Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon and it seems to come down really hard on rich people, especially if they’re not helping the poor. Is it morally wrong to be rich in a world where so many are poor?

New Era

An incident in the life of the Savior can help you find an answer to your question. A rich young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus asked him if he lived the commandments. The young man said that he had observed all the commandments since he was a child. But Jesus could see that the young man had one serious problem that might hold him back. Jesus said, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21). The young man left very sad because he could not give up his possessions.

The problem was not that the young man was wealthy. The problem was that he cared too much about his money. Christ could see that the young man needed to make a choice about what things he devoted his life to. That’s the same choice we all must make.

Don’t fall into the trap of judging spirituality by financial status. Wealth is not an automatic reward for virtue, and poverty is not necessarily a punishment for unrighteousness. In other words, kindness and compassion or selfishness and greed can be found in all financial situations, rich or poor. Wealth itself is neutral. It is what you do with it and how you feel about it that makes it morally right or wrong.

However, you are doing things backward if you say to yourself, I want to be wealthy so that I can do many good things for others. Devoting your life to gaining wealth, even with good intentions, can be damaging to your spirituality. Work on living a Christlike life first, then prosperity may come to you if you want it to do good, to help those in need (see Jacob 2:18–19).

Is earning money a bad thing? Of course not. There is nothing wrong with wanting to support your family comfortably and earn enough money to be able to provide opportunities for learning and growth. It is a good goal to want to gain more education so that you can get a better job. But if the money you earn becomes the most important thing in your life, then something is very wrong.

So why does the Book of Mormon warn against setting your heart on the worldly rewards? It seems that whenever people place too much importance on possessions they become distracted from doing good and serving others. Placing too much importance in having riches seems to “canker” their souls (see D&C 56:16).

Should you change some of your goals? Maybe you should. Ask anyone who has gone through a disaster such as an earthquake or a flood or a fire what the most important things to them during that time were. Almost without exception they will talk about how they didn’t really care much about their possessions. They were concerned about the lives of their family and friends and even the pain and suffering of strangers. The physical things they owned ended up way down on the list. This is what Christ was trying to tell us when he said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Matt. 6:19).

Yes, sometimes it’s hard not to have things when it seems everyone else has them and places so much importance on them. You’ll have to work through those feelings of discontent yourself with the help of wise counselors, the scriptures, and prayer. In the end, the peace and happiness you can gain from learning about Christ and his gospel will be worth more to you than anything money can buy.

Readers

Material wealth is a very small part of life. Set goals for good family relationships, a mission, enjoying what you do for a living, temple marriage, and righteous living. These things will bring you more joy than any amount of worldly affluence.

Trevor James Cardno, 18 Langley, British Columbia, Canada

The key is remembering the things that matter in heaven, and money is not one of them. You won’t be able to take it with you, but you do take with you the experiences you have learned and remembered.

Mandi Packham, 17 Blackfoot, Idaho

I have often wondered the same thing. What I have found is that being rich should not be your main goal in life. If you try too much to set your heart on worldly things then you could forget the real reason you are here on this earth.

Matt Johnson, 15 Tacoma, Washington

Think of your goals in terms of the service you can give to others. Then look at what will make you happy. If you look at things in that order, you can prepare yourself to be in a better position to help others.

Cameron L. Kelly, 14 Tuckahoe, New York

Heavenly Father has given us everything we have. The way to show our gratitude is to share the wealth with others. That’s the least we can do (see Mosiah 2). The Savior counsels us to seek the kingdom of God before seeking after riches (Jacob 2:18–19). Riches of the world will do us no good in the next life (Alma 39:14); however, it is proper to seek that which is sufficient for our needs (D&C 42:32). Ask for His guidance in setting your goals. You can’t go wrong with help from on high.

Lori Mortin, 19 Declo, Idaho

We are all stewards and will someday give an account of our stewardships. If we can avoid the corrupting effect which riches tend to have on the human heart and go about with the intent to do good and build the kingdom, then I believe the Lord has no objections to our “going for it.”

Sara Cannon, 25 Shelley, Idaho

You may need to change your perspective more than future goals. Note D&C 38:39 where the Lord reminds us of our main concern—eternal riches. We are told we may be afforded earthly riches but with a caution to use them wisely.

Elder Henry Jamaica Kingston Mission

Try putting your energies into constructive purposes, and you will find that wealth is not as important to you as you thought it was.

Logan Stout, 16 Placentia, California

In the Book of Mormon, rich people isolated themselves from those around them and forgot their need to depend on the Lord in all things. Pride comes from placing yourself above others. It is morally wrong to be prideful as we’ve been warned by President Ezra Taft Benson. Remember the Lord in all thy doings.

Marc Garrett, 16 El Cajon, California

In these latter days, the Lord has declared, “And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39). Pride and selfishness go together. You’ll become insensitive to other people’s problems and tend to forget about God when this happens. It’s a great danger to your spirituality. Seek counsel from your priesthood leaders and your parents. They love you and will be willing to help.

Elder Emem Afaha Mbong, 20 Nigeria Lagos Mission

I think it would be morally wrong if you live only to gain wealth and worldly things. If you have more, share it. The blessings will always come pouring back.

Cindy Carlson, 17 Iron Mountain, Michigan

[photo] Photography by Craig J. Meyer