There were some things I wanted to settle in my own mind, so I started asking questions and got into a heated debate with myself. Here’s the debate that followed.
We begin with question number one: “What are the principal issues?” I ask myself (not knowing anything about these subjects): “What are the principal issues in political science today? The economy and defense—how to have a prosperous nation and a secure one. What can I say about that?” Nothing significant. “Why not?” Because I don’t know enough. “Who does?” I don’t know. “Have I made the effort to find out?” Yes, I get two newspapers and four news magazines and listen to TV panels; but the experts, especially the economists (including Nobel Laureates), can’t seem to agree on anything. “Do you think the situation is hopeless?” Yes, theirs is hopeless. “But is there any hope in sight?” Indeed there is. (This becomes a very optimistic talk from now on.)
I call attention particularly to the Book of Mormon, which I consider the handbook for our times—as its author intended it to be. “Isn’t the author a bit out of date?” No, he is a living prophet. “What do you mean by that?” Just what I say. The man is Moroni: He was a living, resurrected being when he gave that big dossier to Joseph Smith; he is still living, and at some future time he is going to be active on the earth again (as we are told in D&C 27). “But isn’t the story he tells ancient history?” Consider his visit to Joseph Smith. Joseph described Moroni’s person and the manner and nature of his arrival and his departure in clinical detail—very concretely. It was a real visit. And since the angel repeated his lesson four times in one night, and then once a year, the same night (on the autumnal equinox) for the ensuing four years, Joseph was able to record the message exactly—it consisted entirely of quotations from earlier writers, earlier prophets, earlier visitors to the earth, a sort of pastiche of messages. Joseph says Moroni commenced by quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament. Then he gave a long list of passages. Moroni changed some and quoted others word for word as they are given in the King James Version of the Bible. In fact, Moroni’s message was simply a long list of Bible quotations. (But so is much of the Bible itself.) He quoted all of that stuff because it was going to be relevant. The heavenly messenger updated everything that had gone before without ever losing sight of it. He put it all together—he said, in effect, that he was doing just that: “This is now about to be fulfilled; you’ve been looking forward to this; this has been fulfilled; this is where we stand now with reference to these things.” So we’ll take Moroni as our guide.
“Would you say that present-day, living prophets supersede him?” No, not any more than they compete with him. He’s as alive as they are. Notice that the scriptures are never outdated. Moroni quoted prophecies thousands of years old because those prophecies were still in effect; and in some cases, in Joseph’s writing (JS-H 1:40-41), they were about to be fulfilled at last. Nothing could be more pertinent than that message. Moroni was bringing Joseph up to date.
“Well, how about other angels?” Exactly the same. For the dispensation of the meridian of time was ushered in by an angel who first appeared to a priest in the temple (Luke 1:11-20), talking to him all morning, quoting ancient scriptures. And then the same angel, from the presence of God, went to Mary at her house (Luke 1:26-38) and repeated other ancient scriptures that were about to be realized in her.
But the most significant example is that of the Lord himself, who after his resurrection came to instruct the apostles; and we are told in Luke that beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them from all the scriptures things concerning himself. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Just as he had commanded the Nephites always to search the scriptures and add their own careful records to them, he expounded to them all of the scripture they had received, and said to them, “Behold, other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not” (3 Nephi 23:6), and proceeded to dictate the words of Malachi to them. Then he called them to bring forth the records, and “he cast his eyes upon them” (3 Nephi 23:8) and proceeded to point out some important omissions (among them one of the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite).
In these important cases, notice that the heavenly messengers, including the resurrected Lord himself, do not waive the old written record. They don’t say, “The ipse dixit [the autonomous source] is here himself; now we can forget about the old musty records.” They stick right to them—though the living Lord himself is there (imagine that!). If you pray for an angel to visit you, you know what he’ll do if he comes. He’ll just quote the scriptures to you—so you’re wasting your time waiting for what we already have. Though you are amused by my saying this, I’m quite serious about it.
“Well, does that mean we give the written records priority over the living word?” No, of course not. Heavenly visitors and the Holy Ghost must take charge. The written record is their text, and they expound upon it. “And why do they have to have a text?” Because it is always with us. Remember that after the Lord had expounded everything concerning himself to the Nephites, he said, in essence, “I want you to write this down, because I’m not always going to be with you—you’ll always have this to go by” (cf. 3 Nephi 23:4). But he’s not going to leave us on the strength of the text itself—it must be read when moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
“But who’s to interpret it? Do I have a right to interpret the scriptures as much as anyone else?” Of course. You may remember that the wars of the Reformation were fought on that issue: “Does the ordinary person have the right to read the scriptures?” We regard that as a definite step forward in the Lord’s work on the earth, and in the Church every individual is commanded to read the scriptures for himself. Of course, the story of the last dispensation begins with the Prophet Joseph, as a young boy, reading the scriptures very much for himself, putting the most literal interpretation on them, belonging to no church at the time, without asking for anybody’s permission. So we do that also. As far as official interpretation of the scriptures is concerned, the Latter-day Saints scoff at the idea that one must study special courses and get a special degree—”training for the ministry”—and thus interpret the Bible for others. Joseph Smith noted many times that interpreters of the scriptures like William W. Phelps and Frederick G. Williams read the scriptures quite differently than he, but he didn’t order them to stop or to change. He said we should try to use reason and testimony, but that’s all we can do. The Brethren are instructed to stick to the scriptures in all their teachings: “No man’s opinion is worth a straw: advance no principle but what you can prove, for one scriptural proof is worth ten thousand opinions.”1
“Why all the fuss about the scriptures?” Because I intend to take Moroni as my guide to the present world situation. “Why him?” Moroni and his father are the principal, definitive editors of the Book of Mormon. They not only compiled and edited; they also went through and picked out things they felt would be important for us. Then they evaluated that and applied it to us and explained everything to us. What a marvelous thing to have it all summed up for us by the principal actors in this thing. And both Moroni and his father were concerned with two things: the questions with which we began, the questions of prosperity and security—the great, inseparably related issues of wealth and war.
“Does Moroni give specific advice to us?” Most emphatically! His great closing narration is this (he repeats it again and again)—an impassioned appeal to us: Do not deny the gifts of God (Moroni 10:8).
“What gifts? Who would want to deny them? Why?”
One question at a time.
The gifts are spiritual and they are temporal, but in fact they are inseparable. A temporal gift is in one dimension spiritual. Gifts are listed in the scriptures. Please recall very quickly the spiritual gifts—you know them. One is to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God—one of the gifts given to some. To others it is given to believe on their words, to some to know the differences of administration, to some to know the diversity of operations, to others the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, to some to prophesy, to some the working of miracles, to some the discernment of spirits. A long list of these spiritual gifts is given to us by the Lord (Moroni 10:8-18). We can’t conjure them up for ourselves. The Lord gives them, and he says he gives them. We must ask for them with real intent and with an honest heart. We can have them—any gift. And a nice protective clause is written in there: If we’re not supposed to have a gift, what we are worthy of, what is beneficial or expedient, we shall have that (since if we are left to our own wisdom, we may ask for very foolish things). But all these things are available—all we need to do is ask. But we must ask for them, and of course if we ask not we receive not. The gifts are not in evidence today, except one gift, which you notice the people ask for—the gift of healing. They ask for that with honest intent and with sincere hearts, and we really do have that gift. Because we are desperate and nobody else can help us, we ask with sincere hearts of our Lord. As for these other gifts, how often do we ask for them? How earnestly do we seek for them? We could have them if we did ask, but we don’t. “Well, who denies them?” Anyone who doesn’t ask for them. They are available to all for the asking, but one must ask with an honest heart, sincerely.
“Do people prefer temporal gifts today?” It’s a strange thing, but people don’t want them either. “What are the temporal gifts?” Anything you could possibly ask for in order to get along in the world. “People don’t want them?” No, not as gifts—they are proud and don’t want to accept a dole. “Isn’t that rather admirable?” It looks that way. Their hearts are really set on these things—they want to have them, but they want to earn them fair and square and to be beholden to no one for them. They want to say, “This is mine because I earned it.” No one has a right to a gift; no one can go to the giver and demand it as something he has earned. What is owed you, you don’t receive as a present but as your due. In our Anglo-Saxon ethic we just don’t like the idea of having to depend upon anyone else—we must be independent before all things. “What’s wrong with that?” We think we are being realistic about it, but are we? Independent of what? Of God? Of our fellowman? Of nature?
“What is the issue here? You said the economists don’t agree on anything. Do you expect to come up with a definitive answer?” The issue is the scriptures. This would not be my answer in a million years, but it keeps getting through at me and I can’t get away from it. They speak out loud and clear—persistently and urgently—on the subject: “Deny not the gifts of God” (Moroni 10:8). Everything you have is a gift—everything. You have earned nothing. There is no concern for prosperity and survival where the gospel is concerned. Everything we could possibly need for survival is given us at the outset as a free gift.
“But surely God expects us to work!” Of course he does, but we keep thinking of one kind of work, and he wants us to think of another. “Please explain,” says the wise guy. “Willingly,” says the informant.
Let us begin our story with Adam. The antiquity of the story can be affirmed by a large number of early apocryphal Adam writings that have been unearthed in recent years2—just as lots of things have been turning up recently to change all our ideas about astronomy and so forth and to confirm the ideas of Einstein (whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow); many documents are pouring out to confirm things we all know. What I am saying here is not stolen from any Latter-day Saint protocol; it can be confirmed directly from sources that are now quite abundant.
Adam came down to earth. It was an earth fully equipped for his support and delight. “We have made for you this earth and have placed upon it everything you could possibly need—every type of fruit and herb you could possibly imagine growing spontaneously, of which you may partake freely. All a gift.” The earth was created for Adam: “And we have planted a garden all ready for you—all you have to do is take note of it. And everything is for the taking.” One gift, however, is withheld from Adam: the fruit of the tree of good and evil—the tree of knowledge. So long as Adam was immortal, the tree of life presented no problem.
So into this world, most glorious and beautiful, with everything supplied, come Adam and Eve. And then comes somebody else. Satan’s been lying in wait for them, as a matter of fact. That’s one of the things the word Satan actually means, the one who lies in wait, who lurks in ambush, waiting—he was there first, waiting.3 And so Satan’s first act is to offer to Adam and Eve the one gift that has been forbidden them.
For acting out of order, the stranger (no longer a stranger) is denounced and cursed. He has given the fruit to Adam and Eve; it was not his prerogative to do so—regardless of what had been done in other worlds. (When the time comes for such fruit, it will be given us legitimately.) So, nettled by this rebuke and the curse, he flares up in his pride and announces what his program for the economic and political order of the new world is going to be. He will take the resources of the earth, and with precious metals as a medium of exchange he will buy up military and naval might, or rather those who control it, and so will govern the earth—for he is the prince of this world. He does rule: he is king. Here at the outset is the clearest possible statement of a military-industrial complex ruling the earth with violence and ruin. But as we are told, this cannot lead to anything but war, because it has been programmed to do that. It was conceived in the mind of Satan in his determination “to destroy the world” (Moses 4:6). The whole purpose of the program is to produce blood and horror on this earth.4
Adam is now cast out of the garden, consigned to a new life. The first person he meets in the new world is already looking him up, waiting for him; and it is the same person that looked him up in the garden. He has come to Adam with a deal. He announces that the earth is his property from one end to the other, and that he rules and stands for no nonsense. He asks twice what Adam wants: “What is it you want?” He will supply any gifts forthcoming in this world—but at a price. When Adam says that what he really wants is more light and knowledge, Satan offers to provide that, and after some dickering he hires a preacher to do the instructing. When the real preachers, whom God has proposed, arrive (sometimes called the three strangers, the three visitors, sometimes the Angel Michael—it is different ones in different versions, but it is a very consistent story),5 Satan challenges them as trespassers who have tried to take over his splendid property. They come to give Adam priceless gifts; Satan asks them if they have any money—not just pocket change, but big money; they can have anything in this world for money. Adam pointedly observes (as Peter does to Simon Magus later when Simon enters the picture) that the gifts of God are not negotiable. “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20). You cannot buy these gifts; they are not negotiable; you cannot use them in business.
Adam refuses Satan’s offer, and Satan discusses contracts with the minister. This is the false Horus, a comic character in the very early Egyptian temple ceremony.6 Satan insists that he is true to his business agreements, which he is. He is all business. But having failed to sell Adam, he later goes to Adam’s son, Cain. He offers to make a contract with him and tells him how to get possession of his brother’s wealth in return for Cain’s help in organizing his work in the world. Cain loves the idea; he loves Satan more than God. He then makes the famous pact with the devil (a theme that comes down through the literature) (Moses 5:29-30).7
Satan gives him a special course to make him prosperous in all things: the Mahan technique, the great secret of converting life into property. Later Lamech graduates with the same degree—”Master Mahan, master of that great secret” (Moses 5:49). He glories in what he has done; it becomes the normal world economy. Nearly all the posterity of Adam, we are told, entered into business, and all Adam and Eve could do about it was to mourn before the Lord (Moses 5:27). Everyone went off following the Cainites.8 And Cain did it all, we are told, for the sake of getting gain (Moses 5:31). He was not ashamed; he “gloried in that which he had done.” He said, “I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands” (Moses 5:33).
Moroni picks it up at this point. The order of Cain carries right over into Book of Mormon passages, in fact, like something just cut out of the paper today. Let’s start out with Ether 9:11: “Now the people of Akish were desirous for gain, even as Akish was desirous for power; wherefore, the sons of Akish did offer them money, by which means they drew away the more part of the people after them.” Akish got elected because he offered the people money. He wanted power and they wanted gain, and they made a bargain. The reference I have here is this: A poll shows that 85 percent of this year’s contested Senate races went to the candidate who spent the most. You can indeed buy that sort of thing, as Akish did. People got their money and Akish got his power. “And it came to pass that thus they did agree with Akish. And Akish did administer unto them the oaths which were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain” (Ether 8:15).
So Moroni here picks up the story—it comes from the time of Cain, “who was a murderer from the beginning” (Ether 8:15). It carries on in Helaman, where we get an interesting discussion. It is important here because it tells us how the principle leads directly and necessarily to war:
Now behold, it is these secret oaths and covenants which Alma commanded his son should not go forth unto the world, lest they should be a means of bringing down the people unto destruction. Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit—Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth. And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell. Yea, it is that same being who put it into the heart of Gadianton to still carry on the work of darkness, and of secret murder; and he has brought it forth from the beginning of man even down to this time. And behold, it is he who is the author of all sin. And behold, he doth carry on his works of darkness and secret murder, and doth hand down their plots, and their oaths, and their covenants, and their plans of awful wickedness, from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men. And now behold, he had got great hold upon the hearts of the Nephites; yea, insomuch that they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God, and did turn unto their own ways, and did build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver (Helaman 6:25-31).
All this happened “in the space of not many years” (Helaman 6:32). And what was the result of that? In the next chapter Nephi tells us:
But behold, it is to get gain, to be praised of men, yea, and that ye might get gold and silver. And ye have set your hearts upon the riches and the vain things of this world, for the which ye do murder, and plunder, and steal, and bear false witness against your neighbor, and do all manner of iniquity. And for this cause wo shall come unto you except ye shall repent. For if ye will not repent, behold, this great city, and also all those great cities which are round about, which are in the land of our possession, shall be taken away that ye shall have no place in them; for behold, the Lord will not grant unto you strength, as he has hitherto done, to withstand against your enemies (Helaman 7:21-22).
“For this cause” directly—that they had set their hearts on the economy. This is an interesting thing: It is not which economy. Remember what Samuel the Lamanite said: Your trouble is that you always think of your riches, and for that reason you are going to lose them. They will become slippery that you cannot hold them (Helaman 13:31). You have no control over the stock market at all; the more closely you watch it, the more it thatup; we’ll leave it to the economists.
How this motive leads to war can be illustrated by Alma 60, the ending of the great fourteen-years’ war. That episode begins with a postwar boom (very well described in Alma 45). The next period of war ended after the phase very well described in 3 Nephi 6:10-14: rebuilding and the repairs of the cities, the big contracts, building of roads between the towns, bustling intercoastal trade—it all being extremely profitable. The result of this tremendous postwar boom is degeneration and annihilation. And then the stroke of doom. The cause of their wickedness was this: Satan (right back to the Garden again) had put it into their hearts to seek after power, authority and riches. This was their undoing.
Back to the Alma version now. After the postwar boom, Helaman, as the head of the church, is alarmed. He sees how the prosperity leads people to set their hearts on riches: “Therefore, Helaman and his brethren went forth to establish the church again in all the land, yea, in every city throughout all the land which was possessed by the people of Nephi. And it came to pass that they did appoint priests and teachers throughout all the land, over all the churches” (Alma 45:22).
He tries to do something about it, and immediately the resentment of those whom he rebukes flares up against him. They propose an action program—quite a dangerous one. Being closely knit, interested families, they begin to organize an opposition party, and it is taken over by a man of considerable genius who is capable and unscrupulous: Amalickiah, who organized the coalition. The coalition consisted of these people, in this order: first, the rich; second, ambitious judges seeking for power and office (including lawyers); third, some members of the church who didn’t know any better (see Alma 46:6-7—Alma knows how to put it); fourth, aspiring businessmen and officials—merchants, lawyers and officers—people distinguished by rank according to their riches and their chances for learning (the movie Paper Chase), fifth, important families (those judges had many friends and kinsmen, and almost all the lawyers and high priests united in the interests of those judges—the upper-crust—and stuck together); sixth, those professing the blood of nobility—snobs; seventh, those who were in the favor of kings (those of high birth). (They themselves sought to be kings, and they supported those who sought power and authority over the people; the same theme is found later in 3 Nephi.)
It is all perfectly clear: the economy we are all familiar with and the obsession with that economy. These people were determined to defend their economic interests and privileges by force, and this led them right into the great war.
Very fittingly, Amalickiah’s people are now designated by the overall name of “king-men.” From the first, their tendency, we are told right in the opening verse, is to violence: “And it came to pass that as many as would not hearken to the words of Helaman and his brethren were gathered together against their brethren. And now behold, they were exceedingly wroth, insomuch that they were determined to slay them” (Alma 46:1-2).
They were intemperate and self-righteous, like Laman and Lemuel—that’s why Amalickiah was able to advance his interests among them by gathering together a wonderfully faithful following of all sorts of mixed interests. Time and again he threatened the peace and very existence of the Nephite state, constantly entreating the Lamanites and exploring opportunities, using their power to his advantage. Thus he went over with a host to stir up the Lamanites to anger against his own people and caused them to come to battle against them. He was a real war monger, opposed at every turn by Moroni, whose sole object was to keep peace with the Lamanites (Alma 46:31) and among his own people (Alma 46:37). Moroni was supported by the nation as a whole, not a particular party. Actually the king-men (this formal title is bestowed later) seem to have been quite a small group, merely an element of Amalickiah’s coalition. The rest of the people were referred to simply as the people of liberty, who, in a free election, put the king-men to silence. When Moroni by his title of liberty calls attention to the serious threat posed to freedom by the militant opposition, who are actually in arms, “behold, the people came running together with their armor” (Alma 46:21). He compares them with the forlorn outcast remnant of Joseph rather than a mighty army. In Moroni’s history, internal and external security are inseparably comingled with the conflict of economic and party interest (it’s quite a picture).
The fiction has been diligently cultivated that Moroni on this occasion put all the pacifists to death. Those put to death were not those who had refused to take up arms to defend their country, but those who had taken up arms to attack it and who were on their way to join the enemy across the border, glad in their hearts when they heard that the Lamanites were coming down to battle against their country; they were dissenters to the enemy. Pacifists? They were all members of Amalickiah’s army, armed to their teeth on their way to join the enemy when Moroni caught them. “And . . . whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into the covenant, . . . he caused to be put to death; and there were but few” (Alma 46:35). Armed violence, not pacifism, had been their program from the beginning. We can sum up the issue by referring to Alma 51:17: “And it came to pass that Moroni commanded that his army should go against those king-men, to pull down their pride and their nobility and level them with the earth, or they should take up arms and support the cause of liberty.” It was a coalition of the important people, the persons who lifted the sword to fight against Moroni; it was a pitched battle, not an execution. If you had arms in your hands and were fighting, then if you didn’t lay them down, if you didn’t surrender (as in any war), you had to suffer the consequences. “Insomuch that as they did lift their weapons of war to fight against the men of Moroni they were hewn down. . . . And those of their leaders who were not slain in battle were taken and cast into prison” (Alma 51:18-19). The remainder yielded to the standard of liberty.
In a later battle, “the men of Pachus received their trial, according to the law, and also those king-men; . . . whosoever would not take up arms in the defense of their country, but would fight against it, were put to death” (Alma 62:9). They were all fighting men taken with weapons in their hands, refusing to give them up.
It is interesting in all of this that the title freemen first appears only in the late stages of the war as defenders of Pahoran, the legitimately elected judge. They took to themselves a name and a covenant. The man they supported, the incumbent chief judge, won the election, although he was later driven from office. But in the correspondence between them, both Moroni and Pahoran refer to the freemen simply as “their people”—it could be a group of special people with them or just their side in general—the most dedicated, or more dedicated, of the Nephites. Moroni refers to his brave soldiers holding a sector of front as “part of my freemen” (Alma 60:25). Pahoran refers to part of his supporters as freemen and reports that those now in power have “daunted our freemen, that they have not come unto you” (Alma 61:4). In all these instances, the freeman may represent a more dedicated part of the Nephites or just the Nephites in general. But what they stood for—freedom, homes, country and so forth—are the cliches that both sides in every war fight for, perfectly justified and sincere. When the fighting starts, you have to defend. This is the way it is rigged. Specifically, we are told what they were against and why they were fighting against it—which could only be called a coalition of vested interests that aimed at seizing the government. Occasionally they succeeded, and when they did, they legislated for their own sweet interests, with the inevitable result, we are told, of war and contentions: “And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor “(Helaman 6:39).
The Gadiantons—this is, remember, a paramilitary group—”did obtain the sole management of the government,” and doing that, they filled the judgment seats, having usurped the power and authority of the land, laying aside the commandments of God; and “they did trample under their feet . . . the humble followers of God” (Helaman 6:39). As soon as they got into power, they started legislating in their own interests. They put judges in who were doing what? “Letting the guilty and wicked go unpunished because of their money”; holding them “in office at the head of [the] government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world” (Helaman 7:5). They governed in the interest of one class alone.
So this is the situation: they were in office to get gain and the glory of the world, and they did everything with an eye single to their glory. They were politically, socially, and economically ambitious. They were opposed by the common people organized by Moroni, who made them conscious of themselves as the poor and humble afflicted outcasts of Israel, always calling upon the Lord. Here we have the two totally different, clearly defined ideologies; the one prevails throughout the world today and throughout ancient, medieval, and modern history (you know which side that is: war and economics 9
But let us return to the question: “If everything is given to us, do we have to work?” Of course. The gifts do not excuse us from work, they leave us free to do the real work. The instrument is given to you; it is up to you to show what you can do with it. I’ll give you the piano or I’ll give you the violin—the real work is showing what you can do with it. The Lord provides the tools. “I’ll give you the stone and the chisel—now you show that you are a Michelangelo.” It is much harder to be a Michelangelo than to work enough to buy a chisel and some stone.
Here is a parable. A businessman had a young child who showed great promise in music and wanted to learn to play the piano. “Very well,” said the shrewd, realistic, hard-headed businessman father, “as soon as you have manufactured a piano for yourself, going out and mining the metals and getting together all of the other materials, doing all the work necessary to make a piano, then I will consider letting you take piano lessons.”
The child protests: “These are two different kinds of work.”
Playing a piano and making a piano are related, but in your short time on earth you can’t do both. That’s just the way it is. I’m not saying that temporal things are not important—they are indispensable. We must have them at the outset free of charge. Our welfare is a very important matter to God. And God has recognized that and has taken care of it. He picks up the tab and expects us not to concern ourselves with it, certainly not as constantly and exclusively as we do, or even give it priority. He supplies us with bodies free of charge and with their upkeep, also free of charge.
“Well, isn’t this idealistic immaterialism quite unrealistic?” Indeed it is, for non-Latter-day Saints; it is simply laughable in the present world. Remember, what we regard as real and what the rest of the world regards as real are by no means the same thing. For us the great reality is the visitation of heavenly beings to the world. Nothing could be further from reality or distract one’s mind further from cold, factual workaday realities of life than an angel with gold plates or a gold book. The Latter-day Saints will tell you a story that to them is perfectly real, whatever the world may think about it.
“But what about the struggles of this life, the clipping and striving, the developing of strength and character?” It’s very exhilarating to climb the ladder—but the question to ask is which ladder are you going to climb? “Does it matter as long as you develop your character?” It makes all the difference in the world. What are the qualities that make for success in the business world? Hard work, dependability, sobriety, firmness, imagination, patience, courage, loyalty, discrimination, intelligence, persistence, ingenuity, dedication, consecration—you can add to the list. But these are the same qualities necessary to make a successful athlete, artist, soldier, bank robber, musician, international jewel thief, scholar, hit man, spy, teacher, dancer, author, politician, minister, smuggler, con man, general, explorer, chef, physician, engineer, builder, astronaut, scientist, godfather, inventor. Again, you name it. Too often these attributes of character are represented as unique to the business world, putting a stamp of glory on the man in the executive suite.
You don’t have to go into business to develop character. On the contrary, consider statistics: There are over one half million millionaires in the country—but how many first-rate composers or writers or artists or even scientists? A tiny handful. It’s a commonplace in Church history that those leaders and Saints who had denied the gifts became more depraved, intemperate, and self-deceived than others (Alma 47:36; 24:30). As usual, the Book of Mormon has the explanation for that—in the Zoramites. They had many good qualities; they were wonderful people. But they misdirected their virtues, and that made them all the more vicious. Alma found them to be the wickedest people in the world. He couldn’t believe that people could be so evil. “Misdirected for what?” Because with all their virtues, they set their hearts upon riches (Alma 31:24-38). Alma couldn’t stand it. He couldn’t look at it anymore. It hurt too much. How could people be so wicked? This is what was wrong: “Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish” (Alma 31:28). “O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men? Behold, O God, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold, O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths” (Alma 31:26-27). Remember, they went to church once a week, and they bore their testimony, and they were very strict in dress regulations, and so forth. They were brave and courageous and enterprising and prosperous and all those other things—but this was what was wrong: the “and yet” (as Cleopatra says, I do not like “but yet”10). “They cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, . . . [with] their ringlets; . . . and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say [at the same time], We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee” (Alma 31:27-28). And that was what the great crime was. Don’t try to combine the two.
Here we have a final powerful motive moving you along, and it’s a wonderful thing to have, except when you are moving in the wrong direction. Like Adam, it makes a difference which ladder you are climbing. Like Adam, we are sent to this earth to go to school to learn things by our own experience, to be tried and tested and to seek ever greater light and knowledge. While we are here at school our room and board are all paid up by our kind, indulgent Father. What are we to study? Are we to spend all of our time at school studying how to get more and fancier room and board? That’s a vote of low confidence in our kindly benefactor; that’s a cynical sort of thing to do. But then I ask myself, “Isn’t that part of the experience of life?” Why ask me? Ask the one who is paying the bills for us what he intends us to study. He is most generous and explicit in his instructions, which are the first commandment given to the Church in these last days: “Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich” (D&C 6:7). “Ha! Make you rich after all!” The Father explains that: He who has eternal life is rich. That is the wealth he wants us to have. “What’s wrong with having both kinds?” Again, don’t ask me. The scriptures are full of answers to that one. You cannot lay up treasures both on earth and in heaven; you cannot live the gospel and be concerned with the cares of the world. That’s what happened to the sower: he accepted the gospel but did not give up the cares of this world. You cannot serve God and Mammon, you must hate the one and love the other. The rich man cannot enter heaven except by a very special dispensation. You cannot accept the Lord’s invitation to his banquet without neglecting other business. Remember, the Lord said a man gave a banquet. Everything was all ready, and he wanted his friends all to come and enjoy themselves. Ah! But they had more important things to do. The business of the world was more important. One of them said, “Well, I bought some land and I have to go inspect it”; another said, “I’m looking over a few oxen and they are important”; and another said, “I have a social obligation with this wedding I have to go to.” The Lord was angry with them all. “You will never get to my feast, then. You must either come to “(see Matthew 22:2-14).
So many students have told me (hundreds of times), “I would like to study this. I would like to study that (music, astronomy, and so on). But after all, I have to do the important things, the real things of life—I have to go out and make money.” The Lord says that if you do that, you will never get to the banquet. We are told this in each of the Gospels, in the Doctrine and Covenants, in the Book of Mormon, and in the Pearl of Great Price. We are told it again and again. “Take no thought for what you should eat, or what you should drink or what you should wear.” We are clearly told what we should not be doing. “Well, what should we be doing, for “I’m glad I asked that.
The Doctrine and Covenants repeatedly tells the Saints how they should spend their time.
As Adam did. May I remind you that Adam was invited to work even before the fall.
“What kind of work?”
“Go to. Dress this garden and take good care of it. Have a good time. Be happy and have joy—you and all the other creatures” (they were created especially to have joy). My, my, what a time, the existence there. Yes, and work was part of the fun—not work to make a living, I must repeat. At that time the earth brought forth spontaneously every kind of delicious food, of which Adam was invited to partake freely. He wanted Adam to work and have a good time. But then came the Fall, after which Adam was instructed to get back to that paradisiacal existence as soon as possible. Messengers were sent to him with one gift after another—while Satan tried to decoy him into a business deal.
“What are we instructed to do in our fallen state?” The shortest and most concise section of the Doctrine and Covenants puts that to us: “Let your time be devoted to the studying of the scriptures, and to preaching, and to confirming the church, . . . and to performing your labors on the land” (D&C 26:1)—farming, church work, and study. Even so, Adam was told to cultivate his garden, to do church work among his children (which was most strenuous—remember, he spent many, many years working among them, teaching the gospel to them, in sheer despair), and finally, to seek ever greater light and knowledge. This he did, and the Lord promised it to him if he asked for it.
We have enough when we have sufficient for our needs—which is very soon, we learn in 1 Timothy—”having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:5-11). But they who would have more—”they that will be rich fall into temptation,” which means desires for things which they shouldn’t have. This leads many people astray. You don’t need money—”Have you any money?” Sure, sufficient for our needs.
“That’s all right, but we need more.”
You don’t; you don’t need more than you need. More than enough is more than enough.
Back to the point again. Then we are ready for the real work, when we have sufficient for our needs; and that is pretty soon. If we get sidetracked on supplying our needs, then we are in real trouble, Timothy tells us. We have been decoyed exactly as Satan planned. But still we have to consider mundane things. Of course we do. Consider 3 Nephi 17 and 19. Here the Lord bestows gifts on the people of such a sacred nature that it is forbidden to discuss them; but before he bestows those gifts, he makes sure that their temporal condition is taken care of. “Have ye any that are sick among you? . . . Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them” (3 Nephi 17:7).
Then he commanded his disciples “that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him” (3 Nephi 18:1). And when the multitude “had eaten and were filled” (3 Nephi 18:5), then he taught them about the sacrament. Then all people, beginning with Nephi himself, went down into the water and were baptized—cleaned up for a special meeting with the Lord on the next day, at which he wanted everybody in a perfect state so he could begin his teaching. But all of their physical needs had to be taken care of first—and they were. But that is where the gospel begins; that is where other activities end. Once we have taken care of that part of it, once the people are all fed and clothed and healed of any afflictions and cleaned up, the work is done. “What do we do now, sit around and be bored?” No—then the teaching begins. All this in preparation for real teachings and manifestations that follow. The gift of the mysteries is far beyond the imagination.
The Lord recognized that taking care of physical wants is the beginning of wisdom. Feeding, healing, and cleaning the people up is the first step. That leads us to the threshold of the gospel, but as I say, with most churches that is the whole story; with us it is a minimal requirement, like the Word of Wisdom. These blessings are given to the Nephites (we are told the Word of Wisdom is given to us) as all temporal blessings are—as a free gift. The spiritual feast to follow is also a free gift. And these are the Moroni pleads with us not to reject.
“Still, it makes me uncomfortable that everything should be just given to us,” you respond.
Everything is not given unconditionally, only some gifts. How is your health, for example? My health is very good—no aches, pains, disabilities, headaches, hangups, blackouts, no chronic ills. (The doctor asks me that every year and is very disappointed when I say no, no, no, no, no. He figures I should have some of those ailments!)
“Well, doesn’t that make your life very dull?” These things are taken care of without any effort on your part. Does that easy, good health make you feel uncomfortable, lazy, guilty? How dull your life must be without aches and pains!
The ancients use the same word for work and toil as for pain suffering. Yet you don’t “suffer” when you work and toil.
“You find good health boring?”
No, it is not so.
So we have the paradox: the body serves us best when we are least aware of it, and so with money. We have to have some, but to “set our hearts on riches”—that is what the scriptures keep harping away at. “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). That is a quotation from the Pseudepigrapha,11 which is quoted by Paul, and it is also quoted in the Book of Mormon. To set our hearts on riches is, in the Book of Mormon, the ultimate disaster.
To return to the wonderful events of 3 Nephi: the Lord fed the people miraculously, as he did on more than one occasion in the New Testament. They were hungry and he gave them food. “Now, when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus, whom they both saw and heard” (3 Nephi 20:9).
“Why this great outburst of rejoicing? Hadn’t they ever eaten bread and wine before? Was eating bread and fish such a novelty to them?”
No, it wasn’t the gift. It was the hand of the giver. They actually saw the hand of the giver: “They both saw and heard” (3 Nephi 20:9). They knew where the gift came from. So one gives glory upon being raised from the sickbed. Eventually, everyone is bound to get well, but the manner of the healing is the joy in it—the hand of the giver: the comfort and joy, the feeling of the power and love that is there. This is behind the whole thing.
In most passages of scripture where the gifts are specifically mentioned (I have here a list of all mentions of gifts in the scriptures), almost invariably there is a reference to the power of God and the grace of God. Grace is charis, it is charity. These gifts are all free gifts, and of course Moroni ends on the theme of faith, hope, and charity (Moroni 10:20). If we don’t have them, we have nothing; and if we do have them, we have nothing to worry about, and we will not concern ourselves with these other things. What is a fortune, or even a few more years of life, or a good harvest, compared with the awareness of the love and power of the giver? If the giver loves me, I can leave the selection of gifts up to him.
In return for giving us everything, God asks only two things: first, to recognize his gifts for what they are, and not to take credit to ourselves and say, “This is mine”: “And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves?” (Mosiah 2:25). “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4:19). Notice, he is speaking here of temporal blessings, of which we actually earn nothing. None of us has so much as earned our own keep, as he says. “I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21)—that is, consuming more than we produce. Nobody can pay his own way here.
“What is the second thing he requires?” That we should not withhold from others his gifts to us—as if we had a special right to them. “Behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments” (Mosiah 2:22). “What are they?” “Ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably. . . . Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked. . . . Ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance, . . . ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain,” saying perhaps, “the man has brought upon himself his misery; . . . for behold, are we not all beggars?” (Mosiah 4:13-14, 16-17, 19).
“Well, perhaps, in a sense, but some more than others?”
No, equally, namely 100 percent. Back to Benjamin: “In the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, created you, and has kept and preserved you . . . from day to day, by lending you breath, . . . even supporting you from one moment to another. . . . And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2:23, 20-21, 24). We are all beggars equally—100 percent is as far as you can go.
That reminds us of another thing—it is all miraculous, totally beyond our power of comprehension. Before the loaves and fishes there was the manna. The manna was a gift from heaven, yet some shrewd and far-sighted Israelites tried to show their appreciation by going into business. And the manna rotted before the day was over (Exodus 16:15-21). They were not allowed to hoard it. It was not negotiable. It was a gift of God. The miracle of the loaves and fishes was also the miracle of our daily bread, for which the Lord has told us to pray to him. It was just as miraculous, following King Benjamin, as the loaves and fishes. In it we acknowledge the hand of the giver whenever we give thanks; whenever we give the blessing, we acknowledge the hand of the giver. But we still have the attitude of the old Danish man in Sanpete, whom Brother Jensen used to tell about: “That’s a fine carrot patch you and the Lord have there, Brother Peterson.” “Yes, and you should have seen what it looked like when the Lord was doing it alone.”
As long as we turn our minds to the things of this world, which means just that, and think that we can manage things pretty well for ourselves, we are doomed—not only to frustration but to destruction. So say the prophets, and now every newspaper and magazine tells us that they are right. It’s a poor time to dedicate ourselves to that philosophy.
Finally, there is no free lunch, says Korihor (Alma 30:17-18). It is all free lunch, says King Benjamin. I side with Korihor the realist—if lunch is the aim and purpose of life, then Korihor is right, as he firmly believed, when he said that “when a man dies that is the end thereof” (Alma 30:18). A Marriott lunch is the best thing you can hope for in that world, and so he’s right. But since I accept the gospel, that’s out of the question. Either we believe that the lunch has been taken care of, or we are in for a long, horrible contest, both internal and external, over who is going to get the most.
Should I end on a note as negative as this? This is the thing that Moroni is telling us: this may seem extreme—and it is. It is utterly fantastic. But what is the alternative? It is in the Book of Mormon. “It happened to the Jaredites, it has happened to us, and it will happen to any other people on the continent that go the way we did—if they set their hearts on the same things” is the message of Moroni.
Here’s a quotation from the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board: “Our economy is a form of fraud perpetrated by everybody on everybody. It is a world in which nobody keeps his word. Even if you could adjust perfectly for it, it would be a very unpleasant world.” That’s your maximizing of profits. So we are given that choice. But, I say, “That is so extreme. Can’t you be realistic?” This is being realistic—though you have to give it a try. We are seeking for the wrong things, and we are never going to find them.
Since there are no questions . . .
I asked the questions and I answered them—though not entirely to my satisfaction.
Questions and Answers
Question: Alexandr Solzhenitsyn gave a talk about a year ago and said Americans have become very imperialistic.12 What do you think?
Answer: That is my theme all the way through. I left out his comments for fear I would get started on that theme. Yet it is the whole thing. Our plans will not work. “Take no thought what you should wear”—that will never work in this world as it is. If you don’t want to get involved in the neighborhood brawl, there’s only one thing you can do—move out of the neighborhood. And we refuse to do that. We stay in the neighborhood, and we’re upset because we choose sides and have to get in these neighborhood brawls, for both sides are wrong.
Satan’s masterpiece of counterfeiting is the doctrine that there are only two choices, and he will show us what they are. It is true that there are only two ways, but by pointing us the way he wants us to take and then showing us a fork in that road, he convinces us that we are making the vital choice, when actually we are choosing between branches in his road. Which one we take makes little difference to him, for both lead to destruction. This is the polarization we find in our world today. Thus we have the choice between Shiz and Coriantumr—which all Jaredites were obliged to make. We have the choice between the wicked Lamanites (and they were that) and the equally wicked (Mormon says “more wicked”) Nephites. Or between the fleshpots of Egypt and the stews of Babylon, or between the land pirates and the sea pirates of World War I, or between white supremacy and black supremacy, or between Vietnam and Cambodia, or between Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers, or between China and Russia, or between Catholic and Protestant, or between fundamentalist and atheist, or between right and left—all of which are true rivals, who hate each other. A very clever move of Satan!—a subtlety that escapes us most of the time. So I ask Latter-day Saints, “What is your position frankly (I’d like to take a vote here) regarding the merits of cigarettes vs. cigars, wine vs. beer, or heroin vs. LSD?” It should be apparent that you take no sides. By its nature the issue does not concern you. It is simply meaningless as far as your life is concerned. “What, are you not willing to stand up and be counted?” No, I am not. The Saints took no sides in that most passionately partisan of wars, the Civil War, and they never regretted it.
What then of the choice between entering into divisions, schools, controversies, contentions, vanities, or avoiding them? How can you avoid them? As I say, to avoid these neighborhood fights, you must move out of the neighborhood. We of course don’t do that without supernatural aid. That’s where it comes in; the whole thing is supernatural. That’s the part where you won’t believe me, where nobody will believe me. But it is on a supernatural plane. That changes everything, of course. The argument then ceases. We are dealing in absolutes there. That’s just where the gospel comes in. Consider the stories of all the great patriarchs—Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Noah, Jared, Ether, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Lehi, and Alma. All are the stories of individuals who faced the problem of contending against the whole world—a world in rapid decline.
Why are these stories told to us in such harrowing detail? Do you think they don’t apply? This fatal polarization is a very effective means of destruction. As the Romans knew, “divide and conquer” is the means of gaining power and leadership. So we have always been told we must join the action to fight against communism, or must accept the leadership of Moscow to fight fascism, or must join Persia against Rome (or Rome against Persia—that’s the fourth century). Or in World War I, you must join the Allies or the Central Powers. While all the time there is only one real choice—between accepting the gifts of God for what they are on his terms and going directly to him and asking for whatever you need, or seeking the unclean gift, as it is called, of power and gain. Remember, Moroni ends by saying; “Deny not the gifts of God, . . . . and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing [filthy lucre and so forth]” (Moroni 10:8, 30). So that’s the choice I think we have. Do you think that’s a practical solution? Well, many of us have had the door banged in our face for that very reason, because “You people are nuts!” All right, so we’re nuts—there’s nothing to argue about in that case, is there? So let us not argue.
Question: Are we supposed to be seeking truth and light?
Question: But I have to pay tuition to attend your lectures.
Answer: You didn’t have to pay tuition to get here—I know people at BYU who didn’t pay tuition (laughter). This is an earthly institution; you touched right on the point there. We shouldn’t have to pay. At the ideal university the learning is supposed to be supplied. You are supposed to get what is called “a liberal education,” because it is not the work of the world you are dealing with. You are dealing with types and models and concepts—things like that. The other things can be put off for now, but the liberal education is that which is liberalis—it is not a trade school. There are other trade schools, and there are fine ones, but this is not the trade school.
Should our whole economy be the other sort of thing? The funny thing is that there are some people in our society—I can think of some—that trust the Lord, and he never lets them down. There are some. You’d be surprised.
But of course there’s the idea of paying tuition—we’re into it up to our necks here. This is strictly a business institution, as you know. But you’re in it. “Come out of her, my people.” This is Babylon. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). We’re willing to take that chance, and we pay a high price for it. Where are the gifts? “The visions and glories of old are returning, and angels are coming to visit the earth.” We do have healing, and we pray earnestly for that. Nobody is much interested in other gifts. They don’t particularly care about them. They’d much sooner settle for the cash. “But I’ll work hard for it.” We think we’re so idealistic.
You don’t have to wait for the Prophet to tell you everything to do. Remember, there is another commandment given us: You approach the Lord directly. The Lord says to Joseph and his followers: “Trouble me no more concerning this matter” (D&C 59:22). He says the people are to use their judgment. The people are relying too much on the Prophet, and therefore they are darkening their minds. This is one of the things that puzzles the General Authorities. They can’t have people running to them with every petty personal problem. They hand it down to a lower echelon; even so, people insist they have to go right to the top of the Church, right to the head of the Church, as if the president could handle all these things personally, as if he were supposed to handle them all personally. How do you personally escape this? Notice the persons we are talking about, the heroes we have mentioned, the patriarchs of old, who didn’t have particular authority or any particular office at the time. They were all outcasts, every blessed one of them. It was later—after they had been outcasts, after they had been tested and tried—that the Lord gave to them the power and authority over the followers as leaders of the Church, as founders of dispensations. Yet every one of them was plagued for a long time by troubles. “My father Lehi was sorely oppressed and he went forth and as he went forth he prayed to the Lord, he prayed for light” (see 1 Nephi 1:5). Adam himself prayed and prayed, and after many days he finally got an answer. It was the same thing with Abraham, who said, “Thy servant has sought thee earnestly, now I have found thee” (Abraham 2:12). He at last found the Lord. But you must seek first. You must ask with a sincere heart and with real intent. We don’t need to go through any other channels. The Lord won’t let you starve. Satan puts that fear into us, which is the opposite of faith. I can honestly say that everything that I have asked for with an honest heart, I have received. Hope leads to faith, though it doesn’t happen all at once.
1. Times and Seasons, 11 (November 1839): 13; message signed by Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John E. Page, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and George A. Smith.
2. Apocryphal Adam texts—see F.A.R.M.S. bibliography [CLO-88] entitled “The Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Selected Bibliography of Text Edtitions and English Translations,” compiled by Robert A. Cloward; Stephen E. Robinson, “The Apocalypse of Adam,” BYU Studies 17 (Winter 77): 131-53.
3. Riukah S. Kluger, Satan in the Old Testament (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967), 27.
4. 1 Enoch 8-9.
5. Hugh W. Nibley, “The Expanding Gospel,” BYU Studies 7 (Autumn 1966): 12; reprinted in CWHN 1:201, note 61.
6. Seth is the false Horus who, in the “Contendings of Horus and Seth,” seeks to take the place of Horus upon the throne of Osiris. Cf. Alan H. Gardiner, The Library of Chester Beatty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1931), 13-26.
7. See Adam and Eve 78-79, in The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden (Canada: Collins World, 1974), 56-59.
8. Second Book of Adam and Eve 19:8; 20:1-38.
9. Iliad 18, 478-540; cf. Nibley, “The Expanding Gospel,” 19.
10. William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, act II, scene v, lines 50-53.
11. Testament of Judah 18:1-2; 19:1.
12. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, “A World Split Apart,” in Solzhenitsyn at Harvard (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, 1979), 3-20.