Breakthroughs I Would Like to See
Though I did not assign the topic, I like it: “Break-throughs I Would Like to See.” Not that I expect to see any, or that anyone else would like to see any, yet I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss an unpopular subject that I would otherwise have avoided but that cannot be much longer overlooked.
Anything I discuss with anybody from this time on must be within the framework of the scriptures. Why? Isn’t that rather narrow? Arbitrary? Confining? Authoritarian? No, the scriptures have immense breadth—the world is not aware of that, because the clergy have always had their favorite themes and passages, about 5 percent of the total, necessarily taken out of context, since the other 95 percent which is overlooked is the context. The scriptures, with modern revelations added, are far more explicit and detailed than people realize. There are places where they are silent, but how can we know what is missing and what we are missing in them unless we read them all? Within that framework we are free to ponder, speculate, discuss, criticize, check, and control from other sources—it is all perfectly legitimate. Above all, we are not only justified in falling back on the scriptures, but we are obliged to—because there is no other framework available to appeal to. For one thing, that is the framework within which all the productive scientists, artists, composers, and scholars have done their work right up until the early twentieth century. The world greeted one other framework with reverence, awe, and unbounded enthusiasm because at last in Darwinism they thought they had found something to supplant the old one. However, like all scientific structures, this one was tentative and contrived, and Darwin in the end always rested his case on anticipation of possible future breakthroughs, putting it indefinitely on hold. The scriptures really give us something to work with.
All real breakthroughs in the history of the race follow the same pattern. There is only one kind of breakthrough; that is to say, they all come from above. Some interesting studies were made after World War II on the great, inspired scientists and artists of the past to account for whatever it was that made them peculiarly productive, or, as we say, “creative.” In almost every case they reported that their great moments came to them by inspiration, in sudden flashes of insight for which they could not account. Arthur C. Clarke has written a book in which he discusses two kinds of inventions: the routine ones; and the real breakthroughs—inventions that no one could have anticipated and only the writers of science fiction dared to invent.1 In my lifetime I have seen the radio (I well remember scratching a crystal with a tiny wire to pick up a station a hundred miles away), and then Alamogordo, New Mexico, the atomic breakthrough, which staggered even its inventors; and there is the laser, and the jet engine. At an army investigation into whether the Germans had planes that could fly without propellers, Jimmy Doolittle testified against all the experts that he could take them to five hundred graves that would tell them of planes that could fly without propellers. There is the whole field of subatomic physics; the unpredictable and uncontrolled nature of such things obliges us to classify them as the unexplained or the miraculous. Of course, for us the important breakthroughs are the dispensations of the gospel, which can come only by the opening of the heavens, only by revelation, not by the counsels of men seeking to restore what was lost by our own efforts. Twenty years ago the words restoration, revelation, and dispensation were fired at Joseph Smith like missiles; they epitomized all his crimes and offenses against humanity. Today journals and conferences speak endlessly of restoration, revelation, and dispensation—such were the subjects of a Jewish and Christian conference I attended in Washington, D.C., a year ago, where the three portentous words were used constantly together, because you can’t have one without the other.
The Latter-day Saints have always believed that the breakthroughs in science that have bettered the condition of man by bringing light and truth are an organic part of the restoration of the gospel. For us that is the great breakthrough: “The morning breaks, the shadows flee,”2 “Now a glorious morn is breaking,”3 “The veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst,”4 “An angel from on high the long, long silence broke.”5 For us the whole thing was a breakthrough. And it was just one surprise after another, nothing expected, contrived, or anticipated. The testimony of Oliver Cowdery appended to the Pearl of Great Price catches the spirit of the event: “What joy! what wonder! what amazement! While the world was racked and distracted—while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld, our ears heard. . . . ‘Twas the voice of an angel, from glory, ’twas a message from the Most High! . . . Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many [we just saw that on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 1984—Election Day], . . . but . . . one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind!”6 Every breakthrough is also a breakout, liberating mankind from restraints and repressions of various kinds.
This is illustrated all through the Book of Mormon, beginning with the case of Lehi, depressed and frustrated by conditions in Jerusalem. Traveling in the desert, he saw a spectacle like Moses’ burning bush, “a pillar of fire . . . upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much,” which sent him scurrying back to Jerusalem, where he threw himself on his bed and had a vision in which “he saw the heavens open,” and so on (1 Nephi 1:6-8). Here, then, was a breakthrough presently leading to a breakout, as Lehi fled in the night from the land of Jerusalem into the desert; and then another breakthrough when he left the Old World behind. Arriving in the New, Nephi suffered oppression under his brethren until he received a revelation and broke with them, leading his own following into a place apart, where they were able to live “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). Other such breakthroughs followed in the Book of Mormon—those of Mosiah, and of Alma at the waters of Mormon. This is all in the old Rekhabite tradition; it is stated as a general principle by Nephi: “He raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked. And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands” (1 Nephi 17:37-38). What he meant by “the manner of happiness” is illustrated in the model society of 4 Nephi: “And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free” (4 Nephi 1:3); “and it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land” (4 Nephi 1:13); “and how blessed were they! . . . The first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land” (4 Nephi 1:18). It was a noncompetitive society, which is the breakthrough I would ask you to envisage.
Every breakout has been quickly confronted with a barrier as the adversary has made frantic efforts to contain it. These efforts have always been successful—that is why there is more than one dispensation. Adam, cast out into the dark, dreary world, was presently visited by heavenly messengers, who proceeded to instruct him in how he was to get out of his present difficult situation as quickly as possible; they put him on the road that would return him to the presence of the Father. Satan counterattacked at once and converted Cain to his cause; and before long all of Adam’s posterity began to apostatize. For it was time for another breakthrough, and a “crash program” was undertaken as “the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God” (Moses 5:58).
The leader of the dispensation was Enoch, whose city of Zion was a tremendous breakthrough and also a “breaking out,” the mass evacuation of a polluted planet, due for a thorough purging. “From Noah to Abraham, ten generations” goes the saying, and the world was in darkness again, for Noah’s posterity had also gone astray; it was time for God to speak with Abraham face to face, restore the covenants, and organize the church, beginning with his 318 servants.
Again the oppression and flesh pots of Egypt, with the world in darkness until Moses saw the burning bush (it was not his idea), then upon the mountains talked with God as one man to another. The display on the mountain was overwhelming, but as we know from the story of the golden calf, Satan wasted no time in getting back; and Moses in his farewell speech said that if the people would not obey him while he was with them, what hope could there be thereafter?
The prophets deplored the condition of Israel until the coming of the Lord, and if there was ever a dazzling series of breakthroughs, it is that recounted with clinical accuracy by Luke. Angels appeared for the first time in four hundred years, scaring Zacharias and Mary and the shepherds half to death: “Fear not!” Peter, James, and John were “sore afraid” when on the Mount of Transfiguration they saw the Lord as he really was and heard the voice of the Father speaking from behind the cloud (Matthew 17:6). But “the prince of this world cometh, who hath nothing in me” (John 14:30), and Satan took over again in what we know as the Great Apostasy, which lasted until the time was ripe for the visions and blessings of old to return and angels to come and visit the earth. What need we say about the ferocity with which the moral majority reacted the instant that news got out? I once had two ministers in a Greek class who were always protesting that once God had delivered his “once for all” message to the saints, there was no need for a further breakthrough. The few instances we have reviewed should answer that question; in the Latter-day Saint philosophy there should never be an end to breakthroughs.
Since I have been asked to tell what breakthrough I would like to see, I will state it quite frankly. It is the same one the prophets, seers, and revelators of modern times have yearned and worked for: namely, the observation by the Latter-day Saints of the law of consecration. I’m only expressing a personal wish, but that is what was asked for. I would like to see it happen in the first place because I have covenanted to keep it, and I would like to be able to do so. Even with that I cannot avoid it, as we are told in the Doctrine and Covenants, which we shall take as our guide from here on out, since it contains the definitive statement of the law of consecration.
One thing that gives top priority to the law of consecration is that no one is excused from observing it: “This is what the Lord requires of every man in his stewardship. . . . And behold, none are exempt from this law who belong to the church of the living God” (D&C 70:9-10); “for according to the law every man that cometh up to Zion must lay all things before the bishop in Zion” (D&C 72:15). “Every elder . . . must give an account of his stewardship unto the bishop” (D&C 72:16), to qualify for an “inheritance, and to be received as a wise steward and as a faithful laborer” (D&C 72:17); “let every elder . . . give an account unto the bishop” and receive a recommend recording his labors to qualify him in acceptance (D&C 72:19).
Another reason for acceptance of the law of consecration without delay is that such a treasure should no longer lie unclaimed. The Lord has been good enough to give us the answer to a question that no mortal has ever been able to decide for himself, namely, what one should be doing in one brief spell on earth. I recently read an article on NASA that said the scientists have developed magnificent equipment but haven’t the vaguest idea what to do with it. Out of a million things I could be doing, how can I possibly know what is best? “We look before and after and pine for what is not.”7 Here the Doctrine and Covenants helps us out; recall how many of the early revelations are addressed to individuals telling them what is best for them to do in the present circumstances. It would be a folly and shame to deny such a gift. Remember the closing lines of the Book of Mormon: “Deny not the gifts of God” (Moroni 10:8).
Most pressing of all is the disturbing awareness that God is not mocked. He has been good enough to reveal these things to us from heaven, and there is only one alternative to living up to every covenant—that is to be in the power of Satan, whose purpose is “to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken to my voice” (Moses 4:4). “Except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire” (Moses 5:23). By which am I to be governed, God’s commands or Satan’s desire? Are we in Satan’s power? The world is; it is being ruled with blood and horror and controlled by him who holds the treasures of the earth—the gold and silver, oil and coal. Speaking to those who paid lip service to the law of consecration while seeking personal gain, the Lord reminds us, “For I, the Lord, am not to be mocked in these things” (D&C 104:6). If “any man belonging to the order . . . 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” (D&C 104:5). Don’t think you can get away with it: “Inasmuch as you are found transgressors, you cannot escape my wrath in your lives,” and being “cut off for transgression, ye cannot escape the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption” (D&C 104:8-9). There is no other penalty, for the contract is between the individual and his Heavenly Father alone. As Heber C. Kimball reminded the saints, there are no covenants made between individuals in the church. All promises and agreements are between the individual and our Father in Heaven; all other parties, including the angels, are present only as witnesses. Therefore whether anybody else observes and keeps the promise is not my concern, but if I do not do what I have promised, what blessings can I expect?
Another disturbing thing is that I cannot put off fulfilling my part of the agreement. “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 . . . in the land of Zion [or in other words, the city of Enoch]—for a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church” (D&C 78:3-4). It must begin now and from here on must continue. This is essential, we are told, if the church is to fulfill its purpose: “To advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of the Father who is in heaven” (D&C 78:4). This is the way he wants it; the law of consecration is inseparable from the law of God, the law of obedience, and the law of sacrifice which the saints have already accepted.
Can it for any reason be postponed? No! Those who have failed to keep it here and now are denounced: “Inasmuch as some of my servants have not kept the commandment, but have broken the covenant, . . . I have cursed them with a very sore and grievous curse” (D&C 104:4). Why on earth would anyone want to disregard it after accepting the gospel and bidding farewell to the ways of the world? The answer: “by covetousness and feigned words” (D&C 104:52)—unable to give up their habits of greed, they pretended to accept what they did not accept. Of course, they argued that the thing wasn’t practical or convenient just then. When will it be? Thirty years after the above revelation, Brigham Young, along with John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow, were still vigorously appealing to the saints to wake up:
Some of our Elders, and, in fact, some of the Twelve will tell you, “yes, yes, the Order is a splendid principle and will bring happiness, etc., but it is not hardly time to enter into it, wait a little while until the people understand it a little better.” Why, they are fools! They don’t know what they talk about. They have ears to hear and will not hearken, and have eyes to see and will not understand. . . . When our conduct hedges up the way of angels how can they bless us? . . . How can they help us work out our salvation? When Joseph Smith was alive I can say that I never heard him lay one plan out for the people but would have been a success if it had been carried out as he directed. And I have seen the same thing in myself. I don’t care how the world goes, what the President [of the U.S.] or his emissaries do. It matters nothing to me. What I am thinking of and interested about is how do the Latter-day Saints do? The devil is in the community and he has not been turned out. . . . Well, I still have hope in Israel.8
So spoke Brigham Young at St. George on June 1, 1876, commenting on the purposes of the temple there.
The program is an urgent one, and since the world is steadily getting worse, the chances of carrying it out in a sympathetic environment have not been improving. If ever a breakthrough was announced, it is in section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants, where two diametrically opposed ways of life are held up side by side. Likewise, in section 33: “Ye are called to . . . declare my gospel unto a crooked and perverse generation. . . . And my vineyard has become corrupted every whit; and there is none which doeth good save it be a few; and they err in many instances because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds” (D&C 33:2-4). There is much in the same vein: “For the veil of darkness shall soon be rent [another breakthrough!], and he that is not purified shall not abide the day, . . . for all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, . . . which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting, . . . and, behold, the enemy is combined” (D&C 38:8, 11-12). Do such statements mean nothing to us? “Lift up your voice . . . and cry repentance unto a crooked and perverse generation. . . . And it shall be a great day at the time of my coming, for all nations shall tremble” (D&C 34:6, 8). “There shall be a great work in the land, even among the Gentiles, for their folly and their abominations shall be made manifest in the eyes of all people” (D&C 35:7). “But without faith shall not anything be shown forth except desolations upon Babylon” (D&C 35:11).
This is an interesting thing—the saints need faith to follow the prophets and discern how things are going in these latter days, except for one thing: the desolations and destruction are going to be obvious to everybody; and now that they are beginning to become plain enough even to the most skeptical of the world, the Latter-day Saints, like the Christians of the third and fourth centuries, prefer not to take them too seriously.
And consider this: I am not free to lay out my own plans or justify special routines as the equivalent of keeping the law of consecration. Every attempt at rationalization fails. The plain fact is that I have promised to keep a law, and to keep it now. I know exactly what I am supposed to consecrate, exactly how, exactly why, exactly when, and exactly where. Consecration is the whole of the covenant of Israel. The chosen people themselves are consecrated, qadosh meaning “cut off, set apart,” the same meaning as saints—sanc-ti, sancti-fied (cf. sanctum, “a place set apart”). They are called sigillim, which is translated “peculiar” in our King James Bible, but which means “sealed, reserved.” What is con-secrated is then made sacred, withdrawn from the ordinary economy, dedicated to a particular purpose and to that purpose only. It can never be recalled or used for any other purpose without being de-secrated. A striking passage in Helaman brings this out while providing a powerful bit of evidence for the bona fides of the Book of Mormon. Samuel the Lamanite tells the people that their riches will be cursed because they have set their hearts upon them; and that when they flee before their enemies and bury their treasures, if they bury them not unto the Lord, they will become slippery and can never be found again. In the Copper Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls we learn that when the Jews fled from Jerusalem before their enemies, they also buried their treasures; and they also buried them up unto the Lord so that they could never again be used in profane negotiations. All such buried treasures had to be used for the temple and nothing else.9 It would be hard to find a more convincing parallel. It is a reminder that when I consecrate, it cannot be with limitations or qualifications. The ancients, including the Hebrews and other nations, consecrated by “heaving”; that is, they would throw the gift over a barrier into an area to which they had no access—they could never claim it again.
So I can take or leave consecration, but I cannot temporize or dissemble.
Said the Lord to Joseph, “See if they will give their farms to me.” What was the result? They would not do it, though it was one of the plainest things in the world. No revelation that was ever given is more easy of comprehension than that on the law of consecration. . . . Yet, when the Lord spoke to Joseph, instructing him to counsel the people to consecrate their possessions, and deed them over to the Church in a covenant that cannot be broken, would the people listen to it? No, but they began to find out they were mistaken, and had only acknowledged with their mouths that the things which they possessed were the Lord’s [“covetousness and feigned words”—D&C 104:52].10
“The Lord makes them well by His power, through the ordinances of His house [where the agreement was made], but will they consecrate? No. They say, ‘it is mine, and I will have it myself.’ There is the treasure, and the heart is with it.”11 So spoke Brigham Young soon after the exodus from Nauvoo.
The world is as ready for the system now as it ever will be; there is nothing the least bit negative about it. This is the way God means to provide for his people: it is “this commandment I give unto my servants for their benefit . . . and for a reward of their diligence and for their security [security has become our obsession—the answer, because it takes care of everybody]; for food and for raiment; for an inheritance; for houses and for lands” (D&C 70:15-16). Yes, the conditions were different then, but here the Lord tells us that it will work “in whatsoever circumstances I, the Lord, shall place them, and whithersoever I, the Lord, shall send them” (D&C 70:16). “Behold, I, the Lord, am merciful and shall bless them, and they shall enter into the joy of these things” (D&C 70:18).
The express purpose of the law of consecration is the building up of Zion; it is God’s plan, and his alone, for doing that. We do not wait until Zion is here to observe it; it is rather the means of bringing us nearer to Zion. “Hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come” (D&C 38:22), “If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments. And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support . . . with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken” (D&C 42:29-30). What I most like about the law of consecration is that it has nothing to do with economics. It belongs to the celestial order of things. There are no graphs, curves, figures, rising and falling prices, no Dow Jones, booms and slumps. Such things are quite unthinkable in the order that the Lord has said is to be observed for all eternity. “Adam, we have created for you this earth and ‘planted a garden eastward. . . . Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat'” (Moses 3:8, 16). Everything was all ready and waiting for him—trees bearing fruit of every kind; all Adam had to do was to help himself. Taking good care of the place was part of his privilege; he was to enjoy himself at it and be happy; and since he regularly conversed with the Lord and spent his time in the company of the most marvelous of women—we can be sure that gardening was not his only activity—would that we had minds and intellects as clear and active! Being ageless and immortal, he was not gardening for a living—he was working for no one and no one was working for him. In their letters from the Valley, the brethren reminded people back East that the great advantage of their present life was the beauty of a noncompetitive society in which they were free to cultivate their minds. To the present generation the most terrifying aspect of living in such a manner is the dullness of a world without the fiercely competitive doings of prime-time TV. They would have to spend their days engaged in other things than “the management of the creature” (Alma 30:17).
What could they possibly find to do? Like the barons of the Middle Ages who, when the Bishop of Rheims rebuked them for slaughtering each other, could only answer, “What else can noblemen possibly be doing?” On what other terms can human beings possibly exist together? Any change would be a disturbing culture shock, and they didn’t like it at all. President Harold B. Lee once talked to a group of us after he visited a stake conference; at a meeting of a high council, an undertaker lamented that he would have no work to do in the next world. At this a banker, a dentist, a real estate promoter, a policeman, and various businessmen all chimed in with the same complaint.
What will we be doing in the next world? Farmers and musicians, remembering Adam and the heavenly choirs, need not be overly concerned, but the question really is important, because it is that very life in the eternities for which we are supposed to be rehearsing right now. That is what the Church is for with its law of consecration: to build up the kingdom and establish Zion, “that it may be prepared for the celestial glory” (D&C 88:18). The Lord has told us that there is no other course of action for us, and why should there be? “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself” (D&C 105:5). “For I give not unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world” (D&C 95:13). The conditions are emphatic: “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 78:7). The saints must learn to do by doing, and however impractical it may seem they must follow instructions—”Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). “Verily thus saith the Lord, it is expedient that all things be done unto my glory, by you who are joined together in this order” (D&C 78:8). This is a “counsel, and a commandment, concerning . . . [the] united order, . . . an everlasting order”—not for some future time, but to save the church now—”for the benefit of my church, and for the salvation of men until I come” (D&C 104:1). Again, not waiting until he does come. We are assured that it will always work, and the people “should be blessed with a multiplicity of blessings” (D&C 104:2).
I am not free to observe the law of consecration partially or to subordinate to other interests. All of our how-to-get-rich books, including those by Latter-day Saints, insist that the only way to succeed in any enterprise is to give it undivided, dedicated attention. A prosperous member of a ward in which my son was in the bishopric was wont to say that what he liked best about the gospel was that it was just like a cafeteria, where you could take what you want and leave what you want. Some maintain that by making a substantial contribution they are keeping the law of consecration. But if I keep only some of the Ten Commandments, I am not keeping the Ten Commandments; if I pay some of my tithing I am not paying tithing; if I keep the law of obedience, doing things God’s way, when I find it convenient, I am not keeping that law; a person who is chaste some of the time is not keeping the law of chastity; if I part with odds and ends from time to time, I am not observing the law of sacrifice; a minifast of say twenty minutes or so between meals is not fasting.
Yet that is the condition we are all in, since no one is perfect in keeping any law; but now things have reached a critical point, and we have been told to repent. A young man asked the Lord what he must do to have eternal life. Did he keep all the commandments? The Lord went through the list. Yes, said the young man, “What lack I yet?” What he lacked was the last and hardest to keep of all the commandments—had he consecrated his goods to the poor? No. “He went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:20-22). The Lord could make no concessions or exceptions and had to let him go. The disciples were “exceedingly amazed” (Matthew 19:25) when the Lord explained to them that wealth is an almost insuperable barrier to entering the kingdom. It is plain that the apostles themselves had kept the law of consecration, for Peter said, “Behold, we have forsaken all and followed thee” (Matthew 19:27). How hard the ministry have worked to rationalize themselves out of that one!
So it would seem that I could find no practical objections. Is the law of consecration “unworldly”? Of course it is! I have accepted the law of God and the law of obedience, accepting “this commandment, that ye bind yourselves by this covenant, and it shall be done according to the laws of the Lord” (D&C 82:15); it is “for your good” (D&C 82:16), though you may want to do it your way. “That’s all very well for the next world,” I may say, “but in this world there is a lot of dirty work that must be done; we can think of the ivory tower later on.” I have noticed that the people who say that are never the people who do the dirty work but have others do it for them through the exercise of useful legal fictions. “Your sins . . . are not pardoned, because you seek to counsel in your own ways. And your hearts are not satisfied. And ye obey not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls. . . . Wo unto you poor men . . . whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!” (D&C 56:14-17). What do the two have in common? Both want riches; “ye are cursed because of your riches, and also are your riches cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them” (Helaman 13:21). The same requirements are made of rich and poor, namely a broken heart and contrite spirit, contentment with sufficiency (1 Timothy 6:5-8), no envy of another’s possessions, no preoccupation of getting more, not acquiring by the labor of others. God rejects all our rationalizations, our fervid moral tone and glorification of those traits of character that lead to success. These are often held up by the youth as peculiar to the tycoon, overlooking the fact that the same qualities of persistence, courage, dedication, enterprise, ingenuity, and so on, are in far greater demand for success in almost any other field of activity—science, athletics, music, literature, scholarship, crime, politics, and so on—than in business: the existence of over six hundred thousand millionaires in the land over against a mere handful of truly productive scientists and artists should make that clear. Forget your systems and methods; “It must needs be done in my own way”—not yours! “And behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low” (D&C 104:16).
Why the working of the law of consecration remains still only something I would like to see is that the individual cannot keep it alone. The essence of the law is sharing. “The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concerted effort,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “never attended individual exertion or enterprise.”12 The first rule is to “remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted” (D&C 52:40). “And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken” (D&C 42:30). This is frankly a redistribution of wealth, “for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel” (D&C 42:39). “And if thou obtainest more than that which would be for thy support, thou shalt give it into my storehouse” (D&C 42:55). All distribution is on the basis of need; the question of who is deserving never arises. Writing from Liberty Jail, Joseph tells how the enemies of the church have twisted the law of consecration to include a community of wives, and so he explains, “Now for a man to consecrate his property and his wife & children to the Lord, is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and the father-less, the sick, and the afflicted, and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for him and his house to serve the Lord”; then he explains the basis for distribution: “When we consecrate our property to the Lord it is to administer to the wants of the poor and needy, for this is the law of God; it is not for the purpose of the rich, those who have no need.”13
In the matter of deserving there are two schools of thought. There is the Good Samaritan or King Benjamin school, which does not ask whether a poor man is deserving or whether he has “brought [it] upon himself” (Mosiah 4:17-18) but only considers his need. The other school is that which punches the computer to find out exactly who deserves what. More interesting are the two schools of the deserving rich. One is the school of Andrew Carnegie, whose motto was “the man who dies thus rich dies disgraced,” following the doctrine that there is only one legitimate reason for seeking wealth, and that is to get rid of it.14 The other is the Malcom Forbes school of thought, which teaches that possession of wealth is itself sufficient proof of virtue, and that the rich are deserving of all the fun, glamor, prestige, admiration, envy, and emulation that only wealth can bring; this is the prevailing school of thought among us.15
But more than enough is more than enough: “Every man shall be made accountable unto me, a steward over his own property, or that which he has received by consecration, as much as is sufficient for himself and family” (D&C 42:32). It is from this that one pays tithing. Tithing is not consecration and does not supersede it. To pay a tithe of what is sufficient and no more is to pay a real tithe, given out of one’s own necessities, something of a test and a sacrifice, as tithing is meant to be. Ten percent taken out of a surplus that one will never miss or need is indeed a strange “offering.”
I do have private property under the law of consecration, but it is the terms private and property in the private and proper sense, of something intimately and personally necessary to one’s functioning in the world. “Thou shalt not take thy brother’s garment; thou shalt pay for that which thou shalt receive of thy brother” (D&C 42:54). This is what is meant by private and property: something intimate, personal, and indispensable, like a person’s garment, the sort of thing everyone must have for his own under any economic system. One may not accumulate property, for then it ceases to be property and falls into the forbidden category of “power and gain.” Oil under arctic seas or mahogany in unexplored jungles can be neither private nor property, save by a theory of possession cultivated in another quarter.
The conditions of sharing demanded by the Lord can only be satisfied by complete equality, a point that is ceaselessly repeated. The purpose and intent in the order is “that you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if you are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things” (D&C 78:5-6). “Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal” (D&C 70:14). “And let every man esteem his brother as himself. . . . For what man . . . saith unto the one [son]: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?” (D&C 38:24-26). You must follow my instructions, saith the Lord, and “I am no respecter of persons” (D&C 1:35). He explains that he made the earth and made it rich and there is no excuse for poverty; everything we have is a free gift from him, “and I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, . . . a land of promise, . . . flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh” (D&C 38:18). Why should there be a curse on the land? In the first vision the Lord declared, “behold, the world lieth in sin,” and the reason for that is given in D&C 49:20: “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.”
Substance is shared on the basis of need alone. “And you are to be equal, . . . 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 [that is, the things he happens to lack that everyone should have], inasmuch as his wants are just” (D&C 82:17). Note that the question of the deserving poor never arises. Who decides what is necessary for your support? You do; you are accountable for that decision; that is your stewardship (D&C 42:32-33, 55). The presiding bishop “also should travel round about and among all the churches, searching after the poor to administer to their wants by humbling the rich and the proud” (D&C 84:112). We cannot be equal, as the Lord commands, and live on different levels of affluence. True, some are stronger than others, some are smarter than others, but our gifts and talents were given us to be put at the disposal of our fellowman, not to be put at our disposal in the manner of Nimrod. “This is my work and my glory” to see to it that others get a full share of the glory and the work—to bring about eternal life and exaltation (Moses 1:39). The Lord descended below all things that he might raise all the others up. The bishop is assisted by agents “to do his secular business” (D&C 84:113), which is also spiritual in nature in this context: Ye cannot be one in spiritual things if ye are not one in temporal things (D&C 70:12-13). “And . . . more than is necessary for their [his family’s] support . . . is a residue to be consecrated unto the bishop . . . to administer to those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants” (D&C 42:33). The most concise statement of the law is that of King Benjamin: “Render to every man according to that which is his due” (Mosiah 4:13). Something is due to every human being, and something is due from every human being. What is it? “I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath . . . to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26). Everything depends, of course, on the spirit in which this is carried out. “You shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of . . . the Spirit shall be withheld” (D&C 70:14). “God had often sealed up the heavens [and no revelation given] because of covetousness in the Church.”16
The title of this series being what it is, “Breakthroughs 1984,” we should be remiss in our duty not to mention George Orwell’s book that has made 1984 a year to conjure by.17 Consulting convenient collections of reviews of Orwell’s novel at the time it appeared in 1949, one is impressed today by the optimism of the critics, who often take the position that Orwell has gone too far in depicting total mind-control in such a near future; surely, they say, the people of the free world can never be so easily manipulated.
Alas, how innocent we were in those days! Who could have guessed that in the real 1984 it would not be necessary for “The Party” to go to great pains to “control the past” by systematically removing from old news files and libraries whatever records refuted the Party’s prophecies, replacing them by a more favorable rewriting of the past. In the real 1984, it made no difference whatever what had been said and done in the past—people would take anything they were told here and now without question if the presentation pleased them. Who could have known that in the real 1984, 97 percent of the students at a university, a shrine of free and unhampered thought, would all vote exactly alike, unwilling to consider the issues that their candidate simply refused to discuss? Or who would have thought that all those laborious and ingenious ways of controlling the press in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four would only be wasted effort in the real 1984, when a candidate could cheerfully ignore the press and win by a landslide?
Control of people’s behavior is achieved in the novel by what Mr. Orwell calls the telescreen (a word of his invention),18 a TV screen that also monitors everything that goes on in every house and cannot be switched off. How much simpler it has proven in our own day to control their acts by controlling their minds, debauching them with TV fare that they want and ask for, so that they are psychologically unable to turn it off or to resist following its cunningly crafted instructions, disguised as entertainment and good cheer?
What we have in Orwell’s book is, Sir Harold Nicolson notes, “an awful twilight of the mind”19—a thing we are being warned against even now in the schools of 1984. Paralysis of thought is assured in the Orwellian world by the cultivation of “Newspeak” or “Doublespeak,” in which words mean whatever the father figure, called Big Brother, wants them to mean. Thucydides notes the phenomenon in his day when “words lost their meaning,” so that no one could be sure of anyone else. With mental and moral decline went “a new kind of prudery, disgusting in its unctuousness and hypocrisy.”20 Where could one find this more in evidence than in the local election of 1984? In the novel, everything is run by “The Party.” Which party? It makes no difference, most of the reviewers agree. As an eminent German scholar wrote, Orwell warns against “dangers that are typical of our age anywhere [in the world], . . . danger that lies within ourselves and in all political systems of our time.”21
To retain loyalty and enthusiasm, Orwell’s Party has everybody “bursting with energy all the time, . . . marching up and down cheering and waving flags.”22 It is possible to keep up the pressure thanks to a condition of constant war, hot and cold, between two or three great Super Powers that divide the world, each constantly reminding its citizens that the other is an Empire of Evil. The object of all this is power; “power is not a means,” says one of the characters; “it is an end. . . . The object of power is power”—a phrase right out of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s writings.23 Most reviewers are repelled by the sadistic cruelty of the Party in the person of O’Brien: “Mr. Orwell has conceived the inconceivable,”24 wrote one reviewer; but what is inconceivable in the real 1984 when the leader of a state solemnly declares, “Against Marxism nothing is wrong.” If nothing is wrong, what cruelty remains inconceivable?
The book ends in “smells of death, decay, dirt, diabolism and despair.”25 Diabolism indeed—it is Satan’s dominion (D&C 1:35). Some see in this the end of the world, not a physical end but something much worse. The worst thing about hell, as Alma has made clear, is to be at home there; and in the famous last sentence of Nineteen Eighty-Four, “He loved Big Brother,”26 the hero ends up totally in Satan’s power. Is this then the alternative to keeping the law of God? It is if we would listen to a Harvard sociologist who, viewing Orwell’s world and modern society as a whole, concludes that no other kind of a system is imaginable for the future—he can think of no alternative. Neither can we unless it is the law of consecration, which turns out after all to be the only workable solution.
So what is our present condition? Can you imagine a more horrendous paradox than “Zion, the Fraud Capital of the World”? Saith the Lord, “You have many things to do and to repent of; . . . your sins . . . are not pardoned, because you seek to counsel in your own ways. . . . Your hearts are not satisfied. And ye obey not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness” (D&C 56:14-15). What unrighteousness? The explanation follows: “Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls [the scriptures call wealth a cancer, a pernicious, malignant growth]; and this shall be your lamentation. . . . The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!” (D&C 56:16). This time of probation is to be taken seriously, for the poor as well if they too seek riches (D&C 56:17). What the Lord insists on is that all who qualify must be “pure in heart” (D&C 56:18).
Adam was cast out of the garden into an alien world where he had to work his head off just to stay alive, and this is our excuse today for total absorption in the economy. But Adam was not only given protection and told what to do until help arrived, but also “after many days” an angel came and began to teach him what he must do to reverse his condition at once and begin his return to the presence of the Father. For this he took the same covenants that we take today. Satan had already introduced his order of things on the earth, where money was the name of the game, and the treasures of the earth could get you anything you wanted. Adam refused his propositions and the devil took his business elsewhere, to Cain, who learned from him how to get gain by becoming a predator and whose master’s thesis was an exercise in getting possession of his brother’s flocks. He said it was all perfectly legal in the name of free competition; he was not responsible for Abel.
According to the best and oldest account, as soon as the Lord introduced himself to the Prophet Joseph in the first vision, he declared, “Behold the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one. . . . And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording [sic] to this ungodliness.”27 “The world lieth in sin”—what is the cause of that? It is explained in D&C 49:19-20: “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.” For those who wonder how the Nephites could turn so quickly from righteousness to wickedness the prophet explains, “Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, . . . tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world” (3 Nephi 6:15). Let us recall that it was Satan’s assignment to try man and to tempt him, and after considering all other approaches, this is the one he would find most effective. His business, as Brigham Young says, is to decoy us from our proper callings to seeking after those things. The wealth of the earth is to provide a means of subsistence during our time of probation here below; all have to take the test, and lunch is provided for all of them, “for the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” (D&C 104:17-18). Who can be “agents unto themselves” if they are in bondage to others and have to accept their terms? The abundance of supplies is not placed here as the reward for which we are all striving—that is Satan’s decoy trick, that is what he promises those who serve him—the famous “pact with the devil,” by which Mephisto supplies you with all the wealth and power you could dream of as long as you are here, but as soon as it is time to leave he presents his bill and you belong to him. This is not the place of judgment, but there will be a judgment hereafter. To take the test we must all stay alive, but we have made staying alive the test itself, as if we had come to this earth to spend our days of probation grabbing more and more stuff or sweating to get enough lunch. Like medicine, the stuff of this earth is to preserve life; too much of it is unnecessary and dangerous and so is not enough. Without the law of consecration men have set themselves up as judges of who is worthy to live and have joy on the earth. If an “ergometer” could be designed to tell exactly how much work everyone did, that would be a great eye-opener and put an instant end to the “work ethic.” Lacking such a device, we equate wealth with work, saying that each is the measurement of the other. Mozart died young and in poverty, a lazy bum. Mr. Mughiba, with his hundred and fifty billion petro dollars, must certainly be the hardest worker who ever lived.
The greatest of the breakthroughs have occurred when the Lord has come in person to deliver the message, which has ever been “in the days of wickedness and vengeance” (Moses 7:46). When the Lord came to Enoch he told him, “Among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren” (Moses 7:36), and he declared, “The fire of mine indignation is kindled against them” (Moses 7:34). When Enoch asked the Lord if the world would have another chance, if he would come again, “the Lord said: It shall be in the meridian of time, in the days of wickedness and vengeance” (Moses 7:46). When Enoch saw the horrors that would follow that, he again asked, “I ask thee if thou wilt not come again on the earth. And the Lord said unto Enoch: As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance” (Moses 7:59-60). And so when the Lord repeated those words to Joseph Smith in the grove, “the world lieth in sin at this time, none doeth good . . . and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth,”28 we are all in it together, and there is no Zion here.
Brigham Young as governor once addressed the state legislature in terms that show us his idea of Zion, a Zion as far removed as the remotest galaxy from what we have today: “You are now assembled in a legislative capacity, are so remote from the highwrought excitement and consequent entangling questions common to the populous marts of national and international commerce, are so little prone to deem mere property, rank, titles and office the highest prizes for human effort, . . . that your duties [are far from] . . . that varied, perplexing and intricate description so characteristic of the legislation of most if not all other communities. . . . These pursuits . . . are tame and uninteresting to those who dwell amid the whirl of mental and physical energies constantly taxed to their utmost tension in the selfish, unsatisfying and frenzied quest of worldly emolument, fame, power, and maddening draughts from the syren [sic] cup of pleasure.”29 This is the world of the prime-time super soaps, which, with all their crime, violence, and sex, a recent study has shown, have become immensely popular not as an escape from reality but as a vision of the world of affluence for which we yearn and to which we aspire.
I started out by saying that I would stick to the scriptures, and I must. I would not dare to describe our times in such words as these, but they were written to be quoted, and they promise yet another breakthrough: “For the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day. . . . For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men. . . . Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting; . . . and, behold, the enemy is combined” (D&C 38:8, 11-12). May you yet live to see that great breakthrough.
1. Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962).
2. “The Morning Breaks,” in Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), hymn 1.
3. “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling,” ibid., hymn 7.
4. “The Spirit of God,” ibid., hymn 2.
5. “An Angel from on High,” ibid., hymn 13.
6. The Pearl of Great Price (Liverpool: Richards, 1851), 47.
7. Percy B. Shelley, “To a Skylark,” The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Roger Ingpen and Walter E. Peck, 10 vols. (New York: Gordian, 1965), 2:305.
8. Elden J. Watson, Brigham Young Addresses 1870-1877, 6 vols. (unpublished), 6 (1 June 1876).
9. John M. Allegro, The Treasure of the Copper Scroll (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1960), 61-62.
10. JD 2:305-6 (emphasis added).
11. Ibid., 2:306 (emphasis added).
12. TPJS 183.
13. Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984), 379 (emphasis added).
14. Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth (New York: Century, 1900), 19.
15. Any issue of Forbes magazine.
16. TPJS 9.
17. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1949).
18. Ibid., 7.
19. Harold Nicolson, “Review of Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Observer (12 June 1949): 7.
20. Philip Rahv, “Review of Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Partisan Review (July 1949): 743-49.
21. Golo Mann, “Review of Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Frankfurter Rundshau (5 November 1949): 6.
22. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 134.
23. Ibid., 266-67.
24. Diana Trilling, “Review of Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Nation (25 June 1949): 716-17.
25. Fredric Warburg, “Publisher’s Report,” All Authors Are Equal (London: Hutchinson, 1973), 103-4.
26. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 300.
27. The 1832 recital of the First Vision as dictated by Joseph Smith to Frederick G. Williams. See Milton V. Backman, Joseph Smith’s First Vision (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971), appendix A; cf. Dean C. Jessee, ed., “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” BYU Studies 9 (1969): 280.
29. Excerpted from the governor’s message given to the legislative assembly of the territory of Utah on December 15, 1857; reported in the Deseret News 7 (23 December 1857): 330.