The title of this entry may surprise you because it seems to go against everything we’ve been told by traditional Judeo-Christian theology. “Love of money is the root of all evil,” the Bible instructs. (1 Timothy 6:10) In this article, I hope to demonstrate that if viewed the right way, material things like money, vehicles, buildings, and other creations of mankind are not only good, but that they can actually bring us closer to God.
To do this I must first explain for anyone unfamiliar with LDS doctrine what we believe to be the purpose of life. Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) believe that we lived with God before we came to this Earth. This is called Premortality, and this page on LDS.org has a huge collection of scriptures, talks, and other media for you to view if you’re interested in learning more. While we were in the Premortal World, we ran into a wall in our personal progress. There were some things we just couldn’t learn there. These included what it was like to be tempted and tried, experience hardship, have a body, and create things. We agreed to come to this Earth so that we could experience these things. In fact, we were really excited about it! We apparently “shouted for joy,” when Heavenly Father’s plan to send us to physical existence was announced. (Job 38:7)
So why did we need to progress further? Why did we need to experience these physical trials, ailments, temptations, and opportunities? Well, Jesus commanded us to “be ye therefore perfect, even as I am.” (Matthew 5:48) We are here with the opportunity to be tempted and tried and challenged so that we are in a position to experience the healing, redemptive Atonement of Jesus Christ (which allows us to achieve perfection) and return to our Father in Heaven. From LDS.org’s article on this topic,
“The Apostle Peter referred to the Savior’s “exceeding great and precious promises” that we might become “partakers of the divine nature.” The Apostle Paul taught that we are “the offspring of God” and emphasized that as such “we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.””
Finally, we are promised that “to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)
What is all of this getting at? It can be summarized by this true yet astoundingly profound statement: The purpose of this life is to give us the opportunity to become heirs of God–in essence, gods, ourselves. Becoming like God is a hefty mission, and some might eschew the language itself because it seems sacriligious. But there is ample Scriptural evidence and revelation given to prophets of old and modern times that confirm that this is indeed the humbling nature of Heavenly Father’s parent-child relationship with us. We, like our own little children, will become like our Father.
(At this point, if anyone is totally blown away and maybe even offended by these notions, I encourage you to read LDS.org’s page on Becoming Like God, to perhaps gain a different perspective)
Assuming that this is the purpose of this life, and that we can only accomplish this purpose by experiencing life on Earth as we are, then what in Heaven’s name does any of this have to do with what car you drive, what house you live in, and how much money you have? A lot, actually. And nothing. It depends on how you look at it.
If you look at it from the perspective of “accumulating” or “acquiring” things, then the two topics could not be less related. Quite obviously, your eternal, divine destiny has little to nothing to do with whether you live in a large, comfortable house, drive a luxury sedan, have a high-paying job, etc. It is very true what they say: “You can’t take it with you.” Heavenly Father’s duties for you in the eternities will not require that you have accumulated any stuff on Earth, at all. Your material things are in this way irrelevant to your eternal progression. And we must remember that we are commanded not to store things on Earth, where moth and dust corrupt, but instead to store them in heaven, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)
But if you look at it from the perspective of “creating,” instead of from the perspective of “accumulating,” then what you do, build, and create on this Earth absolutely impacts your eternal progression. When I look at a beautiful new stealth fighter, or a sleek, impressive yacht, or a carefully-polished, meticulously restored classic car, I feel something. It evokes emotions of admiration and appreciation for the beauty and glory of these creations. When I spend hours building a model USS Constitution, or painting a book cover for one of my novels, or writing those novels, or working on my schoolwork to become a physician, I feel the same emotions.
Building and creating awaken an aspect of human nature that is not meant to be suppressed, despite modern negative notions of “materialism.” Heavenly Father, Himself, is a Creator, as is our elder brother and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Earth, in all its magnificent glory and beauty, was left for us, His children, as a legacy. We are here to emulate our Father, and train ourselves to eventually become like Him. We should not envy, covet, or obsess over possessions, because it detracts instead of adds to our eternal progression. But we should appreciate the beauty of our creations, and others’ creations. We should celebrate our accomplishments, and others’ as well. Rich people who can afford to live in a spectacular 10,000 square foot mansion (or mansions as the case may be) with five luxury cars, a yacht, and a plane, should never be envied or hated for their accomplishments. First of all, because it is fundamentally wrong to hate or envy your neighbor or his things (see: Ten Commandments). Second of all, and perhaps most importantly, because we can instead turn that energy into productive emotions of admiration, emulation, and subsequent personal progression.
I want to leave a legacy for my future children. I want them to have material things that I created or earned. I want them to cherish these things because these inanimate objects remind them of me, and inspire them to create and earn, themselves. I want them to be my heirs. It’s important that I instill in my future children a sense of appreciation for the value of things, the way my parents did for me in training me to be an “heir.” My children will have to earn things, instead of simply receiving them. They will be taught to be careful and aware of their actions, so as not to destroy our property or others’ property. They will suffer consequences (like having to replace broken objects) if they are careless. They will be told “no” when they ask for things, as I was, so that they will learn that my money belongs to me, not to them, and that any money I give them is a gift, and is to be given at my discretion. This will instill in them a sense of property rights, which is also important for future appreciation of the importance of material things.
This is, after all, what Heavenly Father does for us, to train us to appreciate material things, and to eventually be His heir. He told Adam, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” (Genesis 3:19) We are not here to be given everything we want. We are here to work hard and earn it, because that is how we will learn the value of material things like food, clothing, and shelter, as well as any additional creations we might build. Heavenly Father teaches us to be careful of our possessions, because carelessness leads to consequences. Throughout the Scriptures, we see countless examples of what happens when we stray away from His principles of righteousness. He lifts His finger of protection over us, and we suffer the natural consequences of our sins. Then we are left to rebuild what was lost, ransacked by destroying armies, or perhaps lost forever, as so many Scriptures have been. I don’t need to quote Scripture for you to know that Heavenly Father tells us “no” quite frequently. Surely you’ve prayed and received that “no” answer, as many of us have. This is an important experience to have, just as it is important for a child to learn discipline and patience.
But perhaps the most powerful thing that Heavenly Father does for us, that we can do for our children also in emulation of Him, is instill in us a sense of beauty and purpose in creation. Almost everyone on Earth has looked at nature and been in awe. The breathtaking, humbling sight of the stars in space, the brilliant-white snow adorning mountaintops, the blossoming flowers of Spring, the glistening streams along quiet forest paths, the stunning power of a horse in full gallop, the miracle of a human baby’s first moments…
…the busy lights of a cityscape at night, the rev of a powerful engine, the sleek, aerodynamic design of a jet, the precision of a cutting-edge medical procedure, the mystery of the construction of the Pyramids…
He wants us to love ourselves and our creations. He wants us to celebrate our accomplishments. It is in our divine nature to accomplish, after all. It is what we were sent here to do. We are His heirs. He wants us to be like Him–parent, inventor, designer, builder. All of these things add up to being a Creator. So be industrious, creative, and productive, and teach your children to do the same. You are made for a glorious purpose, and the creations of your hands will leave a legacy.
(TL;DR–watch the video below)
2 thoughts on “The Godliness of Material Things”
Morgan, you are genuinely an amazing human being! I’m so glad I had the opportunity to share the same Ward with you in Waterford, enjoy talks you gave, share time with you with the Missionaries , and just plain ole get to know you while you were here! I loved this article and I’m going to read it to Bob. Miss you tons
Thanks so much! I miss you guys too!