Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Dangers of Riches and Inequality

All throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, we have reminders from the Lord, regarding the importance of this law or covenant of consecration. A few months after this law was given, when more saints began to arrive in Kirtland, Bishop Edward Partridge received instruction from the Lord, through Joseph Smith, on how to organize the people. The Lord told him:
"For it must needs be that they be organized according to my laws; if otherwise, they will be cut off.
"Wherefore, let my servant Edward Partridge, and those whom he has chosen, in whom I am well pleased, appoint unto this people their portions, every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs." (D&C 51:2-3)
The Lord gives the saints a fairly clear and potent warning here. If they failed to live by His laws, including the law of consecration (which happens to be the element of the law being discussed in this section), they would be "cut off." Also, an important word added here, from what was given in D&C 42, is "equal". Every man was to receive equal portions, of course taking into account "his family" and "circumstances". In other words, equal might mean more for one man if he had a larger family and more mouths to feed. So I guess a word that could be used also that would be equivalent would be "fair". A true abiding by the law of consecration doesn't necessarily mean every individual would receive the exact same amount. But it does imply that there is a general level of equality, and that any differences in amounts or portions, as determined by circumstances, would be reasonable and fair.
The Lord also told Edward Partridge:
"And let that which belongs to this people be appointed unto this people.
"And the money which is left unto this people—let there be an agent appointed unto this people, to take the money to provide food and raiment, according to the wants of this people.
"And let every man deal honestly, and be alike among this people, and receive alike, that ye may be one, even as I have commanded you.
"…And thus I grant unto this people a privilege of organizing themselves according to my laws." (D&C 51:7-9, 15)
Similar to the word "equal" in verse 3, in verse 9 we have the word "alike". Every man is to "be alike" and "receive alike". A couple other phrases that I want to point out. The Lord says that every man should "deal honestly" and that they should "be one". I think it is also significant to note that the Lord tells the saints that it is a "privilege" to be living according to his law of consecration.
Also in this revelation, the Lord refers to the portion that a person receives as a "right and…inheritance in the church." (D&C 51:4)
This word "inheritance" is important to take note of. It seems that this word inheritance, as found in the scriptures, can have different meanings. It appears that sometimes it was referring to land that a people would inherit as in the phrase, "land of your inheritance." Sometimes it had reference to the ownership of land and houses by a particular family or individual, who had a right to claim that property. But in this case, the lord is specifically referring to the portion that one receives under the law of consecration as an "inheritance". And it is important to realize when the Lord is using this word in such a manner (see D&C 57:7; 58:36; 63:48; 64:30; 70:16; 85:1-3,7,9,11; 90:30; 103:14). These are just some examples.
Of the scriptures mentioned above regarding ones "inheritance", I want to talk about a couple of the references. In D&C 85, the Lord is instructing the saints in Jackson County, Missouri, regarding their portion or "inheritance" under the law of consecration. They are told:
"It is contrary to the will and commandment of God that those who receive not their inheritance by consecration, agreeable to his law, which he has given, that he may tithe his people, to prepare them against the day of vengeance and burning, should have their names enrolled with the people of God.
"...And all they who are not found written in the book of remembrance shall find none inheritance in that day, but they shall be cut asunder, and their portion shall be appointed them among unbelievers, where are wailing and gnashing of teeth." (D&C 85:3,9)
It seems that, as one honors the covenant of consecration, they will will be found in the "book of the law of God" (D&C 85:7), and as they don't, well…you can read for yourself in verse 9 above. Remember D&C 104:18 where the Lord says that those who don't impart their portion to the poor and needy, according to the law of His gospel, "shall, with the wicked, lift up (their) eyes in hell, being in torment." Sounds like a similar warning to that found in D&C 85:9. An equal judgement for an equal sin.
The Lord revealed another warning to Joseph Smith regarding the saints in Jackson County: "Nevertheless, if they pollute their inheritances they shall be thrown down; for I will not spare them if they pollute their inheritances." (D&C 103:14) Unfortunately, they failed to abide by the Lord's law and were "thrown down". The Lord takes seriously this covenant of consecration, as should we. Regarding some individuals who failed to live by this covenant, the Lord said:
"And as the covenant which they made unto me has been broken, even so it has become void and of none effect.
"And wo to him by whom this offense cometh, for it had been better for him that he had been drowned in the depth of the sea." (D&C 54:4-5)
These are quite formidable words. Some of the other instruction that the Lord gave the saints regarding this covenant are equally compelling. Near the end of this same year in which the Lord gave the saints this law, he tells them:
"And behold, none are exempt from this law who belong to the church of the living God;
"…in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld." (D&C 70:10,14)
If you read the verses preceding verse 10, you realize that the Lord is referring to the law of consecration. So, according to verse 10, nobody who desired to follow the true gospel of Jesus Christ was allowed to opt-out of this covenant. This is important to realize. Once you committed yourself to the church and accepted the fulness of the gospel, you were required to live this important law. It was not optional.
And in verse 14, again we see the requirement for them to be "equal". And if they don't abide by this, or do it grudgingly, they are told that the "abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld." Here we have another crucial reminder by the Lord of just how important this covenant is, accompanied by another warning for the saints if they failed to live by it. This covenant that placed everyone on equal ground temporally was so crucial, that failing to live by it would hinder the Spirit in their lives.
A few months later, the Lord again reminds the saints of the importance of abiding by this law:
"For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion—
"For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven;
"That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.
"For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
"For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you." (D&C 78:3-7)
In verse 3, "this place" is referring to Ohio. We need to realize that all the saints, those in Missouri and those in Ohio, were under an obligation to this law. In verse 5 and 6, the saints are once again told to be "equal". Again, the Lord often deals in repetition. It seems we humans often need a lot of reminders. But the important addition here in these verses is where the Lord explains that being "equal" is an important prerequisite to living under a celestial law. In essence, it is preparation for the Celestial Kingdom. This is a significant statement regarding the law of consecration.
If you recall, in PART 7 we established that the characteristics described in the Book of Mormon that make a person "charitable", were the same characteristics that enable a person to "inherit the kingdom" (see Matthew 25:34-40). Would it not make sense then, that if one were to live by a law prescribed by the Lord for the direct purpose of providing for the poor (see D&C 104:16), that they would then be fulfilling the requirement to be "charitable" as described in the Book of Mormon. And if such a person was then allowed to "obtain heavenly things" and receive "a place in the celestial world" as these scriptures in D&C 78 indicate, would this not be the same thing as "inherit(ing) the kingdom," as spoken of by the Lord? It all seems to fit, doesn't it?
Finally, I want to mention the importance of the phrase, "permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church" from verse 4. This is very important, in realizing that this covenant of consecration was to be permanent. It was not meant to be temporary, an option, or a trial run. In fact, a more appropriate way to state this is that the covenant of consecration IS permanent, not that it was just meant to be permanent. There are other scriptures that address this idea further, as we will see.
Just a month after the revelation, as recorded in D&C 78, was given, the Lord again addresses the topic of consecration in a revelation given to Joseph Smith while he was in Jackson County. The revelation I am referring to is found in D&C 82. I find it interesting, given the context of this revelation that the Lord says, "And the anger of God kindleth against the inhabitants of the earth; and none doeth good, for all have gone out of the way." (D&C 82:6)
Also in this revelation, there is a verse that I have often seen quoted, and have read many times throughout my life. But after I finally put this verse into the context of this revelation, especially with the verses that followed it, I saw it in a whole new light. The Lord says, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10) As I mentioned, this is a scripture that is often quoted. But the verses following this scripture are rarely quoted in conjunction with it. And yet the very next word following this scripture is "therefore". The Lord goes on to explain that certain of the leaders in the church were "therefore," to be "bound together by a bond and covenant…to manage the affairs of the poor." (see D&C 82:11-12) The Lord goes on to say that Zion must "increase in beauty, and in holiness" and "arise and put on her beautiful garments." (see D&C 82:14). The Lord then says:
"Therefore, I give unto you this commandment, that ye bind yourselves by this covenant, and it shall be done according to the laws of the Lord.
"Behold, here is wisdom also in me for your good.
"And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—
"And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—
"Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.
"This order I have appointed to be an everlasting order unto you, and unto your successors, inasmuch as you sin not.
"And the soul that sins against this covenant, and hardeneth his heart against it, shall be dealt with according to the laws of my church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption." (D&C 82:15-21)
Once again, the word "equal" shows up here. It should be fairly obvious by now that temporal equality is a core principle in the Lord's law. Also, remember we talked about how the Lord, on multiple occasions, warned the people in Jackson County of the danger they would be in if they failed to live by this covenant. Here we have another warning in verse 21 that is interesting. The Lord is saying that if they fail, they will be "delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption."
Remember from D&C 78, the Lord said that the order under which they were to live the law of consecration (united order) was to be "permanent and everlasting"? Here again, the Lord says in verse 20 that this order is to be "everlasting…inasmuch as you sin not." One could use the argument that they did sin, therefore the law was simply postponed or absolved. I will address this proposition in great detail in PART 10. But very briefly here, I'd like to ask the following questions: Do the Lord's laws change? Or does man change? If we don't abide by his commands, are we condemned until we repent and follow those commands? Something to consider. Again, I will discuss these important questions later. But I want them to be on your mind as we continue.
Let's go back to a revelation that I have already quoted from multiple times throughout this article, D&C 104. But now, because of the topic at hand, I want to share some additional verses from this important revelation. This revelation was given almost exactly 2 years following the one we just talked about from D&C 82 (3 days short of being exactly 2 years). I guess you could say that this difference in time represents a two year testing period to see if the saints could live by this all important covenant of consecration. One guess whether they were successful or not?
In the very first verse of this revelation, the Lord says that this united order is to be an "everlasting order for the benefit of my church, and for the salvation of men until I come–" (see D&C 104:1). Once again the saints were reminded that this was an "everlasting" covenant they had made. And the Lord furthers says that it is everlasting "until I come". In other words, this is a law and covenant under which the saints were to live until the Savior returns to the earth. By the fact that the united order was eventually dissolved and the church today doesn't live by the law or covenant of consecration (as described in the Doctrine and Covenants), and since Christ hasn't returned yet, it's pretty obvious that something went terribly wrong. I'm just putting two and two together here. The Lord continues:
"Therefore, inasmuch as some of my servants have not kept the commandment, but have broken the covenant through covetousness, and with feigned words, I have cursed them with a very sore and grievous curse.
"For I, the Lord, have decreed in my heart, that inasmuch as any man belonging to the order shall be found a transgressor, or, in other words, shall break the covenant with which ye are bound, he shall be cursed in his life, and shall be trodden down by whom I will;
"For I, the Lord, am not to be mocked in these things—
"…Inasmuch as ye are cut off for transgression, ye cannot escape the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption." (D&C 104:4-6,9)
Notice how the warning here in verse 9 echoes the warning from D&C 82:21, regarding being "delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption." Also, notice the Lord says that some of the saints have "broken the covenant" and were therefore "cursed…with a very sore and grievous curse." Do you imagine that the curse was tied to the individual or to the breaking of the covenant? Or in other words, was such a judgement only reserved for certain individuals at that moment, while others were later exempt, who would also be found to be guilty of not abiding by this covenant? Would God be just if this was the case? Later in this revelation, the Lord declares:
"And again, a commandment I give unto you concerning your stewardship which I have appointed unto you.
"Behold, all these properties are mine, or else your faith is vain, and ye are found hypocrites, and the covenants which ye have made unto me are broken;
"And if the properties are mine, then ye are stewards; otherwise ye are no stewards." (D&C 104;54-56)
Way back in PART 2, we talked about how we are all beggars and everything really belongs to God. Just in case we didn't get the message before, the Lord makes it pretty clear here by saying, "all these properties are mine". And if we live by any other law than that which has been set up by the Lord regarding the distribution of His properties, our "faith is vain" and we are "hypocrites". Also, the Lord makes it clear once again that if they don't abide by this law, they are breaking a covenant with him.

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