Learn—Maximum Time: 45 Minutes

“Learn—Maximum Time: 45 Minutes,” Personal Finances for Self-Reliance (2017), 112–20


Today’s Discussion:

3 Eliminate Debt


Financial Stewardship Success Map

1. Understand Debt


Debt is borrowing money that is not yours. It typically comes with a cost, known as interest. Interest is a percentage of the amount owed. You end up paying more for what you borrowed, sometimes a lot more. Debts come with expected payments, and an overall expectation to repay all that you borrowed plus interest.


Why do people borrow money?


Prophets have always counseled us to avoid debt. President Heber J. Grant taught, “If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within our means. And if there is any one thing that is grinding and discouraging and disheartening, it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet” (Gospel Standards: Sermons and Writings of Heber J. Grant, comp. G. Homer Durham [1941], 111).

Throughout the next two chapters you will learn to follow the prophets’ counsel to get out of debt.


Take two minutes to consider financial decisions you have made that went poorly. What were the consequences? How long did you feel the effects? How did it affect you, your marriage or family, and your ability to serve others?

Avoid Debt


Prophets have counseled that there are very few justifiable reasons to go into debt and that when you do incur debt you should pay it off as quickly as possible. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that “reasonable debt for the purchase of an affordable home and perhaps for a few other necessary things is acceptable. But from where I sit, I see in a very vivid way the terrible tragedies of many who have unwisely borrowed for things they really do not need” (“I Believe,” Ensign, Aug. 1992, 6).

Depending on the circumstances, debt may be acceptable for the following expenses:

  • A modest, affordable home

  • Reasonable educational expenses that will lead to better work

  • Modest, basic transportation (only if necessary)

You should likely avoid going into debt for items other than these. Instead, save up for expenses.


Take two minutes to think about the following question and write your thoughts: How will it feel to be debt free?

Get out of Debt


You can get out of debt! Aggressively paying down debt will require significant sacrifice, but you can do it. Below are five important principles for getting out of debt. We will cover the first three in this chapter.

  1. Understand your debt realities

  2. Desire to get out of debt

  3. Overcome natural-man tendencies that lead to debt

  4. Stop incurring debt

  5. Pay off your debts


What thoughts or impressions do you have from reading these five principles?

2. Understand Your Debt Realities


How much debt do you have? What are the interest rates? What are the payments? How long will it take to pay off your debt, and how much interest will it cost you? It is important to know these things as you work to get out of debt. To do so, you will create a debt inventory. Below is a sample debt inventory table.



Interest Rate

Monthly Payment

Credit card #1




Credit card #2








Student loan








In your family council this week, you will create a similar table. Be sure to fill in all of the information for each debt.

3. Desire to Get out of Debt


In order to do anything difficult, including getting out of debt, your desire must be stronger than the obstacles. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously” (“Desire,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 44). To find success, focus on your goal to get out of debt and visualize what life will be like when you are free from the burden of debt. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become” (“According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 21).


Why do you desire to be debt free? What will you be able to do that you aren’t able to do now?

4. Overcome the “Natural Man”


In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin taught, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love“ (Mosiah 3:19). To put off the natural man, we must remember the principles we learned from chapter 4 about maintaining a long-term perspective. Like the children in the marshmallow experiment, we need to learn to delay short-term pleasures in order to reach long-term goals.

“Natural man” tendencies include:

  • Impulsive and emotional spending.

  • Ignorance or carelessness about our financial reality.

  • Coveting and comparing ourselves with others.

Yielding to the natural man will likely lead us to debt and financial stress. On the other hand, as we seek to follow the “enticings of the Holy Spirit,” we will be enabled by the power of the Atonement to become strong in the face of adversity.


What does it mean to put off the natural man?


Let’s look more closely at some of these tendencies of the natural man in the context of self-reliance.

Impulsive and Emotional Spending


Take a minute to think about the following questions and write your answers below: When was the last time you made an expensive, impulsive purchase? What was it? How could you have used that money more effectively for something else?


We have all likely made an impulsive or emotional purchase. Sometimes we spend money when we feel discouraged or angry. Sometimes we spend money because we feel that we are entitled to reward ourselves. Sometimes a sale or promotion tempts us into believing we need something when we really don’t. There are many reasons why we spend money on things we don’t really need at the expense of paying for the things that matter most. The following activity will help us understand why we make impulsive purchases.


How can we overcome tendencies to make impulsive purchases? What have you done in the past to overcome such impulses?

Ignorance or Carelessness about Our Financial Situation


In the Book of Mormon, Nephi chastises Laman and Lemuel for being “past feeling” and unable to feel the Spirit work within them (see 1 Nephi 17:45). Our choices can often harden our hearts, making it difficult to feel the promptings of the Spirit when we must change. Sometimes being “past feeling” may cause us to choose to ignore the reality of our situation. We may want to avoid tracking expenses or looking at our bank accounts. If we use credit cards or other consumer credit, this carelessness can quickly lead us into debt.

Sometimes one or both partners in a marriage will spend carelessly, assuming that the other partner is responsible for the family’s financial situation. Remember, both spouses are equally responsible for their family’s finances, and ignoring or transferring our responsibility will only push us further into financial trouble.


Why are some inclined to ignore the reality of their situation? How can you overcome being “past feeling” about your financial situation, if you need to?

Coveting and Comparing Ourselves with Others


It is natural for people to compare themselves with others, and we are bombarded with messages and advertisements encouraging us to purchase things we do not need. Sometimes we feel entitled to have things that we can’t afford or don’t really need. Giving in to coveting can quickly lead us to make unwise purchases.


How can we overcome the tendency to compare ourselves with others?

Discuss Financial Priorities in Your Family Council


During your family council this week, you will discuss ways in which you can overcome and protect yourselves from “natural man” tendencies. Together, discuss your current debts and create a “debt inventory” (see the blank debt inventory sheet on page 123). You may consider using the “Sample Family Council Discussion” outline below to guide your council. As you identify your debts together, and as you develop ways to overcome “natural man” tendencies, you will receive the Lord’s help to eliminate your debts.