by the narrator
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
Every endowed Latter-day Saint has promised to live the law of consecration, and yet somehow most Latter-day Saints believe it has been revoked. The most condemned of sins in the Book of Mormon (a book written for our day) is the disparity of the rich and poor, and yet instead of condemning the rich our leaders spend their efforts (and our tithing) condemning gays. (Incidentally, the leading cause of divorce in this nation is economic difficulties, not homosexual tendencies).
For a church that often decries the excision of plain and precious things from the scriptures, how is it that our lessons, talks, and worship ignore such plain and precious teachings? Last Sunday, I noticed that our lesson on the epistle of James successfully skipped over every verse referencing the poor, transforming James’ diatribe against rich Christians into a primary children’s lesson on faith and prayer.
And of course when we cannot excise, we revise. Like an editor of Matthew’s Gospel, our lessons have the tendency of turning those ragged and embarrassing poor into poor in spirit. When the rich young man came to Jesus and asked what he must do to attain eternal life, the savior asked him to sell all he had and give to the poor. How often in Church when we come across these verses (and those like them) do we ask how we can help those who are spiritually destitute? Or how often do revise these verses so that they are only asking us to do the basics – home teaching, callings, visiting teaching, parenting, and maybe the occasional helping the neighbors (bonus points if they aren’t members!)? Heaven forbid, that we actually read it with an injunction to give up our luxuries to help those in poverty.
When pressed, Latter-day Saints admit that the Law of Consecration had not been revoked, but like our scriptures, it is ‘spiritually’ revised. Yes, we admit, we should consecrate our times, our talents, and our energies. Press us further and we might concede the money, but quickly add that there isn’t a way to do it. Mention the poverty existing throughout the world and the ease of making donations, and we’ll give another excuse. When it comes down to it, it’s just too difficult. Like the rich young man, we love our possessions too much. We love our excessively large homes, our high-definition television screens, the Lexuses (Lexi?) in our garages, sushi, DVDs, PS3s, Wiis, and XBOX 360s. We want to need our expensive clothes, computer accessories, mountain bikes (my personal favorite sin), fine cuisine, books, furniture, gear, and musical concerts. When draped with such luxuries, we are easily able to forget about those pesky starving children in Africa, the single mothers in the urban ghettos, and the destitute families resulting from exported-labor-inspired layoffs.
Communism, we’ll say, is Satan’s perversion of the Law of Consecration. The former, we’ll say, is forced, the latter is free (don’t tell this to Ananias and Sapphira though (Acts 5:1-10)). So we’ll pick Satan’s other plan: ignorance and apathy.
After hearing Jesus’ pronouncement of the difficulties for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, perhaps Peter compared the needle in his pocket to a nearby trader’s camel. But the metaphor was unnecessary. Peter had just witnessed the failings of humanity. He knew we love our possession more than those around us.
“Who then can be saved?” What person would do such a thing?
“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
But we lack that kind of faith. I lack that faith.
And so you and I will love our possessions.
And so the poor will always be with us.
And together we will live in sin and hell. (D&C 49:20)