Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin asks the very weighty question, "…are we not all beggars?" (Mosiah 4:19). We might all be familiar with his famous speech near the end of his reign in which he pleads for his people to take upon them the name of Christ and follow Him. But I would ask that we really take some time to think about this question and how it relates to every aspect of our lives, spiritually and temporally.
King Benjamin goes on:
"For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
"And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy." (Mosiah 4:19-20)
Of all that we have been blessed with or "own", what is truly ours? What did not come into our lives through divine providence, including the forgiveness we receive through the power of the atonement? And just in case any of us could claim that anything was done through our power alone, King Benjamin gets right to the core and reminds us that we are indebted to God for our very "breath, that (we) may live and move and do according to (our) own will." (Mosiah 2:21) Indeed, if we are in debt to God for our very lives, for breathing and moving, is there anything we truly can take credit for? I would say that there is only one thing that we own and can therefore give back to God, and that is our will and desire, or in other words, our hearts. As we turn to God and sacrifice our will for His more perfect plan for us, I suppose we could say that we are giving God something that He doesn't already own. But beyond that, I cannot think of anything else that we own. In a sense we are all just borrowers here on earth.
Oh, how much this thought ought to inspire gratitude in our hearts! As King Benjamin says:
"I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
"I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants." (Mosiah 2:20-21)
In speaking to the saints concerning the united order, or the program under which the law of consecration was to be lived, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith:
"I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.
"And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine." (D&C 104:14-15) 
I'm sure you caught the repetition there where the Lord says twice in two consecutive verses, "All things are mine". Occasionally the Lord will repeat like this in the scriptures, and I am sure that when He does this, it is not by accident or mistake. I speculate that the Lord does this to impress upon us something that He really wants us to take to heart.
Speaking of repetition in the scriptures, in January of 1831, just a month before the Lord gave the saints His law to them in Kirtland (revelation recorded in D&C 42) as He had promised , He says:
"And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me.
"And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself." (D&C 38:24-25)
Once again we have the Lord repeating Himself, "let every man esteem his brother as himself." He goes on to say that the saints are to gather in Ohio where they would receive His law (see D&C 38:31-32). And among other things, what was contained within this important "law" of the Lord? The law of consecration, as mapped out and recorded in D&C 42. I cannot help but think that perhaps the Lord was trying to prepare the minds of the saints by telling them to envision themselves on equal ground, before asking them to then live temporally on equal ground.
When Alma departed from the land of Lehi-Nephi with about four hundred and fifty souls, after being reconverted to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, they established themselves in the land of Helam. The people desired that Alma would be their king, and he used this opportunity to teach them a very important principle. He said:
"…Behold, it is not expedient that we should have a king; for thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another; therefore I say unto you it is not expedient that ye should have a king.
"...But remember the iniquity of king Noah and his priests; and I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance;
"Nevertheless, after much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of his truth.
"Nevertheless, in this I do not glory, for I am unworthy to glory of myself.
"...And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.
"Thus did Alma teach his people, that every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them." (Mosiah 23:7,9-11,14-15)
So the lesson to be gleaned from their horrible experience under the reign of king Noah was that we are not to think of ourselves as being better than anyone else, but instead we should love others as we do ourself. This sounds very familiar to the Lord's words to the lawyer, regarding the greatest commandment. After saying that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, He says, "And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matthew 22:39)
Christ often taught this principle to the Apostles and those who followed him. In fact, it seems at times that he wasn't content to just teach them to love others as ourselves, but to even go the extra mile and consider ourselves as servants and the least among men. He taught them:
"...Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
"But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
"And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)
A beautiful example of the Lord teaching this lesson is when, discerning the hearts of the disciples after they had been disputing among themselves which of them was the "greatest", He directed their attention to a little child and said, "whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me." He then taught them that they needed to humble themselves as a child and that "he that is least among you all, the same shall be great." (see Matthew 18:1-6, Mark 9:33-37, and Luke 9:46-48)

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