Last weekend I learned that I’m not even on the fringes of the Mormon “blogosphere.” In all honesty, I find it kind of entertaining to know. I also learned that there is a group of LDS bloggers who have felt prompted to review general conference talks starting with the earliest ones readily available at LDS.org. While I’m not part of the plan, it got me thinking about all of the messages we have from modern prophets and apostles, as well as others who have spoken and written under inspiration through the Holy Ghost.
Today, I did go back to the April 1971 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The talk that caught my eye is the Law of Abundance, given in April by Elder Franklin D. Richards.
I think this talk caught my eye because, as the new year approached, I saw several things on the internet that were spin offs on the “Law of Attraction.” I’ve briefly read a few things about it, and I have been struck by how it seems to twist some eternal truths — mostly by focusing on enriching and raising oneself.
In contrast, Elder Richards nails heaven’s way of increasing wealth — a way that raises not only the individual but also many others within the sphere of that one person’s influence. Here are some highlights from his talk:
- …”we know that whatever we have is the Lord’s and that he has blessed us with these things to see how we will use them.” This turns the commonly held attitude that I earned what I have on it’s head. The truth is, everything I have and am can be traced back to some blessing from the Lord’s hand. Even though I worked, that was just pitching in to do my part. I am not an owner, I am a steward, or trustee of the means to do good or evil.
- “It is interesting to note that here, as elsewhere in the scriptures, promises of earthly wealth and increased talents are made to those who live the gospel principles, and counsel is given to use our talents and wealth for the building of the kingdom. Many scriptures, however, contain words of admonition regarding temptations brought about through the acquisition of wealth and its use for unrighteous purposes.” It is a plain and simple truth that hard work and thrift will increase a person’s wealth. If I choose to study the options available to me to use my savings to create more wealth and apply them with wisdom, I can increase wealth more quickly. The problem is that money is a form of power. That is why the prophet Jacob warns all to seek the kingdom of God before seeking riches. If I have already focused my eyes on the Savior and have devoted myself to being like him, then I will do many good things with my riches. If, however, my focus on riches has masked a character flaw, the power of money can cause a lot of misery.
- In furtherance of these teachings, every man who has property and means should live so as to obtain wisdom to know how to use them in the best possible way to produce the greatest amount of good for himself, for his family, for his fellowmen, and for the kingdom of God. Again, this is a stewardship, not an ownership. In this statement, however, Elder Richards emphasizes that we are expected to use wisdom in dispersing wealth, not just in amassing it.
- “What I am worth is what I am doing for other people.” Again, that “heaven flips earthly ideas on their heads” principle is happening. It is so easy to think that a person’s success is measured by personal net worth, looks, prowess, or acclaim. In heaven, the true worth of a person is measured by how much he or she will do what can be done for the people within their sphere of influence.
- In many respects the real test of a man is his attitude toward his earthly possessions. Are you managing them, or are they managing you?
The Lord has said: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. … “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse … and 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.” (Mal. 3:8, 10.) I have heard these verses quoted repeatedly in lessons about the commandment that each Latter-day Saint is under to pay tithing. A closer reading, however, shows that these verses include the words “AND OFFERINGS.” Tithes are the set baseline amount that we are to be returning to God as a token of our gratitude for the blessings he has given us. However, if we are not also paying offerings, Malachi says that we are still robbing God. Offerings show where my heart truly is. Offerings show if I am putting worldly wealth before my faith in Christ.
The apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthian Saints, told them that “he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. … “Let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:6–7.) In this dispensation the Lord has said, “Thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely.” (D&C 19:26.) Reading between the lines, it seems that even money is really an issue of faith. Do I trust that the Lord really can supply all of my need, according to his riches? Do I really love my neighbor as myself? Am I really focused on being an instrument in God’s hand? If I am truly trying my best to be a disciple of Christ, I will give as much as I can, and be grateful for the opportunity to make a positive difference.
- As we consider ourselves trustees of wealth for the benefit of God’s children, we should not worship property, whether it be of great or small value. This is so well said! Someone who sees himself or herself as a trustee of another’s goods has a totally different attitude from someone whose whole life is wrapped up in the accumulation of wealth.
- When men, women, and children are honest with God and pay their tithes and offerings, the Lord gives them wisdom whereby they can do as much or more with the remainder than they could if they had not been honest with the Lord. The promise of being a steward over God’s blessings rather than a hoarder of earned wealth! God has all knowledge and all power, and he will bless his faithful followers with the things that they need, as they need it — and God’s measure is always generous!
So often, the kingdom of heaven works backwards to the way things look to mortal eyes. The richest person is the one who gives it away! The riches are not always given in form of money, but peace, health, family, and a host of other blessings await anyone who is willing to follow God’s commands.