The Mormon Way to Get Rich

Thanks to some of my believing Mormon friends, the blog post, “Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach their Children,” has been hovering on my radar, popping up repeatedly in my Facebook feed and even landing in my inbox via mass email. When I finally broke down and read the thing I immediately understood the appeal. The author, Thomas C. Corley, doesn’t specify any church affiliation. Nevertheless, he is clearly a shoe-in for speaker on the LDS potluck circuit.

Distressed that parents, teachers, and other confused bleeding hearts are teaching today’s children that the wealthy “have too much wealth” and the underprivileged are “victims” of poverty, Corley began a five-year “Rich Habits Study” conducted through his “Rich Habits Institute.” Confessing that he is not a scientist, economist, or other so-called “study expert,” he instead applied his “unique CPA skills” to determine why some people are rich and some are poor. His results?

Surprise!!! Rich people have good habits and poor people have bad habits.

The wealthy, according to Corley, are paragons of morality, intellect, and physical fitness. They listen to audio books, they do aerobics, they attend Back-to-School Night, their kids are on the honor roll, they’re thrifty and driven to succeed. They own all of Thomas C. Corley’s books. Bottom line: they’re rich because they really want to be rich.

The poor, on the other hand, are a seedy, slothful bunch. They eat junk food and gamble, they’re at least 30 pounds overweight, they laze around watching reality TV, and spend all their money. They blow off Back-to-School Night. Bottom line: they don’t really want to be rich.

It’s hard to overemphasize how well this philosophy plays in the LDS community, especially among the die-hards and higher-ups. Given the hierarchy’s principal message is “if you’re offended it’s your fault,” it’s easy to jump to “if you’re poor it’s your fault.” In fact, some extremists in the faith would argue that even the circumstances of birth are not by chance, but determined by the individual’s valiance in the pre-mortal “War in Heaven.” Imagine that logic coupled with Corley’s findings:

“I hear some bleeding hearts are taking a collection to help that newborn discovered inside a dumpster over in South Central. What a waste. Face it, the kid had it coming. He didn’t fight hard enough for Jesus. Anyway, all is not lost. He just needs to save his allowance, listen to some audiobooks, and lay off the junk food so he won’t get fat. He can still succeed. If he wants to.”

Bottom line: the Brethren really don’t want to know about your problems.

Given that a sizable chunk of our populace believes our previous president was born in Kenya, I should point out that Corley’s article isn’t entirely fake news. While hardly a guarantee for financial freedom, his suggestions for at least personal improvement are essentially sound, encouraging his readers toward healthy living, attentive parenting, frugality, etc. In fact, his formula makes infinitely more sense than the LDS model of serve a mission, have a bunch of kids, devote your spare time to church callings, pay your tithing, etc.

But it’s the claim that the rich are morally superior that is so damaging, not to mention perversely inaccurate.

Take, for example, our current commander-in-chief who has risen to success by way of gambling casinos, reality TV, defaulted loans, lawsuits, salacious headlines, and, of course, lies. On top of that, he is hardly a model of physical fitness.

If the “haves” can make a successful case that status is achieved solely through hard work and moral superiority, they can demand goodness knows what from the “have-nots.” But then, I suppose that’s what the Brethren and guys like Corley are going for.

Also, while I’ve no “unique CPA skills,” I can claim over a half century of life experience. And throughout that experience, I have never known anybody who didn’t want to be rich. With one notable exception.**

Of course, I am one of those bleeding hearts and certainly not one of the “haves.” Which really blows because I listen to audio books, exercise regularly, and am less than 30 pounds overweight. I attended Back-to School Nights and my kids were on the honor roll. Also I know how to save a buck. Must have been my Conscientious Objector status during the War in Heaven. Or maybe I just need to read Thomas C. Corley’s books?

**In 1988 I had a memorable encounter with some Carthusian monks in the village of Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuese, near Grenoble, France. They had taken a vow of poverty. But were surprisingly svelte and never watched reality TV.

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Donna Banta

My novels, "False Prophet" and "The Girls From Fourth Ward," are available on Amazon.

9 thoughts on “The Mormon Way to Get Rich

  1. Great piece, Donna. I wasn’t aware of that article, but it doesn’t surprise me. Some Mormons have long had an affinity for what seems to amount to an almost Calvinist belief system, equating righteousness with worldly success (in both directions). It’s one of the reasons I left the Mormon church. I hated going to church and hearing someone say that starving children in Africa must not have been valiant enough in the pre-existence.

  2. Thanks, Robert. Your comparison to Calvinists is a good one. I remember hearing the pre-existence argument too. Also the promise that if a person paid his/her tithing and lived the gospel to a tee, he/she would be showered with blessings, both spiritual and temporal. When that formula inevitably failed for so many the underlying assumption was they just weren’t righteous enough. Pretty brutal on the self-esteem.

  3. Fabulous article! Yeah, I instantly thought of Calvinism as well.

    thanks for a really insightful critique that also included a laugh, via this:

    **In 1988 I had a memorable encounter with some Carthusian monks in the village of Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuese, near Grenoble, France. They had taken a vow of poverty. But were surprisingly svelte and never watched reality TV.

    Ha! It’s perfect.

  4. Thanks, Holly. I’m continually amazed that people will draw blanket conclusions that beg to disproven with myriad examples to the contrary. Like people are poor because they’re fat, lazy, and can’t stop watching reality TV. Or the person who hacked the DNC is a 400 pound guy sitting on his bed.

    But then I have to remember that there are an alarming number of people who will trust anyone who tells them what they want to hear. As we have daily proof. (sigh)

  5. That article is pretty amazing! His list of rich/poor habits is really something else! He’s got some items that are obviously a lot easier to do if you’re rich than if you’re poor:

    13) 73% of the wealthy spent less than they earned during their entire work lives vs. 5% of the poor.
    20) 63% of the wealthy had a positive, optimistic mindset. 94% of the poor had a negative, pessimistic mindset.

    Others are really weirdly specific and idiosyncratic:

    1) 63% of self-made millionaires were required by their parents to read two or more non-fiction books every month vs. only 3% of the poor.

    Then there’s the WTF category:

    14) 79% of the wealthy networked 5 hours or more per month vs. 16% of the poor.

    But this one is my favorite:

    15) 92% of the wealthy believed they created their own good luck through hard work and perseverance. 79% of the poor believed the rich were beneficiaries of random good luck.

    And who do you think is more deluded…?

  6. Even twelve-year-olds can see that arguments like the one Donna is critiquing are nonsense.

    What’s more, for youth who perceived more discrimination from an early age, system-justifying beliefs were associated with less-risky behavior in sixth grade, but with a sharp rise in such behaviors by seventh grade. Godfrey attributes this spike to a “perfect storm” in which marginalized young people are experiencing more discrimination; beginning to understand the systemic and institutionalized nature of that discrimination; and starting to strongly identify as a member of a marginalized group, seeing that group as one that’s being discriminated against. As for why this leads to more risky behavior, Godfrey points to research that suggests people who really believe the system is fair internalize stereotypes—believing and acting out false and negative claims about their group—more readily than those who disavow these views.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/07/internalizing-the-myth-of-meritocracy/535035/?utm_source=atlfb

  7. @Holly — I was thinking about that article as well. I think that this belief — that your wealth is a reflection of your character — is a really damaging an harmful one.

  8. I’d like to emphasize, this is an excellent point:

    his suggestions for at least personal improvement are essentially sound, encouraging his readers toward healthy living, attentive parenting, frugality, etc. In fact, his formula makes infinitely more sense than the LDS model of serve a mission, have a bunch of kids, devote your spare time to church callings, pay your tithing, etc.

  9. @Holly — Thanks for the quote and link. What an excellent article. It doesn’t take long for a child to get whether the deck’s stacked for or against him/her, and then react accordingly.

    @chanson — Yes, the advice is fine. It’s his crazy assumption that only rich people follow it that’s so disturbing. Also he seems to be utterly blind to the challenges the poor face. If a poor parent misses back-to-school night, might that be because he/she has to work and the rich parent doesn’t? Totally over Corley’s head. Then there’s his so-called science behind his study. The bit about “unique CPA skills” had my CPA husband spewing his coffee.

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