Prophets have long counseled against incurring debt. President N. Eldon Tanner explained:
Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances. They are in bondage. (Ensign, Nov 1979).
Financial debt occurs when we spend more than the constraint of our budget. Other kinds of debt might include physical debt if we intake more calories than our physical constraint allows or spiritual debt if we act outside of the constraint of the commandments. Though these kinds of debt are usually not referred to as debts, prophets have warned us to care for our bodies and avoid sin, which keeps us free of physical, spiritual and other kinds of debt.
For many of us, the opposite of debt is patience. We go into debt because we want things now, so we borrow from our future earnings to be instantly gratified. That desire for instant satisfaction often contradicts the laws of God as it becomes lustful or covetous. Reaping what we sew, low-effort, instant returns often bring more problems than solutions. For example, not waiting for sexual intimacy can lead to broken families or disease. Not waiting until you could afford to buy your dream home may lead to foreclosure. Not waiting for food to cook properly, or too frequent use of the microwave, has been linked in some studies to disease and cancer. Similarly, not waiting to buy the things we want or even things we think we need can lead to financial illness, marital stress, depression and bankruptcy.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained:
Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue. We want what we want, and we want it now. Therefore, the very idea of patience may seem unpleasant and, at times, bitter.
Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace.
... Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!
Impatience, on the other hand, is a symptom of selfishness. It is a trait of the self-absorbed. It arises from the all-too-prevalent condition called “center of the universe” syndrome, which leads people to believe that the world revolves around them and that all others are just supporting cast in the grand theater of mortality in which only they have the starring role.
... Patience is a godly attribute that can heal souls, unlock treasures of knowledge and understanding, and transform ordinary men and women into saints and angels. Patience is truly a fruit of the Spirit.
Patience means staying with something until the end. It means delaying immediate gratification for future blessings. It means reining in anger and holding back the unkind word. It means resisting evil, even when it appears to be making others rich.
Patience means accepting that which cannot be changed and facing it with courage, grace, and faith. It means being “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.” 1 Ultimately, patience means being “firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord” 2 every hour of every day, even when it is hard to do so. In the words of John the Revelator, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and … faith [in] Jesus.” 3
... The lessons we learn from patience will cultivate our character, lift our lives, and heighten our happiness.
When we are patient, we are better able to avoid debt. We will find that we are more successful and more prosperous. President Ezra Taft Benson said:
In the long run, it is easier to live within our income and resist borrowing from future reserves except in cases of necessity.
Patience is the ability to live within a budget. It is an attribute of discipline and obedience. In matters of finance, we are encouraged not only to live within our means, but also to save for a rainy day. President Gordon B. Hinckley gave this counsel in a 1998 conference address:
I urge you... 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.
... 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.
It is clear what is expected of us. We must be patient, actively pursuing worthy goals without overextending ourselves. As we live within the constraints given to us, be they financial, physical, spiritual or otherwise, we will have peace. For more on constraints, click here.