Thoughts on Money, Economics, and Mormonism

I recently read an article by Jeffrey Tucker about money, discussing how money isn’t bad, but in fact, good.  He criticizes the quote: “We should all volunteer our time in charitable causes and give back to the community in a labor of love.”

He takes issue with the idea that volunteering necessarily means laboring not for money, and that charity, charitable causes, and a labor of love are incompatible with money.  He says that when we spend money we are, in effect, giving back to the community.  It is an interesting assembly of thoughts.

Theologically, however, I see problems.  Or at least a need for clarification or differentiation.  Perhaps I should first qualify this by saying that Jeffrey Tucker himself is a very active Catholic.  He’s not trying to push some atheistic hedonism upon us.  But there are some theological clarifications I should like to make.

The scriptures warn of priestcraft, in 2 Nephi 26:29-31:

29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is clove. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.
31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.

We are warned against laboring for money, for the things of this world.

Moroni further warns in Mormon 8:35-39:

35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.
37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?
39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?

Jacob teaches that there’s nothing inherently wrong with riches and money, as long as we “seek the kingdom of God” first (Jacob 2:18).

On the other hand, salvation is free (i.e. 2 Nephi 26:25, 2 Nephi 9:50); one meaning of that is that it is so abundant that no price is needed to reflect the scarcity of resources necessary for salvation.  In other words, His grace is sufficient for all men, for Christ is full of grace and truth (2 Nephi 2:6).

If the greatest good comes from money, then why, if Jesus went about doing good, as we read in Acts, did His ministry have nothing to do with money?  In fact, the opposite is true.  In 3 Nephi 13:19-21, He encourages us in this way:

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and 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.
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

A greater exhortation we cannot receive.

Is money bad?  No.  But nor is it the greater good.  And it can certainly be a distraction, even an idol, to the disciple.  Thus, we are warned against being overzealous in accumulating it at the expense of the kingdom of Heaven.

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2 Comments

Filed under Mormonism

2 responses to “Thoughts on Money, Economics, and Mormonism

  1. ed42

    Hmm, different takes on Tucker’s writings. I read it from a math viewpoint – one (assuming he is not disregarding an ‘order’ from God to be a Samaritian) can add more good to society by working than by volunteering.

    His ministry DID have to do with money, Judas was the ‘treasurer’ was he not? Also, Jesus didn’t need money to do miracles. We (unless we can ramp up our faith) need money (i.e., resources, including time) to help others.

  2. plato04

    No question that money is essential. But to view it as the highest good, and as the profit motive equivalent to charity theologically is an error.

    I admit I’m not sure Tucker specifically meant this in the article. But I thought an addendum to clarify the theological corrollaries or implications would be helpful. Perhaps not.

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