We are all the Rich Young Ruler


I wanted to express my heart as it pertains to something I’ve heard from LDS leaders previously — specifically because I heard it just heard it again from a member of the quorum of the 70 during this most recent General Conference.

It concerns a false interpretation of the story given in Matthew 19:

and behold
one came and said unto Jesus

good master
what good thing shall I do
that I may have eternal life?

and Jesus said unto him

why do you call me “good“?
there is none good
but one
and that is god
but
if you want to experience eternal life
then you must keep the commandments

he said unto him

which ones?

Jesus said

do not take life
do not cheat on your spouse
do not steal
do not speak falsely
honor your parents
love your neighbor as though they were yourself

the young man said

all these things have I done since my youth
what else am I lacking?

Jesus said

if you want to be perfect
go and sell all that you have
and give to the poor
then you will have treasure in heaven instead
and then come and follow me

but he went away sorrowful after hearing that
because he had amassed great wealth

This is a scripture with an obvious interpretation:  namely that if we want to follow Christ, we must first sell all of our material possessions and follow after Jesus.  And because of that, it’s something that has always been interpreted by modern men to have “some other” application that “doesn’t apply” to us today [just so we can get away from addressing what it really means for us as a society today].

Most recently, I heard Larry Lawrence [of the Quorum of the Seventy] teach false doctrine to the saints of Christ as it relates to this topic.  He said:

Let’s consider the New Testament account of the rich young ruler. He was a righteous young man who was already keeping the Ten Commandments, but he wanted to become better. His goal was eternal life.

When he met the Savior, he asked, “What lack I yet?

Jesus answered immediately, giving counsel that was intended specifically for the rich young man.  Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and … come and follow me.”

What Lack I Yet?

Note the part I bolded from Elder Lawrence’s talk he gave to latter-day saints.  The human inclination is to read this story and ass-u-me that the counsel that Jesus gave applies only to that man in question.  The proper position that a man of God would take is to let that scripture prick conscience of the people and convict us of sin, insofar as we withhold our surplus from the needy, impoverished, and destitute.

I want to state, unequivocally, by the power of the Holy Spirit which is in me — that the counsel of Jesus given to the rich, young man in Matthew 19 was not “intended specifically for the rich young man” — this is false doctrine, and what Jesus said is true for all people who want to truly follow Him.

It is true for each-and-every one of us — that if we want to experience eternal life, then we must cease to covet the abundance we have and be free-and-willing to share all that we have with the needy, impoverished, and destitute.  And, if we are not willing, then we will find ourselves with the rest of the “rich men” — in hell lifting up our eyes, being in torment.

Next Article by Justin:  Nothing From Without Can Defile You

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21 Comments

  1. Agreed!!! Absolutely, false doctrine. The disciples of Jesus didn’t know about any postern gates, either. Jesus is asking the young man to live the law of consecration just like we covenant to do in the temple, today. We can make excuses that it isn’t required any more but we’re just fooling ourselves.

  2. 100% agree. I look forward to the day we are able to live the law of consecration. Part of the curse we fall under is the inability to live this law until the man appointed by God has the power to implement it once the separation of the righteous and wicked occurs within the church. We are under the obligation but are enable to do so as long as I believe the majority of members would have nothing to do with it because of their wealth they would never share.

    Brigham Young’s greatest fear was that this people would grow rich and this would become our demise. Seems like Ephriam has a DNA fault with this principle of covetousness and only a small remnant would comply with this law of love….A big reason I suppose for the need to separate the righteous from the wicked. Pride & Covetousness are Ephriam’s two biggest faults and always has been from ancient times. It’s in our blood.

  3. Looking over that sermon, given by Larry Lawrence, the understanding I get from his talk was that the Holy Ghost will tailor the answer to the question, “What do I yet lack?” to the individual. He gives many examples of such tailoring. So, he when he states that the counsel Jesus gave to the young rich ruler was “intended specifically for the rich young man,” I do not think that he intended to convey that he meant it was “intended specifically and only for the rich young man.” But certainly there may be people, upon hearing or reading his words, who might mistakenly take them as meaning that this scripture has no application to anyone else, because of his use of “intended specifically.”

    In the scriptures, the principle of “what I say to one, I say to all” is found everywhere written. But, even there, it does not have application in every circumstance. Nevertheless, we can certainly say that what Jesus said to one rich young man, he says to all rich young men. Or even all rich old men. Or all rich men, period. Or even all the rich, whether men or women. But, to all people, whether rich, poor or needy? Not likely. But certainly, the counsel should be taken to heart by all those with a surplus.

  4. Disagree.

    Elder Lawrence was explaining that when we ask the Lord what we need he will give us the answer we need. He went on to give other examples of people getting individual specific answers. He in no way implied that what the Savoir was teaching doesn’t apply to our day.

    At the end of his talk he said this:

    “I would like to suggest that each of you participate in a spiritual exercise sometime soon, perhaps even tonight while saying your prayers. Humbly ask the Lord the following question: “What is keeping me from progressing?” In other words: “What lack I yet?” Then wait quietly for a response. If you are sincere, the answer will soon become clear. IT WILL BE REVELATION INTENDED JUST FOR YOU.”

    That was the point of relating the story of the Rich Young Man.

  5. Oh sure, I agree — each of us have something unique that we “lack yet” — and it’s important that each of us find out what that “one thing” is and remove it from our lives.

    The problem is that the case can still be made from this talk that what Jesus said to the rich, young man applies “only to him” and so “I don’t have to worry about that”. This is a false doctrine that I’ve heard from LDS leaders and members before.

    The message from Matthew 19 isn’t that you should “go find your own one thing and get rid of it” [although that is good advice and we should all do that] — the message of that story is that if your belly full, but they hungry then that is as condemnable of a sin as any of the other “commandments” Jesus listed.

  6. Elder Oaks taught this in April 2015

    “I will speak first of the deceitfulness of riches. Wherever we are in our spiritual journey—whatever our state of conversion—we are all tempted by this. When attitudes or priorities are fixed on the acquisition, use, or possession of property, we call that materialism. So much has been said and written about materialism that little needs to be added here. Those who believe in what has been called the theology of prosperity are suffering from the deceitfulness of riches. The possession of wealth or significant income is not a mark of heavenly favor, and their absence is not evidence of heavenly disfavor. When Jesus told a faithful follower that he could inherit eternal life if he would only give all that he had to the poor (see Mark 10:17–24), He was not identifying an evil in the possession of riches but an evil in that follower’s attitude toward them.” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/the-parable-of-the-sower?lang=eng

    I think it’s a stretch to say Elder Lawrence in the very next general conference teaches to disregard this teaching because it was only for the Rich Young Man.

    You are misunderstanding the message he was teaching.

    If we ask the Lord “what lack I yet?” we will get individualized answers.

  7. If we ask the Lord “what lack I yet?” we will get individualized answers.

    Sure — I conceded as much in my previous comment.

    The question is, does what Larry said during his General Conference address help the millions of wealthy LDS understand that their riches will damn them to hell — or do his remarks promote the misunderstanding that what Jesus said in Matthew 19 applies only to that one guy [and therefore, not to us]?

  8. Justin

    Elder Lawrence was not addressing the evil love of money with that scripture just as Elder Oaks was not addressing individual answers to “what lack I yet.”

    I’m not sure why you are so concerned about what you think rich Mormons might misunderstand.

    Maybe everyone should worry about their own beam and not other peoples mote and ask the Lord, “what lack I (not them) yet?”

  9. I’m not sure why you are so concerned about what you think rich Mormons might misunderstand.

    What he said promotes a common misunderstanding that I’ve heard spoken by numerous LDS before — i.e., that what was said to the rich, young man was specifically tailored to him — with the implication being that it therefore doesn’t necessarily apply to me.

    It’s not about motes and beams — covetousness and wealth was predicted to be the downfall of the saints as early as Joseph Smith. It’s not a mote/beam issue for one to admit that it’s an issue among the church of Christ. Wealth among the LDS is simply a rampant sin. And now — here was the time to help millions of LDS understand that their riches will damn them to hell — but instead his remarks worked to foster the misunderstanding that many people have, which is that what Jesus said in Matthew 19 applies only to that one guy.

    You can teach people that there’s a “one thing” out there that each of us needs to work on individually — without promoting the cultural misunderstanding that “sell all that you have and give it to the poor” applied just to that rich, young man.

    That did not apply only to him, and it’s false to suggest otherwise [even if you’re making a good point about finding your own “one thing”], especially given the significance that the sin of wealth is having on the LDS church.

  10. “What he said promotes a common misunderstanding that I’ve heard spoken by numerous LDS before — i.e., that what was said to the rich, young man was specifically tailored to him — with the implication being that it therefore doesn’t necessarily apply to me.”

    I would be interested in the “numerous” accounts you claim. Again you can take any one line out of context. What you are claiming is out of context.

  11. Here is what I have heard spoken by “numerous” LDS:

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks

    When attitudes or priorities are fixed on the acquisition, use, or possession of property, we call that materialism. So much has been said and written about materialism that little needs to be added here. Those who believe in what has been called the theology of prosperity are suffering from the deceitfulness of riches. The possession of wealth or significant income is not a mark of heavenly favor, and their absence is not evidence of heavenly disfavor. When Jesus told a faithful follower that he could inherit eternal life if he would only give all that he had to the poor (see Mark 10:17–24), He was not identifying an evil in the possession of riches but an evil in that follower’s attitude toward them. As we are all aware, Jesus praised the good Samaritan, who used the same coinage to serve his fellowman that Judas used to betray his Savior. The root of all evil is not money but the love of money (see 1 Timothy 6:10).
    The Book of Mormon tells of a time when the Church of God “began to fail in its progress” (Alma 4:10) because “the people of the church began to … set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world” (Alma 4:8). Whoever has an abundance of material things is in jeopardy of being spiritually “sedated” by riches and other things of the world.3 That is a suitable introduction to the next of the Savior’s teachings.
    The most subtle thorns to choke out the effect of the gospel word in our lives are the worldly forces that Jesus called the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). (April 2015 General Conference)

    Bishop Keith McMullin

    Beware of worldly wealth. Its promises are enticing, but its happiness is a mirage. Wrote the Apostle Paul, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (April 2001 General Conference)

    Elder Joe J. Christiansen Presidency of the Seventy

    The more our hearts and minds are turned to assisting others less fortunate than we, the more we will avoid the spiritually cankering effects that result from greed, selfishness, and overindulgence. Our resources are a stewardship, not our possessions. I am confident that we will literally be called upon to make an accounting before God concerning how we have used them to bless lives and build the kingdom.
    In addition to paying an honest tithing, we should be generous in assisting the poor. How much should we give? I appreciate the thought of C. S. Lewis on this subject. He said: “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. … If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, … they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”14 [Mere Christianity (1952), 67.] (April 1999 General Conference)

    President Gordon B. Hinckley

    It is the love of money and the love of those things which money can buy which destroys us. We all need money to supply our needs. But it is the love of it which hurts us, which warps our values, which leads us away from spiritual things and fosters selfishness and greed. (April 1997 General Conference)

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks

    If allowed to become an object of worship or priority, money can make us selfish and prideful, “puffed up in the vain things of the world.” Alma 5:37 In contrast, if used for fulfilling our legal obligations and for paying our tithes and offerings, money can demonstrate integrity and develop unselfishness. The spiritually enlightened use of property can help prepare us for the higher law of a celestial glory. (October 1985 General Conference)

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie

    Paul said, “The love of money is the root of all evil” 1 Tim. 6:10 Now, if we get the love of money or the love of the things of this world in our hearts, so that we desire those things in preference to the things of the Spirit, we are walking in carnal paths. But if, on the other hand, we pay an honest tithing; pay our fast offerings; contribute to the great missionary cause, to the Church educational system, to the building programs of the Church, and so on; if we make our means available to the Lord and to his kingdom and to his work—then we are rising above the plane of covetousness and lust that is inherent in the nature of our mortal existence. (April 1969 General Conference)

    Elder John Madsen of the Seventy

    Almost 2,000 years ago, a rich young man asked an extremely important question of the Savior: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Matt. 19:16
    Having “heard” the Savior’s instructions and His gentle invitation to “come and follow me” Matt. 19:21 the rich young man “went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” Matt. 19:22
    Tragically, millions in the world today still prize and choose “the riches of the earth” over the “riches of eternity” D&C 38:39 not knowing or fully understanding that “he that hath eternal life is rich” D&C 6:7 emphasis added), and that eternal life is God’s greatest gift to man (see D&C 14:7 Simply stated, eternal life is to live forever as families in the presence of God (see D&C 132:19–20, 24, 55 (April 2002 General Conference)

    Elder Bruce Hafen of the Seventy

    The rich young man had given almost everything. When the Savior told him he must sell all his possessions, that wasn’t just a story about riches. [See Matt. 19:16–22 We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more. (April 2004 General Conference)

    Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

    The Savior taught clearly the proper value of worldly possessions in his conversation with the rich young ruler who asked what more was required to have eternal life; he had kept all the commandments from his youth. He asked the Master what he still lacked. Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give to the poor, and come and follow Him. But the man went away sorrowing, for he loved his possessions. (See Matt. 19:16–22 How many of us would pass this test?
    Many of us have made sacred covenants to live the laws of sacrifice and consecration. But when the Lord blesses us with riches and affluence, we may give little thought to how we should use these blessings to help build up his church.
    The scriptures are full of warnings against worldliness and pride because they, too, can lead us off course. The Lord explained to the Prophet Joseph Smith that many people veer from the path “because their hearts are set so much [on] the things of this world.” D&C 121:35 (October 1990 General Conference)

    President Thomas S. Monson

    “The young man saith … All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
    “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, … and come and follow me.
    “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Matt. 19:16–18, 20–22
    He preferred the comforts of earth to the treasures of heaven. He would not purchase the things of eternity by abandoning those of time. He faltered. He failed to finish. (April 1972 General Conference)

    President James E. Faust

    The unwelcome answer then came from the Master: “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.”
    When the ruler heard this, “he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
    “And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” Luke 18:18, 20–24
    How people handle their earthly riches is among the great tests they have in life. (October 1996 General Conference)

    President Ezra T. Benson

    “Our affections are often too highly placed upon the paltry perishable objects. Material treasures of earth are merely to provide us, as it were, room and board while we are here at school. It is for us to place gold, silver, houses, stocks, lands, cattle, and other earthly possessions in their proper place.
    “Yes, this is but a place of temporary duration. We are here to learn the first lesson toward exaltation—
    obedience to the Lord’s gospel plan” (April 1971 General Conference)

  12. I guess i agree with Justin upon reading his post the other day, with the law of consecration in mind just as Tom cited. It is good LDS A shares a clear explanation comment and mellowing. I still agree with Justin with the scripture in mind conforming to consecration in spite of the surplus(being inclined by some non lds commentary on the internet). Matthew 19 citation should be strictly a consecration principle, at least for me-an anarchist(LoL). Well, it can be used by others too. But for me at this point, it is mainly consecrative. It CAN be applied to everyone, who tries to walk in the steps of the Savior. The argument i guess stems from how one views the citation by principle or faith or doctrine or revelation…

  13. Matthew 19:25 leaves no doubt that the disciples understood that the words given to the rich man applied to them. Mt. 19:25 “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” “Exceedingly amazed” is a weak translation. The Greek is explosonto sphodra – to frighten exceedingly.

  14. lots of quotes about money from rich old white dudes in suits, flying around in private jets, holding stock in corporations, and recieveing “modest stipends”. actions speak way louder than words. the LDS church has too much money, and if it doesn’t consacrate it soon to the poor and building of Zion it will prove its total ruin. wait and see

  15. Anonymous…

    We don’t know what they do with their money. It’s not for us to judge what they do with it.

    The Savior said this in 3 Nephi 13:1

    “Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye DO NOT your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.”

    I’m sure you would have a problem if they went around telling everyone what they do.

    Occasionally we will here of some like this one from Elder Holland.

    “In that regard, I pay a personal tribute to President Thomas Spencer Monson. I have been blessed by an association with this man for 47 years now, and the image of him I will cherish until I die is of him flying home from then–economically devastated East Germany in his house slippers because he had given away not only his second suit and his extra shirts but the very shoes from off his feet. “How beautiful upon the mountains [and shuffling through an airline terminal] are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace.” More than any man I know, President Monson has “done all he could” for the widow and the fatherless, the poor and the oppressed.” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/are-we-not-all-beggars

  16. Justin, I no longer have access to my former cupholder account. Do you remember the Amen teaching I gave to you? I sent it to you because I felt that it would be lost…and, sure enough, now I’ve lost it. Could you send it back to me, if you still have it, via the blog contact form or just post it here, so that I can access it again? I’d appreciate it.

  17. I’ve got stuff about miracles/creation ex nihilo from Andrew’s blog, stuff on Alma 12:8-18, and about the rejection of the church from a post on Pure Mormonism. No Amen stuff though.

  18. I think I sent it to you via email, to your hushmail account. Also, I remember that you posted it to your other web site, if you still have that site. I can’t remember what the url of that site was, though.

  19. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I think you may have put it on your tumblr account.

  20. Yeah, I remember that too. Only problem is that I’m in the same boat as you — both that tumblr and my paleo hushmail account are gone too. I’ve been trying to find some version of those comments via Google, but it’s been to no avail.

  21. Lol. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t that important, anyway. Thanks for trying to look for it.


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