I hear that card playing is becoming very, very popular, and that the Church must be in favor of card playing because the Church authorities never say anything against it. From the time I was a child and read the Juvenile Instructor, published for the benefit of the people, I have read nothing except condemnation of card-playing and the wasting of your time in doing something that brings no good, bodily, intellectually, or in any way, and sometimes leads your children to become gamblers, because they become expert card-players. The Church as a Church requests its members not to play cards. I hope you understand me, and I want you to know that I am speaking for the Church when I ask the people to let cards alone.—CR, April, 1926: 10
If you ever found people playing cards excessively that were getting any real, spiritual benefit out of it, I should like to have you bring them around and introduce them to me. I have never met any of that kind. Those that play their cards will say: "Oh, well, there is no particular harm. We are not going to be so straight that we lean over backwards." I don't want anybody ever to lean over backwards, for fear they might fall over, but I would like everybody to stand up straight.—CS, July 3, 1937:5. (Gospel Standards, 42)
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.
Discountenanced By Authorities
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?
The Lord Approves Wholesome Entertainment
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, 1:194-195)