Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

In my search for truth, or "truth journey" as I have come to call it, there is a topic that has surfaced on many different occasions. As the title of this article indicates, this subject is about riches and inequality. I suppose another title could also be, "The Lord's Law Regarding the Distribution of His Resources." As this subject cropped up over and over again, I began to realize that I had accumulated quite a lot of information about it, mostly as contained in the scriptures. Some of these scriptures were ones that I had searched for, others seemed to just "find me".

At the heart of this article is a more extensive truth, that I feel is well worth mentioning here in the outset. It is simply this: The new and everlasting covenant is contained within the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and includes the ordinance and covenant of baptism and the covenant of consecration. This is a simple and yet profound truth that has taken me some time to understand and appreciate. But as I have opened my heart to this light and knowledge, other truths have been revealed. 

Now, obviously, I am not implying that I understand all the mysteries of God yet. I am on a continual journey here, as we all should be. However, I feel like this bit of truth and light is an important part of understanding all the mysteries. It, in and of itself, is a marvelous mystery of God that has seemed to have eluded, and continues to elude, most people in the world, "believers" and "non-believers" alike.

In more than one place in the scriptures we read phrases like, "the world lieth in sin" or "the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness". As part of this article, I will elaborate more on those scriptures later. But the reason I mention them in the introduction here is that I believe that a primary cause for why the world is in sin, currently and throughout the ages, is a failure to understand this simple truth as stated above. And when one doesn't understand a truth, how can one live by that truth? And I believe that if such an important mystery as this is undiscovered or ignored (often because one's heart is hardened), then it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to discover other mysteries that God would have us know. Alma understood this concept and explained it to Zeezrom, and subsequently all of us:

"And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
"And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
"And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell." Alma 12:9-11
However, in Alma chapter 5, Alma also revealed to the people in Zarahemla how one's heart can be changed, and the wonderful feelings associated with such a change. He talks about the need to "believe…the words of God" (vs 11), the need to humble ourself and "put our trust in…God" (vs 13), and that the change comes "according to (our) faith" (vs 12). He then uses some wonderful imagery and words to describe the magnificent result of this transformation. He says that those whose hearts were changed were "awakened…out of a deep sleep" and "their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word" (vs 7), and that "their souls did expand" (vs 9). I love these words used by Alma. I feel like my soul has been illuminated and expanded, and I have been awakened out of a deep sleep during this last year (a sleep that has lasted my entire life up until now).

I mentioned earlier that simple truths (or "mysteries" as the scriptures say) can, at times, elude most people. I, myself, am not immune to this danger. I have certainly been guilty of allowing true principles to elude me, either through my conscious determination to not see clearly, or due to simple ignorance and lack of searching. And this idea regarding elusive truth is a good segue back into the original topic of, "The Dangers of Riches and Inequality". It seems that most people in the world, in fact the large majority, regardless of their socioeconomic status, do not attribute the possession of wealth with being in and of itself a sin. Now of course they may concede that there are sinful ways to use ones wealth, if doing so would harm or demoralize others, directly or indirectly. But just to simply BE rich. Very few deem that to be wrong or sinful. Whether one is hoping to accumulate riches, or has already done so, there seems to an almost universal agreement that there is no harm in such a desire or ambition. And this concept, that is seen penetrating the minds of so many among all the socioeconomic classes, is also widely accepted by most religionists, atheists, and agnostics alike. Indeed, ironically it seems to be the one area where all can agree. It is the issue upon which all can come together in approval: "to be rich is good". I would claim that the scriptures are quite clear to the contrary. In fact, they couldn't be more contrary.

Now before I delve into the massive task of explaining this through an immensity of scriptural content, I would ask a sort of open ended question here at the outset. If this were true, and it was spiritually detrimental to be rich, why do most people, including many who are very "religious" and have the scriptures before them, act and/or claim otherwise? Without answering such a broad question, I would simply suggest that the answer to this question lies somewhere in the answer to another question: What is the adversary's greatest tool? I would claim that the answer to this question is unequivocal: pride. Pride is setting our will against God's will. It is at the root of all other sin. And what can lead to pride quicker than anything else in this world? I would highly suggest that, according to the scriptures, the answer to this is "riches". Hence, "the world lieth in sin" as mentioned earlier. Something to think about.

Speaking of the topics of pride, hardened hearts, and truth, before I continue on I should say something. I know that there will be those that probably need to read this, who will not. In fact, it is those that need to read this the most, that will probably be the least likely to read this or continue reading this (assuming they haven't already cast this aside, and discounted it as another silly opinion by someone who must hold a grudge). I plead with anyone who is reading this. Somehow, you have been led to this article, call it by chance or divine intervention. I would simply ask you to continue reading, not for my benefit, but for yours. If you are already living your life in accordance with the principles taught in this article (principles that are taught in the scriptures), perhaps there is someone you care about who is not. And as hard as it may be, this could be exactly what they need to hear. And if you are not living in accordance with the principles discussed here, hopefully reading this will help to awaken you out of the deep sleep that you are in, so that your soul may be illuminated and expanded.

I certainly do not mean to sound egotistical or condescending here. I admit, looking back at my life, there are more than a few times when I was fighting to be first in line to receive my portion of untruth or half-truth from the deception and fiction checkout counters. I am no one special. Why have some truths knocked me over the head recently, in an attempt to get my attention? I don't know. I am extremely grateful for any knowledge or wisdom that God has seen fit to bless me with. But I feel entirely inadequate to be the messenger here. And yet, I also feel a strong pull directing me to share these things.

Additionally, I believe with all my heart that this subject deserves serious consideration and thought (I would add to that, study and prayer). The truths contained within this account are of such importance, that one ought to be very careful before considering discarding them. And these truths exist, irrespective of peoples opinions of them. They will uphold those who live by them and condemn those who do not, regardless of whether one is doing so "consciously" or not. I believe these principles are of such a nature and of such importance, that the light of Christ which is within all of us, would prompt everyone of us, in our pure state, to live by them. And when we live contrary to these principles, we are rejecting that which we know to be good and true. Therefore, one cannot reject these truths in ignorance.

In great wisdom, Mormon taught us:

"For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
"But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
"And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
"Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ." (Moroni 7:16-19)
I say with all sincerity that the truths I am going to discuss here are such that they will lead one "to do good" and "believe in Christ" as Mormon mentioned. But more than that, if one opens up one's heart to receive these joyous truths, it will set a foundation upon which they may "know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal." (D&C 42:61)


  1. I am speaking from my experiences only. Others probably have had different experiences.

    It seems to me that just about every LDS member wants to be wealthy, and goes into a profession to be wealthy. Now, there is nothing wrong with being wealthy. What one does with the wealth and how one behaves because of the wealth is what is important. Many, many wealthy people made their money by stepping on others and doing illegal things to get the wealth. I never understood why people think they need more and more and more money. Isn't a few million enough?

    I have come across many wealthy LDS members and they are prideful, conceited, think they are better than every one else, very tight with their money, condescending to those who do not have much and so forth. I experienced these very things in a previous ward we were members of.

    I just saw on the news that all the wealthiest people in the world, put together have more money than than the rest of the population of the world put together! That is staggering! What is disturbing is that there is enough food in this world for everyone, but those who control governments and wealth deny the poor. And the kicker is that the majority of the wealthy do very little good with their money. Some do, and I realize that. When I was a kid in the 1970's the wealthy people in the little town I grew up in did not flaunt their wealth and were very down to earth. Today, people flaunt their wealth and do everything they can to get famous and wealthy. It saddens me to see wealthy LDS behave so poorly. I keep repeating to myself "the meek shall inherit the earth".

    1. My belated response here sadly indicates how little I have been involved in this blog lately. I really hope to remedy that in the near future. I have started on a couple follow-up posts to this 12 part article on the Dangers of Riches and Inequality, and I hope to post the first of these soon. Life has just gotten very complicated and busy for me lately. I'm sure that all can relate. Sadly, at times I imagine we all find that things which are less important take more of our time than those endeavors which are (or at least should be) most important in our lives. Such is the struggle we all face.

      Anyway, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. You are absolutely right that there is enough food and resources in this world to go around. The Lord Himself indicated as such in D&C 104:17. He also indicated in the verses previous to and following this one, why we have problems here on earth even though there is enough. Indeed, much of D&C 104 addresses this issue, as mentioned throughout this article. In summary, it is simply a matter of people taking more than their share by "impart(ing) not (their) portion, according to the law…unto the poor and the needy" (D&C 104:18).

      Thank you also for mentioning that the meek will inherit the earth. Now that I have a better understanding of the Lord's laws regarding the temporal needs of His children, as outlined in the scriptures, it makes sense that the "poor and the meek" will inherit this world in it's sanctified state (celestial glory) (see D&C 88:17-20), because they have learned to abide by the "principles of the law of the celestial kingdom" (see D&C 105:1-5; also see D&C 78:5-7).

      With all this in mind, D&C 88:21-22 now becomes a very sobering warning:

      "And they who are not sanctified THROUGH THE LAW WHICH I HAVE GIVEN UNTO YOU, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom

      "For he who is not able to abide the LAW OF A CELESTIAL KINGDOM cannot abide a celestial glory" (emphasis added).

      When I consider that the Lord gave the saints "the law" in Kirtland, as outlined in D&C 42, and I put these warning scriptures in D&C 88 together with the ones from D&C 104, 105, 78, and all the others mentioned in this article, it is sad and mind-boggling to me that we are not warned of these dangers more often from our leaders. Indeed, looking at the rampant greed and pride that is existent in the world today (and the scriptures are clear that the members of the church are not immune to this sin), it seems such a topic ought to be preached heavily from the pulpit. After all, if this is such a predominant determinant in the eventual kingdom of glory that is attainable, should it not be a cause for concern, yea even great alarm?

      Anyway, thank you again for your comments.

  2. Mark, I am on my second reading of this series. They are very good. You clearly showed that the desire to be wealthy is wrong. I have also learned that it is not only our excess wealth, but other things the Lord has blessed us with that we are to share also, like excess time, which older people have plenty of. The other thing I have learned is that we need to follow the Spirit on how the Lord would have us serve, whom we should serve, and when we should serve. Sometimes we have preconceived notions, for example, I plan to serve a mission for the church in my retirement years...whereas the Lord would have you do something else. It is always good to check in with Him.

    1. James,

      Thanks for sharing the important point that it is not only wealth that we are required to give.

      Also, good point about always checking in with the Lord. The scriptures are clear in teaching us that we should learn to put our trust in Him and hearken unto His precepts only, and not put our trust in man by hearkening unto the precepts of men, unless their precepts are "given by the power of the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 28:31; also 2 Nephi 28:14, 30; 2 Nephi 4:34; D&C 45:29) And since we know that the Holy Ghost will always confirm the words of Christ and the words of truth (2 Nephi 32:3), if we are truly guided by the Spirit, our thoughts and actions will align with that which Christ has taught.

      True disciples of the Lord will declare the words that He has taught and sustained, without variation to fit one's agenda or to satisfy one's sin, greed, or lifestyle. The people in the book of Mormon who were visited by the Lord were taught this and understood these truths (3 Nephi 11:41; 3 Nephi 19:8; 3 Nephi 26:19-20; 4 Nephi 1:3,12).

      Why don't more people acknowledge this and preach this today? It saddens me.

  3. Actually, true disciples of Christ will 'live' the commandments of Christ, not just preach them. Most false prophets & false disciples talk the talk and preach some of the commandments of Christ, they just don't live them.

    Christ said you tell true disciples from false ones by whether they keep the commandment, not by whether they 'entice us to do good or teach us to follow Christ', for even the devil does that. So there is just 1 more teaching in the BoM that leads us astray and is not according to Christ's teachings.

    But as far as your topic goes, I totally agree that it is very important how we treat & take care of the poor, the fatherless, the elderly, the sick, afflicted & imprisoned. If we visit them not and don't learn of their sufferings & how we need to relieve that suffering then everything else we do will not make any difference.

    We prove we are true disciples of Christ by how well we take care of our families needs & the needs of the fatherless & elderly around us.

    1. Lilli,

      Thanks for your comments here. Keeping in mind that NO person is perfect, except Christ, it is definitely very wise to realize that the Lord put so much emphasis on the importance of actions and following up what we preach, as you mentioned. I love his words from the sermon delivered on the mountain, regarding false prophets, good fruit vs evil fruit, and that it is those that "doeth the will" of God that will escape his judgement (found in Matthew 7 and 3 Nephi 14).

      If I understand correctly, the other scripture that I believe you are referencing from the article is Moroni 7:16 which says, "…for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God"

      What I didn't share in the article, in part to stay on topic, is that this scripture is more of a supplement to a scripture a couple verses before it which states, "…wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." (Moroni 7:13)

      I used to sort of view this list as not being strict enough or all-inclusive. But then, one day the words "and" here stuck out at me. I now think it is important to think of the words "and" here as indicative that this is more of a checklist as opposed to a pick-and-choose buffet list.

      And when put together, these words of Mormon are actually quite inclusive and in line with the words of Christ. If something invites and entices one to do good AND to love God AND to serve him, then it is of God. And how does one "love" God, but by keeping his commandments (John 14:15) as you mentioned. And how does one "serve" God, but by serving and helping others (as this article indicates), and as Jesus taught on many occasions.

      When looked at in this way, these scriptures in Moroni 7 actually fit the requirements taught by Christ, such as those contained in the sermon on the mountain.

      I believe that this is just one example, and that the teachings in the Book of Mormon back up the teachings in the Bible, especially as contained in the Gospels.

      But while I have faith in the teachings contained in the Book of Mormon, if you have read all 12 parts of this article you can probably deduct that I don't have much faith in the institution that has ironically spread the Book of Mormon around the world; an institution that I believe fails, in many accounts, to live up to some of the most important teachings found in this book, including the importance of "bear(ing) one another's burdens, that they may be light", "imparting of (one's) substance…according that that which (one has)", and ensuring that "all things (are) common" and that "every man deal(s) justly, one with another" so that there are "not rich and poor". I could go on and on, and I could share all the scripture references that I just quoted, but they are all found in this 12 part article, so I won't.

      Anyway, I don't want you to think that I have a "testimony" of any church, or organization, or person. Rather, are we not taught to follow Christ (again, as you so wisely indicated) as opposed to the precepts or teachings of man, unless those teachings are given by the Holy Ghost and align with the words of Christ? (2 Nephi 4:34; 2 Nephi 28:31, and Mosiah 23:14). This is another teaching that the Book of Mormon shares with the Bible.

      Sorry for the long reply here. Sometimes once I get going talking about this great stuff, it's hard to stop : )

      Thank you again for your comment and insight, which prompted me to once again think about these important things.

      I wish you the best on your own personal journey towards light and truth.

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