Spiritual Pickpockets

August 16, 2009 | 93 comments
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Does God want you to be rich? Certainly! If you believe Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, preaching their form of Prosperity Theology. They are the focus of an August 15 article at the New York Times. (H/T BCC)

Known also as Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, or Name it and Claim it; Prosperity Theology is moving from Pentecostal congregations and mega-churches into more mainstream denominations. It is a theology colored with American materialism and Tony Robbins positivism, and it motivates one not simply for the good life, but a good life ordained of God.

And why not? After all, since God is a loving and doting father, is it any wonder that he wishes to spoil us? It’s only our faith that keeps us from prosperity. This world was designed for us, and as Mrs. Copeland preaches, ““God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you.”

I wish he’d send a little more my way.

So, seriously, what about us, as Mormons? Are we susceptible to this prosperity theology? I think so. Certainly not in such an overt or conspicuous way, but our brand of prosperity theology takes many of the same scriptures as a foundation. When was the last time you heard Malachi quoted?

Prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

While we certainly talk of blessings aside from material wealth, we also assure one another through anecdotes and testimonies that the tithes and offerings presented will be offset in some metaphysical and miraculous way.

And what about the subtle comments, teachings, and social pressures faced within the wards. Witness a few weeks ago, in a youth primary class studying 1 Kings and the promise to Solomon, when a young boy raised his hand and asked, “If we keep the commandments, will we be rich?” The instructor hesitated for a moment, then said simply, “Yes.”

Or witness the growth and popularity, especially in Utah County, of Multi-Level Marketing and get rich quick schemes that prey upon relationships among trusting family and ward members, callously calling such prospects a “warm pool”. Just last week on my commute I passed a very nice white sedan with faux gold accents sporting an RULDS2 sticker right next to the personalized license plate of a popular MLM company. No doubt this brother was sitting atop a nice pyramid organization and reaping the benefits of the Health and Wealth craze. But at whose expense?

And need I link to all of the recent investment scams proliferating through the LDS communities? Where con-artists prey upon ward relationships and trusting members? “But he is Mormon!” Indeed.

Are those who have riches and prosperity granted such by God? Does God care? We talk about the desire to have money in order to do more good – a noble and praiseworthy goal. But does such a desire followed by attaining the wealth to accomplish that desire necessarily mean that God has bestowed the wealth? I don’t think so. In fact, I argue strongly against any correlation at all. Granted, for those who use money and wealth to do good, I trust God smiles upon their efforts. But I dispute the notion that God grants such wealth, or that He removes it or prevents one from obtaining it.

Such a belief, even if privately held, is insidious. It destroys community and eliminates any hope of Zion, resulting in subtle judgements about the worthiness and standing of other members or visitors based on their dress, their car, their home or apartment. Good luck with that Zion concept.

I’m simply not interested in worshipping a God that capriciously grants wealth and comfort to a select few, while allowing pious and worthy people from all over to suffer and die in poverty.

We are incredibly inconsistent, for while we do not blame God for temporal disasters and we wouldn’t dare attribute the horrible and devastating events we witness each day to him, we are quick to thank him for micro-managing our day to day affairs and for granting us the wonderful blessings. Why are we quick to thank God for the safe return of a missing child, and then silently weep for those who never come home? Why did God smile upon one family, but turn his face away from so many, many others? Either he has his hands in everything, or his hand set the course in motion and he has stepped back to allow the temporal world to act in a natural manner.

Now I’m certainly not going to forgo any financial windfalls that may be lurking around the next corner, but Mormon teachings inspire me to celebrate the nature of this world and muddle through. The idea that we are co-eternal, that we agreed to come here knowing that it would be hellish, and the idea that this is simply a temporal existence placed within our eternal selves – that we will be okay, these teachings inspire me to a belief in a loving God that trusts us and allows us to grow.

But in allowing us to grow, he also must give us space. My concept of God, my personal theology, is that he loves us, but he is distant. He gives us room, and he knows/trusts/hopes that we will do that which furthers his plan. Sometimes we won’t. Sometimes things get ugly. But his plan is such that, on the whole and collectively, we step forward more than we step back, and in the process he grows and learns with us and through us.

The ramifications of this belief are sobering, but they are also inspiring. The concept of being co-eternal and growing to become like God places serious responsibility squarely upon our shoulders. What we do matters – it matters to us, and it matters in God’s plan. Our progression is dependent upon our internalizing Christ’s teachings and reflecting them in our life – not only for our own soul, but for future generations as well. Our actions matter to us, to our family, to our community, and to this world. It is a theology that is both empowering and frightening, for we cannot simply sit back and trust that the course is determined, rather we must acknowledge that we affect the course of this world each day.

I am not interested in acting out my life upon a stage for the amusement of a capricious creator. I am not interested in thanking God for bumping me from economy class to business class – I don’t think he gives a flip about how I travel. But I do thank him and honor him for setting this world in motion, for stepping back, for trusting us, for gently guiding us, and for allowing us the room to grow. Yes, it can be painful. Yes, it gets ugly. But this was the existence we agreed to, the one we celebrated, the grand opportunity.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

93 Responses to Spiritual Pickpockets

  1. rk on August 16, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    I hear what you are saying, but I do think that the lifestyle of a practicing members helps him/her financially. For example, paying tithes and offerings can help people learn to budget. Not drinking, smoking or gambling saves a lot of money. Following counsel to avoid and get out of debt helps families and individuals to be more healthy financially. Getting an education can also help increase earning power. Doing these things may not make you rich, but an individual following this advice may very well have sufficient for their needs.

  2. Stephen Palmer on August 16, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    There are a lot of resources here for people wanting to go straight to the source and do the research on this topic:

    http://www.godslawsoffinance.com/resources/

    “For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” -2 Nephi 4:4

    “The Lord has demonstrated throughout the generations that when the inhabitants of the earth remember him and are obedient to his direction, he will bless them not only with spiritual blessings, but with material abundance as well. The scriptures contain many evidences of the Lord’s willingness to prosper his people with the riches of the earth when they demonstrate that they will use this abundance prudently, with humility and charity, always acknowledging the source of their blessings.”
    -Dean L. Larsen, The Lord Will Prosper The Righteous

    “It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints, that a religion which has not the power to save people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here, cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, to exalt them in the life to come.”
    -President Joseph F. Smith, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith

    “When the lives of the people are in harmony with the Lord’s will, all of the essential factors that produce the blessings God deigns to give to his children seem to come into line. Love and harmony prevail. Even the weather, the climate, and the elements seem to respond. Peace and tranquility endure. Industry and progress mark the lives of the people.”
    -Dean L. Larsen, The Lord Will Prosper the Righteous

    “When this people are prepared to properly use the riches of this world for the building up of the Kingdom of God, He is ready and willing to bestow them upon us. I like to see men get rich by their industry, prudence, management and economy, and then devote it to the building up of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.”
    -President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, 114-115

    “The love of money is the root of many evils because it often involves selfishness. On the other hand, the wise use of money involves principles of righteousness. It involves sacrifice and discipline. It is the acid test of our faith.”
    -James E. Faust, Doing the Best Things in the Worst of Times

    “One of the greatest lessons I have learned during my lifetime about doing the best things in the worst times is that people who pay their tithing in both difficult times and good times get along better. They simply have fewer problems; there are fewer family problems and fewer financial problems. Their outlook is more positive, their ability to do and function is increased, and they prosper spiritually as well as temporally.”
    -James E. Faust, Doing the Best Things in the Worst of Times

    Our labor should be honest labor and quality labor. The only honorable way for each of us to share in the world’s wealth is to exchange our own goods and services for those produced by someone else. The Saints would be in demand everywhere and could command premium compensation if we would accept the challenge to set a Mormon standard of quality, unique because of its excellence. This is part of our religion.” -J. Richard Clarke

    “Now is the time for all the people to study true economy, and to begin to retrench and free themselves from debt, and become a free and independent people. … If we will only do our duty as Latter-day Saints and be wise in the use of our means, circumstances will be overruled for us, our labors will be blessed unto us, the land will be made fruitful, and we will reap bountiful harvests and rejoice in them; for God will bestow His favors upon His faithful children.”
    -Joseph F. Smith

    “Anciently He told Israel that He would prevent droughts and provide good harvests if they would serve Him and keep His commandments. He makes the same promise to us. He also said He would open the windows of heaven and pour out such great blessings upon us that we could hardly contain them if we would pay an honest tithing. So you see that the principle of tithe paying is introduced as part of the Lord’s plan for our own welfare and self-preservation.” -Mark E. Peterson

    “If we do right, there will be an eternal increase among this people in talent, strength and intellect, and earthly wealth, from this time, henceforth, and forever.”
    -Brigham Young

  3. Mark B. on August 16, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Great post, Rory. You did leave out the wonderful name of one of the purveyors of that nonsense: the Rev. Creflo Dollar!

    It would seem odd that a God who teaches us not to lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust and falling real estate values corrupt would have decided now to reward His most faithful children with precisely those same treasures.

    Sadly, rk’s comment shows near-total ignorance of the millions of faithful saints who have lived lives of grinding poverty, without any hope of having “sufficient” for their needs. He should get out more.

  4. Julie M. Smith on August 16, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    “If we keep the commandments, will we be rich?” The instructor hesitated for a moment, then said simply, “Yes.”

    Ergo, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith didn’t keep the commandments.

  5. Crownbrown on August 16, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    On my mission in western PA/NY I saw a really awful form of this. Walking the neighborhoods you would see evey third house returning a mailer to “St. Matthews Church” which had sent them a paper “prayer rug” or “handkerchief” which promised them whatever they checked on the “Blessing” sheet. Fill in the dollar amount and it will be yours, but wait, why not making a monetary “seed offering” to our church to get things going?

    In a depressed and poor part of the country, this tack worked wonderfully for St. Matthews Church, which was fradulently run out of a P.O. box in Tulsa, OK.

    I cringe slightly when I hear the tithing stories, not to say I question them (I’m not interesting in playing adjudicator to someone’s testimony) but surely there are times, as with other commandments, where the “expected” blessing doesn’t come, or doesn’t come in the form or time we expect. If the only blessing given for paying tithing is material miracles, then we have missed the point and build the hopes up of people who will never see the material rewards of tithe paying, but will reap a spiritual bounty.

    I agree with #1: there are aspects of righteous living that will cause one to be more likely properous within the sphere they operate in then they likely would have been overwise. But our lives are still so very short, we are told to store up riches in heaven, and not on earth. As Saints we have a special mission and message, and to spend our time making money because we think it is required to allow us to serve in and build the kingdom is false notion and a waste of precious time and attention.

    Elder Bednar mentioned in a closed door priesthood meeting I attending that in many ways the church operates more effectively in places like Africa where a Relief Society president doesn’t have a blackberry or spreadsheet to “guide” her work, but instead (*gasp*) relies solely on the spirit to tell her who she needs to see and when. There are ways our prosperity gets in the way of serving.

  6. Jonathan Green on August 16, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Hm, I don’t see any ignorance in rk’s comment. The church teaches things that actually help people. It may not make you a millionaire, but following the church’s teachings is one way to avoid totally screwing up your life, which is a real drag on personal finances.

    Rory, I think I understand your position and I sympathize, but I think I disagree. I think the scriptural injunctions to pray for daily bread, pray over fields and flocks, and give thanks to God in all things are too clear to let us say that God doesn’t care about such things. At the minimum, he seems to want us to care about them, and to mention them in our prayers, even if we can’t resolve all the contradictions in a capitalist economy. Then there are more than a few scriptures that predicate material blessings on personal righteousness, not to mention the church programs (PEF, welfare, etc.) where the goal is for people to be materially better off.

    I wouldn’t call this the ‘Gospel of Wealth.’ It’s possible to misconstrue the same scriptures and teachings and derive from it a Mormon gospel of wealth, but there is (by definition) nothing good or true that can’t be misused. If we dropped every doctrine that could be abused to promote toxic ideas, we would believe nothing at all.

  7. Stephanie on August 16, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Sounds like priestcrafts, as defined by the BofM: preaching false doctrines for riches and honor (Alma 1:16)

  8. Carol on August 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    The prosperity theology seems to translate into a love of money, a concept that wealth is a consequence of faith in God. The prosperity doctrine is false doctrine. When the windows of heaven pour out blessings on us when we pay our tithing, those blessings may not be immediate, monetary ones.

    Elder Wirthlin said, “For me, the Lord has opened the windows of heaven and showered blessings upon my family beyond my ability to express. Yet like everyone else, I have had times in my life when it seemed that the heaviness of my heart might be greater than I could bear (“Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 26–28).

    I have paid our tithing throughout my life, but have not expected to be materially blessed. There have been lean years and prosperous ones, and I have learned much from both.

    We cannot assume that tithing will bring instant prosperity any more than we can assume that living the Word of Wisdom will cause everyone to be healthy. Does obedience to God’s commandments bless us? Yes. Do we always receive the kind of blessing we anticipate? I don’t think so.

    Elder Hales said, “The temporal and spiritual blessings of tithing are specifically tailored to us and our families, according to the Lord’s will (“Tithing: A Test of Faith with Eternal Blessings,” Liahona, Nov 2002, 26–29).

    The lives of Job, Joseph Smith, and Jesus show that temporal trial afflict the righteous as they do the wicked. Perhaps that is one of the many reasons God asks us not to judge others, for we cannot assume that someone is “wicked” because he or she is suffering great tribulations anymore than we can assume someone is “righteous” because he/she is blessed with wealth or good health.

    I believe this statement by President Faust says it all: “As a boy, I learned a great lesson of faith and sacrifice as I worked on my grandfather’s farm during the terrible economic depression of the 1930s. The taxes on the farm were unpaid, and Grandfather, like so many, had no money. There was a drought in the land, and some cows and horses were dying for lack of grass and hay.

    “One day when we were harvesting what little hay there was in the field, Grandfather told us to take the wagon to the corner of the field where the best hay was, fill the wagon as full as we could, and take it to the tithing yard as payment of his tithing.

    “I wondered how Grandfather could use the hay to pay tithing when some of the cows that we were depending upon to sustain us might starve. I even questioned if the Lord expected that much sacrifice. Ultimately I marveled at his great faith that somehow the Lord would provide. The legacy of faith he passed on to his posterity was far greater than money, because he established in the minds of his children and grandchildren that he loved the Lord and His holy work more than earthly things. Grandfather never became wealthy, but he died at peace with the Lord and with himself.

    “The law of tithing is simple: we pay one-tenth of our individual increase. Our increase is our income. This principle is fundamental to the personal happiness of Church members worldwide, both rich and poor. Tithing is a principle of sacrifice and a key to opening the windows of heaven.

    “The ultimate offering was that offered by the Savior Himself in giving His very life. It causes each of us to wonder, ‘How many drops of blood were shed for me?’ I witness that Jesus is the Christ, the healer of our souls, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind” (“Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice: Opening the Windows of Heaven,” Liahona, Sep 2002, 2).

  9. Geoff B on August 16, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Rory, regarding this:

    “I’m simply not interested in worshipping a God that capriciously grants wealth and comfort to a select few, while allowing pious and worthy people from all over to suffer and die in poverty.”

    I think you ought to be humble enough to realize that the Lord uses the world’s wealth for His own purposes. Lehi could not have taken his family across the wilderness if he were a pauper. Such a journey involves a considerable amount of wealth — camels, tents, steel bows, etc. The Lord probably had a hand in allowing him to accumulate this wealth so that Lehi would be prepared when the calling came.

    In the same way, Abraham, Jacob and Isaac were all relatively wealthy, as was, of course, Joseph. In each case, their relatively wealth allowed them to have the leisure time to study the scriptures and develop their followings (rather than slaving away in a field growing crops 12 hours a day). There were times during Joseph Smith’s life that he was relatively wealthy, and Brigham Young was clearly one of wealthier people in SLC during the 1860s.

    Having seen the “prosperity gospel” up close, I completely reject it as corrupt foolishness. But clearly there are reasons for the many quotations from prophets and the scriptures indicating we should pay our tithing and live good worthy lives, and that one of our rewards may sometimes be physical comforts while on the Earth.

    One thing to ponder: most of the chapels and temples in the Third World are paid for by the tithing of people in the relatively prosperous United States. The Lord is using our relatively wealth to subsidize others. So, it appears that there clearly is a purpose for some people to get wealthy while others are relatively poor.

  10. Rory Swensen on August 16, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Jonathan, I wouldn’t call the second paragraph in your comment #6 the gospel of wealth, or prosperity theology, either. I tend to look at the injunctions to pray over our fields or our daily bread as more about turning our hearts to God, and keeping us in a state where we might be influenced.

    A few comments have targeted tithes and offerings, and considering my use of Malachi and poking at our use of anecdotes to promise material recompense, I think it reasonable to call me on that. To clarify, I am not criticizing tithes or offerings. They are needed, and they are put to good use. I think it a great thing, as Geoff B points out, that the wealthier saints help those in impoverished areas through these funds.

    My post is directed at the blatantly false doctrine espoused by these prosperity preachers, and at those who would prey upon faith or divine promises to extract money from the trusting. Further, I think it is too easy to fall into a false sense of entitlement, or judging one another by earthly standards.

    And Geoff, I am always humble.

  11. rk on August 16, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    #3 “Sadly, rk’s comment shows near-total ignorance of the millions of faithful saints who have lived lives of grinding poverty, without any hope of having “sufficient” for their needs. He should get out more.”

    Mark B. Thank you for being so honest about your opinion. I’ve seen some “grinding poverty” in my days. I still feel that when these people live the teachings of the gospel and follow counsel, their financial situation may likely improve. I have seen some people in “grinding poverty” spend their money on booze, drugs, coffee and cigarettes. These habits don’t exactly make you richer.

    I’m also grateful that the PEF is now available.

  12. Jeremy on August 16, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Righteousness is no more a guarantee of wealth than wealth is a guarantee of righteousness.

    Prosperity theology, and any form of it that might creep into Mormonism, is utterly stomach-churning to me. I don’ resent anyone’s honestly-earned riches, but I don’t give them spiritual credits for them either, and when we start to I think it’s a sure sign we’re on the downslope of the “pride cycle.”

  13. queuno on August 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    The very Mormon CEO of my company has instituted a mandatory pay cut, work furloughs, and has threatened to increase health care payroll costs, as a way to keep the company afloat. Oh wait, we had a record year and quarter and he got a massive bonus.

    I can’t think of the times I’ve heard people at church say things along the line of “it’s all about my income and my benefits, and screw everyone else”.

    I heard Joel Osteen touting “Name It and Claim It” on the radio as I was getting into my car…

  14. JonW on August 16, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    I agree the philosophy is stomach churning. It reminds me of that idea of taking a philosophy mingling with the gospel and calling it holy. Much like the indulgences which set the wheels turning on the Protestant Reformation these things hearken back to this idea.

    I think when I am living well, which has happened infrequently, I am mindful that the God that gave me life should be recognized for the blessings. I think we should be humble when we have gained wealth because as Christ showed how hard it was to avoid ego and pride.

    I think the Book of Mormon shows that often when people prosper because they keep the commandments some fall after the prosperity over the wealth gained for all.

    This is why I think the Lord commanded us to live the United order, because it reminds us always that the wealth we have is only a tentative thing. If we have been blessed with it we should be mindful that is not ours alone.

    As a poorer saint I do not begrudge others their wealth. I think the Lord blesses us in different ways. I am not blessed with a desire to work 70 hour weeks and obsess full time about work. Because of that I have never had the wealth in money others have had.

    I still consider myself blessed because I have gained in other ways. I do not look at my tithing and say Lord I give you this so that you can give me more back. I pay it as an acknowledgment for the abundant blessings I have already received.

    In the end I think when we obsess about money, either that someone has too much or we do not have enough, we fall into a trap that which leads us to evil thoughts. There is a reason why Paul called the love of money the route of all evil.

  15. JonW on August 16, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    should have been root not route… darn English.

  16. queuno on August 16, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    But don’t forget! If you help poor people get coverage for their health checkups, it will kill Grandma! No righteous nation should ever stoop to this, because it’s against Christ’s wishes…

  17. Jeremy on August 16, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Came across this on a plaque at This Is The Place State Park, in the ZCMI mockup:

    “”Large profits are being concentrated in… few hands, instead of being generally distributed among the people. The community is being rapidly divided into classes and the hateful and unhappy distinctions which the possession and lack of wealth give rise to are becoming painfully apparent.” -Brigham Young

  18. queuno on August 16, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    We got a stern lecture today in Priesthood meeting about how we needed to give more fast offerings if we could. Our stake was in the black last year and are now running in the red this year… Times are tough, and we were “encouraged” to dig deeper and help take care of our fellow men.

  19. It's Not Me on August 16, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    I believe that God put things in motion and sits back and watches. Mostly. Sometimes he intervenes. He certainly did with Paul. And Alma the younger. And countless others. I’ve seen it in my life on many occasions when my prayers have been answered.

    I do not believe that righteousness will automatically result in material wealth. However, I’ve watched two people very close to me work their profession as I have. I’ve watched clients flock to them and watched them make lots of money, doing the same things I’m doing. And, forgive me for speculating, but I don’t think they’re necessarily more righteous than I am. Call me insidious, but I still believe that the difference between me and them is not only known by God, but it is his desire that it be that way. I believe their prosperity is part of the “package” their lives came with.

    I don’t expect to convince anybody else of the truth of this belief, but working side by side with these friends for 16 years you’ll not convince me that I’m wrong.

  20. It's Not Me on August 16, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    “to spend our time making money because we think it is required to allow us to serve in and build the kingdom is false notion and a waste of precious time and attention.”

    What should we spend our time at the office doing? Quoting scriptures to our colleagues? Making money is not a waste of time, though it is silly to think that we must have lots of money to be able to serve in the kingdom. I have a stewardship to do the best I can at my profession and provide for my family. Must there be a balance? Certainly. Is it always easy to know where that is? No. Proper motivation is a plus, but nothing wrong with making money.

  21. Geoff J on August 16, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Rory,

    Are you pushing for some kind of Mormon version of Deism in this post? Sounds like it to me. If so you won’t get much traction I’m afraid. One of the pillars of Mormon theology is that God does indeed intervene in people’s lives and bless them. Sometimes this includes financial prosperity and sometimes not. Now of course one can call this capricious on the part of God or one could simply exercise faith that there are very good reasons for God’s intervention or non-intervention.

    Also, it is worth noting that the Book of Mormon repeatedly promises “inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land”. What the BoM doesn’t do is define what prospering in the land entails so it may or may not include financial success (as you and others have poited out here).

  22. bfwebster on August 17, 2009 at 12:33 am

    The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price — the Mormon half of the Standard Works — have consistently harsh things to say about those who let riches be their god. “Prosper” in a Book-of-Mormon-type civilization means sufficient and dependable food, shelter, and clothing. I daresay a close reading of Malachi 3 indicates much the same thing. Not only is paying tithes and offerings (and/or general righteousness) not a guarantee of wealth, it is quite often a barrier to it; as Neal Maxwell once said, the Lord asks us to give up only those things that would ultimately destroy us.

    While I have certainly seen hints of “prosperity theology” among members of the Church, I’ve never heard anything like that from the general leadership; quite the contrary. The consistent theme I’ve heard over 42 years is: pay tithes and offerings, get out of debt, live within your means, do not get caught up in materialism. Still good advice. ..bruce..

  23. Rory Swensen on August 17, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Geoff J,

    I definitely have deist leanings. I’ve tried many times to petition God to help me find my keys, but I never find them in the first place I look. Without fail, it is always the last.

  24. Jeremy on August 17, 2009 at 12:54 am

    “While I have certainly seen hints of “prosperity theology” among members of the Church, I’ve never heard anything like that from the general leadership…”

    There are lots of things that are widespread in the Church that didn’t come from the general leadership…

  25. Geoff J on August 17, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Rory,

    Well as I mentioned, the obvious and irreconcilable conflict between with a Mormonism and deism is that Mormonism is founded on the claim that not only did God intervene on the earth in ancient times, God is actively intervening on earth today.

    So since deism is off the table what you end up with is the lesser problem of evil of trying to explain an occasionally intervening God in Mormonism.

  26. Velska on August 17, 2009 at 4:22 am

    After having gone through a couple of financial breakdowns, first when economy went haywire in early 1990s, and then in later falling ill and being unable to work, I have been somewhat shocked by having people openly hint about how we must not doing the right things.

    While I am definitely far from perfect, I very much doubt that a deep recession that bankrupted companies producing 80% of my revenue was because I was not righteous enough; that would be a bit megalomaniac of me.

    I have found it to be true, that “after much tribulation come the blessings”. No, I’m still not healthy and wealthy, but my blessings are truly overflowing. And we are not starving, either…

    I don’t know the final answers, but I suspect that the Lord actually seldom intervenes, while he does want us to acknowledge that we depend upon him. Also, as it’s said, “the Lord lets the rains fall on the just and the unjust”. The wisdom to use the blessings we receive wisely would be the greatest blessing of all.

  27. Benjamin Orchard on August 17, 2009 at 7:22 am

    I unequivocally reject any and all forms of prosperity theology. It is too insidious and tempting to accept in any form.

    There are scriptures which, if misinterpreted, that COULD be seen as supportive of such a foolish doctrine. Yet where does that leave the very, very righteous individuals who labor all their days doing the best they can and still have nothing? The Lord blesses us as he chooses.

    Here is the REAL problem with a prosperity theology: it leads us to a logic set that is excessively judgmental and condones a lack of charity. Allow me to lay it out bluntly:

    Assumption: God blesses the righteous with wealth, and with-holds wealth from those that are not righteous (I will not get into the problems with this assumption, but we are taking this assumption as a given).

    Therefore if someone is not wealthy, we can assume they are not righteous.

    Therefore those who are poor have brought this upon themselves.

    Therefore we do not need to help them by sharing our wealth.

    THIS DOES NOT SOUND LIKE THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST TO ME! The gospel of Christ wherein we are commanded to be charitable and love our neighbor as our self. The gospel of Christ where early Christians had all things in common, and the early LDS church tried to live the United Order.

    It does not sound like the gospel of Christ that King Benjamin taught where we are told to not to turn away the beggar. Not to judge, but to give. Without thought of whether or not the person brought it upon themselves.

    Is it possible that after we have obtained a great deal of righteousness that some of us will be blessed with wealth in order to be able to help those in need? Certainly–but you cannot depend on that, and you should not place your faith in it. Do not pay your tithing expecting temporal blessings, or you may find yourself greatly disappointed!

  28. Rory Swensen on August 17, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Geoff J,

    Thanks for the links. I’m with you on the idea of progression among kingdoms and viewing this life as part of our overall journey. I touched on that this past weekend in my This I Believe panel presentation at Sunstone.

    But my deist leanings are not alone in their inconsistencies and irreconcilable conflicts. I simply find them to be the most palatable approach.

  29. Rameumptom on August 17, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I think many LDS in America have embraced the Prosperity Theology. Ever since we’ve become true capitalists in the Church, many LDS seek money, big homes, etc. How many bankruptcies have they had in Utah in the past year, due to buying too much home or owing thousands on credit cards? It is a rampant disease, even in our Church.
    I see many who, instead of seeking learning and wisdom, seek material stuff. While riches are not an evil, per se, the BoM teaches that wealth should only be used to bless the poor around us. Instead, LDS are as filthy rich or as filthy in our riches, as the Gentiles are.
    My sister and husband moved 10 years ago into a neighborhood, where while they live comfortably at about $60K/year, are considered some of the poor in their Utah neighborhood. Several people in the ward and stake look down at them and others for their “poverty.”

    Brigham Young thought that the worst thing that could happen to the Saints is to become rich. And Hugh Nibley wrote disappointingly about his grandfather, Bishop Charles Nibley, for his frequent attempts at getting rich quick, even by skirting Church standards. For instance, in obtaining financing for the Hotel Utah, he agreed to pay it off quickly by putting a bar in the basement!

    How many of us put bars in our basements, in order to become wealthy?

  30. Tim on August 17, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Some of the best people I’ve known have dedicated their lives to teaching in public schools, and are thus poor. I knew a fantastic young teacher, his family’s sole breadwinner, who left a good job as an engineer to make bad pay in a stressful job.
    I left the teaching career, partly for better pay. I think God will honor those who sacrifice their salary for a higher calling before he honors those who make the big bucks. That honor, however, will probably not come in the form of money.
    It’s useful to remember Brigham Young’s worries about the future of the members of the church.
    “The worst fear….I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church….My greater fear….is that they cannot stand wealth.”

  31. queuno on August 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I always felt that how I earned my living was as important as the living itself.

  32. CS Eric on August 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I reject the Prosperity Theology based on personal experience. We are one of the few single income families in our ward, and yet are able to afford the largest, nicest house in the ward. And I challenge anybody to the claim that I, as the sole income earner, am therefore the most righteous person in the ward. I feel pretty comfortable in denying that claim.

  33. danithew on August 17, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Couldn’t help but think of the following quip …

    “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.” – Woody Allen

  34. DavidH on August 17, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Quick comment on the Lord’s prayer and asking for “daily bread”. Interesting that Jesus did not instruct us to ask for “tomorrow’s bread” as well as today’s. I think He may have been referring back to the experience with Manna, where God provided only enough for the day, and not enough for the next one (with one exception, on the sixth day they could gather enough for the Sabbath as well).

    In our LDS tradition, I think our “daily bread” would include food storage, generally up to a year’s supply. I also do not think praying for “daily bread” precludes saving for life’s contingencies, including retirement. As far as I can see, though, the Lord’s prayer does not suggest that we should pray for more than our own needs.

  35. TStevens on August 17, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Once in Stake conference I heard someone testify that they paid tithing when they were laid off at a 10% rate of the salary they wanted. They ended up, after a period of time, getting a job at that desired income. A lot of people felt this was an inspirational story we should all model. I just tried to imagine a scenario wherein God learns Brother X is overpaying his tithing and upsetting the eternal plan. So much so an Angel is dispatched immediately to balance the heavenly scales again.

    Maybe I am just cynical.

    BTW – I really like the post title – very catchy.

  36. reese on August 17, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    In my experience, Stake presidents and up *overwhelmingly* are well off compared to the rank and file of the church.

    Does this come because there is a bias in callings towards the wealthy, or does God bless those he wants to lead the church with the financial resources to do it.

    And if God blesses those he wants to lead the church, it’s easy to see why some members chase appearances of wealth at the expense of common sense, family relationships, and a deeper experience with the gospel. Why bother developing empathy and spiritual knowledge when you can attempt to shortcut to power by just acquiring the money?

  37. gst on August 17, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    To Stephen Palmer (#2 above): Thank you for the link that shows us where where to buy your crackpot book. I look forward to gaining the benefit of your George Wythe education in Statesmanship. (I’m a Thunderwood College man myself. http://thunderwoodcollege.com/)

  38. Scott B. on August 17, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    gst speaks the truth.

  39. Julie M. Smith on August 17, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    gst,

    As you know, I’m no fan of TJE/GWU, but Stephen Palmer is a good guy (I know him IRL). He’s new here; cut him some slack.

  40. Alison Moore Smith on August 18, 2009 at 2:00 am

    I’m simply not interested in worshipping a God that capriciously grants wealth and comfort to a select few, while allowing pious and worthy people from all over to suffer and die in poverty.

    My thoughts were along the lines of Geoff J. (#21). I’ve struggled the past few years to make sense of what seems to be random intervention.

    Three years ago I was miraculously healed from adhesive capsulitis after a blessing from my husband. While part of me wanted to throw myself in the middle of the road and praise God, the other part couldn’t grasp why God didn’t save one of my dear, young friends from brain cancer instead of fixing my stupid arm. (There was no way it was because I was more righteous.) Or why he seemed not to notice some of the even more debilitating issues in our lives.

    I simply don’t know how to reconcile the command NOT to lean on the arm of the flesh, while also NOT being able to depend on God to step in when we need him. I mean, if he’s just spectating (if that), then hadn’t I better step up and take charge?

    While I remember reading in parenting books that random reinforcement produces better results than regular reinforcement, I hate to think God’s just using this as a manipulation. But a deist outlook, to me, is pretty darn lonely.

    BTW, I just got a PhD in magnetic therapy. Thank you, gst.

  41. Rory Swensen on August 18, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Alison,

    It’s not lonely, we’re all here together.

    My views on progression and salvation are strikingly close to Geoff J’s, it seems we part ways when it comes to divine intervention or divine management. But your experiences? I certainly wouldn’t discount them. I’m not a consistent deist, I’ve experienced similar things and I struggle to make sense of them. I’m just muddling through. Next week, I may change my mind.

    And I had no idea that magnets could benefit from therapy.

  42. Mark B. on August 18, 2009 at 11:25 am

    My dog, who was already a healer, a caring nurturer, but not a licensed psychologist, got her degree last night in Healing Touch. And what a difference that has made!

  43. Natasha on August 18, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Here is my quick reply to your post: http://moourl.com/v49f9

  44. Stephen Palmer on August 18, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    GST, if you spend some time on our website, you’ll notice that the book cannot be purchased anywhere; it’s not even finished.

    Why do you call it a “crackpot book”? And what does that even mean anyway? Can you give me a definition? Do you have specific, intelligent arguments against anything I say on the website or in our e-book?

    Have I not done proper research? Am I way out of line with prophetic teaching on this topic? Do I have ulterior motives? And if any of these are true, can you provide reasonable arguments to support your claim of “crackpottery”? Will you please argue respectfully and in a Christian manner, rather than tossing out ridiculous, disparaging, flippant comments?

    How much of the site have you actually read? And how many of these talks have you read from prophets?

    And Julie, thanks for your comment. What I would really appreciate, however, is specific, rational, respectful, and intellectually honest discussion. If someone disagrees with me, fine, but provide intelligent reasons why, and please do so in a Christian manner. Don’t just “cut me slack” just because I’m new here or because I’m a “good guy.” Being a good guy says nothing about the merits, or lack thereof, of God’s Laws of Finance. If it’s a “crackpot” book, it’s a crackpot book regardless of if I’m a good guy or not.

    And GST, have you read enough of our site to understand our intentions and our motivation behind writing the book? For anyone interested in the truth, rather than frivolous criticism, you’ll find them here.

    The whole point of our book is to transcend personal opinion on this topic and go right to prophetic sources. I commented on this thread to give others the same opportunity. You’ll notice that all my first comment did was direct people to prophetic resources and give quotes from prophets and apostles. I did that for a specific reason; I didn’t want to dilute my comments with personal opinions.

  45. Stephen Palmer on August 18, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    To the moderator: I have just read your user policies. I have not included links in my comments to try to promote my website; I had very specific reasons for doing so that I thought would add to the thread. However, had I read your policies before posting my most recent comment (which is awaiting moderation), I would not have included any links.

    Assuming my comment will get posted, will you strip out the links first? (This may require some editing, such as when I say “these talks”).

    Thank you.

  46. TStevens on August 19, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Magnetic Therapy is a very specialized field in which you provide counseling to Magneto. The life span of the therapist is fairly short, hence the great need.

  47. gst on August 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    “Will you please argue respectfully and in a Christian manner, rather than tossing out ridiculous, disparaging, flippant comments?”

    I never have before, but hey, let’s give it a shot.

    So’s I went to your website to read your e-book. I have concluded that I’m not interested in Joseph Smith’s personal finance advice. (Though I believe him to be a prophet.) If you recall, he wasn’t much of a banker.

    And, I don’t read the Book of Mormon for geography lessons, much less as a manual for how to secure my retirement. And not just because I don’t think it would be a good guide, but because it cheapens the book.

  48. Stephen Palmer on August 19, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    How about advice from Jesus Christ, Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith, Harold B. Lee, Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, James E. Faust, Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry, M. Russell Ballard, Dallin H. Oaks, Joseph Wirthlin, Robert D. Hales, Marion G. Romney, N. Eldon Tanner, Marvin J. Ashton, J. Richard Clark, Franklin D. Richards, Mark E. Peterson, Dean L. Larsen, Joe Christensen, and H. Burke Peterson?

    Do they also not have anything to offer you in the financial realm?

    And what about the idea permeating the book and underlying our model (see Chapter 2) that the ideals of Christian personal finance are to build the kingdom of God, achieve eternal happiness, and to serve our neighbors? That these are the whole purpose for being wise with our finances? Are these the “crackpot” ideas you’re referencing?

    (Please note that we don’t even mention retirement once in the book.)

    Still waiting for intelligent proof of crackpottery…

  49. gst on August 19, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Stephen, I would trust all of those people, with the possible exceptions of Jesus Christ, Brigham Young, Joseph Wirthlin and Joe Christensen, because they apparently use no initials in their names, which of course makes them suspect.

    if you could answer one question for me I think it will help me figure out whether we have any disagreement: Can a person faithfully follow the precepts outlined in your book, whatever their primary source, and still end up flat broke? Because if you’re telling me that you have discerned a formula for financial riches based on the scriptures and teachings of church authorities, then I think that’s kiln-fired crackpottery.

  50. Stephen Palmer on August 19, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Would you go so far as to say that brand of crackpottery is glazed? Admittedly a bad joke; just trying to match your razor wit (without cutting myself in the process).

    I see your point. I get it. I’m with you — as long as we agree contextually. (Which, by the way, is one reason why I thought your initial reaction so strange. Had you taken the time to research our book, you would have realized how much in agreement we actually are.) I also see and agree with many of the points Rory has brought out.

    There’s a specific reason why I have not been overt about these agreements. I have already stated this reason, which is this: the entire point of our book is to transcend personal opinion and get financial advice straight from the “horse’s mouth” (if I can be so crass as to use that metaphor when referring to Deity and prophets).

    Our journey in a nutshell is this: I spent two years in the financial services industry. I have co-authored or ghostwritten 7 books on personal finance. My wife and I were immersed in what I refer to (and what Rory refers to) as the “prosperity industry” (i.e. people who get rich by telling other people how to get rich and who use the spiritual rhetoric spoken of by Rory). We have experienced firsthand the destruction wreaked by “spiritual pickpockets,” this financial priestcraft. You name it, I’ve read it. We spent thousands of dollars trying to soak up as much information as possible on the subjects of personal finance, investing, entrepreneurship, et al.

    Then we failed. Monumentally. Excruciatingly.

    That failure forced us to face this fact: We had spent thousands of dollars and hours on learning the “wisdom of men, mingled with scripture.” We wanted to know everything God had to say on the above topics from His sources.

    So we studied.

    And from our studies emerged a clear model, which is this: 1) start with the ideals (building the kingdom, achieving eternal happiness, serving our fellowman, everything Jacob talks about in Jacob chapter 2, these are the proper reasons for wanting to thrive financially), 2) prepare and protect (basics such as food storage, insurance, savings, tax and estate planning), 3) manage our finances on an ongoing basis (tithing, cash flow management, budgeting, etc.), 4) choose the right career (believe it or not, the prophets have given much specific advice on this), 5) increase our productivity, and 6) after all of these come the blessings. Then, ideally, once we receive these blessings, we reinvest them back into building the kingdom and serving others more.

    Whether or not you agree with that specific model format, the point is that we have been given tons of advice on every aspect and phase of personal finance.

    To answer your question directly, I would refer again to 2 Nephi 4: 4: “For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” There are, as I’m sure you’re aware, many other scriptures that repeat this.

    The core issues at stake here are context and definitions.

    Two people in the same ward. One makes tons of money, the other barely scrapes by. Is the first righteous and the second wicked? We can’t make that judgment without more information; to do so would be ridiculous. It would be the classic fallacy of confusing correlation with causation.

    Could someone in Madagascar find it more difficult to prosper than someone in America, even though they were more righteous than the American? Obviously. Are there other issues at stake regarding prosperity than simply wickedness and righteousness (e.g. God wants to test our faith, circumstances beyond our control, people using their agency to harm us, etc.)? Of course. And, to bring up a point Julie Smith made earlier, was Joseph Smith’s suffering a result of unrighteousness? Or how about Abinadi, Job, Alma, and Amulek? Of course not.

    (While I’m on Julie’s point, I don’t agree with her example of Jesus Christ. Turning water into wine, feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, “all that the Father hath,” etc. sounds pretty rich to me. I would say that Christ was the wealthiest man who ever lived — that He had access to every resource He ever needed at any given time to fulfill His mission.)

    We are very explicit about dealing with these contextual issues and nuances in our book.

    (I’ll continue in another comment; it appears that my comment space is limited.)

  51. Stephen Palmer on August 19, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Continuing from my previous comment:

    Regarding definitions. The B of M repeats that the righteous prosper (also see The Lord Will Prosper the Righteous by Dean L. Larsen, there are many other similar talks, but that’s a good one for this context).

    But how do we define prosperity? Personally, because of my relatively recent setbacks I have a low net worth and a moderate income, yet I feel like I am far more prosperous than many because of the quality of my life. My family is healthy, we’re close, we’re happy, we’re fulfilled, we’re striving to live the gospel as best as we know how — in short, we’re prospering on our terms.

    The B of M and history make it clear that when prosperity becomes defined solely in monetary terms major issues arise, i.e. pride, classes, and subsequent conflict, oppression, etc.

    So to reiterate, I took my initial approach of only referring to prophetic sources because I agree with Rory on some issues, but disagree in other areas. But my personal opinions (or his, or anyone else’s) aren’t what count; it’s what the prophets teach that counts. I was suggesting that we undergird our personal opinions with fundamental research from prophetic sources.

    Our purpose in writing our book is to get people to stop listening to “gurus” and “spiritual pickpockets” and start listening to God — through His servants — regarding personal finance. If enough church members read the sources we have read to put our book together we could put the prosperity industry — at least within our ranks — out of business.

    After researching as much as I have, I wouldn’t pay a dime to listen to financial gurus anymore. And in case you’re wondering, no, we won’t get rich from publishing this book; it will cost us money to do so, which is why we haven’t pursued it aggressively.

    I sincerely don’t care if people read our book as long as they get the core content in one way or another; in fact, I would prefer that people read all of the talks we reference on our resource page instead. We’re only putting the book together because it makes the amount of material digestible and puts it into an organized format.

    As we write in our introduction, “Ultimately, simply living the gospel is the surest route to prosperity. In that sense, this book is unnecessary. Its benefit, however, is the compilation of so much information from so many separate sources, which provides a useful how-to manual for conscious and wisely-utilized prosperity. When presented with such overwhelming and focused guidance, perhaps minds will open, hearts will soften, habits will change, and Saints will flourish even during the most difficult times.”

    There is no one specific road to wealth — though we have been given core principles and commandments to follow, these can be applied in infinite ways. There is no guarantee that anyone who reads our book and follows the prophetic advice therein will become a monetary millionaire. Living the commandments specified in our book does not guarantee a blissful life, free of all pain, sorrow, suffering, and financial difficulty.

    We do have, however, the assurance that if we live God’s commandments we will be blessed — overall, in the overarching context of our whole lives, and whatever that means to us individually, trusting in God’s wisdom and love for us. (Speaking of which, one of the main issues I have with Rory’s article is encapsulated in D&C 59:21). I would also refer you back to my first comment, which is loaded with quotes from prophets that state this same concept, that the righteous prosper.

    My final word: don’t take anything from me; get it from the prophets.

  52. matt b on August 19, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Stephen – my problem with what you say relates to another problem I’ve had with a lot of George Wythe stuff, which is that it flattens out the sources; that is, you assume that there is a single univocal and coherent message across all scripture and prophetic writings, and that it’s only a matter of parsing it out. That’s a problematic assumption at best.

  53. Stephen Palmer on August 20, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Matt, I invite you to read my comments and website more carefully. I very plainly state that context and definitions make all the difference to the content in our book, and these are obviously up to personal opinion.

    I also state, “There is no one specific road to wealth — though we have been given core principles and commandments to follow, these can be applied in infinite ways.”

    Anyone who knows me personally and has discussed this topic with me knows that I constantly stress that the doctrine on personal finance — like many doctrines — is actually quite limited relative to the possibilities.

    For example, the counsel regarding debt is that we are to avoid consumptive debt at all costs, but there are forms of productive debt that are appropriate. In Constancy Amid Change N. Eldon Tanner states that “Investment debt should be fully secured so as not to encumber a family’s security.” In The Household of Faith J. Richard Clark mentions “sound business debt.”

    Clear baseline doctrine, but what is “sound” business debt? Is that the same for everyone? Of course not. For you it might mean buying an office building. For me it might mean buying software. It can take infinite forms.

    In other words, there is a “single, unequivocal, and coherent message across all scripture and prophetic writings” on the topic of personal finance, but this does not negate our ability and even responsibility to interpret and cater things to our unique circumstances, gifts, knowledge, goals, etc. But we should all at least start with the baseline doctrine we’ve been given in the sources we provide, but after that the divine chaos of personal choice and interpretation has its way. What’s right for you may not be right for me, and vice versa.

    When I say to not take things from me and go straight to the prophets, what I mean is to avoid the “guru” trap of taking another’s perceptions and interpretations and path as your own.

    For example, recently a woman contacted me through our website wanting to know what I thought about bankruptcy, almost as if she wanted me to answer her burning questions for her. My response was to direct her to a bunch of quotes from prophets on bankruptcy and to tell her that the point of our book is to get people to make their own decisions after reading what the prophets have to say. I did not offer my personal opinions on the subject — not because I was simply “parsing out” hard doctrine that answers every question for every person in every circumstance, but because that is a very personal decision that needs to be made through study, prayer, and fasting — in other words personal revelation.

    I do not assume what you’re assuming I assume — at least not the way you’re describing it. In fact, my stance is quite the opposite of what you accuse me of. And lumping me in with all “George Wythe stuff” is a “problematic assumption at best” — not to mention unfair.

  54. Rob on August 20, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Our leaders have said a lot about financial preparedness and how to be righteous stewards of material goods. It would be silly to deny that this is an important aspect of gospel living, and Stephen has done us all a favor by pulling a lot of this material together for us to prayerfully consider. I downloaded his eBook and am finding it quite inspiring. An outpouring of real information often has the effect of shutting down blog comment discussion here in the ‘nacle, but I hope we can continue this discussion based on a consideration of the many statements about this topic made by the scriptures and our leaders, rather than just on our own experiences, prejudices, or emotions.

  55. Sean on August 20, 2009 at 9:19 am

    If those who have qualms with Stephen Palmer’s book, quotes, or ideas would share what they disagree with, that would help the discussion.

  56. Sean on August 20, 2009 at 9:22 am

    …share specific items they disagree with…

  57. Zeta on August 20, 2009 at 9:32 am

    What the brethren say about finances is just common sense. It’s the same thing you hear from any good financial adviser. Live within your means, avoid debt, set money aside for an emergency, give to charity. You can get all the same information from Suze Orman.

    I think the reason take presidents and general authorities tend to be wealthier is because their money has put them in a position to serve in those capacities. Someone who is worried about losing their house or feeding their family isn’t going to have the resources of time or energy to serve in such a calling.

    If wealth is really imminently important to you (and you live in a place where opportunities are available) you will probably find it. But the scriptures are pretty harsh about having wealth as your main priority in life.

  58. Zeta on August 20, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Stake presidents, not take presidents.

  59. Stephen Palmer on August 20, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Zeta, I agree with you that wealth should not be our main priority. Your comments brought to mind a comment from Gordon B. Hinckley in his talk Tithing: An Opportunity to Prove Our Faithfulness:

    “I am not here to say that if you pay an honest tithing you will realize your dream of a fine house, a Rolls Royce, and a condominium in Hawaii. The Lord will open the windows of heaven according to our need, and not according to our greed. If we are paying tithing to get rich, we are doing it for the wrong reason. The basic purpose for tithing is to provide the Church with the means needed to carry on His work. The blessing to the giver is an ancillary return, and that blessing may not be always in the form of financial or material benefit.”

    However, in reference to your comment that “stake presidents and general authorities tend to be wealthier,” he also says this in that same talk:

    “While we are speaking of financial matters, I wish to touch on another thing. In the last little while I have received two letters, the import of which was to complain that eligibility to serve in responsible office in the Church is equated with financial success, that in order for one to qualify to serve as a bishop or stake president it is necessary to demonstrate a capacity to gather and husband wealth, and that men of modest means and humble vocations never seem to qualify.

    “If that is the perception, I am sorry, because it is a false perception. Out of the experience of nearly a quarter of a century in organizing and reorganizing scores of stakes, I can say that the financial worth of a man was the least of all considerations in selecting a stake president. One of the most loved and able presidents I know, in whose humble home I have stayed, is a carpenter by trade who earns his living with his tools. He presided over a stake in which lived many men of affluence who looked to him with love and respect as their leader.

    “Within the past month I have been with another stake president who is a carpenter who earns his living with his hands. He too is deeply loved and respected as the spiritual leader of his people.

    The stake president of course must be the spiritual anchor. He also must be able to manage the complex affairs of the stake, and therefore he must have administrative ability or at least the capacity to learn. On occasion, he stands as a judge of the people and must be a man of wisdom and discernment. But wealth and financial success are not criteria for Church service. I think I speak for all of my brethren when I say that in selecting a man to preside over a stake of Zion there is much of prayer with much of seeking the will of the Lord, and only when that will is recognized is action taken.” [emphasis added]

  60. Stephen Palmer on August 20, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Also, I’m surprised by your comment, “You can get all the same information from Suze Orman.”

    I’m very familiar with Suze Orman’s work, and I can say definitively that you’ll only get a small fraction from her as you’ll get from a deep study of personal finance from prophetic sources. She doesn’t even scratch the surface of the deeper, more eternal issues underlying Christian personal finance.

  61. Jeff on August 20, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I never realized there was so much discontent with TJEd and George Wythe — frankly, a bit perplexing to me.

    matt b: The fact of the matter is that there is “a single univocal and coherent message across all scripture and prophetic writings”. That message is “come unto Christ”.

    BTW, my experience with George Wythe College has been very ‘un-flat’. I would be interested in a better explanation of your concerns.

  62. Kevin Clayson on August 20, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I would like to personally thank Stephen for his insight, his love and respect of the Brethren and of all of you in this discussion. I have learned so much through the discussion, and through Stephen’s ebook. I downloaded his ebook a while ago, and have been taking this topic of wealth, prosperity, finance, and combining it with the teachings of the Gospel for some time now. I found that the information contained in the quotes, explanations and chapters of Stephen’s book has led me to ponder in great detail the true impact these things have on me, my family, and my fellow men. I found that in the most sacred of places, in the House of God, many truths and much wisdom has been revealed to me. I want to thank Stephen for helping me along a path that ultimately led to my witness that finance does indeed have a spiritual aspect, even nature, to it. I had to find out for myself however, and I noticed that respectful discussion did not lead me to my conclusions, it was a gentle quiet voice that helped me arrive at understanding and knowledge.

  63. SJC on August 20, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I am surprised to hear so many Latter-day Saints searching after wealth when there are so many other more important matters to pursue. Money, of course, is necessary for survival in our society and living well is nice (this is coming from one who is barely able to support his family from month to month). However, to equate financial wealth with obedience to covenants and commandments is ridiculous.
    Just last week I was watching Kenneth Copeland on television and I could not help but think of the sermons against priestcraft in of the Book of Mormon. How different are we from Mr. Copeland if we think that we should be finanically rewarded from the Lord if we keep His commandments? If the Lord decided to bless us with material wealth, then He must trust our ability to use it to help others. If He doesn’t decide to bless us with material weath it does not mean He doesn’t trust us. It means that He has something else in store.
    Obedience does not lead us to financial success. Obedience blesses us with testimony and knowledge of spiritual things in this world and eternal life in the world to come.

  64. Stephen Palmer on August 20, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    SJC, how do you reconcile your perspective with 2 Nephi 4:4 (along with the dozens of other scriptures in the B of M that express a similar sentiment)?

    How does your perspective jibe with the following quotes? (I’ve already posted these above, but perhaps you didn’t see them.)

    “The Lord has demonstrated throughout the generations that when the inhabitants of the earth remember him and are obedient to his direction, he will bless them not only with spiritual blessings, but with material abundance as well. The scriptures contain many evidences of the Lord’s willingness to prosper his people with the riches of the earth when they demonstrate that they will use this abundance prudently, with humility and charity, always acknowledging the source of their blessings.” -Dean L. Larsen

    “It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints, that a religion which has not the power to save people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here, cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, to exalt them in the life to come.” -Joseph F. Smith

    “When this people are prepared to properly use the riches of this world for the building up of the Kingdom of God, He is ready and willing to bestow them upon us. I like to see men get rich by their industry, prudence, management and economy, and then devote it to the building up of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.” -Brigham Young

    “If we do right, there will be an eternal increase among this people in talent, strength and intellect, and earthly wealth, from this time, henceforth, and forever.” -Brigham Young

    “Anciently He told Israel that He would prevent droughts and provide good harvests if they would serve Him and keep His commandments. He makes the same promise to us. He also said He would open the windows of heaven and pour out such great blessings upon us that we could hardly contain them if we would pay an honest tithing. So you see that the principle of tithe paying is introduced as part of the Lord’s plan for our own welfare and self-preservation.” -Mark E. Peterson

    And lest you lump me in with those “searching after wealth” at the expense of “more important matters,” please read through my previous comments carefully, paying particular attention to the quote I give from Gordon B. Hinckley in comment #59, and making note of how often I refer to context.

    What surprises me is how many opinions are being tossed around in this discussion without basic understandings of core doctrines.

  65. Stephen Palmer on August 20, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    SJC, one more question: How do you define wealth?

    I define wealth as having the resources I need to fulfill the purpose for which I was born on this earth; my unique mission. This encapsulates all of the other “more important matters” you reference, such as knowledge, health, relationships, etc.

    Am I wrong to pursue these?

    I agree that it’s misguided to pursue money for the sake of money. But what if we pursue wealth to build the kingdom, as we learn in Jacob chapter 2? Is this not a righteous desire?

  66. Ardis Parshall on August 20, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Stephen, perhaps you are the one in a million who is otherwise, but I’ve heard too many business students explain that it is their very commitment to the gospel that drives them to pursue wealth: “I will pay more tithing if I make more money.” Whatever level of sincerity they have seems to come more from how completely they are kidding themselves about their motives than from a legitimate desire to serve.

    I think that’s what so many people are reacting to. Your desires may be righteous, your thoughts may be grounded thoroughly in prophetic teachings, you may be pure as the driven snow. But there’s something … off-putting … about the number, length, intensity, and defensiveness of your comments. For most of us, financial wealth isn’t the first consideration when it comes to the gospel; I’m sure you would say that is not your first consideration, either, but this thread gives reason to wonder otherwise.

  67. Kevin Clayson on August 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Ardis, thank you for your wonderful comments. Stephen, once again thanks for yours, and SJC, you sound like a wonderful loving person.

    Perhaps I can contribute to why I think Stephen is so passionate about this subject. I know I am passionate about it too. I happen to work for/own a company that teaches the exact principles that Stephen teaches. I spend many many hours with families and individuals, hours for which I am not paid, to try to help them understand the concepts Stephen is teaching. I have such a sincere desire to bless the lives of others, and I think that it is because of that desire to bless others first, that I have also been blessed with ways and means to do so. I don’t chase material wealth, I chase prosperity and abundance, and that is what we teach. In fact we as a company do not profit, unless our clients profit, and we don’t even keep ANY of their profits.

    Imagine for me, how amazing it is to take a loving, wonderful, righteous, God fearing family, who has worked for 15-20 years to create income and retirement, and show them in the course of an hour or two, how they can do a few things a little different, and they can have a substantial increase over time. No I am not talking about insurance, or even financial planning. But now imagine that after I spend time with that family, they start to see results drastically different from before in just a few short months. They have experienced such an increase that they now can finally organize the non-profit they have been trying to put together, and can start temporally blessing the lives of children in Haiti as a result. This family feels an increased sense of purpose, of meaning, and an increase spiritually, because as we all know, “when ye are in service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” They never sought riches, they sought ability to do a greater work for more of God’s children. It wasn’t just making more money to pay more tithing and continuing to hoard the other 90%, it was taking a good portion of that other 90% and also devoting it to building the Kingdom. This is a real story for a real family here in Utah that we have worked with. We have many many stories just like this one.

    The point here is that money is nothing more than a means for trade in this world. I have found truth for me in realizing that when we are blessed with some of this “money” and when we become wise stewards over that which has been given us, we may receive other opportunities to have more and do more with it. We HAVE to take money out of money and realize that $1,000,000 is not a measuring stick of how righteous or smart or awesome we are, it is just a quantification of the possibility we have to use something that is valuable to many in this world, and to use it to create purpose and happiness for others, thereby creating happiness for our family.

    Put another way, if I were living in poverty, I can do much good at church, at school, at play, and I can bless lives. The question however, is would I have an increased capacity to bless others and do more for others if I am not in poverty, but am “rich?”

    When Warren Buffet donates $30,000,000,000 to help eradicate disease in African countries, is he viewed as a Godless money hungry tyrant, or as a type of saint. Sure Warren is rich, but he still lives in the same 6 bed 3 bath house he has lived in for 50 years. Could it maybe be that he has used some, maybe much, of his stewardship wisely, and is therefore blessed with an increased ability to continue creating money in any economy. Perhaps that same 30 billion in the hands of someone else might not have been donated to charity. And even if someone has 30 billion to donate, and they choose not too, is it possible that they may be more likely to squander and lose that money? Maybe the temptation was too great, and they didn’t pass the test, but it is not to say that they did not have an opportunity to store up treasures in heaven . . . they chose not too.

    Whether we have a million, a billion, or a thousand, we are equals in God’s eyes, however, is God more likely to bless those who know how to budget, invest wisely, pay a full tithe, donate time talents and money to building the Kingdom of heaven; or is He more likely to bless those who have poor spending habits, a complete wrong view of the purpose of money, don’t budget, and complain about their poverty? For many the pride of the poor exceeds the pride of the rich, and just maybe, that is because those that have sustained riches (not overnight lottery success) and sustained wealth, have sustained riches and wealth because the Lord trusts they will bless His children and build His Kingdom.

    Please do not judge my comments to harshly brothers and sisters, I am only sharing what I feel like has been testified to me through the Spirit after I have spent hours, days, months, and years studying and pondering these topics.

  68. Julie M. Smith on August 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Church-produced and -approved resources for financial planning and money management are available here:

    http://www.providentliving.org/channel/0,11677,1709-1,00.html

    I was surprised at how extensive they are; there’s even a link to a free online class at BYU.

  69. Ardis Parshall on August 20, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I had to learn by desperate — and expensive, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars — experience how to judge effectively whether a potential client would pay his bills. For me — in my experience, and not necessarily in anybody else’s — the most certain indicator, a gauge that has so far been infallible, is this: The more vehemently a man tells me that his motives are sincere and righteous, the faster he pulls out his temple recommend to assure me that he will honor his commitment to pay, the more impassioned he is that he needs my help to help him build the Kingdom, the more likely he is to default. It’s always the ones who plead their business cause in gospel terms who, when the bill is due, suddenly realize they have a son on a mission and they can’t pay me and support their missionary at the same time.

    Again, this form of affinity fraud is given as my experience; I do not claim it is universal.

  70. Jeff on August 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    It is interesting to me that those who claim God does not care about our prosperity, or claim that it is not right for Latter-Day Saints to pursue wealth have yet to produce a single prophetic or scriptural reference to support their claims.

    To say that God is not interested in our temporal prosperity is completely unfounded, and, in fact, refuted by the scriptures. Why do so many Mormons, and Christians in general, get locked into this way of thinking? Is that how you feel about your kids? Why would God feel that way about His?

  71. Rory Swensen on August 20, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    It is interesting to me that those who claim God does not care about our prosperity, or claim that it is not right for Latter-Day Saints to pursue wealth have yet to produce a single prophetic or scriptural reference to support their claims.

    Whoa back. If you read carefully, that is not at all what is being argued. I haven’t claimed that God doesn’t care about our prosperity, or that wealth is inherently bad. I don’t think anyone else has made these claims, either.

    Rather, judging righteousness by wealth is evil. Exploiting others (whether it be through preachers seeking donations and promising wealth in return, or cons among us who exploit LDS relationships to prey upon those who are in desperate, or greedy, times) is despicable. Prosperity Theology is a false doctrine.

    I opened the door to the discussion about God’s blessings. I should have narrowed this post through some edits. But do not mistake a belief in a distant God with a belief in an uncaring or unloving God.

  72. Ardis Parshall on August 20, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    If by “those” you mean me, I don’t claim what you state, Jeff. I very much believe that God cares for my temporal WELFARE (whether he cares for my “prosperity” depends on the definition you’re using). I do not believe, however, that temporal concerns are where I should focus, or even that material concerns beyond “sufficient” should occupy much of my attention at all. I think we both know there are scriptures to support the primacy of something other than material treasure.

    In particular, I reject the philosophy represented by this sentence, which can be found in the personal writings of one of this thread’s participants: “In other words, living this ideal leads to the “spiral” model of prosperity, where the more money we obtain the closer we get to heaven.”

  73. Stephen Palmer on August 20, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Ardis, I find myself at a loss. When I say too little here, I’m a “crackpot” promoter who gets taken out of context at every turn and even ridiculed at times. When I say too much, I’m “off-putting” and “defensive.”

    So here’s one last ditch attempt to pull a semblance of understanding out of what appears to be a largely fruitless effort.

    It appears that you have taken my sentence, “In other words, living this ideal leads to the ‘spiral’ model of prosperity, where the more money we obtain the closer we get to heaven” way out of context. All I’m referring to here is the City of Enoch concept. That’s it. So if you reject my philosophy that you think is contained in that sentence, you’re rejecting the possibility of the City of Enoch.

    I’m not saying that we become more righteous because we have more money. I’m saying that once we are blessed monetarily we reinvest our profits back into building the kingdom, and therefore come closer to God and closer to each other.

    What I’m saying is that the B of M cycle was for the people to follow prophetic counsel and keep the commandments. Then they would prosper. Then classes and ranks and pride because they set their hearts on their financial wealth would tear the church and their civilization apart.

    If I’m saying too much again or you don’t want to read the full context of our book, all you have to do is look at the pictures found on this post to understand what we mean by the sentence you reference.

    What if we could keep the commandments, then prosper (as a result as the scriptures teach that we will), then always keep our hearts set on things of an eternal nature? What if we used our material blessings to create more equality, more peace, more happiness for others? What if we could always love God and our fellow man more than we loved our money? In fact, what if we just never had our hearts set on money at all, and it simply became a byproduct of righteous living? What if the richer we became, the more righteous we became and the more we built the kingdom of God?

    Is this the philosophy you reject? I’m not trying to defensive or conflictual with that question; I sincerely want to know your thoughts. I really want to know if you disagree with what I actually mean by my sentence, or if you’ve just misinterpreted it.

    I’m not sure how else you want or expect me to communicate. I’ve spent so much time and effort and have taken great pains to make sure people understood the context of things I was bringing up. And here I am being taken out of context again.

    In parting, I’m sincerely sorry for anything I may have said that has been off-putting to you or anyone else.

    And Rory, for the record, I wholeheartedly agree with you that, “…judging righteousness by wealth is evil. Exploiting others (whether it be through preachers seeking donations and promising wealth in return, or cons among us who exploit LDS relationships to prey upon those who are in desperate, or greedy, times) is despicable.” I appreciate your post and think it’s an important topic to discuss. Thank you.

  74. Thomas Fletcher on August 21, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Alma 29:
    1. O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
    2. Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
    3. But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

    I suggest that one ponder these verses before praying for additional wealth ostensibly to aid the poor. I think that one should give of their current time and substance both liberally and freely. Whether or not God chooses to increase one’s financial prosperity to bolster one’s charitable efforts is completely up to Him. Sorry, there’s no “binding” God on this one.

  75. Jenni Wilson on August 21, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Bravo! I whole-heartedly agree with this post. I have pondered on this topic and discussed it so many times, that when I read Rory’s words, I know he’s nailed it on the head. It’s something we all need to understand better. Thanks for posting these thoughts for us all to ponder!

  76. Ardis Parshall on August 21, 2009 at 7:34 am

    So if you reject my philosophy that you think is contained in that sentence, you’re rejecting the possibility of the City of Enoch.

    Whoa! So rejecting your possible misinterpretation of something means I reject history, prophecy, and revealed doctrine? Wow.

    Zion is the effort of a unified people — a Zion society, a people so united and concerned for each other’s welfare that there are no poor among them. While individuals or families can very well strive to live in a Zion-like way, I don’t know of anything that suggests that one man or one family can bring about Zion, or that the macro effects of an entire people’s cooperative behavior are guaranteed to follow the micro behavior of an individual. The Kingdom of God is far more than a kingdom of individuals — there is a cumulative, magnifying effect of a united people that isn’t fully available to individuals in isolation. (Built your own temple lately? Baptized yourself, or given yourself a healing blessing?)

    I may very well legitimately reject parts or all of your philosophy. But I still believe in Zion.

    You know, I do appreciate your willingness to participate in a discussion that obviously ran against you from the original post through the remarks of multiple commenters. That can’t be easy. But it’s not easy on us, either — I’ve been pretty proud of how well nearly everyone has been to speak in a measured tone. None of us have been as free in expressing our thoughts and feelings as we might have been had the discussion been purely abstract.

    Don’t make the mistake of asserting, though, that because you have not convinced us of your particular brand of financial philosophy we reject true economic principles or the counsel of prophets. We are as entitled as you are to read and pray and reach an understanding of those principles, and to judge the interpretations of others through the lenses of our own faith and experience — and arrive at different conclusions.

  77. Mark B. on August 21, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Jeff (#70) says:

    It is interesting to me that those who claim God does not care about our prosperity, or claim that it is not right for Latter-Day Saints to pursue wealth have yet to produce a single prophetic or scriptural reference to support their claims.

    Although I didn’t specifically claim that God does not care about our prosperity (more of that later), I did produce, way up in comment 3, a scriptural reference to support my claim. If you missed it, here it is:

    Matthew 6:19-20 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
    20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

    and here’s another:

    Matthew 19:24

    And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

    As to prosperity–it’s sort of silly to compare prosperity in Book of Mormon times with wealth in 21st century America. By ancient standards, virtually everyone in the U.S. is fabulously wealthy. But I do believe that God cares about our “prosperity”–and is likely much more concerned that our prosperity will drive us from Him than to Him.

  78. Mark B. on August 21, 2009 at 9:49 am

    What if we could keep the commandments, then prosper (as a result as the scriptures teach that we will), then always keep our hearts set on things of an eternal nature?

    Two difficulties: define “prosper.” Our 21st century American perspective tends to make us think of large houses, many vehicles, boats, clothing, European vacations, etc. etc. I don’t think there’s any evidence that the Book of Mormon people, no matter how righteous, achieved anywhere near this level of wealth.

    Second: what do you do with the counter examples? What of those who live faithful lives and suffer privation and want throughout? What of those whose small accumulations of savings are destroyed through fire or flood or famine or disease? Do they put the lie to the scripture? Or do their examples suggest that we should re-think what “prosper” means?

    Frankly, I’ll choose door number 2.

  79. Sean on August 21, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Mark B.: See comment #51 for the definition Stephen was using of prosperity:

    But how do we define prosperity? Personally, because of my relatively recent setbacks I have a low net worth and a moderate income, yet I feel like I am far more prosperous than many because of the quality of my life. My family is healthy, we’re close, we’re happy, we’re fulfilled, we’re striving to live the gospel as best as we know how — in short, we’re prospering on our terms.

    The B of M and history make it clear that when prosperity becomes defined solely in monetary terms major issues arise, i.e. pride, classes, and subsequent conflict, oppression, etc.

    I think that if the term “prosperity” is defined as more of a state of mind and heart than an account balance, then prosperity is a good thing. If we do our best to live the Gospel, keep our covenants, have our hearts purified by the atonement, and serve the Lord, then the Lord is bound to bless us or “prosper” us. Whether that literally means financial wealth or not depends on the Lord’s purposes for us. Much of this discussion seems to be a tug-of-war between this definition of prosperity and the more common, worldly definition of prosperity.

  80. Sean on August 21, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Sorry – that last paragraph above was my writing and should not have been in italics.

  81. Researcher on August 21, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Mark B.’s comments remind me of a lesson years ago in Gospel Doctrine class on this topic. It was in a ward with many graduate student families and a young brother in the ward gave a rather long comment on what it meant to him to be so poor. I looked at him sitting there in his clean, neatly pressed clothes, wearing a beautiful gold tie, and wondered deep thoughts about his definition of poverty.

  82. In NJ on August 21, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I think you should back of from your “…especially in Utah County…” line. It is tired and annoying. Also, it is untrue. Look at the past Mormon swindlers, in MLM as well as securities fraud. They hail from Arizona, Utah, and all over the continental US. Check your bias before you sit down, and then check your facts.

  83. Mark B. on August 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I’ll agree Sean. So long as we discard altogether the link between “prosperity” as used in the Book of Mormon and worldly wealth, I completely agree that the Lord prospers those who keep His commandments.

    After all, “he that hath eternal life is rich.”

  84. Mark B. on August 21, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Living across the Hudson, in the corruption free paradise of New York City, I agree with In NJ. We should let New Jersey in on the racket! :-)

  85. Researcher on August 21, 2009 at 11:29 am

    …And I’m sure if there’s loot to be had, Philadelphia would like to be in on it as well…

  86. Bob_C on August 21, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    “Known also as Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, or Name it and Claim it; Prosperity Theology is moving from Pentecostal congregations and mega-churches into more mainstream denominations.”

    I think you might have it backwards. Normon Vincent Peale and all that.

  87. H. Bob on August 21, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I’m a little loath to jump into this discussion, but I think I’ve located what bothers me most about Mr. Palmer’s approach. I’ll quote a paragraph of his and then talk about what it is that makes this approach seem “off” to me:

    “And from our studies emerged a clear model, which is this: 1) start with the ideals (building the kingdom, achieving eternal happiness, serving our fellowman, everything Jacob talks about in Jacob chapter 2, these are the proper reasons for wanting to thrive financially), 2) prepare and protect (basics such as food storage, insurance, savings, tax and estate planning), 3) manage our finances on an ongoing basis (tithing, cash flow management, budgeting, etc.), 4) choose the right career (believe it or not, the prophets have given much specific advice on this), 5) increase our productivity, and 6) after all of these come the blessings. Then, ideally, once we receive these blessings, we reinvest them back into building the kingdom and serving others more.”

    It’s that last sentence, I think, that troubles me–”ideally”? Not if you’re taking that whole Law of Consecration covenant seriously. That paragraph rubs me the wrong way because it seems to say that there’s a system God set up that if you play by His rules, you’ll get wealth, and then, well, you know, it’s up to you to do with as you please. “Ideally,” you’d give some back, but you know, if you decide at that point that a bigger house might be nice, well, God’s not going to care.

    I think God does care, at every point, what you’re doing with the temporal blessings you’ve received. If you do decide, once you’re wealthy, to go for the trappings of wealth instead of building up the Kingdom (as many do, and as the Book of Mormon repeatedly warns against and explains why “natural men” fall into this trap time and time again), God’s going to get out the broom.

    This paragraph, and its last sentence, trouble me because the stakes are far too high to be that casual about what you *should* do if and when God prospers you. Consecration means finding ways to build the kingdom regardless of your net worth. If you are wise with your stewardship, you’ll be given more to steward (and that goes beyond mere money).

  88. Sean on August 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    H. Bob, “invest(ing) them (blessings) back into the kingdom and serving others more” sounds quite a bit like the Law of Consecration.

    I take the word “ideally” to mean that if we continue the same pattern, the Lord will continue to prosper us in whatever ways He has planned. If we don’t, then we’ll be moving in the direction of being on our own, without His help. The B of M and history show us that most people don’t continue that pattern, but “ideally” we would.

  89. In NJ on August 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Mark B: My point exactly! :)

  90. H. Bob on August 21, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Sean,

    I get where you’re coming from–my quibble isn’t so much with the sentence itself, because it does say what we’d expect it to say. Rather, it’s the way it says it, as if that last step were optional. I suppose it is optional, but as written, that last sentence comes across as hedging on what’s probably the most important step (and, arguably, the step that should come first–consecration). It’s like saying that we believe in faith, repentance, baptism, and, ideally, the gift of the Holy Ghost. See? Seems optional in that list, doesn’t it?

    And after having followed the link, I’ve got some intellectual property issues with the authors as well (unless they’ve actually written to IRI and gotten permission for the multitude of GA quotes–including a PDF download of a current Church pamphlet–that they’re quoting). I have a little experience in this arena, and IRI usually isn’t too happy with people who quote, voluminously, recent General Authority statements without asking permission first. If I’m mistaken, and they have permission, then I apologize. But it certainly looks to me like coattail-riding, which is at least one of the reasons IRI exists–to make sure that the Church’s intellectual property doesn’t get hijacked by anyone, friend or foe.

  91. Kevin Clayson on August 21, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    H. Bob, it is really unfair to take issue with Stephen because what he has or hasn’t got approved. C’mon my friend, it is the concepts we are discussing not the logistics of how when and where someone quotes. The book is not even published for goodness sakes. No Ad Hominem attacks allowed!!! (which is really kind of what so many in this discussion have done to poor Stephen, who has such a desire to do noting more than bless lives by the YEARS of research he has done on this subject.)

  92. Julie M. Smith on August 21, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Kevin Clayson, am I misreading you or is your position that it is OK to steal intellectual property from the Church?

  93. Ardis Parshall on August 21, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Why is it unfair, Kevin Clayson? As someone who writes for a living and has been plagiarized as well as reprinted with attribution but without permission, it’s a serious concern to me.

    Also, internet publication IS publication. Why would you think it is not?

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