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In the Village: Grateful for hard times? Wealth is not the reward for righteousness

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  • Paul in MD Montgomery Village, MD
    Nov. 21, 2011 8:17 a.m.

    We all have our own experiences with this issue, and our experiences are likely to be different. Orson Scott Card's experiences led him to his conclusions, just as each of ours' led to our conclusions.

    What matters most is what people do, not what they have. I'm a stake financial auditor. As part of that, I review tithing slips and bishop storehouse order forms. I have seen people who regularly receive assistance pay a regular tithe. I have seen folks I know are wealthy paying almost nothing, and others paying huge sums in addition to regular tithing.

    I've watched people who have very little give everything they could, probably more than they should have, to others. I've also seen people who have more than they need hoard what they have and claim they just don't have any to spare.

    Yes, that sounds judgmental, I'm sorry. I also realize that I only see part of the story, and I may have the wrong impression of some of these folks. I try to treat everyone the same, as a brother or sister, regardless what they have/give/whatever. The only one we have a right to judge is ourselves.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Nov. 19, 2011 12:54 p.m.

    I've sit in many Priesthood Leadership meetings, taught by President Monson, President Packer, Elder Oaks and Elder Nelson. They have all taught that paying a full tithe doesn't make a person RICH. It does however, allow them to prosper but not as much temporally as spiritually. I also have heard where a General Authority made a comment to check the tithing and those that are full tithe payers are worthly of a calling, where as those who are not may not be. However, on at least one occasion I did hear one say the higher the tithing the better. I questioned this as did others and he back tracked realizing it was a person opinion not the Lord's guidance. Bishop's hold the power of discernment and are capable of making right and wrong decisions based on whether they listen to the spirit or speak their personal opinion.

    I have only met in all my life in the Church only one Stake President who was weathly and one Bishop. The rest have been very middle class and struggling to make ends meet. I have had Bishops that have been very fugal and thus able to assist where needed.

  • I M LDS 2 Provo, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 8:39 p.m.

    carman,

    And your patronizing opinion is not "as it is" either.

    Check your glasses. There is nothing "in left field" about what I wrote.

  • Simple Comment71 Somewhere, CA
    Nov. 18, 2011 5:54 p.m.

    To Carman:

    Thanks. But please dont try and minimize. I have noticed multiple threads where you have minimized other comments. My experiences are mine and not yours to minimize. The same bishop a year later after he actually took the time to get to know me and understand my situation, apologized. Bishops can and do make mistakes. I firmly believe that tithing isnt your pass to heaven like a movie ticket. I do have a strong testimony of the blessings of tithing. However I have a testimony of all of the commandments. Im not focusing on the big T like I hear so much about. God knows everything, and he'll work it out.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 4:28 p.m.

    To simplecomment71:

    I think your heart is in the right place, but you may have misunderstood the counsel from your Bishop. I have seen people with NOTHING pay their tithing. That is where fast offerings can come back and make up the gap created, and perhaps more. The faith required to pay when you don't have anything is literally the widow's meal or mite, and I strongly believe that it comes back to them many fold. I do sympathize with your situation, and maybe your Bishop was wrong. But I think the Lord finds ways to bless those who show extreme faith. Those blessings are not necessarily material as the author highlighted in this article, but they are real nonetheless.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 4:19 p.m.

    To IMLDS2:

    Just realize you are calling it as you see it, not necessarily as it is. And when you see something that is way out in left field that probably isn't there, check your glasses...

  • Simple Comment71 Somewhere, CA
    Nov. 18, 2011 12:08 p.m.

    Although now I have paid my tithing for years. I dont want to be like the rest of them, because I know the lord knows my heart. I have seen how the view of wealth and pride has crept into the church (I live in a very afluent ward), I just make sure that my family understands whats really important.

  • Simple Comment71 PRICE, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 11:37 a.m.

    I volunteered when volunteers were needed. It became very clear to me when we got a new bishop and he called me into his office on a January Sunday and let me know I was robbing the lord. He let me know if I wanted to be like the rest of them, that I needed to pay my tithing. I tried letting him know about my financial circumstance, I was cut off with I dont care about your financial situation.

    I am still very active, and I still do all thats asked of me, including cleaning the church every saturday. My kids although older now still come every Saturday to help me clean, and their appreciation for the building shows.

  • Simple Comment71 PRICE, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 11:36 a.m.

    I find the article nearly right on.

    Seven years ago I decided to come back to the church after two years of innactivity. The ramifications of this choice were divorce. Single dad at age 33 with no family even remotely close to me geographically. Child Support, Day Care, Court Costs, Day Care, etc. Lets put it this way, I barely had enough to cover living at an extreme low level. I would pay tithing when I actually could. Some years the amount was so little that to many it would appear embarassing. However I did what I could. I also decided to clean the church every Saturday morning so that I could feel like I was contributing. I was there vacumming every saturday with my three year old checking the trashes, and my one year old on my back in a back pack. I always did my home teaching. I always did my callings.

  • Independent Woman West Jordan, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 11:30 a.m.

    I have known many stake presidents and bishops and have known few who are wealthy. One of our bishops was out of work at the time. Our stake president has a regular job like everyone else. It depends a lot on where you live. Where I live few of us would be considered wealthy by any standard. In fact, our area is considered to be very low class by those who are wealthy.

    And, by the way, I read an article (I believe it was in Dialogue magazine) about Ezra Taft Benson when he was asked to be the Secretary of Agriculture. At the time he was an apostle, and his stipend was barely enough to support his family. He was glad to have a better job from the government.

    Where do you get the idea that general authorities are rich? The Church doesn't pay great amounts partly because we are a church with no paid clergy.

    Please read another article in the same section about the atheist Hitchens and what he has said about these men and the rebuttal of the author of the article.

  • Skot W SPOKANE, WA
    Nov. 18, 2011 10:56 a.m.

    Two things:
    First, we believe that our leaders are called of God. Article of Faith 5. Does this mean every calling made is of God? No. But the callings of the stake presidents, as I understand it, are made by God through a member of the twelve. Does that mean God certifies every aspect of their life? No. But it does mean the Lord has called that man to be the leader of that specific stake, for that specific time. Perhaps all parties involved could learn why the Lord chose that man to that calling, instead of condemning them for their material wealth. Pride works both ways as we learned from a man who was a prophet of God when he said it, Ezra Taft Benson. I'm not saying the rich are justified, just that God is the judge, and has chosen his leader.

    Second, 1 Nephi 2:20: "And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper..." This is quoting the Lord himself. Is it possibly misread to mean that you shall prosper financially? Perhaps. But the perception of the reader is the problem, not the scripture itself.

  • I M LDS 2 Provo, UT
    Nov. 18, 2011 6:01 a.m.

    carman,

    Nice judgment, there. Because I quote scriptures and General Authorities (it was Hartman Rector, Jr.) you say I have an ax to grind?

    I call 'em as I sees 'em. If that offends you, you will have to deal with that.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 8:17 p.m.

    To IMLDS2:

    You obviously have an ax to grind. Prosperity is not necessarily wealth. Before the early 1900's, it generally meant you had four walls, a change of clothes and something to eat each day. But I digress.

    As for your comment about "those who pay the most tithing are the most faithful", I am inclined to believe you misinterpreted what you thought you heard. You seem to have an agenda, and this so-called General Authority you quote (no name or date) likely said something more along the lines of those who pay a "full tithe", consistently are "most faithful". The actual $$ amount does not matter. I have been in the church for many decades, and been to many leadership meetings, with many general authorities, and what you are saying is contrary to EVERYTHING I have heard. I have known MANY Bishops and Stake Presidents who were not wealthy, including many in my own family, who were not "rich".

    The fact that some are wealthy is irrelevant. Your generalizations are off-base and reveal more about you than about the church's position on these issues.

  • NeilT Clearfield, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 7:39 p.m.

    Elder Clayton of the Seventy spoke to my singles ward Monday night. Prosperous Attorney in Southern CA. Gave it all up when called to be a General Authority. I work for UTA. Know of two bus operators that have served as Bishops. Just some thoughts I wanted to share on the subject. Not everyone holding a high calling is wealthy.

  • I M LDS 2 Provo, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 7:01 p.m.

    To counter my claim that "I have NEVER seen a Stake President who was not relatively RICH. Never. In over 30 years," some members assert THEIR bishop or SP is not ("particularly") rich.

    Well, individual observations will never convince anyone either way.

    But I do know that a couple of doctrinal and leadership teachings that strike me as problematic.

    First is the blatant association between "prosperity" and righteousness repeated in the Book of Mormon:

    1 Nephi 2:20
    "And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper..."

    (2 Nephi 1:20; 2 Nephi 4:4; Alma 36:1; Alma 48:15; Mosiah 2:22; etc.)

    The intuitive corollary is that if you are NOT "prospering", you must be transgressing or sinning.

    Second, as a young Bishop, I attended a leadership training by a Regional Representative who instructed us that when we are considering people for callings, look at the Tithing receipts: those who pay the most tithing are the "most faithful". This teaching always bothered me. But it is also the case that only people who pay tithing (and the more the better) are considered for callings of any significance.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 6:11 p.m.

    Mr Card,

    While your point is largely correct, and I won't quibble with some minor issues that detract from the value of your piece, I must object to a key element which makes the piece preachy, arrogant and detracts from your key point. You make broad, sweeping generalizations about "attitudes expressed as doctrines" that are "extremely widespread" in the church. I take significant exception to the arrogance embedded in these statements - arrogance that is exhibited by making such statements based on nothing more than your perception and opinion.

    If you have data to support such a spurious and emotional claim, please share it. I have been in many wards, from wealthy to humble, and I have NEVER seen nor even heard this "doctrine". In humility, I will not claim that this attitude is not held by pockets of folks in the LDS church. But please spare your readers the fallacy of hasty generalization, devoid of empirical evidence, to try and make your point. Your accusatory tone coupled with such generalizations is beneath the standards that any journalist or opinion writer should embrace.

  • welcomethemall Nampa, ID
    Nov. 17, 2011 5:01 p.m.

    Everybody on here is absolutely right (blind men and the elephant effect?).

    An additional perspective - wealth is relative. We lived in a stake of millionaires -- some of them had more money than sense. But by and large they were generous to a fault (helping families pay off homes, pay for college tuition... and those were just the things I knew about). We were the poorest of the poor in that stake (we were the subject of service projects several times - which were great blessings in times of need).

    We moved west a few miles, and with some savings bought a couple acres of pasture, goats, chickens and ducks. And a dog. My salary has not changed. And we are considered exceedingly wealthy (when I was Bishop I even had someone tell me I didn't know what it meant to be poor - chuckle). Compared to the vast population of the earth, my land, full refrigerator, warm clothing and non-leaking roof make me one of the wealthiest men on the planet.

    Perspective is a blessing as well.

  • rogerdpack2 Orem, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 2:02 p.m.

    well spoken.
    And my Stake President doesn't seem particularly wealthy--perhaps you should move to my stake?

  • One of Vai's Cousins DC, Washington
    Nov. 17, 2011 1:47 p.m.

    Excellent message! And many good points made in the comments.

    The Gospel is what Brother Card explained - The Atonement and love and service. Period. EVERYTHING else is just window dressing. Too many of us focus out time, efforts and energy on the window dressing.

  • wjutjck Taylorsville, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 1:25 p.m.

    To all concerned:

    My current Stake President is not wealthy, neither is my current Bishop or any of my past Bishops in the last 20 years. I live in the heart of the Salt Lake Valley. I don't know of any of the Bishops in my stake currently that someone would consider to be wealthy. All have regular jobs or are self-employed and all are in my estimate quite spiritual. My Stake covers an area of both poor people and many with very nice homes. The Lord is calling those who will serve him well.

  • Kami Bountiful, Utah
    Nov. 17, 2011 1:00 p.m.

    @ipr, I'm not sure we can really ever do enough. But if you have an honest heartfelt feeling that you are doing what you should, then just keep on that road. Don't feel guilty unless you have a personal reason to feel guilty. Don't measure yourself against anyone else. Do not buy into the mormon culture that oftentimes accompanies our faith. Whether you are doing enough is between you and the Lord. That's about the only answer I can give.

  • jimhale Eugene, OR
    Nov. 17, 2011 12:30 p.m.

    I was converted though the kind missionary actions of a wonderful LDS family - led by a humble, faithful father, the stake clerk. (Yes, his employer had more money and was the stake president - but neither was he the most wealthy in the stake.)
    I was not converted by the worldly success of that man or his family. But my interest was indeed captured by their obedience, sacrifice and faithful service.
    It was not the size of their home that impressed me, but the size of their hearts.
    Many years later, my wife and I were privileged to join the this entire large family and their spouses at a restaurant dinner as part of the celebration of the father and mother's golden wedding anniversary.
    We were all well enough off to pay for that dinner, but no one at the table could be termed wealthy. The father tearfully told his children he was sorry he had not accumulated more (worldly) wealth to someday leave to them.
    The shock and disagreement around the table was swift and sure. His children rose up to call themselves, their parents and all of us, blessed beyond measure.
    They were his great wealth and accomplishment.

  • penny 4 thoughts SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 12:27 p.m.

    "Sometimes the "wealth" comes from a lifetime of wise choices, sacrifice, unselfishness, and living by the advice of the Church (avoid debt, pay tithing, etc.). I believe it is this obedience that leads to those members being called to higher Church office - not their material wealth."

    For many, it isn't that easy. Even with extensive medical bills that have plagued us our entire married life, we pay tithing, try to make wise choices, don't live beyond our means and give all we can give to help others out. I try to be righteous, but I am judged by others because medical-induced bankruptcy changed our lives forever. We are not aspiring to be called to higher positions, but I know that despite doing all that Red Wings said these people do to make them more righteous than the rest of us, I will never be 'good enough' for many people/callings.

  • ipr Spanish Fork, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 12:00 p.m.

    I have a question, and maybe some of you can answer it. We have a decent income (around 100K), but we always have lived below our means. We have a food storage and just recently paid off our house. Our vacations are a camping trip in the mountains nearby. We have no boat, camper or cabin in the mountains but we have two cars, both 12 years old. I have 5K in the bank. I also have a daughter, who has had 2 kidney transplants. I've had cancer, and because of us living below our means, we had the money to cover our bills. I would like to build up my savings more so that we can be prepared for other emergencies. I tutor students for free, I help at the cannery and I donate a reasonable fast offering. But this article makes me feel so guilty, because it tells me that I should be doing more. When do I do enough?

  • penny 4 thoughts SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 11:46 a.m.

    I have heard so often in testimony meeting in my ward (especially from one member)how grateful he is for his boat, or how blessed they are to be able to travel to Europe, etc.and then expounding on the virtues of having nice things (that many of us will never be able to afford). Not only is he (and the others) missing the point, I find it astoundingly insensitive to the have-nots.

  • Old Jake Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 11:44 a.m.

    Yep, Money Doesn't Matter at All!!! But I'm going to just hold on to mine.

    Sorry, Can't help you.

    Until that changes we are heading down the wrong path.

  • RedWings CLEARFIELD, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 11:35 a.m.

    My current Stake President is a High School teacher. One before that was a farmer. A past Bishop was a plumber. My current Bishop owns a motorcycle dealership. All incredibly spiritual men whom I have learned so much from.

    Sometimes the "wealth" comes from a lifetime of wise choices, sacrifice, unselfishness, and living by the advice of the Church (avoid debt, pay tithing, etc.). I believe it is this obedience that leads to those members being called to higher Church office - not their material wealth.

    Remember, the City of Enoch was translated because they obeyed God and "there were no poor among them". Those who have been given much are expected to use it to bless others, and will be accountable for their stewardships.

  • musiqmike Brigham City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 11:07 a.m.

    A message that we need to hear--wealthy or poor. I've always believed that the reason the Book of Mormon so often reiterates the "pride cycle" is because we absolutely have need of that message over and over again. I've spent my life on the "less affluent" end of things, and have myself, from time to time, mistakenly questioned why we weren't more prosperous like our neighbors. I've witnessed my mother having to deal with evening "walking groups" of more affluent members of our ward gossiping amongst themselves--not realizing their voices were carrying through our open windows--saying things like "If it weren't for these two homes here [referring to our home by our family name and our neighbor's home], we'd have a perfect neighborhood." Our home and yard were always kept neat and clean; it was just smaller than other homes on the block. I also heard a high-councilman speaking about how his attention to the commandments made it possible for him to afford his Dodge Ram, while old school friends "drove the same clunkers they had in high-school". He missed a key principle that, unfortunately, made the rest of his talk irrelevant.

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    Nov. 17, 2011 10:55 a.m.

    Neither poverty or wealth is a virtue,but there will always be poor among us until the majority of us all lead virtuos lives and act on virtuous principles.

  • penny 4 thoughts SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 10:10 a.m.

    I once asked someone why only the comfortably off (wealthy) are called to the higher positions such as bishop, stake president, mission president, etc. He denied that this was happening in the church.
    I have also been told that in order for these people to fulfill these callings, they need a certain amount of wealth in order to devote so much time to their callings. I find this a poor excuse. Poor people and those who fall in the middle of the 'wealth curve' can serve and be great bishops etc. without being wealth if it is true that these callings are based on spiritual promptings.

  • Kami Bountiful, Utah
    Nov. 17, 2011 9:57 a.m.

    @I M LDS 2 - there is a lot of truth to what you say. It is difficult hearing a pretty wealthy general authority telling us how spiritually dangerous it can be to be wealthy. But I'd like to give another perspective about callings corresponding to superior righteousness. I once had a Stake leader who truly believed that most calling within the stake and ward levels were given by the Lord because the person receiving the calling had something to learn. Sometimes I repeat that story when I see people puffing up about the callings they have. Ask them what they think they needed to learn when they received their calling -- sometimes you will see a pretty shocked look on the face of the one you are asking!!!

  • I M LDS 2 Provo, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 9:23 a.m.

    It seems the people who are preaching the virtues of poverty and the evils of wealth are themselves free from concerns over money - for instance, Brother Card has no problems with money; the Church leaders are not poverty stricken and never will be. They do not have the same concers as do those of us who have lost our jobs and could lose our jobs again any day.

    I have lived in many Wards/Stakes in many different parts of the country, and I have NEVER seen a Stake President who was not relatively RICH. Never. In over 30 years.

    When the Church calls only the wealthy to positions of leadership, and continues to allow the false rhetoric that callings correspond to superior righteousness, too, then it is hard to argue what Brother Card is trying to argue. The truth is, in the Church, the operations of the Church itself reinforces the idea that righteousness, wealth, and position all go hand in hand.

  • Cat Centerville, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 9:04 a.m.

    Since I live in the middle of "the more righteous you are the more you're blessed with" - Amen. When I get discouraged about the "blessings" I'm not getting, I start counting the blessing I do have and try to remember that sometimes a "bad" thing that happens is really a good thing. Like the time our car broke down in Reno on vacation. The blessing was that there was a shop that could fix it that day. The hotel we were at had a room for us and if our car had broken down in our destination it would have been much harder and taken longer to get things dealt with. At the time it didn't seem good, but looking back I can see it now.

  • Kami Bountiful, Utah
    Nov. 17, 2011 8:41 a.m.

    "This attitude is often expressed in a "doctrine" that is utterly false and yet extremely widespread in the church: that if you are righteous, you will make money."

    This is so true. And for many, if they don't have real wealth, they will use credit cards and other forms of credit to establish a showing of wealth. In particular the young adults are doing this -- they seem to think that they need to have a showing of wealth at a young age. Many of them are in quite a bit of trouble in today's economy. Divorces are resulting from the consequences of this behavior. Children's lives are being ripped apart as their parents begin residing in two different households. Its terrible to watch this.

  • christoph Brigham City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 8:33 a.m.

    "His prophets warn us, for instance, that affluence is usually no friend of spirituality, and, oh, how we hope that teaching is not true--and, oh, how our teeth chatter when the chills of experience tell us it is true!"

    Neal Maxwell "A Time to Choose" page 33.

  • Mom of 8 Hyrum, UT
    Nov. 17, 2011 7:23 a.m.

    Brother Card, wonderful and timely as usual!

    This will sound self-centered, but I do believe you wrote this specifically for me.

    Thank you for writing what most of us hope/fear!