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Gambling

by W. John Walsh

Latter-day Saints reject all forms of gambling as a pernicious evil to society.  The First Presidency has stated:

“The Church has been and now is unalterably opposed to gambling in any form whatever. It is opposed to any game of chance, occupation, or so-called business, which takes money from the person who may be possessed of it without giving value received in return. It is opposed to all practices the tendency of which is to encourage the spirit of reckless speculation, and particularly to that which tends to degrade or weaken the high moral standard which the members of the Church, and our community at large, have always maintained.  We therefore advise and urge all members of the Church to refrain from participation in any activity which is contrary to the view herein set forth.”[1]

Latter-day Saint opposition to gambling is rooted in key theological principles.  The ultimate purpose of life is for us to fulfill all the prerequisites which will enable us to enter into godhood—“having all divine attributes and doing as God does and being as God is”[2]in the afterlife.  To help us acquire these needed divine attributes, our Heavenly Father has constructed a plan of salvation which enables us to obtain them.

One of the required divine attributes is the ability to work:  “For behold, this is [the Lord’s] work and [his] glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[3]  The Lord works in eternity and we must develop this aptitude within ourselves.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“One of the first principles revealed to father Adam when he was driven out of the Garden of Eden was this: ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground’ (Genesis 3:19). All we obtain in life of a material nature comes as a product of labor and the providence of God. Work produces life's necessities.”[4]

By learning to work in mortality, we develop a capacity which we will take with us in the afterlife

Since gambling is founded upon the “desire to get something of value for little or nothing,”[5] it cultivates within us a spirit which opposes the divine ability to work for that which we desire.  Also, gambling is “destructive of the finer sensitivities of the soul”[6] in that it encourages us to manipulate and somehow vanquish our fellow man instead of showing love and compassion for him.  Instead of a spirit of love, gambling cultivates a spirit of craftiness and contention.  The prophets have taught that “every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them.”[7]

In addition to the spiritual harm that occurs personally to the gambler, gambling also has broader negative effects to society at large.  Gamblers, especially those with addictions, frequently squander family resources needed for other purposes thus depriving other family members of their own rights and privileges.  Also, “[t]he underworld of gambling and vice are constantly and unrelentingly exploiting the innocent and unsuspecting.”[8]  The First Presidency has noted:

“There can be no question about the moral ramifications of gambling, including government-sponsored lotteries. Public lotteries are advocated as a means of relieving the burden of taxation. It has been demonstrated, however, that all too often lotteries only add to the problems of the financially disadvantaged by taking money from them and giving nothing of value in return. The poor and the elderly become victims of the inducements that are held out to purchase lottery tickets on the remote chance of winning a substantial prize. It is sad to see governments now promoting what they once enacted laws to forbid. We urge members of the Church to join with others with similar concerns in opposing the legalization of gambling and government-sponsorship of lotteries.”[9]


(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page)

[1] Letter of the First Presidency issued on September 21, 1925 by Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, Charles W. Nibley.  Quoted in  James R. Clark, ed.,  Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 5, p. 245.

[2] "Godhood"   K. Codell Carter, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.

[3] Moses 1:39, Pearl of Great Price, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.

[4] Benson, E., Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988, p.474.

[5] Smith, J.  Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1919, p. 327.

[6] McConkie, B., Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 302.

[7] Mosiah 23:15, Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.

[8] Conference Report, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 1961, p. 22.

[9] Church News, Oct. 5, 1986, p. 4.

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