in their area (in person or through Zoom) on a daily basis to exchange job leads, network, Practice job search skills and receive spiritual and emotional support, ”said Burt and Doria.
A former participant who was overwhelmed with finding a new job thought the assignment was a one-person job until the active job search group showed that there was a better way.
“It was heartwarming, but also very humiliating to see so many of my friends come to my aid,” said the participant. “People are ready to help when they know you need it.”
Additional services include daily Zoom workshops on skills from interview preparation to networking, as well as a daily open forum for job search assistance and guidance.
“In addition to these options, our website, http://employment.ChurchofJesusChrist.org, has many wonderful articles and resources to help job seekers dress up professionally for an interview,” said Burt and Doria.
The purpose of placement is to “help members of the Church around the world qualify and find employment that will result in temporary self-employment,” said Burt and Doria.
“We believe that self-reliance is a principle of salvation that enables members not only to meet physical and spiritual needs for themselves and their families, but also to serve others and live a life more like that of the Savior Jesus, Lord God “Said Burt and Doria.