Regarding revealed knowledge the Lord said:
As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints( D&C 121:33).
That’s powerful. However, not all revealed knowledge is of equal value! Some knowledge is more valuable because it is knowledge that “saves”. The Book of Mormon contains knowledge that when properly applied opens up the heavens and allows us to be recipients of the things of the Spirit.
For example, Nephi teaches the Doctrine of Christ in just nine verses (2 Nephi 31:13-21). If we’re interested in being true followers of Christ these nine verses have the potential to open the path to our exaltation should if we focus our attention and faith thereon.
As I’ve mingled with church members for the last fifty plus years, one of the great ironies I’ve encountered is that some of the most capable thinkers I’ve known were focused on knowledge that doesn’t save.
As I gotten better acquainted with these wonderful saints, by their own admission, the Holy Ghost is scarcely evident in their lives. They live good lives, are active in the church, know a lot about the Master, but don’t know Him for a very good reason—He is not at the center of the thoughts and intents of their hearts.
It seems odd that members who are active in the church can fix their focus on the “gospel” in a way that stymies their Spiritual progress and denies them the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit.
I hope each of us will assess where our focus is, if we find we’re feasting on “intellectual mammon” instead of the words of Christ, which we’re counseled to feast on, I hope we will repent.
At this point, some of those reading this post will think I am referring to the lack of gospel study. This certainly would be a problem, but the main point I am trying to make is that even those who study the “gospel” on a daily basis can end up feasting on” intellectual mammon”.
Feasting on the Words of Christ vs. Feasting on Intellectual Mammon
If you’re asking yourself what does he mean by “intellectual mammon” then I’d better give a definition to this term. A basic definition of mammon is money, the love of which is the root of all evil, according to the scriptures.
Is money evil, no—but the love of it can be.
Another way to think of mammon is that it eventually causes those who feast on it to oppose God. Mammon can divert our love from God to the things of the world. The scripture call this idolatry: every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god (D&C 1:16).
Mammon is Anything that Draws us Away from God.
If we stretch the dictionary definition of mammon a little we can reason it is anything that draws us away from God. The reason the love of money is evil is because we’re commanded to love God, not money. You cannot effectively serve God if you love money more than God (Matthew 6:24).
It is the same with intellectual mammon. The reason the love of the things of the intellect can be evil is because we’re told to love God, not the intellect. You cannot effectively serve God if you love things of the intellect more than God.
Is the intellect evil, no—but the love of it can be. Why, because it opposes God in that it can distracts us from the “strait” and narrow path God as provided for us to follow (2 Nephi 31:18).
Let’s turn to the scriptures for help with this thought.
O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. 2 Nephi 9:28 – 29
The scriptures say it so well! Even Gospel Study or the Church itself can be transformed into a mammon like thing that draws our focus away from God.
Some readers may be thinking at this point, “OK, Jared, you said earlier that even those who study the gospel can end up feasting on intellectual mammon. Please explain how you reach this conclusion.”
Hugh Nibley wrote:
“All objects of our attention are not equally worthy of our devotion”. Approaching Zion, Hugh Nibley, P. 525.
As members of the church what is the object of our devotion? If it is anything other than God then we may be feasting on mammon. There are many examples of this. Elder Uchtdorf identified the church as a possible source of mammon when he taught:
The Church, with all its organizational structure and programs, offers many important activities for its members aimed at helping families and individuals to serve God and each other. Sometimes, however, it can appear that these programs and activities are closer to the center of our heart and soul than the core doctrines and principles of the gospel… We have to be careful that the center of our testimony is not located in the social dimension of the Church community or the wonderful activities, programs, and organizations of our wards and stakes. Ensign, Nov. 2005, P. 100.
Those who are involved in scholarly gospel pursuits and who associate themselves with Sunstone, Dialogue, F.A.I.R., blogging and other like efforts need to be wary of intellectual mammon crippling our testimony, spirituality, and our access to things of the Spirit. This can happen by allowing our devotion to be focused on lesser things instead of the doctrine of Christ.
Elder Dallin Oaks insightful talk about how our strengths can lead to our downfall taught:
Satan can also attack us where we think we are strong—in the very areas where we are proud of our strengths. He will approach us through the greatest talents and spiritual gifts we possess. If we are not wary, Satan can cause our spiritual downfall by corrupting us through our strengths. Ensign, Oct. 1994, P. 11.
Those who desire to be joint-heirs with Jesus Christ need to be cautious of those things that have the potential to divert our devotion from the doctrine of Christ (first principles of the gospel). Some things are obvious like pornography, but other things are more subtle, such as devoting ourselves to studying gospel topics like Mother in heaven, blacks and the priesthood, Adam God, the Second Coming of Christ, Book of Mormon geography, church history and a host of other interesting subjects.
Did I say we shouldn’t study these subjects? No, I didn’t. I am saying that should we become devoted to anything besides the doctrine of Christ we can lose sight of the primary purpose of the gospel.
It is even possible, in our zeal, to get caught up in devoting ourselves to the church, church callings and the end result is detrimental to our goal of being true followers of Christ.
My understanding of the scriptures and my experience as I have sought to be a follower of Christ has taught me that the very best way to stay on course is to acquire and maintain the gift of the Holy Ghost. We’re told that the Holy Ghost, ”will show unto you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:5).
I hope all of us will diligently seek to fulfill our baptismal covenant and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and once we have this gift, to grow in it until we have the constant companionship of this member of the Godhead. This is best done by following the doctrine of Christ, in other words, the first principles of the gospel as taught in the forth Article of Faith.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.