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)

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)

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

In the last section, we established, through the scriptures, that all of us are essentially beggars before God. Everything we have been blessed with we owe to God as nothing really belongs to us anyway. We demonstrated how we are taught to love others as ourselves, and not think of us, or anyone else, as being above another person. All of these are core doctrines concerning our relationship with God and with others around us. These are all principles pertaining to a thought process or a state of mind which God wants us to arrive at. As such they establish a good foundation to begin the following discussions on how God wants us to act, once we have arrived at this higher level of thinking regarding our relationship with divinity and society. Essentially, we cannot hope to improve our actions if we don't first have a desire to do so, built upon a foundation of concepts or ideas that we hold to be true.
I would pause here briefly and say that if anyone is reading this who doesn't believe in the principles I have already discussed, regarding how we should feel indebted to God, and how we should view others around us, then I would say to that person that further reading is probably not going to help here, for their problem runs much deeper than I can be of assistance. And I would also say to such an individual that they ought to seriously evaluate their own life and strive to discover, through scripture study and prayer, what God would have them to know, and what kind of person He would want them to be.
For the rest of us, let's move on.
Before we talk about what the Lord requires of us (again, the "actions"), we need to talk about warnings. The scriptures are full of warnings, from the prophets and the Lord himself. But for our purposes here, we are going to focus on one particular type of warning, that which is given to those "who are rich as to the things of the world" (2 Nephi 9:30).
I suppose this scripture is as good a place to start as any. Jacob often taught the people of Nephi about the dangers of riches. He taught them:
"But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also." (2 Nephi 9:30)
I find it interesting that Jacob chooses to use the very straightforward wording that he does. He doesn't indicate that riches might or could lead one to despise and persecute the poor and meek. He simply explains that riches will lead one to do so. He also uses a phrase that shows up many times in the scriptures in correlation with riches, and that is that their "hearts are upon their treasures".
Later, after his brother Nephi's death, and as a result of many of the people falling into wickedness, Jacob solidifies this teaching once again. He says:
"And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.
"And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.
"O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!
"O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!
"...And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?
"Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever." (Jacob 2:13-16, 20-21)
Jacob certainly was a bold speaker who didn't beat around the bush. There is probably a tendency to either love his words or fear them depending on whether one is living by them or not. I imagine the Nephites probably felt similar, and that his words struck many of them to the core. Again, as we have discussed previously, according to verse 13, Jacob attributes the attaining of wealth to the intervention of the Lord. And in verse 21, he is solidifying the already established principle, that we are all equal in God's eyes, and should feel the same about each other.
Also, I want to draw attention to some powerful words that Jacob uses here in warning the rich. He says the Lord "condemneth" them and that their actions are "abominable." And then he warns them that this pride of their hearts would "destroy (their) souls." One might ask, "How can the Lord condemn someone for an abominable action that was a direct result of a blessing at His hand in the first place?" Or more succinctly put, "If the Lord gave me riches, why would he condemn me for them?" This might appear to be a valid question, but it is one that is most definitely answered in the scriptures, in a manner that is very straightforward. However, I am going to discuss this more thoroughly when we talk about the Lord's requirement for us in the "actions" section of our discussion (see PART 6 and PART 7). I want to stay on the topic of "warnings" for the time being.
The part I want to focus on here for just a minute is where Jacob, like before, uses the word "persecute" to describe the effect of the actions of the rich upon the poor. And he adds a word here, "afflict." So combining this with 2 Nephi 9:30, one might ask, "How does one who is rich 'despise', 'persecute',  and 'afflict' the poor, simply by being rich?" In answer to this question, we already have a couple hints here in Jacob's words. He tells them that they are persecuting others because they "suppose that (they) are better" then them (vs 13), and because they "were proud in (their) hearts, of the things which God hath given (them)" (vs 20).
To further explain this, we could add his brother Nephi's words. When talking about the apostasy of all churches in the latter-days, something which he saw in vision, Nephi refers to "false and vain and foolish doctrines" that cause people to be "puffed up in their hearts" (2 Nephi 28:9). He goes on to explain this further:
"Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.
"Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.
"They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up." (2 Nephi 28:11-13)
Again, we see the word "persecute" used, as well as "pride". And Nephi indicates there is a correlation between the two.  This persecution exists simply by one thinking they are better than others, or being proud and "puffed up". It seems evident that there doesn't have to be a direct interaction between the two parties involved. In fact, Nephi points this out with an excellent worldly example. In verse 13,  he says that they "rob the poor" simply by having "fine sanctuaries" and "fine clothing." Obviously, they aren't literally stealing from the poor to build their buildings and buy their fancy clothes. But by doing so, they "rob" the poor nonetheless. How do they do this? Put very simply, they choose to focus on worldly things instead of helping others who are struggling. In a manner of speaking, because of their priorities, they are harming others. And in doing this, a natural result is that they become puffed up and their hearts become set upon their treasures. We can see that one doesn't need to be directly harming or persecuting another for the damage to still be done.
And the consequence of such pride and selfishness? Again, Nephi says:
"O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, …wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!" (2 Nephi 28:15)
A few verses later, Nephi says that many will say, "...All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well." What is the truth in such a thought? Nephi tells us, "–and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell." (2 Nephi 28:21)
Nephi quoted Isaiah often in his record. And for good reason, too. If Isaiah saw our day and wrote for our benefit, and Nephi likewise saw our day and wrote for our benefit, then perhaps we should pay attention to what these men had to say. Nephi, quoting from Isaiah told us:
"Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;
"To turn away the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
"And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?" (2 Nephi 20:1-3; see also Isaiah 10:1-3)
Are we starting to see the severity of judgement upon those who persecute the poor? And again, this persecution doesn't need to be direct. One never has to come in contact with the person they are persecuting with regard to this sin. It is just a natural consequence of something this "abominable." (again, see Jacob 2:21) And this has been illustrated partially through Jacob's and Nephi's words. Next, we will add more witnesses.

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

There are many examples of the dangers of pride, riches, and inequality in the Book of Mormon. It almost seems that as soon as the Lord began to prosper his people, they began to set their hearts on their riches, and turn their back on Him. And this is the principle sin that often led to other heinous crimes against the Lord and their neighbors. We talked earlier about Alma and his words in the land of Helam concerning the dangers of pride. Alma's son–Alma, great-grandson–Helaman, great-great-grandson–Nephi, and great-great-great grandson–Nephi, also contended with these problems arising among the people.
During Alma "the younger's" time, according to Mormon's abridgment of the record we read:
"...the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.
"Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people.
"For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.
"And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God.
"And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.
"And it came to pass in the commencement of the ninth year, Alma saw the wickedness of the church, and he saw also that the example of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people.
"Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.
"…And now it came to pass that Alma, having seen the afflictions of the humble followers of God, and the persecutions which were heaped upon them by the remainder of his people, and seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him." (Alma 4:6-12, 15)
I think it is important to note that the pride of those in the church because of their riches exceeded that of those who were not of the church. Sometimes we might think that our church, or religion, or code of ethics, etc. somehow makes us immune to these dangers. It is obvious that this is not the case at all. Also, it is important to realize that this pride among the members of the church became a "stumbling-block" to those who did not. Another danger of riches then is it can create distrust and enmity, and in doing so can cause the work of God to "fail in its progress." Additionally, I want to point out another phrase, seen in verse 12, that we will see crop up again later in the Book of Mormon: "great inequality." And once again, in verse 15, we see the word, "persecution", but here it is linked specifically to the "inequality" that Alma began to see among his people. It is easy to simply look around in the world today and see that a GREAT inequality exists, when it comes to wealth and the distribution of resources.
Helaman saw a similar thing happen among his people. Mormon explains:
"And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—
"And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.
"…And it came to pass that the fifty and second year ended in peace also, save it were the exceedingly great pride which had gotten into the hearts of the people; and it was because of their exceedingly great riches and their prosperity in the land; and it did grow upon them from day to day." (Helaman 3:33-34, 36)
Again, we see the word, "persecution" here in these scriptures. It should be pretty obvious now that there is a direct connection between riches and the persecution of the poor and humble. And once again, the church was not immune.
By the next chapter, Helaman has passed away and his son Nephi has replaced him in the judgement-seat. In this chapter, we read how this friction had gotten so bad among the Nephites, that some of them joined the Lamanites and started a war with their brethren, resulting in the Nephites losing the "possession of almost all their lands" (Helaman 4:13). And what was at the core of this great destruction and loss of life? Mormon tells us:
"Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God.
"And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—" (Helaman 4:11-12)
So, Mormon attributes this great destruction to their "wickedness" and "abomination", caused by their "pride…because of their exceeding riches". And once again, Mormon reminds us that those in the church were not immune to this great wickedness. Also, it is important to note that this pride due to riches is what led to a multitude of other sins, as mentioned in the latter part of verse 12. In fact, this is not an isolated occurrence in the Book of Mormon. Just a few years later, after this war, again we read:
"…they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain." (Helaman 6:17)
Once again, this pride because of their riches led to other sins, including even murder.
Nephi's son, Nephi, finds the people again turning toward their riches, despite the fact that the people had witnessed amazing signs signifying the birth of Christ. Mormon tells us:
"But it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions;
"For there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers.
"And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.
"…And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.
"Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.
"And thus Satan did lead away the hearts of the people to do all manner of iniquity; therefore they had enjoyed peace but a few years.
"And thus, in the commencement of the thirtieth year—the people having been delivered up for the space of a long time to be carried about by the temptations of the devil whithersoever he desired to carry them, and to do whatsoever iniquity he desired they should—and thus in the commencement of this, the thirtieth year, they were in a state of awful wickedness.
"Now they did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them, for it had been taught unto them; therefore they did wilfully rebel against God." (3 Nephi 6:10-12,14-18)
There are a few important things I want to add, regarding these scriptures. First, as mentioned in verse 18, it is important to realize that they were not sinning ignorantly. Earlier, in PART 1 of this article, I mentioned that the true principles I am going to discuss here 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. I believe Mormon also saw that these people living in sin would not be able to explain away their abominations, using the argument of ignorance.
Also regarding these scriptures, can anyone read this account of the state of the people in the Book of Mormon, soon before the great destruction following Christ's death, and His subsequent visit to those who survived because they were the "more righteous" (3 Nephi 9:13) among them, without seeing the similarities to our society today. I read these words in 3 Nephi 6 and feel almost as if I am reading a commentary of our day. Just a few examples:
"pride and boastings because of their exceeding great riches", "many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers", "people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and and their chances for learning", "great inequality in all the land" (I told you we would see that phrase crop up again in the Book of Mormon), "church began to be broken up", "Satan had great power", "all manner of iniquity", "seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world", "in a state of awful wickedness"
This reads like a bucket list of things that Satan would want to squeeze in before the end of times. And it sounds very similar to the situation we find ourselves in today. And this is the situation the people in the Book of Mormon were in just right before the massive destruction of their civilization and Christ's appearance. Think about how often in the scriptures we are told that what is recorded in the sacred word of God serves as a "type" or "shadow" of things to come. Scary thoughts perhaps? At least they ought to be, for the wicked. And what seems to be at the heart of it all. I'll give you a hint, what word is mentioned in these scriptures 4 times? That's right: "riches". Am I painting a sufficient picture here?
Paul understood this concept also, as I believe all true disciples of Jesus Christ do. He talked about the "perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness" and tells us, "from such withdraw thyself" (1 Timothy 6:5). He goes on to say:
"But godliness with contentment is great gain.
"For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
"And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
"But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." (1 Timothy 6:6-11)
In a similar fashion as Jacob speaking to the Nephites, here we see that Paul has associated a definite outcome to being rich, not just a probable outcome. He says that "they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (verse 9). He could have indicated that there is simply a chance that riches can be harmful in such a manner. But he did not describe this cause and effect relationship in such a passive way, because such dangers are just a given. They simply come with the territory. Such is the nature and potentially destructive power of money. 
That is why there are such bold warnings coming from these men of God. They understood that the danger is just too high. And that is why Paul used words here like "destruction", "perdition", and "evil". These might seem like strong words, but they aren't any more forward or damning than words like "abomination", "condemeth", and "destroy…souls"  that Jacob used in the Book of Mormon. These words ought to create great concern and even put fear into people's hearts who are guilty of such sins. But unfortunately, I don't think that they do, not nearly enough anyway. As mentioned in PART 1 of this article, I suppose that the primary reason this is so, is that people justify themselves in claiming that the only sin is in consciously doing wicked things with riches. And that to simply be rich and live rich is not a sin. I hope that these scriptures I am sharing are helping to illuminate that this is simply a lie, one that is perpetuated by Satan to "lead away the hearts of the people." (3 Nephi 6:16)

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?

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

In PART 3, I supposed that one might ask the question, "If the Lord gave me riches, why would he condemn me for them?" With the foundation we have established, now is a good place to address this question. The scripture that I ended PART 5 with actually gives us the answer, which we will explore in great detail in this section. Again, in D&C 56:16 the Lord says, "Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls…" Did you catch that? The key is in using those riches to help others, by giving them away. So the Lord doesn't condemn one for their riches, so long as they don't retain their riches long enough to be condemned by them.
To further explain this, let's go back to the words of Jacob in the Book of Mormon once again, in his speech to the Nephites where he condemns them for their pride and riches. I left out a few verses before, because I wanted to talk about them in this section, in which I will be addressing what the Lord has required of those who find themselves "blessed" with riches. In essence, these additional verses are where Jacob provides them with the remedy for their dangerous situation. He says:
"Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
"But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
"And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted." (Jacob 2:17-19)
Jacob is pretty clear that there is only one approved and valid reason to seek for riches, and that is to help others and alleviate suffering. So the Lord allows certain individuals to accumulate riches so that they may be the means of helping others, by giving away their riches, pure and simple. In a sense, it can be seen as a test. It is as if the Lord is saying, "Here, I am going to allow you to have this 'gift'. But this is a very precarious gift. It is strictly to be used to help others and alleviate the burdens of your fellowmen. If you use it in ANY other way, this 'gift' becomes a curse and will destroy you." Riches are only to be used to help alleviate the burdens of others, and if anyone is living in a state of affluence while others around them are struggling or suffering, they are condemned for doing so. This is the great truth about riches. Live by this truth, or break yourself upon it. It doesn't change the fact that the consequences will be the same for everyone. A truth doesn't change, just because someone doesn't want to believe in it. It exists, irrespective of our opinions of it.
In PART 5, I talked about the blessings the Lord has in store for the poor. The real question, then, that the wealthy ought to ask themselves is, "Do I help the Lord in facilitating blessings upon the poor by relieving them of their burdens, or do I withhold my help, and by so doing condemn myself?"
One of the great stories from the New Testament, concerning the dangers of riches, is that in which the rich young ruler approached Christ. Like many of the accounts in the Gospels, this story can be found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I will share the account from Luke here, but I encourage a study of all three.
"And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
"And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
"Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
"And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
"Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
"And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
"And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
"For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
"And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?
"And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:18-27; see also Matthew 19:16-26 and Mark 10:17-27)
So Jesus just told his disciples that it is "easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God", but then tells them that "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God." What does he mean by this last verse and the phrase, "possible with God"? Luckily, we have some help through Joseph Smith. In his translation of the New Testament, he added to verse 27 here in Luke, and the equivalent verses in Matthew and Mark (Matthew 19:26 and Mark 10:27).
Joseph Smith Translation of Luke 18:27 reads, "And he said unto them, It is impossible for them who trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God; but he who forsaketh the things which are of this world, it is possible with God, that he should enter in."

Here we have the answer to what Christ meant in verse 27, and why he would say "it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye….", and the answer is found in the phrase, "but he who forsaketh the things which are of this world…" The word "forsaketh" means to "abandon", "renounce", or "give up". I am reminded of the words of Paul found in 1 Timothy 6, that I have already shared, in which he talks about the dangerous power of riches "which drown men in destruction and perdition." (1 Timothy 6:9). After warning of these things, Paul admonishes the saints to "flee these things; and follow after righteousness…" (1 Timothy 6:11). Certainly, I think that a good definition of "fleeing" something would be to forsake, abandon, renounce, or give up that thing.

Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 19:26 reads, "But Jesus beheld their thoughts, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but if they will forsake all things for my sake, with God whatsoever things I speak are possible."

The word "if" here seems very significant to me, "IF they will forsake all things."

Joseph Smith Translation of Mark 10:27 (listed as JST Mark 10:26) reads, "With men that trust in riches, it is impossible; but not impossible with men who trust in God and leave all for my sake, for with such all these things are possible."

So here in Mark the phrase, "leave all" is used instead of "forsake", but the meaning is the same. The rich young ruler "went away sorrowful" (Matthew 19:22), at the request of Christ to give away his riches. He just couldn't do it. And this is what prompted the Lord to explain how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And when His disciples inquired further, He explained that it essentially requires a person giving up those riches in order for this to be possible. And he knew how difficult a task this becomes once one's heart is set upon their riches.

One thing that is important to realize here; the rich young ruler was a "good" man. He told the Lord that he had kept all the commandments since he was very young. And the Lord, who obviously could read the man's thoughts and heart, did not contest this claim by the young man. Rather, He explained that there was still something else keeping him out of the kingdom of God. I think this is an important distinction to make. The young man was not being condemned for being a "bad" man. Evidently he was a good man and had kept all the commandments. For all we know, he was very generous with some of his wealth. But it wasn't enough. The Lord knew, as all true disciples of Jesus Christ also know, of the dangers of riches and how easily they tend to create hearts full of pride. This one thing that afflicted the young man's soul, and this one thing alone, would keep him out of the kingdom of heaven. It is very important to realize this. And this confirms the Lord's words in D&C 56:16 and Jacob's words in Jacob 2:13-21 that have already been shared.
Let's go back to the beginning and add some more pieces of the puzzle here. In PART 2 we talked about how we are all beggars before God. And I shared some of King Benjamin's words on the subject. Let's fill in some more of his words at this point:
"And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
"Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
"But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
"...And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
"And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
"I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.
"And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.
"And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.
"And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants." (Mosiah 4:16-18,21-26)
King Benjamin was very wise. He gives us some very strong warnings regarding withholding our substance from those in need, culminating in the statement that such a person "hath no interest in the kingdom of God." (verse 18) And in verse 22, he is basically saying that we have no right to "withhold (our) substance" from those who are in need or are suffering, for these things that we think we own "doth not belong to (us) but to God." What an amazing perspective to have. And yet, it is the only perspective we are supposed to have, to "remain guiltless." (vs 25) In fact, King Benjamin is clear that everyone is supposed to think after this charitable manner, whether one is rich or poor (as indicated by verses 24-25). The rich are just required to also act on these thoughts, because they are the ones who have the means to help more.
Concerning this idea that all people are required to be charitable, if not by deed then at least in heart (the "if I had I would give" mentality), I think it is safe to say that one's mindset is also considered by the Lord. In this sense, it is not enough for one to say, "I don't live a lavish lifestyle, but I don't see anything wrong with those who decide to do so." Can one in good conscience say, "I don't personally murder people, but I don't find fault with those that do", or "I don't steal from others, but I don't think it is wrong for others to do so", or "I don't personally commit adultery, but I see no problem with others doing so"? It is not hard to see the obvious error in such thinking. Condoning a sin, even if you are not directly participating in that sin, is an act worthy of condemnation also. And we know that we will all be held accountable for our actions as well as our thoughts. I think this was the idea that King Benjamin was getting at. And we need to be able to recognize when our personal viewpoint is misguided.
Also, in verse 26, King Benjamin mentions a phrase that appears quite a few times in the Book of Mormon. He tells them they need to give of their substance, "every man according to that which he hath". In other words, the more you have the more you give. The less you have, the less is required. We will see later that this directive of giving "according to that which (you) hath" is embraced in the law of consecration.
Moses gave us similar counsel to that of King Benjamin's. He said:
"If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
"But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
"…For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land." (Deuteronomy 15:7-8,11)
Similar to the Nephites, the people of Israel were "commanded" to help the poor and needy. In both verse 8 and 11, they are taught to "open (their) hand wide unto" the needy around them.

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

Just a few months after the saints were given the Lord's law in Kirtland, including the law of consecration (see D&C 42), Joseph Smith was given a revelation in which the saints are told:
"And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple." (D&C 52:40)
In PART 4, I shared some of Mormon's words regarding the people that Alma "the younger" taught. If you can recall, he talked of the "great inequality" that was among the people, and how the "church began to fail in its progress" because of the pride and inequality among them. But Mormon also talked about how some of the people did as they were taught by Nephi, Jacob, King Benjamin, Alma, his son Alma, and others. He says:
"...others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy;
"Looking forward to that day, thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death." (Alma 4:13-14)
This word "abase" is an interesting choice here for Mormon to use. I don't find it anywhere else in the Book of Mormon. If using this word in connection with one person's treatment of another person, then it has quite a negative meaning: to bring low, degrade, or to humiliate. But in reference to a person abasing themselves, as it is used in this verse, it can become a positive thing as there is a deep humility involved. I think a perfect definition of abasing oneself is found somewhere in the words of King Benjamin's speech that I have already shared, in how we should consider ourselves "unprofitable servants" and "beggars…(that) depend upon…God" for all that we have, including our very "breath" (see Mosiah 2:20-21; 4:19-20). When we truthfully see who we are before God and honestly acknowledge our dependance upon Him, imparting of our substance to those who stand in need becomes natural, almost second nature. And when our hearts are upon our riches and we withhold our substance from those in need, we are basically saying that we know better than God. We are pitting our will against his. And this is pride, pure and simple.
Also, it is worth noting that verse 14 contains some wonderful blessings that are shared by those who do help the poor and needy. They "retain a remission of their sins" and are "filled with great joy". These seem like fitting rewards for casting away one's pride.
In the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon, we read of the Zoramites, who had once lived by the word of God but had fallen into apostasy, because their "hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride" (Alma 31:25). And why were they falling into wickedness and being "swallowed up in their pride"? (Alma 31:27) That's right, because of their riches. Alma, in crying to the Lord in prayer on behalf of the Zoramites says:
"Behold, O God, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold, O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, with the vain things of the world.
"Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish." (Alma 31:27-28)
Alma taught the Zoramites the importance of faith in Jesus Christ and in the word of God, and Amulek taught them about repentance, and crying unto the Lord for mercy and assistance through trials, both spiritual and temporal. But then he tells them:
"And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
"Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men." (Alma 34:28-29)
First, lets add a couple new warnings to our already comprehensive list of warnings for the rich that we developed in PARTS 3 and 4. Here Amulek says that if we are not charitable and impart of our substance to the poor, our prayers to God are in "vain" and will "availeth (us) nothing". Also he says that we will be "as dross". Dross is basically scum formed on the bottom of molten metal. In a general sense, it is something that is worthless or rubbish, or as Amulek put it, "of no worth". Of all the labels in the scriptures, given to the wicked and proud, this one takes the cake–to basically say that someone is worthless and garbage. These might sound like hard words. But turn back to chapter 32, and we find out how the rich among the Zoramites felt about the poor among them. It says that the poor "were esteemed by their brethren as dross", and were "despised of all men because of their poverty" (see Alma 32:3,5). Ironic, isn't it? They felt that the poor and destitute in their society were worthless, and then a representative of the Lord comes along and says, "Guess what? Because of your pride and persecution of the poor, the equivalent of garbage is actually about the sum of your worth." Ok, maybe Amulek didn't put it that directly. But regardless, needless to say they didn't take it well. Certainly, as Nephi said, "…the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." (1 Nephi 16:2)
Secondly, I want to draw attention to three more words in these scriptures. Amulek says to impart of your substance, "if ye have…", similar to King Benjamin telling the people to give, "every man according to that which he hath" (Mosiah 4:26). There is definitely more responsibility with regards to these commandments as one finds that they are more able to share with their fellowmen. And as the level of prosperity increases, so does the responsibility and the potential condemnation.
Finally, as I read these scriptures in Alma 34, I think of the words of Mormon that echo the words of Paul, regarding charity. Moroni records his fathers words for us:
"...none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." (Moroni 7:44-47)
And Paul tells us:
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Paul goes on to describe the characteristics of one that has charity, very similarly to how Mormon did (almost word for word). Mormon and Paul both say that if you don't have charity you are "nothing". Mormon says that charity is "the greatest of all" and that if you have charity at the last day, "it will be well with (you)." Certainly, charity is the most important characteristic we can hope to attain in our life.
 At first thought, I had believed that the "charity" spoken of by Mormon and Paul entailed much more than simply being "charitable" as mentioned by Amulek to the Zoramites (see Alma 34:29). I understand that the charity spoken of by Mormon and Paul represents the "pure love of Christ" (Moroni 7:47). And I had assumed that when Amulek was talking about being charitable, in regards to the items mentioned in the previous verse, such as helping the needy and visiting the sick and the afflicted (see Alma 34:28), that this was only a small part of the charity spoken of by Mormon and Paul. But I now speculate that they are closer to being one and the same thing. I see the similarity in Mormon's and Paul's words regarding being "nothing" if you don't have charity, and Amulek's words saying that you are "dross" or "of no worth" if you are not charitable. If the definitions are slightly different, at the very least, it appears you cannot have true "charity" (Mormon and Paul's definition) without being "charitable" (Amulek's definition).
Perhaps that is what Paul meant when he suggested that one could potentially "have the gift of prophecy", "have all faith", "bestow all (their) goods to feed the poor", etc. and still not have charity. Based on the characteristic description of charity by both Mormon and Paul, it seems that charity runs deeper than mere actions. It is also a state of mind, hence words like "seeketh", "thinketh", "believeth", and "hopeth" are used. So the action portion, or being "charitable", is a necessary part of having true charity, but it isn't the only part. Pure charity requires the proof (or action) as well as the heart. But this also implies that you cannot have charity without the action part of being charitable, which is the element discussed in this article. Therefore, as Amulek says, if you are not charitable, you are of "no worth" because you cannot have charity without being charitable, and if you don't have charity, you are nothing. So it is like saying, "You don't have charity because you are not charitable, therefore, you are nothing because you are as dross or of no worth." I hope that makes sense. It would appear then that there is a strong and direct connection between being "charitable" and having "charity".
Based on the words of Amulek, Paul, and Mormon, it certainly seems that amid all we might hope to accomplish or become with regards to our level of spirituality or righteousness, the clincher is the ability to be charitable in our actions and our thoughts. If we fail in this, what else really matters? Should this come as a surprise to us at all, as we learn of the kind of life Jesus lived and the principles he taught? He was the epitome of charity.
Let's put some more pieces of the puzzle together here. Remember Jacob's words to the Nephites:
"Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
"But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
"And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted." (Jacob 2:17-19)
Remember the words of King Benjamin:
"...for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants." (Mosiah 4:26)
Remember what Mormon said about some of the righteous people who lived during the ministry of Alma "the younger":
"...others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy;
"Looking forward to that day, thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death." (Alma 4:13-14)
Remember  Amulek's words to the Zoramites:
"And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
"Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men." (Alma 34:28-29)
Time to put the pieces together. All of these men seem to be referring to a profile that is almost identical. And this profile is of individuals who basically live as Christ taught. All these men mentioned the importance of being "free with your substance" or "imparting of your substance" to the "poor" or "those who stand in need". Some of the other actions they mentioned: "feeding the hungry", "visiting the sick", "clothing the naked". Mormon and King Benjamin also mentioned some of the blessings that are a result of living such a life: "retaining a remission of your sins", "walk guiltless before God", "looking forward to that day (when Christ will come)", "being filled with great joy."
Now think of the parable the Lord gave regarding the sheep and the goats. The Lord explained that when he returns he will separate the people, "…as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." (Matthew 25:32-33) The Lord goes on to say:
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
"Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
"When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
"Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:34-40)
Do the things that Christ says the "sheep" have done sound familiar? They are almost identical to the things mentioned by Jacob, King Benjamin, Mormon, and Amulek. And what is the reward for the sheep? They "inherit the kingdom". This makes sense, as we are taught that they were "retaining a remission of their sins"  by Mormon and King Benjamin. It also makes sense then that these people would be "looking forward to that day (when Christ will come)" as Mormon stated. If these men were describing those things that make a person "charitable" and they are the same things that allow a person to "inherit the kingdom", are these injunctions ones that we can afford to ignore or take lightly?
It would seem that one of the greatest things we can learn here on earth is how to put others needs before our own needs, or at least before our own wants. And it appears that the almost sure-fire way to fail in learning and applying such a principle, is to attain wealth AND then retain that wealth.
An additional thought–if it truly is extremely difficult to be "blessed" with riches, and yet not allow them to corrupt one's soul, which according to all the scriptures I have shared so far, this seems to be the case, then are these riches really a blessing at all, or are they more appropriately a cursing (at least for the overwhelming majority of people that find themselves in such a situation)? In Jacob 2:17-19, he presents us with the ONLY way that one can hope to escape from the destructive nature of riches, and that is to give them away to help others. But looking around the world at the overwhelming greed in the hearts of men, it seems like a near impossible task. Yes, I truly believe as the Lord said, that "it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:25)