“Family Values” means Social and Economic Equality28
November 11, 2013 by Tariq Khan
I gave a talk in sacrament meeting this morning. This is what I said.
They say that the gospel serves to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Hopefully I’ll be able to do a little bit of both here today.
If you pay attention to current events you may have heard about the two Pennsylvania judges who recently plead guilty to charges of fraud and other related charges connected to what has come to be known as the “cash for kids” scandal. The short version of the story is this; the state, like many states these days, contracted out the job of punishing “criminal” children to a private prison company. These judges had financial ties, in a few different ways, to this company. What this created was a situation in which these judges profited financially from the incarceration of children. The more youth they sent to jail, they more money they made. Sure enough, there was a marked increase in the number of youth who these judges sentenced to juvenile detention, often on the grounds of very minor offences. Eventually, as more parents of victimized children raised their voices in righteous indignation, it came out that several youth had suffered harsh, cruel, and unusual punishment due to a combination of judges and private prisons. Most of these children’s supposed “crimes” were the kinds of things that when I was a youth, would not have been considered by most reasonable people as law enforcement issues at all, let alone legally punishable offences. Things like getting into scuffles at the bus stop or making fun of the principle. While this is the most recent story like this to come out, it is not the only story. Over the past ten years there have been several children from various parts of the country who have been similarly abused not just by corrupt individuals in power, but by a corrupt system.
The reason why I bring this up is because it dramatically symbolizes a much larger trend that I’ve witnessed over my lifetime; a trend of the devaluation of our children, the devaluation of the youth. Our precious children’s lives in many ways are subordinated to cold economic calculation. This trend runs in direct opposition to the message of Jesus Christ who said that it is better for a man “that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:2). This devaluation not only in the way our society treats children, but even in the way it thinks about children, is most pronounced when it comes to the children of the poor, or children from certain communities of color. When there are sad and horrific incidents of gun violence against white middle class children, mainstream middle class society rightly reacts with the grave seriousness such tragedies deserve. There are calls for deep and thoughtful national conversations about the culture of violence. But when the children of the poor or children of color in certain communities are similarly victimized, mainstream middle class society goes on with business as usual; as if such incidents are natural, expected, and unavoidable when it comes to “those” people. How easily we forget that “God is no respecter of persons,” (Acts 10:34) that all are alike unto God, “black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2Nephi 26:33). Not only are all alike unto God, but it is in how we treat the poor, the marginalized, the forgotten, and the underprivileged that we exhibit how Christian our hearts truly are: for “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40). And conversely, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” (Matt. 25:45).
Jesus Christ took extra special care to acknowledge and teach his disciples the great worth of children. On one occasion, people brought their little ones to be blessed by Jesus, and when His disciples saw it, they rebuked the people for getting in the way of the Lord’s important work. Jesus quickly intervened. He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16) The Psalm tells us that “Children are an heritage of the Lord.” (Psalms 127:3).
One of the greatest lessons on the preciousness of children is found in the Book of Mormon. When Christ visited the Nephites, of all that he could have done, of all the lessons he could have taught, “He commanded that their little children should be brought… and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept… And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones. And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.” (3 Nephi 17: 11-24). How great is the worth of children in the eyes of God!
He did not just bless the children, as a faceless mass, but He took them “one by one, and blessed them” one by one. What great reverence and respect He exhibited for the individuality of each child, recognizing that each individual child faces his or her own different challenges and has different needs. No “one size fits all” solution in this scenario. No one system. No one box that each child must be bent and twisted to fit into. How listless, weak, soulless, anemic our own systems seem in comparison to the example of Christ on that day. How cheap our own society feels as an increasing amount of our social responsibilities, which affect children the most, are infused with the profit motive; while education, basic social services, healthcare, and even what is ironically termed “criminal justice” become ways for some to profit at the expense and detriment of others.
In the 1990s UNICEF, that’s the United Nations Children’s Fund, published a very telling study titled Child Neglect in Rich Nations. The study, headed by a very good American economist named Sylvia Hewlett, is quite sobering. In it, Hewlett finds what she terms an “anti-child and anti-family spirit that’s loose in these lands,” these lands being the United States and Britain. This anti-child and anti-family spirit is rooted in social and economic policy; policy that values profit above all else; profit over people, profit over children and families. Many companies maximize profit by cutting wages and benefits. Costs of living increase while wages decrease. This means that many people have little choice but to work longer hours in order to survive. Decreases in job security further exacerbate this by further limiting choice. Even in families with two parents, both parents often have to enter the labor market whether they want to or not. Rising costs of living on falling incomes mean more time parents have to spend working which means less time parents have to be there for their children. Quality family time is disappearing; not because parents are wicked or don’t care about their children, but because parents are increasingly constrained by a wicked and uncaring economic system. The study found that over the span of only two decades, time spent by parents with children declined by forty percent.
What this leads to is a weakening of family identity and values. It leads to a measurable increase in reliance on things like television and videogames for child supervision. It leads to a significant increase in the number of children who are alone, what when I was a kid were called “latchkey children.” It means more children waking up in the morning with no parent at home, more children going to bed at night with no parent at home, leaving for school with no parent to send them off. When children are alone, alienated, disconnected from family support structures, disconnected from family identity and values, disconnected from daily family interaction, then what happens? What happens is there is a rise in child alcoholism and drug use, a rise in youth on youth violence, a rise in irresponsible sexual behavior beginning at younger ages. There are ill effects on child health and education, declines in SAT and IQ scores. This decline has nothing to with genetics and everything to do with social and economic factors.
At this point you might be asking; what does this have to do with the gospel? It has everything to do with the gospel. Counselor in the First Presidency Dieter F. Uchtdorf teaches the same thing that all of the scriptures teach, that “the temporal is intertwined with the spiritual.” “Unfortunately,” he says, “there are those who overlook the temporal because they consider it less important. They treasure the spiritual while minimizing the temporal. While it is important to have our thoughts inclined toward heaven, we miss the essence of our religion if our hands are not also inclined toward our fellow man.” (Uchtdorf, “Providing in the Lord’s Way).
We as a Church have seen the ill effects I have discussed. We have recognized the chipping away of family identity, family values, and the devaluation of children. We have quite correctly noticed that there is what we have come to term an “attack on the family” happening in our society, what Hewlett called an “anti-child and anti-family spirit that’s loose in these lands.” But I lament that in many instances we have incorrectly identified the source of this attack. In some cases we have scapegoated single mothers. In other cases we have scapegoated feminists. In many more cases we have scapegoated our LGBT brothers and sisters, who are precious and loved children of our heavenly parents. We have unfairly scapegoated them as “enemies” of the family, forgetting that they too are members of families, and in many cases they are members of our families. Far too often as individuals and as a Church I am sad to say, we have caused our LGBT brothers and sisters to feel unwanted, unwelcome, unloved, and worthless. We have at times acted as a stumbling block, hindering their ability to partake of heavenly gifts.
Rudi Wobbe was one of the three courageous Mormon youth in Germany who agitated against the Nazi regime in the early 1940s. In 2002 he published his book Three Against Hitler about his experience of being a Mormon youth during the Third Reich. One of the most heartbreaking stories he tells is the story of his friend Salomon Schwartz. Salomon’s mother was a Hungarian Jew. She was raped by a soldier, got pregnant, and gave birth to Salomon. As a teenager, Salomon became very interested in the gospel, and in 1935 he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was very enthusiastic about the gospel and helped to bring his half-sister Anna Marie into the Church as well. The Church was a wonderful experience for him until 1939. Salomon joined the district choir, which met in the building of another branch. The president of that branch approached Salomon and demanded that he produce an Aryan ID Card. As Salomon was half Jewish, he had no such card. The branch president told him to leave and not return until he could prove he was Aryan. Shortly thereafter, a sign appeared on the entrance of the Church that said, “Jews Are Not Allowed To Enter.” Can you imagine? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born into the Tribe of Judah, saying “Jews are not allowed to enter”? Understandably, Salomon was devastated.
Still a faithful believer in the gospel, and still a member of the Church, Salomon hoped that even though he couldn’t be in the choir, he could at least be permitted to attend a special Church conference meeting featuring a visiting Church authority at that same building. “As they approached the meeting, he asked his sister to go inside and ask permission from the mission president for Salomon to attend. The president sent a message out with his secretary that Salomon would not be able to enter. His sister, with a heavy heart, had to go and tell him of the decision. Salomon broke down and cried as he said, ‘Why can’t I be with my brothers and sisters in the gospel and worship with them?’ His sister told him to go home, assuring him she would report the messages of the conference to him later. He told her he wanted to stay there, outside the chapel, to hear the Church hymns they were singing.” When confronted by others about this exclusionary treatment, the Branch President justified himself by saying, “I am just following party lines.” The branch president had been a Nazi party member since 1933. Salomon was killed in the Gas Chambers in 1943. (Three Against Hitler, p. 30-32).
While I am not saying that the Church today is like the Nazis, in my own lifetime there have been instances in which members of the Church, even people in leadership positions, have treated LGBT youth no better than that Branch President treated Salomon. In far too many instances we have allowed political ideology, party loyalty, business interests, and even outright prejudice and ignorance to corrupt, pollute, or at the very least water-down the gospel’s strong message of social and economic equality. While we may have a hard time recognizing the social and economic roots of societal deterioration, the scriptures do not. The scriptures teach us quite clearly that if we’re serious about having strong and happy families, then we need to stop scapegoating people and get serious about adopting Christian social and economic values. We don’t have to argue, debate, or guess what Christian social and economic values are. They are spelled out for us very plainly several times in the scriptures.
The great ancient prophet Enoch “built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion.” (Moses 7:19). “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” What we often overlook is that in order for there to be no poor, there must also be no rich. A Zion society is not a society in which the rich are kind and make charitable donations for the poor, although charitable donations can be a wonderful thing. A Zion society is one in which there are no rich or poor, but there is social and economic equality. The earth is abundant with resources, says the Lord, “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.” (D&C 49:20) When Alma and Amulek went forth and established the Church throughout the land, the righteousness of the people was manifest in the fact that, says the Book of Mormon, “There was no inequality among them,” and “the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land…” (Alma 16:16). During his mortal life on earth, Jesus Christ was not a conservative, nor was he a liberal reformer. He transcended these narrow categories. If anything he was a radical revolutionary. His disciples learned from him that in order to transform themselves, it was essential to transform their society. We learn in Acts that the early Christians “were together, and had all things in common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45). “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” (Acts 4:32). They didn’t fetishize private property the way we do. It wasn’t the church of Ayn Rand or the Church of Fox News; it was the Church of Jesus Christ. And while the followers of Christ were not rich, say the scriptures, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:34-35). “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33).
The Book of Fourth Nephi in the Book of Mormon is one of the most fascinating books of scripture to me, because it is such a clearly laid out example of how sin enters the world. After Christ visited the Nephites, “the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about.” (4Nephi 1:1). “And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.” (4Nephi 1:3) Not only were there no rich or poor, but there were no national, racial, or ethnic divisions. They were no longer Nephites and Lamanites, “nor any manner of –ites,” it says, “but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the Kingdom of God.” (4Nephi1:17). And directly because there was social and economic equality, “There were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murderers, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” (4Nephi1:16). Individual spiritual transformation is connected to systemic social and economic transformation.
Interesting in this account in Fourth Nephi is that as soon as the word “rich” comes up, which is in verse 23, the word “pride” follows in verse 24, and shortly thereafter comes class division, and it is not until after they have abandoned Christian ideals of social and economic equality do what we think of as more traditional sins enter the picture. “And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes…” (4Nephi1:24-26). People divided up into –ites again. The destruction of social and economic equality due to pride is the cause, not the effect, of what the scripture calls “all manner of wickedness.” (4Nephi1:27). Those who became a privileged class built prisons to serve their own selfish interests. And “they did exercise power and authority over the disciples of Jesus who did tarry with them, and they did cast them into prison…” (4Nephi 1:30). And this privileged class of people, says verse 42, protected their privilege by creating institutions that worked in secret, as the Gadiantons of old. And this privileged class of people called themselves Nephites, and they “began to be proud in their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, and become vain… And from this time the disciples began to sorrow for the sins of the world.” (4Nephi 1:44).
Again let me reiterate, individual spiritual transformation is connected to systemic social and economic transformation. Or as Elder Uchtdorf says, “The temporal is intertwined with the spiritual.” The prophet Joseph Smith understood this well. Brigham Young understood this well. Both men attempted, more than once, to institute a radical revolutionary Christian economic system called the United Order of Enoch. President Young told the Saints at conference: “The underlying principle of the United Order is that there should be no rich and no poor, that men’s talents should be used for the common good, and that selfish interests should make way for a more benevolent and generous spirit among the saints.” (Nibley, “Law of Consecration”). Each time that Brother Joseph and Brother Brigham attempted to institute this economy it failed. Why did it fail? According to Brigham Young, its failure had nothing to do with poor people being lazy and trying to take advantage of the system, which is a common stereotype in our society today. Brigham Young blamed the failure of the United Order not on the poor, but on the privileged Saints who were covetous, who loved their wealth, their superior status and influence in society, more than they loved the Lord. We all like the idea of having no poor, but the idea of no rich goes against the grain of how we’ve been socialized here in Babylon. Christian economics demand it nonetheless. When the Lord revealed the United Order to Joseph Smith in 1834, he told Joseph that “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.” (D&C 104:16). A necessary condition for the eradication of poverty is the leveling of the rich.
Far too often we foolishly equate being wealthy with being righteous. Jesus Christ lived a humble life of poverty. He was born in the Levant, one of the poorest, most marginalized sections of the Roman Empire. Joseph Smith was born into economic hardship. His father, a righteous, hard-working man, went to debtor’s prison, because despite his diligence, he could not make ends meet. More privileged families in the community looked down on the Smith family. Joseph grew up with a keen awareness of the injustice of the so-called free market. He never became rich. Even when he was the prophet, the leader of the Church, he often had to rely on the kindness of friends and family so that his children would have food to eat and a safe, warm, dry place to sleep at night. Individual economic success does not necessarily equal righteousness and poverty does not necessarily equal laziness or character flaws. Widespread poverty is not the result of widespread laziness. It is the result of a wicked economic system.
I suspect that part of why this “righteousness equals wealth” myth has so much currency in contemporary Mormon culture is because we misread the Book of Mormon. We read it through the lens of so-called free-market economics rather than through the lens of Christian economics. We read in the Book of Mormon that when people are righteous they prosper in the land. What we fail to understand is that the Book of Mormon is not describing individual prosperity, but that the righteous prosper together, as a community. The moment those same righteous people turn away from their egalitarian, communitarian ethics, the whole thing falls apart. Why does the world lie in sin? The D&C explains that the world lies in sin because of social and economic inequality. For “it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.” (D&C 49:20). For “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare… For the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1Timothy 6:9-10).
So to bring it back to where we started, I agree that there is such a thing as an attack on the family, but that attack is not coming from our LGBT brothers and sisters who are precious and loved children of Heavenly Parents. The attack on the family is coming first and foremost from our individualistic, profit-driven, heartless, un-Christlike economic system. Joseph Smith knew this. Brigham Young knew this. We’ve chosen to forget it. We’ve made virtues of shallow conformity and respectability, forgetting that the one we call our Lord, Savior, and exemplar was a rebel who was executed by the leading imperialist power of his day. We forget that those who take upon them the name of Jesus Christ wrestle “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12). Fighting for family values means fighting for social, political, and economic equality for all of God’s children regardless of X, Y, or Z; a society in which all are made free and partakers of the heavenly gift. Let us take a lesson from the great egalitarian leader Chief Captain Moroni who wrote, “I seek not for power, but to pull it down.” (Alma 60:36). I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
He, who rejects Jesus or will not receive His words, has another one, who judges him in this world, but the words Jesus of Nazareth has spoken shall be the measure against him, who commits these atrocities, when they are judged on the day of Judgment.
Most awesome sacrament meeting talk I’ve ever heard. I’d love to know how it went over with the congregation and any feedback you received. Thanks so much for sharing this.
Beautiful! You were able to download some great information and insight in one sacrament address. If only that could be given in every ward. thanks for contribution here.
Wow – love the talk. I’m very curious to know – what was the congregation’s take on it?
Tariq, I’ve enjoyed your writings before. I like this one. It provides a perspective that is clearly true and very worthy of strong consideration. it’s the kind of paradigm shift that I will keep in my tool chest forever! Thanks for your thoughtful research and communication.
So bold and so necessary. Like some of the other commentators I gotta know what kinds of conversations were had with your fellow congregants as a result of this talk.
Thank you, Tariq; very well done–
I am afraid that if I had tried to give such a talk, I would have been stopped–
Seriously, this is good and powerful, and I wonder what reception you got–
people in my ward would at least have frowned, and at least one bishopric member would have been offended enough to cause trouble–
but that is beside the point; you spoke the truth–
Thanks for all of the encouraging comments. As for the reception I got from the ward; it was overwhelmingly positive, much more than I expected. Some people who I don’t even know that well came up and hugged me after and thanked me. I had people text and email me messages of thanks. I think that there is a growing number of people in the Church who are fed up with messages that have more to do with anxiety and prejudice than with the actual message of Jesus. There were a couple of people who gave me the evil eye, but they were in the minority by far. The bishopric was not pleased with my talk at all, however, and the Bishop had a little talk with me afterwards, but it ended on a good note. He didn’t “discipline” me or anything like that. I do not feel bad about anything I said. What I said was the truth, and if Church leaders have a problem with that, then they have a problem with the plain and simple teachings of Jesus Christ.
I am accepted as a Liberal but not endorsed. There are few like me in my ward.
Aho, Tariq. THIS is the gospel I have preached since i was in my youth. The modern day church has failed to learn from the history of the B of M stories.
Please go back to that Bishop and tell him about this: yours were the first Mormon words, the first spiritual words with scripture citations, that I have read in almost ten years, since I left the Church. I left for many reasons, mostly because it did not ring true with me from my earliest years, but I left ANGRY because of so many of the things you’ve brilliantly illuminated in this sacrament talk.
There is a big difference between a person who walks away from the Church because they simply don’t believe, and a person who walks away feeling that the entire institution is a cruel, domineering, manipulative, sexist, bigoted, money-worshipping and money-making edifice that I would tear down at any opportunity. I will still not support your church, but if I hear more words of kindness, sanity, compassion, and openness, like these, I will revise my opinion of the Church accordingly.
I left behind many good people when I escaped Utah and the Church. The desire to be truly, deeply good runs strong in Mormania, and I know this with total certainty. It is the manipulation of politics (in California and Hawaii) and the judgment I dealt with after we left the Church, when no one would play with my 8 year-old daughter, that makes me so legitimately angry. The good, kind people? I do miss that. I still get the heebie-jeebies at the thought of sitting in on a sacrament talk, but I’m deeply touched by the fact that a Mormon man can stand up and say these things to a congregation, and to speak truth so clearly so that the people can understand.
Yes, Wolf. The sad truth is, the Church has pushed a lot of good people out. Many have left, not due to personal wickedness, but for quite valid reasons. And for some people, especially many LGBTQI people, their wards and stakes are outright toxic environments that do more harm than good. I don’t judge or look down on anyone who leaves the Church. In fact, sadly, as the Church is now, some people are probably healthier emotionally and spiritually without the Church than they are with it.The Church is improving on a lot of these issues. It is much better than it was even twenty years ago, however that improvement is happening very slowly and the Church has a long way to go. It seems to me like the general membership, particularly the younger members, are much more advanced on these issues than the General Authorities of the Church are. If the Church does not progress on these kinds of issues faster than it is now, it will become irrelevant to the new generations. I have three little children, and their generation will grow up to be repelled by the bigoted and ignorant teachings of the older generations of mainstream Mormons. And their children’s generation will want nothing to do with it. The Church has no choice but to progress or become obsolete.
Awesome. I wish I had written that. Actually, I have at one time or the other – just not as well organized and cohesive as this.
Tariq, I enjoyed your article very much. I was particularly interested in the part about Zion.
May I share my personal view on this matter with you and the readers.
I think there’s gonna be (a) huge financial collapses, followed or preceded with wars (civil and/or international). There will be pestilence, famine and atrocities. Then, and only then, w will be forced to be humble. We shall then be able to imagine Zion as our only hope and maybe we could even build it. Changes in our human nature usually occur when we are obliged to reconsider things because of external reasons. It is my conclusion after my reading of 3rd Nephi 11 and so on. There had to have earthquakes, fire and destruction in order to prepare the heart of the people.
But when I turn to the PoGP and to the account of Enoc the setting seems a lot different. It looks like the people really wanted to be “set apart” from the world, to become holy and saint (in the true meaning of the word) because of their understanding of the gospel (internal reasons: heart & mind ).
Do you agree with that ?Am I right ? Is there still hope for people to awake before the great and dreadful day ?
If the answer is yes, how do we do that ? Psdt Young said Zion starts in our hearts. But what is the next step ? How do we build Zion in concrete terms ?
Very good points Pierre. I hope that we can be humble without being forced by horrible circumstances, but I fear that social and economic transformation on a large scale won’t come without the kind of “wiping of the slate clean” that preceded the great society we read about in 3 Nephi.
Nevertheless, we as Mormons do believe in miracles. A friend of mine who is an anarchist used to say that it’s true that things look hopeless, but there is always a joker in the deck, always a wild card. You never know what might happen in the future. The point is to do what we can in whatever small ways that we can in the present. The important thing for us to do during hopeless times is to keep these ideas alive, to attempt to create space in which alternative forms of social relations can take place (such as the Occupy Movement in the U.S. attempted, or as the squatters movement in Spain is attempting), to support projects that reflect egalitarian values, and to organize our own projects within a non-authoritarian framework. As the IWW says, to build a new society in the shell of the old. For me, in concrete terms this means supporting labor rights/economic justice, LGBT liberation, and environmental justice. It means supporting those projects that are working against war, racism, patriarchy, capitalism, and all forms of authoritarianism. I don’t think there is any one right answer to what we should be doing; we all have to figure that out for ourselves and we all have different talents and positionalities, but if we do nothing, then we can expect nothing.
But as a Church, one thing is certain in my mind. We cannot even begin to build Zion while we are still scapegoating marginalized groups and ignoring the real roots of our problems. We need some serious shifts in our value system as step one.
Sorry, I meant 4 Nephi.
Pierre, throughout the scriptures there are examples of those who are humbled by the word alone (usually a small minority) followed by those who are humbled by the devastation and destruction resulting naturally from continuing on in their pride.
A prime example is Alma and his little flock being humbled by the teachings of Abinadi, thus escaping the destruction that eventually humbled the rest of the people of Limhi.
A more subtle example is found in the first few chapter of Helaman where the spiritually sensitive people of Ammon leave the land southward before the Lamanites invade and occupy the entire land south of the narrow neck. This destruction prepares the surviving Nephites (as well as the occupying Lamanites) to accept the great witness of Nephi and his brother Lehi as recounted in chapter 5.
I think the same thing will happen here in the USA. Some will have the spiritual sensitivity to know when to flee to avoid the destruction. The survivors and the invaders will be humbled enough by the destruction to be amenable to conversion after the fact.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the Lord’s way to bless his children temporally. And thank you for having the courage to give such an important talk in sacrament meeting. I think if I had given that talk in my ward, I would have gotten at least one stone thrown at me. And I speculate many people also feel some apprehension when it comes to talking about this issue (sorry, I should have said “doctrine”, not “issue”). And while some people are waking up to these truths, I think the large majority of the church still practices and/or condones the way of Babylon when it comes to temporal needs and wants. And why wouldn’t they? We are constantly taught from the pulpit that the Lords way for providing for the poor is “self-reliance”. Indeed, the Come Follow Me topic for teaching the youth this month is Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance (emphasis added). And although I enjoyed your quote taken from Uchtdorf’s talk, “Providing in the Lord’s Way” (October 2011 Priesthood Session by the way, for those who want to look it up), he goes on in this talk to emphasize self-reliance over and over again, as if that is the magic key to solving all the poverty problems in the world.
Well, the importance for temporal needs to be meet as well spiritual needs is often mentioned in the scriptures. And we are given a lot of instruction on how this is to be done. I don’t need to mention all these scriptures because you have done an excellent job of doing so in this article. On the other hand, I personally don’t find anywhere in the scriptures where the Lord emphasizes temporal self-reliance. But guess who did emphasized self-reliance as part of their doctrine and protocol? The Pharisees. The LDS Bible Dictionary even acknowledges this (look up “Pharisees”on page 750 of the LDS Bible Dictionary). And these were the current religious leaders of the day. They were the sanctimonious group that Jesus sometimes addressed with great judgement. He called them hypocrites and even told them on one occasion that the “publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you”.
We have been warned in the scriptures many times about the dangers of having our hearts set upon the things of this world or following after the precepts of men. And yet, as a church, and as individuals claiming to be part of Christ’s church, we are often just as guilty of these abominations as the rest of the world. The more we align ourselves with Babylon on these matters, the further we distance ourselves from the TRUE gospel of Jesus Christ.
I firmly believe that when the scriptures talk about the “fulness of the gospel” (a phrase mentioned many times by Christ in 3 Nephi by the way), it is especially in reference to the Ordinance and Covenant of Baptism AND the Covenant of the Law of Consecration. And this beautiful article solidifies these ideas. Whenever a group or people or city accepted the FULNESS of the gospel and lived with all things common among them, they were able to achieve heaven on earth, and were “partakers of the heavenly gift” (4 Nephi 1:3) as you mentioned. But when they rejected this fulness because of selfishness and pride and emphasis on self-reliance, they were unable to achieve the Zion that was promised. A very important scripture that I will add to your marvelous list here is D&C 105:1-5. Zion cannot be built unless it is by the Lord’s way. And the Lord’s way is clearly through abundant charity and non-judgmental compassion. The people of Ammon knew this (Alma 27:27, 35:9). The people that Christ taught as mentioned in 3rd and 4th Nephi realized this and lived this. The people of Enoch knew this. Joseph Smith knew this and he tried many times to teach it to the saints. Why can’t we realize this as a church now, let alone bring it up in conversation without being labeled a socialist or communist?
I’m sorry for the length of this comment, but this wonderful article must have touched a nerve. I could go on and on. But if you are interested in more, study what Moroni said to us in Mormon 8:33-41. While you are at it, study Nephi’s words in 2 Nephi 26:29-31 and 2 Nephi 28:8-21. Also read the words of Jesus Christ himself in 3 Nephi 16. When you truly study that chapter, along with chapters 20 and 21 of 3 Nephi, through the spirit, you will realize the condemnation we are under, right along with the rest of babylon. To understand who the “gentiles” are in these chapters, please carefully read verse 7 in 3 Nephi 16. Christ is talking about the restoration of the gospel in these latter days. He is talking about us. And if we reject the “fulness of the gospel”, which we have, the judgements will be severe if we don’t repent (3 Nephi 16:15, 20:16, 21:20-21; Mormon 5:22-24, 8:41; Jeremiah 4:7).
It has taken me many years to finally understand these truths. I realize that there are also many other people starting to wake up to these amazing truths. Thank you again for touching on such a crucial point of Christ’s doctrine. May God bless you.
Yes Mark, you are correct that the Uchtdorf talk I quoted from emphasized self-reliance, not consecration. I hesitated to include it in the talk, but ultimately went with it because, the principle I quoted him expounding is a correct principle, in spite of the fact that he applied it in a way that seems lacking to me.
I absolutely agree with you that this emphasis on “self-reliance” that the Church has chosen to make is a far cry from the message of Jesus, who taught total social and economic transformation. “Self-reliance,” at least in the way the Church uses the term, does not challenge the Babylon at all, and in fact reinforces it by telling people that instead of challenging the system of exploitation and inequality, they should become a part of it (usually a low-wage exploited part of it). “Self-reliance” also sends the message that one’s worthiness for temporal support is based on one’s submission to capitalist ethics and capitalist discipline. This is very different from the Christian ideal of distribution based on need.
And yes, there are several other scriptures that I could have used to make the same point. The scriptures argue for social and economic equality repeatedly from beginning to end. The only way to miss this obvious and explicit message of the scriptures is to read Church lesson manuals and conference talks instead of the actual scriptures. It is astounding how far the gap is between what the scriptures say and what many (but not all) general authorities say these days.
Tariq, your thoughts about how an emphasis on “self-reliance” is aligned with this capitalist system that is rooted in exploitation and inequality are dead on. Since discovering the truths of the gospel that relate to the temporal needs of God’s children, I have become much more a Communitarian in my political beliefs.
By the way, by my sharing some additional scriptures here, I hope you didn’t think I was trying to “one-up” what you already related in this article. I was simply putting my “stamp of approval” on your article and sharing some additional information that has really helped me, and that could be useful to others reading these comments who might be searching for truth. I speculate, by reading your article, that you are already fully aware of the additional scriptures I mentioned. In my last post, in my second to last paragraph, I should have said, “If anyone is interested in more…” as opposed to “if you are interested in more..” That additional information was simply for ANYONE who might be interested. That was my intent.
Again, wonderful article. I appreciate you taking a stand for truth. In the end, the truth really will make us free.
Mark, you are right on. After Mormon’s warning to us at the end of chapter 5, he devotes chapter 6 to an account of the utter destruction of the Nephites by the Lamanites, a type of the destruction of the USA by some remnants of Jacob (as a young lion) in our day. Then in chapter 7 he admonishes this remnant of Jacob to lay down their weapons of destruction and to accept the gospel en mass as did the Lamanites we read about in Helaman chapter 5 after they destroyed the Nephites who did not flee the land of Zarahemla (another type of the USA) soon enough. This is the context of chapter 11 of Romans, especially verses 25 thru 27, that prophesy the mass conversion of the remnant of Israel in the last days after the fulness of the Gentiles passes. As the language at the end of chapter five of Helaman hints, this conversion is a centerpiece of the great and marvelous work of the Father.
To really understand the marvelousness of these chapter of Helaman, liken them to China invading the USA, and then imagine, after failed attempts at evicting the occupying Chinese, the Lord manifests his power through two missionaries in converting “the more part of the [Chinese]” in less than a year’s time.
The current sizes of the USA and China stand in rough proportion to the sizes of the Nephite and Lamanite populations at the time of Helaman 5. Their relative opportunities for access to the gospel are also analogous. Our pride and prejudices are analogous, as well. Even so, I’m not sure that it will be the Chinese who play the role of “Jacob as a young lion.” It could just as well be a coalition of other third world remnants of Jacob … Latinos, Islanders, Africans, etc. But to be true to the prophecies it will be largely those who have not yet heard or heeded the restored gospel. The Lord allows the wicked to punish the wicked as an ultimate consequence of their hubris.
Your interpretations of chapters 16, 20, and 21 are right on. And they are the words of Christ … by way of warning to us gringos, and as good news to the indigenous peoples who will have the lands of their inheritance restored to them after our destruction. Gentiles (gringos) who repent soon enough will be able to help the remnants of Jacob build up the New Jerusalem, etc.
Like you, as a life long member I read the BoM many times before finally getting the picture. But most people don’t want to hear it. Last year when we were in Argentina, it was easy to talk to members abou this. The humble members already understood it; they understood it on first reading even as new members.
My Best to You …Forest
Forest, thanks for the additional insight. I also don’t know EXACTLY how it’s all going to shake down, leading up to when Christ returns. But it does seem pretty clear that one of the main points of doctrine that will separate the Gentiles (mainstream church) and the remnant of Israel, when they come through as a lion among the beasts of the forest, is the idea of a Zion community and what that entails.
There are so many scriptures that make reference to how the “poor” will put their “trust in Zion” once it is reestablished. That now makes complete sense to me. And that doesn’t surprise me one bit. Just like it doesn’t surprise me that the humble members you were referring to understood these crucial passages of scripture. I believe that all “true” followers are looking forward to the day when a true Zion community will once again be established, according to the law of the celestial kingdom, where all things are common among them and all can be partakers of the heavenly gift.
And it also sadly doesn’t surprise me that the majority of members who “grew up in the system”, like I did, have a hard time seeing the truth here. Such a person would have to admit that they either are part of the Babylonian greed that fuels our current society, or that they at least condone such abhorrent behavior. This is why it has taken me years to finally open my eyes. It is a hard pill to swallow. I read once that “truth is the miracle pill, but it can taste the most bitter going down”. I am grateful that I was finally able to choke down that pill. And now that I have, I feel like the floodgates have opened up. Scriptures that I never understood are starting to come alive and make sense to me. The full picture is beginning to blossom before my eyes. Now I know I still have a long way to go. I would be a fool to think otherwise. I don’t think any of us are even close to understanding everything God truly has in store for us.
But I am grateful that the Lord, in his mercy, helped me to understand and realize the dangerous road I was on. In homage to the current Christmas season, I feel like Scrooge to say, “I am not the man I was”. Thank heavens for that!
We talk too much about programs, about “the church” or about meetings. Let’s talk more about the gospel, about the character of Christ and the vision of our God.
“…the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity–thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations–too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God.” (TPJS, page 137.)
Amen to all your talk, brother
I printed a copy of your talk. So far, my wife, daughters, another friend, and I have read it. We agree it is one of the best talks we have ever seen. It should be in the Ensign magazine. It took a lot of understanding, knowledge, and inspiration for you to compose it, and a lot of faith and courage for you to deliver it All of these qualities you have in common with Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite, but fortunately you were given a better reception, even if received with coolness in some quarters. President Kimball’s 1976 state of the union talk, “The False Gods We Worship,” was also received with coolness in some quarters, so you are in good company.
Keep up the good work!
This is hard medicine for many members of the LDS Church, particularly those in affluent Wards.
There is widespread belief that financial prosperity is a sure sign of being a worthy and spiritual person.You might have been stoned in a few of the wards I have lived in if you delivered this talk.Thank you.
Speakers at BYU graduation ceremonies equate financial wealth with being a faithful member. In a previous ward I lived in, I was considered “poor” by standards of the majority of the ward members. I lived in a mobile home in a mobile home park. I taught
Primary, the nine and ten year old kids. I invited the class to my home for a day of fun. The mobile home park had a very nice swimming pool, and rec area. One of the kids told me I lived in a dump. Another kid asked what I did wrong to make me poor.
I did baby sitting for hotels for a while. I worked in the hotels where the rich and famous would stay. The kids of rich people were the worst to deal with. It is sad that LDS who have a lot of money forget what the Gospel is. I sometimes wonder about the General Authorities as they sometimes come across as putting wealth above all else