For, behold, the abeasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is bordained for the use of man for food and for craiment, and that he might have in abundance. But it is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the bworld lieth in csin.
There’s an interesting argument going on over at BCC (By Common Consent) about money, salaries and what qualifies as too much for a “good” Mormon. The vast majority of the comments to the article, predictably (not because of the blog, as it’s a thought provoking place to go, but rather the visitors and those who comment because they generally come from Mormon stock and are prone to justification as they search for “prosperity”) are all about justifying income, expenditures, this or that and excuses where needed. Not that this is inherently bad, because we all do it, but I thought a more inviting discussion would be on exactly what we’re supporting when we go to the schools and universities, work the jobs and do everything else in the one giant “system” that’s all around us.
This may come off overly trite, perhaps it is, but why do we remain to prop up a dying system, one whose fall could easily be described as “great” or “biblical” or “apocalyptic” or whatever word you might choose to use. If we really broke it down, we spend the majority of our first 20-30 years of our life in an education system that is built around creating machines, usable parts to fit easily in a system which is predicated on little more than power and/or greed. We go to school – elementary and high school – and by the time we’re ready to graduate the vast majority of us are thinking about college and obtaining that influential “degree” which certifies that we’re ready to make the big money. Some continue on to master’s and doctorate programs, 90% of which have a significant financial reward attached to them. Some suggest they pursue this or that degree for altruistic reasons, and that may be the case, but most people choose a career or profession which will remunerate them for the rest of their life and, if all goes well, set them up for a good pension or retirement. Money is a very significant and driving force in these decisions. Many of these people, and many others who bypass the University system, go on to jobs (either working for themselves or someone else) and do make good money.
If we return to the system in which all of this plays out, it’s really none other than Babylon. Babylon rules the day. We work to “earn” money. With this “earned” income, we buy clothes, cars, electronics, goods, services, housing and all sorts of other “dainties” which were produced in Babylon. Many of us justify these purchases as “needs,” arguing that we need that car to get to work, we need those clothes to hide our nakedness, we need those electronics to create efficiencies and we need that housing to protect us and our families. We justify every purchase in one way or another. All of us do. Babylon, as a system, is set almost entirely on a “consumption” based economy, one whose growth is predicated on continued consumption. And consume we do. We buy groceries which were either grown in a mass-agriculture field, or produced in a factory owned by an unfathomably large conglomerate whose sole goal is money and, if it is a publicly traded company, it really is all about the money. We buy clothes that were probably built in a sweatshop or some factory where the workers are paid $0.10/hour and where they work 12 hour days, 7 days each week, just to get buy and feed their families. We buy cars whose inputs come from dozens of smaller countries where the labor conditions are likely the same, or worse. It’s an endlessly painful process which we’re conditioned to both ignore and crave at the same time. We’re conditioned to ignore the inputs and process by which good X wound up on some store shelf in front of my eyes while at the same time being convinced that this very product is both a “need” and a “right,” a right because I work hard, dang it, and deserve to be able to buy these things.
Hugh Nibley, in Approaching Zion, spoke of this “consumption” attitude by saying:
“I have spent a lot of time speaking here. It’s insolent for me to speak after the Lord has spoken. We should just go read the written word. What does every civilization leave behind? What is going to be the net product of our civilization? It’s garbage, it’s junk. You can see that, and it’s mounting. It sounds rhetorical: we have to produce things (expand in producing); then we have to increase consumption, so we have to increase desire for things with advertising flim-flam; then we have to consume very fast and discard a great deal, because there is available a new and improved version. So discarding goes on, as Congressman Wright pointed out recently: “The principal exports of the United States today are used packages and scraps.” We are impatient of the slow ways of nature. We have to go faster and faster, and the biggest question has become the dumps. …
“Quite literally, the net contribution of our present society to the history of the world will be a pile of garbage—and that very ugly garbage. Great civilizations like the Egyptian or Greek left magnificent garbage, sometimes great stuff to look at. When Salt Lake City is leveled by a nuclear bomb, what will be left behind? What will future civilizations dig up? What will be worth even looking at or digging up? What will survive? The Lord says, “There is no end to my works or my words” (Moses 1:4). The civilization survives only on its words. That’s what we have from the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Hebrews. We have the scriptures. We have the Testaments. We have the Book of Mormon. What has survived is a voice from the dust speaking to us; that’s all that has survived. We wouldn’t even know that that civilization ever existed without the voice from the dust. That which survived is the word. At least we will leave that behind. But the nice thing about the order the Lord wishes to establish here is that it is eternally perpetrated, not only in the heavens but here, as long as it needs to be anywhere. We can carry on and have a wonderful time.”
Brigham Young, in supposedly quoting Joseph Smith, stated,
“Said [Joseph Smith] – ‘Never spend another day to build up a Gentile city, but spend your days, dollars and dimes for the upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth, to promote peace and righteousness, and to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man, and he who does not abide this law will suffer loss.” (JD 12:59).
All the while we’re impervious to the whole Babylonian system that is held up by the work of our hands. Yes, our hands. We use her banks, her currency, her government, her churches, her goods and her services. Neither Zion, nor the law of consecration, are even discussed or viewed as legitimate possibilities today. No longer do we dream of a Zion-like society, justifying our continued whoring around with the Ultimate Mistress – Babylon. No longer do we desire to consecrate all of our earnings, all of our goods, all of our possessions, instead justifying our whoring around by paying a flat tax tithing that may not even be scriptural to begin with, and certainly contrary to both D&C 119 – oh wait, I forgot, interest has been redefined as “income” in the modern lexicon – and Alma’s church, where the flat tax (i.e. 10%) would likely be viewed as revolting, having rejected that very system under King Noah, hence their graduated structure discussed in Mosiah. No, we continue to believe that these things will only come about when some “top down” message is sent from Church Headquarters, when the “real” prophets speak and tell us to start. We continue to believe that we can’t act as stewards of the goods and energies Christ has given us outside the bounds of some organizational hierarchy, instead believing that some “man” has to tell us what and when to give. If they say give a flat tax (10%), well that’s what we give. If they say up our fast offerings, well we up them. If they say donate generously to other “funds,” so we donate. It is, as John Taylor Gatto suggests in his diatribe on the results of public schooling, “We are addicted to dependency; in the current national crisis of maturity we seem to be waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do, but the teacher never comes to do that. Bridges collapse, men and women sleep on the streets, bankers cheat, good will decays, families betray each other, the government lies as a matter of policy, corruption, shame, sickness, and sensationalism are everywhere.”
All the while the HQ peddles in real estate and investment ventures which, they profess, weren’t built or financed with tithing income, just the “investment income” that came from the tithing funds. All the while we, as individuals, peddle in stock markets, investments and financial ventures in search of more “investment income,” just like HQ. And, when we do prosper, we think it’s the Lord who wants us to be rich, who wants us to have all this money.
And, so it is. Instead of growing closer to Zion, we continue our fornication with Babylon. Instead of approaching Zion, we distance ourselves from her principles. Instead of establishing equality where no rich nor poor exist, we establish socio-economic wards and branches where some are rich, some are poor and some are dumbfounded at how amazingly different we are from where we should be.
I hate to borrow so much from another author, but Hugh Nibley has discussed this topic at such great length, and his words generally forgotten, that I thought I should share one more from him:
It is money we love and respect. This week it was announced that judges must have higher pay if lawyers are to respect them, the corollary being that no one respects anyone who has less money than he has. Not that they need it—these old duffers who are tapering off spend all their days in closets, so why do they need more than $125,000 a year? Oh, to make them more respected by the lawyers. You can’t respect a man who is making less than you, can you? That is the sentiment expressed by the late great lawman John Mitchell. The Latter-day Saints reverenced Howard Hughes and resented any criticism of the sickly and unbalanced billionaire; his money sanctified him. On a single day in the newspaper in 1972 the president declared drugs the nation’s number-one problem; along with this is a statement that alcohol is the most dangerous of all drugs, and on the same page United Airlines is announced as the world’s largest purveyor of alcohol by the drink, with W. Marriott in second place.
This week a finance writer is proud to boast the Utah connections of Daniel K. Ludwig, perhaps the world’s richest man, and glowingly praises the purity and simplicity of his way of life—like Mr. Walton’s bringing his lunch to work in a brown bag. We forget that the arrogance of wealth is not in the spending, which is merely foolish, as Veblen showed, but in the acquiring of it. This man by his penurious personal habits simply shows, as did Scrooge, that nothing in the world counts for him but money. The word miser describes one who lives a miserable existence out of reluctance to spend a penny of his ever-growing and zealously watched wealth. It is as if we were to pronounce blessed a man who keeps a thousand expensive suits locked in his closet and proves his humility and modesty by never wearing one of them—or letting anyone else wear one.
This sentiment is marked by an undisguised contempt for anyone without money. My own experience from talking with many transients has shown that nowhere in the nation are tramps more evilly treated than in Utah. So much for the stranger within thy gates.
Let us make a list of the offenses that are darkening the skies of our time. Crime of all sorts—street crime, muggings, rape, white collar crime (the worst in our nation, and worst of all since it is committed against those who trust us), corporate fraud, drug traffic, steroids, corrupt athletes, pornography, prostitution (and the resulting AIDS), wars great and small, brush-fire wars, paramilitary organizations, soldiers of fortune, hit men, terrorism, arson, kidnapping, illegal aliens, armaments sold by all to all—including germ warfare, gas and nuclear weapons, pollution of water and air, poisonous spills, dangerous and inferior products, destruction of the environment, extermination of species, urban decay, educational neglect and fraud, racism, religious fraud, and on and on. Carry on the list for yourself, and ask yourself at each label in the cumulation of horrors, What is the prime motive behind it? Can we deny that money really is the “root of all evil?” Has not Satan carried out the work he threatened to do? You can see it all on the TV.
The best possible summary of the situation is the inspired First Presidency message given by President Kimball on the solemn occasion of the bicentennial of the nation. When he viewed the condition of the Church and the country, his reaction was not one of glowing admiration and praise. On the contrary: “The Lord gave us a choice world and expects righteousness and obedience to his commandments in return.” This is the principle stated a hundred times in the scriptures: Notice the old law of Moses: “I have given you this land and I expect obedience.” President Kimball continued, “But when I review the performance of this people in comparison of what is expected, I am appalled and frightened.”55 What appalls and frightens him? He views the prime evils of the time under three headings: (1) deterioration of the environment, (2) quest for affluence, and (3) trust in force of arms. Massive documentation will show that in the enjoyment of each of these three vices, the people of Utah are second to none. At the first meeting of Congress under the present administration, it was declared that the delegation from Utah were the most anti-environmentalist in the nation. Ecology and environment are dirty words in Utah. As we have seen, more people are dedicated to the quest for wealth and none more trusting in military solutions to all problems.
And whatever became of President Kimball’s remarkable address to the Church? It was given the instant deep-freeze, the most effective of censorship, a resounding silence. In 1969 an even more painful silence greeted another voice, that of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that year was reproduced in the pages of the BYU Studies the earliest known and fullest account of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, written in the hand of Warren Parrish in the winter of 1831-32 at the dictation of the Prophet. When I heard the news, which was just before general conference, I declared that there would be dancing in the streets when this document came out. Instead I have heard not a mention of it from that day to this. How is that possible that we should censor the words of the Lord himself? Well, those words began with unflattering picture of all us of: “Behold the world at this time lieth in sin, and there is none that doeth good, no not one, and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the world to visit them according to their ungodliness.”
“The world lieth in sin.” Why? we ask. The answer is loud and clear in Doctrine and Covenants 49: “For behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need” (D&C 49:19-21).
Brigham Young said it this way:
The doctrine of uniting together in our temporal labors, and all working for the good of all is from the beginning, from everlasting, and it will be for ever and ever. No one supposes for one moment that in heaven the angels are speculating, that they are building railroads and factories, taking advantage one of another, gathering up the substance there is in heaven to aggrandize themselves, and that they live on the same principle that we are in the habit of doing. No Christian, no sectarian Christian, in the world believes this; they believe that the inhabitants of heaven live as a family [Deuteronomy 31:12 and 12:6-7 say that offerings should always be made in a family group—the individual is the one responsible, but he must always bring his family], that their faith, interests, and pursuits have one end in view—the glory of God and their own salvation, they may receive more and more. . . . We all believe this, and suppose we go to work and imitate them as far as we can. (JD 17:117-18.)
In the end, we wake up 5-6 mornings each week to go to a job to make money and, if we’re lucky, enjoy our time there. All the while propping up the same system which so contrasts the Zion we should want to be establishing. All the while supporting the same system which makes us little more than slave labor. All the while supporting the same paradigm which strives to mold us into machines and parts that are easily replaced, so that the next guy or gal can pick up and continue the charade without causing too much disruption. All the while propping up a dying system, a system that will collapse.