The time has come to get our houses in order.
—President Gordon B. Hinckley
“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
“And I would that ye should remember, that whosoever among you borroweth of his neighbor should return the thing that he borroweth, according as he doth agree, or else thou shalt commit sin; and perhaps thou shalt cause thy neighbor to commit sin also.”
“Behold, it is said in my laws, or forbidden, to get in debt to thine enemies.”
“And again, verily I say unto you, concerning your debts—behold it is my will that you shall pay all your debts.”
“If thou borrowest of thy neighbor, thou shalt restore that which thou hast borrowed; and if thou canst not repay then go straightway and tell thy neighbor, lest he condemn thee.”
President Spencer W. Kimball
“All my life from childhood I have heard the Brethren saying, ‘get out of debt and stay out of debt.’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 166).
“Selfishness and other sins are responsible for most divorces. The apostle Paul knew the answer. He said for men to love their wives and wives to love their husbands. For two people to work out their marriage together, they need a carefully worked out budget, made by both husband and wife, and then careful adherence to the same” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, 6).
President Ezra Taft Benson
“Our inspired leaders have always urged us to get out of debt, live within our means, and pay as we go” (“‘Pay Thy Debt, and Live,’” Ensign, June 1987, 3).
President Gordon B. Hinckley
“To satisfy our desires, we go into debt, dissipate our resources in the payment of high interest, and become as slaves working to pay it off. …
“I commend to you the virtues of thrift and industry. … It is work and thrift that make the family independent” (“‘Thou Shalt Not Covet,’” Ensign, Mar. 1990, 4).
President Thomas S. Monson
“We urge all Latter-day Saints to be prudent in their planning, to be conservative in their living, and to avoid excessive or unnecessary debt” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 68; or Ensign, May 1992, 47).
Elder Marvin J. Ashton
See quotation on
Elder L. Tom Perry
“The current cries we hear coming from the great and spacious building tempt us to compete for ownership in the things of this world. … Often these items are purchased with borrowed money without giving any thought to providing for our future needs. …
“… Wisely we have been counseled to avoid debt as we would avoid the plague. …
“… A well-managed family does not pay interest—it earns it” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 45, 47; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 35–36).
President James E. Faust
“We must be careful of the misuse of credit. The use of credit cards in many places has increased consumer debt to staggering proportions. I am reminded of the story of ‘an elderly farmer [who] wrote to a mail order house as follows: “Please send me one of the gasoline engines you show on page 787, and if it’s any good, I’ll send you a check.”
“‘In time he received the following reply: “Please send check. If it’s any good, we’ll send the engine.”’ [Jacob M. Braude, Braude’s Treasure of Wit and Humor (1964), 45.]
“Contemporary society rushes headlong to accumulate the material goods of this world. This leads many to think they can alter the law of the harvest, reaping rewards without paying the price of honest toil and effort. Wishing to prosper immediately, they speculate in high-risk financial schemes that promote instant wealth. This all too frequently results in economic reverses, sometimes even financial ruin. In Proverbs we read, ‘A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.’ [Proverbs 28:20.]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 59; or Ensign, May 1998, 44).
Elder James E. Faust
“It is important to learn to distinguish between wants and needs. It takes self-discipline to avoid the ‘buy now, pay later’ philosophy and to adopt the ‘save now and buy later’ practice. …
“Owning a home free of debt is an important goal of provident living. … Homes that are free and clear of mortgages and liens cannot be foreclosed on. …
“… Independence means many things. It means … being free of personal debt and of the interest and carrying charges required by debt the world over” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 24–25; or Ensign, May 1986, 20–21).
Elder Joe J. Christensen
See “Greed, Selfishness, and Overindulgence” on pages 120–22.
To the Boys and to the Men
President Gordon B. Hinckley
President of the Church
In Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 69–72; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 52–54
To the Older Men
Now, brethren, I should like to talk to the older men, hoping that there will be some lesson for the younger men as well.
I wish to speak to you about temporal matters.
As a backdrop for what I wish to say, I read to you a few verses from the 41st chapter of Genesis.
Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, dreamed dreams which greatly troubled him. The wise men of his court could not give an interpretation. Joseph was then brought before him:
“Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
“And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
“And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed. …
“And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: …
“And I saw in my dream … seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
“And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
“And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears. …
“And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, … God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
“The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. …
“… What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
“Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
“And there shall arise after them seven years of famine. …
“… And God will shortly bring it to pass” (Genesis 41:17–20, 22–26, 28–30, 32).
Get Our Houses in Order
Now, brethren, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future. But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.
So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings.
We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.
I hope with all my heart that we shall never slip into a depression. I am a child of the Great Depression of the thirties. I finished the university in 1932, when unemployment in this area exceeded 33 percent.
My father was then president of the largest stake in the Church in this valley. It was before our present welfare program was established. He walked the floor worrying about his people. He and his associates established a great wood-chopping project designed to keep the home furnaces and stoves going and the people warm in the winter. They had no money with which to buy coal. Men who had been affluent were among those who chopped wood.
Warning against Consumer Debt
I repeat, I hope we will never again see such a depression. But I am troubled by the huge consumer installment debt which hangs over the people of the nation, including our own people. In March 1997 that debt totaled $1.2 trillion, which represented a 7 percent increase over the previous year.
In December of 1997, 55 to 60 million households in the United States carried credit card balances. These balances averaged more than $7,000 and cost $1,000 per year in interest and fees. Consumer debt as a percentage of disposable income rose from 16.3 percent in 1993 to 19.3 percent in 1996.
Everyone knows that every dollar borrowed carries with it the penalty of paying interest. When money cannot be repaid, then bankruptcy follows. There were 1,350,118 bankruptcies in the United States last year. This represented a 50 percent increase from 1992. In the second quarter of this year, nearly 362,000 persons filed for bankruptcy, a record number for a three-month period.
We are beguiled by seductive advertising. Television carries the enticing invitation to borrow up to 125 percent of the value of one’s home. But no mention is made of interest.
President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in the April 1938 general conference, said from this pulpit, “Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1938, 103).
Live within Your Means
I recognize that it may be necessary to borrow to get a home, of course. But let us buy a home that we can afford and thus ease the payments which will constantly hang over our heads without mercy or respite for as long as 30 years.
No one knows when emergencies will strike. I am somewhat familiar with the case of a man who was highly successful in his profession. He lived in comfort. He built a large home. Then one day he was suddenly involved in a serious accident. Instantly, without warning, he almost lost his life. He was left a cripple. Destroyed was his earning power. He faced huge medical bills. He had other payments to make. He was helpless before his creditors. One moment he was rich; the next he was broke.
Since the beginnings of the Church, the Lord has spoken on this matter of debt. To Martin Harris through revelation He said: “Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage” (D&C 19:35).
President Heber J. Grant spoke repeatedly on this matter from this pulpit. He said:
“If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within our means. And if there is any one thing that is grinding and discouraging and disheartening, it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet” (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham , 111).
We are carrying a message of self-reliance throughout the Church. Self-reliance cannot obtain when there is serious debt hanging over a household. One has neither independence nor freedom from bondage when he is obligated to others.
In managing the affairs of the Church, we have tried to set an example. We have, as a matter of policy, stringently followed the practice of setting aside each year a percentage of the income of the Church against a possible day of need.
I am grateful to be able to say that the Church in all its operations, in all its undertakings, in all of its departments, is able to function without borrowed money. If we cannot get along, we will curtail our programs. We will shrink expenditures to fit the income. We will not borrow.
One of the happiest days in the life of President Joseph F. Smith was the day the Church paid off its long-standing indebtedness.
What a wonderful feeling it is to be free of debt, to have a little money against a day of emergency put away where it can be retrieved when necessary.
President Faust would not tell you this himself. Perhaps I can tell it, and he can take it out on me afterward. He had a mortgage on his home drawing 4 percent interest. Many people would have told him he was foolish to pay off that mortgage when it carried so low a rate of interest. But the first opportunity he had to acquire some means, he and his wife determined they would pay off their mortgage. He has been free of debt since that day. That’s why he wears a smile on his face, and that’s why he whistles while he works.
Free Yourselves from Bondage of Debt
I urge you, brethren, to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.
This is a part of the temporal gospel in which we believe. May the Lord bless you, my beloved brethren, to set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts. That’s all I have to say about it, but I wish to say it with all the emphasis of which I am capable.