Monday, July 07, 2008

Relevance of Church Leader's Counsel on Face Cards

Both my wife and I grew up in homes where we were not permitted to play with face cards. We were told that the prophet had counseled us to stay away from them. I was curious as to who and when it was said and found the following quotes from a search of "playing cards" at
  • Elder Oaks, in 1972, stated: "One type of gambling that has been vigorously criticized by our leaders is card playing. Cards may, of course, be played without playing for money, but the relationship between card playing and gambling is so close and the practice of card playing itself partakes of so many of the disadvantages of gambling that card playing has come under condemnation regardless of whether or not gambling is involved."
  • Elder Widtsoe's comments in 1943 could clarify this, if Elder Oak's opinion doesn't override it: “It must be added that relaxation from the regular duties of the day is desirable and necessary for human well-being. Wholesome games of recreation are advocated by all right-minded people. Moreover, the … objections [to card playing] are not directed against the many and various card games on the market not employing the usual ‘playing cards.’ Most of these furnish innocent and wholesome recreation, and many are really instructive. It is true that they may be played to excess, but in fact it seldom happens. This is true even when such cards are used in games imitating those with ‘playing cards.’ It is true that such cards may be used for gambling purposes, but in fact it is almost never done. The pall of evil seems to rest upon the ‘playing cards’ handed down to us from antiquity” (Evidences and Reconciliations, Murray & Gee, 1943, pp. 218–19).
  • Pres. Spencer W. Kimball, in Nov. 1974, said: "We hope faithful Latter-day Saints will not use the playing cards which are used for gambling, either with or without the gambling."
What I get from these quotes is that the decks of cards used for playing poker (your regular Bicycle deck of 52 cards) shouldn't be used at all. From Elder Widtsoe's quote, card games in general are not bad (I'm assuming this includes games like Phase 10, Rook, Mille Bornes, Uno, etc.). Games that use imitation face cards (I'm assuming this could be games like Sequence...though I've never played it or Canasta that is sold as cards specifically made for the game) are OK.

What do you all think of this? President Hinckley talked about gambling about 3 years ago in a Priesthood session of conference but didn't mention whether or not face cards could/shouldn't be used.

These other quotes are over 30 years old. Are they still valid today? Or is this a topic that shouldn't even be brought up. Please respond in the comments and poll.


Coach Ann said...

As a general rule I suggest that the face cards not be used. I just think it is best to avoid the potential for problems. However, I know my mom taught a lot of my kids some math skills by playing 21. They never bet on anything -- I think. Whenever my soccer team was stranded in an airport, it seemed like someone always had a deck of cards and a group of kids played some harmless games. My vote is just to stay with the other decks. These days people can do a lot online, too.

Josh wants to know, "How else are you supposed to do magic tricks?"

Officer Leeroy said...

This is my defense, being partial to magic tricks myself, though I used Rook cards growing up. But face cards are much more flashy/professional looking.

I've thought the same thing about magic tricks. I think that with tricks, you aren't playing any games, and you're not gambling. I think if you're playing games with them, it can look like you're gambling, or that you do at other times. Whereas with magic tricks that is a whole different scenario.

robbienmeri said...

Even though it may not have been mentioned recently I think it is still in effect since nothing has been said to the contrary. I think face cards shouldn't be used. If you don't know how to play any of the games where you can gamble, then you will be less tempted to do so online or in Vegas or where ever the temptation may arise.

sherrie bebe said...

I agree with whoever posted the comment for Robbie and Meri, but isn't it possible to use the cards for games that are not gambling ones? Someone could have no idea how to play those games, but simply use face cards for other games. What is your opinion on that?

Brenna said...

I agree that the cards shouldn't be used. Many people do use them harmlessly, with no gambling at all. But like was said before, just avoiding the appearance of "evil" is important. Most of the "harmless" games people use for face cards have their own special cards anyways, so face cards can be avoided.

markymark said...

I my humble opinion, this counsel has more to do with avoiding the appearance of evil than with face cards themselves. In the quote of Elder Oaks he says,

"the relationship between card playing and gambling is so close and the practice of card playing itself partakes of so many of the disadvantages of gambling"

The bottom line here is not whether or not you can play with dice (because the relationship is so close, etc, etc), but whether or not there is a real risk of "apparent" evil. Since the appearance of evil is tied directly to our culture and society, the appearance of evil can change as our culture and society change.

Why does BYU make men shave today when prophets not so long ago had full beards? Culture changes and so do these "appearances."

With this is mind, along with the fact that no one has said anything about it in 30 years, I believe this counsel is outdated.

Stephen Z said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Z said...

Two simple thoughts:
First, if what was said by prophets in the Book of Mormon and Bible is still valid then why not these? At least until new revelation changes that. I believe that the principle is that what a prophet says is what God told him to say and so is valid until God uses another prophet to say otherwise.
Second, what I get out of all the talk of gambling advise is that we shouldn't gamble. There are many ways that a person could gamble, including while playing Canasta (I have met one person who got together to gamble over games like Rook and Monopoly with friends). I think it is silly to speculate over what is and is not allowed with too many specifics.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I recall from a Conference not too long ago a prophet telling us that he would not get into specifics about what we could and could not do, but rather would give us a principle and then we were to apply that principle in our lives as we felt the Spirit directed us to.
Just about any game can be played with or without gambling, so my suggestion is to do that which will keep your conscience clear.

Officer Leeroy said...

I guess that's what most things boil down to, the spirit of the law. There are somethings that we are explicitly told not to do (e.g., word of wisdom), and then there are other things where we just need to follow our conscience, or the spirit. R-rated movies are another topic )on which we will probably be discussing on our movie blog. It's just nice to have some lines defined once in a while, or to hear why some people believe one way and why others believe another. I think it helps us recognize what it is our conscience is telling us, being how it isn't always crystal clear.

Dad of the Year said...

To add to what's already been said, I think modern revelation is often 'revealed' by what is no longer preached against as well as what is currently being taught.

As an example, I think of birth control. 40 years ago the First Presidency released a statement that "it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children." This letter was summed up in an Ensign article (1971) as "[The Church] is against birth control." And yet today, you will not find this taught in any lesson manual or handbook of instructions. Nor will these materials say "Use birth control." The Church website simply says the decision lies "solely with each married couple."

With that said, MK brought up a good point: never gamble. Whether with pennies, marshmallows, or cash, gambling teaches the evil principle of something for nothing. Heavy-handed moral: For high or small stakes, the prize is the same: agency.

Angela said...

I think playing with face cards is not the issue it is gambling. I grew up playing solitaire and many other one player games to entertain myself because there was not a lot of other card games back then. I now show my kids these games and they have taught me many knew ones they have learned from friends. None of which are associated with gambling. (Tripeaks, 13, Egyptian Rat Slap, Nertz, Around the clock, kings in the corner, Speed, to name a few) I have 3 kids under the age of 10 that enjoy this time together. I'd much rather them play these games then be texting or watching TV or playing video games or on their DS's or even computer games. My 4 yr old has learned basic adding and subtracting from cards
and dice. We can just as easily bet on a game of Phase
10 or Scrabble. It was just a warning to avoid the appearance of evil which is gambling. I doubt my loving Heavenly Father will punish my children for playing these simple card games that are building fond memories for them while we have commandments like the Word of Wisdom and there are many people addicted to soda pop. Judge not yet ye be judged.

Mary Ellen and Doug said...

I wish that the Church would come out with the present day standing on this issue. I grew up near my grandmother, who was crippled due to a series of strokes. I would jump on the city bus on Saturday morning with my $1.00 allowance and stop by her house. She loved to play cards, so after helping her with whatever she needed, we would sit together and play gin-rummy. How I would love to sit with her again and play cards. She loved to do it. Isn't this a letter of the law versus spirit question? I have a deck of the finest cards on the market, and I play solitaire and 21 by myself. Truly, I wish this issue would be settled once and for all.