Debt is a Four Letter Word

August 13, 2007

This week’s topic: DEBT

by carrie ann

A couple months ago my brother-in-law got married in the Salt Lake temple. As most of you know, only members of the church in good standing (meaning trying to live the basic standards of “Mormon-y conduct”) may enter the temple, and you need to show the nice senior citizen volunteers at the door you card of recommendation.

When I pulled out my little wallet (just a card wallet with a little space for cash) the little old man said, “My, there’s a lot of cards in that wallet.” I was so taken aback that all I could mutter was “Well, they come in handy.” I did not feel grateful for the little lecture on debt by the temple volunteer. All I could do until the marriage ceremony started and I was distracted by the beauty of the bride and groom was to think of better come backs for that old man. Silly, I know, but I was a little miffed!

No one abhors debt more than me. Really. It freaks me out and makes me panic; that’s why we drive old cars, live in a modest house, and don’t take vacations anymore (we always spent more than we thought we would). But really, to lecture me?… I wanted to retort, “Have you never heard of a DEBIT card? It’s like CASH but more convenient…” I wanted to explain the “new” system of modern banking but knew it would fall on deaf ears, perhaps literally.

I think that man was “just trying to help” because as Mormons, we are discouraged from going into debt. We try to be a self-sufficient people by maintaining a family food storage (which my husband and I have had need of already…), paying fast offerings to help people in our immediate vicinity who are in need, volunteering at the church owned cannery to can food used for the poor and needy locally and worldwide, and staying off of welfare. In times of personal need we are to first look to our own resources (savings or food storage), then to our families, then to our church. Going to the government is discouraged although, hopefully, not vilified (people can collect disability and unemployment while still getting help from the Church, I think).

This is not to say people shouldn’t be concerned. I am concerned when I watch MTV (yes, I watch it while I fold clothes or sew…) and see advertisements for student loans of $40,000 per semester. YIKES! Or when neighbor’s dead dogs receive credit card solicitations (it’s happened, people…). In Utah, don’t we have the highest rate of bankruptcy? I think it’s because Mormons are a little too optimistic. AND they don’t really figure in tithing when being approved for and purchasing new homes and cars. But who knows? During General Conference we are still going to hear about the evils of going into debt unless it is for an education or a first home (and I’m sure they mean a modest first home not a McMansion…). That’s fine. I will be thinking those talks are for OTHER people anyway, not us.

Then my husband and I will have our monthly Naked Financial Summit (the naked is thrown in there just to get us to show up…it rarely ends up that way…) and I get surly and panicky and we speak the only tense words we ever have in our marriage because I bought a beautiful red dress that I absolutely HAD to have even though I had no more money in my personal account but I was going to sell one of the LoveSacs to pay for it, I swear!

So maybe those little old men at the temple door are more “inspired” than I give them credit for.



  1. Maybe he was just trying to make small talk while you were looking for your recommend.

  2. I would be irked at him Carrie Ann, you shouldn’t feel bad about that. Just because he was old doesn’t mean it wasn’t rude.

    I agree debt sucks.

  3. Just as an aside, in response to your comment “Going to the government is discouraged although, hopefully, not vilified (people can collect disability and unemployment while still getting help from the Church, I think)”, the current recommendation in the church handbook is that Bishops should ensure that church members are in fact receiving any government benefits they might be able to receive, before offering church welfare resources.

  4. Ben There,

    Thanks for the correction. I wasn’t sure what the official policy was…has that changed, do you know? It seems like a few years ago the church might have had a more stringent stand. Just curious.

  5. Interesting how a comment like that can upset us. I had a similar thing happen years ago when I went to see an unfamiliar doctor at Instacare. He was about 10 years old and I was about 50. When I opened my mouth he said, “Wow! You have had lots of dental work!” I didn’t know what to say but I spent a long time thinking of snappy comebacks.

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