Thrift as a Principle of Stewardship

November 3, 2011 | 38 comments
By
What principles do Mormons live that contribute to their being good stewards of the earth?

In my post last month, I wrote about fundamental scripture based doctrine that lead us to value the earth. Now I would like to demonstrate that Mormons care for the earth through their stewardship, primarily in the management of our own homes and families. The first principle of stewardship is thrift.

We are currently counseled through the provident living program of the church to exercise thrift. There may be some confusion as to what thrift actually is. If I donate used but still useable things to a thrift store, where they may be acquired by someone else whose need for them is greater than my own, that is exercising thrift. If I purchase things that I need for a fair price, new or used, that is thrift, provided that I actually need the items, will use them, and can afford to buy them without incurring debt. Those are some big caveats that we often ignore as our buying habits are determined more and more by sale prices and bargains than the honest needs of our families.

“Learn principles of avoiding debt, discerning between needs and wants, and living

close to God in order to be provident providers both spiritually and temporally.” http://www.providentliving.org/

Thrift as an Aristotelian virtue is the pleasant mean between the excesses of profligacy (spendthrift) and miserliness. Thrift is the “wise economy in the management of money and other resources; frugality.” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/thrift)

Money is not our only resource; time counts too. As a SAHM, I often have more time than money. I have to be careful how I spend that time so that I am able to balance the demands that weigh on me.

Within official church discourse, we generally talk about thrift in financial terms–the use of our money personally within families as tithes within the church.

N. Eldon Tanner wrote:

Learn to distinguish between needs and wants. Consumer appetites are man-made. Our competitive free enterprise system produces unlimited goods and services to stimulate our desire to want more convenience and luxuries. I do not criticize the system or the availability of these goods or services. I am only concerned about our people using sound judgment in their purchases. We must learn that sacrifice is a vital part of our eternal discipline.

In this and many other countries, many parents and children born since World War II have known only prosperous conditions. Many have been conditioned to instant gratification. There have been ample job opportunities for all who are capable of working. Yesterday’s luxuries for most are considered today’s necessities…By way of testimony, may I add this to President Kimball’s statement. I know of no situation where happiness and peace of mind have increased with the amassing of property beyond the reasonable wants and needs of the family…

President Kimball has given this thought-provoking counsel:

“The Lord has blessed us as a people with a prosperity unequaled in times past. The resources that have been placed in our power are good, and necessary to our work here on the earth. But I am afraid that many of us have been surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth and have begun to worship them as false gods, and they have power over us. Do we have more of these good things than our faith can stand? Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, it is hoped, a long and happy life. Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God” (Ensign, June 1976, p. 4).

By way of testimony, may I add this to President Kimball’s statement. I know of no situation where happiness and peace of mind have increased with the amassing of property beyond the reasonable wants and needs of the family.

http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=3880615b01a6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

To be thrifty is to recognize that many things are unnecessary. If we develop the self discipline to deny ourselves the shallow gratification of our man-made consumer appetite, we may as a result 1) spend less money, and 2) consume fewer resources (because we are not purchasing those unnecessaries).

If we as a people live by the principle of thrift, we will as a natural result consume less and be in a position to serve more. Using our resources, financial and otherwise, wisely is the first step in becoming the stewards that God expects us to be. If we all are economical about the use of our time, money, and resources, then we will be, in practice, a very green people.

But not all Mormons practice thrift.

The question I must ask now is “Is thrift a virtue that Mormons value for all members of the church?”

Do we feel that all members should practice thrift, or is that austerity just for our poorer members? Do we assume that at a certain financial level, can we afford not to practice thrift? Would a greater emphasis on thrift for all of us have an effect on the numbers of members we gain and retain, like the prohibitions contained in the Word of Wisdom? Or is this counsel like the admonition to eat meat sparingly–a good idea in principle, the practice of which would benefit individuals and the larger community, more heavily emphasized by past leaders, but not necessary to temporal or spiritual salvation?

How can we avoid the prideful excesses and divisions that plagued the people of the Book of Mormon if we act in this way? How can we be identified as God’s peculiar people if we act just like everyone else in the day to day management of our resources and money?

I wanted to say that because we latter-day saints believe in and live the principle of thrift, our actions prove us to be good stewards of the earth. But a lot of us don’t live by these principles. I think we still believe that they are true, but we rationalize our way out of the inconvenience of living them by pretending they just don’t apply to us. And that is the kind of thinking that stratifies us when we should strive to be one in Zion.

Note: Thrift is a principle I fail at as often as not, so this post is an attempt to understand why I value thrift but do not live a consistently thrifty lifestyle. I believe that I as an individual should do better, and that we as a people should do better, but I cannot condemn any other individual in this matter.

38 Responses to Thrift as a Principle of Stewardship

  1. Alison Moore Smith on November 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Of course thrift is a principle for all of us. But it’s a relative principle and, I think, appropriately so, even as practiced righteously. I don’t believe there are specific, hard lines with regard to what comprises thrift and what doesn’t, as in “If you have a car that costs X, you aren’t thrifty” or “If you eat in restaurants you aren’t thrifty.”

    None of us needs computers or internet connections to survive. (Even though I make my living on the computer, I could start cleaning houses or picking fruit again.) None of us needs more than, say, a single pair of shoes and two outfits. We certainly don’t need jewelry. Or proms. Or wedding receptions. Or musical instruments. We don’t need holidays.

    The church leaders could wear simple pants and shirts instead of nice suits, dress shoes. They could stop traveling around to speak to people. And who needs ties??? The church could build very simple temples — or use existing buildings.

    We need:

    • Food
    • Clothing (for protective purposes)
    • Shelter from the elements
    • Air

    From there, we could start moving up Maslow’s pyramid, but at some point above physiological, you could easily make a case for lack of thrift.

    Tanner speaks of “reasonable wants and needs.” To me, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Good for internal analysis, but hard to use to point fingers and claim that others aren’t doing enough.

  2. Rachel Whipple on November 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I have an LDS friend in NY who practices feng shui. I think she did just have 2 pairs of shoes, 3 shirts, a skirt, and a pair of pants. She had pared everything extraneous out of their home. For their family of 4, they had 4 cups, 4 bowls, 4 plates, etc. But anytime she had company, she had to buy disposable goods to accomodate guests. For her, it was worthwhile to be able to throw it away, and keep all clutter out of her house. On the other extreme, a lovely older lady I know has well over a dozen sets of service for 12, included 3 different Christmas patterns. I know that neither of those practices is right for me and my family. We are somewhere in between.

    The idea of dressing in simple clothing is interesting to me. Simple and nice need not be mutually exclusive categories. Clothing can be simple and comfortable, modest, and fashionable in a quiet way, as opposed to a trendy one. If it is well made of quality material, and well cared for, it should last longer than the shoddy disposable fashions that litter our consumer landscape. Or if you know you’re going to wear something hard (like my plumber friend or my 9 year old dirt magnet dare devil daughter), you can buy jeans second hand and use them until there’s no use left in them.

  3. Sonny on November 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    “If it is well made of quality material, and well cared for, it should last longer than the shoddy disposable fashions that litter our consumer landscape. ”

    Ugh.

  4. Rachel Whipple on November 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Sonny, is that “ugh” concurrence about the current state of cheap, low end fashions ( Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.-Oscar Wilde), aesthetic disapproval of my prose, or disagreement with the idea that we should take care of the things we have?

    Alison-If a computer is the tool by which you earn your livelihood, then it is certainly useful and justifiable. The computer I’m using now was my husband’s laptop in grad school. The kids and I use it for homework, research, and some entertainment (blogging may fall into that last category). I also don’t think thrift has to mean that we live a bare bones minimalist existence, devoid of music, art, and beauty.

  5. Sarah Familia on November 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Thrift is definitely a relative concept. People in every country I’ve lived in subscribe to different ideas of “necessities.” I was astounded at the number of things I actually didn’t need (car, clothes dryer, dishwasher, kitchen appliances, the list goes on). Our American system is set up to make simplicity a bit difficult. There are some things we could change, though.

    When it comes to clothing, for instance, my friends in Italy wore the same clothes for years and years, and always looked incredible, because they focused on quality clothing that all went well together, and varied things by accessorizing. Their closets were much smaller than the closets of most Americans I know (heck, Italian houses aren’t even built with closets. They just have wardrobes), but they dressed waaaay better.

    For me, my failures at being thrifty are mostly a result of lack of organization, or feeling like I just can’t spare the time (to do things like clip coupons, make my own clothes out of fabric I bought on half-price day at the thrift store, etc.).

    My favorite ways of being thrifty are going to the library and downloading public domain books to read on my Kindle.

  6. Alison Moore Smith on November 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Sonny, I almost quoted the same passage. :)

    What’s a “disposable fashion” anyway? My oldest daughter used my acid washed 80s jeans when she was in Footloose, 20 years later. :) And I still use one of my float gowns from my pageant days (30 years ago) in one of my conference speeches.

    And why would it be “shoddy” to dispose of, say, clingy polyester disco pants? Some things are simply not meant to last for time and all eternity. :)

    I didn’t realize feng shui had anything to do with limited tableware — or austerity in any sense. I thought it was more about orienting the physical surroundings to get the qi flowing. Our house in Boca ultimately didn’t sell to our first serious buyer because the direction the front door faced “wasn’t in accordance with feng shui.” Honestly, I thought the whole thing was superstition gone wrong.

    If a computer is the tool by which you earn your livelihood, then it is certainly useful and justifiable.

    Rachel, I agree — which is why I have them — but I think “it’s justified if used to earn your livelihood” is going to be really hard to defend as a thrift standard. Actually, I don’t think it’s hard to defend, but I don’t think YOU are going to like that as as standard. :)

    What things that you think are wasteful are NOT used to provide the livelihood for SOMEONE?

    Sarah, I’ve been wearing the exact same clothes for almost a decade. But I can’t say I look good. I just refuse to by any more fat clothes. And until someone can figure out what’s wrong with me, I’m just not going to be looking like your Italian friends. But when they do, my austere wardrobe is going to change dramatically. And it won’t look like thrift. :)

  7. Sonny on November 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Rachel,

    The Ugh was because after reading your post and already acutely aware of how hyper-aware some members are of other members clothing (Is the skirt above or below the knee, That 7-year-old girl is wearing spaghetti straps!, I can see Sister So-in-So’s shoulders…..in Sacrament meeting!) I am now introduced to a new line of potential critical judgement that we as members can use to thrash each other….. Is Brother So-in-So’s suit a rugged ironclad Mr. Mac suit or is it shoddy and fashionable?

    Ugh because I am trying to *less* on appearances of others and more on what is in their heart.

    Ugh because for many just getting to church and trying to navigate through a lot of “should” and “should not” speak, whether in Sacrament Meeting or in the halls, is a near daunting undertaking.

    Ugh because while I really agree with the principles you espouse, I can’t help but find a lecture, however nicely disguised, in each post.

  8. Sonny on November 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Focus *less* on appearances.

    Sorry for the lack of proofreading.

  9. Nicol on November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks Rachel. The principle of Thrift needs to be continually reinforced.

    President Gordon B. Hinckley stated: “I commend to you the virtues of thrift and industry. It is the labor and the thrift of people that make a nation strong. It is work and thrift that make the family independent.” This statement was made in 1991, BEFORE the housing crisis, debt crisis, etc. It is the principle of thrift that made our nation strong at one point. My father grew up during the depression and we children were raised to be very “thrifty”. I, personally, resented wearing “hand-me-downs” and hand-made clothing. I was embarrassed that we purchased bread from the Wonder Thrift Store. I coveted what my neighbors had (Moon boots, Atari, Levi 501 jeans, etc.). As I reflect now, on my feelings then, I realize that my family was practicing thrift only out of necessity and we were not taught the value of what we were doing or the higher spiritual laws pertaining to Thrift. My parents also had a few pet phrases that were reflective of their era: “Children should be seen and not heard”, “Cut the tom-foolery”, “Because I said so”, “If you don’t eat it for dinner, you’ll have it for breakfast”, etc. In my home we were living the letter of the law without the spirit.

    I am now a recovering spendthrift because once I obtained “freedom” I went a little overboard. I’d had no prior financial guidance so when I got to college different financial institutions were cramming credit card offers down my throat and I didn’t have the skills necessary to resist or the spiritual insight to understand “thrift” and “stewardship”.

    This is why I now try to teach not only by example or “divine parental dictatorship”, but I actually spend the time explaining these very important issues. I want my children to understand the WHYS of what we do.

    Also, I would agree with you that many of our members aren’t living the principle of Thrift. I am always reminded of this on my infrequent visits to my sister. The extreme juxtaposition of her ward versus my branch is quite startling. I LOVE my tiny, “dysfunctional” branch and we have quite a bit of ethic and financial diversity. At least half of the members are undocumented immigrants but we also have “Wall Street” executives, attorneys, etc. We have a very strong Stake Relief Society organization which encourages us to have a biannual “Goods Exchange”. So many of our members are blessed by this. When I visit my sister’s ward out west, which is EXTREMELY affluent, I don’t feel comfortable at all. I feel I’ve entered the Mormon version of Stepford. All the children are neatly pressed and perfectly reverent. The women are all finely-coiffed, buffed, and polished in their designer duds. I think most of them would shudder if they were assigned to sort through used goods for a “Goods Exchange” or, heaven forbid, actually expected to use someone else’s “throw-offs”. I don’t think they are bad people, but I also don’t think many of them have a testimony of Thrift, and Compassionate Service.

    I know I am generalizing and there are many “good” Mormons who are affluent but I wish people, and members in specific, understood the beauties of the principals of Thrift and Stewardship. It is a blessing for ALL, not just the “poor”.

    I have a long way to go in regards to these principles I am grateful to people like you for reminding me!

  10. Nicol on November 3, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Oops! I meant “ethnic” not “ethic”!

  11. Alison Moore Smith on November 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Like I said, I think thrift is best used as an internal navigation tool than one to beat up others.

    Nicol, I actually know really wealthy people and really poor people. And I haven’t noticed a difference in compassion (or willingness to work or serve or get dirty — without shuddering) based on bank account.

  12. Sonny on November 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Rachel,

    My comment was way too strong, and I apologize.

  13. Bryan Stiles on November 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I feel I’ve entered the Mormon version of Stepford. All the children are neatly pressed and perfectly reverent. The women are all finely-coiffed, buffed, and polished in their designer duds.

    I bet a lot of those same women would go to California or somewhere on the East Coast and see the women there dressed in California or East Coast fashions and feel uncomfortable for the exact same reasons.

  14. Nicol on November 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Alison, In response to your statement: “I didn’t realize feng shui had anything to do with limited tableware — or austerity in any sense. I thought it was more about orienting the physical surroundings to get the qi flowing…”

    Many people use the practices of feng shui ONLY as an aesthetic tool, but the deeper aspects of feng shui include the belief that all matter has energy, and “stagnant energy” can negatively affect your feelings. This is why some practitioners focus more on the energy of things than the placement. They DO believe that placement affects energy but they believe that the inherent nature of the object is more important than the placement. If you have negative matter in your home, it doesn’t really matter WHERE you place it.

    If you don’t consistently use an item (even positive energy items), then it becomes “stagnant” or “stale” and creates a negative energy in your home.

    I’m not a practitioner of feng shui but I can see where SOME of the tenets of the practice are good.

  15. Nicol on November 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Alison, It is true that many wealthy members are extremely compassionate and that is why I added ‘there are many “good” Mormons who are affluent but I wish people, and members in specific, understood the beauties of the principals of Thrift and Stewardship. It is a blessing for ALL, not just the “poor”.’ All I have to do is look at Jon Huntsman Sr. (no, I’m not being political!) to find a wonderful example of compassion.

    I was simply giving an example of an extreme that I have witnessed. There are wealthy members of our branch and very poor members. I think it is easier to build a testimony when you are living in a more diverse setting. The members of my sister’s ward are living what they “see” every day. I think it might be helpful to all wards to divide the ward/stake boundary lines in a way that would give members more diversity. It’s nice to see how others’ live so that we can be thankful for what WE have.

    As for your comment that you haven’t seen any difference in compassion between people with a large bank account and those without, I would refer you to the countless statistics that report that the lower middle-class and impoverished give the highest percent of their income to charitable organizations. :)

  16. Alison Moore Smith on November 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Nicol, I suppose my point is to question the idea that you actually know the people in a ward you visit well enough to make such a harsh judgment of them. I found the reading incredibly…ahem…uncharitable.

    I would refer you to the countless statistics that report that the lower middle-class and impoverished give the highest percent of their income to charitable organizations.

    I realize that, but I’m talking specifically about people *I know* personally and you are talking about a *specific* ward and generalizing their assumed behaviors.

    Conservatives also give more than liberals. That doesn’t mean I can fairly go to a ward, say, in New York City, and tell you I feel uncomfortable there because they’re all stingy elitist snobs. (Waiting for the followup on that one. :) )

    I don’t think diversity makes building a testimony easier. In my experience both diversity and uniformity have pros and cons.

    Ultimately, don’t we WANT uniformity in many aspects? For example, if your ward were to live the united order, there wouldn’t be any poor among you (or at least not AS poor). Would that make testimonies *harder* to build?

  17. Rachel Whipple on November 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Sonny, no offense taken. I appreciate your comments. By disposable fashion, I mean the very cheaply made clothes I see in places like Forever 21 and sometimes Old Navy. Some Old Navy stuff is good–their jeans work great us, and hold up well enough that I can find them secondhand, but other things, like some of the shirts and sweaters for women are so poorly made, they can’t last long. They are in that sense, designed to be disposable. They don’t cost much per item, but end up costing more in the long run because the replacement rate is higher. I don’t see the same problem with men’s clothing as much as I do with women’s and especially teen girl’s clothing. The problem is not so much how the clothes look (even though I did quote Wilde), it’s that disposable clothing is wasteful. But that is what keeps our economy going, so it can’t be all bad, right?
    As for the charge of lecturing, I have to accept that when I make critical remarks, as I did in the OP. I don’t know the best way around that in this kind of forum. Strong statements generate discussion. I don’t want to take a contrary position just for rhetorical purposes, but I don’t want to be so bland and agreeable that there is no conversation. It is through discussion that I am able to learn more, clarify my thinking, and refine my position.

    Alison-I agree that thrift as a virtue is best used as an “internal navigation tool.” I don’t think I use that tool as often as I should, but I do believe my life would be better if I did. Perhaps it’s best to think of this post as a reminder that the tool is there for us.

  18. Rachel Whipple on November 3, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Sarah Familia-Thanks for commenting. I’ve only traveled outside of the US a few times. It’s eye opening to see that our way is not the only way, and may not even be the best way of doing things. We take so much for granted.

    Nicol-Thanks for joining the conversation and explaining feng shui for me. Before I met that friend, I didn’t know about that aspect of feng shui either. But I definitely agree that clutter can weigh on a person, and may be correlated with psychological problems.

  19. Jax on November 3, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Anyone find the revelations on this topic of import?

    and again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands;

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 42:40)

    or how about this one?

    Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?

    (Book of Mormon | Mormon 8:39)

    If you were to ask me, being “thrifty” isn’t about saving money or making the nation strong as much as it is about reigning in our pride and putting our money to better uses. We are very, very bad at this and the problem is largely ignored by the vast majority of LDS people in the US – basically because of our adoption of US culture.

  20. Nicol on November 3, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Alison, You make very valid points regarding the pros and cons of diversity. I would say however, that the plan with the most “uniformity” was Lucifer’s plan. Obviously, we all rejected that, hence our ability to participate in these forums.

    I believe there is a huge difference between “uniformity” and “unity”! Guess which one I favor? I would love to see the United Order being practiced in a way that would celebrate each individual’s unique talents.

    As far as the portion of my post which juxtaposed the two extremes, I was using it mainly as an extreme example. You are correct that I don’t know the members in my sis’s ward. I’m sure most of them are very nice people. I apologize for any unintentional judgments.

    I just know that I, personally, have developed a much deeper testimony living in a very diverse area (I live in New York), than I ever developed while living in Utah. I AM NOT criticizing my Utah brothers and sisters, I am talking about my own weakness in not taking the initiative to learn deeper gospel principles while surrounded by people with VERY similar traditions.

    Having said that, I’d like to return the focus to Thrift as a form of stewardship.

    Many of those people in my sis’s ward that I unintentionally criticized probably exercise a fair amount of Thrift. That is why they have obtained financial security. I live near one of the Vanderbilt Homes and every time I tour the grounds I can’t help but reflect on the Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rochesters. It is sad to know that many of the descendants of these families turned into mass consumers to to point where they lost all of their inheritance. (disclaimer- I’m not lauding these moguls or vilifying all their posterity) Using this as an example only, it reminds me of the Great Inheritance that the Lord has provided for us and I wonder how we can increase it rather than squander it.

    Rachel, Do you have any suggestions on how to magnify our earthly inheritance? How can we incorporate Earth stewardship into our lessons at church and at home?

  21. John C. on November 3, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    “Conservatives also give more than liberals.”
    As I’ve stated before, this is a misreading of that dataset. Religious Conservatives are the largest giving group, followed by religious liberals, then secular liberals, then secular conservatives. Religiosity is a better cause of giving than conservatism.

  22. John C. on November 3, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Regarding the badness of beating on the rich and mollifying the poor, if Christ did it, then so can we.

  23. Nicol on November 3, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    #19 Jax, Thanks for the scriptural references.

  24. Nicol on November 3, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Jax, another one I just remembered is: 2 Nephi 9:51 “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.”

    I confess that I spend too much money for things that have no real worth!

  25. Alison Moore Smith on November 3, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Rachel (#17), I’m sure I don’t either. :)

    Nicol #20:

    I believe there is a huge difference between “uniformity” and “unity”! Guess which one I favor?

    Are they mutually exclusive? Aren’t there many times when it would be desirable to be of similar character to others?

    John C. #21:

    As I’ve stated before, this is a misreading of that dataset.

    John, speaking about the statistics of supersets instead of subsets isn’t “misreading.”

  26. James Olsen on November 4, 2011 at 6:26 am

    On the one hand, there’s an obvious sense in which the prevailing discussion here is right: thrift is relative; and often we’re poor judges of who is and isn’t being thrifty. That is, on one extreme end of the spectrum, we’re guilty of failing to recognize the contextual nature of thrift and we become ignorantly self-righteous stone throwers. I think the other extreme end of the spectrum is something we’re much more often and seriously guilty of: that is, cherishing the relative nature of thrift we license our own and others extreme excesses because, after all, we’re surrounded by our own neighborhood Joneses and one can always find others within their same socio-economic bracket who are even more extravagant.

    One thing we all ought to keep in mind much more than we do (as in, I second Rachel’s “mea culpa” ending), is the fact that today we live in a global neighborhood, no matter how into navel-gazing and head burrying we are. Given the fact that thrift is relative to our context, we need to recognize much more often how frequently persons, ecosystems and species (and yes, it’s all related) are dying while we are both personally and collectively in a position to help.

  27. Rachel Whipple on November 4, 2011 at 6:32 am

    John C #22

    Regarding the badness of beating on the rich and mollifying the poor, if Christ did it, then so can we.

    When we were in grad school, we like most of the other students in our ward, were barely scraping by. We had enough for our basic wants, but there was no extra, nothing left over for luxuries or emergencies. People would testify in sacrament meeting about the blessings they received as they sacrificed and struggled to gain an education and raise a family at the same time.

    But not all of us were poor. My husband’s home teaching companion and his wife were well supported by their families and lived a very comfortable lifestyle. One evening my husband came home from home teaching disgusted with his companion and his friends whom they had home taught because they spent the entire time complaining about how sanctimonious all these poor people in the ward were, and how annoying it was to hear them talk about how their faith was being built through their financial struggles, and so on. My husband had nothing to say to them. It was obvious that a different perspective would not be welcome.

    Jax and Nicol-I am well familiar with the scriptures. I hope they motivate us to do better, to be less selfish, and more generous. May we repent rather than stand condemned.

  28. Bob on November 4, 2011 at 8:47 am

    James Olsen,
    Are you saying that “keeping down from the Joneses”__can be Self- Righteous? I am reading some of that.

  29. mmiles on November 4, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Rachel,

    As far as buying cheap clothing, people who are poor can’t afford to save up money to buy more durable clothing. They live in a constant state of deficit. When they need shoes because the other ones are worn, they buy a cheap pair to replace them–they don’t have the means or time to wait for more money to get a better pair.

    There also seems to be a bit of a disconnect about donating used items to thrift stores, etc. That is only possible in the first place if people buy more than they need, if they have an excess. The only other option is to live like your friend with the very basics.

  30. Rachel Whipple on November 4, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    mmiles-I recognize the problem. But in the US, we do have excess that supplies our thrift stores. The clothes I’m wearing today, my coat, and boots are secondhand. I am careful to only buy good things that clearly have a lot of wear left in them. The practical problem of finding good things secondhand (or on sale or clearance at regular stores) is that it takes time to visit the stores and yard sales, and many people have neither money nor time. In that case, I agree that the only option is to buy cheap clothing at discount stores. I see this as a different issue from the disposable fashions for teens mentioned earlier.

    I think it would be possible for most Americans to cut their wardrobes in half and still have excess. We don’t all have to be like my friend, but I think most of us err on the side of profligacy. Even if we all had fewer outfits, when we consider changing bodies (Kids outgrow things, and I’ve gained and lost 35-40 lbs three times now, and have had clothes a range of sizes to accomodate those changes), there may still be enough clothing items for secondhand consumption.

  31. brian larsen on November 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I find this OP not only relevant, but also wise in that it enables and encourages individuals to question their own practices. The comments are more revealing of the commenters than the post, as always, and as mine will be. Our conceptions of thrift, or “accurate amounts of thrift,” I believe, depend on what we assume is the purpose and benefit of thrifty living.

    Rachel’s discussion is nuanced in that it suggests as both purpose and benefit not only stewardship but also charity. It is the second that I find more important, and also the hidden discomfort behind many of the comments. Given that we function in a vastly complex local and global society, of course questions of means on how to best practice thrift will arise (time? money? reinvestment? etc.), but that doesn’t negate it’s relation to building Zion. In my opinion, if everyone were adequately clothed (which they aren’t) and clothes weren’t used as weapons of power (which they are), then questions of clothes would no longer be germane (if we are also being good stewards in regards to production and disposal); if everyone had adequate food (which they don’t) and . . . well, you get my point.

    We can stop lack if the world practiced thrift. Granted we can’t stop items from being weapons of power very easily, but thrift usually practiced would solve that concern. Welcome to Zion. The question of thrift as an object for individual retrospect is always timely. Relative to charity, it is necessary. I find it always just and appropriate for me to ask – what if I did eat the same stew everyday so someone else can as well?

    What James said in the second half of #26.

  32. Bob on November 4, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    brian larsen,
    Ebenezer Scrooge believed in Thrift, but not Charity. They don’t have to go hand in hand.
    I think seeing Thrift as a Virtue can be a trap like seeing Purity as a Virtue can be a trap.
    I would want to be like the improved Scrooge. Live rich, but show charity to the poor__not try to be one of them.

  33. Rachel Whipple on November 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Bob,
    Scrooge was miserly, not thrifty. Anytime you go to the end of a continuum (in this case we have a line from
    miserliness to thrift to profligacy) you are in the realm of vice, not virtue.

  34. Bob on November 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Rachel,
    If Scrooge were just ‘miserly’, he would have heated his office and home for himself. He would not have eaten just a bowl of potato soup for his dinner.
    So, it’s a tie__ he was both miserly and thifty :)

  35. Rachel Whipple on November 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Bob, I’m going to side with Aristotle and disagree with you. Miserliness is thrift taken so far to the extreme that it is a vice. It is a painful deficiency, not a pleasant mean. We may be working off of different definitions, and if that’s the case, we likely never will agree.

  36. ceej@y on November 4, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Keynes did’t seem to give thrift much respect. What’s up with that? Can LDS people be Keynesians?

  37. Bob on November 4, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Rachel__Sorry, but I already played the Aristotle card by calling it a tie.__a Golden Mean. So he is on my side.(so is Ben Franklin).
    You are talking to a guy who’s Mom put his “Toes out to grass” in the Summer to save his shoes.
    Miserliness (IMO), is an unwilling to give to others. This is not Thrift.

  38. Chadwick on November 8, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Nice post Rachel. Having just returned to the US from Bangalore, we began unpacking our house from being gone so long (16 months). And we quickly realized we have too much stuff. It was truly amazing what we lived off in Bangalore and what we really don’t need now that we are home.

    We immediately began offering excess toys and clothes to neighbors and to the DI. We want to keep the simple life.

    But we don’t want it too simple. Like Alison mentions, prom is an excess. Birthday parties are excess. But they can be nice sometimes. A life of true thrift seems like a life devoid of art, of creativity, etc. I think true thrift is learning how to share and allocate resources. For example, I didn’t like coming home to a house full of toys all over the floor, but I also saw my children get bored with the same five toys we took to India. The ideal seems to be initiating a toy swap. Harder to do that with adult clothes and extra silverware, however.

    I think everyone has to determine their own thrift, and mine is probably more extreme than most, but that’s mostly because I’m a minimalist, not so much because I’m a good steward, though that is a nice benefit I suppose.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.