85: Mormons and Money – The Prosperity Doctrine

Nick heads a panel discussion about the Mormon version of “the prosperity doctrine” with Mark, Adam, and Greg. They take on issues such as affinity fraud, tithing as a path to prosperity, MLMs, bankruptcy, and business ethics in Mormon culture. They also take a generous detour into church finances and how they relate to the church’s image of prosperity and blessings.



Mark’s Blog: Utah Securities Fraud
Rational Faiths Blog: Tale of Two Chapels by Melissa Inouye
February 2010 Ensign, Visiting Teaching Message: Managing Resources Wisely and Staying Out of Debt
Russell Ballard at April 2010 General Conference: That the Lost May Be Found
Salt Lake Tribune: Bankruptcy rate falling, but Utah still fourth-highest in U.S. by Steven Oberbeck
Forbes Magazine: Render Unto Caesar – Mormon Tithe Not A Necessary Expense In IRS Collection Case by Peter J. Reilly
Doves & Serpents: A Mormon in the Cheap Seats: Conference Weekend and Rolexes by Brent Beal
Nearing Kolob: Again? Elder Clarke Continues to Motivate with Tales that You Can “Triple Your Income”


  1. Missionary Removes Part of Her Blogpost Regarding "The Secret" - Nearing Kolob Nearing Kolob

    […] morning I saw that Mormon Expositor did a new podcast episode called Mormons and Money–The Prosperity Gospel. I have not yet listened to the episode, but I saw that they cited my previous blogpost […]

    Reply Dec 10, 2014 @ 08:49:07
  2. LDSRevelations

    Though the comments about the LDS not suing other active members even when they’ve been defrauded were interesting. This sort of idea has at least some history in the Church. In the early Church taking another Mormon to court was frowned upon. Windsor Lyon husband of Sylvia Sessions Lyon was excommunicated by Stake President William Marks when Lyon took Marks to court to reclaim $3,000 he had loaned to Marks but that had not been repaid. Apparently Mormons were supposed to take matters to Church leaders rather than civil courts.

    So even though it was Marks that was delinquent on his debt Lyon was exd for bringing charge up in a Gentile court.

    It was during the is time when Lyon was excommunicated in 1844 that Joseph Smith took Sylvia as a polyandrous plural wife and likely fathered Josephine Lyon.

    Reply Dec 11, 2014 @ 09:44:09
  3. J. Reuben Clerk

    In one lesson, I criticized the prosperity gospel using the Book of Mormon itself. I read multiple instances in which the Book of Mormon talked about prospering in the land. Then, I talked about the believers in Alma 14 who were burned alive with their scriptures. I asked if those people burned alive had “prospered in the land.” My point was that, while the Book of Mormon presents a pride-cycle on a macro scale, there was no guarantee on the individual scale. I noted that I knew good people who had very little money and rich people who never lived the gospel. I said you can’t infer righteousness based on one’s wealth or lack thereof. I said the gospel is not a “get rich quick” scheme and that the gospel is designed to bring people inner peace or spiritual prosperity. (I realize that some people don’t even get spiritual prosperity, but at least the case could be made that it is designed/intended to do so.)

    It really blows me away that people think that there is any meaningful relationship between “righteousness” and wealth. All you have to do is look around to see contrary evidence.

    Reply Dec 12, 2014 @ 14:00:02
  4. Joel

    Yes! Thank you for the part about multilevel marketing. 97% break even or lose money. It grows through personal testimonials and trust. In order for MLMs to be “legal,” they have to be more about the product than the business opportunity, because that’s the only way they don’t end up ripping everyone off is if you have a large base of customers who are not distributors. But every MLM company knows that the only way to be successful is to push the business opportunity hard, because you can’t keep customers due to the overpriced products without them also being distributors trying to become rich. So you pay lip service to the product and push the business opportunity.

    Reply Dec 12, 2014 @ 15:01:04
  5. Jordan M.

    A great overview of the current state of wealth worship in the LDS church.

    I’ve tried to explain to TBMs that the promotion of generally financially independent people to be bishop excludes those who may have gifts relating to scriptural knowledge or interpersonal conflict resolution. The typical TBM response is that a poor person wouldn’t put enough time into being a good bishop. I tell them the solution is to pay bishops but then that is too “Catholic” for them.

    I appreciate you guys taking the time to explain this stuff!

    Reply Dec 16, 2014 @ 10:50:54
  6. Dave S.

    Thank you for having the courage to put this podcast together. As a resident if northern Utah County, I am flanked on all sides by well-meaning active LDS members flogging their wares. I’ve always had a strong distaste for MLMs and this podcast has eloquently articulated my many concerns. I think one of the subtexts of this podcast that was not vocalized is the wink-wink complicity the LDS church has in not only turning a blind eye to this immoral behavior, but actually condoning it because ultimately bilking money from people results in greater tithing revenue for LDS church. The comparison of sexual sin vs. financial crimes when related to church courts was eye opening. Keep up the great work!

    Reply Dec 18, 2014 @ 14:31:35
  7. Ben D.

    Sometime ago I went thru church discipline for — what else? — sexual sin. It was a high council court, and I was troubled to see that one of the high councilman who was sitting on my court was a man who’d used me in an unethical and dishonest way when I was young and could be easily taken advantage of; in fact this was a man who was fairly notorious in the community for bilking people of money, in and out of the church. But he had a palatial home on a huge lot and he was “prosperous”. After the court this brother was asked to pray, and later he came up and shook my hand.

    I came back to activity six months later, and I am active today. But I fully believe Hugh Nibley in one of the essays in “Approaching Zion” where he says the church’s preoccupation with sexual sin is a case of “switched villains”, i.e., we have taken a dummy villain, or a minor villain, and set it up in place of the real villain. Like the great majority of saints who run foul of the Law Of Chastity, I was not a deliberate, scheming sinner, someone who smiled at a lie and laid awake nights planning my sins; rather I fell off the wagon of sexual morality despite my best efforts to stay on it.

    And this is the difference between these two “villains”. Sexual “sin”, the dummy villain, is due, in the great majority of cases, to weakness of one form or another. Maybe it’s mental illness. Or past abuse. Or maybe an impossible marriage. The list could go on and on. But the other villain, the real villain Bro. Nibley was referring to, is due to planning, scheming, deliberation, selfishness, greed, etc. “Intent”, or the desires of one’s heart, is everything.

    I have lived and worked on the Wasatch Front for a long time. I am a businessman and I know a lot of people. I always look in the Church News to see who the news stake presidents are in the area, and also mission presidents. And I am always dismayed to see so many of these callings (especially for new mission presidents) go to men who have engaged in very dubious business practices and who have become “prosperous” through these business practices.

    Reply Dec 22, 2014 @ 00:23:24
  8. William Law

    Speaking of Fraud in THE RELIGION MAKING BUSINESS:
    Saints, fraud is baked into the paradigm; since Calvin and his notion of outward prosperity, the possibility of Heavenly Promise replaced Catholic Indulgences –– so the rich could be drawn through the eye of the needle without scrapes or bruises. Mormon Exceptionalism is American Exceptionalism on steroids thanks to the nexus of Andrew Jackson and Joseph Smith –– “King of the Earth.”
    So, Joe was was obliged to print and mint bogus lucre for the sake of outward prosperity.
    I would postulate the insular and peculiar device of the manichean mysticism and an unreadable Mormon Bible gave permission for almost any kind of human behavior.

    With the perception of persecution and claims of being THE CHOSEN separated the “SAINTS” from pedestrian theologies. Mormons claim that Judaism is proto-Moromonism; yet another chosen tribe for the glory of Zion. The Keys were rediscovered, the incantations reinvigorated, evolved from Our Heavenly Father who still reigns supreme in the etherial afterlife.
    How can one go so wrong? Exceptional is and Exceptional does.

    Reply Dec 23, 2014 @ 14:50:34
  9. Lance Dobson

    Haha, Brown Stucco Paradise…that’s so awesome

    Reply Aug 19, 2015 @ 14:31:09

Leave a Reply