Why Ladders Are The Answer To Poverty

By Paul | Uncategorized

Jun 05

It's not every day that Andrew Carnegie gets a positive quote in a religious sermon. He was known to be about money. An absolute ton of money.

Money Magazine lists Andrew Carnegie as the 6th richest guy on the planet ever in history. He falls far ahead of Bill Gates and a little ahead of John D. Rockefeller, but just behind Joseph Stalin (only because Stalin controlled an entire country with 9.6% of global GDP).​

Isn't money the root of all evil? Isn't money the greaser of palms and the cause of so much vice? I guess for some, that's how they see money.

Maybe Andrew Carnegie came to be one of the richest people because he did those things? Have you ever heard such a thing? I know people who absolutely believe that that kind of wealth must have come from crooked means. To me that's a sad outlook on life, but understandable with what we see in the world today. Even Bill Gates faked out IBM, Xerox, and Apple to get where he got (at least that's the way I read those stories).

You may remember that Andrew Carnegie also commissioned Napoleon Hill to study all the wealthiest people of his time and come up with a plan that anyone could use to become rich. In fact, the plan became the book Think and Grow Rich.

Getting rich must have been pretty important to Carnegie. He wanted everyone to know how to do it. Was this just about fortune, pride, or extravagant living?

The second part of the story, and what made the religious quote so interesting, was that Andrew Carnegie believed all the rich folks should die poor. Not that they should have their wealth stripped from them or that they should be taxed into oblivion. But that they should do something that's unfortunately rarely heard of these days.​ Super rare!


I found the Carnegie quote in a sermon entitled The Law of Abundance. That law seems to be tied inseparably with The Law of Attraction.​ Haven't we heard these laws somewhere from people like Brian Tracy or Bob Proctor? What about movies like The Secret or The Abundance Factor? People attribute abundance to an abundant universe. Personally, I think that does a great disservice to the holder of that opinion as well as the Father of us all who is the true creator of abundance (see the end of this post).

Almost never do we associate The Law of Abundance with a Mormon leader named Franklin D. Richards.​ Yet, if you do a quick Google search, he comes right up near the top.

In that sermon, Franklin makes the point that I previously misquoted that money was the root of all evil. I misquoted on purpose to make a point, but sadly, many people still believe that money alone is the root of all evil. They feel humble and even pious in making sure they never make any substantial amounts of money.

Franklin reminds us that the correct principle is from the Apostle Paul from the Bible:

“...the love of money is the root of all evil,”

and to

“...charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute. …”

1 Tim. 6: 10, 17–18

Through Paul we learn that it seems to be okay to be rich, as long as we're not "highminded." He points out that the relationship of trust must be between us humans and God, and that we should not trust in "uncertain riches." He reminded everyone that God "giveth us richly all things to enjoy."

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like a God who thinks that only poverty is directly connected to piety.

Listen to what Andrew Carnegie really thought about wealth and its use:

“This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of wealth: First, to set an example of modesty, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community—the man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.”

~ Andrew Carnegie - The Gospel of Wealth

(my emphasis)

When I saw this quote, I became so intrigued that I bought the book The Gospel of Wealth to see what else he had to say. It's been very interesting, to say the least.

When I first read the book Think and Grow Rich, I had been led to believe by others that it was only about money, that it was about being rich in the things of the world, and that following its guidance would make my bank account and wallet much fatter.​

Thankfully upon reading I learned that Carnegie's protege listed 12 different types of enduring riches, and money was absolutely last on the list.​

Twelve Types of Enduring Riches

Positive Mental Attitude
Sound physical health
Harmony in human relations
Freedom from fear
Hope of future achievement
Capacity of applied faith
Willingness to share one's blessings
Labor of love
Open mind on all subjects
Wisdom to understand people
Financial Security

It was good to learn that Andrew Carnegie wasn't only about money, and especially not the love of it as his primary driver in life. It turns out, he was a Christian and a believer in principles Christ taught. But since this post is indeed about money and poverty, let's see what else Andrew thought about the subject.

"Not evil, but good, has come to the race from the accumulation of wealth by those who have the ability and energy to produce it...

that it is a nobler ideal that man should labor, not for himself alone, but in and for a brotherhood of his fellows, and share with them all in common, realizing Swedenborg's idea of heaven, where, as he says, the angels derive their happiness, not from laboring for self, but for each other..."

~ Andrew Carnegie - The Gospel of Wealth

He said there were just a few ways of using excess wealth, but only one of them was truly wise.

  • Carnegie believed wealthy people should never leave their wealth to their children. He said it only encouraged the children to live idle lives. He said that the thoughtful man would think, "I would as soon leave to my son a curse as the almighty dollar."
  • He believed that the main reason people left their wealth to the children was not for their welfare, but rather family pride and to leave a legacy of wealth. There are far better legacies a person can leave (see the Twelve Types of Enduring Riches above)
  • He believed the second mode of leaving wealth at death was to leave it to charity or the public as a donation, but that that was also a lazy way of doing things. He said that since none of us can take wealth with us when we die, "...it may be fairly said that no man is to be extolled for doing what he cannot help doing, nor is he to be thanked by the community to which he only leaves wealth at death. Men who leave vast sums in this way may fairly be thought men who would not have left it at all had they been able to take it with them... there is no grace in their gifts."
  • He concluded that there was only one great mode of using wealth for good, and that it was "... the true antidote for the temporary unequal distribution of wealth, the reconciliation of the rich and the poor -- a reign of harmony, another ideal, different, indeed, from that of the Communist in requiring only the further evolution of existing conditions, not the total overthrow of our civilization. It is founded upon the present most intense individualism, and the race is prepared to put it in practice by degrees whenever it pleases. Under its sway we shall have an ideal State, in which the surplus wealth of the few will become, in the best sense, the property of the many, because administered for the common good; and this wealth, passing through the hands of the few, can be made a much more potent force for the elevation of our race than if distributed in small sums to the people themselves. Even the poorest can be made to see this, and to agree that great sums gathered by some of their fellow-citizens and spent for public purposes, from which the masses reap the principal benefit, are more valuable to them than if scattered among themselves in trifling amounts through the course of many years."

I've got to expound on this just a little bit more, again in Carnegie's own words:

"Poor and restricted are our opportunities in this life, narrow our horizon, our best work most imperfect; but rich men should be thankful for one inestimable boon. They have it in their power during their lives to busy themselves in organizing benefactions from which the masses of their fellows will derive lasting advantage, and thus dignify their own lives. The highest life is probably to be reached, not by such imitation of the life of Christ as Count Tolstoi gives us, but, while animated by Christ's spirit, by recognizing the changed conditions of this age, and adopting modes of expressing this spirit suitable to the changed conditions under which we live, still laboring for the good of our fellows, which was the essence of his life and teaching, but laboring in a different manner."

~ Andrew Carnegie - The Gospel of Wealth

THAT is what immediately preceded the quote given by Franklin D. Richards in his great sermon on The Law of Abundance. And this is what Carnegie said shortly after that about this wise administration of surplus wealth:

"Those who would administer wisely must, indeed, be wise; for one of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminate charity. It were better for mankind that the millions of the rich were thrown into the sea than so spent as to encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy. Of every thousand dollars spent in so-called charity today, it is probable that nine hundred and fifty dollars is unwisely spent -- so spent, indeed, as to produce the very evils which it hopes to mitigate or cure."

~ Andrew Carnegie - The Gospel of Wealth

Tough words! Tough love? What do you think? Will this cross your mind the next time someone asks for a quick handout? I'm actually hoping a few professional panhandlers will read this post and consider changing their ways.

Mind you, Carnegie totally understood that society needs to take care of those truly in need who can't help themselves. He was the opposite of heartless. But what he was also trying to do was elevate the whole human race as part of his belief in the spirit of Christ. Like Christ taught principles of various levels of depth through parables, Carnegie invokes imagery of a ladder that everyone can understand.

"In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves; to provide part of the means by which those who desire to improve may do so; to give those who desire to rise the aids by which they may rise; to assist, but rarely or never to do all. Neither the individual nor the race is improved by almsgiving. Those worthy of assistance, except in rare cases, seldom require assistance. The really valuable men of the race never do, except in case of accident or sudden change. Every one has, of course, cases of individuals brought to his own knowledge where temporary assistance can do genuine good, and these he will not overlook. But the amount which can be wisely given by the individual for individuals is necessarily limited by his lack of knowledge of the circumstances connected with each. He is the only true reformer who is as careful and as anxious not to aid the unworthy as he is to aid the worthy, and, perhaps, even more so, for in almsgiving more injury is probably done by rewarding vice than by relieving virtue.

"The rich man is thus almost restricted to following the examples of Peter Cooper,... and others, who know that the best means of benefiting the community is to place within its reach the ladders upon which the aspiring can rise -- free libraries, parks, and means of recreation, by which men are helped in body and mind; works of art, certain to give pleasure and improve the public taste; and public institutions of various kinds, which will improve the general condition of the people; in this manner returning their surplus wealth to the mass of their fellows in the form best calculated to do them lasting good.

"Thus is the problem of rich and poor to be solved. The laws of accumulation will be left free, the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor, intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself. The best minds will thus have reached a stage in the development of the race in which it is clearly seen that there is no mode of disposing of surplus wealth creditable to thoughtful and earnest men into whose hands it flows, save by using it year by year for the general good...

"... yet the day is not far distant when the man who dies leaving behind him millions of available wealth, which was free for him to administer during life, will pass away 'unwept, unhonored, and unsung,' no matter to what uses he leaves the dross which he cannot take with him. Of such as these the public verdict will then be: 'The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.'"

~ Andrew Carnegie - The Gospel of Wealth

Do you think that's how the millionaire next door thinks? Do you think if Andrew Carnegie were alive today he would like shows about Kardashians or other examples of ostentatious living?

Or are you of the other mindset that still believes being a millionaire will somehow take you further from God? Personally, I struggled with this relationship between money and God for much of my life.

I happen to believe in prophets and apostles of God, and I wanted to hear what God revealed through them. I've heavily quoted Andrew Carnegie in this post, but I don't think he was one of God's authorized mouthpieces. His ideas were good enough, though, that he was quoted by someone who was.

We already learned that it was the love of money that is the root of all evil. It was Christ himself, in his famous sermon on the mount that taught, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

From all I've learned in my life, it seems to be about where our heart is... where our intentions are. Specifically, it's about our internal relationship between God and money, because our internal relationship is what determines our outward ostentation or humility and gratitude.

If God was against people making money and profits, why would Christ have taught the parable of the talents. And BTW, talents referred to money in this case, not your ability to play the piano and paint a beautiful picture. He taught that people given money were to do something with it to make profit, to get a return, to make it grow. Those who did were given more. Those who hid it away had it taken from them because they had proven themselves to be unwise stewards.

If God was against money and all of us enjoying its benefits, why would the very last part of the Old Testament contain promises made to those who would put their money and God relationship in the right order (God first)? In fact, God accused a whole nation of robbing him when they didn't have this order in order.

"Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

Malachi 3:8-10

​But my favorite word of God on the topic comes through his mouthpiece, Jacob, in the Book of Mormon. Here's a small piece of what he taught:

"And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.

And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.

Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you."

Jacob 2: 13-14, 17

And here's where a direct promises of "riches" is made, by God, through his servant, Jacob. Note carefully the "contract" if you will:

"But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted."

Jacob 2: 18-19

And THAT, in my humble opinion, is how we should all relate to money and wealth. Andrew Carnegie said excess wealth was a trust over which we should work during our lifetimes for the betterment of all, and that a man who failed to work diligently to do so "thus rich dies disgraced."

God put it even more clearly:

"That every man may give an account unto me of the stewardship which is appointed unto him.

For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.

I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.

And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine...

For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

Doctrine and Covenants 104: 12-14, 17-18

I'm pretty sure God wants us to have an abundance of all the good things of the earth, as stewards, and as long as we put him first. Sounds like he ought to make a commandment out of that! Something like, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" sounds like it might make the point.

Leave a Comment:

Leave a Comment: