My daughter said recently that she had been raised to view extremely wealthy people as wicked. I was appalled, since I am one of the primary people who raised her. What messages had I communicated which elicited those words? I admit that my father, on first view of a cousinâ€™s enormous mansion, said simply, â€œWell, that is obscene,â€? and that I have maybe repeated similar sentiments once or twice. I admit that my time living in 3rd World countries has affected my perceptions of wealth, and I have sometimes commented that the price of the richest homes in Utah could feed whole countries. But have I managed to communicate the idea that rich people are wicked? Apparently so. I would suggest that as a church, we generally do not give that message, though. In fact, we might give just the opposite.
Wealthy people refer to themselves as having been blessed by God with â€œmaterial possessionsâ€? (and surely many give liberally to the poor). We make strong implications that if we are full tithe payers, the Lord will reimburse usâ€“sometimes to the penny. And the Parade of Homes is the new fantasyland in Utah, where we visit family-friendly castles decorated by the best designers around and furnished with brand new, brand name furniture. Frequently, scriptures are prominently displayed in these homes, as well as the full Gerald Lund series. Sometimes there are stenciled Mormon cliches on the walls, such as â€œFamilies can be together forever.â€? I admit that Iâ€™ve always wanted to see â€œItâ€™s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Godâ€? beautifully stenciled in the family room. I am intrigued by the apparent contradictions. I am equally intrigued by the evangelical TV programs which ask for money with the words, â€œSow your seed.â€? My favorite is Mike Murdock, an â€œobscenely wealthyâ€? guy (as my father might say) who looks like a used car salesman and sits in a chair staring at the television audience with his hawkish eyes, promising miracles if theyâ€™ll just â€œsow a seed of $58. per month for a year.â€? He suggests that they MIGHT have been chosen by God to be one of His designated millionaires, to do His work with the money Heâ€™ll bless them with. So if you feel impressed that God has chosen you to be one of His millionaires, you should â€œsow that seed.â€? Itâ€™s a sort of Celestial lottery. But do we Mormons do anything similar when we talk about wealth, tithing, prosperity being associated with righteousness, etc.? And which is worseâ€“communicating the idea that very wealthy people are somehow wicked, or the idea that God just might give you a home worthy to be paraded if youâ€™ll keep the commandments?