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Let’s talk about money honey

By Michelle Lehnardt

My friend Amy lives in a little rental house in a very wealthy neighborhood. Recently a friend visited and as she entered Amy’s house said, “How can you stand to live in this neighborhood with all these rich people?”

Amy pointed to the pot of soup bubbling on the stove and the fresh loaf bread on the counter delivered by a visiting teacher who knew she’d had a busy day, “You have no idea the kindness we’ve received in this neighborhood.”

Over and over Amy’s neighbors have cared for her small children, offered to drive her carpool turn and just generally enveloped her little family with love. “Not once “Amy said “have I experienced a single shred of snobbery from any of these people.”

The same day, I was walking with a group of friends when one woman commented on a neighbor renovating their backyard: a new playset, a swimming pool and extensive landscaping. “It’s simply obscene,” one woman said, “to spend that much money on their yard. Think of all the good it could do elsewhere.”

“Think of all the good it’s doing right there!” I replied.

“What,” queried my friend, “you mean family unity and such?”

“Yes, but even more so, look at all the people earning an honest wage– and it’s not just the men and women working in the backyard. Every tree and bush comes from a greenhouse, every bolt and piece of wood in the playhouse comes from a manufacturer, think of all the salesmen and inventors and laborers benefiting from the pool installation.”

Because my husband works in a frozen dough factory, I’m familiar with the countless people who benefit every time you buy a loaf of bread: the bag boy, the checker, the store manager, the salesmen, the truck drivers (the gas station attendant), every person working at the factory, the hundred of businesses with their own sales force and factories who supply flour, yeast, bags, boxes, more machines and robots than you can possibly imagine. Truly, every time you buy just about anything, you are helping hundreds, if not thousands of people put food on their own table.

It’s funny, everyone seems to want money, but they despise people who actually have it (unless you’re a movie star or pro athlete– then it’s OK). Especially in the Mormon culture, poverty is seen as a virtue; wealth, a sin. But I think we need to change our attitude. Medical schools, dental schools and graduate programs recruit Mormons by the thousands. Why? Because statistically, Mormons have less problems with alcohol, drug abuse and extra marital affairs. And all those highly paid professionals do wonders for the church– more tithing, more missionaries, more temples, more humanitarian aid.

I’m sure you’ve heard stories of wealthy Mormons donating large tracks of land to the church and even writing checks for an entire temple. I think it’s fabulous. And yes, those people might be putting a swimming pool in the backyard too. Money doesn’t do much good when it’s just stashed away; it’s better to spread it out and let  many many people benefit.

Charitable giving will always be important,  especially during times of personal and community disaster– food, clothing, shelter, medical and emotional care should be given freely. But in the long term people are always happier when they can provide for themselves and their families.

Of course, wealth does not righteousness. I know many good honest people who have struggled financially and I’m sure there are many wealthy people who have stomped on others to earn their fortune. We can’t judge either way. Honestly, I’ve heard about snobby rich people (and I’m sure they exist), but I don’t know any (of course, I try to choose my friends wisely). I actually think snobbery from the less wealthy is much more common. My friend Jeff told me about a man (let’s call him Alan) in his ward who makes snide comments to Jeff every time he sees him because he perceives Jeff to be wealthy. Little does Alan know, Jeff is the anonymous donor who contributes $400 each month for Alan’s missionary son.

I love Elder Holland’s thoughts from April 2012 General Conference:

Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.

Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment!

We all choose to use our time, talents and money differently; none of us can accurately judge the choices of those around us. Life is unfair, but it’s unfair in our favor. God gives each of us life and breath and the astonishing gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Are we not all beggars?




About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

89 thoughts on “Let’s talk about money honey”

  1. I loved this too Michelle–I know I wrote on here a few months ago about some of my struggles to overcome and change my attitudes about money and some of my assumptions about other people. I've come to realize more and more that the amount of money that I or another person has is really not as important as how they choose to let that affect their attitude and choices.

  2. Love this! I am currently in a ward with a wide range of incomes. There is a small group in the lower range that are very vocal and critical of those near the higher range. Have you read President Benson's talk Beware of Pride talk recently? He talks about this, calls it pride looking up.

  3. Love this! I shared this on my FB wall and I commented to a friend about it:
    "… my parents are not wealthy– but so good with their money. Frugal is the best word. We grew up without a lot, but because of it, they are in a paid for, gorgeous house, and travel the world and serve as much as they can — all on a teacher/postal worker salary. People have assumed they are snobby or rich and that somehow those two things are synonymous. I get frustrated because my parents just did what all of us should do: spend less than you make. I wish I'd have followed that example better. ????"

  4. Agreed! Interestingly, in a discussion with other young church members about how money and affluence is seen in our religion, the others felt that the rhetoric seems to be that righteous people are blessed materially, therefore wealth is seen (often) as a barometer of righteousness. I wonder if this is seen differently by men and women, with the provider role being so emphasised to (especially YSA) men.

  5. This was an interesting perspective. I am in my mid 30s and have lived in several different states and major cities and I haven't ever had this idea regarding wealth. Perhaps it was the fact that I grew up so poor – it was a desperate, frightening, embarrassing kind of poor. I never felt to celebrate it. Instead I was determined from a young age to be self sufficient and comfortable and to be able to provide for my family what I did not have. Not in an excessive manner – but in a necessary manner. I perceive those who are in comfortable positions financially to be better prepared to serve and give and to offer opportunities to their families. I'm not sure where the idea is festering that poverty is godliness or wealth is godliness. There is opposition in all things and we are all under the same commandment to love one another. We all make the same covenants to carry each other's burdens.

  6. Thanks for your kind comments.

    Olea– That kind of discussion scares me– and I hope I haven't contributed to the idea that wealth=righteousness here. I know so many good honest people who have struggled financially and I'm sure there are many wealthy people who have stomped on others to earn their fortune. I guess the point is, we can't judge either way. I do believe however, that in general, the righteous prosper– but more as an entire society than on an individual basis. Kind of the idea that everyone would benefit if we could eliminate crime, drugs, warfare, immorality…

  7. I'm teary reading this, Michelle, because I feel like Amy. So blessed by the generous people around us, who give so selflessly of their means.

    I love these verses in Corinthians 10: "Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth… For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof… Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved."

    Paul is telling us that all the earth is ours and there is enough to go around. To be grubby with what we have or to elbow others out isn't God's way. To seek the profit of our neighbor, to elevate each other, to give generously, that is God's way. The story of Alan and Jeff touched me deeply. This was a masterful treatise Michelle on an important subject. You remind us that money is really a matter of the heart. Thank you!

  8. I have only one question: If having all of that stuff is somehow so good for everybody, then why is it that Jesus Christ didn't have anything at all except the sandals on his feet and the robe on his back? He was born in a simple stable. His disciples didn't have anything either. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. It takes a lot of mental energy to make and spend all that money. Perhaps your mental energy would best be spend doing other things that are of more benefit to humankind…like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison. Building a swimming pool for yourself is NOT a Christlike act. Call it anything else you want, but don't bring religion into it.

  9. I've lived in a ward where half the homes were older and smaller, while the other half were newer, bigger, on the golf course, up on the hill and probably 3 to 10 times the value of the houses in the "poor" half of the ward. I heard things from time to time about the poor side felting looked down upon, but in 2 years, I never saw any of it first hand, and I certainly never felt that way myself. The people in the big houses were generally wonderful people who I saw help others many times, and probably did much more that I never saw.

    That said, I've though much lately on the way we all tend to spend our money. I was at the home of a family of 5 recently that was downright enormous. It's details aren't on zillow, but the house next door is 7,100 sq. feet and is valued at a bit over $900,000. My mind boggled at a 500 sq foot entry way, and a kitchen that literally had 40 people in it. So, yes, all that building and furniture and shrubbery is good at keeping people employed, but couldn't the money be used better?

    The 2010 Haitian earthquake killed over 100,000, displaced 1.5 million, and caused 7.8 billion dollars in damage. The typhoon in the Philippines last year caused 6 billion dollars in damage. Those are big numbers. Here are some bigger ones. The US cosmetics industry does 13 billion dollars in sales per year, and the NFL's revenue last year was over 9 billion dollars. So it's good to keep the people at the makeup counter employed, and the clerk at the mall selling Peyton Manning jerseys, too, but why not do something better? Why not re-build someone's life that has been fractured? (You don't have to cross an ocean to find places to help, either.)

    I've struggled with this lately, because I don't want to be bitter towards people with more money than me, and I don't want to judge people on how they live their lives. Much of this thought has also coincided with me being unemployed for the majority of a year, and I worry that it's easy to be critical of others "wasting" money, when I'm worried about buying food for my family. But I hope that I can remember that if I can ever afford to buy a house again, I can make a choice between a home that is 10K more, and will stimulate the economy a bit, or sending 3 kids in Haiti to school each year for the next 30 years. (Most Haitians don't go to school, because they can't afford the $300/yr for tuition. Think about that. There are kids that could go to school for a year, and we have a country full of people that drop more money than that for a blender. Yes, we have a blendtec at my house, too.)

    tl;dr: Most people with money are generous, wonderful people in my experience. We shouldn't judge others. We should all think about not merely justifying the use of our money as "good" but to think of even better ways to spend our money (and time).

  10. Thanks for your thoughts, Jessica and Clark. I don't have any easy answers.

    I wasn't calling building a swimming pool a Christlike (or unChristlike) act, but simply defending the choices of the family who chose to put one in their backyard.

    It's hard. It really is. In my heart, I'd love to sell my house, give all my money to the poor and spend my days feeding children in Africa– but my children need a home to live in, they need me home and I certainly enjoy all the blessings of first world living. And yes, I live in a bigger house than we need (it didn't look nearly as big on paper) and yes, I've heard every possible cruel comment about my home.

  11. It is never our right to judge how others spend their time, money, influence, etc, therefore the argument "shouldn't they______ with their money?" is moot. We should all strive to emulate the savior in every way. He, who was humble AND lacking in material wealth. God does not require us to give everything away to show our commitment to Him only that we do as much as we can, by His standards not by what our neighbor thinks we should spend our money on. When I find myself wasting time thinking about the size of my neighbor's house or their last vacation rather than serving my neighbor, generally envy or pride is the root of it. I try to focus on where MY heart lies and the example I set for my own children,. Thanks for this article

  12. I have been alarmed at the cultural trend the past few years to demonize the wealthy. Money does not have inherent morality–it is a tool. I also don't believe that buying (or wanting) nice things is immoral (or Christlike). I don't think Christ expects us to live in poverty as He did. And, at least at this time in my life, I don't feel that God expects me to give all my money to children in Africa. I think there is joy to be found and lessons to be learned in working hard and saving up for things.

    I find myself getting judge-y sometimes about the choices others make with their resources; it's something I'm working on. I loved the story of Jeff and Alan.

    My parents have lived well within their means for years and are now able to afford some very nice things. My family is certainly blessed to have access to them, but my parents also share them with many others. They have a beautiful cabin that they have hosted multiple church functions at and allowed others to use for family reunions or even weekend getaways for young couples who might not be able to afford a hotel somewhere. They donate their time and their money to multiple people and causes (most of which I am not aware of as they don't share the specifics). I have been a beneficiary of generosity from numerous people over the years who happily shared of their abundance: use of boats, swimming pools, box seats at sporting events, cabins, in-home theaters, fancy meals, and all kinds of donations and sponsorships.

    It is easy to notice when someone buys a nice house or a fancy car, but unless you're an accountant, you don't often see the quiet generosity of others. I really loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  13. I especially loved about your post that it demonstrates some basic economic literacy. I see so much on the internet and in political polemics that suggests to me that many people really do not understand how or why building something is better or more helpful to "the poor" than just giving things like food or clothing. Witness the criticism the church receives for the development in downtown SLC, which employed thousands of people during it's construction and continues to employ many and increase the tax base of the city; there are those who believe "all that money" should have been given to "help the poor and the needy", not understanding that it does, much more effectively than if the church had set up the world's largest soup kitchen.

  14. For what it's worth, if somebody built a swimming pool in Haiti, that'd be freaking awesome. Not only would people have a place to swim, but it would provide jobs for honest folks who can only get so far on handouts. One thing I learned about trying to be charitable in Haiti—providing jobs is, by far, the most charitable act anybody could do for those folks. They don't need your handouts—they need your business that will provide them ongoing income so they can be financially independent and stable.

  15. I am reminded of an incident one summer I spent staying with my "rich" cousins in California. My aunt was complaining to my uncle about the two oldest taking the motorhome and jet skis with several of their friends to spend the weekend at a local lake. He explained to her that weekends like that were exactly the reason they bought the motorhome and jet skis in the first place–so friends and family could take them out and have a good time.

    There is also one of the best memories with my wife shortly before she died. We had one of the largest houses in the ward, and on this night my wife taught both the Young Women and Activity Days girls how to make paper bag scrapbooks. We had all the girls and leaders in the kitchen or front room, other parents and children in the basement watching videos or playing video games or playing with other toys, and several other kids running around playing in the back yard. The bishop asked me if it bothered me to have all these people in the house, and all the noise from the kids. I told him that this was exactly why we bought that house, so it could be a place where people could come hang out and have a good time. It was bigger than we needed, but we bought it so we could share.

  16. for you Mark B.: "Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow." Hello Dolly!

    Thank you CS Eric. I always love hearing about your wife. May we all be mourned so beautifully.

  17. Love this for so many reasons!!! As a missionary in Peru I learned first hand about poverty. I grew up in a middle class home. I was in a wealthy stake and visited the homes of very wealthy people. I also had poorer friends. My heart used to ache from the judgments I made about people and how they spent their money. My mind was thrown when I learned that wealthy people spending their money so often helped others. Now as I've gotten older and built a house with a pool (during which i added more kids to our monthly charity contribution) I know you can never judge other for their choices. You just don't know the whole story. You made great points in this beautifully crafted post. Thanks! (It is hard to write on my phone and make a coherent statement.) Hope you know I love what you are saying here.

  18. People can be stingy (with money, thoughts and their hearts) regardless of their bank balances.

    I've personally benefited from other people's generosity, open houses and caring hearts, from people living all over the wealth spectrum. I want to help others in any way I can, even if it is practically nothing "compared to what Sr. X gave". And it's the comparison that tends to create the problem.

    What other people do with their money is not my problem, or concern, or responsibility. What I do with mine, and how I teach my sons to serve and use their money, is my problem, concern and responsibility. And I'm enormously grateful for both situations.

  19. Jessica, Where did you get the idea that Christ had nothing? He was a carpenter by trade which meant he made a very good income for his time. According to the law at the time a man could not "preach" until the age of 30. So until that age, Christ worked as a carpenter. The stories of his ministry as contained in the New Testament are primarily the last 3-4 years of his life between his 30th birthday and the time he was crucified. He was not a hobo wandering about begging his daily needs from others. He owned things! A house, a carpenter business…. etc, and he probably had a great deal of money set aside from his work as a carpenter before he set out to preach and teach and minister.

    Oh, and he was only born in a stable because there was no room in the inn, not because his parents couldn't afford something better. His parents were very comfortable in their financial situation – it is all in the Bible, just look it up. He wasn't poor. He was a hardworking well respected professional man.

  20. I get all flummoxed about money too. I like having it; it is useful. We've had less and more and I feel like money makes things easier but it also makes them more complicated. Buying a home was tricky I realized what we could afford was not congruent with what our basic needs were. Yes, we had made do and been okay in a snug apartment, but we weren't wrong in our desire for something more when we could afford it. While we didn't buy an extravagant house by any means, I am always humbled by our good fortune of the house we have (and love) when I visit quainter quarters. I realize that our home and blessings in any form are to be shared. I love that we have a house more conducive to hosting others than our snug beginnings were. While we still shared what we had then, our ability to do so now is increased, so we try to do that more often.

    I agree- money is tricky and it is way too easy to judge each other. I loved the story you shared. I wonder all the time if I should forfeit as much as I can and use it to save the world through my pocketbook. But I can't do it all. What I'm trying to do is act when I feel prompted- but I'm still working on that. And following the inspiration I have had that some opportunities (with the example of money) are just handed to us to see what we will do with them. Our actions and motives reveal who we really are.

    but putting in the pool, spending money in a way that others can see it- it does it get tricky doesn't it? And even if your motives aren't for sharing and more for showing off- well then, at least there is the economic benefit go-round. 🙂

  21. I've been thinking about this lately, in several ways. First, yesterday it occurred to me that money (or time or energy) doesn't do us any good if we hoard it. Sometimes I have gotten too fixated on SAVING money that I have missed out on opportunities to learn or serve. Of course you can take this too far the other direction and be like the unprepared grasshopper. A good balance is good. A swimming pool is not an evil thing. The most generous person I know drives a Mustang convertible. I wondered about it so I asked her. She doesn't drive it to show off or be flashy. She drives a mustang because her dad loved them. (Another VERY generous person.)

    The second thing is that I don't think The Lord views the use of money or resources as narrowly as we sometimes do. The first time I really learned this lesson was when I was nine months' pregnant with our 2nd child in a really hot Utah summer. We were students with no air conditioning and I was SO uncomfortable so we went out and bought a couple hundred dollar window air conditioning unit. Then I felt guilty. If the pioneers could handle the heat, what was wrong with me and how could I justify spending that much money just for cool air when we were still in school? (Even if we DID have it in cash.) Then I had a dream in which The Lord told me He didn't care about the air conditioning unit. He cared about whether I kept the commandments. (Which also brings to mind that it was Judas Iscariot who complained about money being spent on spikenard instead of the poor.)

    The last thing is something I learned recently. For the balance of our marriage and family life we have not been poor but we have had to be careful budgeters. We have had enough for all of our needs and many of our wants but nothing too extravagant. Well, my husband is doing better in his career to the point that the coming years are likely to include big surpluses. I was thinking about it a few months ago and started to feel really anxious. I've never wanted the burden of not enough money but neither have I wanted the burden of great excess. Finally I prayed about it and the answer that came was that if asked, The Lord could help me know what to do, just as He had when we were struggling to stretch it out.

  22. Another thought. If how we spend money is a barometer for what is going on in our own souls (and I think it is), then we really shouldn't look too closely at how our neighbors are spending theirs, no matter the amount. All it will do is make us either proud or bitter and envious. It is really none of our business.

  23. I've lived in a place where there was not a church building for many years, and we were glad that people had swimming pools because that is where baptisms were held. The church sent out a wood-and-canvas portable font that was not very practical. Also, those members with pools have generously donated them for various pool parties and scout trainings, etc.

  24. I love this article. I currently live in a ward with people that make a variety of money and the thing that I love about the ward is that you can't tell who makes what because all the people there love each other and help each other out. Older couples "adopt" younger couples and help them with love and support as they raise their families. If you notice the general authorities haven't told us how to spend our money or how much money we "should have". They have told us to be out of debt, live within our personal means and to show charity to other people. The people in the church that graciously and quietly give are just as important as those who give the widow mite. One is not greater than the other because both are giving all that they can.

  25. As all these other have said, very few wealthy active LDS people are snobs. We bought an old farm house in an area that shortly thereafter became surrounded with very large homes. two things became apparent. 1) not all that live in very large homes are wealthy, and 2) the wealthy can live in old small homes and appear to have very little.

    We are far from wealthy and there was a time that I judged those with means to be prideful. The opposite was the truth. I was the prideful one, and they were kind and humble. Our ward is filled with people with means that care for and lift all they see. They have means because they have sacrificed to acquire a skill and an education to provide for their family. Their habits contribute greatly to their wealth and they share more than anyone would notice. It would be dishonest to say we are best friends with everyone in our ward, but that stems from personality and hobby differences, not based on income. I have nothing but respect from everyone around me.

  26. As a convert, I've noticed a trend among Church members of thinking "the more poor you are, the more righteous you must be." It's frankly galling and very illogical. We're directed by the leaders of the Church to be provident, prepared and prosperous and having money merely allows us to implement the "3 Ps" so that we may serve as Christ would have us serve.

  27. I loved the article, thank you.

    A very wise leader taught me in my youth that money has a lot of principles similar to the gospel. Just like with the gospel, we are promised blessing by following commandments. Money has similar principles.
    For example, I have know people with modest incomes living within their means, who while they may not be wealthy live with a lot less stress about money then some with quite high incomes who spend more than they bring in and may be living with extensive debt.
    In 2000 we needed a car, we had been driving a car that I bought for $100 for about a year and a half. I literally put no money into that car except gas. we saved money for a car. When that car died, we were looking for a car that was big enough to hold 3 car seats. we ended up buying a used well cared for Cadillac from a friend for $5500, paid for in cash with the money we saved. The car was very good for us and we put well about 120,000 miles on it. But I distinctly remember shortly after I bought it, someone making a comment to me "A Cadillac huh" in a way that was obviously said that they felt like it was bought as a status symbol. I asked them if they realized that it was probably one of the cheapest cars in the church parking lot. and that while I would love to have a newer car, I just couldn't afford to pay for it cash and I didn't want to take on the debt. But it really taught me a good lesson about how dangerous it is to judge someone based upon appearance.

    Yes, Obviously some people are "blessed" financially. Many of them followed prophetic counsel to get an education or learn a trade that would allow them provide for their family and to avoid unnecessary debt.

    One of the things I find interesting is how many people misquote the bible and say that "Money is the root of all evil" and therefor assume that to despise money or those who have it is somehow virtuous. Money is a tool to be used with skill and prudence. The wise use of it is to be commended. Think of the parable of the talents. the amount was not the issue with the lesson, but how the men handled what they were given.

    Plus it is always nice to keep this in perspective.
    An income of $14,000 put's you in the richest 10% and
    an income of $32,500 put's you in the richest 1% of the world.
    I am sure many people in the world would think that having a cell phone is a luxury and that money could be put to much better use feeding the poor.

    source : globalrichlist . com

  28. There's a difference between abject poverty and relative poverty. I would venture to say that 99% of Americans have a cell phone and flat screen TV. There is relative poverty in this country. No one with their full faculties goes hungry or lacks the essentials of life. There are ample social "nets" to catch those who need catching and then some. Their are as many people in this country on the government rolls as the whole population of Australia. Covetousness and pride shows itself in many different forms. "Well, if they have enough money to i.e. put in a pool, buy a fancy car, house etc. then they have more money than they know what to do with". This statement implies that they would know what to do with other's money. You want to see real poverty, abject poverty? Go to a third world country where freedom is limited. Let those with means do what they will with those means. It's no one else's business.

  29. People that are poor, may be money is their trial in life. People that are rich and money is not a trial in life, their trials come in different forms unseen with the naked eye. It is obvious for them to say – if I had that kind of money I would use it differently. I have been on both end of the spectrum and very often I feel judged because now am in the category of rich, but everyday I make it a point to help someone in need because I can. It took a lot of hard work to get to where we are and we have been blessed beyond measure. People can make snide remarks when you have a little more than they do but you let it roll off and still go about doing good. The more good you do without expecting anything in return the more you are blessed not necessarily financially. It is nice to be in a position when there is no barrier to helping someone and that person reminded you of yourself in that same situation many years ago. Money is not a bad thing but it is how we use it to bless the lives of others. I do live comfortably and have a nice pool in my backyard but when I was poor I never felt poor either, but society defined that I was poor just as today society defines that I am rich. I am still the same person, life lessons learned to be a better person everyday no matter what others say.

  30. Good post. It is a topic that needs to be address. While I was working at BYU teaching on Christ-centered leadership, I was hired as a ghost writer by a wealthy person on the how to get financial independence. The experience of writing on Christ-centered leadership and on the principles of financial freedom helped me identify many myths I and others had about money. After building a successful business, I took a writing sabbatical to write the book "Does Your Bag Have Holes? 24 Truths that Lead to Financial and Spiritual Freedom." I think you would enjoy the book.

  31. I love rich people because they are so much more hard working than poor people. They are also more righteous because God blesses those who keep his commandments, that they shall prosper in the land. Have you ever seen a General Authority that wasn't rich? I've always found rich people to be so much more spiritual than poor people. Joseph Smith said every blessing comes by obedience to the law upon which it is predicated. That's why the rich are so righteous. They obeyed so many laws that govern wealth and made them rich.

    It's such a shame that the unworthy poor people envy these righteous rich people. Don't they understand that if they started obeying the commandments, they too could be rich?

    I want to be sure to make a million dollars so that The Lord will bless me with an opportunity to serve him as a Stake President or maybe a Mission President! I know if I work hard and follow the commandments enough, I can do it!

  32. Great article. The apostle Paul said "having food and raiment let us be therewith content". It is not the amount of money that makes us happy. Happiness comes in service, family time spent wisely, and generally a love of God. Swimming pools, RV's, and other recreational pursuits fall into a category of wholesome recreational activities for some. Others would see these as a financial and time constraining burden. It is not what you own that makes you happy. It is what you do with your time to serve and help others that does this. Have as large a house as you want. It won't make you any happier than if it were a small house. It is not what you have, but what you do with it that matters.

  33. thanks for your wise words, Father of 8– especially about the relative poverty. So very true.

    And we have a car like yours. My father in law found it for almost nothing, fixed it up and charged us only for the purchase price and parts (about $500 total). The doors don't lock, the heater is dead and every year we're afraid it won't pass inspection. Despite it's flaws, my boys love the car but hate the taunts, "Rich kid, driving a Mercedes."

  34. The more I get to know a diversity of people (now that I'm in my sixth decade of life and a person who is very social), the more I learn how very important it is not to judge people.

    I am super analytical by training and by nature. It is far too easy for me to think that I know how (relatively) rich people should spend their money or how (relatively) poor people can improve their material conditions. But ultimately, this is none of my business. Zero. Zip. Nada.

    My job is to suspend any judgement and to demonstrate love towards others. Love not analyze. LOVE not ANALYZE (my new mantra). It is my charge to validate the good in them, to see the spiritual gifts that they have to offer, to recognize them as children of God with infinite worth. If I am busy thinking about what resources they have and how I think they should use them, I don't have any real estate in my head or my heart to love them, serve them, celebrate them.

    May we invite the light of Christ to fill us with compassion, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and to focus more on our OWN choices and attitudes (taking the beam out of our eye) and cease from making ourselves a judge over others. Only God knows the heart of another. And I don't want the awesome job of judging others. It's too much responsibility and best left to God the Father. Every time I catch myself judging someone, I think how I can then do something to serve them as a way of repenting.

    "Love one another." It's so simple, but so challenging. God bless us all.

  35. I understand what you're saying, I really do. However, do we really need to focus this much on not judging the rich? If you're rich and generous, I think the last thing on your mind is what other people think of you. You have power, and they don't. That's that. Whether you use that power for good or for evil, having power means you don't have to care about other people's thoughts about you.

    The whole "buying a swimming pool helps thousands of people" thing is true, but it's becoming less and less true as time goes on. As more and more jobs get automated, you end up helping less and less people, and end up only helping the people on top. In the future when unemployment rates are permanently higher, the wealthy will still cling on to that notion to ease their conscience. Not everyone can be an engineer. AnyONE can be an engineer, but it's not possible to give everyone that opportunity.

    I've heard someone say this before in the church: "Well, I deserve what I have." Yes, you do, but people don't get what they deserve most of the time. They get what they get. Saying that implies that I'm only poor because it's what I deserve. 30 years ago, if you had a low paying job, it's because you didn't go to college. Now, it's because you didn't go into a college program that promises a successful career. 30 years from now, it's gonna be because you weren't in the top 1 percentile in your graduating software engineering program. Eventually, we'll have to stop blaming people's lack of motivation and a go getter attitude. But don't worry rich people, as long as you're buying lots of swimming pools, you'll give thousands of people who worked way harder AND smarter than you AND have a broader and better education than you do the minimum wage pay they deserve.

    Again, I'm not saying this about ALL rich people. As said in the article, many of them are generous beyond just "helping out" the economy. I'm only saying that there is going to be a wave of people who worked WAY harder than you did and, judging by deservedness, they should be getting more than you. Luck is a crucial factor; work habits are only crucial if you have luck. Are you going to give away your hard earned cash to people who people who worked more for less? Many will not. They will be the chosen few whose heavy burden it is to keep buying things.

    Jesus told someone literally to give away all of his possessions if he wanted to enter into the Kingdom of God, and I'm so glad all of you know SO many people who know how to fit camels through the eye of a needle. I guess it's easier than it sounds. No, it's not a sin to be rich, but the writer of the article said that she only knows envious poor people, and everyone she associates with who is rich is less snobby. You know what I think Jesus was saying? I think he was saying that the odds of getting into heaven are like winning the lottery, and if that's the case, I think all the rich people in your friend's neighbourhood are it for rich people who are going to the kingdom of God.

  36. I am very grateful that so many of us are greatly blessed. There are so many things that we can do to bless the lives of so many around us and Iin all the world. And so many successful saints are generous. The fact that almost 100, 000 missionaries are beginning to cover the earth is one way we see great generosity from all.

    Still my heart is deeply grieved when so many say to those who are not so blessed – why didn't you save for hard times, why don't you have a good job, why don't you take any job you can get, why do you give money to your adult children when you should save for your retirement – you have brought this on yourself.

    I am bountifully blessed. All I have comes from the Lord, and is his. I promised that I will give it all – according to his will.

    I hope I can give a voice to those who have none.

  37. Exactly: Money is a "resource" that can bring exceptional blessings to all round. We have many extremely wealthy members in our ward here in California and they consecrate their "wealthy possessions" to the youth constantly. Whether it is lending their Suburbans and Mercedes to other members to transport the youth on temple trips, opening their homes for ward socials, wedding receptions and firesides, providing boats for water skiing trips, or lending their mountain cabins to the scouts for a staging area for adventure trips. Many of our general authorities and apostles are very successful and wealthy physicians, attorneys and businessmen who the Lord funds fully worthy to serve him as examples to the rest of us. Pray that some day you may so successful that you can consecrate all that you have to blessing others. Nicely written blog today!

  38. Oh yes, as an addendum, as a health professional I interact with a wide spectrum of people from our community and stake daily. Please keep in mind that it is absolutely true that money does not buy happiness. The wealthy people I speak with are more often than not nervous, anxious, frustrated and fearful that their wealth (which is so important to them) will evaporate or their social status will be compromised by a fluctuation in the stock market. It is a very difficult road to walk being focused on building and preserving your wealth. The happiest and most fulfilled people I meet are those living within their means and with strong commitments to service. The rich can reach that level, but it is much harder for them. Those who succeed are indeed great examples of service to us all.

  39. I know few people more generous and kind-hearted than Michelle. She's amazing, and I know I only know a fraction of the service, both temporal and spiritual, that she gives. She and other well-off people I know exemplify the idea of giving because they have been given much. I am grateful for them, and their kindness to me and to others.

    That's all I have time to formulate well right now. It's clear from the Book of Mormon that the concept of prosperity combines temporal and spiritual blessings, and that there are potential dangers of wealth–pride, etc. But there's not an automatic correlation between wealth and pride, just a potential one, and that is part of what Michelle was saying here. The potential correlation doesn't give us the right to judge others, only to be careful of what is in our own hearts.

  40. The biggest problem I see isn't wealth, per se, but that too many LDS think we have a "prosperity Christianity," like some Evangelical churches believe, meaning that if you are faithful you will then be blessed with wealth. Conversely, even some LDS seem to feel that if you are poor you must not be living the Gospel. (Mitt Romney's 47% comment has its home in that non-Gospel philosophy.)

    There is also the issue of some wealthy LDS who got that way by not paying their employees a living wage, which is totally against even what King Benjamin has said. Those wealthy who "eat the bread of (their) laborers" will face eternal consequences.

    That said, though I have seen snobbery and judgement coming from some wealthy people, I have also seen generosity. But I have probably seen a greater degree of kindness and generosity, the widow's mite, if you will, among the poor to other poor. Much more of that, actually, poor giving to poor in ways that are truly a sacrifice. And seeing that makes me think much more of Jesus and His life than trying to rationalize living in luxury while there is still so much true poverty on this Earth.

    Just my two cents.

  41. Thank you for this article and all the posts. We obviously need to bring this out in the open! I grew up with poor, college-student parents, and rich grandparents. Because of my grandparents' example I thought the reason some people earned more than they needed themselves was so they could support missionaries in other countries who couldn't earn enough money themselves and then help those same missionaries get started in college (we had lots of dinners with those "foreign" returned missionaries on their way to attending BYU on my grandparents "scholarships"). They also involved me in discussions about how much they could donate to temple funds in the days when the members had to come up with most of the money for a new temple in their area- the numbers they discussed staggered me- their house was very nice but not elaborate, I didn't know they had that much money!

    Then my parents finished college, my dad got a new job, and we moved to what I called "a rich neighborhood". My parents didn't follow my grandparents example and put every penny into a big, showy house much larger than we needed with expensive, special features. Then they couldn't afford to help support missionaries. Some of the people in the ward and neighborhood were wonderful people, but some shocked me by being the kind of people who have given the term "rich snobs" it's bad reputation. I was very disappointed by what my parents did with their money, because they thought first about "how much they could get", and too late they realized they had nothing left to "give". They did it the opposite of my charitable grandparents.

    My husband and I have often struggled financially, especially through the recent recession as we lived in an area that was hit particularly hard by lay-offs and cut-backs, and businesses going under. We saw business owners, both LDS and not, take huge cuts themselves so they could keep their employees working, and others who did the opposite. I even sat across the table from a sister at a stake Relief Society activity who complained non-stop about how her husband should have laid some people off so they wouldn't have had to lose $50,000 in yearly income themselves and cancel their annual month cruising in Europe. It was hard not to glare maliciously at her – my husband's yearly salary was much less than $50,000 at the time. We moved to a new state, got back on our feet, sent our sons on missions, and were able to buy a house again. I chose a modest home for us that was built nearly 100 years ago but is charming and was very well loved and cared for by previous owners. Most of our children are out of the home now so this is perfect for this stage in our lives- we have room for them to stay when they come to visit, the mortgage is about half what the lenders tried to market to us so we can pay off debts, rebuild our savings that were completely gone, help our kids when they need it, and other good things. And our non-LDS neighbors have become some of my closest friends, we all feel very comfortable here. BUT-when we moved here from our previous rental in another ward in a part of town made up of newer middle-class suburbs, several ward members "warned" me that we were moving into a less-worthy part of town, that my children would be beaten-up and offered drugs, and that we wouldn't be safe in our home in this older-neighborhood that decent people moved out of as soon as they could. Sorry old-ward-members, I haven't seen any of that and we've been here two years! (Maybe partly because my children have learned how to choose their friends). Many of my wonderful neighbors feel so safe here, they don't even lock their doors when they are out. Our ward here is made up of families that span the economic spectrum, and I love them all for I have not seen a single instance of snobbery from either end.

  42. It all comes down to not judging another. I mean, seriously, it's time to stop judging how one spends their money or not; or why someone doesn't have enough money; or why someone's kids didn't turn out; or why someone dresses differently…who cares! I'm tired of hearing others complain or judge others who are different then themselves. I've heard poor vs rich, rich vs poor; complaints about modesty towards others who dress differently- you name it. It's annoying. All of it. There are so many good, kind hearted, giving people in all spectrums of life. There are always going to be the few who ruin it. Are there rich Mormons who acquired their wealth on the back of others? Um, duh. Of course. But are there a lot who didn't? Of course. Just like it is with any group of people. I know poor people who are amazing and others who are always trying to pull a fast one on others because they don't want to work. Again, just like all groups of people you'll have examples on both sides. What's amazing to me is that we still have to keep reminding others to stop judging another. You can't really judge another by their works, or lack of them, either, since you don't have ANY idea what's going on inside their home in private. Please. Stop judging others for how they look, what they wear, the house they live in, the amount of kids they do or don't have, their marital status… You name it. Enough already.

  43. Wow anonymous, not to be judgmental of you since I obviously as you are anonymous, I don't know who you are, but the attitude in your post is pretty much sums up the attitude that this post was written about.
    You know that you can change your circumstances, correct? I have been in both circumstances, I grew up in what would generally be considered poor conditions. We never had extra, most of our clothing was yard sale or hand me downs.

    After our first was born, we were struggling financially. we went from 2 incomes to 1 and added baby expenses. I was a couple hundred dollars short one month. I went to a friend, who I knew had money. I asked for help. What I really wanted was for him to lend me a couple hundred bucks. He was certainly in a position to do so.
    What he did for me was far more valuable. he asked me for my budget, I shared it with him and he guided me on cutting back in a few areas. We turned off the cable, cancelled the newspaper and I packed lunches for work rather than spending $4-6 a day on lunches. We also made a few other minor changes. this allowed us to make up the difference ourselves. It also taught me some great principles.

    Could he have just given me $200? Sure. but I guarantee I would have been in the same situation a short time later. What he did was far more valuable and helped me so much more that the $200 ever would have. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I would have almost be mad if he had given me the money. And sure, he did do other things for us, not because we asked, but because he wanted to. I remember a suit that he gave me because "it didn't fit him right".

    I have met and become friends with a fair number of people who would be considered wealthy by most. True some wealthy people are jerks, stingy, mean, selfish and covetous. I know a lot of people who would be considered poor. Some of them are jerks, stingy, mean, selfish and covetous. I find the biggest difference between the two often is their view of money.

    This is generalization and it doesn't apply to all, but here is what I have found:
    Those who have money, view money as a tool. It can be used how you wish. It generally isn't the most important thing in their lives. It is just something they manage. They spend it based upon their own priorities. They see money as a means to end. The end is what is important.
    Those without money or who perceive that they are without money tend to focus significantly more time and effort on acquiring money. They often view money as the end, not the means.

    A side not, many of the wealthy people I know are not only generous with their money, but also their other resources, including their time, skills, knowledge.
    Rather than demonize a rich person, why not ask for advice.

    Think about it, if you were overweight, you could get together with a bunch of your overweight friends and mock and ridicule those who seem to be thin and in great shape. Laugh at them and make up excuses as to why you don't look like they do. Rationalize that they just got lucky, that exercise and diet really only work if you have the luck of the genes.

    How many wealthy people have you personally asked for guidance. If it would embarrass you to do this in person, you can go to the library and borrow books. Obviously, any information in a book will be general without any knowledge of you or your personal situation, but there are still a lot of things you can learn that can benefit you greatly. Not everyone's advice will apply to you or your situation, people can only share from their personal experiences. Apply what you can and continue learning.

    There generally is only one person who is responsible for where you are spiritually, financially, physically. you are where you are because of the decisions you have made. And the decisions you are making now will determine where you will be in the future.

    If you are not happy with an aspect of your life, look to someone whom you respect for that aspect of their lives. Do what you can to learn from them. begin to associate with people you want to be like.

    One more tidbit of information. All people spend their time and money how they want to. if you don't believe that, lend some money to someone and see if you don't question every financial decision they make while they owe you money.

  44. I lived in a town that was hit by a tornado about ten years ago. The track of the storm went through one of our wealthiest neighborhoods while narrowly missing our poorer ones. There was a lot of damage, but fortunately no one was killed.

    During the clean up phase, a missionary who serving in that town and in our ward looked around at the damage and said to me, "It sure serves those rich people right!"

    It took my breath away that anyone, and especially a missionary who professed to be preaching the gospel of Christ, would revel in the destruction of homes and properties, regardless of their income.

    My response? "Those rich people" had insurance and the means to rebuild, while those living in our poorer neighborhoods did not; any rebuilding for them would have been at a tremendous sacrifice. "Those rich people" did not lose their homes because they deserved to have their homes wiped off the map. Perhaps it was because the Lord was protecting those who had so little.

    A sad day when we rejoice in others' losses.

  45. I have been very blessed the past two years with a very significant increase in my salary but that was after 12 years of school and training. I now interact with a lot of people who I take care of that are poor because of their poor choices. I do a lot of this work for free. If I choose to spend some of my extra money on some nice toys then I am going to do that, I have earned that opportunity.
    A friend once told me that money doesn't buy happiness, but it does buy jetskiis, and you never see an unhappy person on a jetskii. I will do anything that draws my kids closer together to each other and my wife and I, no matter how snobbish I look. I can still get into heaven with my family if I look rich and proud to others as long as I look humble, thankful and giving to Heavenly Father.
    However, one of my mottos to live by is moderation in all things. And if I can pay my tithing, send a few boys to scout camp each year, support a few missionaries and help out the needy in the community all while being able to have extra money to play then I am going to do that.

  46. We live in a ward with low to middle income earners. At one time, when my 4 children were smaller, we were at a point we needed to purchase another car. We went looking at minivans but found a low mileage suburban that was cheaper. We decided to get the suburban. I drove that suburban for over 12 years and over 200,000 miles. I can't tell you how many nasty, caustic remarks I heard about how "rich" we were to be able to drive "that" kind of car. People were quick to point out how much better mileage they got driving their smaller economy cars. I usually kept quiet until one day during a girls camp planning meeting, I finally spoke up and reminded some of these folks that while their cars would carry 3 girls to camp and not any of the equipment, I could bring 8 girls and quite a bit of their gear.

    Over those 12 years, even after my own children had grown up, we hauled kids to girls camp, scout camp, youth conferences, EFY's, temple excursions, etc. most of the time at our own expense. I never regretted the sometime sacrifices-money or time, but the judgmental attitudes of ward members always made me sad. My husband and I quickly realized that we could never judge anyone by what "appearance" because there is always more than we know or need to know about people.

  47. When wealthy Mormons judge poor ones … and there is lots of that going around, those wealthy Mormons invite judgment and criticism.

    Every Needs Assessment Plan is a wealthier Mormon judging a poorer one, and that is institutionalized judgment of the poor by the wealthier.

    It is thousands of times worse out amongst the congregations, and particularly so in the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys.

  48. Money does not buy happiness. But it does buy opportunity. Opportunities for obtaining a wonderful education, opportunities for enjoying some of the many 'toys' in life that add to family memories and togetherness. Wealth has advantages. Not all people who are wealthy got there by virtue of their own hard work. Many inherited wealth or prosperous businesses. A long time ago, a general authority addressed this topic in General Conference. I have never forgotten what he said. His comment was "all too often, we give of our EXCESS when we should be giving until we are truly sacrificing something we wanted in order to raise another. The Book of Mormon has more to say about wealth and its proper uses than any other book I'm aware of. Most of its admonitions deal with the dangers of excessive wealth and materialism. "Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you." – Jacob 2:17

    I have spent a considerable amount of time in a 3rd world country – and I don't mean staying in 5-star hotels that I could have afforded. The wealthy, and many of them do, can alleviate hunger, provide educational opportunities, dig wells, donate much needed medical and dental care, etc., etc., etc. So much is being done where the need is finally perceived, but I must admit . . . . . . . . . . .when I return home to my comfortable surroundings and I observe the large, spacious homes in my neighborhood, I always think, "How much more we could be doing." A question we should all be asking ourselves, rich or poor, is "Have I done enough good in the world today?"

  49. Kim. A needs assessment plan is not a wealthier Mormon judging a poorer one. It is a means whereby one who has been given responsibility with consecrated funds can try to assess the real need before spending those funds. Those funds are limited and how would you feel if the Bishop told you he couldn't put food on your table or diapers on your kids because he had to help with food for a family who just went to Disneyland and bought a new car..
    Even among Active faithful saints, there are those who take advantage of the system given the chance.

  50. Do you not think that the Saviour and his disciples earned a living BEFORE the ministry started? Remember that the ministry only lasted 3 years. We only have a small record of what they did during that time so it is likely that they also engaged in some work to earn a living. Having the faith that Heavenly Father will provide does not necessarily mean that some how someone will feed you but could mean that when you need employment it will come. It's about priority and where your heart is. The best way to truly help people is to 'teach them to fish' rather than just providing the fish. That helps them in the long term and gives them a better sense of self worth.

  51. Wow, interesting article! Totally agree with you! As an LDS person currently living in New Zealand, I have found a fascinatingly sad and misguided mentality on wealth, professional and educational success from the members here. Their cultural perspective on success, work and money is exactly opposite of N. American culture. This is so ingrained in the Maori culture of the church here, of which they are the majority. For example, people have told us that they often will choose to have their families live in old, run down, small homes "in order to keep themselves humble" even when they can afford a home that is more comfortable. Several friends have tried to hide their family's new car (new as in 5-10 year old cars) in the church parking lot because they were embarrassed and worried what the other members of the ward would say. There are hundreds of stories like this and the mentality has both fascinated and shocked us. We have tried to explain how being educated and getting a good job enables one to be a good provider for their family, that choosing welfare when you have a degree or can work isn't in line with principles of the gospel, that even being middle class isn't a bad thing, and above all else, that humility isn't about being poor but about one's heart and desires. The Maori culture, both in and outside the Church in New Zealand, takes pride in poverty and not wanting to raise the bar too high in life. They struggle as a result and it is hard to see it on a daily basis. There are some who rise up and get it, and they are often cut down and mocked by their peers for trying too hard to get ahead financially. We have Senior Missionary couples from the USA here to teach members about provident living and getting themselves back to work and being self sufficient, as on average they indicate that only four families in each ward in the country make enough money to be self sufficient. Generally speaking, this message of self reliance and rising up won't be received well. This is one (of the many) reasons the church really struggles in New Zealand. Thought this perspective might be interesting from someone currently outside N. America.

  52. I love your thoughts Michelle–both the perspective and the wisdom. I'm sharing this TED Talk on "Does Money Make You Mean" that is based on a 7 year study from UC Berkley. I don't embrace all that it offers, but find it an interesting addition to this fascinating and complicated conversation. I wonder how there results would have differed if they focused on women vs. men or an LDS / Christian audience vs a purely secular one. Keep writing Michelle, you're wonderful.


  53. I don't know. I'm not sure the question is 'is it Christ-like or not?' For me the question is 'does it show humility before Christ or not?' On a deeply personal level, I could not live an upscale lifestyle and feel humble. I look at the McMansions and the expensive cars and the pools, etc. and shudder. I could not feel humble living with status symbols playing such an important role. Maybe others can. I speak only for myself.

  54. Didn't Judas scold Mary the sister of Lazarus for using expensive perfumes and oils to anoint Christ? Didn't Christ then rebuke him? This argument against the building of a pool has a lot more in common with Judas' line of thinking than Christ's. See John 12:1-8. You took words right out of Judas' mouth.

    I should be allowed to within reason provide for the happiness of my family. I have appreciated the use of member swimming pools at many ward swim parties. I couldn't care less that they could have given that money to the poor. While the act of building a pool isn't necessarily a Christlike act, it certainly isn't evil.

    While I do have a problem with some people who hoard obscene amounts wealth, dropping 30k on a pool to make your family and friends happy doesn't make the list. To paraphrase Christ, you will have the poor always, but your kids will not be with you always. Why not spend a little on making their childhoods a little more fun.

  55. I know this isn't exactly on point, but the Provident Living section on lds.org has several good, extensive lessons on finance, starting with basic budgeting and going to topics like investing. I just started going through one of them this week, and have learned quite a bit already. I wish I had known it much sooner.

  56. People need to stop judging others – period!

    I also want to point out that a hand-UP is far better than a hand-OUT. Hand-OUTs don't help people get back on their feet, they just fill a temporary void that will deplete. Stop falling prey to political agendas.

    We were taught in scriptures that teaching a man to fish is BETTER than giving a man a fish. Even Christ taught this.

  57. I don't know if you actually read all of my post because you didn't reply to any of the points I brought up. You just said that I have a bad attitude. That might be the case, but the way to help me change my attitude would be to address my points so I can rethink my position.

    Anyway, I know my fair share of rich generous people in the church. I guess after thinking about it, plenty of the rich people I know are nice, but can the author of this article also write about how we shouldn't judge other parts of the community too? Or should we just focus on not judging the rich?

    The middle class in North America is slowly dying away, so yeah, it's becoming less and less possible for me to become wealthy.

    I did not say that it's just luck that gets you where you are. It's also your work habits and all that jazz. I'm just saying that fewer and fewer people will have the luck or the opportunities or whatever you wanna call it if society keeps heading in this direction.

    We live in a competitive world, and it's becoming more and more the case that, in order for you to be successful, you have to step on other people and harm their chances for success. Also, the article says it's okay to judge movie stars or pro athletes? What is that? Because they didn't work for what they have? Now who's accusing someone for just having luck?

    Listen, I'm not really that poor, and if I had the desire, I could probably go to school for a high paying job. I'm not doing that though, and I'm gonna choose passion over comfort. I'm choosing that way, and while I'd like to be rich, I would not like to be rich over doing what I love.

    Really, I'm just arguing for the people who went to school expecting that to be enough to get them financially where they wanted to be. It is not like that any more. Many old rich people are very generous, but they did not have the same challenges that my generation faces today. There are simply not enough higher paying jobs to accommodate the people who you'd deem deserving of wealth. Diet and exercise is not ALWAYS enough in this case. That's my problem with this subject. Rich people tend to think -"Since I did it, so can you!" No matter how well intentioned that statement is, it's just not the case all the time.

    And sure, there are many college students who really won't listen to you when you say that taking Liberal Arts won't land you a career, but if everyone listened to the rich people and went into business or engineering or medicine, then there still wouldn't be enough jobs for them, and many people would be working with 100,000$ debts and be working at McDonald's.

    Again, I know I have the opportunity to become wealthy. You don't need to tell me that. And any one person also has that opportunity, but not everyone can be financially successful even if they did everything right.

    Please, if you're going to reply to this, please address my points. If you think I've gone way off topic, then say that. Don't ignore what I'm saying if you want to have a conversation with me.

  58. Hi Anonymous– first, I honor you for responding so ably and eloquently even when you felt misunderstood. I apologize for not responding to your original comment myself.

    First (and easiest), I didn't talk about not judging other parts of the community because I can only fit so much in 800 words. I'm sorry. It would have certainly been worth a mention. I find this happens in almost everything I write: when I write about fatherhood, the mothers want a shout out (and vice-versa), when I write about raising boys the parents of girls ask for more, etc. And happily, the commenters usually bring up the points I've missed (in fact I count on it). But you are right, we shouldn't judge anybody.

    Next, I think you are absolutely right about wealth and prosperity involving luck. I liked Father of 8's diet and exercise analogy because although he's right that we all have a responsibility to take good care of our bodies, genetics DO play a huge role in our physical appearance. I can diet and exercise like crazy but I'll never have the physique of others born with a slender frame (and yes, I really do envy my friends who can eat chocolate chip cookies w/o gaining weight). Some people are born to more money, opportunities and connections. I had absolutely zero connections when I was a young adult and I am grateful to offer my kids dozens of mentors and advisors to aid in their decision making. My kids are getting a much better 'genetic' opportunity at success. And just like those gifted with good genetics in other ways, they can capitalize on those benefits or squander them.

    Also, I agree 100% that some people work extremely hard but never get ahead. I have a sentence or two about that in the original post but I can see how it could get passed over.

    And I understand your point about people with wealth having power. I'm in the happy medium of we don't stress about the cost of gas when driving to visit my sister in California, but we can't afford plane tickets. So although we do give, I don't actually feel very powerful. If you cut me, I will bleed. And I guess I'm just weary of people making assumptions about me. I imagine many people feel the same way. And yes, we probably could afford those plane tickets to California if we didn't donate the ward missionary fund.

    I'm getting too personal here, and taking this discussion too personally, but I simply wanted to speak up about what I see as a dangerous trend. None of us can judge each others hearts and we should all tread with kindness. Trust me, I would NEVER even consider saying something unkind about anyone's home or car or clothing or decisions whether they live in poverty or wealth. I know from experience, whenever I judge someone, I am always, always wrong.

  59. I am hoping the Needs Assessment is not just the" Fish to eat once
    ', but comes with counsel so the person" learns to fish".
    A previous person commented that he had asked a friend who he thought had lots of money to loan him 200.00. Instead the friend(who he probably still has) taught him how to budget. That lesson was so much more valuable than the 200.00 .
    Granted some folks may still need the fish to tide them over till the lesson takes hold, however there are many folks in this country (Canada )who would benefit hugely by learning how to budget and live within their means.

  60. Fascinating discussion! I never realized this was such a hot topic.

    In my married life, I know for a fact that my family's financial circumstances have been the topic of discussion by others. At one point we were thought of as poor and at another point we've been thought of as rich. Wrong on both accounts. I've learned through this to (hopefully) never judge others. The facts are, we never know what is going on in other's lives and it's not our place to judge. Ever.

    Also, a few years ago in order to lessen my husband's commute, we moved to an area that is considered to be generally wealthy. I had some trepidation that we wouldn't fit in and people told me we were crazy and we wouldn't like it. I'm happy to report now, that we completely love it. We've never lived among such kind, good hearted people. In a serious time of need, the members of our ward have risen above and beyond the call of duty to serve my family. I will forever be grateful.

  61. Who says that Jesus' apostles were poor? If you'll revisit the calling of Peter, James, and John (Luke 5), they were failing to catch any fish in their two ships until Jesus intervened with a miracle and they caught more fish than two ships could hold without sinking. They had a business, and it was probably fairly lucrative – enough so that they could buy ships, and provide for, at minimum, three families. And it actually sounds like they employed quite a large crew. We must not imagine them without wealth simply because it suits our impressions of a full time servant of God. Verse 11: "And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him." Sounds to me like they walked away from plenty to become witnesses of Christ.

  62. This blog post has continued to weigh heavy on me and I had another thought to add to my previous one.

    Many people mentioned how kind and generous the wealthy members of the church are to others living in their neighborhoods. I wonder though if this generosity isn't part and parcel of being 'wealthy' in the church. Or to say it another way… Aren't 'money' and 'generosity with that money' equal signs of 'success' within Mormon culture? (Should it be that way – of course not. But if we're honest, isn't this true within the culture?)

    It seems to me that a true test of generosity is how much time/money/attention the 'wealthy' give to those of much lower social/religious status. Are these same generous people equally as generous to non-members of different races who live in more 'ghetto' like situations? Or are they just generous to those who fit within their own lifestyle to begin with?

    The question is academic of course as the only way to find out is both judgmental and an invasion of privacy. I guess I go back to my previous thought… Humility to me is a more important value than wealth.

  63. Dieter Uchtdorf's new home on a golf course is valued at over $ 1 million dollars.

    There is no need to feel guilty for enjoying whatever wealth we may have.

  64. I think the best part of this post is that there are all kinds of people at every tax bracket. I have lived at different levels in my life, from a home on welfare, to middle class, and this statement is so true. Are there weathly people that are prideful with their money- sure; but not every poor person is humble and Christ-like either. Whenever we look at others and judge, we are in the wrong. It can be very easy to look at the person in the next pew at church and see a nice dress or expensive suit and grumble, but every time we do this, we are failing to show our gratitude to the Lord for the blessings he has given us. People with money are not sinning if they don't live in a tiny house, drive a used car, and give all their money to others. The only person they answer to for their stewardship of what they have been given is the Lord- period.

  65. I love your reply. This is so true. And might I add, how rich we ALL are because of what He gave for us… His life! It also reminds me of the story of the creditor, the debtor and the mediator. His grace and mercy are sufficient enough, but He gave it ALL for us. And so must we, no matter what that looks like in our own lives. There are those with less who still give as much as those with more "monetarily" to give. It's all the same in the Lord's eyes. He is the only One that truly knows our hearts. And if you are using your time, talents, and more to build the kingdom, then that too is enough. Who are we to judge what another does with their money? Pool or whatever! Having a pool is not a sin and to imply that it is is preposterous! Joy in the journey, no?Family time? Usually we have NO idea what people are doing with their money, as we shouldn't! So if they look rich from the outside looking in, they might be just as rich on their inside from striving to live a Christlike life of service and charity-money doesn't make a man. It is not the measure of a man. Thank goodness we are all different and there are those who do make a lot of money and can do monetary acts of service. We're all asked to give, whatever way that look to us as individuals. Anyway, you just got me thinking. Such good thoughts. Thank you!!! 😉 p.s. There could be a completely different article on this for the other side… how we judge the poor members on welfare and such. There is just as much stereotype and prejudice regarding that as well. Hmmm…

  66. Wealth is relative and too often fleeting. Living in Orange County, CA, what passes for wealth or poor is very different than some other places. The speed at which one can find themselves at one end or the other is quick.

    When I moved here in 2006, I often felt looked down on and saw snobbery everywhere I looked. I realize some 8 years later that it was my own inferiority complex that was making those feelings. The adversary in our lives can be our own feelings of inferiority.

    Many good points have been made defending and attacking wealth, but ultimately, we are to give an account of how we used our talents. Those given the many talents will have been expected to do much more, while those with few, less. Whichever we are, happiness in life comes first from within and our relationship with our own God, whatever that may be. No man can serve 2 masters, for you will hate the one, and love the other. My hope is that no matter where someone finds themselves, they can find happiness caring for their own families, and helping others; since serving others is the only form of true lasting happiness.


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