09) GAMES: Are some types of games harmful? Which ones, and why?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

[Address to the first camp proceeding to the Great Basin to find a resting place for the Saints.  The Lord had previously revealed that singing and dancing were pleasing to Him when done in the right Spirit.  At this point along the trail, Brigham Young reproved the camp for their excess in amusements.]

I am about to revolt from traveling with this camp any further with the spirit they now possess.  I had rather risk myself among the savages with ten men that are men of faith, men of mighty prayer, men of God, than to be with this whole camp when they forget God and turn their hearts to folly and wickedness.  Yes, I had rather be alone; and I am now resolved not to go any further with the camp unless you will covenant to humble yourselves before the Lord and serve and quit your folly and wickedness.  For a week past nearly the whole camp has been card-playing and checkers and dominoes have occupied the attention of the brethren, and dancing and “hoeing down”–all this has been the act continually.  Now, it is quite time to quit it.  And there has been trials of law suits upon every nonsensical thing:  and if those things are suffered to go on it will be but a short time before you will be fighting, knocking each other down and taking life.  It is high time it was stopped.  1

Joseph F. Smith

RAFFLING: Is it proper to raffle property for the benefit of missionaries? No; raffling is a game of chance, and hence leads to gambling; for that reason, if for no other, it should not be encouraged among the young men of the Church. President Young declared raffling to be a modified name of gambling; said that “as Latter-day Saints we cannot afford to sacrifice moral principles to financial gain,” and advised the sisters through the Woman’s Exponent not to raffle. President Lorenzo Snow endorsed and approved of these sentiments; and I have often expressed my unqualified disapproval of raffling; the General Sunday School Board have declared against it; and finally the state law makes it unlawful to raffle with dice; and if it is unlawful with dice, in principle, is it not just as injurious with any other device? With all these objections, should it not be clear to anyone that raffling horses, quilts, bicycles and other property is not sanctioned by the moral law nor approved by the general Church authorities? But it continues just the same, and if you do not believe in it, you should refuse to patronize it, so helping the cause. Now, how shall we aid the missionary who wishes to sell a horse, or what not? Let everybody give a dollar, and let the donors decide by vote to what worthy man, not of their number, the horse shall be given. No chance about that—it is pure decision, and it helps the people who wish to buy chances solely for the benefit of the missionary to discourage the gambling propensities of their natures. However, here is an additional thought: The element of chance enters very largely into everything we undertake, and it should be remembered that the spirit in which we do things decides very largely whether we are gambling or are entering into legitimate business enterprises. [1]

GAMES OF CHANCE: To Whom It May Concern: Among the vices of the present age gambling is very generally condemned. Gambling under its true name is forbidden by law, and is discountenanced by the self-respecting elements of society. Nevertheless, in numerous guises the demon of chance is welcomed in the home, in fashionable clubs, and at entertainments for worthy charities, even within the precincts of sacred edifices. Devises for raising money by appealing to the gambling instinct are common accessories at church socials, ward fairs, and the like.

Whatever may be the condition elsewhere, this custom is not to be sanctioned within this Church; and any organization allowing such is in opposition to the counsel and instruction of the general authorities of the Church.
Without attempting to specify or particularize the many objectionable forms given to this evil practice amongst us, we say again to the people that no kind of chance game, guessing contest, or raffling device can be approved in any entertainment under the auspices of our Church organizations.

The desire to get something of value for little or nothing is pernicious; and any proceeding that strengthens that desire is an effective aid to the gambling spirit, which has proved a veritable demon of destruction to thousands. Risking a dime in the hope of winning a dollar in any game of chance is a species of gambling.

Let it not be thought that raffling articles of value, offering prizes to the winners in guessing-contests, the use of machines of chance, or any other device of the kind is to be allowed or excused because the money so obtained is to be used for a good purpose. The Church is not to be supported in any degree by means obtained through gambling.

Let the attention of stake and ward officers, and those in charge of auxiliary organizations of the Church be directed to what has been written on this subject and to this present reminder. An article over the signature of the President of the Church was published in the Juvenile Instructor, October 1, 1902 [2], in which were given citations from earlier instruction and advice to the people on this subject. For convenience, part of that article is repeated here. In reply to a question as to whether raffling and games of chance are justifiable when the purposes to be accomplished are good, this was said: “We say emphatically, No. Raffle is only a modified name of gamble.

President Young once said to Sister Eliza R. Snow: “Tell the sisters not to raffle. If the mothers raffle, the children will gamble. Raffling is gambling.” Then it is added: “Some say, What shall we do? We have quilts on band—we cannot sell them, and we need means to supply our treasury, which we can obtain by raffling for the benefit of the poor. Rather let the quilts rot on the shelves than adopt the old adage, ‘The end will sanctify the means.’ As Latter-day Saints, we cannot afford to sacrifice moral principle to financial gain.” [3]

THE EVIL OF CARDS: But, you say, we must have recreation; what shall we do? Turn to domestic enterprises, and to the gaining of useful knowledge of the gospel. Let the love of reading good and useful books be implanted in the hearts of the young, let them be trained to take pleasure and recreation in history, travel, biography, conversation and classic story. Then there are innocent games, music, songs, and literary recreation. What would you think of the man who would argue for whisky and beer as a common beverage because it is necessary for people to drink? He is perhaps little worse than the man who would place cards in the hands of my children—whereby they would foster the spirit of chance and gambling leading down to destruction—because they must have recreation. I would call the first a vicious enemy, and refer him to water to drink; and the latter an evil spirit in the guise of innocence, and refer him to recreation containing no germs of spiritual disease leading to the devil!

Let our evenings be devoted to innocent amusements in the home, and let all chance games be banished from our families, and only recreation indulged in that is free from gambling and the gambling spirit. And let excessive card-playing, and the person who strolls about among neighbors at all hours of the night and day encouraging this evil, be put far from us. just as sure as we encourage this evil it will bring other grievous troubles in its wake, and those who indulge excessively will lose the spirit of the gospel, and go to temporal and spiritual ruin.

Young people in their recreations should strive to form a love for that which will not be injurious. It is not true that only that recreation can be enjoyed that is detrimental to the body and spirit. We should train ourselves to find pleasure in that which invigorates, not stupefies and destroys the body; that which leads upward and not down; that which brightens, not dulls and stunts the intellect; that which elevates and exalts the spirit, not that clogs and depresses it. So shall we please the Lord, enhance our own enjoyment, and save ourselves and our children from impending sins, at the root of which, like the evil genius, lurks the spirit of cards and gaming. [4]

WASTING TIME WITH CARDS: It is no uncommon thing for women, young and middle-aged, to spend whole afternoons, and many of them, evenings as well, in playing cards, thus wasting hours and days of precious time in this useless and unprofitable way. Yet those same people, when approached, declare they have no time to spend as teachers in the Sabbath schools, and no time to attend either Sunday schools or meetings. Their church duties are neglected for lack of time, yet they spend hours, day after day, at cards. They have thereby encouraged and become possessed of a spirit of indolence, and their minds are filled with the vile drunkenness, hallucination, charm and fascination, that take possession of the habitual card-player to the exclusion of all spiritual and religious feeling. Such a spirit detracts from all sacred thought and sentiment. These players at length do not quite know whether they are Jews, Gentiles, or Saints, and they do not care a fig.

While a simple game of cards in itself may be harmless, it is a fact that by immoderate repetition it ends in an infatuation for chance schemes, in habits of excess, in waste of precious time, in dulling and stupor of the mind, and in the complete destruction of religious feeling. These are serious results, evils that should and must be avoided by the Latter-day Saints. Then again, there is the grave danger that lurks in persistent card playing, which begets the spirit of gambling, of speculation and that awakens the dangerous desire to get something for nothing. [5]

CARD PLAYING: One’s character may be determined in some measure by the quality of one’s amusements. Men and women of industrious, business-like, and thoughtful habits care little for frivolous pastimes, for pleasures that are sought for their own sake. It is not easy to imagine that leading men in the Church would find any pleasure that was either inspiring or helpful at the card table; indeed the announcement that a president of a stake, bishop of a ward, or other leading official of the Church was fond of card playing would be a shock to every sense of propriety even among young people who are not seriously inclined to the duties and responsibilities of life. Such a practice would be looked upon as incompatible with the duties and responsibilities of a religious life. Even business men, as a rule, are distrustful of business associates whose inclinations engage them in frequent card playing.

But it may be said that the same objections do not hold good in respect to young people who do not take life so seriously; but the evil is that young people who indulge in the frivolous and vicious pastime of card playing are never likely to take life seriously unless they forsake such questionable pleasures early in life. It is the serious and thoughtful man and woman who are most likely to assume the higher and nobler responsibilities of life, and their tastes and pleasures are never satisfied by means of a deck of cards.

Card playing is an excessive pleasure; it is intoxicating and, there, fore, in the nature of a vice. It is generally the companion of the cigarette and the wine glass, and the latter lead to the poolroom and gambling hall. Few men and women indulge in the dangerous pastime of the card table without compromising their business affairs and the higher responsibilities of life. Tell me what amusements you like best and whether your amusements have become a ruling passion in your life, and I will tell you what you are. Few indulge frequently in card playing in whose lives it does not become a ruling passion.

Cards are the most perfect and common instrumentalities of the gambler that have been devised, and the companionship of cards, unlike the companionship of most other games, is that of the gambling den and the saloon. But cards do not stand alone in their enticement to evil. Any game that ultimately leads to questionable society, because it is the chief pleasure of such society, should be excluded from the home. There are innocent games enough to satisfy the required pleasures of the home without encouraging card playing. [6]

STOP CARD PLAYING: I am told that the prevalence of card parties in the homes of the Latter-day Saints is much greater than is supposed by those whom society people never think of inviting to make the card table the source of an evening’s pastime. The presiding authorities are not invited to the card parties, and, as a rule, are not permitted to witness them, simply because those who give such parties feel that a deck of cards in the hands of a faithful servant of God is a satire upon religion.

I have heard that some who are called to officiate in holy ordinances have, when absent from the House of the Lord, or when tardy in arriving, excused themselves because of the time occupied in giving or attending a card party. Those who thus indulge are not fit to administer in sacred ordinances. They are no more worthy than others who violate good morals in any respect. They should be excused.

I am told that young people offer as an excuse for such questionable pastime the accusation that cards are played in the homes of certain leading men in the Church. Bishops, however, ought never to be deterred in their efforts to suppress the evil by counter complaints of this kind. The bishop has the same right to inquire, through the means of his teachers, into the pleasures of the homes of the highest authorities of the Church as he has into those of its most humble members. If it be true that card playing is prevalent in the Church, the bishops are charged with the responsibility for the evil and it is their duty to see that it is abolished, or that men and women who encourage it be brought to account before their brethren and sisters for the pernicious example they are setting before the youth of Zion. Certainly no bishop can report his ward in good condition where such a practice prevails.

Presidents of stakes are not without their responsibility in this matter, and at the general priesthood meetings of the stakes they should make searching inquiry of the bishops concerning card parties in the homes of the Saints. It is an easy matter for every bishop to know through the medium of the ward teachers, whether there are any practices in the homes of the people inconsistent with the mission of “Mormonism,” and card playing is certainly inconsistent with that mission. No man who is addicted to card playing should be called to act as a ward teacher, such men cannot be consistent advocates of that which they do not themselves practice.

The card table has been the scene of too many quarrels, the birthplace of too many hatreds, the occasion of too many murders to admit one word of justification for the lying, cheating spirit which it too often engenders in the hearts of its devotees.

My frequent and emphatic expressions on this subject are the result of the alarm I have felt over the well founded reports that have come to me concerning the prevalence of card playing in the homes of some who profess to be Latter-day Saints. Upon every officer in the Church responsible in any way for the dangers of the card table is placed, and placed heavily, the duty of doing all that he or she possibly can in prayerful and earnest manner to eradicate the evil. Let us be fully conscious of the old adage which says that “The devil likes to souse whatever is wet,” and stop card playing in the home before it reaches the gambler’s table. [7]

PERNICIOUS NATURE OF CARD PLAYING: Card playing is a game of chance, and because it is a game of chance it has its tricks. It encourages tricks; its devotees measure their success at the table by their ability through devious and dark ways to win. It creates a spirit of cunning and devises hidden and secret means, and cheating at cards is almost synonymous with playing at cards.

Again, cards have a bad reputation and they are the known companions of bad men. If no other reason existed for shunning the card table, its reputation alone should serve as a warning. It may be conceded that superb skill is often acquired in this game of chance, but this skill itself endangers the moral qualities of the possessor and leads him on to questionable practices.

Such games as checkers and chess are games more of fixed rules, whose application are open and freer from cunning devices. Such games do not intoxicate like cards and other games of chance. [8]

CARDS IN THE HOME: But if cards are played in the home and under the eye of an anxious and loving parent, what harm can come from it all? is asked. Most vices in the beginning take on attractive and innocent appearing garbs, and a careful examination of the career of many an unfortunate man will reveal the first step of his misfortune in some “innocent pastime” whose vice rarely manifests itself in its infancy. There are different spirits in the world and the gambling spirit is one of them, and cards have been from time immemorial the most common and universal means of gratifying that spirit. An “innocent game of cards” is the innocent companion of an innocent glass of wine and the playmate of tricksters.

Again, all amusements become pernicious when pursued excessively. No game in the world has been played a thousandth part of the time, aye all the games in the world have not consumed a thousandth part of the time, that cards have taken. The game itself leads to excessiveness; it is the enemy of industry; it is the foe of economy and the boon companion of the Sabbath-breaker. The best possible excuse that any one can render for playing cards is that there is a possible escape from the dangers to which it leads; and the best explanation that people can give for such a vice is the adventurous spirit of man that delights in that which is hazardous to his physical and moral safety. [9]

Joseph Fielding Smith

“Nothing good comes out of card games or games of chance. There are numerous ways in which we may obtain wholesome amusement and recreation which is beneficial to both body and mind. In games where cards are used usually”stakes” are played for, and betting is done. Someone will obtain the “stakes,” but no one really wins, for the one who obtains the “stakes” has lost part of his manhood which is difficult to regain. There seems to be an urge in human nature which leads many men and women to seek to obtain something for nothing, and many have risked their hard-earned substance on the altar of chance, hoping to win a fortune which they have not earned. There is a lure in all games of chance which Satan places before them, and in their greed or selfish desire for gain they take the uncertain bait far less innocently than does a fish which grabs the angler’s hook.

“The regular standard playing cards are used in gambling games. They are found in questionable resorts and gambling dens. Young people who have learned to play the games in their own homes or at card clubs with innocent intent too frequently are lured into questionable places where gambling prevails. Such games of chance are usually associated with cigarettes and beer and those who indulge in cards acquire also the tobacco and drinking evils. Card playing becomes a habit just as much as smoking and drinking. I remember a neighbor of mine who in his earlier days was addicted to gambling. Later in his life he repented and joined the Church. One day before a group of which I was a member, he emphatically impressed upon our minds the fact that gambling is a disease which fastens itself upon those who indulge so tenaciously that they seldom quit. Its influence upon character is just the same as the use of tobacco and strong drink. He advised all to shun all card playing and games of chance lest the habit would destroy them.


“Card playing and all other games of chance should be avoided as the gate of destruction. All such practices have been discountenanced by the Authorities of the Church from the beginning of our history. When the Mormon Battalion was called into the service of the country, President Brigham Young addressed the volunteers and said that he wished them to prove themselves to be the best soldiers in the service of the United States. He admonished the captains to be fathers to the men in their companies and to manage the officers and men by the power of the priesthood. They should keep themselves clean, teach chastity and gentility. There was to be no swearing, and no man was to be insulted. They were to avoid contention with Missourians—their enemies —and all other persons. They were to take their Bibles and copies of the Book of Mormon with them and study them but not impose their beliefs on others. They were to avoid card playing, and if they had cards with them, they were to burn them. If they would follow this instruction, he promised them that they would not be called on to shed the blood of their fellow men.

“President Joseph F. Smith has given this wholesome advice:

‘While a simple game of cards in itself may be harmless, it is a fact that by immoderate repetition it ends in an infatuation for chance schemes, in habits of excess, in waste of precious time, in dulling and stupor of the mind, and in the complete destruction of religious feeling. These are serious results, evils that should and must be avoided by the Latter-day Saints. Then again, there is a grave danger that lurks in persistent card playing, which begets the spirit of gambling, of speculation and what awakens the dangerous desire to get something for nothing.’ (Gospel Doctrine, p. 412.)

‘Card playing is an excessive pleasure; it is intoxicating, and therefore, in the nature of a vice. It is naturally the companion of the cigarette and the wine glass, and the latter leads to the poolroom and the gambling hall. Few men and women indulge in the dangerous pastime of the card table without compromising their business affairs and the higher responsibilities of life. Tell me what amusements you like best and whether your amusements have been a ruling passion in your life, and I will tell you what you are. Few indulge frequently in card playing in whose lives it does not become a ruling passion.'(Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 38, p. 529.)

“The Lord said:

“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.(Matthew 12:35-37.)

“This being true of words that are idle, may we not say that idle acts spent in evil practices will merit the same reward?


“This does not mean that the Lord frowns on innocent amusement and the time spent in wholesome games. The human body needs relaxation, and this can be obtained in a legitimate way. For this purpose in part the Mutual Improvement Associations have been organized where proper forms of amusement and entertainment may be taught, and thereby the body strengthened and the mind quickened and developed. In one of the darkest hours in the history of the Church, when the weary members were crossing the plains having been driven from their homes, the Lord through President Brigham Young said to them:

“If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

“If thou are sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful.(D. & C. 136: 28-29.)

“The Prophet Joseph Smith engaged in manly sports on the few occasions that came to him. President Brigham Young and his brethren built the Salt Lake Theatre and the Social Hall. The drama, the dance, and other entertainments were given to the members of the Church, and by this means they were edified and strengthened; all such entertainments were opened and closed with prayer. The auxiliary organizations encourage athletic contests and sports under proper supervision and regulations. Our people are encouraged, not curtailed, in every kind of needful recreation and amusement; but all things which the world seeks, leading to evil, such as card playing, raffling, and indulging in playing machines of chance, are frowned upon as destructive of morals and abiding faith in that which is just and true.”  (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 1, Question 47)

  1. Improvement Era, Vol. 6, February, 1903, p. 308
  1. Volume 37, p. 592
  1. Improvement Era, December, 1908, Vol. 12, p. 143
  1. Improvement Era, Vol. 14, June, 1911, pp. 735-8
  1. Improvement Era, Vol. 6, August, 1903, p. 779
  1. Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 38, September 1, 1903, p. 529
  1. Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 38, Sept. 15, 1903, p. 561
  1. Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 38, October 1, 1903, p. 591
  2. Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 38, Oct. 1, 1903, p. 593
  1. Brigham Young, as recorded in Wilford Woodruff’s journal, entry for May 29, 1847
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