After spending the past week pondering the doctrine of translation of Enoch and John (for the next entry in the Deeper Magic series), this morning I felt impressed to share a brief post on something completely unrelated.
To wit, to make the point that our faith is best reflected in the way we spend our money.
Last weekend I took my family to tour the Open House of the new Saratoga Springs Utah Temple. I loved it; I ogled the stained glass windows and the stair steps made from three different kinds of marble inlaid with brass.
In every room I entered I felt transported to another world. Sitting in the Celestial Room with my family, I never wanted to leave.
It felt like heaven.
And that, my friends, is the snare. What a great trap it is! Satan knows if he can get us to feel comfortable and elevated emotion in luxurious surroundings ― and (here's the key) to equate the tranquility of opulence and wealth with the Spirit of God ― then our faith-impulses will begin to resonate with the Great and Spacious Building more than the humble stables in which straw mangers and our Savior are found.
If a grand display of wealth indicated "Holiness to the Lord," then the Catholic Church and its cathedrals beat us to the punch more than a thousand years ago.
[When your portrait is photo-bombed by a rowdy crowd]
It's impossible not to see a fulfillment of Moroni's words as we read headline-after-headline in the news about the Church's finances. Or do we turn a blind eye? Worse, do we seek to justify the Church's actions?
Why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain?
Here's the thing: the sleight-of-hand skills needed to convince a group of Christians that hoarding $179 billion is actually godly and a good thing requires Master-Mahan-level expertise.
How do we justify it? A rainy day fund? Joseph in Egypt's 7-year famine? Standing independent of every other creature under heaven holding Apple Stock?
Nope. The only way to pull off the greatest doctrinal heist of all time (making the switcheroo with God and Mammon) is to "trample" or "transfigure" the holy word of God, to the point we use scriptures to justify the very thing those scriptures forbid!
Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God?
Isn't it interesting how Latter-day Saints take great pride in our Temples and their stunning beauty? We adorn them with the finest craftsmanship and materials as if they were Ritz Carlton luxury hotels, with gold leaf and crystal chandeliers and hand-cut carpets, and call it the House of the Lord (as if Jesus requires Five Star accommodations).
Ye do love money, [there's the root of all evil] and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches. . .
But the real question is why we consider these grand edifices to be a sign of our faith? How is being rich a mark of our righteousness?
Think about it: the hallmark of our religion is a gold-plated statue of an angel atop a luxurious building who I AM LITERALLY QUOTING telling us that is bad, bad, bad. In a great irony, we have enrobed Moroni in gold as a symbol of our faith, which is not to care for the poor, but to lavishly dot the earth with fine sanctuaries.
I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts. . . and your churches, yea, even every one, [well, I guess that includes us] have become polluted.
I never understood until now what "an embarrassment of riches" means. I am embarrassed.
Real-World Financial Implications of the Way Tithing Impoverishes a People
Isn't the quality of our faith demonstrated in how we care for the widows, elderly, orphans and poor?
After all, James taught that "pure religion" is simply taking care of the needy:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Look at that last part, to keep ourselves "unspotted from the world." Well, the SEC scandal involving the Church and Ensign Peak demonstrates that the Church has NOT prioritized keeping itself "unspotted from the world" ― I mean, it invited Mammon up to its penthouse suite to engage in heavy petting.
Why do ye . . . get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord?
(Mormon 8:40) Forgive me for preaching to the choir, but why is it that Utah is dead-last in the nation in saving for retirement? Why did our parents and grandparents sacrifice their golden years, worried about making ends meet as they lived from social-security-paycheck-to-paycheck, scrimping to serve missions in old age, and taking out reverse-mortgages to put food on the table in their 80s, after having spent a lifetime of paying tithing to enrich a Church who stores tithing in its digital silos?
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
(James 5:1, NIV)
The Sifting is Underway
I promised to keep it brief, and this is about as brief as I can be.
I am going to conclude by sharing a poem I wrote this week in light of all these things, which captures my feelings and the strivings of the Spirit in me.
Growing tall scattered among wolfsbane betwixt nettle and loathsome vervain the Wheat waited. Feeling the early frost they knew the Harvest followed morning dew: soon the scouring of weeds and diseased grain ―everything wicked and profane
would wither beneath a silvery sun uprooting each and every one.
And the Wheat waited. Until Harvest day arrived at last and they beheld the troublesome chaff float away on a late summer's breeze only to be plucked by birds who lay concealed among the orchard trees.
The field was theirs at last (naught but Wheat remained) and they rejoiced beneath the rustling of wings awaiting their reward foreordained now the sifting had occurred.
Harvest time was come and the Wheat danced in the evening light glad they had not succumbed like chaff when clouds gathered overhead.
Puzzlement filled their ranks as fire filled the field with flame. How could this be─ the Tares had all fled!
The Lord to them explained: Ye who knew the ease of wealth amid your worldly cares; what reason had ye to believe ye were not the Tares?