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Attitudes Toward Business

by Stephen D. Nadauld

Business endeavors hold no mandated interest for the Church or its members. Church members involve themselves in all avenues of life in much the same proportion as the general population of the region or country in which they live (see Occupational Status). Church members are urged to be honest in all their dealings with their fellow men, including business and professional activities. Elements of history, theology, and practice combine to form a positive LDS attitude toward honest business endeavors.

Many LDS attitudes toward business are rooted in the Church's frontier heritage. As the Church developed settlements in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and the Great Basin, it became necessary and desirable to be involved in business activities. Cooperative business efforts were necessary for success, independence, and survival.

In addition to its spiritual and cultural roles, the Church sponsored economic initiatives that could not be mounted by individual entrepreneurs. For example, when it was determined that sugar would be expensive and difficult to obtain in the Great Basin, the Church in the 1850s sponsored a business venture to cultivate and process sugar beets. Converts brought capital and equipment from Europe, and factories were constructed. After extended difficulties, a thriving sugar beet industry resulted in the 1890s. Similarly, to provide banking services, a Church-sponsored bank was incorporated. A general store—Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI)—was begun, as were a newspaper, the Deseret news, and several hospitals; later, radio and television stations were acquired by the Church (see Broadcasting). As the capital needed for these businesses became available from private sources, the Church divested itself of nearly all business activities unrelated to its ecclesiastical mission.

Thus, historically, members of the Church have been integrally involved in business activities. In their pioneer environment, Latter-day Saints developed, out of necessity, traits of self-sufficiency, pragmatism, and resourcefulness. This heritage is reflected in an entrepreneurial spirit and penchant for hard work that lend themselves very well to business endeavors.

The theology of the Church is also supportive of honest business. Church doctrines emphasize individual agency and self-determination, which provide fertile conceptual soil for fostering business attitudes of free enterprise. The Church teaches that property and wealth are stewardships and that all people will be held accountable to God for what they have done with the time and resources entrusted to them (Young, p. 301). Church leaders continue to encourage members to live within their means, to save and be frugal, and to remain economically independent by avoiding debt. Such principles are harmonious with business success and help prepare Church members to perform well in a business environment.

In addition, the Church's organizational practices provide an opportunity for developing skills that are useful in business. Each member, young and old, is called upon to serve in some calling. Young boys and girls give talks in Church and develop public-speaking skills. Church youth are given leadership opportunities, and adult men and women fill numerous leadership and teaching positions in every local congregation (see Lay Participation and Leadership; Leadership Training). Budgeting, counseling, organizing, and performing administrative tasks are carried out on a regular basis. From these experiences, members develop business-related skills that are useful in many business contexts.

Over the years, Church leaders have spoken forthrightly about maintaining high standards of business ethics and have warned against becoming carried away by business endeavors: "Material blessings are a part of the gospel if they are achieved in the proper way and for the right purpose" (N. Eldon Tanner, Ensign 9 [Nov. 1979]:80). Fair business dealing, giving value for value received, is scripturally required (Lev. 19:11, 35-36; 25:14; Deut. 24:14-15). Thus, President Spencer W. Kimball distinguished clean money from filthy lucre or compromise money: Clean money is "compensation received for a full day's honest work,…reasonable pay for faithful service,…fair profit from the sale of goods, commodities, or service; …income received from transactions where all parties profit" (Kimball, p. 948), and he counseled against conducting business unnecessarily on the Sabbath.

Employers are admonished to be generous and kind; employees, to be loyal and diligent. President Brigham Young encouraged "every man who has capital [to] create business and give employment and means into the hands of laborers"; he saw economic strength in "the bone and sinew of workingmen and women," and encouraged all to be industrious: "If we all labor a few hours a day, we could then spend the remainder of our time in rest and the improvement of our minds" (Young, pp. 300-302). "Let every man and woman be industrious, prudent, and economical in their acts and feelings, and while gathering to themselves, let each one strive to identify his or her interests with…those of their neighbor and neighborhood, let them seek their happiness and welfare in that of all" (Young, p. 303).

[See also Consecration; Riches of Eternity; Wealth, Attitudes Toward; Daily Living home page; Attitudes About Wealth and Business home page]

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Business, Attitudes Toward

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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