Monday, February 13, 2012

Family Finance - a Mormon Perspective

Hard times have lead to many of us thinking of our finances. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons), like anyone, are not immune. In fact, there are some very unique things Mormons have to think of which those of other faiths don't when it comes to finances. This article was written by Devin Thorpe, author of "Building Wealth for Building the Kingdom: A Financial Planning Guide for Latter-day Saint Families". Devin has owned and operated an investment-banking firm, which included an investment advisory business, a mortgage brokerage and having served in a variety of corporate finance positions. He has unique experience in this area. You can buy his book here.

There are many people both within and without of the Mormon community that might ask “how is financial planning for Mormon families different from that of other families?”
There are five key differences:
  1. Larger families: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on average have larger families than other people in America. This not only means that there are more mouths to feed, but more college tuition to plan for and at least a desire if not a need for larger homes.
  2. Tithing: Mormons are not alone in the world in making contributions to their church, but devout members of the faith donate more than 10% of their income to the Church—more than three times the average charitable contribution deduction taken by those who itemize their deductions in the U.S.
  3. Missions-Young: Male members of the LDS faith are expected to serve two-year missions—at their own expense—at age 19. While optimally, this expense would be born by the 19-year-old who serves, most often the expense falls to the family. Young women are also invited to serve missions at age 21 if they choose, again, at their own expense.
  4. Missions-Senior: The LDS Church asks senior couples to serve another mission when they enter retirement. This requires not only good financial planning but other sacrifices as well; the time when seniors are entering retirement is exactly the time when their children are typically having children—something that no grandmother ever wants to miss.
  5. “Consecration”: Latter-day Saints believe in the principle of consecration, of devoting all of their resources to building up “the Kingdom of God.” In the 1800s, the Church experimented with literally taking title to member’s assets. While that practice was not continued, members continue to avow their belief in the principle, leading some to place much of their assets in trust for the benefit of the Church. Others find that simply living a life that includes a large family and lots of missionary service leaves substantially all of the assets spent anyway.
When approaching financial planning, Mormons are wise to seek counsel from financial advisors who are familiar with LDS financial planning—not necessarily Mormons, of course. Everyone who seeks financial advice is wise to remember that it is your money—not your adviser’s money—and that you make the financial decisions after obtaining good counsel.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Calling Yourself Mormon is a Very Bold Statement

"I'm a Mormon." You've likely heard it before, especially in the messaging and advertising of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Have you really thought about what that means though?

To say you're Mormon like I do takes guts in today's world. It means you believe in modern day revelation. It means you believe there are men today that speak to God, and God speaks to them. It means you follow them because they are normal men called of God, just like Moses, Abraham, and Isaac of old. Many of them are humbled in this calling - they never asked of it. They never wanted it. Yet, God called them. And as a Mormon, you're willing to follow these laymen leading God's Church just like people did in the times of Christ.

Saying "I'm a Mormon" or even calling someone a Mormon is bold because it means they believe and follow the words of modern day prophets that have advised against drinking alcohol, against drinking coffee or tea, against drugs. Being a Mormon is bold, and usually unpopular because you don't believe in premarital sex. You go to church every week to renew covenants you made with God. You likely attend a temple regularly to perform ordinances for your dead ancestors. Some even wear funny (to the world) underwear, in remembrance of covenants made in the temple. True, most Mormons are far from perfect and even though they believe these things they make mistakes, but these are the things they strive to follow, and they rely on the merits of Christ to do so.

Saying "I'm a Mormon" is bold, and unpopular, because you believe in the Judeo-Christian definition of marriage, and that it should be part of the public square, and that religion should still have a place in the public square. It means you follow, and support modern day prophets who have been called to warn of what will happen to society when religious freedoms are taken away, and that that messaging comes from God, while still trying to ensure equality for all men and a love for all. It means you don't think their revelations are wrong, or that God's message sways to meet public need.

Perhaps most bold of all, saying "I'm a Mormon" means you believe a prophet of God, Joseph Smith, saw  God the Father and Jesus Christ, as two separate beings, negating even the popular notion of the trinity itself being 1 being in many forms. And because you believe it, you can't deny it, and you're okay being unpopular as a result. It means you believe in a historical record made out of gold plates, dug out of the ground and translated through revelation by that prophet, and that it is true, not fiction. It has likely changed your life.

The truth is, it's really, really tough to be a Mormon in these days. I've been mocked. I've been ridiculed. My ancestors were forced from their homes and their lands because of this. I've been called a bigot, despite my purest, and most loving intentions to love my fellow man as my Savior taught me. The truth is I've seen the fruits of what being a Mormon brings though, I've learned that being popular isn't what it's about, but if the Church is true, it doesn't even matter if you're popular. I've learned that's why it's so important to know for myself, without hesitation, that those that lead The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are God's servants on earth today. It's why I've sought so hard to learn if it is true, and why I'm willing to openly declare it. It takes a belief in God. It takes testing that belief. It takes prayer. It takes trying it out and seeing the fruits that come, but in the end, I know it's true so I have to believe. For every Mormon out there, they know this and have tried it, and are willing to give up everything for it, just as any treasure one might find.

Either you're Mormon or you're not. Either you believe in modern-day revelation or you don't. It's the very core of Mormon beliefs. Saying so is a very bold, unpopular, but deep hearted message. Think about that the next time you hear someone say "I'm a Mormon." And if you're a Mormon, think about that the next time you tell someone you're a Mormon - do you really believe what you're saying?


Disclosure: as an employee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these are my opinions and words, and not intended to be the voice of the Church. It's how I define my very personal testimony as a Mormon, and who I am. To learn from the voice of the Church and its called leaders, I encourage you to click through to the links throughout the article.