July 11, 2013 by Ron Madson
“1/8th of an Inch”
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” — Matthew 25:40
The heart bulges and begins to beat! Now both the child and the mother’s hearts are rhythmically beating. The child’s arms bud and begin to embrace life. All this and so much more (lungs, ears; liver) form in the sixth week of gestation. This perfection is contained in a 1/8th inch long masterpiece of creation! This is my son, my daughter, my grandchild. What is more precious than life, life, and more life?
My daughter Nicole was walking at eight months. It was a sight to see such a tiny package motoring around. But with each passing month it was becoming increasingly evident that she was not growing much at all, and was well below the low end of the growth developmental charts for her age. When they put a huge needle in her arm to draw blood for testing, I remember thinking –“there is nothing I would not give/spend or do to have her healthy and grow to the full measure of her creation.” The severe anemia was diagnosed, vitamins and medicines prescribed and she thrived. Now as a mother with four children, she has and now faces health challenges with her children. I see in her that same overwhelming angst a parent embraces while waiting, watching and praying for the restoration of their child’s health —-as all time, money and lesser life concerns are, if need be, subordinate to her children’s health.
Being of one common heritage, all humanity shares in the deep heart core sentiments towards our children, as we all wrestle with nature/genetics and the many unpreventable challenges of mortality. But God has blessed us through that same nature with the resources to be able to nurture and alleviate so much suffering —-“for the earth is full, and there is enough to spare; yea I prepared all things, and have given unto men to be agents unto themselves…” (D&C 104:17).
The harsh truth is that billions of parents on our shared planet wake up everyday to the reality that they do not have access to the most basic health care and medicine for their sick children. Even more crushing is the tens of millions that, from lack of food and water, see their children suffer from malnourishment and never, ever fully develop—assuming they even survive childhood. For just a moment, imagine. Imagine your own child weak and listless from lack of food. Imagine their malnutrition and lack of development that will set them back for the rest of their life. Imagine your child or grandchild withered, sick and not able to get the simplest medicine and food to stave off sickness and death? Have you ever seen pictures of starving/withered/hopeless children and imagined how would feel if it were your own child/grandchild?
We observe from a distance the faces of the estimated 170 million malnourished children and 870 million ‘undernourished” people in the world. Some estimate that it would take as little as 30 billion a year to feed the world’s malnourished. So why don’t we? While the how to do so may seem complex, once we dare go to the real heart of the “why” the “how” is only a matter of logistics.
Collectively there are more than enough churches within the United States that a small fraction of their tithes could feed all the real hungry in the world. Our nation is teeming with churches and we pride ourselves as being a religious country. We do not lack religion or churches that spring out of religion. However, religion is not a pre-requisite to having morals. If we can’t determine right from wrong when it comes to allocating resources to those in acute need, then what we lack is empathy, not religion.
One could fairly say that as LDS we give, tithe, sacrifice, offer more than all the other Christian faith in our nation per member! Members of our faith give, sacrifice and serve. We are invited to tithe and collectively tithe several billion a year. That money coupled with a few billion earned through the dozens of for profit entities add up to some real money. And that money is growing into many noticeable assets: 35 billion estimated in temples/church buildings, vast tracts of land, spectacular conference center, hunting preserves, dozens of huge for profit corporations, and even our own special multi-billion dollar shopping mall. Untold wealth!
The “rate of return” is a key component in any business plan. Just ask any Harvard Business School graduate whether they work for a mega-corporation or a Corporate Sole church? Returns are measured in dollars and cents. You invest so much money and get a greater return measured in dollars and cents. Surely good stewardship requires such calculations: From Zion’s “We haven’t forgotten who keeps us in business” CD rates of .8% for five years; rental properties (8-10% rate of return), bookstores; big game hunting fees of $10,000: and hundreds of million from high end stores, etc. They all have a measurable financial return on investment. Everything is given a number. A North American convert can be expected, on average, to contribute $3,000 a year to building the Kingdom. Do the math! Make a plan!
They say that an investor can spend several hundreds of millions in building a casino in Las Vegas and expect a 16% annual return—with it paying for itself in just seven years! They also say that the typical patron will lose 10 to 15% of their total chips to the casino. So the trick is to simply build it and then make it so compelling for them to come that they are willing to donate their 10% to be there. Brilliant business plan!
Continuing revelation knows no boundaries once the ends are allowed to justify the means.
“Isn’t it wonderful!” To have been born and raised as a Mormon in the most prosperous land of all creation! Two loving parents met your every physical and spiritual need. From birth you never missed a meal, never went without shelter, clothing, and the finest medical and dental care in the world right here in the heartland! Soccer, T-ball, sports camps, scouting, dance and piano lessons—every opportunity to fully develop physically, educationally, and even socially. You had your first job at sixteen so now you can pay for the gas for the car your parent’s let you use. At eighteen out go the wisdom teeth, Mr. Mac clothing, mission. BYU subsidized education with grants/school loans. Father’s fellow High Councilmen member gives you your first job—health insurance and gym membership included! Blessed with abundance. Make sure you find the right tools to protect your assets that you earned—Investments/IRAs/Ayn Rand.
I wonder where the term “self reliance” can be found in the scriptures? I hear the adjective “self” used as in “self” help books or when someone is called a “self” made man. There was a righteous King who labored with his own hands and I suppose if anyone could call himself a “self” made man it would be King Benjamin. But after conversing with an angel he began telling everyone that we are all beggars and less than the dust of the earth and dependent on God for all things, and here is the real kicker—he told us that we should not judge anyone who is in need but help them. So we plow deeper into the Book of Mormon and finally find a “self” made man who knows the source of his prosperity: “..but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength.” You would not find Korihor and the believers in his philosophy giving a man a “fish” or “loaf” of bread because if you give them something for nothing, then that person (not based on any statistical objective study but a belief) would never, ever learn to fish or bake bread. We just know this.
“Poverty is anomaly to the rich. They can not understand why the poor when hungry do not simply ring the bell.” —Walter Bagehot
We have so many LDS members, especially in third world countries, who are in poverty. The Lord told us that we there are no poor in Zion. So the master teacher inquires: “What can we do to eliminate poverty?” I quickly raise my hand: “I know, I know—we can invite them to send one-tenth of all their income to Salt Lake City and with that money we can send back church buildings and donation slips along with training videos as to how the Lord wants them to become “self” reliant.” Charity floweth up and judgment rolleth down.
I firmly believe that if we live the full law of tithing that the “windows of heaven” will pour out a blessing on any faith community that lives that full law. It is the law given by Jehovah to set His people free! The Law requires that from those that have an “increase” that they tithe it to the Lord. Then the Lord in the full law of tithing tells us how the tithes and offerings were to be administered: for feasting (feeding) those without “inheritance, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates…” Tithes were stored in the local community storehouse where every third year all was consecrated to the widow and orphans. If all tithes, as commanded, were taken to the Lord’s storehouse, then the “windows of heaven” would open and pour out a great blessing of abundance upon His people. This law merges into the liberation of those without inheritance (asset-less) leading ultimately to the Jubilee where all poverty is eliminated in the faith communities. This is the outpouring of the blessings to a community where there is more than enough to spare. No debt bondage, no one without basic needs. True liberation and fullness of the law of tithing occurs when we keep not only the giving of tithes, but abide by the full law as to how and what to do with the tithes once received. Even the Levites, who were required by law to have no assets/inheritance are provided for—they receive their portion among the poor.
Despite having the law of Moses outlining exactly how the tithes and offerings were to be spent, far too often the priesthood entrusted with these tithes and offerings used it to amass lands, construct luxurious buildings and not deliver the tithes to the “storehouse” of the Lord. So the prophets were repeatedly sent: “Will a man rob God?” Who is robbing God and how? The entire text of Malachi’s message tells us: “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you….ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord….those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right….wherein have we robbed thee?…ye have gone away from mine ordinances …in tithes and offerings….for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation…therefore, “Bring ye all the tithes into my storehouse, that there might be meat in my house.” (summary of Malachi chapters 2 and 3).
“Within the gates” of the temple tarried the poor, the widow, the hireling, the sick, lame and very least seeking relief. There they sought alms and offerings. It is when the Priesthood sought to cast them out of the synagogues and/or sought to charge them to enter His House was the only time the Lord lost his cool.
Unrelentingly, the Old Testament prophets inform us that God was most displeased as to the grinding of the face of the poor and His wrath was primarily focused on those entrusted to take care of the very least in Israel: “Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow (Deuteronomy 27:19); “He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.” (Proverbs 22:16); “to turn aside the needy from judgment and take away the right from the poor of my people (Isaiah 10:2; Ezekiel tell us of the real sin of Sodom: “Behold this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughter, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49); for this, the Lord enters into judgment against the Elders and leaders of his people whom He accuses of having “ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses.” (Isaiah 3:14).
“This very hour there are many members of the church who are suffering. They are hungry, stretched financially, and struggling with all manner of physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. They pray with all the energy of their souls for succor, for relief.”—President Uchtdorf Priesthood Session 2011.
And then after emphasizing the needs, President Uchtdorf taught us that we must not wait for Salt Lake to solve these massive problems, but that we must take it upon ourselves to find solutions.
No truer words have been spoken. We cannot look to Salt Lake to address the suffering of the hungry, the stretched financially. The church has limited resources and has a massive construction and maintaining of buildings to support. Therefore, we cannot look to the Church of Christ administrators who hold the keys to the treasury to address the suffering of the hungry. We must on a local level learn “self” reliance and find our own solutions.
Have you ever wondered about the “fish and loaves” miracle? How could you take a handful of fish and loafs of bread and feed thousands? So Jesus’ disciples are concerned that if they simply give away all that they have to a few that the rest will also want and they will not be able to feed all of them? And yet Jesus tells them to simply give away all that they have. They are invited to have faith that that baskets would refill and refill. So they give it away and they refill over and over again in a chain reaction. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the multitude seeing the unchecked, uncalculating charity of the Lord that they were moved to compassion and mimicked his behavior casting in all they also had?
So what if a church or any faith community did the same? I believe that if we saw a church/faith practice such unbridled compassion/faith that we would be moved to throw in our lot wholeheartedly and refill over and over again the baskets that were being used for direct human relief? Faith begets faith.
The Lord was trying to teach his disciples that faith precedes the miracle. That if we impart ALL that we have the baskets will spectacularly refill! And what if we try to save, control, invest, and rely on a market return? Have we considered that we may get our reward from the market but find those among us that desire to give to the least will find other baskets to fill—- where there is no withholding?
I read of a small Christian faith community in California that had been saving up for years to construct their first church house. They needed $750,000 and had reached $500,000. Seeing the needs around them they voted to take all the money they had and donate it to local charities. And so they did—every single penny. They found that they could worship the Lord without a building….and their baskets refilled in abundance.
“And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. (Malachi 3: 17,18)
At a recent historic missionary meeting we learned that we are now going to have our missionaries give tours of church buildings. It follows. Like a ‘Parade of Homes” on steroids, we just have to share that in which we have placed most of our treasure. But unlike some of the “Noveau Riche” we didn’t just go big, we spared no expense on quality for our real jewels—the Temples for the Lord. Temples are crafted with the finest materials the world has to offer: “granite from China, wood from Africa, and limestone from France” —all the best for the Lord’s house. No mere mangers for Him and surely not for us who want to follow Him. “Building a temple utilizes the highest quality in every material, and every fashioning of that material has to be the absolute best” –Doug Welling, President of Jacobsen Construction.
A year ago in General Conference we learned just how significant even an 1/8th of an inch is to the Lord. As part of a pre-open house temple inspection, Elder Whiting of the Seventy explains upon observing that a window in the temple was very slightly askew:
“I looked at the square, and to my eyes it looked evenly placed. However, upon closer inspection with a measuring device in hand, I could see there was a flaw and that this little square was indeed one-eighth of an inch (3 mm) crooked. Direction was then given to the contractor that this window would need to be replaced because it was not temple standard….
I admit that I was surprised that an entire window would need to be replaced because of such a small, barely noticeable defect. Surely, it was unlikely that anyone would ever know or even notice this window given its remote location in the temple….
But there should be no doubt as to whose house it really is. By requiring exacting standards of construction down to the smallest of details, we not only show our love and respect for the Lord Jesus Christ but we also hold out to all observers that we honor and worship Him whose house it is.”
I wonder if anyone has ever given a conference address on the “third” of the Ten Commandments?
An eighth of an inch! How do we measure perfection! The difference between a child reaching the full measure of his/her creation or a life of impairment is measured in fractions of an inch. How so? A child that does not receive proper nourishment will have a brain that is smaller than a properly fed child—even an eighth of an inch smaller brain can mean never reaching one’s best ability to learn, cope, function, work and socialize. An “eight of an inch” less developed vital organ—heart, liver, lungs, etc. could make all the difference for a child throughout his/her life. Or maybe just adequate is enough for some temples.
I hear many say that the Lord wants the very finest for His temples and we spare no time or expense to make sure His temples reach perfection, and that may be true. But I wonder if when they/we heard Him say “temples” they thought he was referring to lifeless building of steel and stone, when in fact He was referring to each individual temple that houses the spirits of His children? Anxiety about an “eighth of an inch” would make far more sense, would it not, if He were referring to the perfection of our children and grandchildren?
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” —I Corinthians 3:16
Like the ever so slightly off center window Elder Whiting described as being in a “remote location in the temple” we have LDS children, who live in remote locations who are suffering from malnutrition. Their malnutrition, at first glance, is hid behind their gleaming smiles. On closer inspection their body weight and stature is far behind children in developed countries of the same age. Then on further examination (cat scan) we find that their vital organs are measurably smaller (in severe cases a malnourished child’s brain is half the size of a normal brain by age 3). It is estimated that there are currently 90,000 LDS children that suffer from varying degrees of malnutrition—some of which are severe cases, of which an estimated 900 die each year (http://bycommonconsent.com/2011/01/27/approaching-zion-solving-the-problem-of-malnutrition/). If you find it hard to believe the facts I just stated are real, then maybe that is just the nature of the word “remote.” Remote is relative to where you/I/we are both geographically and spiritually. They are not remote to their parents and the Father of us all.
So why would we not expend whatever it takes to make sure there is not one single LDS child suffering from malnutrition or lack any basic medical attention? Is there a fear that if they are fed that they will just want more food? And so what? Or perhaps others, not LDS, would come and also be want to be fed? Is there a fear that there is not enough “fishes and loaves” to feed the multitude? Do we lack the faith that if we share liberally that the baskets will not refill? Therefore, in an act of faithlessness do we instead invest in the marketplace of Mammon?
Speaking of the marketplace, one Mormon apologist had this to say in response to questions over our church spending multi-billions on a downtown shopping mall (the most expensive per square foot in the history of mankind) next to temple square rather then providing direct relief to the poor among us: “Critics also overlook the fact that if money is spent to feed the needy, that money is gone.” Why would we want to invest in temples of flesh that rot and decay when we can invest in temples of granite that last forever and give greater returns?
“Thought experiment: What if you had a raging fire moving towards two separate locations that will surely burn if you do not stop it, but you only had the resources, water, and personnel to arrest the fire as to one of the two location—but not both. One location has a vacant Holy Dedicated Temple and the other location had one single trapped child. Where do you send your resources?”
“Now what if the choice is between all the temples and assets of our church or one single, homeless man?
It costs only $50 a year to provide a daily food supplement for one malnourished child for an entire year. To provide this supplement to the estimated 90,000 LDS children suffering from malnutrition would cost $4.5 million dollars a year.
Launched in 2011, the “I am a Mormon Campaign” penetrated 21 markets—including England. And what a spectacular success! Viewed by hundreds of millions worldwide we have vastly increased our image—and all at the estimated cost of only $4.6 million dollars!
“My name is Eva Garcia. I am five years old. I am hungry. I try to keep my head up while at church even though I am very weak. My parents love me and worry about me and my little brother. I always share my food with my brother. We pray every night for help. I often see mother crying at night while my father is gone looking for work….. and I am a Mormon.”
“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing….
For behold, ye do love amoney, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?…
Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?”
Mormon from the dust….