Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2010, September 29

“Can You Be Rich and Be Saved Also? A Critique of S. Michael Wilcox’s ‘What the Scriptures Teach Us About Prosperity’ (2010 Deseret Book)” by grego

“Can You Be Rich and Be Saved Also? A Critique of S. Michael Wilcox’s ‘What the Scriptures Teach Us About Prosperity’ (2010 Deseret Book)”

grego
(c) 2010

“Yes, you can”, our mission president answered in priesthood class. I tapped him on the shoulder from behind and added, “Yeah, but that’s coming from a multimillionaire”. He chuckled and the lesson continued.

So…?

Reading the review of the book “What the Scriptures Teach Us About Prosperity” (2010 Deseret Book)” at http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2010/02/mormons-and-prosperity/, I heard another answer: NO. However, the short review at http://www.mormontimes.com/article/15482/Whats-New-What-the-Scriptures-Teach-Us-about-Prosperity seems to say that the book says yes.

I’ll take an excerpt from the blog about the book here:
What then is the scriptural view of wealth? “There is very little about wealth in the standard works that is optimistic in nature. I usually ask the [institute] class if they can cite a single verse that speaks positively about money. In all my years of teaching, no class has produced a single verse.” Instead, the scriptures contain “a great deal of warning and counsel” (p. 2).

Well, maybe because he teaches at the University of Utah… ;)

Let’s see if I can dig up a few verses and stories, let’s see…

Book of Mormon
—It’s possible that without Lehi’s wealth, Nephi wouldn’t have been able to write his records.
—Without Lehi’s wealth, he wouldn’t have been able to leave Jerusalem so fast and well-prepared.
—Without Lehi’s wealth, Nephi wouldn’t have gotten the Brass Plates (see my brass plates articles if in doubt).
—Jacob, given the perfect opportunity to condemn riches in Jacob 2, does not.
—Where does the master of the oliveyard get his servants if he doesn’t make any money? Does he perhaps run it under an NPO, and get donations from wicked rich men?
—Where does Alma get all his money to go preach everywhere, for years? Another freeloading prophet (not that I’m against that!)? Zeezrom? Amulek?
—“Prosper” sections of verses show up 46 times; the great majority are about living well, and the connection between prospering and riches is often explicit, such as in the verses below.
—The Nephites/ church and its members get rich over and over, as the Lord promises that those who obey his commandments will prosper in the land:
Jarom 1:8 And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war…
9 And thus being prepared to meet the Lamanites, they did not prosper against us. But the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.

Alma 1:29 And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth.
30 And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.
31 And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church.

Alma 9:22 Yea, and after having been delivered of God out of the land of Jerusalem, by the hand of the Lord; having been saved from famine, and from sickness, and all manner of diseases of every kind; and they having waxed strong in battle, that they might not be destroyed; having been brought out of bondage time after time, and having been kept and preserved until now; and they have been prospered until they are rich in all manner of things—

Alma 50:18 And they did prosper exceedingly, and they became exceedingly rich; yea, and they did multiply and wax strong in the land.
19 And thus we see how merciful and just are all the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words unto the children of men; yea, we can behold that his words are verified, even at this time, which he spake unto Lehi, saying:
20 Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

Alma 62:48 And the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to multiply and to wax exceedingly strong again in the land. And they began to grow exceedingly rich.
51 And they did pray unto the Lord their God continually, insomuch that the Lord did bless them, according to his word, so that they did wax strong and prosper in the land.

4 Nephi 1:23 And now I, Mormon, would that ye should know that the people had multiplied, insomuch that they were spread upon all the face of the land, and that they had become exceedingly rich, because of their prosperity in Christ.

Ether 6:28 And he began to reign, and the people began to prosper; and they became exceedingly rich.

Ether 9:16 And the Lord began again to take the curse from off the land, and the house of Emer did prosper exceedingly under the reign of Emer; and in the space of sixty and two years they had become exceedingly strong, insomuch that they became exceedingly rich—
17 Having all manner of fruit, and of grain, and of silks, and of fine linen, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things;
18 And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.
19 And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.
20 And thus the Lord did pour out his blessings upon this land, which was choice above all other lands; and he commanded that whoso should possess the land should possess it unto the Lord…

Ether 10:16 And after he had obtained unto himself the kingdom he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord; and the people did prosper in the land; and he did live to a good old age, and begat sons and daughters; and he also begat Corom, whom he anointed king in his stead.
28 And never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands, for the Lord had spoken it.

Old Testament
—Abraham (Genesis 24:35), Isaac (Genesis 26:12-14, 16), and Jacob (Genesis 30, 32) had vast riches.
—Money and prosperity were important in the Joseph in Egypt story, his family’s survival, the fulfillment of God’s promises made to Abraham, including those regarding the promised land.

New Testament
—Gold, frankincense, and myrrh sure didn’t hurt Joseph, Mary, and Jesus on their travel and long stay in Egypt; in fact, without it, Jesus might not have lived.
—I doubt Jesus and his apostles were scavengers and freeloaders for years.
—The parable of the talents.

Doctrine and Covenants
—Doctrine and Covenants 38:16 And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons.
18 And I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh;
39 And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.

Doctrine and Covenants 67:2 Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands, and the riches of eternity are mine to give.

Doctrine and Covenants 90:22 And let the bishop search diligently to obtain an agent, and let him be a man who has got riches in store—a man of God, and of strong faith—

Modern church
No money = no church buildings, no temples, no land, …

Is that a complete list? Nope. Just what I got for the time I put in.

-=
So…?

First, let’s drop the belief that the scriptures have little positive or optimistic to say about riches/ money.

Being rich is like being smart, being strong, being ___ (put in any positive attribute here), being good at ___, having a talent, etc.—a positive attribute that can either bless or curse the person. Sure, riches are often a stumbling block to being saved for many; for those who don’t use them properly; for those whose hearts are set upon them.

Man is made to prosper, which certainly includes being rich. However, riches, as other blessings and “property”, are the Lord’s—we are stewards—and to be used the way He would have us use them: to bless.

In closing, I believe Wilcox does better when he says:
“Because it is such an important part of our mortal test, and because so much unhappiness and misery is caused by not using the resources of the earth properly, it is not at all surprising that the Lord has filled his sacred books with counsel for us all, no matter what income level we have or hope to achieve,” Wilcox wrote in the book’s introduction. “If we can master his lessons we can not only anticipate greater security and happiness in our financial endeavors, but also healthier family relationships; for problems dealing with money are the number one divider of family unity.”

2 Comments »

  1. So the argument is because God blesses people temporally it’s OK to be rich? Many of your scriptures are not talking about “riches” in the way S. Michael Wilcox is. Riches of Eternity has nothing to do with net worth. Often the Doctrine in Covenants uses the word riches in reference to Eternal Life (D&C 6:7) Also a people growing rich does not mean the same thing as an individual being rich. I agree that wealth is like our other talents and that we are accountable for how we use it, but this is exactly what S. Michael Wilcox is talking about. There are no scriptures that explicitly state that it is OK for an individual to have a lot of money and to keep it for themselves (If you give away your money, you do not qualify as rich in the world’s definition). However there are many that say you should not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth. You would be correct to think that having money is not a sin. However it is a sin to have more of it than someone else. “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.” (D&C 49: God wants us to be rich as a people, which means that we cannot lay up treasures on earth as individuals. Using money is awesome. Loving money is the root of all evil. (Timothy 6:10)

    You and I can agree that whether you have been blessed with a little or a lot, in the end it all belongs to the Lord, so use what you need to feed, clothe, and house your family and plan for thier future, then give the rest to him. One who does this will most certainly prosper, but will never be what the world calls “rich”.

    Comment by Anonymous — 2012, September 8 @ 9:08 am

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I disagree with Wilcox and much of what you say, and I think the plethora of scriptures regarding wealth that I quoted—and many that I didn’t quote—make my case quite clear. It would take a whole lot of wiggling to get around all those scriptures.

    I agree with “You and I can agree that whether you have been blessed with a little or a lot, in the end it all belongs to the Lord”, but not necessarily the rest of that paragraph. If you can show me anywhere in the scriptures that this is the case, I’ll put it up.

    “However it is a sin to have more of it than someone else. “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.”” Is this the correct interpretation, or have you done as I, and “gotten it wrong”? What is “possess” here? Would you willingly give your money to lazy people, criminals, etc.? Are there limits and guidelines to what the Lord is saying? (D and C 58, for example?)

    Notice this counsel: Doctrine and Covenants 57:6 And let my servant Sidney Gilbert stand in the office to which I have appointed him, to receive moneys, to be an agent unto the church, to buy land in all the regions round about, INASMUCH AS CAN BE DONE IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND AS WISDOM SHALL DIRECT. That, I believe—along with inspiration/ revelation—is the key to money management.

    Notice the intro story–it seems it’s always the rich who talk about being rich is good, and the poor talk about the need to be poor to be a true disciple of Jesus. Neither is correct, and the scriptures are clear on it. By the way, I assume you are monetarily poor?

    And last but not least, how is covering basic needs and giving the rest to the Church working for you? (And how does that compare with counsel from prophets to “lay up in store” savings, money, food, etc.?)

    Sorry, this post was not a complete treatise on money and the gospel, but an answer to Wilcox’s question.

    grego

    P.S. One more question for you to think about; If the 70, mission presidents, and temple presidents gave up all their wealth, would they all still have been called to serve? Do they also “lie in sin”?

    Comment by grego — 2012, September 10 @ 3:37 am


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