The key is expressed in Mark 10:24: “How hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God” (emphasis mine). It is “the love of money [that] is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10, emphasis mine) – the problem is giving preeminent priority to the hoarding of worldly goods. The Nephite prophet Jacob explained the importance of placing our trust and love upon the Lord, and letting the worldly riches follow:
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good–to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
I haven’t decided if “ye will seek them” is prophecy or commandment. (Also, note that the list Jacob gives is very similar to the lists in King Benjamin’s address (Mosiah 4:26), the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:35-36), and “A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief” – I love that.)
Just be sure you don’t confuse spiritual and temporal prosperity, as did the friends of Job.
I heard somebody say it the other day that we don‘t pay people for what they do in the Church. And I thought how ridiculous can a person be? The fundamental law of the universe says that all labor must be paid for. You can no more do a good thing without some time, in some way, receiving a reward than you can do an evil thing without suffering a penalty.
We often don’t grasp that. We understand the second part – we can’t escape sin without facing punishment – but we ignore the first part. Some go so far as to convolute the two – “No good deed goes unpunished.” We don’t think of good deeds as good – they’re just not bad deeds. We’re not building up spiritual credit, we’re just not digging ourselves further into spiritual debt.
I think there’s a real danger lurking there. It sets up a lot of false opposites. We know that there must needs be opposition in all things, and in order for us to learn from that opposition, we need to understand the opposites. The opposite of Evil isn’t Nothing – it’s Good. The opposite of Sorrow isn’t Nothing – it’s Joy.
Similarly, we think of the Atonement as a power used to seek and grant forgiveness when we have sinned – it takes us from bad to neutral ground. But that's not all it does. Consider Ether 12:27. Christ tells us that as we come to Him in faith and humility, He will “make weak things become strong unto them.” As we seek to overcome our imperfections, we become perfect in Christ. We become Good. The Atonement has power not only to forgive, but to improve – line upon line, precept upon precept, until we become “a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
Elder Oaks spoke to this in “The Challenge to Become”:
The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts--what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts--what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.
A parable illustrates this understanding. A wealthy father knew that if he were to bestow his wealth upon a child who had not yet developed the needed wisdom and stature, the inheritance would probably be wasted. The father said to his child:
“All that I have I desire to give you--not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.”
Elder Sill expressed it thus:
Now in addition to what we might get out of it, that is, wealth isn’t so much what you have, it’s what you are. We don’t work merely to acquire, we work to become. Success in life isn’t what you can get out of it, it’s what you can become by it.
Many today want the shortcut – they want the end result, without having to put in the work and the labor and the sacrifice necessary to obtain those end results. Consider the parable of the Little Red Hen, here related by Elder Sill:
You remember that the Little Red Hen had a bag of wheat, and she decided to plant the wheat. Now that’s a good idea because wheat is worth more for planting than for any other purpose. If you eat wheat, you get one kernel for one kernel. If you plant wheat, you get a hundred kernels for one kernel. Now the Little Red Hen was a reasonable little red hen and she could see this basis for profit, and so she decided to plant the wheat. But she needed somebody to help her, and so she went around among her friends in the barnyard and said, “Who will help me plant my wheat?”
Well, for some reason, she couldn’t get anybody interested. She pointed out, I’m sure, this possibility of profit, but no one was interested. And so she did it herself. But when the wheat began to grow, she needed somebody to help her care for the wheat, and so again she went around, I suppose thinking that now that they could see this wheat growing and they knew the enterprise was going to be a success that maybe she could get them interested and I supposed again she pointed out this basis for increase, but to her despair, I suppose, nobody was interested. “Not I,” said the pig. “Not I,” said the goose. “Not I,” said the turkey. Nobody wanted to help.
But when the threshing time came, I suppose she reasoned that now that they could see this wheat that was growing, it was going to be successful, again she went around among her friends and again nobody was interested. She did the same thing at the threshing time and the grinding time and the baking time, and couldn’t get help without any result.
But when these cakes had been prepared, she again went around among her friends in the barnyard and said, “Who will help me eat my cakes?” And then she discovered that a wonderful thing had happened. Now, for some unknown reason, everybody wanted to be a part of the project. “I,” said the pig. “I,” said the goose. “I,” said the turkey. Everybody was enthusiastic now.
Now the Lord has a program just like that. He said, “Who will help me prepare to be the leaders in the Church, and in the world? Who will help me put knowledge and enthusiasm and faith into the lives of people? Who will help me give encouragement and understanding to those who need it worst?” Now sometimes we have difficulty in getting those ideas over and “Not I,” said Brother Sill. “Not I,” said Sister Jones. “Not I,” said Brother Smith.
Then, I suppose the Lord is going to some day say, “Who would like to live with me forever in the Celestial Kingdom? Who would like to enjoy the great prestige and honor and great life of a personage that has become even as God?” And then I suppose that we also are going to have a great change of heart. That is, when we stand before God, there isn’t one person in this audience who will not want to be a faithful, devoted, ardent, enthusiastic, industrious member of the church. But we have to make up our mind before that, because by that time, the harvest is over and the summer is past and our souls not saved.
The formula itself is simple: Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, and Habits. And the Personality of the leader.
It takes work to lay up treasures in heaven, but it can be done. “He that thrusteth in his sickle with his might layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul.” (D&C 4:4, emphasis mine) Just make sure your heart’s in the right place as you labor, and you’ll make it.
“A Formula for Laying Up Treasures” by Elder Sterling W. Sill
BYU Devotional, October 3, 1960