Law of Consecration
The “Old Law”—the Only Law
As there was only one law given to Israel, so there is only one law given to the human race, the law by which the sons and daughters of God are supposed to live in this world. All are capable of observing it, otherwise it would not be required of them. It is a minimum requirement; anyone can be expected to keep it (Zechariah 14:17-18). All the families of the earth that don’t come up to Jerusalem to make their offerings, for them there will be no rain. Untold millions have accepted the law, but only a handful of people at brief and scattered intervals have lived up to it. It was given complete to Moses, but the people would not receive it, so he could give them only a part of it (Exodus 32:19; cf. JST Exodus 34:1-2). Moses smashed the tablets, which was as he prophesied.
The partial law was in the province of the Aaronic Priesthood; the bishop administered it. In his farewell speech, Moses concluded by declaring, “I know what a stiffnecked people you are. If you were rebellious while I am still alive with you, how will you behave when I am gone? Bring the elders together so that I can speak a final word to them and call heaven and earth to record against them. For I know that after my death you will be utterly corrupt and turn aside from the way I commanded” (see Deuteronomy 31:27-29). Israel never heard the law, not even the lesser law. Repeatedly on that occasion, Moses reminded them, “Behold I set before you this day a blessing and a curse” (Deuteronomy 11:26). “If thou wilt not hearken, . . . these curses are for you.” Then he repeated a list of promised blessings in reverse (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil. . . . I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19).
The children of Israel were not being put to an unfair test; as Nephi says, anyone who is righteous will qualify. “If the former inhabitants of the land had been righteous, they would have qualified too” (cf. 1 Nephi 17:33-38). For the people accepted the condition wholeheartedly, after each cursing. Moses went down the list and said: “All the people cried with a loud voice, Amen!” for they were accepting the curse along with the blessing (Deuteronomy 27:14-26); the same pattern occurs in the opening lines of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Serekh Scroll.1 Everyone comes together. The law is put before them point by point. “Do you accept it?” “Yes.” “Do you accept the berakhah,” the blessing? “Yes.” “Do you accept the curse?” “Yes.” “Amen.” They must accept it all before they can continue with their endowment.
Those who have accepted the covenant are expected not to follow the world but to be set apart from it—to be completely sanctified. “Ye stand this day all of you before Jehovah, [before] your God, . . . that he may establish thee today for a people unto himself” (Deuteronomy 29:10, 13). Let there be none with mental reservations as to what he has sworn to. That would be gall and wormwood (Deuteronomy 29:18), for God will not be mocked; if anyone thinks that the words apply to him only in a limited sense and says to himself, “This won’t bother me, I’ll just go my way,” the Lord will not spare him. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him (Deuteronomy 29:18-19). Because you are something different from the world—holy, set apart, chosen, special, peculiar (am segullah—sealed), not like any other people on the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 7:6), God will keep faith with you all the way. He wants to bless you for a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9). To reject such an offer is to incur the judgment of God; despised love turns to hate: despise not the gifts of God!
The Book of Mormon ends on that theme. “Deny not the gifts of God!” says Moroni (Moroni 10:8; Mormon 9:26-27). God intends to bless you above all other people; he will be a veritable Zion of eternal increase without sickness (Deuteronomy 7:14-15). And this law will remain the law until God himself sees fit to change it (Deuteronomy 4:2). But you must not consider it as a mere heritage, something for the ancients, nothing but a venerable tradition; it is given explicitly to “those living right now and right here” (cf. Deuteronomy 5:3). It was always to apply in the present, and it will never be rescinded. It is a standing law.
One does not enter lightly into such a covenant. To organize a race of priests in ancient as in modern days, God processed all volunteers by a series of preparatory steps. First, there is an initiatory stage in which one is physically set apart from the world: actually washed, anointed, given a protective garment, and clothed in sanctified robes.2 This is merely preliminary and qualifies one to proceed, in earnest not of what one has become, but of what one may and wishes to become.
After the initiatory, the candidates are assembled and asked (and this we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as in many other ancient works): “Do you agree and are you resolved to do things his way rather than your way—to follow the law of God?” The candidate is not told at this time what the law of God requires, only whether he is willing to trust God’s judgment and accept it no matter what it is. After that, all argument is out of the question.
Next the candidate is asked, “If so, will you be obedient to him no matter what he asks of you?”—a commitment to obedience before demand is made.
The next step is more specific and more serious: “Will you willingly sacrifice anything he asks for, including your own life?”
Whoever accepts this in the solemnity of the occasion may easily relax his resolve in days that follow, and so the next question is, “Will you at all times behave morally and soberly?”—that is, take all this very seriously, not just now but every day throughout your life. Thus a pattern of life is set to implement this. Your determination must be confirmed by your deportment at all times. This is the law of the gospel.
Finally God says, “Very well, this is what I want you to do” (see Deuteronomy 5:6). The next verse begins to describe the Ten Commandments, implemented by a strict and specific regime. It begins with general orders, to be observed all the times. The Ten Commandments are standing orders. What follows are the necessary steps to implement the law and put it into operation. The book of Moses is the law, the Torah. The prophets that follow don’t add to the law; they but appeal to the people to observe it, to return to it, because the people, again and again, haven’t been observing it. Whether Isaiah, Jeremiah, or the minor prophets, they decry the conditions of the people. They promise destruction. Why? Because the people have not kept the law. All the prophets promised that things would be wonderful if the people would only keep the law. That’s the message of the prophets: Keep the law. It will be wonderful if you do, and terrible if you don’t. This is the message. This is the one law that Moses gave.
First of all, the community are to establish a center, that they may be united, a “place which Jehovah your God has chosen out of all your tribes to put his name there for his dwelling; ye shall seek that place out and go there. That is where ye shall bring your sacrifices, burnt offerings, heave offerings, tithes, freewill offerings, firstlings. There you shall hold your feasts before the Lord joyfully with your families” (cf. Deuteronomy 12:5-7). The first thing every individual will do in the New Land when the holy place is established is personally offer his firstfruits in a basket. Note that this is a personal law. The individual acts with the multitude. Each is to set the first-fruits before the altar and recite this speech: “A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt . . . and became there a nation, . . . and the Egyptians treated us badly. The Lord brought us forth, . . . and brought us to this place and has given us this land” (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). What the King James Version renders “Syrian” is an Aramaean; Abraham was the first Hebrew, meaning a displaced person, a tramp, an outcast. He was always homeless, always wandering.
The theme is sacrifice, which was also the theme of Abraham’s life. That is what you do in the ordinance. The ordinance, from beginning to end, up and down the whole scale, Aaronic to Melchizedek, is the offering, and so is the theme of Abraham’s own life. The test is whether one will cheat the Lord: “A tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand [always the singular] is required at the feast of the weeks” (i.e., Pentecost; cf. Deuteronomy 16:10). The offering, the tribute, is required; but the amount you determine yourself, by your free will; a helpful hint is the basis “how much the Lord has given you” (the Septuagint kathoti he chier sou ichyei—to the limit of your ability): “According to that which he has given you, even that with which your God hath blessed you.” He requires you to take the test, which is whether you will try to short change him (Deuteronomy 16:10).
Three times a year (at the feasts of the unleavened bread, weeks, and tabernacles), all males come together, and “every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). And how much is one able to give? Exactly as much as the Lord has given him—all that with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you. We don’t realize how close our temple is to the ancient one or how near the ancient one is to ours. The new temple documents coming forth confirm this, and the Jewish scholars recognize it. All such dealings are between the individual and the Lord; men do not make deals with one another in this economy. That is an abomination (Deuteronomy 16:19). You must never get the idea “when you have eaten and are full and your silver and gold has piled up along with everything else” that you have earned it, “and say to yourself, ‘my ability and hard work have made for me this fortune’ ” (cf. Deuteronomy 8:12-13, 17). Bear in mind that God has given you the capacity to get what you have only for the sake of confirming the covenant which he made with your fathers—it is their merit, not yours, that has deserved it (Deuteronomy 8:18). If you forget that in any degree, you will be destroyed, just like other nations, because you would not obey the voice of Jehovah your God (Deuteronomy 8:19-20). This is not being done because of your righteousness: “Speak not thou in thine heart . . . saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out” (Deuteronomy 9:4). Because you are not righteous, but wicked, “Jehovah has given you this good land not as a reward of righteousness, because in fact you are a stiffnecked people” (cf. Deuteronomy 9:5-6). In these chapters, the Lord calls Israel down just as they are entering the covenant, saying, “I’ve changed my mind. I think I’ll give it to someone else.” Moses pleads with him passionately to spare Israel. And this special pleading by Moses to the Lord is all that saves the people from destruction.
There is to be no dickering or cheating: “Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord . . . any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish or any evil-favoredness: for that is an abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 17:1). Trying to put one over on God—he won’t mind—is a cheap trick, and a mean one. In all these doings it is you who are being tested.
Every generation was to observe the covenants exactly as agreed: “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” How? By the most effective teaching, not by precept only, not by attending a class. The yeshiva (“a school for advanced Talmudic study”) comes later. “Talk of them when you are sitting at home, talk of them whenever you are on the move, about town or on a journey, talk of them going to bed and getting up” (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7). In other words, they overhear what you are talking about; it becomes just natural for them to assume that that is the way things are. It is not to be left in the hands of professional teachers: “Bind them for a sign on your hand, . . . between the eyes; . . . write them on the doorposts of your houses [but always individually] and gateways” (cf. Deuteronomy 6:8-9). You have it individually, not just the priests—that is, to make children ask questions, and you answer their questions by telling them the story of Moses, the deliverance from Egypt, what our obligation is, how grateful we should be, and about the giving of the law (Deuteronomy 6:20).
At the same time, the law tests us in our dealings with each other. The cornerstone of the whole economy is “the Lord’s release.” At the end of every seven years, every creditor must cancel all debts (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). Because you get into the whirlpool of debt, this policy puts things on a new basis. It wipes the slate clean, the only way you can possibly break out, by an absolute law that cuts debts right off. With all men, either debtors or creditors, this is not a convenient arrangement; yet it is the only way. Only God can draw the line and say, “Here the business of exploiting each other must stop.” The Lord guarantees to make up any losses to those who keep the law, “for the Lord will greatly bless you” if, but only if, you “carefully hearken to observe and do these commandments” (cf. Deuteronomy 15:4-5).
Now comes the important part of the business, which is the spirit in which it is all done: “If there be a poor man of your brethren living anywhere within your knowledge, . . . thou shalt not harden thy heart nor shut thy hand from thy poor brother. But thou shalt open thy hand wide unto him and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, of whatever he is in want” (cf. Deuteronomy 15:7-8). Since it is a loan, “beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, the seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; if I give anything to him now, he will not have to repay it, and I will never get it back; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought, and he cry unto the Lord, . . . and it be sin unto thee” (cf. Deuteronomy 15:9). This is not to be regarded as a business operation: “Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him” (Deuteronomy 15:10). (I hate to do this, but it is the law!—however fiscally unsound. You shouldn’t give if that is the way you feel about it.) If you give in the spirit God requires, you will not be without your reward, “because . . . for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee [no amount specified] in all thy works” (Deuteronomy 8:10). And now comes that famous verse quoted by the Lord: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11; cf. Matthew 26:8-11). This is taken by many as welcome proof of the hopelessness of trying to end poverty and the futility of giving; in the Bible it means just the opposite. In the New Testament, Judas had protested that the costly ointment used to anoint Jesus’ feet could better have been sold for the benefit of the poor, but Jesus reminded him that if he was so eager to help the poor, he would always have excellent opportunities, while the Son of Man was to be with them only for a day or two. But the poor you have always with you; you have plenty of time to bless them. That is not an excuse to help them; it’s an obligation to help them all the more. Likewise in Deuteronomy the presence of the poor is presented as offering an opportunity to please God: “Therefore, I command thee, saying, thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). After six years of service, any and all servants must go absolutely free, no matter what was paid for them; “and . . . thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, . . . out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God has blessed thee thou shalt give unto him” (Deuteronomy 15:13-14). Why? “Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt and the Lord thy God redeemed thee [bought you free; paid the price]. Therefore I command thee this thing to day” (Deuteronomy 15:15). Inasmuch as the Lord has given his life for you, we should be willing to give everything. That is what Deuteronomy 15 says. Again the important point: “It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free” (Deuteronomy 15:18). “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee” (Deuteronomy 23:15)—human rights supersede property rights. Not only shall the refugee “dwell with thee . . . in that place which he shall choose, . . . but while he is with you thou shalt not tonennu [grumble, mutter about it under your breath] about him” (cf. Deuteronomy 23:16)—a neat psychological touch. Passing through a neighbor’s vineyard, help yourself to what you can eat; if he denies you that, he is greedy. But you may not carry off any in a container—if you do that, then you are greedy (Deuteronomy 23:24). The idea is that we have sufficient for our needs. Everyone is to have that much if he is to take the test that life puts before us. To play a game, you must have the minimum of equipment; you can’t spend all day trying to save up enough for gym shoes or a helmet.
Everyone is under a sacred obligation to get involved—and this is important in the ancient lot. Everything concerns you; you are your brother’s keeper. “If you see a stray ox or sheep and recognize it, you must absolutely return it to your brother” (cf. Deuteronomy 22:1). If you don’t recognize it, you keep nothing you find for yourself; you must hold it until an owner shows up (Deuteronomy 22:2-3). If you see someone’s ox or ass fall down, you cannot pretend not to notice or make yourself scarce, like the priest or Levite passing by on the other side (Deuteronomy 22:4; Luke 10:30-32). Remember Moroni: “Why do ye . . . suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?” (Mormon 8:39). If someone falls from the roof of your house because you have failed to put a railing around it, you may not plead contributory negligence (Deuteronomy 22:8). “You cannot take for a pledge a millstone or anything else upon which a man’s livelihood depends” (see Deuteronomy 24:6). You may not go to the house of a creditor to take something as security, but stand at a distance and let him bring it out to you—his house is sacred (Deuteronomy 24:10-11). If the security is something he needs, you must return it to him by sundown (Deuteronomy 24:13). You shall not appeal to the iron law of wages, paying a worker as little as you can because he is desperate for work, and this applies to strangers, the wetbacks, as well as to Israelites (Deuteronomy 24:14). You must pay a worker every day before sundown, “for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it”; everyone has a right to his daily bread (see Deuteronomy 24:15). Well-known is the law of the gleaning: “When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19). In beating the olive trees, thou shalt not glean them afterward (Deuteronomy 24:20). Best known of all is the law “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn” (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18)—he is working for you; give him a break. Do the decent thing, but you won’t make money that way. The vilest criminal may be punished with a beating but never to the point where he is robbed of his human dignity, lest “thy brother . . . seem vile to thee” (Deuteronomy 25:3).
In other words, the whole law is validated only when carried out in the right spirit: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Behold, “everything in heaven and earth belongs to him” (cf. Deuteronomy 10:14), and “all mortals are his children, all living things his creatures; he does right by the orphan and the widow, and he loves the stranger and wants him provided with food and clothing” (cf. Deuteronomy 10:18). These reflect God’s attributes, which must be ours also: “Therefore you must do the same: love the stranger, remembering that you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (cf. Deuteronomy 10:19). This is repeated over and over again; it is empathy—remember how you felt when you were down and out, put yourself in their place, and do something about it! If they fail to act on this principle, “heaven will be brass over thy head and the earth will be iron beneath thy feet” (cf. Deuteronomy 28:23). “The Lord himself will cause you to be smitten before your enemies” (cf. Deuteronomy 23:25). Promised disasters go on and on, matching every promised blessing with a curse, “till thou be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 28:45). And all this “because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (Deuteronomy 28:47). In short, “as the Lord rejoiced . . . to do you good, and to multiply you; so the Lord will rejoice . . . to destroy you, and reduce you to nothing” (cf. Deuteronomy 28:63). You will have no security at all; thou “shalt have none assurance of thy life” (Deuteronomy 28:66). Therefore, “rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you” (Deuteronomy 26:11). All shall share equally, “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates and be filled” (Deuteronomy 26:12). The Lord insists that you do and observe these things with all your heart and soul (that is the first of the two commandments—all your heart, might, mind, and soul). And you have promised and covenanted this day that you would do that; while he has accepted you this day as a special people, set apart, the wonder of other nations, that you may be a holy people, as he said (cf. Deuteronomy 26:16-19). The first two commandments cover everything, to “love the Lord thy God . . . with all thy might, and these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6). So the law was established and abides to this day, whether anyone keeps it or not, for Moses knew perfectly well that it would not be kept: “Ye have been rebellious against the Lord ever since the day I first became acquainted with you” (cf. Deuteronomy 9:24).
The Law Carries On Despite the Opposition
We have said that there is only one law, the law given to Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, the ancient apostles, the Nephites; all those who have the law also appeal to all the rest of the world to enter the covenant and accept that law. All of them were missionaries. Its rejection has been almost total, though millions have done lip service to it. How much more kind, just, humane, and edifying is the strict law of Moses we just reviewed than the laws of the land we live today. To cover our delinquency in the attempt to distance ourselves from it and its responsibilities, we have downgraded the old law even to the point of contempt. It was the theological schools and seminaries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Protestant seminaries) who invented the savage, vengeful, primitive, tribal God of the Old Testament, who fitted so well into the pattern of evolution. But already in ancient times, we know the Jews denatured and diluted the law with legalistic trivia, and the Christians went along with that and evaded Moses’s commandments by holding in abomination every aspect of Jewish culture (as we read in the Merchant of Venice), making the whole thing alien and repulsive.
In giving his children the law, God repeatedly specifies that he is placing before them two ways, the ways of life and death, light and darkness. For parallel to the one law runs another. It is part of the plan that Satan should be allowed to try us and to tempt us to see whether we would prove faithful in all things: Who does not live up to every covenant made with the Lord will be in his power (cf. Moses 4:4, 5:23). So we find ourselves drawn in two directions (Moroni 7:11-13). Thus this life becomes a special test of probation set before us in this world—it is an economic one. If the law of consecration is the supreme test of virtue—the final one—money is to be the supreme temptation to vice; sex runs a poor second, but on both counts, this is the time and place for us to meet the challenge of the flesh. It is the weakness of the flesh in both cases to prove our spirits stronger than the pull of matter, to assert our command over the new medium of physical bodies before proceeding onward to another state of existence. As Brigham Young often repeats, “God has given us the things of this world to see what we will do with them.” The test will be whether we will set our hearts on the four things that lead to destruction. Whoever seeks for (1) wealth, (2) power, (3) popularity, and (4) the pleasures of the flesh—anyone who seeks those will be destroyed, says the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 22:23; 3 Nephi 6:15). Need we point out that those four things compose the whole substance of success in the present-day world. They are the things that money will get you.
Satan’s power is over the flesh, over which he intended to take direct control. “Well, we’ll just take control of their bodies directly.” “No, you don’t,” said the Lord, and he set up a formidable barrier. “I will place enmity between thy seed and the serpent.” It is the first line of defense, a natural revulsion one feels at the sight of a deadly serpent. You jump a mile high, whether it is poisonous or not. You don’t take a chance; you move when you first see the snake. That is your first line of defense. Though a good one, it can be broken down; and just as you can do an end-run around that defense, you can also do it around the law of consecration. How can that obstacle be broken down? Satan boldly announced his clever plan to use that very enmity to his advantage and set men against each other by it in a rule of blood and horror. How? By offering men “anything in this world for money” and so making men competitive—competitive in a big way. He would, with the natural wealth of the earth (precious metals, coal, oil, timber, real estate), as exploited by financiers (manipulation of the money market), buy up armies and navies (they cost the most—the military-industrial complex), and the leaders of nations and churches (who embody power), and rule the earth with terror (a world at war is Satan’s own dominion) (cf. D&C 1:35).
Failing to enlist Adam in this project, Satan approached Cain and taught him the basic principles of business: he took his fee, made him swear confidentiality, taught him how to get rich, and gave him the degree of Master Mahan, making him privy to the “great secret” of how to get the stuff. Cain wanted his brother’s flocks (pecus, Vieh, fee, ghani, qinyan, etc.—all the oldest words for money simply mean flocks; our words fee and pecuniary mean flocks). So he murdered his brother Abel to get gain (Moses 5:50). An important part of the course was to overcome moral scruples; the real master of the game is necessarily a sociopath; he feels no qualms, admits no guilt, and easily defeats the polygraph. Cain, in fact, “gloried in that which he had done” (Moses 5:33). (It is not enough to just live with it, you have to glory in it. Then you feel all right. This was the big obstacle, and he gloried in it. And what gives him the moral right to glory? The greatest of all appeals—freedom. Freedom sanctifies all.) So Cain says, Now “I am free; surely the flocks of my brother fall into my hands” (Moses 5:33). He was free now, so he gloried in what he had done. His murder didn’t bother him in the least. Thus when the Lord asked him, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain said, “That is none of my business; he can take care of himself. If not, that is just too bad for him—he deserves what he gets” (cf. Moses 5:34). It’s a dog-eat-dog world, says the entrepreneur who comforts his ruined investors with the magnanimous submission that life is unfair after all.
The “Mahan principle” is a frank recognition that the world’s economy is based on the exchange of life for property. This is most apparent, of course, in time of war—a Catch-22. Today the biggest business in the world is the selling of deadly weapons by all to all, with the advantage going to the most efficient killing machines. Not long ago it was drugs, but it is all the same in a descending scale of accountability, where none is free from guilt: the hit man, soldier of fortune, weapons dealer, manufacturer, plundering whole species for raw materials, destroying life in both processing them and getting them (by pollution, dangerous work conditions, and so on), and by distributing them (additives, preservatives). The fearful processes of industry shorten and impoverish life at every level, from forced labor to poisonous air and water. This is the world’s economy, for Satan is “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; D&C 127:11; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). The old law is carried on in the Book of Mormon. The Lachish Letters reflect the proper names, a movement restoring the law of Moses in Israel in the time of Lehi. (The Lachish Letters put us right in the picture, and Mosiah is a perfect name come down from Lehi’s time to depict that movement, the restoration of the old Mosiac Law.) Did the Nephites accept the law of consecration? They did indeed, and so did the Lamanites. It achieved its purity and perfection when the Lord himself laid down the rules; they dropped all race distinctions and enjoyed a righteous society for two centuries. “They did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses” (4 Nephi 1:12). Notice the terms performances and ordinances. They were rebuked because their whole law had become a law of ordinances and performances; they had left the spirit out. Now they walked no more by performances and ordinances, which had been considered adequate by the legalistic movement of the rabbis that took over. We know how they lived and had all their things in common. Fourth Nephi presents us with the law of consecration in its purity; it also describes the forces that broke it down.
Again and again we read in the Book of Mormon how “Satan had great power [over the people], . . . tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches” (3 Nephi 6:15). Well, that is his job. We will allow Satan, our common enemy, to try them and tempt them, and he uses the most efficient way. He says, “I’ll try one way,” and the Lord says, “No. I’ve checked you there.” And he says, “I know another way that will really work.” And the Lord lets him do that. Of course, and that is the way we are being tested—tempted to see if we’ll seek wealth, popularity, power, and the pleasures of the flesh. We need not repeat the sophisticated arguments of Korihor (Alma 30), which are still in full force today, save to note that in the Book of Mormon we always hear the bells of Hades ringing whenever that fateful formula is intoned: “They began to set their hearts on riches.”
During the Lord’s earthly ministry, the rich young man who wished to enter the order of the disciples answered in the affirmative all preliminary questions as to his keeping of the commandments: “Not to murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness” (Matthew 19:16-18). He had honored his father and mother and loved his neighbor as himself, so he thought; what else was there to do? (Matthew 19:19-20). One thing more, said the Savior, to be perfect. The word perfect (teleios) does not mean perfect digestion, perfect eyesight, perfect memory, and so on; it is a special word meaning keeping the whole law. What remained for the young man, before he could be really serious (teleios), was keeping the law of consecration. If he did not keep that, he could not be perfect in keeping the others either, in other words, the whole law, for he could not become one of the Lord’s disciples. So there was nothing but for Jesus to dismiss him—and a very sad occasion it was when they parted.
The Lord observed to the apostles that the rich just can’t take it; nevertheless, any alternative plan, any proposal of compromise, easier payments, or tax write-offs, was out of the question. The Lord did not say, “Come back; perhaps we could make a deal.” No, he had to let the young rich man go. One does not compromise on holy things. Unless we observe every promise we make in the endowment, we put ourselves in Satan’s power. Christ’s disciples were already observing the law, for Peter on that same occasion declared, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matthew 19:27). In reply he was given the most satisfying answer possible, being assured by the Lord that he was on the high road to salvation.
When Peter spoke to Adam, which Peter was it? The Peter of Adam’s day? No, the timeless Peter. Satan had just introduced the question of money, asking Peter, “How much money do you have?” “We have enough,” Peter replied—the apostles were observing the law of consecration. Enough was enough; more than enough was more than enough. No more was necessary. It is all right to have enough money to meet your needs. Satan had different ideas: “Oh, no, that is not enough. Everything in this world has a price, and with money you can buy it. You can have it all.” It is the big money that traps people. That is why the law was rejected.
Incidentally, if the young rich man had earned his wealth, what had he done to earn it? Thousands of struggling students at Brigham Young University work harder than anyone would have to work under the law of consecration to make ends meet. Why do we pass them by and notice them not? Is it because of the chilling thought of being like them, or the equally chilling thought of being less rich than we really are? This is the question. Ah, yes, but if you gave these students much more than they have, they would be less spiritual. Is that really so? As long as that condition continues, why should there be a school for the sole purpose of students preparing themselves? It is becoming the only purpose for which anyone attends school anymore. This is a new trend of just the past few years. They go not to get an education but to learn to acquire wealth, to earn more money. Students think there is something idealistic about that because they sacrifice for a time.
The Law Rejected
We need not go into detail to define the law of consecration (as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants) and its implementation. “No revelation that was ever given is more easy of comprehension than that on the law of consecration,” said Brigham Young; and he tells us what it is:
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 that they were mistaken, and had only acknowledged with their mouths that the things which they possessed were the Lord’s.3
It was one of the first commandments or revelations given to this people after they had the privilege of organizing themselves as a Church, as a body, as the kingdom of God on earth. I observed then, and I now think, [as Moses says] that it will be one of the last revelations which the people will receive into their hearts and understandings, of their own free will and choice and esteem it as a pleasure, a privilege, and a blessing unto them to observe and keep most holy.4
Notice that these things are the minimum requirements of the law of Moses, namely, to observe it with all the heart and soul, and to rejoice and be glad in doing so. But it is the last thing the Saints will observe, as Brigham Young said, “as a privilege and a pleasure.”5 Twenty years later, President Young said before the Saints at conference:
The great duty that rested upon the saints is to put in operation God’s purposes with regard to the United Order, by the consecration of the private wealth to the common good of the people. 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.6
The spirit is all that counts. In response, “The whole assembly [of the Priesthood] voted to renew their covenants, and later the Presidency, the Twelve, the Seventies, and the Presiding Bishopric were baptized and entered into a special covenant to observe the rules of the United Order. . . . This movement became general throughout the Church.”7
It was nothing else but the old law that had been given long ago to Moses, but it did not last any more than it lasted in Israel. So today, we accept it or reject it as we want, but we cannot temporize or dissemble it. “Said the Lord to Joseph, ‘See if they will give their farms to me.’ What was the result? They would not do it. . . . The Lord makes them [the people] well by His power, through the ordinances of His house [the temple 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.”8 So spoke Brigham Young soon after the exodus from Nauvoo.
Arguments and Objections
Brigham Young was perfectly familiar with all the economic arguments and protestations. But for him they were all forestalled by the knowledge that after accepting the law of sacrifice, any further objections were out of the question. We have noted that the covenants of the endowment are progressively more binding, in the sense of allowing less and less latitude for personal interpretation as one advances. Thus (1) the law of God is general and mentions no specifics; (2) the law of obedience states that specific orders are to be given and observed; (3) the law of sacrifice still allows a margin of interpretation (this is as far as the old law goes—the Aaronic Priesthood carries out the law of sacrifice and no farther; and it specifies that while sacrifice is a solemn obligation on all, it is up to the individual to decide just how much he will give); (4) the law of chastity, on the other hand, is something else; here at last we have an absolute, bound by a solemn sign; (5) finally the law of consecration is equally uncompromising—everything the Lord has given one is to be consecrated. This law is bound by the firmest token of all.
The first objection to the law of consecration is that it runs counter to the spirit of the times. Our people are so conditioned as to view any substantive sharing of the wealth with great suspicion. When Scott Nearing bought a farm in Vermont for $2,200 and the opening of a ski resort nearby raised the value to $6,000,000, the Nearings, opposed to any form of exploitation or unearned income, gave the property to the town of Winhall for a town forest or park. The town meeting expressed not a single word of gratitude for the gift, though they accepted it; and many accused Mr. Nearing of being a Communist for dealing so lightly with natural property.9 Yet in our society today, people can deed everything they have to anything or anybody, from a cat to an asylum or orchestra, and nobody raises any objection.
One of the most common objections to the law of consecration is that it imposes a sameness on the members of our society, the uniformity of the ant-heap. Uniformity, sameness. The drive to Salt Lake City used to be a pleasant ride to a fascinating city. Now it could be any ugly urban sprawl in the world except that it has more billboards than any other area (Orrin Hatch being the great backer of the billboards). We used to enjoy the fields and the mountains, but now when we come to Salt Lake City (which I rarely do now), we are staggered by the absolute uniformity—the city is absolutely blocked in by buildings, all the same style, all from the same drawing board, with the Church Office Building in the lead. Brigham Young said that he never built two houses alike, but here uniformity is the law, because it’s economical and convenient. Every prophet of the Church down to Spencer W. Kimball pleaded for the Saints to make Zion beautiful, but it becomes uglier every time you make the drive.
Recently on a visit to Heber City, I was amazed to see that the town had the appearance of a multinational sales convention. Like the other Utah towns that once had such color and personality, the marks of the old pioneer culture—the stake houses, chapels, bishop’s storehouses—have nearly all been torn down, to be replaced by more efficient, mass-produced structures. As you travel you see only the same multinational brand names, the same Texaco, Holiday Inn, K-Mart. And if you go in the store, you see exactly the same things being sold, the same brands in all the stores; in the cities throughout the world, the same high rises, airports, traffic-glutted smoggy sameness. One city is like another, whether it’s a Nairobi or an Ogden. Even in our yearning to escape to nature, business takes over, as at Bear Lake and Park City—condominiums bumper to bumper, the wilderness partitioned into small, expensive tracts so that each can have his private wilderness surrounded by a high Cyclone Fence for his own security. One citizen (Roselie Sorrells) notes, “I think there’s a giant conspiracy on the part of—who? ITT or them?—the rich, the powerful, the manipulators, to make us all the same. Make sure that we watch a lot of television. Make sure that we all have credit cards and cars and houses that are all kind of sleazy.”10 Does sameness depress you? The heavenly hosts, so we are told, all wear the same simple white garment—how monotonous! We all dress alike in the temple. Are you depressed to be there? No, the difference is in the person himself. It shines through as the individual spirit. The Father and the Son glowed exactly alike. Why doesn’t one wear black and the other wear green or something like that? No. It is the outward sameness that allows inward sameness, the spirit, to shine through. Such monotony is put to shame by the multibillion-dollar fashion industry of our times. The difference is that in heaven it is the individual spirit that shines through. What do we see in the temple, when we are all dressed alike? We must go out to the parking lot to assert our individuality in Mercedes, Cadillacs, and so forth. And which is the more depressing picture? The gaudy display of vanity fair is an attempt to cover up the spiritual and intellectual barrenness of the present world we live in.
Another objection is that the law of consecration would not deal fairly in rewarding each according to his needs and no more. No fairness? “Why does it always come,” asks Senator Abourzek, “that two hundred million people sacrifice and fifty-thousand at the top are never called upon to sacrifice?”11 Karl Hess, the busiest Republican speech writer of our time, and the principal formulator of the National Party Platform of 1960, has protested: “I don’t know why in the world West Virginia miners should put up with people in Palm Beach owning the stuff they work on. Why? It doesn’t make sense. I understand that it’s legal, but legal does not necessarily mean right.” It is not fair. In any sacrament meeting, you can hear young people get up and tell what a struggle they are having living on practically nothing, and yet the Lord has seen them through, and they are joyful and happy in it. That is a good thing. We say, Well, we can’t give up anything or we’ll have to suffer. Could we suffer any more, or even that much under the law of consecration? We see it happening: the Lord does give the blessings.
These statements touch on another point, the sacred work ethic—”There is no free lunch,” and so on. Will the law of consecration leave us with nothing to do? It’s a funny thing. We think there is something heroic about working our way through college. Actually the work that students do there isn’t a tenth as hard as work they would do if they really studied. It’s hard work. College is practically a handout. Is money or things money can buy the only thing one can work for? That’s the new code at Brigham Young University—why do you study? Because it’s going to make you more money. It was the whole teaching of Brigham Young that the law was adorable because there are so many other and better things to do than simply accumulate goods.
“The cares of the world” (D&C 40:2), said the Lord, have taken many away from the real path, the real work, for the cares of the world quickly become our sole concern. Brigham’s favorite word for Satan’s trick was “decoy”12—the work ethic decoys us away from the work we should be doing. Mammon is a jealous god and will not tolerate a competitor. But we get the idea that the only virtues are business virtues. Consider the qualities you need to be a successful businessman. You should have persistence, reliability, a measure of courage, hard work, and all the rest of it, but those qualities are the same required in any other profession; to be an athlete or musician, a scientist, or an international jewel thief, you need those same qualities in far higher degrees than you do to succeed in business. We are told now there are almost a million millionaires in the country. Does it take a genius to become rich? How many first-class artists are there? You can count them. How many Nobel Laureates and so forth? You can count them on the fingers of your hand. Yet the country swarms with millionaires. The virtue is the virtue of getting ahead. Of course that’s the virtue in any field. We make it seem as if that fact obliges a person to go into business—because this is where it counts, because then you possess these qualities. Anyone knows that cheating pays off very well in this country.
But the solid businessman will of course protest that the law of consecration is impractical. After all, men are not really created equal. But why did God give some superior advantages? Answer: to put their time, talents, and so on at the disposal of their less fortunate brethren, as God himself does when he makes it his work and his glory to exalt us lowly creatures (Moses 1:38-39). If the law of consecration is impractical, so is tithing, and so are the time and inconvenience of meetings and endowment sessions. But is it impractical? Which of the two makes the real mischief? One often hears the argument “If all the wealth in the world were divided up equally, nobody would have very much.” True, but the average person would be much richer than today, and no one would be hard up. Ah, but there would be no big capital to invest, no giant industry to supply the wants of the world. This is a cultural argument: if the present order of things passed away, what would happen? It was the plea of the medieval barons that if the lord of the manor didn’t own everything and keep all in strict subjection, there would be no great lords to fight the other great lords who were trying to subject their people. When God says, “I have a plan,” it is pointless to speculate on whether it is practical or whether it will work or not, for in agreeing to abide by it, we have voted to accept his judgment. The decision is closed—this quite apart from the fact that practical economists are the most completely certain of all leaders and the most often completely wrong.
Perhaps the most common excuse for holding us back is that the plan is premature. It was restored by Elijah, who brought the temple ordinances, declaring in his opening words to the Prophet Joseph: “The time has fully come!” (D&C 110:14). Brigham Young, speaking at St. George in 1876 on the purposes of the temple, said:
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 to 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 [that] would have been a success if it had been carried out as he directed. And I have seen the same 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.13
Today we suggest compromises. We are perfectly willing to put the law of consecration into practice just as soon as the rest of the world is ready to receive it—otherwise the world might not approve of our action. But the law was not designed for the world; compromise is out of the question: “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). “I give not unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world” (D&C 95:13). However praiseworthy, giving through a foundation is not a device to implement the law of consecration, but a contrivance to evade it. I knew well a bishop, Charles W. Nibley, my grandfather, who had a standard appeal for tithing. I was sort of his favorite grandson, the only one that ever stayed at his house. We had long talks together, and of course, he was quite successful in his day. We talked a lot about all these things. What he said stayed with me, believe me. His argument—and he was using it throughout the Church in conferences and I remember it well—was that after you had paid the Lord 10 percent, you still have 90 percent for yourself, all yours to do with as you pleased. That can never be tithed; the Lord can’t touch it. He gets only 10 percent and leaves you with all the rest.
There is quite a difference between consecrating 10 percent of your net gain to the building up of the kingdom and consecrating your time, talents, and everything you have been blessed with up to this time to the building up of the kingdom of God. Tithing is no part of consecration, though it is an eternal law. There is no conflict here; the law of consecration demands everything you have, but at the same times it fills your every physical need; and it is from that sustaining income, from that substance, that you pay your tithes. This makes it a genuine sacrifice and not a mere token offering skimmed off from a net increase that you will never miss.
The Two Cultures
Our difficulty with the law of consecration is a cultural one; since the days of Cain and Abel men have been pulled in two opposite directions, given a choice between two ways, representing what some have called “the mad force of the sun and the wise force of the earth.” The two contrasting cultures may be characterized as stable or stationary on the one hand, and acquisitive or expansive on the other hand—eternal vs. temporary, agrarian vs. hunting, cooperative vs. competitive, contemplative vs. execrated, seeking either wisdom or riches, and so on (D&C 6:7). The law of consecration is that of a stable society; the law of the marketplace is that of an expansive, acquisitive, brittle, untrustworthy, predatory society.
Today we are treated in many TV documentaries to the natural operation of the primal or predatory culture. Everything in the jungle is on the prowl, to eat or escape being eaten. Half the human race has been permanently engaged in such activities—nomadic, predatory, military. Cain went off to the land of Nod, which means he became a Nomad; and his great descendant, Nimrod, established that order in which man lives by conquest. The drive behind such activities is a perfectly natural one, justified as a tendency to growth. The doctrine as we hear it on every side is that if we do not grow, we must perish. It is not enough for the economy to hold its own, the Gross National Product must constantly increase, which means manufacturing must expand and consumption increase, demand must increase, nothing must relax lest everything contract and collapse. Says the president of a large American corporation (Rock of Ages):
Let’s face it, if we don’t grow and get more profit, there isn’t any more money for raises, there aren’t promotions for people. If you don’t grow, you don’t buy more products from your suppliers. You don’t have new machines, you don’t give more and better products to your customers. . . . I can make a case for hurting God because there isn’t more money for the collection plate. The American dream is to be better off than you are. How much money is “enough money”? “Enough money” is always a little bit more than you have. There is never enough of anything. This is why people go on. If there was enough everybody would stop. . . . You must go for more—for faster, for better. If you are not getting better and faster, you are getting worse.14
The mandatory state of mind for success is that of Mr. Wallace Rasmussen, president of none other than Beatrice, a corporate supergiant that has contributed so much to our diet in the way of additives and preservatives: “I never wanted to be a loser. I always wanted to be the first one off the airplane. . . . People would say they saw me on the street and I didn’t say hello. I was thinking about something else. It isn’t my nature to be friendly. . . . It comes down to—who’s gonna be the survivor? . . . Trust everybody with reservations. . . . I was reading about people who were successful and how they did it. That was basically all my reading.”15 In closing, the interviewer adds that Rasmussen “doesn’t allow anybody to do to Wallace Rasmussen what he has done to others.”16 In a more pleasant vein, but no less clearly, does Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaim the doctrine: “I learned English and then started taking business courses, because that’s what America is best known for: business. Turning one dollar into a million dollars in a short period of time. . . . I have emotions. But what you do, you keep them cold or you store them away for a time. . . . This is sometimes called selfish. It’s the only way you can be if you want to achieve something.”17 “California . . . is the absolute combination of everything I was always looking for. It has all the money in the world there. . . . You have beautiful-looking people there. They all have a tan. . . . I am a strong believer in Western philosophy, the philosophy of success, of progress, of getting rich.”18 For better or for worse, such is indeed the philosophy of acquisition, expansion, exploitation—energetic and competitive, and admirable in ways as Homeric heroes are admirable, but inevitably ending as Homeric heroes end, doomed, as we shall see later.
The stable society is equally ancient, and of course no community is completely the one or the other. The glorious Old Kingdom of Egypt, which saw the peak of its civilization, leaves no evidence whatever of military aggression or expansion, whereas the New Kingdom (Asiatic Kings) was explosively acquisitive. I had welcome opportunity to study a stable civilization in my frequent visits to the Hopis in the 1940s and 1950s. During the Great Depression there was a federal project to pipe and pump up the water from the springs below to the top of the First Mesa. The Indians emphatically rejected the proposal. The carrying of water by the women from the spring to their houses was a time-honored ritual, an important social function, an integral part of the way things were done and had always been done. But that way, the agent protested, they would never progress. Progress to what? The great industrial civilization that offered to show them how things were to be done at that time was on the verge of collapse (it was the Works Progress Administration that wanted to build the pump), seized with wild disarray and hysteria. Yet during those same years the Hopis were as well off as ever; they had carried on there for at least a thousand years, and now they were expected to give all that up? Carrying water, putting corn in the ground, weaving blankets or baskets, making pottery, grinding corn at the matate, making piki or dyes, seeking herbs, nuts, feathers, rare clays in the washes—all was part of a single organized activity, thoughtfully and prayerfully pursued, but not without much fun and laughter on the side. And of course everyone had to be at the dances. “What a bore!” we would say. But it was not. I always looked forward to going down there because everybody had such a good time. And I never saw people work so hard—but not for money. “If one of us has corn,” they said, “we all have corn”; and they worked very, very hard, for we had left them nothing to live on but dry sand. What impressed me more than anything else was that their weekly dances and ceremonies to which everyone looked forward with eager anticipation followed most exactly, even to astonishing details, the doings of the Greeks, and the Egyptians, yes, and the Israelites, the most stable and the most productive societies, those that have given us our history, our culture to this day, those to which we owe our civilization, those that have given us our history (Chinese and Indian religions), and the one to which we owe our whole civilization. This thing goes on and on for thousands of years, apparently without “progress.” Sister Maria Harvey’s house was the first one they ever tried out the tree-ring dating on. That’s at Walpi beyond the first Mesa, and her house is eight hundred to eleven hundred years old. It’s been standing there, and the Hopis have been doing the same things, for eleven hundred years. It goes on, it at least survives. With nothing to live on, you say. All we see on the mesa is rock and dry sand.
But where among the Hopis is the progress, then? Do they progress? It is exciting and marvelous to see progress in the learning experience of each generation. As an unceasing stream of children enter the scene, they must learn it all from the beginning, and for them it is as fresh and new as the world in the creation, and nothing is more delightful to their elders than to teach them and watch them learn and grow while the teachers themselves discover wonder upon wonder, more than a lifetime can contain, both in the world around them and in the contemplative depths of their own minds. For these people, who seem to us to be stuck in a rut, the world is always changing, for they move with the miracle of the year and the revolutions of the heavens from one ambience to another. And beauty swallows them up all the time. They revel in it. They have to express themselves in prayer as they go out to their fields or come back. And this is common to all the great civilizations of the past. To endure long enough to make a contribution, a culture had to be stable. In bad times of world crisis caused by major climatic changes, many were forced to become marauding nomads, the hordes of the steppes, the expansive warriors who made their final camp the capital of the world and sought to spread their empires over all people as their divine calling. Of course, that is the Roman heritage, and our heritage too.
We have the two cultures, and between them mortal enmity. You can’t compromise between them. For the hordes of the steppes feel it their sacred obligation to extend their domination over all who have not yet been subdued, for such, of course, are potential enemies who, having rebuffed the invitation to surrender, are now in a state of open rebellion and must be made to do the will of God. So it’s the world, divided into the two camps, each trying to swallow up the other. That was the Roman dictum. The whole world was either ager pacatus, pacified and broken to the will of Rome, or ager hosticus, that is, unsubmissive and rebellious, and therefore the mandatory object of conquest. God wants the world to live in peace, so we cannot live with those people on our borders. “The calling of Rome was to rule from the rivers [the natural boundaries] to the ends of the earth—imperium Oceano, famam qui termine astris“; this was the formula that makes sure that the lands from the ends of the earth qui terminet (“which end”) and the renowned Rome will end only with the stars, and the imperium will end only where the land ends. Pax Romana (“Roman peace”) assured that none would molest or make afraid, in other words, threaten Roman holdings.19 This is the formula followed in the world since.
This is not a mere indifference to or distaste for each other that separates the two cultures, but a vivid antipathy. There is a powerful enmity between them, and this again can best be expressed in what goes on with the Hopis. The president of a firm that supplies equipment for coal and oil companies wrote a letter in January (less than a year ago ) to the Navajo Tribal Council, protesting preferential treatment in the hiring of their own people to work on their own reservation: “Given the historical facts, we consider ourselves to be members of the conquering and superior race and you to be members of the vanquished and inferior race. . . . [The law of Moses strictly forbade the Jews to engage in such activities (Deuteronomy 2:4-5).] Through the generosity of our people, you have been given a reservation where you may prance and dance as you please, obeying your kings and worshipping your false gods.” There was no public outcry when the statement was published, and the writer, Ronald Vetrees, said he had no regrets about sending the letter.20 The Mormons learned, especially in 1906, at Moencopi that “it was government policy to aid missionaries [of other churches] in converting the Indians to one or another of the Christian denominations,” using, among other things, the well-known “Religious Crimes Codes” that curtailed the Indian’s freedom of religion. Albert W. Fall, the Secretary of the Interior in 1921, enacted a regulation that “although aimed particularly at the Sun Dance, concluded that ‘all similar dances and so-called religious ceremonies, shall be considered “Indian offenses,” ‘ punishable by ‘incarceration in the agency prison.’ “21 As we all know, Secretary Fall went to prison for high crimes committed in office. In 1923, Commissioner Charles H. Burke softened the sentence in an edict to all Indians: “I could issue an order against these useless and harmful performances, but I would much rather have you give them up of your own free will. . . . I urge you . . . to hold no gatherings in the months when the seedtime, cultivation and harvest need your attention [as did Israel], and at other times to meet for only a short period and to have . . . no dancing that the superintendent does not approve. If at the end of one year the reports . . . show that you reject this plea, then some other course will have to be taken.”22 But these gatherings have been precisely the way the Indians survived. They have kept them going, kept their spirits up, kept the economics permanent. It’s heartbreaking to go to the reservations now.
When uranium, oil, and coal were discovered on these reservations, originally given to the Indians as their last holding since the land was considered absolutely worthless, the heat was on. In 1985 lawyers of the coal companies severely rebuked the Navajos for wishing to raise the royalties they were getting for their coal to more than fifteen cents a ton; in righteous wrath the lawyers lectured the natives on the sacredness of a contract and the need to keep one’s word under all circumstances and not be carried away by barbaric greed—and that for not being satisfied with fifteen cents a ton for coal by plundering from their land amid scenes of appalling ruin and destruction, merciless strip-mining with machines ten stories high. The New York Times went out of its way to point out that the lawyers in question were Mormons. There is which side we’re on.
Today, Hopis and Navajos alike are being driven from Navajo Mountain (this is going on right now), the most sacred place of all for those people, for it has turned out to contain rich coal deposits. For some years the lawyers have stirred up such a tangle of legal complications for claims to the land that they can now declare that the Indians are incapable of managing their own affairs, and both tribes must leave it. Recently, I heard Barry Goldwater declare over PBC that as commander of the Arizona National Guard, he would come in with his helicopter gunships, running interference for the coal companies or Peabody, to make sure the Indians put up no resistance in being removed from their ancient lands which they held by sacred treaties with the United States. There is a prophecy that if and when the white man seizes Navajo Mountain, from that moment his fortunes will turn forever downward. As the Book of Mormon puts it, “From this time forth did the Nephites gain no power over the Lamanites, but began to be swept off by them, even as the dew before the sun” (Mormon 4:18). Rome died not with a bang, but with a whisper. All such civilizations do. They just sort of fade out, when the Lord has withdrawn his spirit. It doesn’t take great wars, calamities, or anything else. Rostovzeff wrote a very good economic history of Rome, and interest fell on the same thing. Everybody in the empire suddenly lost their balance. A fatty degeneration in drag. Nobody did anything right. Nobody could rely on anything. The whole thing just fell apart. It wasn’t the barbarian invasion.
I was present some years ago when one of the giant multinationals offered to move the whole Hopi population to Los Angeles and provide them all with mobile homes. Isn’t that better, they argued, than all this primitive, toil-some planting and chanting, dancing, and prancing? Before that I also traveled with an apostle who fervidly argued with Indians the advantages of TV and washing machines over the age-old rounds of ceremonial dancing and visits to the sacred spring: Give up all that out-of-date stuff, he pleaded, and accept the blessings of the modern world. For the one thing that makes the acquisitive culture appeal to the ordinary mortal is the promise of convenience. With the best intentions in the world, we think we are relieving those who live under a sort of ancient consecration of all sorts of inconveniences. It’s not convenient to go the temple. Lots of things aren’t convenient, though it’s very interesting that at the same time, we praise the importance of the work ethic, of work for its own sake—talk about inconvenient. Think of banging away with a hammer all day just to straighten nails that will be of no use whatever for building. Is that inconvenient? Is that saving effort? Oh! That’s the work ethic. That’s an example of hard work we should hold up to our children and so forth. But is that convenient, I ask? Which program is the more convenient? In all sincerity we have tried to appeal to the Indians on that basis, which shows how completely committed we are to the one culture alone.
Incidentally, we need not decide to join either Peabody Enterprise, on the one hand, or the snake dance on the other. The Hopis have always classified the Mormons as a special culture of their own: there are the Hopi, and Bahami or white man, and the Momona, Mormons, who are neither the one or the other but contain some of the qualities of both, with strong leanings to the Hopi way, but with strong tendency to offend the Indian agents. The Hopis readily embraced the gospel at first hearing it; they maintain that they will join us in Zion as soon as we start living the gospel. And many of them did join, as you know. In the days when the Mormons joined hands with the Indians, and the government agents and sectarian ministers went all out to break it up, “a woman from the LDS knocks on my door,” says an Indian woman. “I’m gracious and I invite her in, because that’s our way. She says: ‘Oh, look at all your pretty children. Oh, what a nice family. I see that your roof leaks and your house is a little cold and you don’t have sanitation. By the looks of your kitchen, you don’t have much food, and I notice that you have very little furniture. You don’t have running water, and you have an outdoor toilet. And the nearest school is sixty miles away. Wouldn’t you like your children to go and live in a nice house, where they’ll have their own bedrooms, wonderful people who care about them, lots of money to buy food, indoor plumbing, posturepedic mattresses and Cannon sheets, and wonderful television sets, and well-landscaped yards? Etc., etc. . . . And then she says, ‘If you reeeeally, reeeeally love your children, you wouldn’t want them to live like this. You would want them to have all the good things they need.’ And that mother thinks: [Oh], I love my children and what a monster I am! How can I possibly keep them from this paradise?”23
This is a fair picture. What is wrong with it? The LDS woman has nothing to offer but conveniences, what the scriptures call “the world” in its strictest sense. The work is commendable here. At least here are some people willing to inconvenience themselves in the interest of others, while sincerely believing that it’s in the best interest of the others. But they are at the same time condescending and patronizing, giving no thought to the idea that the Indians may have something just as good as we have or better.
The cultural confrontation is fundamental to understanding the law of consecration. Which of the two cultures is nearer to the law of consecration? There can be no doubt: Do temple ordinances change from year to year? Do we all wear individual and fashionably changing styles of clothes there? What gave Egypt its matchless stability was Pharaoh’s “seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign [the Paat], even in the reign of Adam” (Abraham 1:26). They always sought that, and it produced a tremendous stability, centering around the temple. The genius of stable societies is that they achieve stability without stagnation, repetition without monotony, conformity with originality, obedience with liberty. The Egyptian civilization reached its peak at the very beginning when it was thought to be a faithful and unchanging imitation of heaven; on the other hand, each of the rulers of the New Kingdom (in the eighteenth dynasty), seized by Asiatic invaders, boasts that he expands the boundaries of Egypt and excels all his predecessors in their building operations, war roads and everything else, and so the bubble grows and grows and inevitably bursts. What makes one hesitate before conversion to consecration is the absolute and uncompromising nature of the decision. Must it be one or the other all the way? I am afraid it must. Countless books on how to succeed in the world all come down to one basic principle, that total dedication to making money is the secret and the only secret. Mammon is a jealous god, and so is the true God; he is unwilling to let you decide your allegiance to him, as the real God is; and there is a distinctly religious note in his cult with its company hymns, prayers, breakfasts, sermons, and homilies. We should have respect for such piety, were it not for the assurance that absolute lifelong loyalty to the company can be canceled in an instant by a better offer from another company.
A Rock of Offense
As to the uncompromising nature of the choice we must make, it is a stumbling block indeed. Brigham Young says:
The man or woman who enjoys the spirit of our religion has no trials; but the man or woman who tries to live according to the gospel of the Son of God, and at the same time clings to the spirit of the world, has trials and sorrows acute and keen, and that too, continually. This is the deciding point, the dividing line. They who love and serve God with all their hearts rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; but they who try to serve God and still cling to the spirit of the world have got on two yokes—the yoke of Jesus and the yoke of the devil, and they will have plenty to do. They will have a warfare inside and outside, and the labor will be very galling, for they are directly in opposition one to the other.24
Speaking to the Mormon Battalion in 1848, he warned them, “If we were to go to San Francisco and dig up chunks of gold or find it here in the valley, it would ruin us. Many wanted to unite Babylon and Zion; it is the love of money that hurts them.”25 “Shall we now seek to make ourselves wealthy in gold and silver and the possessions which the wicked love and worship, or shall we, with all of our might, mind, and strength, seek diligently first to build up the Kingdom of God? Let us decide on this, and do one thing or the other.”26
From the outset the choice was clear: “Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold [mutually exclusive] the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then you shall be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich” (D&C 6:7). The two are mutually exclusive, but to satisfy our desire for riches, we are told that we may indeed seek them, but only the true riches of eternal life. Who would want anything else? A young man of my acquaintance who has majored in business, and at an early age made a good deal of money, recently decided to study something else for a change, the things he had really been yearning for all his life. When he announced his intention to his stake president, the man was furious: “Do you mean to tell me that you are going to be spinning your wheels reading books instead of making money?” Here was enmity indeed: anyone who was making money was fulfilling the measure of his existence; he who has made money has already fulfilled his calling and has no further obligation—in fact, the whole virtue of money is that it frees one from any feeling of obligation to anyone, so says Malcolm Forbes. So he gets a magazine out on the subject.
Competitiveness always rests on the assumption of a life-and-death struggle: “There is no free lunch” is the clarion cry. The name of the game is survival—a dirty word; we hear it a lot. It means to still be on the scene after everyone else has been wiped out. John Chrysostom tells how in his city of Antioch just before the great earthquake a common joke went around the town, with everybody saying, “I wish there would be an earthquake and kill everybody in Antioch but me, and then I would be the richest man in the city.” Well, they got their earthquake, and Antioch was never rebuilt. The chairman of the board of one of the biggest banks in the nation, Gaylord Freeman, says, “Business is so *#!$ competitive! The head of a business is really competing . . . with your friends in other businesses, your dearest friends.”27 “My good friend Milton Friedman [whose word is gospel at the BYU] says the worst thing is for a businessman to feel responsible to society. He says that’s a lot of baloney, and it’s contrary to the businessman’s assignment.”28 As the head of Beatrice has said, “If you’re going to be successful, you can’t let any person stand in the way.”29
There is a Jewish legend of how when the waters of the flood began to rise, the people took their children into their arms to protect them. As the water rose higher, they placed their little ones on their shoulders above the water level. When it rose still higher, they held them on their heads; but when the water level continued to rise, they placed them under their feet to save themselves.30
In the end you are competing with everyone, or as everyone was saying when I was young, “Self-preservation is the first law of nature,” a doctrine that justifies the commission of any possible crime in the name of survival. Nobody loves the rat race, but nobody can think of anything else—Satan has us just where he wants us. Also when I was young it was assumed that anyone seeking knowledge was willing to pay the highest price and go without the luxuries of life, and for years without even the necessities (that isn’t so anymore), out of his pure love of learning. How the scene has shifted. People were horrified when General Barrows, at the time president of the University of California at Berkeley, bluntly proclaimed at a commencement exercise, “The only reason anyone goes to college is to increase his earning power.” I was petrified by the statement, little realizing that the time would come that it would be treated by everyone as a universally accepted truism and even an idealistic proclamation.
You say, well, if you’re not in business, then what are you supposed to be doing? It is, as usual, Brigham Young who puts things into perspective: “Will education feed and clothe you, keep you warm on a cold day, or enable you to build a house? Not at all. Should we cry down education on this account? No. What is it for? The improvement of the mind; to instruct us in all the arts and sciences, in the history of the world, in the laws of . . . how to be useful while we live.”31 Useful here and fulfilling hereafter. “Truth, wisdom, power, glory, light and intelligence exist upon their own qualities; they do not, neither can they, exist upon any other principle. Truth is congenial with itself, and light cleaves unto light.” (Brigham is a marvelous man. Here’s a man who went to school eleven days, yet he’s the best master of English prose we have, and he saw the light on every side.) “It is the same with knowledge, and virtue, and all eternal attributes; they follow after each other. . . . Truth cleaves unto truth because it is truth; and it is to be adored, because it is an attribute of God, for its excellence, for itself.”32 There can be no ulterior motive in the study of heavenly things: “Knowledge Is Power” is the slogan of a rascally world. “What do you love truth for? Is it . . . because you think it will make you a ruler, or a Lord? If you conceive that you will attain to power upon such a motive, you are much mistaken. It is a trick of the unseen power, that is abroad amongst the inhabitants of the earth, that leads them astray, binds their minds, and subverts their understanding.”33
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). That is the question. I asked my students, “If you were granted one thousands years of life with whatever worldly means you might request, what would you plan to do?” This is precisely the situation in which the Latter-day Saint finds himself; the answer would be the same if the grant were for only a hundred or fifty years. The opening chapters of the Doctrine and Covenants are taken up with answering that question for various new members of the Church, telling each brother what he is to do at the moment. Our patriarchal blessings assume that we are looking farther afield. It is certain that in this world, especially in the acquisitive and expanding world, we are not going anywhere, but throwing our lives away. “Be wise in the days of your probation” (Mormon 9:28). A highly successful corporation president said,
One of the great tragedies of American business life is what happens to talented executives who dedicate their lives to the company, who are successful and part of a system that is so bad. I didn’t take the company from a million-dollar loss to a million-dollar profit without hurting a lot of people. . . . You do to others, and then it is done unto you. . . . One morning, I found my own resignation on my desk. Absolutely no reason was given. I didn’t know what to think. . . . I left immediately. That was part of the deal. They used the same formula I had used. You do to others, and then it’s done unto you. . . . You begin to wonder about this capitalism you preached, the profit motive. I used to tell young executives the name of the game is profit. You wonder whose game it really is. . . . Our profit system, the one we all live by, is presented as a fun game for young people training to be managers. If you can reduce the time it takes to do something, you increase the profit. Growth and investors’ happiness are based on this. You can expand your facilities . . . that’s why America is the land of plenty [a bitter note]. I’m so proud of the system, . . . that we all have television sets and cars and pollution and everything. There’s no place like it.34
He found himself out of work. He had gone nowhere.
Historical commentary has been suggested on the subject. The first thing to notice is that the law of consecration has no historical development; the issues are perennial. We like to think that we are living under special conditions today—our economy, the product of the Industrial Revolution, and its philosophy formulated by the Scottish economists. But in every age the same lines are drawn. I recently made a study of some of the great Utopians of the past; all faced exactly the same situation that we face today. In the prehistoric days for Lycurgus, “There was,” Plutarch tells us, “an intolerable inequality, with swarms of impoverished and helpless people burdening the city while all the wealth had been concentrated in the hands of the few; arrogance, and envy and crime, and luxury prevailed, and the fundamental cause of this chronic social disease was the wide gap between wealth and poverty.”35 Solon, the great contemporary of Lehi and the father of democracy, described the Athens of his day: “The ruin of our state will never come by the doom of Zeus. . . . It is the townsfolk themselves and their false-hearted leaders who would fain destroy our great city through wantonness and love of money. . . . They are rich because they yield to the temptation of dishonest courses. . . . They spare neither the treasure of the gods nor the property of the state, and steal like brigands one from another.”36 The root of the matter, he says, is that “no visible limit is set to wealth among men. Even now those among us who have the largest fortune are striving with redoubled energy.”37 Plato sees in this situation the doctrine of the Two Ways: “Perhaps you have seen wicked men growing old and leaving their children’s children in high office, and their success shakes your faith. You have seen crooks become heads of state, hailed as the great men of their time, and that leads you to conclude that the gods are not particularly interested in what goes on here.”38 In the end he says it all comes down to “that immortal conflict which is going on within us.”39 No system will procure happiness unless “the soul is perfectly qualified to be carried to a higher and better place which is perfect in holiness.”40 The monastic movement was started by St. Anthony, who, as the scion of the rich family in Alexandria, had heard the constant denunciation of the fickle Alexandrian mob, and looked into the situation: “It is we, on the contrary, who own all the wealth, who are the plunderers of the poor. . . . Truth does not exist anymore, it is mendacity that rules in the land.”41 The most famous of Utopians, Sir Thomas More (the greatest economist of his time), puts his criticism into the mouth of an honest sailor:
It seems beyond doubt to me, my dear More, if I would speak frankly, that where private property rules, where money is the measure of all things for everyone, it is virtually impossible for society to flourish under righteous administration. That is, unless one thinks it right and proper that every good thing be owned by immoral people, or that prosperity consists of a few owning everything, albeit the favorite few themselves are not at all happy, while all the others live in abject misery. . . . How much better and nobler the arrangements of the Utopians seem to me where everyone has more than enough although nobody has more than another. . . . Compare with that the nations of the world which must be constantly inventing new legislation and yet never have good laws; where every individual thinks to own for himself alone what he has earned and the daily accumulation of countless laws is adequate to keep people safe in their possessions. One must admit that Plato is right. . . . He realized that the only way to cure the evil was by economic equality, which is simply not possible as long as property is privately owned. . . . Granted there are ways of improving the situation without abolishing private property, there remains no other cure for the evil.42
He points out that laws limiting ownership, sumptuary laws, laws against corruption in government, and so on, none of these will cure the fatal disease as long as we have private property, which indeed is the disease. Thomas More insists that philargyria, the desire for more money, is the root of all evil: “Greed, theft, and envy are all caused by fear of not having enough. But Utopia always has a super abundance and people’s time belongs not to the economy but to the free development of the mind, for in that they find the blessings of life.”43 “Such,” says Raphael, “is not only the best, but the only constitution of society worthy of the name. Elsewhere people speak of the common good but actually work for the private good, for every man knows that he must go hungry if he does not work for himself, no matter how flourishing the society may be or how booming the economy; he must always consider his own well-being before that of others.”44 In Utopia, on the other hand, everyone knows that none will ever be in need as long as the common barns are full. “With everything equally divided among them, no one is poor. . . . Thus all are rich [cf. Jacob 2:17]. What greater wealth can there be than a healthy and secure life?”45 They live after the manner of happiness.
Then More, in the manner of the prophets, reverts to the dark world in which we live:
What kind of justice is it when the nobleman, the banker (goldsmith), the money lender, in short, those who do nothing productive, glory in riches while day laborers, teamsters, blacksmiths, carpenters and field workers, whose work can not be dispensed with for a year can sweat out a miserable existence at a level below that of beasts of burden? Our animals do not work so long, are better fed and have better security than they do, for our workers are pressed down by the hopelessness of the situation and the expectation of beggary in old age. What they are paid does not cover their daily needs, and to save anything for old age is out of the question. So we find shocking waste, luxury, triviality and vanity [the lives of the rich and famous] on the one side and utter abject misery on the other.46
So as things are, we get the worst of both worlds.
As God loves me, when I consider this, then every modern society seems to me to be nothing but a conspiracy of the rich, who while protesting their interest in the common good pursue their own interests and stop at no trick and deception to secure their ill-gotten possessions, to pay as little as possible for the labor that produces their wealth and so force its makers to accept the nearest thing to nothing. They contrive rules for securing and assuring these tidy profits for the rich in the name of the common good, including of course the poor, and call them laws!47
“But after they have divided among themselves in their insatiable greed all that should go to the society as a whole, they still are not happy.”48 The law can avenge but never hinder the deceptions, thievery, riots, panics, murders, assassinations, poisonings, and so on, all of which spring from one source—money. That is Thomas More writing—and it cost him his life.
It has been the same story all along, only suddenly we have reached a new level. For the first time selfishness goes by its own name: “The virtue of selfishness” is the testament of Ayn Rand, the guru of Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, and James Watt, long the favorite reading of BYU students. “No other civilization has permitted the calculus of self-interest so to dominate its culture,” writes R. L. Heilbroner; “it has transmogrified greed and philistinism into social virtues, and subordinated all values to commercial values.”49 This is exactly what Thomas More said: “What has heretofore passed as unjust, . . . they have turned upside down, and in fact proclaimed it publicly and by law to be nothing less than justice itself.”50 Mr. Ivan Boesky, in a college convocation, commended “healthy greed” as a virtue to be cultivated by the young.51 That’s a virtue! A frenzy of privatization now insists that the only public institution with a reason for existence is the military, to defend us against societies more committed to sharing, and to root out those among us who doubt the sacredness of property.
How would such a world take the law of consecration? If we have objections, surely the world must have much stronger objections. Yet that is not the case, as Gaylord Freeman in reply to his “good friend” Milton Friedman observes: “There’s nothing sacred about a profit-oriented society. There’s no guarantee in the Bible or the Constitution that you can have private property. If we’re going to continue to have these opportunities, it’s only because this is acceptable to a high enough proportion of our people that they don’t change the laws to prevent it.”52 What many Latter-day Saints are saying is that they are perfectly willing to put the law of consecration into practice just as soon as the rest of the world is ready to receive it. We will have to wait and see. When we ask others what wonderful plan the Lord has reserved for his chosen people, people tell us it is, of course, nothing more nor less than the conventional and accepted economy.
“How will the world take it?” How strange this sounds coming from Mormons, of all people, who for a century went ahead and did what the Lord told them to, while the world screamed bloody murder. Like the Word of Wisdom, the time has fully come for the law of consecration, and it is “adapted to the capacity of the saints or the least that may be called saints” (D&C 89:3), for the Lord, as Nephi says, does not give us commandments which he knows we cannot fulfill (1 Nephi 3:7).
But the covenant is made by the individual to the Father in the name of the Son, a private and a personal thing, a covenant with the Lord. He intends it specifically to implement a social order—to save his people as a people, to unite them and make them of one heart and one mind, independent of any power on earth. If I as an individual offer all I have to the bishop and ask him to meet all my needs in return, he must consult higher authority before he can accept; the plan is so designed that we must all be in it together. Back to Brigham Young:
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.53
Are we wasting our time talking about the law of consecration? From the days of Joseph to the present, there has been one insuperable obstacle to the plan, and that is the invincible reluctance of most of the Brethren. When Brigham Young proposed it to the Brethren at Winter Quarters, he could not move them; only one or two of the apostles would listen to him. The rest announced their intention to follow their own plans and get rich.54
The dilemma the Saints found themselves in is no-where better illustrated than in the experience of my grandfather, with whom I have become closely acquainted at first and second hand. The poverty and toil of Scottish miners, which his family experienced, filled him with a strong dedication to the idea of justice and at the same time an absolute horror of poverty. For some years he managed the United Order sheep and lumber companies in Cache County. Then almost overnight, to judge by the newspaper reports, the best timber was gone. So Charles W. Nibley cast his eyes toward Oregon, where he saw the most magnificent forests in the world; he simply could not stand the sight, he has told me; there was all that timber neglected, unclaimed, simply rotting, going to waste. Somebody had to take it. It was a condition not to be borne.
With his partner, David Eccles, he tore into the woods, wiping out miles of unsurveyed forest, acquiring vast stretches of it through manipulation of the Homestead Act, easily paying off government agents who came from the East to ask what was going on. I can tell you the tricks, because he told them to me and laughed about it. It was not until 1910 that the scandal broke and a Senate investigation took place. He moved into sugar, and again Oregon promised rich pickings. But there was a child labor law in Oregon, which made beet thinning expensive, and the unions also wanted a share in the take. Nibley frankly made his fortune on stolen timber and child labor. The moral issue? Obviously, the enemy was the government and the unions; it was they who put restraints (which he interpreted as crippling) on his boundless free enterprise, denying men their God-given free agency. It became a standard doctrine among the Latter-day Saints. They pushed this by the conciliation of bishops and well-to-do stake presidents. In his journal he writes, “It has become the custom in the church to give the high seats in the synagogue to men who have made ‘money.’ ”
But all along there was compromise with principle; actually Charles W. Nibley was one of the most liberal industrialists of his time. But he had to compromise. Thus to finish the Hotel Utah, it was necessary to borrow $2,000,000, so President Smith sent Brother Nibley to Barney Baruch in New York to raise the money. He succeeded, and President Smith was delighted; but he was also alarmed when he heard the terms: it would all have to be paid back in two years. “Charley, what have you done? How in the world will we ever pay it back in that time?” Not to worry, they would have the whole thing paid off in two years. How? “I’m going to build the largest and finest bar in the West in the basement of the Hotel, and will see that we will pay off every penny of that debt.” President Smith went through the ceiling; which was it to be, the Word of Wisdom or fiscal soundness? The dollar won.
Attempts to compromise on the law of God put one, as Brigham Young said, in an intolerable situation, a state of perpetual tension; one becomes defensive and self-justifying, and to clear his conscience all the way one assumes an aggressive posture. The result is that the Latter-day Saints are perhaps the most rigidly opposed to the principles of sharing of any people in the world. Consider some of those things in which Utah today ranks number one. We can go through the newspaper headlines of the last year or two at random, but first let me note two items that have appeared in the news this week:
|2/4/87||The Senate . . . advanced a measure that would make Utah the most difficult state in the union in which to successfully sue corporate officials for irresponsible actions. [Everything is always in favor of money, in Utah more than any other state, making it hard to sue a rich crook.]|
|2/4/87||House Votes to Let Students Out [of school] at Age 16|
|2/4/87||Load of California Hazard Waste Bound for Tooele|
|5/9/87||Nevada Town Welcomes Idea of Nuclear Dump [San Juan County Fights for It]|
|9/1/85||Research Groups Flunk Utah’s Nielsen for Votes of Clean-up of Waste Sites|
|1/14/87||Time Bandits [southern Utahns claim freedom to loot Indian ruins as sacred right of free agency]|
|1/18/87||Group Says Forest Service, Developers Are in Cahoots|
|1/23/87||Kennecott Cited for Gas Leak That Injured 43|
|1/23/87||Criminal Investigation into UP&L and Emery Mining|
|5/7/86||Thiokol Guilty of 5 Serious Safety Violations|
|7/17/86||Mountain Fuel Sued in Hazardous Waste Disposal|
|12/1/75||Utah Valley Leads the Nation in Air Pollution [before closing Geneva]|
|12/1/85||15 Year Clean Up of Military Toxic Waste Brought to Utah from Rocky Mountain Arsenal|
|9/12/86||Nielsen Tells Caucus He’ll Try to Kill Acid-Rain Bill|
|1/7/87||Nader Group Gives Nielsen an ‘O’ Rating on Environment|
|9/19/86||Hatch Opts for Road Funding over Billboard Protections|
|1/24/86||Beaver Ranchers [two corporations] Face Cruelty Charges [starving the beavers]|
Distribution of Wealth
|9/11/85||Utah Ranks 48th in Per Capita Income|
|5/6/86||Utah Neck-and-Neck with West Virginia and Mississippi for Lowest Annual Income|
|7/15/86||Utah Still Ranked 48th in Per Capita Income|
|3/12/85||Utah in Top 5 Proportion of Millionaires. [West Virginia has the fewest millionaires, but the same per capita as Utah, making Utah the most unequal state in the nation.]|
|7/26/86||America’s Ultra Rich Are Richer Than Ever 1/2 of one percent of the nation’s population now control more than 35% of America’s wealth [Note: USA, by far the richest land in the world, is only seventh in per capita income; and within the USA by far the most unequal distribution of the fifty states is in Utah. Conclusion: No Democratic society in the world has greater inequality of wealth than Utah.]|
|1/14/86||Utah Makes “Terrible 10” Tax Listing [greatest inequality of taxing]|
|2/18/86||In Utah an income of $9,750 a year is in the same tax bracket as $50,000 per year|
|1/26/87||Plan to Shift Tax Burden from Income to Sales|
|9/6/85||Officials Hail Rejection of Comparable Worth Ruling|
|10/27/85||AFL-CIO Study Says Right-to-Work Law Cutting Earnings in Utah|
|4/10/85||Utah Ranks Last in Per-Pupil Funds . . . says NEA|
|1/15/86||Three Southeast Idaho Counties Make “Hungriest List”|
|8/28/85||Utah’s Farmers Losing Ground—2% a Year|
|1/11/87||More Folks Are Leaving Utah Than Arriving|
Morals in Zion
|4/31/85, 8/31/85, 8/1/86, 7/31/85||Satan Worship in Zion, Provoan Finds Satanism, Fantasy, “Thing of Escape,” etc.|
|3/26/86||Utah Students Admit Drug Use|
|1/21/87||Divorce, Prescription Drugs, Suicide, Three Factors Contributing to Teenage Drug Use|
|10/23/85||Student Survey [Cedar City] Says Many Use Drugs, Alcohol|
|9/17/86||Ex-Users Claim Drugs Readily Available throughout Utah County|
|7/28/85||Salt Lake Has High Crime Rate, FBI Says Worst of Rocky Mountain Cities|
|7/27/86||Utah Crime Is above U.S. Average|
|8/21/86||Ex-Dealer Scolds LDS Youth about Drug Use|
|5/30/86||Utah Major Crime Rate Up Nearly 10%|
White Collar Division
|“SLC, the Fraud Capital of the world” [Well-known Front Page Box in Wallstreet Journal]|
|5/29/85||Utahns Likely to Fall for Scams|
|6/15/86||Haddow Hired Utahns for Dubious Foundation|
|6/15/86||Utahns Caught in Swirl of “T. Bear” Suspicions|
|12/3/85||Utah Senators Expected to Oppose PAC Contribution Limits|
|12/28/85||Hatch Puts False Claims Act on Hold|
|10/28/82||Hatch Gets 3rd Largest Handout From Oil, Gas PAC’s|
|1/22/87||Charter Thrift and Loan Sued 68 Million for Racketeering and Fraud|
|11/30/81||Naive Utahns Pay More for Scams than State Tax|
|11/24/86||Utah County Leads in Investment Fraud [Wilkinson]|
|9/1/82||Law Agencies Launch Fraud Ads Blitz|
|1/8/82||374 Land Violations Boggle [Utah] County|
|8/24/82||White Collar Criminals Are Like Your Neighbors|
|12/30/86||Leading Article in Wallstreet Journal: Wizards Fall, Loss of Midas Touch Leads to Bankruptcy, Law Suits and Murder [J. Gary Sheets]|
|6/17/86||Hansen Loses Bid for Shorter Sentence [Hatch and Garn went to Idaho to campaign for him]|
|10/21/85||Lawyers Overrun Salt Lake City [more per capita than New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. That’s great, isn’t it?]|
|4/10/85||Hatch Helps Draft Ideology Tests for Judges|
|9/11/85||Hatch Gives Guarded Support to South African Sanctions|
|9/7/85||Hatch Denies Calling President of National Organization for Women a Communist and Pinko [in so many words]|
|6/1/86||Exposé Ties Both Utah Senators to World Anti-Communist League|
|5/3/85||Utahns in Congress Rate Extreme Right|
|5/26/86||Utah Delegates [in Washington] Are Among the Most “Right”|
|6/5/85||Hatch to Present Prayer Amendment|
|8/5/86||Hatch Wants Inquiry on Manion Critic|
|11/7/86||Artist Asked to Remove Maeser’s Beard in Painting on cover of Student Directory [at BYU]|
|11/7/86||Censorship Long Standing Question [at BYU]|
|11/19/85||BYU Officials Threaten ELWC Roach Revealers|
|7/17/86||Deseret Closes Book on Racy Novels|
|3/27/86||Pupils Protest Attack on Libya: 40 Are Suspended, 3 Arrested [at Bonneville Jr. High]|
|8/23/85||Constitution Panel Bars Public from Salt Lake Meeting|
|10/27/85||75% of Utahns Favor Star Wars Plan|
|4/10/86||Utah Lawmakers Reject Gun Control [unanimously]|
|11/8/85||Former Lawmaker Rebukes Governor on Missile Issue [feeble resistance to 6 missile sites in Utah]|
|3/13/85||Spanish Fork Marine Helps Train Wyoming Youth, in trench-knife techniques basis of hand-to-hand combat [Rambo photo]|
Where Your Treasure Is, There Will Your Heart Be Also
|8/20/82||Richer, Faster Attitude in Utah Valley Attracts Scams [“Dr. Steven D. Nadauld . . . started his speech at BYU’s Management Society Conference Monday with the audience chanting ‘Richer, faster, richer, faster’ “]|
|7/7/86||Utah County May Have the Nation’s Largest Number of Entrepreneurs|
|9/7/86||Hatch Defends President of Teamsters|
|1/13/85||Bangerter Cuts Funds for Mental Health|
|6/9/86||Official Charges City-Hired Managers to Side-step Unions|
|2/14/86||Dress for Success Conference at BYU, Sponsored by Skaggs Institute of Retail Management|
|3/1/86||BYU Poster for Public Administration Scholarships: “Bring in Your Brain for Big Bucks”|
|3/5/86||Wirthlin Outlines American Values: Economic Security, Personal Security, Family, Neighbors and Patriotism|
|Financial Entrepreneur Defends Controversial Ad: “The price of my integrity if converted into dollars is in the tens of millions.” [Now there’s a man with integrity. Sir Simon’s famous joke: We know now what you are, now the only question is how much.]|
This is only a modest sampling. 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). That need does not include killing for pleasure, or to provide a pleasurable spectacle for the public, activities that seem to have become the national avocation in our time.
The End of It All
And where is it all leading? The prophetic Book of Mormon and prophetic Doctrine and Covenants and the Bible all tell us where. Read section 1: “Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear. . . . The anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth, . . . for they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant” (D&C 1:11, 13, 15). “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall” (D&C 1:16). Let us note that the issue is an economic one. The people of Zarahemla were not denounced for having the wrong ideas about the economy, but for thinking of nothing else all the time: “Behold ye do always remember your treasures, therefore ye are cursed and your treasures are cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them” (see Helaman 13:22-23). The prophecy continues: “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments” (D&C 1:17). Strange that there should be no distinction between the good and bad inhabitants of the earth. (He’s talking to all the world.) Why doesn’t he mention those awful Soviets? On the contrary, they are to be lumped together. “Verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh; for I am no respecter of persons [he does not take sides], and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion” (D&C 1:34-35). So it all goes back to Satan’s dominions, power applied by buying the armies’ supporters with the treasures of the earth, a thoroughly practical approach to the world where you can have anything for money. There is a bright side to the picture: “And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst” (D&C 1:36). But not until they decide to do things his way.
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.
In the last phase of World War II, I was in Heidelberg in the Sixth Army Group, writing up the daily intelligences. I had been there on my mission, and nobody had ever heard of such a thing as a garbage dump in Europe; yet here was a huge garbage dump. You knew the Americans had arrived—the Army. And everywhere the Americans were in occupation were the giant garbage dumps. Since then there have been garbage dumps everywhere; what our civilization leaves behind is garbage. Which is what happens everywhere. Rubble is all we have of any ancient civilization, as far as that goes; it’s more sanitary now because it’s been oxidized.
But it has also become the main problem of the world. What can we do with this stuff? We’ve now got a new kind of garbage, which is eternal; waste disposal has become one of the biggest headaches of the day. We put the garbage where we don’t notice—out of sight, out of mind; but it’s getting bigger and bigger, and now Utah is being eyed, more than any other place, as the great place to dump deadly garbage, which is the only thing our civilization will leave behind unless it’s the written word, the documents, the one thing that binds civilization together.
What do the other civilizations leave behind, the ones I call the stable ones? The ones after the manner of the old people. They leave themselves behind. Their next generation takes over and carries on. Time means nothing to them. It’s an eternal order of the law. The law of consecration is an eternal order. We will just leave ourselves, the culture, behind, without any loss of product. People will have plenty to do and plenty to think of.
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.
And it is my prayer that we may be awakened to the glorious promises the Lord has given to Zion through the temple, which I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
1. The Manual of Discipline I, 13-15; see Theodor H. Gaster, ed., The Dead Sea Scriptures (New York: Anchor, 1976), 45-46.
2. This subject is treated at length in Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975).
3. JD 2:305.
4. Ibid., 2:299.
6. From the Manuscript History of Brigham Young (Church Historical Archives).
7. Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1909), 487-88.
8. JD 2:305-6 (emphasis added).
9. Studs Terkel, The American Dreams: Lost and Found (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 326.
10. Ibid., 43.
11. Ibid., 338.
12. Cf. MS 39:372.
13. Eldin J. Watson, Brigham Young Addresses 1870-1877, 6 vols. (1984), vol. 6, June 1, 1876.
14. Terkel, American Dreams, 338.
15. Ibid., 14-15.
16. Ibid., 17.
17. Ibid., 127-28.
18. Ibid., 128.
19. Vergil, Aeneid I, 287.
20. “Racial Navajo Letter Prompts Removal of Subcontractor,” Salt Lake City Tribune, 17 January 1986.
21. Harry C. James, Pages from Hopi History (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974), 185-86.
22. Ibid., 188.
23. Terkel, American Dreams, 176.
24. JD 16:123 (emphasis added).
25. Journal History of the Church (October 1, 1848).
26. JD 10:268 (emphasis added).
27. Terkel, American Dreams, 21.
28. Ibid., 19.
30. Variations on this story may be found in Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 7 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968), 1:159.
31. JD 14:83 (emphasis added).
32. Ibid., 1:117 (emphasis added).
34. Terkel, American Dreams, 30-32.
35. Plutarch, Lycurgus VIII, 1.
36. Solon fragment 12 in Ivan M. Linforth, Solon the Athenian (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1919), 140-41; cf. Demosthenes, Defalsa legatione, 254-70.
37. Ibid., fragment 40, page 169.
38. Plato, Laws 899D-900A.
39. Ibid., 906A.
40. Ibid., 904D-E.
41. Anthony, Sermo de Vanitute Mundi et de Resurrectione Mortuorum, in PG 40:962, 986.
42. Thomas More, Utopia, tr. Robert M. Adams, 2 vols. (London: Yale University Press, 1964), 1:29.
43. Ibid., 2:146-49.
44. Ibid., 2:146.
45. Ibid., 2:88.
46. Ibid., 2:88-89.
47. Ibid., 2:89.
49. See Leonard Silk, “The End of the Road?” New York Times Book Review, a review of Robert L. Heilbroner, Business Civilization in Decline (New York: Nolton, 1976).
50. More, Utopia, 1:25.
51. Mariann Caprino, “Healthy Greed Was Boesky’s Undoing,” Salt Lake Tribune, 20 November 1986, D9.
52. Terkel, American Dreams, 19.
53. JD 17:117-18.
54. Ibid., 18:244.
55. Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign 6 (June 1976): 3-4.