Helaman 12 talks about the dangers of wealth. It says:
1 And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.
2 Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
3 And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.
4 O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
5 Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
This passage has (in my view) relevance especially in North America. Mormon collected his material for the Book of Mormon from a large group of records detailing many problems and periods of history. He gathered his accounts under the influence and guidance of the Spirit with a view to the future. Oftentimes we say that the Book of Mormon was written for our day. Why do we have these continuous warnings in the text regarding wealth? My reflections on this subject have grown as I have traveled to areas with extreme poverty. I find it hard to believe that the Saints of Mexico, Central or South America, or Africa need such repeated reminders. For the most part the Saints in these parts of the world live in humble circumstances, with enough to meet their needs.
I love the following reminder from Hugh Nibley:
We have been instructed to read the Book of Mormon with scrupulous care and close analysis. If we do that, we will discover that the acquisitions of wealth often rewarded the zeal of the Saints but invariably led to pride, ambition and the increase of inequality among the Saints. It was the inequality that bothered the prophets– let me refer you to the Concordance for checking on these things statistically. Match up, for example, “riches” and “angels,” both of which are mentioned many times. The riches tell one story, the angels another. The riches don’t bother me because they don’t concern me, but the absence of angels on the present scene may be significant. As you know, Joseph Smith said “the heavens have often been sealed up because of covetousness in the Church.” But the (primitive) Church still went on- without angels or revelations, the channel being pretty well closed off. The degree of inspiration in the Church is not always the same; the Book of Mormon is a barometer in which it goes up and down in astonishingly short periods. If you examine it, you will find that there is a definite correlation between wealth and revelation – a negative correlation. You will also find that at every period there are humble servants of Christ who go their way without trying to control anything but their own behavior; they are the ones who really benefit by the Gospel and enjoy it. (Hugh Nibley, Letter to Brent Lewis, 24 February 1988, as found in Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, The Authorized Biography by Boyd Jay Petersen, p. 391)
Brigham Young on Wealth
President Brigham Young (1801–77) said: “The worst fear that I have about [members of this Church] is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches” (quoted in Preston Nibley, Brigham Young: The Man and His Work , 128).