The time has come "to get our houses in order" regarding freedom from debt, President Gordon B. Hinckley warned at the priesthood session Saturday evening.
That message was addressed specifically to the men of the priesthood. To the young men, his admonition was to be faithful and prepare themselves for missions.Regarding his message to the men, President Hinckley quoted the account from Genesis 41 of Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh's dream to mean that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine in the land of Egypt.
"Now, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future," President Hinckley noted. "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."
President Hinckley spoke of having lived during the depression of the 1930s.
"I hope we will never again see such a depression," he said. "But I am troubled by the huge consumer installment debt which hangs over the nation, including our own people. In March 1997, that debt totaled 1.2 trillion dollars, which represented a 7 percent increase over the previous year."
He cited other alarming statistics, then said, "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."
While he recognizes it may be necessary to borrow to get a home, he added, "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 much as 30 years."
No one knows when emergencies will strike, President Hinckley said. He told of a man who was successful in his profession and built a large home, but because of a serious accident, his earning power was destroyed. "In less than one minute he was rich and then he was broke."
A message of self-reliance is being carried throughout the Church, he said. "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."
Church leaders have set an example by setting aside each year a percentage of the Church's income against a possible day of need, President Hinckley said. "I am grateful to be able to say the Church . . . is able to function without borrowed money. If we cannot get along, we will curtail our programs. We will shrink expenditures to fit within the income. We will not borrow."
Being free of debt is a wonderful feeling, he exclaimed. He told of President James E. Faust, his second counselor in the First Presidency, who had a mortgage on his home draing 4 percent interest.
"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 fase and whistles while he works."
He urged the brethren "to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures. Discipline yourselves and your purchases. Avoid debt to the extent possible, pay off that debt as quickly as you can and free yourselves from bondage.
"This is 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."
In speaking to the young men, President Hinckley commended them: "You are not `dead-end' kids. You are not wasting your lives in drifting aimlessly. You have purpose. You have design. You have plans that can only lead to growth and strength."
He quoted a proclamation he recently received that was signed by a group of LDS young men from 19 stakes of Northern California in which they pledged their determination to magnify the priesthood.
"What a different world this would be if every young man could and would sign such a statement of promise," President Hinckley remarked. "There would be no gangs with children killing children and young men headed either for prison or death. Education would become a prize worth working for. Service in the Church would become an opportunity to be cherished. There would be greater peace and love in the homes of the people. There would be no viewing of pornography, no reading of sleazy literature. You would honor and respect the girls with whom you associate, and they would never have any fear about being alone with you in any set of circumstances. It would be as if the stripling warriors of Helaman had recruited the youth of the world to their way of living."
On the agenda of their lives would, of course, be a mission, he said.
"My dear young friends, I hope all of you are pointed in the direction of missionary service," he said. "I cannot promise you ease and comfort. I cannot promise you freedom from discouragement, from fear, from downright misery at times. But I can promise you that you will grow as you have never grown in a similar period during your entire lives. I can promise you happiness that will be unique and wonderful and lasting. I can promise you that you will re-evaluate your lives, that you will establish new priorities, that you will live closer to the Lord, that prayer will become a real and wonderful experience, that you will walk with faith in the outcome of the good things you do."