Thursday, July 19, 2018

President Joseph Fielding Smith on perspective of wealth and life's purpose

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
"We are here for a great purpose. That purpose is not to live 100 years, or less, and plant our fields, reap our crops, gather fruit, live in houses, and surround ourselves with the necessities of mortal life. That is not the purpose of life. These things are necessary to our existence here, and that is the reason why we should be industrious. But how many men spend their time thinking that all there is in life is to accumulate the things of this world, to live in comfort, and surround themselves with all the luxuries, and privileges, and pleasures it is possible for mortal life to bestow, and never give a thought to anything beyond?
"Why, all these things are but temporary blessings. We eat to live. We clothe ourselves to keep warm and covered. We have houses to live in for our comfort and convenience, but we ought to look upon all these blessings as temporary blessings needful while we journey through this life. And that is all the good they are to us. We cannot take any of them with us when we depart. Gold, silver, and precious stones, which are called wealth, are of no use to man, only as they enable him to take care of himself and to meet his necessities here."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, "Salvation for the Dead," Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Apr. 1926, 154-55; see also Doctrines of Salvation, 1:68-69

So much in life really does depend on why we do what we do. Why do we work? Why do we strive to make a good livelihood? Why do we choose the kind of home we live in? Why do we accumulate the things that surround us?

I've always been struck by this teaching from Jacob in the Book of Mormon:
"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 2.19)
There are two important caveats that stand out to me:

  1. The word after gives critical perspective. The priority is to first "obtain a hope in Christ" and only then to seek to obtain riches.
  2. The purpose of seeking the riches, and the reason that God will grant them to the righteous disciple, is "for the intent to do good."
Those important principles should be foundational in our efforts and priorities in this life!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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