Thankful for Prophetic Counsel

When I walked out of the movie I checked my cell and saw that my mother had tried to call me twice without leaving a message. This was not good. My mom never calls me out of the blue for chit chat; I sensed that it was bad news. I tried calling her back, but she didn’t pick up, and the more I tried to get ahold of her the more my imagination ran away with me. I was very concerned that someone had died. When I finally reached her, it turned out that it was bad news, though not so dire as a death. My older sister’s husband had lost his job in budget cuts.

Hearing that was like taking a punch to the gut. I’ve been concerned about my own job, with financings down in a tough economy. Mine is the sole income supporting three households right now (I have two kids in school), and if something happens to my job the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. I’ve given some thought to the steps I would have to take were that to happen, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

But there was a positive side to the news. My sister and BIL have always been frugal and planned their finances carefully. Their home is paid for; they have no debt. My sis is a big time gardener, canner and sewer; she is very talented at home production. They have a food storage. Not a modern 90-day if you’re lucky food storage, but a real old timey Mormon one, that takes up a large room in the basement and aspects of which at least could last for two years. They have savings. He has kept up with his education and professoinal certifications, and he has a tax preparation business on the side that will bring in some cash.

So although it is not a pleasant prospect to go for a time without a job and to search for another one in this terrible economy, they are about as well prepared for it as it is humanly possible to be.

In her letter to friends and family announcing this turn of events, my sister made it a point to express how thankful she was for prophetic counsel. Their financial house was in order because they had heeded the words of the prophets urging us to get them that way. They have lived according to that counsel, and now they are about to reap the blessings of experiencing much less disruption in their daily lives than would have been the case had they turned a deaf ear to all those Spencer W. Kimball talks lo so many years ago.

I just want to echo my sister’s sentiment, that I too am thankful for prophetic counsel, and grateful that the burden on my sister and her family will be lessened considerably because they have lived their lives by that light.


  1. Kevin,

    Sorry to hear about their job loss but also thankful for the example they provide.

    However, I wanted to explore this other tidbit you mention:
    “My mom never calls me out of the blue for chit chat…”

    How did you ever train her to not call on a regular basis? My mother calls at least once a day and I am 1,200 miles away in Florida.

  2. Sorry to hear about the job loss, Kev.; but agreed, there is much to be grateful for. A great example.

  3. Excellent post, Kevin. I wish your family the best.

    I remember a home teaching lesson from my teens on preparedness and food storage. My home teaching companion — a solid member of the Church, former stake president, and absolutely loyal — taught that the counsel to stay out of debt and to collect a few necessaries in your home was designed to help the person with an economic slump — the lost job — more than it was to protect from some future cataclysmic disaster. That pragmatic approach to incorporating prophetic counsel has always stuck with me. And the post today reinforces that very notion; prophetic counsel isn’t reserved solely for the spectacular, the end-of-the-world conditions. Thanks be to God for wise counsel for the suffering here and now.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Michael, my mom’s not calling me except for important things is grounded in frugality and the historic fact that long distance phone calls cost money and were in some sense seen as an extravagance. Now with her cell phone it doesn’t cost any more to call me than to call her next door neighbor, but she is still in the mindset that it is a “long distance” call and not something to be undertaken frivolously.

  5. This reminds me of a story I heard from a high counselor many years ago. He was a bishop at the time, and a single-income couple where the husband had just lost his job came in asking for assistance with food. One of the first questions he asked was whether they had any food storage. “Yes, we do,” was the answer. “About two years’ worth [as was the counsel at the time]. But we can’t use that. It’s for emergencies.” The bishop had to bit his tongue a bit as he said to them, “Well, this _is_ one.”

  6. Kevin,

    That is so sweet.

  7. While I will not dispute that your sister and her husband acted wisely, it does seem from your anecdote that following the prophet’s counsel is tied to middle-class (at least) status. It’s easier to save and stay out of debt if you are an accountant with a side tax business than if you are, say, a 9$/hour service industry worker…

  8. (7) – And its easier for a right handed person to write in English (left to right) than a left handed. Doesn’t mean the left-handed person doesn’t benefit from writing. If you want hundreds of examples of blue-collar people getting out of debt and saving in an emergency fund just listen to this guy for a week. Debt Free callers range from lowest class to highest class, it tends to be more of a mentality thing than a class thing.
    If thats not enough, come by my work sometime. I’m the only non-Mexican in my whole company. Almost everyone on our production floor is minimum-wage. Guess what, no debt for most of them, great savers. Mexicans tend to live within their means a little better (as a gross stereotype) than us USA-born folk.

  9. Thanks for the nice reminder about the value of prophetic advice. I hope another job turns up quickly.

    As far as middle class financial status being assumed in the prophet’s counsel, I am just now finishing a PhD debt free and with savings and some food storage on a salary not so different than that mentioned in post 7. I don’t have two years, or even 90 days of food, but I have what I can. I think the prophets understand when they give this kind of counsel that people’s circumstances differ.

  10. It’s easier to save and stay out of debt if you are an accountant with a side tax business than if you are, say, a 9$/hour service industry worker.

    A common misperception of many class-warriors (present company excepted, of course).
    It has everything to do with spending/work priorities and discipline, and nothing to do with gross amounts of income.

  11. N., that’s probably the dumbest thing anyone has said here today (and I have been doing my darndest on some other threads).

  12. #152 I don’t know, I occasionally tune into his show if I’m in the car at the right time, and it seems everybody that calls in to brag that they became debt free in x number of months is a dual income family making 3 figures or more. While I like Dave’s advice the braggers do little to inspire me, when I’m the sole breadwinner making half their combined income.

    If I could double my income I’d be calling in to brag as well.

  13. oops, that should have been “6 figures or more”

  14. 12/13 – I can’t speak to your experience, but when I used to listen regularly (3 years ago) I hear five figures all the time.
    And again, I know plenty of min. wagers that are debt free. Its not easy, but its possible, and its what our leaders instruct us to strive for.
    Finally, as contrast I see in my life: I have 6 figure-ers in my family, some are very stable financially, but some have no control over their spending, deeply in debt, and no cash to their name. And that’s why I think its more of a mentality thing than an income thing. I think the income helps, but its not the only side of the equation.

  15. GatoraideMomma says:

    I worry more about long term retirement and potentially needing assisted living and nursing home care. We cannot qualify for insurance due to health issues we have already for LTC insurance and probably could not afford it either. We spend quite a bit on medical care as it is now. When I see $600/mo go to tithing I say to myself I must have to faith that somehow we will be taken care if we are aged and needing more than a home and food storage and on the retirement we will have. We give the tithing, but honestly I have my doubts that the church will be able/willing to help out with the care that putting away an additional 10% of my income could help provide for us. We have not always operated on our current income, most of our married and family raising years we have much much less, so there is not as much put away for our 80s and 90s. I see our church population aging and wonder. Our church is not building homes and housing for the aged as some of the other denominations do.

    I personally know in some wards when folks pay their tithing and cannot pay utilities and for food the bishop steps in, even with rent; but I also know of others in other wards in similar circumstances that do not receive assistance or continually nagged at as if they were living unworthy because they are not financially blessed. I even advised my sister to go to the bishop and say I have $400 for tithing here in the envelope, but I will be going with out electricity, water, gas, and car insurance and some of my prescriptions. Will you be able to help me because if not, I have to make these payments. She works full-time is disabled, is frugal, but her income is less than her out-go due to very high medical co-pays and costs of living in her city. She could live in a different city and have a lower cost of living, but she has a job now & health insurance where she is but it is highly doubtful that a new employer would take her on b/c visually it is obvious she isn’t healthy.

    Another member sister I know is a little bit mentally challenged and works in a cafeteria, shares an apt, but frugal as she is, she just can’t make ends meet, but she pays tithing and goes without some of her meds and really really struggles month after month. She will dog sit, etc., to earn a little extra, but you know even a frugal life is expensive these days.

  16. It’s easier to save and stay out of debt if you are an accountant with a side tax business than if you are, say, a 9$/hour service industry worker…

    There are probably few things harder than having to work that hard just to survive. But I think it’s important to note that part of prophetic counsel is to get training/education so you can have a job that pays more than minimum wage, to enable more preparation and financial freedom. That’s an important part of welfare principles…if at all possible, of course. I love what the Church is doing to help more people do that, too (thinking PEF).

  17. Peter LLC says:

    14: I think the income helps

    Indeed it does, especially with the “home is paid for” part. There are plenty of frugal folks who won’t be saying that any time this life.

  18. mormon metamucil says:

    I am sorry to hear about the job loss also; these are certainly trying times.

    I wonder about the attribution of your sister’s wise money management to prophetic counsel and living their lives by that light, instead of to just following sound money management practices. I would think most financial advisers say that staying out of debt, having a savings, and increasing ones marketability are staples for wise financial planning. It doesn’t strike me that if the prophets had not counseled about finances that we would be seeing people like your sister taking less care with their finances. I suspect they would have followed standard good practices anyway. That would still be the prudent and wise approach, and the prophet joining a chorus of those recommending wise practices does not make the prophet inspired.

    If the prophets constantly counseled about using safe and defensive driving practices we couldn’t really attribute our good fortune in avoiding accidents to following inspired prophetic counsel.

  19. 18 – As a Series 7/66 licensed (unpracticing) Financial Advisor I figured I’d temper your statement if you don’t mind. Much like Accountants, Attorneys, Doctors, Dentists, etc. for every 3 good FAs, theres one bad one (or whatever ratio you believe, thats just been my experience). There are indeed many FAs that will give you sound money advice, but there are some that will tell you to leave a mortgage on your house and instead invest the money you would pay on your house – in order to keep the tax deduction. Completely ignoring the need to factor risk into the equation. . . . anyway, I just think its nice to have prophetic counsel AND contemperary wisdom work hand in hand. When the two agree you know exactly what you should do.

  20. That bad news is so sweetly tempered by the good, Kevin. Thanks.

  21. “It has everything to do with spending/work priorities and discipline, and nothing to do with gross amounts of income.” (#10)

    Hmm, my health issues suggest otherwise. If my gross amount of income is insufficient to pay for medication, food, and rent, which one do I not pay for?

    I am glad that your family has been able to obtain some degree of security through their preparations, Kevin. These are difficult times for all of us.

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