Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see. -C. S. Lewis
Question #12655 posted on 02/15/2005 3:12 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Oh man. So last night my roommate wanted to play go fish and asked me to find his playing cards. I couldn't find 'em, so I went and grabbed mine. He was like, "are those REAL face cards?" and I was like, "yeah," and he was like, "I don't play with face cards." When I asked him why he said it was because they had symbols on them. He plays with Ninja Turtle playing cards, isn't that the same thing? I wouldn't normally mind, but with all of the weird stereotypes against Mormon's anyway, and since I don't want him to be preching false doctrine (if it so be), can you tell me if playing with face cards is bad? I read a brief talk on lds.com that discussed it, but I was wondering if any of you knew anything else or had any exsperience or insight about playing face cards. Thank you.

- Super Twinkie

A: Dear Super Twinkie,

From the archives:

Dear UNO player,

If you search the Gospel Library on http://www.lds.org for "playing cards" or "face cards" or "card playing," you can find a number of articles on the subject. I found an article by Boyd R. Thomas in the Oct. 1984 New Era and an article by Dallin H. Oaks in the Nov. 1972 Ensign that I got the following information from.

President Joseph F. Smith said: "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. ... 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. 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."

Elder John A. Widtsoe said: "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." [just a side note, I thought that was pretty interesting--it looks like he's saying the cards themselves are evil somehow]

Dallin H. Oaks said: "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 also said: "It has been observed through centuries of experience that the habit of card playing becomes fixed upon a person and increases until he feels that a day without a game of cards is incomplete. After an afternoon or evening at card-playing, nothing has been changed, no new knowledge, thoughts, or visions have come, no new hopes or aspirations have been generated, except for another opportunity to waste precious hours. It leads nowhere; it is a dead-end road. ... Dull and deadly is a life which does not seek to immerse itself in the rapidly moving stream of new and increasing knowledge and power. Time is required to ‘keep up with the times.' We dare not waste time on pastimes that starve the soul."

Bruce R. McConkie was very harsh in "Mormon Doctrine" (which is not 100% Mormon doctrine, mind you), and ended his entry with the following statement: "Members of the Church should not belong to bridge or other type of card clubs, and they should neither play cards nor have them in their homes. By cards is meant, of course, the spotted face cards used by gamblers. To the extent that church members play cards they are out of harmony with their inspired leaders. Innocent non-gambling games played with other types of cards, except for the waste of time in many instances, are not objectionable."

So, in summary:

1. Card playing can be a waste of time and even addicting.
2. It's okay to play games with cards that are not "face cards."


A: Dear Super Twinkie,

I hesitate to play Devil's advocate on this question, but I feel that I would be quite the hypocrite to keep quiet.

(1) Card playing is a waste of time and can be addicting.

True, but so is Halo, X-Box, Minesweeper, chat rooms, internet surfing and, um, the Board. I don't think it's fair to condemn the former on these grounds unless you also condemn the latter. (Or, better put, I don't think it's fair to act "holier than thou" for abstaining from the former if you spend hours on the latter.)

(2) Playing with face cards always leads to gambling, vice and sin.

The following non-gambling games use face cards: Beggar Your Neighbor, Bong, Concentration, Double Solitaire, Egyptian Rat Screw, Gin, Go Fish, Golf, Hearts, Scum/Poverty/Kitchen Pig, Spoons, Old Maid, several types of Solitaire, several types of Speed and War. (I suppose you could put a wager on these games if you wish, but you could also bet on Candyland, for that matter.)

(3) Face cards are highly associated with gambling, and gambling can be addicting and ruinous.

That one I agree with, and I think it's definitely something to consider when deciding how to spend your free time. If you think you might become addicted to gambling, you might very well wish to avoid card games, as one who has had addictions to pornography or alcohol might go to extreme lengths to avoid those.

I was raised that you don't gamble, ever, and I live my life in that way. On the other hand, some of my happiest memories of Junior High involved getting about twenty people together to play Spoons during finals week.

I have the utmost respect for anyone who has made a personal choice not to play with face cards, but I don't appreciate people pointing fingers at those who do, when they are participating in other destructive activities.

To get back to the point of your original question, there doesn't appear to be anything in our Church doctrine which states that the actual traditional pictures on face cards are evil, as opposed to playing with TMNT, or Looney Tunes face cards.

- Katya
A: Dear Super Twinkie (I consume your namesake regularly),

My parents wouldn't let me play face cards growing up because they said 1) gambling was taboo and 2) face cards are the descendants of tarot cards, which are used for fortune telling and other such sorcery-goo.

So, as a force of habit, I don't play with face cards, not even the Disney cards with cute little animals on them. Why? Because if they've got the same numbering system and have just substituted the symbols, they're the same thing.

So, if your friend has a beef with face cards, he might as well pick up a Rook deck and substitute with that.