Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, October 1953, pp. 51-56
My beloved brothers and sisters: My heart is filled with gratitude this morning for this occasion, for you, for the gospel, the Church, the priesthood, my family, and for all the privileges that have come to me.
Recently, as I held a meeting with a group of members of bishoprics, I had occasion to read to them that scripture of Paul's, given to Timothy, in which he said:
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre... (1 Tim. 3:2-3).
My mind began to explore and I wondered: "What is filthy lucre?" I read a little farther and found that he said the same of the deacons, that they should not be "greedy of filthy lucre."
I found also that Paul spoke to Titus, his son in the faith:
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God . . . not given to filthy lucre (Titus 1:7).
Peter also gave the same instructions to the elders, making the warning quite universal to the Church:
The elders which are among you I exhort . . .
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind (1 Pet. 5:1-2).
I wondered about the term. I went to the dictionary to see just what Webster would say, and found that lucre, itself, has a bad connotation, and filthy lucre is worse; and to be "greedy of filthy lucre" is, of course, still worse.
This instruction was given by John, the Revelator, to the Laodicean Saints:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent (Rev. 3:15-19).
And I began to think of many of our people whose minds are upon their wealth; who are increased with goods; who though clothed elegantly are naked and not in white raiment; who with eyes wide open see not; who are "greedy for filthy lucre."
Now, all money is not lucre—all money is not filthy. There is clean money—clean money with which to buy food, clothes, shelter, and other necessities and with which to make contributions toward the building of the kingdom of God.
Clean money is that compensation received for a full day's honest work. It is that reasonable pay for faithful service. It is that fair profit from the sale of goods, commodities, or service. It is that income received from transactions where all parties profit.
Filthy lucre is blood money; that which is obtained through theft and robbery. It is that obtained through gambling or the operation of gambling establishments. Filthy lucre is that had through sin or sinful operations and that which comes from the handling of liquor, beer, narcotics and those other many things which are displeasing in the sight of the Lord. Filthy lucre is that money which comes from bribery, and from exploitation.
Compromise money is filthy, graft money is unclean, profits and commissions derived from the sale of worthless stocks are contaminated as is the money derived from other deceptions, excessive charges, oppression to the poor and compensation which is not fully earned. I feel strongly that men who accept wages or salary and do not give commensurate time, energy, devotion, and service are receiving money that is not clean. Certainly those who deal in the forbidden are recipients of filthy lucre.
Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God (Deut. 23:18).
And Micah lashed at this sin. He said:
. . . What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?
Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard:
And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.
For her wound is incurable... (Micah 1:5-7,9).
I am sure that money is unclean when it is obtained through oppression, fraud bribery, or through misrepresentations. You will remember the story of the Prophet Samuel:
. . . he made his sons judges over Israel.
And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes and perverted judgment (1 Sam. 8:1,3).
And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you.
And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.
Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.
And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand (1 Sam. 12:1-4).
In Isaiah's day, there were those who accepted gifts as bribes and who brought forth the prophet's comments:
He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure (Isa. 33:15-16).
Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
Which justify the wicked for reward . . .
Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust . . . (Isa. 5:22-24).
In Exodus again we read of gifts of bribery:
And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous (Ex. 23:8).
In Matthew, the Master denounced unclean gifts which come from impure and unforgiving hearts:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift (Matt. 5:22-24).
The gift is acceptable when it is made clean and uncontaminated.
Fair dealing in business matters, in selling, in buying, and in general representations is spoken of frequently in the scriptures. The warning to Israel is still applicable in our own day:
And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another:
. . . but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God (Lev. 25:14,17).
And in the Proverbs we read:
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want (Prov. 22:16).
Much is said about the hirer and the hired in the scriptures, and about the employer and the employee:
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth (James 5:1-4).
. . . and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts (Mal. 3:5).
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter;
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isa. 5:20-21).
Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates:
At his day thou shalt give him his hire neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it... (Deut. 24:14-15).
And to me that means, woe unto them who will rationalize, who will explain away their errors in these matters, who justify their oppressions. Farm hands, domestic help, and unprotected people are often oppressed, when economic circumstances place them in the position where they must accept what is offered or remain unemployed. And we sometimes justify ourselves in underpaying and even boast about it:
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand.
And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage (Micah 2:1-2).
And then there are those of us who require excessive compensation for services and who fail to give "value received" and who give no loyalty with their insufficient and inefficient service.
Scripture writers admonish the employed to obey masters, to please their employers, to work with singleness of heart, to be honest in time spent and service rendered and to avoid purloining.
The Lord knows that we need food, clothes, shelter, and other things. He expects us to earn our living. He commands us to give the necessities to our families. He permits, perhaps, that we may have reasonable luxuries, but not with unclean money.
The Savior said,
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matt. 6:24).
And as we look about, we see many who are greedy for excessive wealth, and especially that which comes with sharp practices and at the expense of strict honesty and complete integrity. It is hard to satisfy us. The more we have, the more we want.
Paul seemed to understand human nature and fully endorsed the statement of the Master: " . . . a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven" (see Matt. 19:24). He says:
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim. 6:7-10).
"Having food and raiment let us be therewith content." Why another farm, another herd of sheep, another bunch of cattle, another ranch? Why another hotel, another cafe, another store, another shop? Why another plant, another office, another service, another business? Why another of anything if one has that already which provides the necessities and reasonable luxuries? Why continue to expand and increase holdings, especially when those increased responsibilities draw one's interests away from proper family and spiritual commitments, and from those things to which the Lord would have us give precedence in our lives? Why must we always be expanding to the point where our interests are divided and our attentions and thoughts are upon the things of the world? Certainly when one's temporal possessions become great, it is very difficult for one to give proper attention to the spiritual things.
Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich (Prov. 28:6).
And then this from Proverbs struck me:
A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent (Prov. 28:20).
And I wonder if many of us are not hasting to be rich. Are we making compromises in order to accumulate? I wonder if money earned upon the Sabbath, when it is unnecessary Sabbath earning, might not also be unclean money. I realize that some people must work on the Sabbath; and when they do, if they are compelled, that is, of course, a different situation. But men and women who will deliberately use the Sabbath day to develop business propositions, to increase their holdings, to increase their income, I fear for them. I think the Lord was speaking to them when he said: "Woe unto them that call evil good . . . " (Isa. 5:20). Sometimes we salve our consciences by saying that the more we get the more we can give to the worthy causes, but that, of course, is a subterfuge. There are people who work on the Sabbath not through compulsion but because the income is attractive, and others who work voluntarily to get the "time and a half" that Sabbath work gives them.
In a stake recently I interviewed a man for an important position in the stake reorganization. And I said to him, "What is your occupation?" And he said, "I operate a service station." And I asked, "Do you operate on the Sabbath?" His answer was, "No, I do not." "Well, how can you get along? Most service station operators seem to think they must open on the Sabbath." "I get along well," he said. "The Lord is good to me." "Do you not have stiff competition?" I asked. "Yes, indeed," he replied. "Across the street is a man who keeps open all day Sunday." "And you never open?" I asked. "No, sir," he said, "and I am grateful, and the Lord is kind, and I have sufficient for my needs."
I was in another stake, also in a reorganization program and another brother was considered for one of the highest positions; and when we asked him of his occupation, he said he was a grocer by trade. "Well, most of the stores keep open on the Sabbath. Do you?" "We lock our store on Sunday," he said. "But how can you compete with these people who are open seven days a week?" "We compete. At least we get along very well," was his reply. "But would not the Sabbath be your biggest day?" "Yes," he answered, "we would probably sell twice as much on the Sabbath as we would on an average day, but we get along without it, and the Lord has been kind; he has been gracious; he has been good." "What do you sell in this store?" I asked him. He said, "Groceries and miscellaneous merchandise." "Your competitors sell other things including forbidden things, do they not?" I asked. "Yes, but we have felt it was not right," he said. "We lose trade, of course. People leave our store and go to the other store and buy many dollars' worth of groceries where they can get a few cans of beer or some wine, but we do not sell it." And I could not refrain from saying, "God bless you, my faithful brother. The Lord will not be unmindful of these seeming sacrifices. Your dollars are clean. They will surely not hinder you in finding your way into the kingdom of God."
The Savior knew that the ox gets in the mire on the Sabbath (Luke 14:5), but he knew also that no ox deliberately goes into the mire every week.
In my extensive travels I find many faithful people who forego the Sabbath day profits and those which come from the handling of the forbidden things. I have found cattle communities where the stockmen never carry on their roundup on the Sabbath; fruit stands along the roadside which are open night and day, but which close on Sunday even in the short fruit season; drugstores and confectionery businesses which earn their money on the six weekdays; eating houses and wayside stands, closed on the Lord's day. And there are many other people who might rationalize and justify themselves in Sunday profit taking but who take satisfaction and joy in refraining. And every time I see good folk who are willing to forego these profits, I rejoice and feel within my heart to bless them for their steadfastness, their courage, and their faith.
There are many other ways, of course in which money can be tainted. I pray that we will keep our money clean. And I pray the Lord that he will bless his children that they will have the faith to live his commandments, sacrifice though there may seem to be. I know that God will make it up to them. I know that men will never suffer, ultimately, for any seeming financial sacrifices that might be made, for he has commanded us to live his laws and then has challenged us:
. . . prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Mal. 3:10).
And may God bless all of us that we will live close to his teachings and thereby merit the blessings which he has promised to us, I pray, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.