Utah Families and Their Finances

Here in Utah, I’ve observed:
1.) Families getting approved for 30-40% debt-to-income mortgage payments without the banks taking into account that these families are paying 10% of their income to their church (I had a financial planner once ask if I was a full tithe payer. When I answered affirmatively, he said he always advises his tithe-paying clients to only get a mortgage that’s 20% DTI. Few families talk to an independent financial planner before getting into a house payment . . . ),
2.) People living paycheck to paycheck with no savings to fall back on in the event of illness, accident, or layoff,
3.) Large families relying on a single breadwinner (father) despite the family’s inability to afford that luxury (mom staying home),
4.) Little affordable housing for low-income families (I have a friend who’d love to move her family back to Utah but can’t afford to since housing is quite expensive here–She lives in Illinois),
5.) A proliferation of pay day loan shops being built (People must be turning to these lending institutions to weather a temporary hardship, only to end up further and further in the hole. Why Utah allows such shops to charge their exorbitant fees and 30+% interest rates, I cannot understand . . . ),
6.) Few older vehicles on the road, lots of leasing of brand new vehicles, expensive SUVs galore, 3- and 4-car families (plus insurance for all those cars), almost no self-discipline to save in order to pay cash for a car, very little use of public buses, etc.,
7.) Consumer (credit card) debt for luxuries,
8.) Faith that the checkbook will balance if members just pay their tithing first.

Duh, people! God isn’t going to save us from our own stupid financial mistakes!!!! Just because banks allow people to live beyond their means via credit doesn’t mean that we should do so (in the naive faith that God will protect us financially because we always pay him first)– The banks don’t offer us credit cards and home equity loans because they like us, and God doesn’t bail out every person of faith who makes a bad financial decision after Sunday offering! In former generations, people stopped spending when they ran out of cash. Now, people make compulsive purchases long past the point of prudent living and then pray that their prosperity will persist. (How’s that for a Maxwellism?) I could soap box for hours on this! . . .

Why do people expect the church to subsidize them in a house (or cars) they cannot afford?! Rather than turn immediately to the church when money gets too tight, they need to do some serious soul searching to find solutions for their financial problems. I know many feel hopeless when it comes to their finances, but there are always choices to be made: move to cheaper housing, sell one’s cars and take the bus or bike or carpool, cancel credit cards, re-negotiate with creditors, send mom to work or have her work out of the home, move back in with family temporarily to work on debt elimination, plan for additional education to improve one’s marketability and earning potential, stop eating out, learn to cook from scratch, change insurance policies to a higher deductible (provided you put the premium savings directly into an “emergency” fund), have your teenagers get a job to pay for their clothing/car insurance/gasoline/lessons, etc. Only after careful planning should we go to the bishop for financial help, expecting that it will only be TEMPORARY as we make the necessary transitions to a sustainable standard of living.

If people have no savings, no “rainy day funds,” they are NOT prepared to get into a mortgage, car loan, or voluntary consumer debt. Period. They need to have savings with which to make their monthly payments in the event of interrupted earnings. (It’s not the bishop’s responsibility to be our “emergency” funds . . . ) Likewise, even if people can meet the monthly obligations of their debts and other expenses now, if they can’t afford to also set aside some money each month towards their “emergency” fund, they are living beyond their means (because emergencies WILL come up–whether it’s a root canal, deductible on the house, major appliance repair, new tires, bereavement flight, or emergency room co-pay).

I wish passing a financial planning course were required for high school graduation (as well as for approval on any loan or line of credit). But again, banks are banking on our stupidity . . . As Erik always says: “People who understand interest earn it. People who don’t understand interest pay it. People who understand math run casinos. People who don’t understand math gamble there.”

I’ve always liked that the church encourages its members to live within their means, save for a rainy day, and avoid unnecessary debt. But, of course, they couple that with “Don’t delay having children while you’re in college,” “The Windows of heaven will open if you pay a full tithe [20% is even better!],” “Mothers, stay home”. . . We need to be wise. Paying tithing does not mean we will be free from the consequences of our lack of planning.

Best wishes, all who are struggling in this difficult economy. It’s a time that requires wisdom, frugality, planning, and discipline–and inspiration/introspection to know where to focus our time, means, and talents.

Wanted to share . . .
Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God.

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How to discuss religion respectfully with those of other faiths?

I’ve been thinking about creating a list called  “The ABCs of Religion.”  I’ve come up with the first three, which seem to me the “building blocks” of religious discussion:


Every religion holds some individual/individuals as “authorities” on God/God’s truth/God’s will.  Let people discuss whom they hold as their religious authorities, and why they view them as qualified to speak on God’s behalf.


Every religion has core doctrinal beliefs which adherents internalize and share with other congregants–a common faith and purpose.  Let people discuss their heart-felt beliefs–you’ll learn much about them, as well as their church/religion.


Every major religion teaches the “Golden Rule”–the need to treat others mercifully, respectfully.  Exercise charity as others explain their walk of faith, even if it is different from your own.

Sharing “things of the soul” can be a rewarding experience.  Let’s not shy away from religious discussion, so long as we can word things in terms of “I believe . . . ” and not “You’re wrong.”



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On the Same Page

Yesterday morning, a woman posting on the New Order Mormon forum wrote:

Liberal Mormon wrote:
I so much wish I could tell my husband about how I’m a NOM and the not-so-great human stuff of the church, but I’m terrified . . . I love my family, I love the gospel, I love the people in my ward who have helped me so much while he was on military duty in Afghanistan this past year, etc. . . . How can I come out to him and yet be sure he won’t dump me and rat on me [to the bishop]?????? 🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁  🙁

It got me thinking about Erik’s “coming out” to me about his loss of testimony two years ago, and I posted the following reply:

“During spring break 2007, Erik (my DH) did massive amounts of reading and lost his testimony in about 5 days time. When he came to his conclusion, he knew he had to tell me no matter how upset that would make me. His integrity required it.

“We had a close relationship and were best friends, so he hoped our marriage would survive it. But he knew he had no guarantees (I was an RM and completely zealous!). After he told me, I was very upset, very sad, and very defensive of the church. For several weeks our relationship was GREATLY strained. Erik began to despair of our relationship surviving this rift. But I think the thing that helped me the most was Erik’s sincerity–he told me again and again how he’d tried to receive answers to prayer, how he wanted to do and believe what God wanted him to, how he would be willing to believe again and set aside all the “contrary” historical evidence if God revealed to him that he was to stay in the church and teach his children of its truthfulness . . . but since no answers were forthcoming (other than the “answers” a study of real church history had given him), he was acting upon his best judgment and the integrity of his heart. Erik’s sincerity, as well as his “backing off” from trying to convert me to his way of thinking, were what allowed me to ultimately put down my defenses and slowly work through things.

“Even though I could not agree with his conclusions at that time, I soon came to trust that God would be merciful to my husband because he had sincerely tried to know His will. I came to believe that, were DH to die and face his maker, God would explain the truth to him and not condemn him for his unbelief–because Erik had used his best judgment and tried to follow his conscience. Erik soon talked with the bishop, with me by his side. I was still TBM, but I was ready to be supportive of his spiritual journey. (I believed that God would eventually answer his many prayers to the affirmative.)

“I remember telling the bishop a few months later, when he asked how things were going with Erik, that DH was offended by things which both he [the bishop] and I would be offended by if we didn’t believe God had commanded them. (For Erik, reading “In Sacred Loneliness” by Todd Compton was what brought about his resounding loss of testimony. He could NOT believe that God would screw up people’s marriages in the way Joseph claimed God had: threatening destruction by a sworded angel if Joseph didn’t enter spiritual wifery with certain women–some already married!, which was the case with Zina Huntington Jacobs and others.) Eventually, when I had had enough time (two years!) to ponder the things Erik had exposed me to, and had had innumerable discussions with DH about all things religious, I too became offended by things in church history and believed they were not of God.

“Erik and I are now on the same page. I am glad my husband exposed me to the fallacies and myths in church history, though I certainly wasn’t at first.

“Just remember, ‘The truth shall make you free.'”

[end of quote]

I hope that all of us who love truth will be “on the same page”: using our best judgment and following our consciences–our connection to heaven–as we decide what to believe and how to live.  Integrity demands.  There need not be uniformity of belief–interpreting life through the same lenses–but may there be respect and openness between friends as each engages in the spiritual journey of life!



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