It’s interesting to me that Latter-day Saints often equate financial success with personal righteousness when it comes to fellow members of the Church. It’s probably a result of living in such a success-oriented and materialistic world. However, I think most would agree that anyone can be monetarily rich, regardless of their status before God, as long as they are determined enough to make it so.
As Latter-day Saints, apparently one of our greatest tests we must endure in these last days is the acquisition of and proper use of wealth. Brigham Young once declared that “[t]he worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear … is that they cannot stand wealth” (James S. Brown, Life of a Pioneer, Salt Lake City: Geo. Q. Cannon and Sons Co., 1900, pp. 122–23) (emphasis added).
Is wealth evil, then? Certainly not, since it is “the love of money” that constitutes the “root of all evil,” not money itself (see 1 Tim. 6:10). Indeed, President David O. McKay counseled that “[g]old does not corrupt man; it is in the motive of acquiring that gold that corruption occurs” (Treasures of Life, p.175). The false idea that financial success follows righteousness may stem, at least partly, from the following statement from Jacob:
“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:18-19)(emphasis added)
Accordingly, all those who have received a hope in Christ, who are true and faithful to every covenant, and who further seek for riches, will be prospered, right? Not quite. There have been too many righteous men and women (i.e., men and women that know true success in life) who have lived and died in humble circumstances for us to conclude that financial success = righteousness.
Instead, I propose an alternative interpretation to the term “riches.” The Lord explained in modern revelation the following:
“Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich” (D&C 6:7) (emphasis added).
“And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39) (emphasis added)
Thus, I submit that, in at least one interpretation, “riches” may consist of intangible heavenly goods, such as an increase in spiritual guidance, revelation, and, above all, eternal life. This interpretation further accords with the Lord’s admonition that where one’s treasure is, there will his heart be also (see Matt. 6:21). Indeed, if our treasure is God’s greatest gift (i.e., eternal life), our heart will certainly be willing to “clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”