Why is there this perception? Let's go to the origin of the phrase.
1 Timothy 6:10 states,
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Some people read that scripture and immediately pair the word "money" with the word "evil" when they should actually be pairing "Love of" with "evil." And they seem to completely ignore "coveted after". Love of money is the root of all evil.
Why is the love of money evil? Not just evil, but the root of evil? It conflicts directly with two of the 10 commandments:
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (Exodus 20:4).
When I think of the love of money, I picture someone who modifies their schedule, activities, thoughts, and conversation to align with the acquisition of money for the purpose of magnifying their own desires. This person would not have to be wealthy; someone who is middle class or poor can become obsessed with the acquisition of money and covet that which others have.
When our minds are constantly on money, where we'll get it, where we'll spend it, how we'll wear it or drive it, we are too occupied to think of God, how we'll serve him or praise him. We have some other god in the throne of our mind. The preoccupation with, the love of, the obsession with, the coveting of money is a root to evil because, if not uprooted, the distraction from God can sprout into a plant that begets other evil fruit, some of which are mentioned in others of the Ten Commandments.
In actuality, we can replace the word "money" in 1 Timothy 6:10 with nearly any object. The love of gadgets is the root of all evil. The obsession with physical fitness is the root of all evil. Anything that we love more or devote more time to than serving God can be rooted in evil, not because the object (or person) is evil, but because obsessively directing our thoughts toward anything that is not God himself creates a new god that can distract us off the path. (Satan is tricky, too, in that he can distract us with multiple things instead of one sole obsession to make us too busy to worship God. That's a different topic.)
After several financial setbacks, President Heber J. Grant later prospered and used his wealth to help individuals, families, the Church, and the community. He said:
“While I have worked hard for Cash, you know, as do all my friends that have a full knowledge of the innermost sentiments of my heart, that Cash has not been my god and that my heart has never been set on it, only to do good with what might come into my possession. I most earnestly desire that I may always feel this way.”
If you're working on your stewardship in financial matters, you've got the green light to become educated in money. Learn how God wants you to use money in your life and in the lives of those entrusted in your circle of influence. Learn how to keep money in harmony with God. And for that matter, keep anything else that temps you to spend more time with it than is healthy in its proper ranking on the priority list.
Go on and prosper in the land and give all glory to God.
And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. (1 Nephi 2:20)