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When President Kimball was ordained an Apostle, President Heber J. Grant’s counsel to him reinforced this principle of putting the Lord and His kingdom first: “Set your heart upon the service of the Lord thy God. From this very moment resolve to make this cause and this labor first and foremost in all your thoughts.”
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Idolatry is among the most serious of sins. . . .
Modern idols or false gods can take such forms as clothes, homes, businesses, machines, automobiles, pleasure boats, and numerous other material deflectors from the path to godhood. . . .
Intangible things make just as ready gods. Degrees and letters and titles can become idols. . . .
Many people build and furnish a home and buy the automobile first – and then find they “cannot afford” to pay tithing. Whom do they worship? Certainly not the Lord of heaven and earth. . . .
Many worship the hunt, the fishing trip, the vacation, the weekend picnics and outings. Others have as their idols the games of sport, baseball, football, the bullfight, or golf. . . .
Still another image men worship is that of power and prestige. . . . These gods of power, wealth, and influence are most demanding and are quite as real as the golden calves of the children of Israel in the wilderness.
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I am reminded of an article I read some years ago about a group of men who had gone to the jungles to capture monkeys. They tried a number of different things to catch the monkeys, including nets. But finding that the nets could injure such small creatures, they finally came upon an ingenious solution. They built a large number of small boxes, and in the top of each they bored a hole just large enough for a monkey to get his hand into. They then set these boxes out under the trees and in each one they put a nut that the monkeys were particularly fond of.
When the men left, the monkeys began to come down from the trees and examine the boxes. Finding that there were nuts to be had, they reached into the boxes to get them. But when a monkey would try to withdraw his hand with the nut, he could not get his hand out of the box because his little fist, with the nut inside, was now too large.
At about this time, the men would come out of the underbrush and converge on the monkeys. And here is the curious thing: When the monkeys saw the men coming, they would shriek and scramble about with the thought of escaping; but as easy as it would have been, they would not let go of the nut so that they could withdraw their hands from the boxes and thus escape. The men captured them easily.
And so it often seems to be with people, having such a firm grasp on things of the world – that which is telestial – that no amount of urging and no degree of emergency can persuade them to let go in favor of that which is celestial. Satan gets them in his grip easily. If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up for ourselves a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit.
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Book of Mormon history eloquently reveals the corrosive effect of the passion for wealth. Each time the people became righteous, they prospered. Then followed the transition from prosperity to wealth, wealth to the love of wealth, then to the love of ease and luxury. They moved then into spiritual inactivity, then to gross sin and wickedness, then on to near destruction by their enemies. . . . Had the people used their wealth for good purposes they could have enjoyed a continuing prosperity.
The Lord has blessed us as a people with a prosperity unequaled in times past. The resources that have been placed in our power are good, and necessary to our work here on the earth. But I am afraid that many of us have been surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth and have begun to worship them as false gods, and they have power over us. . . . Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God – to further the missionary effort and the genealogical and temple work; to raise our children up as fruitful servants unto the Lord; to bless others in every way, that they may also be fruitful. Instead, we expend these blessings on our own desires, and as Moroni said, “Ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not.” (Mormon 8:39) — Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 145-53
Idolatry is among the most serious of sins. There are unfortunately millions today who prostrate themselves before images of gold and silver and wood and stone and clay. But the idolatry we are most concerned with here is the conscious worshiping of still other gods. Some are of metal and plush and chrome, of wood and stone and fabrics. They are not in the image of God or of man, but are developed to give man comfort and enjoyment, to satisfy his wants, ambitions, passions and desires. Some are in no physical form at all, but are intangible.
Many seem to “worship” on an elemental basis – they live to eat and drink. They are like the children of Israel who, though offered the great freedoms associated with national development under God’s personal guidance, could not lift their minds above the “flesh pots of Egypt.” They cannot seem to rise above satisfying their bodily appetites. As Paul put it, their “God is their belly.” (Phil. 3:19)
Modern idols or false can take such forms as clothes, homes, businesses, machines, automobiles, pleasure boats, and numerous other material deflectors from the path to godhood. What difference does it make that the item concerned is not shaped like an idol? Brigham Young said: “I would as soon see a man worshiping a little god made of brass or of wood as to see him worshiping his property.”
Intangible things make just as ready gods. Degrees and letters and titles can become idols. Many young men decide to attend college when they should be on missions first. The degree, and the wealth and the security which come through it, appear so desirable that the mission takes second place. Some neglect Church service through their college years, feeling to give preference to the secular training and ignoring the spiritual covenants they have made.
Many people build and furnish a home and buy the automobile first – and then find they “cannot afford” to pay tithing. Whom do they worship? Certainly not the Lord of heaven and earth, for we serve whom we love and give first consideration to the object of our affection and desires. Young married couples who postpone parenthood until their degrees are attained might be shocked if their expressed preference were labeled idolatry. (Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 40-41) — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, pp. 4-5
While I was serving as a mission president, we discussed at a zone conference man’s potential for godhood. In so doing we referred to an oft-cited scripture of the critics, Isaiah 43:10, which states, “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” Therefore the critics conclude that if there is no God before or after the Father, then man certainly could not become a god.
As fate would have it, several days thereafter one of our younger missionaries was knocking on a door. A distinguished man invited him in. The missionaries soon learned he was a theological professor at a local university. The man was polite but stated adamantly that Mormon doctrine was incorrect because it taught that a man might become a god, and, after all, the Bible teaches there is no god before or after the Father.
This fine young missionary was not taken back one bit. He simply replied, “Sir, do you know where that scripture is found?”
The man hesitated, “I can’t recall exactly, but it is in the Bible.”
The young missionary replied, “It is in Isaiah 43:10, but it is also found in Isaiah 44, 45, and 46.” He further asked, “Do you recall the context in which it was given?”
The professor could not remember.
“Then,” said the young missionary, “let me help you. God was reprimanding the Israelites because they were worshiping graven images and statues made with man’s hands. On repeated occasions the Lord declared in these chapters that none of these images or statues, whether formed in the past or in the future, would ever be a god.” In essence this young missionary explained that these verses had everything to do with the incapacity of graven images to become gods and absolutely nothing to do with man’s capacity to become a god. He invited the professor to learn more about the truth concerning man’s potential, but the invitation was declined. — Elder Tad R. Callister, “Our Identity and Our Destiny,” BYU Education Week, Aug. 14, 2012