I was talking to my daughter last night. She was asking me about the election, what I thought so forth. She knew I voted for President Obama, and that her mother did as well. It’s also well known in the ward that I did. She was telling me that her friends were giving her a little bit of a hard time about it. I told her just to let it go. It isn’t worth losing a friendship because of a disagreement about politics. She then informed me that one of her friends told her that she needed to look up a scripture, Helaman 5:2 and that would pretty well explain our situation.
“For their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.”
That’s when I got a little annoyed. I fancy myself as at least competent in the Book of Mormon, I was a aware of the verse of course but I was also aware of the context. So I sat down with my daughter to explain the context.
Here is what was happening in the Book of Mormon at the time: The Nephites had just been driven out of their lands by the Lamanites, who were stirred up by Nephite dissenters, you know the type who seek power and gain or more power and gain. Mormon explains the wicked state of the remainder of the Nephites. “…it was because of their pride, because of their exceeding riches, yea it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which is sacred….murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions and deserting…” And all of this wickedness was in the church. It’s not the fault of the Lamanites, and because of this “…the church began to dwindle; and they began to disbelieve…and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.” It’s the so called good people who are causing all the problems.
Now, I told my daughter: With that situation as the backdrop we can put this verse in context. The problem with the Nephites wasn’t, that the other guys, (the Lamanites) were bad guys and therefore destroying the Nephites; the problem was that the Nephites themselves were wicked. Now you pay attention to what they were doing, the self-justification. The first problem was pride. They saw themselves as the good guys; the righteous people, after all they were rich, isn’t that a sign in and of itself that they were the good people? Because of this pride and their riches they saw fit to oppress the poor, after all they had worked for their wealth right? Perhaps they believed that the poor simply hadn’t worked as hard as they had, but what is clear is that they sought to set themselves apart from the rest of the community, they sought power over them, sought to be above them. Why should they help the poor when they weren’t willing to put the work in? So they oppress them, punish them for being poor, or for not being as committed to the business of making money. They actually with hold the necessities from them, food, clothing, and they beat the humble, mocked sacred things. That is an interesting word mock. In this context it means that they were participating in the ordinances but without real intent. They mocked the sacred, probably the Law of Moses in this case, because they would participate in the ordinances without ever intending to actually follow through on the covenants they made. For a large portion of the Nephites the Temple ordinances of the Law of Moses were simply for show, a business transaction or status symbol.
That is the context. I explained to my daughter that her friend (actually the friend got the scripture from her father) had quoted a relevant scripture but when he applied that verse of scripture he turned the meaning of it on its head. The very use of this verse of scripture in that manner demonstrates that we are not on the side of the Prophets and the poor and humble but we’ve cast our lot with the proud. Who after all blamed the poor, oppressed them and beat the humble, while all the while saying that it was the other people who needed to repent? You will notice that pride and oppression of the poor lead the parade of sins. Immorality is way down the list of things that vex the Nephites. That is not to say that it’s better to be immoral, but that we simply don’t see our pride and oppression of the poor as a sin. On the contrary we actually elevate those qualities in our society just as the Nephites did, making them all the more dangerous.
My view that Republicans tend to look upon themselves as the good people and those who vote for Democrats or liberals as bad people has only been reinforced in the hours since the election. What I’m hearing from conservatives as justification for their loss is that a large portion of the country simply want to be given things, to take things from the righteous, yet persecuted minority, those who have money, It is the 47% now changed to 50% narrative, and it’s what Mitt and conservatives really believe, that they are Atlas holding the world on their considerable shoulders. It’s a delusion. It’s the very demonstration of the pride that destroyed the Nephites.
How much better is it for us to throw ourselves in with the meek and humble, even if we aren’t yet, we can at least make strides to becoming such, in other words repenting. Shouldn’t we throw ourselves in with the lowliest as brothers and sisters and try to bring all up, help the poor where we can, take their burdens upon us, mourn with them, weep with them? By doing this we stand as a witness of Christ. We don’t separate ourselves from the rest of human kind and claim that they are getting what they deserve and stay our hand because their situation is just.
It is wickedness for us to claim that it is the other guy who needs repentance, that if society fails or our government is corrupted that it’s the fault of the wicked who don’t see things my way, or it’s the lazy poor and needy who simply take from the hard-working producer types. That is the pride that destroyed the Nephites, constantly seeing themselves as better than their fellow children of God.
My biggest concern is how easily the inversion of values occurs. How easily we play the game of blame aversion, or self justification, how easily we read the Book of Mormon and see those with whom we disagree reflected in wicked of that book, and how easily we throw ourselves in with the righteous. Personally I admit that I’m not doing as much as I should to help the poor. Given the blessing I have I need to do more. My commitment as a disciple of Jesus Christ must be deepened. It’s difficult to realize these things, but it’s true. I’m the one who needs to repent and I’m the only one who can do it.
For my part, I'm making a deal with some of my friends claiming that our great country will be destroyed in the next four years as a result of this election. If the US is still here and the Constitution still stands, I'll buy them a pizza. If we are destroyed, they owe me one - in Heck!
[Addendum] Talking to my 4-year-old grandson who came in and asked what I was watching. I said it was the news about the President winning - "he's the good guy!" I said. I should have anticipated his follow-up: "Who's the bad guy?" Quickly thinking: "They're all good guys!"