Self-Reliance Services is a initiative implemented by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the Deseret News, the success of the Perpetual Education Fund enacted in 2001, under the leadership of then president Gordon B. Hinckley, initially provided loans for vocational or higher education of approximately 80,000 members of the Church ages 18 to 30. The need for training and skills for members of the Church of all ages remained, especially considering that jobs are hard to come by outside the United States and Canada. After a comprehensive review of the Perpetual Education Fund, Church President Thomas S. Monson approved an expansion of the effort and Self-Reliance Services was created in 2012. Robert C. Gay of the Seventy was named chairman of the Self-Reliance Services/Perpetual Education Fund Committee.
“Elder Gay led a comprehensive, international review of the PEF in 2012 that resulted in the recommendation to broaden the program beyond education. The church quickly established Self-Reliance Centers in more than 122 countries. Today, more than half of international LDS stake centers have a Self-Reliance Center, often paired with an existing Family History Center.” The expanded program began in late 2014. Self-Reliance Centers provided free courses in three 12-week tracks: “Starting and Growing My Own Business,” “My Job Search” (Now “Find a Better Job”), and “Education for Better Work.”
“Through the combined effort, more than 67,000 Mormons started or improved a business, nearly 22,000 enrolled in a training program or school, and more than 14,000 obtained a new or better job,” in the year 2015.
Initially, the program was installed in international congregations. In 2016, Church leaders piloted a program for the United States and Canada and all of the self-reliance materials became available on lds.org and the LDS Gospel Library app.
Self-Reliance Services is now a Church department that has absorbed the Perpetual Education Fund and loans are made to students in 69 countries. A fourth 12-week track was added: “Personal Finances.” In each of the four tracks, courses are provided in council settings rather than classrooms, so they are called groups. Group meetings are facilitated by local volunteers and church service missionaries who act as peer mentors.
Guiding the initiative is the message from the First Presidency:
- The Lord has declared, “It is my purpose to provide for my saints” (D&C 104:15). This revelation is a promise from the Lord that He will provide temporal blessings and open the door of self-reliance, which is the ability for us to provide the necessities of life for ourselves and our family members.”
- Deseret News article “Perpetual Education Funds Success Led to Massive Expansion of LDS Effort to Lift the Poor"