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“If thou obtainest more than that which would be for thy support, thou shalt give it into my storehouse.”
The Lord doesn’t define poverty by a wage threshold. Nor does He tell us who is rich by income level. Government and civic interest groups are more than ready to declare these boundaries. And for their varied purposes they pit people against one another by the root of all evil, the love of money. Who has it? Who doesn’t? Who should have it? Who shouldn’t? Who should have more? Who should have less? Such civic quagmire often confuses and corrupts the Lord’s purposes on how to exalt all of us in a Zion society.
What the Lord desires to tell us is the condition of the heart of those rich, and those poor. Does the Lord leave out those in between, say the middle incomers? Some people are rich monetarily. Some think they are rich. Others are poor. Others think they are poor and tell the whole world about it. Some don’t know they are rich. All the while some don’t know they are poor. Even so, many are in the middle striving for riches, living in contentment (or not), and are holding on desperately to avoid going into the realm of what the world deems poverty.
Setting all that aside, the Lord sets His teachings in context of the rich and poor, not to emphasize two groups of people on an economic strata. Clearly, some have more than others and some have much less. The Lord uses such a distinction to address the condition of the heart, the attitudes, and as well as one’s personal situation or place in the economic strata designated by the world.
The condition of the heart toward the cause of Zion can be cross checked by the following verses of scripture. If our hearts are not satisfied (as defined in the scriptures), we can suffocate ourselves spiritually regardless of our financial situation and worldly status. In this suffocation we inhibit our heart and mind to hear and obey truth. The Lord states it succinctly:
And your hearts are not satisfied. And ye obey not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. Wo unto your rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!
Wo unto your poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!
Note that two verses in a row end with an exclamation point. I can’t recall seeing that anywhere in the scriptures. Interestingly, I cross checked our formatted version of the Doctrine and Covenants with the Book of Commandments (1833 edition). It also has the exclamation points for emphasis. Joseph Smith and his scribes may have been feeling a little “umph” when these words rolled onto paper. They knew the revelations they were receiving about Zion depended on the Saints’ understanding, living, and correcting themselves according to this counsel. Both conditions of the rich and poor heart as described in these verses cannot stand in a Zion society. But the condition of the heart described in the verse that follows them can:
But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the king- dom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliv- erance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs. For behold, the Lord shall come, and his recompense shall be with him, and he shall reward every man, and the poor shall rejoice. And their generations shall inherit the earth from generation to generation, forever and ever.
A Zion people will individually and collectively give of their substance. A Zion people will not lay hold upon another man’s goods in robbery, in greediness or in demands. A Zion people will be given to labor and not tolerate idleness. A genuine illustration of such a Zion people may be drawn from this account told by President Russell M. Nelson:
I will never forget my first visit to West Africa in 1986. The Saints came to our meetings in great numbers. Though they had little in terms of material possessions, most came dressed in spotless white clothing. I asked the stake president how he cared for members who had so little. He replied that their bishops knew their people well. If members could afford two meals a day, no help was needed. But if they could afford only one meal or less—even with family help—bishops provided food, financed from fast offerings. Then he added this remarkable fact: their fast-offering contributions usually exceeded their expenses. Surplus fast offerings were then sent to people else- where whose needs exceeded theirs.
The Lord knew that many of the Gentile nations would be favorably blessed in riches and resources. In 1831, He told a very poor group of first-generation Latter-day Saints that He would “consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel.” Again, the rich may be those who have excess, to a small amount, or large amount. We must not forget that “according to the law every man that cometh up to Zion must lay all things before the bishop in Zion.” All will have something to give.
This is easy to say but not as easy to do. The warning and rebuke the Lord gave to our dear Latter-days Saints in 1834 is for us as well. A fundamental law upon which Zion is built, the law of consecration, was not observed. The Lord told them that collectively they had not learned to be obedient. As a society they had not imparted “of their substance, as becometh Saints, to the poor and afflicted.” They had yet to show solid evidence of being “united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom.” It will be the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom that will be lived in Zion, the New Jerusalem.
The following was taken from the book, The New Jerusalem: A Holy City Not Forsaken, by Ryan Jenkins, currently on sale at cedarfort.com.