Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

In PART 2, I shared a couple verses from D&C 104, in which the Lord is speaking to the saints concerning the law of consecration. If you recall, this is where he reminds us of our dependency on Him by repeating the phrase, "all things are mine." He goes on in the following verses to say:
"But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
"For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
"Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment." (D&C 104:16-18)
Similar to the scriptures that have already been discussed, verse 18 here contains quite a warning for those who's hearts are upon the things of the world. But the other reason I wanted to share this scripture, is that it serves as a good transition to the next topic. I want to leave the topic of "warnings" for a moment, and talk about "blessings".
In verse 16, the Lord tells us His way to "provide" for the temporal needs of the saints. And he indicates that this plan is built upon the principle that "the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low." I have been sharing many scriptures that talk about the dangers of riches and warnings for the rich, but I want to talk now about the other part of the Lord's plan: "exalting" the poor.
In the same way that there are an abundance of scriptures warning the rich, there are also numerous scriptures promising blessings to the poor.
Hannah, after being blessed by the Lord to have a child (Samuel), praised Him and said:
"The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
"He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them." (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
In speaking of the Lord's mercy towards the poor and the beggars, Hannah uses the phrases "raiseth up", "lifteth up", and "inherit the throne of glory." These could serve as great synonyms for the phrase, "the poor shall be exalted", from D&C 104:16.
Isaiah spoke of such blessings. In a very similar way, he also spoke of the Lord's ability to exalt and make low. Praising the Lord, Isaiah says:
"O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.
"For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.
"Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee.
"For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall." (Isaiah 25:1-4)
After speaking of the Lord's ability to humble the proud, Isaiah tells us of the Lord's tendency to lift up or "strength(en)" the "poor" and "needy".
Speaking of the latter-days and the Second Coming, the Lord revealed to Zephaniah:
"...I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.
"I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord." (Zephaniah 3:11-12)
 Here we see that the poor will "trust" in the Lord. Nephi also quoted Isaiah speaking of such a concept:
"…the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it." (2 Nephi 24:32; see also Isaiah 14:32)
"And the meek also shall increase, and their joy shall be in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." (2 Nephi 27:30; see also Isaiah 29:19)
We can ask the questions: "Why is it that the poor will 'trust' in Zion and 'rejoice' in the Lord? What is it about Zion that they will trust? What is it about the Lord and his teachings that they will rejoice in?" Hopefully some of what we have discussed already gives us an idea as to the answers to these questions, but the things that will be explored in the remainder of this article will greatly illuminate this subject further.
John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus, to inquire whether He was the one "that should come" according to prophecy. And Jesus, in their company, healed many that were nearby. He then told these men:
"...Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached." (Luke 7:22)
I've asked myself, "Why did Jesus include the phrase, 'to the poor the gospel is preached' in his instructions to reveal to John that he truly was the Messiah? Wasn't it enough to reveal the miracles he had done?"
The Lord gave a revelation to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in December of 1830, in which he explained to them that the "folly" and "abominations" of the Gentiles would be known to the world in the latter-days, while the "weak things of the world" would have the power of God to protect them against their enemies (see D&C 35:7,13-14). He then tells them:
"And the poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand—" (D&C 35:15).
I believe that John the Baptist, who certainly was aware of the scriptures and the prophecies in them, knew of the blessings promised to the poor. He knew that the Messiah that was to come would be one in whom the poor could trust, and whose life and teachings would bring them comfort. And once again, in modern revelation, the Lord is telling his disciples that "the poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them." And in addition to this, the Lord says that the poor and meek will be looking forward to their deliverance at His second coming.
I am reminded of the parable the Lord taught regarding the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus. rather than try to paraphrase it, I think I will quote it in full here. The Lord said:
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
"And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
"And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
"And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
"And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
"But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
"And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
"Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
"For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
"Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
"And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
"And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:19-31)
The Lord revealed a significant principle at the end of this parable. We have the truth before us, in the scriptures. That should be sufficient to propel one to change their wicked ways, and follow the Lord. If the words of the prophets (and I would add, the words of Jesus Christ himself, as spoken in old times as well as the latter-days) are not enough, no other divine message or miracle will make any difference. We have the truth right before us in the scriptures. It's just up to us to open our hearts and let the light in.
Speaking of the Lord's words, let me add some right here:
"Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!
"…But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs." (D&C 56:16,18)
Can it be said any clearer?

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