What are true riches?

It seems much of our attention these days is spent dealing with money and its consequences. We work diligently to obtain things for our use, but what is necessary for a well-functioning life and household?

Certainly providing the basics for ourselves and our families is important. But how do we distinguish between what we need and what we want — and is what we want in keeping with the scriptural passage: "And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil . . . but ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another and to serve one another" (Mosiah 4:14-15).

Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that we are to provide children — or even ourselves — with all the comforts of modern life. The Lord says that parents must love their children and teach them ways to serve God and their fellow beings.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, "I believe in the gospel of work. There is no substitute under the heavens for productive labor. It is the process by which dreams become reality. It is the process by which idle visions become dynamic achievements. We are all inherently lazy. We would rather play than work. We would rather loaf than work. A little play and a little loafing are good. But it is work that spells the difference in the life of a man or a woman. It is stretching our minds and utilizing the skills of our hands that lifts us from the stagnation of mediocrity" (Stand a Little Taller, p. 60).

The consequence of work is that we can, as President Hinckley suggested, rise above our own mediocrity and provide ourselves with the necessities of life.

A Vermont farmer could not understand why his wife was so insistent that they bottle cucumbers along with other vegetables at harvest time. Several months later, a severe winter storm blanketed much of New England, isolating the farms from towns. As residents endured weeks of deep snow and multiple power and phone outages, the farmer, in relating this experience to an elders quorum class, said, "Those dill and sweet pickles sure perked up an otherwise bland winter meal."

President Heber J. Grant counseled, "Dollars and cents are not blessings from God. Only so far as we are blessed with intelligence, with wisdom, and with the Spirit of God to use them in a wise and proper manner, and to advance God's kingdom on the earth are they such. If we are blessed with an abundance of this world's goods and it shall blind our eyes . . . then instead of being a blessing from God it (comes) from the opposite direction" (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church — Heber J. Grant, p. 127).

One of the chief reasons for the downfall of the Nephite nation was their pride that followed their riches. The prophet Moroni lamented:

"For behold ye do love money and your substances, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted . . . 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? 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? . . . Behold the sword of vengeance hangeth over you and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer" (Mormon 8:37-41).

The Lord speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith said, "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" (Doctrine and Covenants 6:7).

And President Joseph F. Smith said, "What are true riches? The love of your family, and the confidence of friends and neighbors; faith in God and obedience to His commandments — not money, nor wealth" (Improvement Era, June 1902, p. 573).

Why spend so much time and effort acquiring things that — in the end — mean so little? Why not, as the Savior advised, set up for ourselves "treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will you heart be also" (Matthew 6:20-21).

That should be our true purpose in work. Not the ability to acquire things, but the ability to accomplish the Lord's purposes through an abundance of service as the result of our labors.

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