July 7th, 2006

Wealth vs. Moral Sin

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

As members of the Church we often speak out quite audibly with respect to homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and similar moral sin. Holding Sodom & Gomorrah up as an example, we show what these things will bring to fruition in a society.

But the verses cited above clearly state that not only was Sodom guilty of these heinous sins, but they also were rich, greedy, selfish, and proud. Does this ring a bell?

We speak out against these sins in our society so boldly because they are easily identifiable targets. We all pat ourselves on our backs when we are in compliance with these commandments. But how do we feel, and what action do we take, when Prophets speak out against our sins that are not so easily identifiable, such as greed, wealth, pride, and selfishness?

“It has been said that it takes something spectacular to get folks excited, like a burning house. Nobody notices one that is simply decaying. But in America today we not only have decaying but burning before our very eyes.”
—Ezra Taft Benson, “Americans are Destroying America“, April 1968

I’m not saying that we should stop vigorously defending traditional marriage, or that we should be more sensitive or lenient towards moral sins of great magnitude. What I’m saying is that it seems a bit of a double standard to be so loquacious when it comes to moral sin, yet we are mostly mute when it comes to the other sin of Sodom: pride.

Please understand that this rant is directed as much towards me as it is anybody else. I think we all have a great deal of work to do in this area. We as Latter-day Saints are, for the most part, extremely financially blessed. To whom much is given, much is required. Let us, in addition to being outspoken on moral issues, analyze our own lives and assess how we are using our wealth, and where our heart truly is.

“It is our duty to preach the gospel, gather Israel, pay our tithing, and build temples. The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches, for they will become the richest people on this earth.”
—Brigham Young, as quoted in James S. Brown, Life of a Pioneer, Salt Lake City: Geo. Q. Cannon and Sons Co., 1900, pp. 122-23.

5 Responses to “Wealth vs. Moral Sin”

  1. the narrator
    July 7, 2006 at 2:19 pm #

    Good post. The Book of Mormon is full of condemnations of the accumulation of wealth and the gap between the rich and the poor. Different variations of it occur in almost every chapter of the book. On the other hand, sexual sin is actually rarely mentioned (and only in the context of infidelity, rape, prostitution, and possibly incest). While the BofM was purportedly written for our time, the Church today takes almost the complete opposite stance. Sexual ‘sins’ in all its many Victorian variations is the subject of a large percentage of discourses, while the accumulation of wealth and the gap between the rich and the poor is practically absent.

    The arguement that today’s world is different than the BofM world is problematic because the level of sexual activiity in the world has been pretty constant, just as the level of wealth and poverty has been pretty constant… actually… that gap is growing ever stronger.

  2. Connor
    July 7, 2006 at 3:01 pm #

    I would disagree that the Church takes the opposite stance. A diligent studier of the words of the modern prophets will find an abundance of talks and quotes related to abating our pride, greed, and selfishness. I think that we, as a society at large, simply choose to ignore the decaying houses, and instead shift all attention and memory to the burning ones (example taken from Benson’s quote in the above post).

  3. the narrator
    July 7, 2006 at 3:15 pm #

    A diligent studier of the words of the modern prophets will find an abundance of talks and quotes related to abating our pride, greed, and selfishness

    But very little of what the BofM actually discusses. Accumulation of wealth and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

    Pride in itself is not a sin. Pride an be very good (self-esteem). It is when pride is used against others that it becomes a sin.

  4. July 18, 2006 at 8:06 am #

    uhh…I think, if you’re a latter-day saint, that you’d better rethink that statement (vis-a-vis, that “pride in itself is not a sin”). Pride, as I understand it, is the great sin, and the universal vice (quoting President Benson). Not sure how to spin doctor that, know what I mean?
    I think we might be getting into a question of semantics here; when we say that we have pride in oneself, we actually mean – as you said – that we have self-esteem. Let me take that one step further. spend some time going through the scriptures, finding all the places where “self-esteem” is mentioned, both in concept and actual wording. I think you might be surprised.

  5. the narrator
    July 21, 2006 at 3:50 pm #

    kevin:

    the problem arises when someone takes benson’s notion of pride and then applies it to all concepts of pride. god is proud of his children when they help the poor. i am proud of a football team when they win a game. my nephew is proud of the drawing he made in nursery. those are not sins.

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