Words of the prophets on these times

Ever since I converted to the Church, I have been fascinated with the constant drumbeat of advice from leaders on staying out of debt.  During the late 1990s, I would occasionally say to myself, “what are they talking about — the economy is booming!” Did we ever learn that lesson in 1999 and 2000. Well, here we are on the edge of another tough economic period, and I am drawn to the warnings of the prophets.

President Hinckley, Nov. 1998:

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.

President Hinckley, in October 2001 (right after Sept. 11):

I do not know what the future holds. I do not wish to sound negative, but I wish to remind you of the warnings of scripture and the teachings of the prophets which we have had constantly before us.

I cannot forget the great lesson of Pharaoh’s dream of the fat and lean kine and of the full and withered stalks of corn.

I cannot dismiss from my mind the grim warnings of the Lord as set forth in the 24th chapter of Matthew.

I am familiar, as are you, with the declarations of modern revelation that the time will come when the earth will be cleansed and there will be indescribable distress, with weeping and mourning and lamentation (see D&C 112:24).

President Hinckley, at April 2003 conference:

We are pleased to note an increase in family preparedness among our people. This program, which has been advocated for more than 60 years, adds immeasurably to the security and well-being of the Latter-day Saints. Every family has a responsibility to the extent possible to provide for its own needs. We again urge our people to avoid unnecessary debt, to be modest in the financial obligations which they undertake, to set aside some cash against an emergency. We warn our people against “get rich” schemes and other entanglements which are nearly always designed to trap the gullible.

President Monson, April 2006 conference (before he became President):

The final maka-feke I wish to mention today is one which can crush our self-esteem, ruin relationships, and leave us in desperate circumstances. It is the maka-feke of excessive debt. It is a human tendency to want the things which will give us prominence and prestige. We live in a time when borrowing is easy. We can purchase almost anything we could ever want just by using a credit card or obtaining a loan. Extremely popular are home equity loans, where one can borrow an amount of money equal to the equity he has in his home. What we may not realize is that a home equity loan is equivalent to a second mortgage. The day of reckoning will come if we have continually lived beyond our means.

My brothers and sisters, avoid the philosophy that yesterday’s luxuries have become today’s necessities. They aren’t necessities unless we make them so. Many enter into long-term debt only to find that changes occur: people become ill or incapacitated, companies fail or downsize, jobs are lost, natural disasters befall us. For many reasons, payments on large amounts of debt can no longer be made. Our debt becomes as a Damocles sword hanging over our heads and threatening to destroy us.

I urge you to live within your means. One cannot spend more than one earns and remain solvent. I promise you that you will then be happier than you would be if you were constantly worrying about how to make the next payment on nonessential debt. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read: “Pay the debt thou hast contracted. … Release thyself from bondage.” 7

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

15 thoughts on “Words of the prophets on these times

  1. All I can say is, “ouch!” My debt level is relatively low, but it’s still higher than it should be. I am guilty of buying things I don’t need. It’s time to repent and start economizing — big time.

  2. What has comes to my mind often is Helaman 11:1-6. Since we have a global economy a food famine wouldn’t do that much to those in the USA. But what are we subsisting on if not wheat? Credit, trade, etc. Now I’m not saying Hinkley or Monson has asked for an economic famine, but the parallel is just too much for me to pass over.

  3. Danno, I’m not sure I agree with all of your sentiments, but in re-reading the Book of Mormon these days I am seeing incredible, striking parallels between the times you mention and ours.

  4. Great post, Geoff! It’s been difficult watching this prophecy come true.

    Last summer my family was blessed to be able to get out of our overpriced Southern California condo and its negative-amortization mortgage that was slowly burying us in add-ons to our principal balance. We managed to get a much more affordable home in the St George, Utah, area with a fixed-rate mortgage.

    We just checked on our old tract in California, and condos like the one we had are selling for $80,000 less than what we owed last year. If we hadn’t gotten out of there, we would currently be upside-down in our mortgage and unable to make our monthly payments, heading right into foreclosure.

    And our exodus all started on a morning in January 2007 when I woke up with the strongest impression I’d ever had that we needed to get out of our condo immediately.

    The Lord worked a miracle in the life of my family. I’m thankful for the warning of the prophets and the Holy Spirit.

  5. Mike, that’s what I’m talking about! I’m glad to see you were given a warning and that you heeded it. I really believe that if we are open and have faith we can receive this kind of personal revelation in our lives.

  6. I’ve been worried about this recently. I graduated from law school last year with six figure debt and bought a house in phoenix a few weeks before the mortgage slump last year. I know President Hinckley said that reasonable debt for homes and school are ok, but I am really worried now. School was a good investment, but one of my clients went bankrupt today (it has an “ovia” in its name) and I may have to dip into some of my food storage.

  7. Hans, I feel your pain! I graduated from law school 6 years ago and am still paying off my 6-figure law school debt…and will continue to pay it off for the foreseeable future.

    I often wonder if I made the right choice by going to a top-tier private school instead of a moderately ranked second-tier school on scholarship or a lesser ranked state school.

    And, I agree with Geoff B as well. Besides law school, my debt-to-income ratio is manageably low, but now I want to get out of CC debt aggressively. It’s going to be a long and hard year.

    For as long as I can remember, people cite the current crisis as THE sign of the times. This one could be bigger, but is the sky falling?

  8. From Pres. Faust back in 1986:

    Some of us are children of the Great Depression in the United States over fifty years ago. Most of us who passed through that period will never forget the difficult economic times almost everyone experienced. At that time many banks failed; people lost their life’s savings; a great many were unemployed, and some of them lost their homes because they could not pay the mortgage…

    There are some investment counselors who urge speculative credit practices described as “leverage,” “credit wealth,” and “borrow yourself rich.” Such practices may work successfully for some, but at best they succeed only for a time. An economic reversal always seems to come, and many who have followed such practices find themselves in financial ruin and their lives in shambles…

    Owning a home free of debt is an important goal of provident living, although it may not be a realistic possibility for some. A mortgage on a home leaves a family unprotected against severe financial storms. Homes that are free and clear of mortgages and liens cannot be foreclosed on. When there are good financial times, it is the most opportune time to retire our debts and pay installments in advance. It is a truth that “the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Prov. 22:7.)

    Many young people have become so hypnotized by the rhythm of monthly payments they scarcely think of the total cost of what they buy. They immediately want things it took their parents years to acquire. It is not the pathway to happiness to assume debts for a big home, an expensive car, or the most stylish clothes just so we can “keep up with the Joneses.” Payment of obligations is a sacred trust. Most of us will never be rich, but we can feel greatly unburdened when we are debt-free.

  9. It seems reasonable to me to take out loans to buy a house and fund your education. I have no way of knowing individual situations, but it seems like a good rule of thumb is to do the following:

    1)Cut unnecessary expenditures to a minimum. Look at your monthly expenses and see where you can cut. And then look again and see where you can cut.
    2)Hold off on all new purchases. Keep the used car, keep the used TV.
    3)Reduce, reuse, recycle.
    4)Plant a garden next spring and plan on doing some canning.
    5)Pay your tithing and fast offerings.

    My grandparents somehow made it through the Depression, with 33 percent unemployment in Utah. We’re at 6 percent (and probably growing) but it seems unlikely we will have 33 percent unemployment again.

    It seems to me we’ve simply gotten too used to having the latest Ipod, the latest Iphone, the latest plasma TV, etc. It seems we need to concentrate on the more important things.

    One thing to add: shop at Wal-Mart. Every time I go there I find something I need that is half the price of everywhere else. The Wal Mart near my house has a $5 DVD area with a HUGE selection. I buy one a week and on Friday nights the family pops pop corn and goes to the movies for a total cost of $5 (vs. $30-plus if we were to buy tickets and drive to the movie theater). Just my personal experience. (I had Netflix for a while but found my $14/month was more expensive in the long run than buying DVDs at $5 each at Wal Mart — we usually end up watching the DVDs we buy at least twice).

  10. I am curious and troubled by some of the logic here. Yes, the prophets have counseled and warned us to live modestly and stay out of debt. We are blessed when we follow this counsel.
    Mike Parker, you mention that the Lord blessed you by being able to sell your condo–but is that to say he prompted someone else to make a poor financial decision in buying it?

  11. Mmiles, Mike Parker can certainly defend himself, but I don’t think that’s what he is saying at all. We really aren’t capable of seeing all of the big picture in what the Lord does. It could be that the person who bought Mike’s house is going to hold it for 20 years and make a killing when the real estate market booms again. It could be the opposite and perhaps the person who bought his house will lose money but needs to be chastened for his bad financial decisions for reasons we don’t understand.

    The is one thing that I have definitely learned in my life: if I follow the words of the prophets, and try to keep the commandments, I am blessed. So, Mike tried to follow the words of the prophets regarding his house, and it appears he made a good decision. What’s not to like?

  12. MMiles

    Is that how the Holy Ghost works? Just pulling levers everywhere until everything comes out right?

  13. Actually mmiles, if everyone lived by the spirit there would be no significant financial panics. But greed rages in the world and Mike Parker listened to a prompting and someone else caught up in the spirit of the times used his agency to respond to his judgment and his feelings.

    Nasty thing this agency.

  14. I was not trying to say Mike was not inspired and blessed. However I think it is quite a convoluted way of looking at things to try and extrapolate good for the other guy, or suggest that the other guy was somehow set-up by God to be chastized.

  15. In case some haven’t seen it, this is a classic in LDS culture from J. Reuben Clark, Apostle and member of the 1st Presidency. It’s rung true every year since I first read it in the 70s.
    – – – – –
    Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours; it never has short crops nor droughts; it never pays taxes; it buys no food; it wears no clothes; it is unhoused and without home and so has no repairs, no replacements, no shingling, plumbing, painting, or whitewashing; it has neither wife, children, father, mother, nor kinfolk to watch over and care for; it has no expense of living; it has neither weddings nor births nor deaths; it has no love, no sympathy; it is as hard and soulless as a granite cliff. 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, p. 103.)

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