Some years ago a psychologist with whom I was acquainted described a study that was done at Brigham Young University in which Mormon college students were purportedly shown pictures of people or families and asked to rate which were more righteous. The students apparently overwhelmingly identified those people who looked wealthy as righteous and those who looked poor as less righteous.
Keep in mind, I heard this only by word-of-mouth, so appropriate provisos regarding folklore and memory &c. apply. And even if the study as described to me is accurate, I do wonder if there might have been a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy problem with the study itself: if you ask people to judge others based purely upon their appearance in a picture it isn’t entirely surprising that they will be judged by superficial, visual differences, because that is essentially what you have asked for. It would have been interesting, but hardly less problematic I think, had the students judged all of the wealthy looking people as less righteous and all of the poor looking people as righteous.
Much has been written regarding what some have dubbed the “Prosperity Gospel” or the idea that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and that poverty is a sign of sinfulness or sloth. It is an idea that has periodically been popular in many Christian denominations and has sometimes influenced Mormon culture too. Continue reading