Chapter 32: Temporal Wealth and the Kingdom of God

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 234–41


President Brigham Young was a practical man who was not wasteful and who worked hard to provide material comforts for his family and for others. He built homes, businesses, and farms. But he did not set his heart on worldly things, warning that “our affections are often too highly placed upon paltry, perishable objects” (DNW, 16 July 1856, 2). “I know that the things of this world, from beginning to end, … make little or no difference in the happiness of an individual” (DNW, 11 Jan. 1860, 1). President Young taught that temporal wealth should be dedicated to building up the kingdom of God.

Teachings of Brigham Young

We should set our hearts on the things of God rather than on worldly things.

When I cast my eyes upon the inhabitants of the earth and see the weakness, and I may say, the height of folly in the hearts of the kings, rulers, and the great, and those who should be wise and good and noble; when I see them grovelling in the dust; longing, craving, desiring, contending for the things of this life, I think, O foolish men, to set your hearts on the things of this life! … A man or a woman who places the wealth of this world and the things of time in the scales against the things of God and the wisdom of eternity, has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no heart to understand (DBY, 306–7).

I look around among the world of mankind and see them grabbing, scrambling, contending, and every one seeking to aggrandize himself, and to accomplish his own individual purposes, passing the community by, walking upon the heads of his neighbors—all are seeking, planning, contriving in their wakeful hours, and when asleep dreaming, “How can I get the advantage of my neighbor? How can I spoil him, that I may ascend the ladder of fame?” This is entirely a mistaken idea. … The man who seeks honor and glory at the expense of his fellow-men is not worthy of the society of the intelligent (DBY, 307).

The possession of wealth alone does not produce happiness, although it will produce comfort, when it can be exchanged for the essentials and luxuries of life. When wealth is obtained by purloining, or in any other unfair and dishonorable way, fear of detection and punishment robs the possessor of all human happiness. When wealth is honorably obtained by man, still the possession of it is embittered by the thought that death will soon strip them of it and others will possess it. What hopes have they in the future, after they get through with this sorrowful world? They know nothing about the future; they see nothing but death and hell. Solid comfort and unalloyed joy are unknown to them (DBY, 314).

The possession of all the gold and silver in the world would not satisfy the cravings of the immortal soul of man. The gift of the Holy Spirit of the Lord alone can produce a good, wholesome, contented mind. Instead of looking for gold and silver, look to the heavens and try to learn wisdom until you can organize the native elements for your benefit; then, and not until then, will you begin to possess the true riches (DBY, 305).

There is any amount of property, and gold and silver in the earth and on the earth, and the Lord gives to this one and that one—the wicked as well as the righteous—to see what they will do with it, but it all belongs to him. He has handed over a goodly portion to this people, and, through our faith, patience and industry, we have made us good, comfortable homes here, and there are many who are tolerably well off. … But it is not ours, and all we have to do is to try and find out what the Lord wants us to do with what we have in our possession, and then go and do it. If we step beyond this, or to the right or to the left, we step into an illegitimate train of business. Our legitimate business is to do what the Lord wants us to do with that which he bestows upon us, and dispose of it just as he dictates, whether it is to give all, one-tenth, or the surplus (DBY, 305).

Men and women who are trying to make themselves happy in the possession of wealth or power will miss it, for nothing short of the Gospel of the Son of God can make the inhabitants of the earth happy, and prepare them to enjoy heaven here and hereafter (DBY, 315).

The love of money leads to disappointment and loss of the Spirit.

Do you not know that the possession of your property is like a shadow, or the dew of the morning before the noonday sun, that you cannot have any assurance of its control for a single moment! It is the unseen hand of Providence that controls it (DBY, 305–6).

We cannot trust to the certainty of mortal possessions; they are transitory, and a dependence upon them will plunge into hopeless disappointment all those who trust in them (DBY, 306).

How the Devil will play with a man who so worships gain! (DBY, 306).

I am more afraid of covetousness in our Elders than I am of the hordes of hell (DBY, 306).

Those who are covetous and greedy, anxious to grasp the whole world, are all the time uneasy, and are constantly laying their plans and contriving how to obtain this, that, and the other (DBY, 306).

Men are greedy for the vain things of this world. In their hearts they are covetous. It is true that the things of this world are designed to make us comfortable, and they make some people as happy as they can be here; but riches can never make the Latter-day Saints happy. Riches of themselves cannot produce permanent happiness; only the Spirit that comes from above can do that (DBY, 306).

The Latter-day Saints who turn their attention to money-making soon become cold in their feelings toward the ordinances of the house of God. They neglect their prayers, become unwilling to pay any donations; the law of tithing gets too great a task for them; and they finally forsake their God, and the providences of heaven seem to be shut from them—all in consequence of this lust after the things of this world, which will certainly perish in handling, and in their use they will fade away and go from us (DBY, 315).

Patient labor brings temporal possessions and eternal riches.

To possess this world’s goods is not in reality wealth, it is not riches, it is nothing more nor less than that which is common to all men, to the just and the unjust, to the Saint and to the sinner. The sun rises upon the evil and the good; the Lord sends his rain upon the just and upon the unjust [see Matthew 5:45]; this is manifest before our eyes, and in our daily experience. Old King Solomon, the wise man, says, the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither riches to men of wisdom [see Ecclesiastes 9:11]. The truth of this saying comes within our daily observation. … The weak, trembling, and feeble are the ones frequently who gain the battle; and the ignorant, foolish, and unwise will blunder into wealth (DBY, 308).

True wealth consists in the skill to produce conveniences and comforts from the elements. All the power and dignity that wealth can bestow is a mere shadow, the substance is found in the bone and sinew of the toiling millions. Well directed labor is the true power that supplies our wants. It gives regal grandeur to potentates, education and supplies to religious and political ministers, and supplies the wants of the thousands of millions of earth’s sons and daughters (DBY, 309).

One-third or one-fourth of the time that is spent to procure a living would be sufficient, if your labor were rightly directed. People think they are going to get rich by hard work—by working sixteen hours out of the twenty-four; but it is not so. A great many of our brethren can hardly spend time to go to meeting. Six days is more time than we need to labor (DBY, 311).

This is the counsel I have for the Latter-day Saints today. Stop, do not be in a hurry. I do not know that I could find a man in our community but what wishes wealth, would like to have everything in his possession that would conduce to his comfort and convenience. Do you know how to get it? “Well,” replies one, “if I do not, I wish I did; but I do not seem to be exactly fortunate—fortune is somewhat against me.” I will tell you the reason of this—you are in too much of a hurry; you do not go to meeting enough, you do not pray enough, you do not read the Scriptures enough, you do not meditate enough, you are all the time on the wing, and in such a hurry that you do not know what to do first. This is not the way to get rich. I merely use the term “rich” to lead the mind along, until we obtain eternal riches in the celestial kingdom of God. Here we wish for riches in a comparative sense, we wish for the comforts of life. If we desire them let us take a course to get them. Let me reduce this to a simple saying—one of the most simple and homely that can be used—“Keep your dish right side up,” so that when the shower of porridge does come, you can catch your dish full (DBY, 310).

When [individuals] act upon the principles which will secure to them eternal salvation, they are sure of obtaining all their hearts’ desire, sooner or later; if it does not come today, it may come tomorrow; if it does not come in this time, it will in the next (DBY, 309).

We should be self-reliant and share our resources with the poor.

The poor are the people of God, and they shall inherit the earth (DBY, 316).

The man who is hungry and destitute has as good a right to my food as any other person, and I should feel as happy in associating with him, if he had a good heart, as with those who have an abundance, or with the princes of the earth. They all are esteemed by me, not according to the wealth and position they hold, but according to the character they have (DBY, 317).

The Lord’s poor do not forget their covenants, while the Devil’s poor pay no regard to their promises (DBY, 317).

Let the poor be honest, let the rich be liberal, and lay their plans to assist the poor, to build up the Kingdom of God, and at the same time enrich themselves, for that is the way to build up God’s Kingdom (DBY, 317).

If the poor had all the surplus property of the rich many of them would waste it on the lusts of the flesh, and destroy themselves in using it. For this reason the Lord does not require the rich to give all their substance to the poor. It is true that when the young man came to Jesus to know what he must do to be saved, he told him, finally, “sell all that thou hast and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me;” and a great many think that he told the young man to give away all that he had, but Jesus did not require any such thing, neither did he say so, but simply, “distribute to the poor” [see Luke 18:18–23] (DBY, 317–18).

It is a disgrace to every man and woman that has sense enough to live, not to take care of their own relatives, their own poor, and plan for them to do something they are able to do (DBY, 318).

We should devote our temporal wealth to building up the kingdom of God.

What are riches for? For blessings, to do good. Then let us dispense that which the Lord gives us to the best possible use for the building up of his Kingdom, for the promotion of the truth on the earth, that we may see and enjoy the blessings of the Zion of God here upon this earth (DBY, 307).

If, by industrious habits and honorable dealings, you obtain thousands or millions, little or much, it is your duty to use all that is put in your possession, as judiciously as you have knowledge, to build up the Kingdom of God on the earth (DBY, 313–14).

If we possessed hundreds of millions of coin and devoted that means to building up the Kingdom of God and doing good to his creatures, with an eye single to his glory, we would be as much blessed and as much entitled to salvation as the poor beggar that begs from door to door; the faithful rich man is as much entitled to the revelations of Jesus Christ as is the faithful poor man (DBY, 314).

We must watch and pray, and look well to our walk and conversation, and live near to our God, that the love of this world may not choke the precious seed of truth, and feel ready, if necessary, to offer up all things, even life itself, for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake (DBY, 314).

Look out, ye men of Israel, and be careful that you love not the world or the things of the world in their present state, and in your loftiness and pride, forget the Lord your God. We ought to care no more for the silver and the gold, and the property that is so much sought for by the wicked world, than for the soil or the gravel upon which we tread (DBY, 314).

Though I possessed millions of money and property, that does not excuse me from performing the labor that it is my calling to perform, so far as I have strength and ability, any more than the poorest man in the community is excused. The more we are blessed with means, the more we are blessed with responsibility; the more we are blessed with wisdom and ability, the more we are placed under the necessity of using that wisdom and ability in the spread of righteousness, the subjugation of sin and misery, and the amelioration of the condition of mankind. The man that has only one talent and the man that has five talents have responsibility accordingly [see Matthew 25:14–30]. If we have a world of means, we have a world of responsibility (DBY, 315).

Suggestions for Study

We should set our hearts on the things of God rather than on worldly things.

  • Why is it foolish to set our hearts on the things of this world? How can we set our hearts on the things of God?

  • According to President Young, why are some blessed with riches? What dangers await those who fail to “do what the Lord wants [them] to do with that which he bestows upon [them]”? How can you know whether you are following an “illegitimate train of business”? What experiences have you had in sharing your temporal possessions as you have tried to live the gospel?

The love of money leads to disappointment and loss of the Spirit.

  • Why does dependence on material wealth lead to disappointment? What evidence do you see that we should share President Young’s concern about covetousness in the hearts of the people? How can we avoid such problems?

  • What happens to those who “turn their attention to money-making”? How does a wrong devotion to money turn people away from the temple, prayer, and tithing?

Patient labor brings temporal possessions and eternal riches.

  • What is “true wealth”? (See also D&C 6:7.)

  • What was President Young’s counsel to those who spend excessive amounts of time trying to obtain earthly possessions?

  • What must we do to obtain “eternal riches in the celestial kingdom of God”?

  • President Young said: “Do not be in a hurry. … This is not the way to get rich.” What do you think he meant? How can you apply his counsel in your life?

We should be self-reliant and share our resources with the poor.

  • What should be our attitude about helping the poor? What does the Lord require from the poor? from the rich? (See also Mosiah 4:16–28.)

  • Why is character more important than temporal wealth?

  • What is our responsibility to family members who are in need?

We should devote our temporal wealth to building up the kingdom of God.

  • What are the responsibilities of those who receive temporal wealth?

  • How can both the rich and the poor contribute generously to building the kingdom? What blessings are in store for those who do so?