President Gordon B. Hinckley highlighted the "portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed" in an October 1998 general priesthood meeting address. He called on members to put their homes in order.
Now, more than a decade later, the storms are here.
"The economic clouds that have long threatened the world are now fully upon us," said Elder Robert D. Hales. "The impact of this economic storm on our Heavenly Father's children requires a gospel vision of welfare today more than ever before."
Speaking to priesthood and Relief Society leaders in a newly released DVD created by the Church, titled, "Basic Principles of Welfare and Self-Reliance," Elder Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve begins the discussion by sharing "a gospel vision of the priesthood principles of welfare."
Priesthood-based welfare principles are both temporal and spiritual, he said. They are eternal, and apply in every circumstance, whether rich or poor.
"This, then, is the gospel vision of welfare: to put our faith in Jesus Christ into action. We serve others as the Spirit directs," he said.
What, then, he asked, are these principles of welfare? How can we apply them as spiritual and temporal building blocks in our daily lives?
The first building block is to live providently. "This means joyfully living within our means and preparing for the ups and downs of life so that we can be ready for the rainy-day emergencies.
"Provident living means not coveting the things of this world. It means using the resources of the earth wisely and not being wasteful, even in times of plenty. Provident living means avoiding excessive debt and being content with what we have.
"We live in an age of entitlement," he continued. "Many believe they should have all that others have — right now. Unable to delay gratification, they go into debt to buy what they cannot afford. The results always affect both their temporal and spiritual welfare."
When we go into debt, he said, "We give away some of our precious, priceless agency and place ourselves in self-imposed servitude. We obligate our time, energy and means to repay what we have borrowed — resources that could have been used to help ourselves, our families and others."
To pay debts and avoid future debt requires faith in the Savior, Elder Hales said. "It takes great faith to utter those simple words, 'We can't afford it.' It takes faith to trust that life will be better as we sacrifice our wants in order to meet our own and others' needs.
"I testify," Elder Hales declared, "that happy is the man who lives within his means and is able to save a little for future needs. As we live providently and increase our gifts and talents, we become more self-reliant. Self-reliance is taking responsibility for our own spiritual and temporal welfare and for those whom Heavenly Father has entrusted to our care. Only when we are self-reliant can we truly emulate the Savior in serving and blessing others."
To live self-reliantly raises the question, "How do we obtain Heavenly Father's help so that we have enough for our own needs and also enough to serve others?"
Fundamental to the principles of welfare is the payment of tithes and offerings.
"With the payment of tithes, we also learn to control our desires and appetites for the things of this world, to be honest in our dealings with our fellowmen, and to make sacrifices for others.
"As our faith grows, so will our desire to keep the commandment to pay fast offerings," Elder Hales said. "Freely giving allows us to follow the pattern of the Savior, who freely gave His life for all mankind."
Some of the most important welfare building blocks have to do with preparing for the future.
Three areas of preparation for the future include:
Budgeting for the future by making a spending and savings plan, carefully making and keeping a family or personal budget, reviewing the budget in a family council allowing children to learn and practice wise spending habits, and to participate in planning and saving for the future.
Education for the future by earning educational degrees or vocational training and finding gainful employment. Work hard to become a valued, essential part of the organization. For those seeking employment, "This is an opportunity to rely on the Lord, to grow, and to be strengthened. If you are seeking a new job, increase your faith in the Lord's desire and power to bless you."
If necessary, change lifestyles, and possibly the place of residence, to live within your means. Above all, express your gratitude in prayer for all that has been given to you.
Spiritual preparation for rainy days. This comes by keeping the commandments, praying, reading the scriptures, and relying upon the Holy Ghost. "By our obedience we store up the faith we need to meet the vicissitudes and challenges of life.
"Keeping ourselves unspotted from the world — being 'good' in this way — we are able to do good for our brothers and sisters throughout the world, both temporally and spiritually."