The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church, has quite strict rules regarding gambling. Mormons are generally prohibited from gambling, although there are some exceptions.
- Mormons are discouraged from gambling and games of chance.
- Gambling is seen as a risky behavior that can lead to addiction and financial ruin.
- The Mormon church asks members to avoid casinos and lotteries.
- There are some exceptions, such as gambling for low stakes or “harmless” games.
- Ultimately it is up to the individual member’s judgement whether a particular game constitutes gambling.
Mormon Teachings on Gambling
The Mormon church formally opposes gambling and games of chance. Mormon scriptures and leaders have repeatedly spoken out against gambling, as it is seen as morally dangerous.
Gambling is believed to be addictive, leading to covetous behavior and taking advantage of others. Additionally, it is considered speculative and does not align with Mormon values of honest work and providing for one’s family.
Mormon prophets and apostles have counseled members many times to avoid gambling. For example, in 1965, church president David O. McKay stated:
The Church has advised its members, and we again admonish them, to refrain from gambling in any of its many forms. This includes lotteries sponsored by governments. We disapprove of church members participating in gambling ventures and games of chance.
Other church leaders like Spencer W. Kimball and Gordon B. Hinckley echoed similar sentiments over the years. The church handbook instructs leaders to counsel members against gambling.
Why Gambling is Discouraged
There are several reasons why gambling goes against Mormon principles:
- Addiction: Gambling can easily become an uncontrolled addiction leading to financial ruin and emotional distress.
- Covetousness: Gambling is driven by greed and the desire for easy money, rather than honest labor.
- Speculation: Putting money at risky investments in hopes of windfall profits is seen as unwise.
- Taking advantage: Gambling enterprises and lotteries prey upon human weakness for the sake of profit.
- Time wasting: Gambling can become a destructive obsession that wastes precious time.
- Dishonesty: Some forms of gambling are associated with deceit, loan sharking, and organized crime.
For these reasons, Mormons are urged to avoid gambling so they can live more Christlike lives of moderation and integrity.
Church Disciplinary Actions
While gambling is strongly discouraged, it is generally not grounds for church discipline or excommunication. However, problems arising from compulsive gambling may require counseling from church leaders.
If a member’s gambling becomes extreme, refuses to stop, or brings harm to themselves or others, they may face discipline. This would only occur in rare cases of very serious transgression.
Disciplinary action is meant to encourage repentance and protect church standards. The goal would be to help the wayward member make better choices, rather than punish them.
Are There Exceptions?
The Mormon prohibition on gambling mainly pertains to games of chance where money is risked for the possibility of financial gain. However, there are some exceptions where gambling may be permissible in moderation:
- Low-stakes gambling for fun or recreation among friends and family
- “Harmless” coin flipping, raffles, etc. for charity or community causes
- Very modest bets on personal games of skill or talent
- Office sports pools, bingo at ward functions, etc.
The key factor is that any form of gambling should be done responsibly, honestly, and on a very small scale. Mormons are told to prayerfully judge whether a game constitutes “gambling”, and avoid those things which may appear harmful or addictive.
Differences Between Gambling and Investing
It’s important to note that gambling, meaning to risk money on games of chance, is seen differently than wise investing and stewardship. The Mormon church does allow for responsible investment, such as savings, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, etc. The difference lies in:
|Money risked on chance
|Money put into assets and growth
|Speculative, get-rich focus
|Long-term, sustainable focus
|Risks addiction and ruin
|Promotes financial health
When done ethically, investing differs greatly from reckless gambling and games of chance. Mormons are taught to shun risky speculation and invest wisely.
Official Church Policies
To fully understand the Mormon position on gambling, it helps to look at some key church policies and guidelines:
Tithing on Gambling Winnings
Members who receive money from gambling winnings are expected to pay tithing (10%) just as with any other income.
Active, practicing gamblers are usually not called to high-profile church leadership positions. However, repenting gamblers can certainly serve in callings after changing their behavior.
To qualify for a temple recommend, members must affirm they abstain from gambling. However, an occasional low-stakes game would likely not threaten one’s recommend.
Gambling is prohibited at any church sponsored activities. Leaders and members should not organize games of chance for fundraisers or socials.
Members are discouraged from employment or investments with gambling enterprises. Leaders caution against relying on casinos, lotteries, and other gambling for community revenue.
The church offers addiction recovery programs that can help members overcome problems like compulsive gambling through gospel principles and group support.
How Members Follow the Guidance
Faithful Mormons take the counsel against gambling seriously and make efforts to avoid it. However, there is some subjectivity and personal judgement involved in applying the principles.
Areas where members must gauge their own behavior include:
- Deciding what constitutes a game of chance vs harmless recreation
- Setting their own limits for low-stakes, casual gambling if they choose to participate
- Assessing if their gambling habits are excessive or addictive
- Determining how gambling winnings factor into honest tithing settlement
Church leaders emphasize using wisdom and restraint. Members must continually re-evaluate their own actions to ensure they align with gospel teachings.
Differing Opinions Among Members
Given the various exceptions and personal interpretations, some Mormons take a more rigid view of gambling while others are more nonchalant. For instance:
- Very orthodox members may see even a $1 office sports pool as inappropriate gambling.
- More casual members may think buying the occasional lottery ticket is harmless fun.
However, the majority of Mormons are very careful to avoid casino-style gambling, large bets, and speculative risk-taking. There is general agreement that gambling can be dangerous and should be avoided in most cases.
In summary, the Mormon church strongly discourages all types of gambling. While not specifically prohibited, gambling goes against LDS principles of honesty, hard work, and wise financial stewardship. Mormons may interpret gambling guidelines differently, but most choose to avoid games of chance so they can better follow Christ’s teachings.