What Is the Relationship Between “Idolatry” and “Idleness?”

The Book of Mormon explicitly connects idolatry (the worship of man-made objects) with idleness (slothfulness). For example:

  • Mormon tells us that the wicked king Noah and his priests “were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people” (Mosiah 11:6).
  • In the early years of the reign of the judges, the members of the church became far more wealthy than those who did not belong to the church, despite being far more generous. Mormon tells us that this second group remained in poverty in part because they “did indulge themselves…in idolatry or idleness” (Alma 1:32).
  • When the sons of Mosiah arrived in land of Nephi on their mission to the Lamanites, Mormon tells us that they could see how challenging the task would be. The Lamanites hated the Nephites, had set their hearts on riches, and “were a very indolent people, many of whom did worship idols” (Alma 17:15).

What is the relationship between idolatry and idleness?

The Guide to the Scriptures provides the following definitions:

Idolatry – The worship of idols or an excessive attachment or devotion to anything.
Idle – Inactive and uninvolved in righteous works.

A good friend pointed out to me that both of these deficiencies can be a by-product of prosperity:

Idleness is enabled by access to resources without the constant investment of time to produce. Abundance may be due to economies of scale or hard work resulting in prosperity, or privilege and oppression. When the abundance is not shared with others and results in cessation of righteous activity, the resulting idleness is a canker to the soul.
Idolatry in modern times is not a golden calf but instead a thing, activity or belief system to which we devote undue time….
The fact that we have an abundance of time is often a result of us having idle hands/hearts/minds (not filling time outside of work with good deeds) and the manner in which we spend that free time is often the idol.
(Source: personal email, 21 Feb 2019)

Today, I will engage diligently in worthwhile activities. I will remember that a lack of engagement in appropriate activities can result in an undue attachment to inappropriate activities or things. I will avoid the sin of idolatry by avoiding the sin of idleness.

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