Greed corrupted prophet Balaam; he sought wealth and lost his soul

In Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Elder Bruce R. McConkie described the story of Balaam as an account of a prophet who, true to his trust, "delivered the Lord's message of blessing to Israel and cursing to Moab, . . . yet . . . sought the honor and wealth offered him if he would curse the Lord's chosen people."

In the April 1972 New Era, Elder McConkie wrote that Balaam, in some respects, was a very great prophet, but he was one "who loved the wages of unrighteousness," who "was rebuked for his iniquity" in a most strange and unusual way, and whose actions (which included the uttering of great and true prophecies) were described by another prophet in another day as `madness.' " (See 2 Pet. 2:10-16.)Elder McConkie described the incidents recorded in Numbers 22-24. (See related article on this page.) "What a story this is!" Elder McConkie wrote. "Here is a prophet of God who is firmly committed to declare only what the Lord of heaven directs. There does not seem to be the slightest doubt in his mind about the course he should pursue. He represents the Lord, and neither a house full of gold and silver nor high honors offered by the king can sway him from his determined course, which had been charted for him by that God whom he serves.

"But greed for wealth and lust for honor beckon him.

"Perhaps the Lord would let him compromise his standards and have some worldly prosperity and power as well as a testimony of the gospel. Of course he knew the gospel was true, as it were, but why should he be denied the things his political file leader could offer?

"I wonder how often some of us get our directions from the Church and then, Balaam-like, plead for some worldly rewards and finally receive an answer which says, in effect, if you are determined . . . to gain this or that worldly honor, go ahead, with the understanding that you will continue to serve the Lord. Then we wonder why things don't work out for us as well as they would have done if we had put first in our lives the things of God's kingdom?

"What are the rewards of unrighteousness? Do they not include seeking for worldly things when these run counter to the interests of the Church?

"And don't we all know people who, though they were once firm and steadfast in testimony, are now opposing the Lord's purposes and interests on earth because money and power have twisted their judgment of what should or should not be?

"Balaam, . . . inspired and mighty as he once was, lost his soul in the end because he set his heart on the things of this world rather than the riches of eternity."

Rev. 2:14 employs the phrase "the doctrine of Balaam." Elder McConkie, in Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, explained that the phrase means "to divine for hire; to give counsel contrary to the divine will; to pervert the right way of the Lord - all with a view to gaining wealth and the honors of men. In effect, to preach for money, or to gain personal power and influence."

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