Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

PART 12–FINAL WORDS–THE MIRACLE PILL
Many theorize that the law of consecration is in some way meant to be hypothetical or forthcoming, in essence a law that we would agree to live by, and are supposedly willing to some day, if and when we are commanded to do so. I can't find anything in the scriptures to support these ideas, at least with regards to a personal responsibility to live by this covenant. We have already been commanded, over and over again. We have the witness in the scriptures of the amazing fruits of living by such a law and the inevitable dangers of not doing so. What else do we need? Such speculative ideas, implying a postponement of this law, simply allow for individuals to continue to live in greed, after the manner of pride. This is nothing more than pure justification. And here we see how Satan can easily "lead away the hearts of the people" (3 Nephi 6:16) to exclaim that "...All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well…" while he "cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell." (2 Nephi 28:21, emphasis added)
I can imagine someone reading this might ask the questions, "How much money are we really talking about here? You talk about 'riches', but what does that mean? How much is too much to own? How much should a 'rich' person give away to help others and how much can be retained without falling into condemnation?" Now the short answer to these questions should be, "That is between you and the Lord."
In a perfect selfless world this short answer would be sufficient. However, the reason I don't like this short answer is that it leaves open a huge door for people to drag their justification elephant through. And since we know, from the plethora of scriptures that have been shared here, that riches can easily harden one's heart and blind one to the truth, the range of justification created can be huge. As an example, this is how someone who has 10 million dollars can give 1 million away, through tithing or otherwise, and claim, "1 million dollars is a lot of money. Most people will never even come close to giving that much away to help others. Certainly I am justified in keeping the 9 million then." Or someone might play the comparison game by saying, "Yes I make a lot of money, but it's not as much as so-and-so." You see how easily one can justify their actions once their hearts are upon their treasures. It might be said that the "road to Hell is paved with good intentions." But I think the majority of those paving stones are actually labeled "justification."
So, how would I answer the question, "How much?" through a longer answer. To do so, I want to turn to the scriptures once again. Remember the Lord's words when He gave the saints the Covenant of Consecration. He tells them to give all except that which is "necessary for their support." (see D&C 42:33,55).
D&C 19 contains a revelation given through Joseph Smith to Martin Harris. It is important to realize that Martin Harris was a fairly wealthy man. He certainly wasn't hurting for money, as they say. And he had been asked to help provide funds for the printing of the Book of Mormon. The Lord cautioned him saying:
"And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God–" (D&C 19:26)
And just in case Martin was to use all manner of justification in figuring the amount, the Lord goes on to say:
"Impart a portion of thy property, yea, even part of they lands, and all save the support of thy family." (D&C 19:34)
Did you catch that? The Lord is telling him to give "ALL", except that which he needs to "support (his) family." Here we have a second witness to the Lord's injunction in D&C 42.
I highly speculate that each of us is under a similar charge; that we are to consider what is truly NEEDED to support our family. Now the scriptures and the law of consecration mention needs AND wants (See D&C 42:33, Alma 35:9, Mosiah 18:29, and D&C 82:17). But again, the warning regarding the allowance of wants is narrow, "…inasmuch as his wants are just–" (D&C 82:17).
Now I realize I still didn't answer the question specifically with a dollar amount. The reason for this is that everyone's situation is different. There are too many factors to consider: cultural considerations, family size, unforeseen expenses, etc. However, I will give you a suggestion on how to figure this amount out for yourself. One of the wonderful things about the internet is that you can get information quickly. As an example, in the US there is a website called the United States Census Bureau, ran by the Department of Commerce. The link is:  census.gov/quickfacts  And on that site you can search by state (and then even city, town, zip code, etc, if you would like) and immediately see a bunch of facts about that designated geographic area, including information on "Income and Poverty." Under this heading, you will find two different income amounts. One is for "Median household income", the other is for "Per capita income in past 12 months".

The "Median household income" gives the average income per household for your state or city. This gives you a pretty good indication where you fall on that "wants and needs" scale compared to those around you. Now I understand this is just an average. There are many households that make a lot more than this amount, but it also means that there are many that also make a lot less than this amount. I suppose you could say then that this is a general estimate of the amount every household in your state or city would be bringing in each year, assuming everyone lived by the covenant of consecration.
If you wanted to get more specific, the "Per capita money income in past 12 months" figure indicates the income reported in the past 12 months, computed for every man, woman, and child. So if you take this number and multiply it by the amount of people in your household, you would have a more specific number for the maximum amount your household would bring in, assuming we lived by the covenant of consecration. I imagine these numbers would go slightly up or down from there, depending on people's current REAL needs.
Here is an example. For my state, the "per capita money income" is listed as $23,794. If I was to go by this amount for our family of 5, it would put us at $118,970. Again, this would assume that every man, woman, and child was disbursed the same amount of money in my entire state (or the maximum amount per individual). In other words, if there were 10 people in your home you would be allowed $237,940 to provide for your needs, and if you were the only person in your home you would be given $23,794 for your needs. But let's go by the other statistic now. The median household income for my state was listed as $58,164. This is quite a bit lower than the $118,970 figured for our family of 5, but still an amount that our family can easily live within. Realize that this situation changes with every household. As an example, if there are only 2 of you in your household, the "median household income" figure ($58,164) would actually be more than the "per capita money income" figure (2x$23,794). Now, let's dissect these numbers for the purposes of this article. So it seems to me that our household income could safely fall somewhere in between these two amounts ($58,164 and $118,970), under the law of consecration. But I would imagine the number would be closer to the lower amount than the higher amount, if I truly didn't want to put anyone else in my state under any amount of hardship (to allow extra for people who may have extra needs). See how that works? Not to difficult to figure out, really.
I hear the questions now: "So is he saying that there is danger in retaining anything over these amounts? If I make 10 million dollars, do I really need to give 9.9 million dollars away to help others? Is he crazy?" First off, no I am not crazy. Secondly, no I am not suggesting this, assuming you live in my state and have 420 individuals living in your house that you need to provide for ($23,794x420=$9,993,480). But in all seriousness, the answer is yes, in essence this is what I am suggesting. If you are serious about ridding yourself of the danger and plague of riches, then I would say absolutely, my answer is YES. If I am serious about what the scriptures teach, I would think very, very, carefully before going over the higher of these two amounts, for my household. Now of course, there are circumstances that would modify these numbers. Some good examples might be that of necessary medical expenses, or taking care of other peoples needs outside of one's household, etc. However, a larger or more expensive home, a more expensive car, the finest clothes, furniture, jewelry, etc.–Could any of these things be considered valid "needs or wants", considering these average household incomes I mentioned? Again, in essence these are good bracketed starting points for how much your household would be allowed, if you were to live by the covenant of consecration, which I remind you, is part of a law that was intended to be "everlasting" until the Lord comes back (see D&C 78:4; 82:20; 104:1). Sobering thoughts. And certainly something to seriously consider.
Now I realize that even if these truths strike a chord with your soul, you may say, "What is it going to help if I live after this manner the Lord has directed? Most people will not do so and will go on in the way of greed and pride. My contribution is not going to make much of a difference." I have two thoughts to address these ideas. First, you never know how much your contribution might help if you decide to live by these covenants and principles. Secondly, and more importantly, who cares what others are doing? I know putting it this way makes it sound selfish in a way. But shouldn't you be concerned about your salvation and the salvation of those in your home that you love, first. To put it another way, obviously it would seem foolish to live after the manner of wickedness, just because others around you are doing so. Aren't we taught in the scriptures to do just the opposite? To come unto Christ and rise above the wickedness in the world? And shouldn't we be teaching our children to do likewise? We teach them the clever phrase, "What would Jesus do?" Well, don't you think Jesus would do as he taught? That He would practice as He preached? Of course He would. And how many witnesses do we have that indicate how the Lord feels about the law of consecration? Just in this article alone, we have revealed numerous examples.
By the way, if you ever find you are asking yourself the question, "where should my excess go?" or "Who should I help?". My answer would be to again use the spirit and the scriptures as your guide. As I have done so, and based on all the scriptures I have shared here, I have come to the conclusion that it would be wise to "impart of (one's) substance to the poor…according to that which (one) hath " or that which is "more than is necessary for (one's) support" in order to "to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted" as Jacob, King Benjamin, Amulek, Mormon, and so many others taught.
So how does one accomplish this? Well first, and this might be the hardest part for some, it takes evaluating where you currently are on the "wants and needs" scale, or in essence determining what is "more than is necessary for (your) support" as the scriptures say (see D&C 42:30,33,55). And this might require a huge reevaluation and revamping of one's lifestyle. "Huge" may even be an understatement. Remember, Christ told the rich young ruler to sell "all" that he had. As one becomes honest with themselves regarding that which they value the most, they hopefully will come to the realization that their salvation is more important than all the riches of the world. This very well could lead to critical changes in lifestyle, including downgrading, downsizing, and diminishing. Can this be done? Yes, it can. Can a camel really pass through the eye of a needle? I hope so. I believe so. It's just not seen every day. It basically takes a miracle. But I still believe in miracles. Didn't Mormon teach us to believe in miracles? (see Mormon 9 and Moroni 7:27-37)
Once one has made the necessary changes and freed up their excess, if necessary, the next step is to do as the scriptures say and "impart of your substance" to others in need. How is the best way to do this? My suggestion is to start with those closest to you and work your way outward. Remember, Christ seemed to always be most interested in the individual that was right before Him, the one who needed help or came to Him for relief. Ask yourself first, who do you know that is in need? I'm not talking about your neighbor who needs help paying the mortgage on his 3rd summer home. Who is REALLY in need. If no one in your inner circle fits the bill, I recommend expanding your search outward, to the community. Imagine what this world would be like if everyone took time to address the needs of those around them.
The church donation slip has the line for "Fast offering" which generally allows for that money donated to help those around you (although this is up to the discretion of the Bishop and Stake President and is dependent on the needs in your current Ward or Stake). Also on this slip is the line for "Humanitarian aid". This is an option. However, be forewarned that the new donation slips now say at the bottom: "Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church's property and will be used at the Church's sole discretion to further the Church's overall mission." I think it is important to realize that this says, "ALL DONATIONS", including Tithing and Fast offering, meaning you really just don't know exactly where that money is going anymore. When asked why the change, a church spokesman said, "The new language on the donation slips simply gives some flexibility to meet the changing needs of a growing, global faith as circumstances require." Hmm…ok. If you are interested in finding out how much of the money listed as "Fast Offering" is retained in your current Ward or Stake, or what sort of things it is used for, I recommend asking the Bishop and/or Stake President. They should be able to tell you this kind of information without having to tell you the names of specific individuals or families (that might be inappropriate). And if they don't want to provide this simple information, I would be skeptical. I find it usually unwise to completely trust those who refuse to be transparent, at least somewhat.
Also, with a little bit of research, you can cut out the middle-man and donate to organizations on your own. This is a great way to make sure that your "substance" goes to those who really need it, instead of relying on a corporate organization to make that assessment for you. As you give to organizations and charities, I recommend using resources that help you to make wise decisions. If you live in the US, one of these resources you could use is a non-profit organization known as Charity Navigator:  http://www.charitynavigator.org   This is an organization that does extensive research on many thousands of charities in America, looking at things such as accountability and transparency. And you can search for charities on this website based on criteria like location and type of charity. For instance, you can click on the "Advanced" search button, and then select "Human Services" under the "Select Category/Cause" section, along with selecting your State in the "Location" section, and you would probably get a pretty good list of charities in your State that try to help the needy. And before you think otherwise, no I am not affiliated with Charity Navigator. I just found out about them some time back and thought, "Hey, that could be a great way for someone to make smart decisions on where their charity money is going." Realize, your money does not go through Charity Navigator who give it to these charities. You give to the charities directly. Charity Navigator is just a resource to help you make those decisions wisely. But you don't have to use them. You can do the research on your own.
But whatever you do, as you decide where your excess "substance" ends up, I would highly recommend going by the spirit, while keeping in mind the instructions from the scriptures to help the "poor and needy", the "hungry, naked (or those needing appropriate or sufficient clothing), sick, afflicted, and captive", in other words, those that need it the MOST.
Please keep in mind, lest you consider the thoughts and ideas in this article as simply being my opinion, or the ramblings of a crazy man, remember Christ's admonition to the rich young ruler; remember Jacob's and Nephi's words; remember the words of Isaiah, King Benjamin, Amulek, Paul, Mormon, and Alma; remember all the warnings and admonitions; remember the Lord's multiple commands and petitions for the saints to live the law of consecration and that they would be "condemned" if they failed to do so; remember those who did live such a law, established Zion, and found peace in doing so. There are simply too many witnesses to refute these principles and truths. And all these witnesses will either uphold us or condemn us in the end.
Now I can imagine, despite all the scriptures and evidence that has been shared here, someone reading this might still persist in saying something of a justifying nature like, "Wait, I understand that there is danger in pride and setting your heart upon your riches, but simply having riches doesn't mean that your heart is upon them or that they are your priority. And what about all the rich people who do 'good' things with their money also? Certainly they are exempt from these judgements. There is no sin in living rich, so long as you are a good, decent, kind person. I know a lot of people like that. Certainly you are not saying the Lord condemns them?" Ok, long hypothetical question, I admit. But I wanted to suppose all the different thoughts that one might be thinking to justify riches in such a way. But all these justifications really boil down to just one question, "Is it wrong to BE rich, or LIVE rich, regardless of all other accomplishments or circumstances, or whatever else one does good and righteous with his or her life?" I will state the answer emphatically and with all confidence, "YES, it is wrong." And YES, such a person will be held accountable and condemned if they don't repent and change. I think the scriptures are very clear on this issue. Now I realize I have already answered this question throughout this article. In fact, my first instinct would be to respond to this question by saying, "Did you really read this article thoroughly? If so, you should not even be asking this question." But even so, I wanted to emphasize it one last time.
And if you are reading this and feel otherwise, I would encourage you to go back and read this again, but more carefully this time. In doing so, I would ask you to pay especial attention to the scriptures mentioned here. Read them, search them, and ponder their meaning. In addition to searching the scriptures, search your heart. What does it truly tell you? I am merely the messenger here. I didn't create things the way they are. I didn't create truth. I am just relaying the truth that has been revealed to me. Would it be better for me to not know the truth, as uncomfortable as it sometime is, with all its bumps and rough edges. Sometimes I have thought so. My life will never be the same now. And I suspect, it will never be comfortable again. After all, truth is the miracle pill, but it can taste the most bitter going down. But truly, I wouldn't go back for the entire world. I would rather press forward through opposition than give in to a lie. I hope you will have the courage to feel the same.
After all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)

4 comments:

  1. Wonderful lengthy article! I agree with you that we should be living this law now. We need to be mindful of the poor among us. And we need to do it with charity, the pure love of Christ.

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    1. James, thank you for taking the time to read this article. When I felt prompted to begin writing it, I had no idea how long it would eventually end up being. And even then, I feel like I left out quite a bit that I wanted to say. But I hope that the ultimate message definitely got through.

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  2. Wonderful line of thought and great use of scriptures to articulate and support the truth. Thanks for putting this up on the internet. I hope more people find it soon. Cheers

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    1. Thank you. Truth is often not easy to come by. And I hope that more people come to realize how important these "lost" principles are. Whether they get the information here or somewhere else, it doesn't matter. I just hope and pray that more people will wake up, before it is too late. Thanks again.

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