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)