After the lesson on self-reliance last Sunday I’ve come to recognize just how much the average Latter-Day Saint despises the poor. The occasion was nothing more than an opportunity for the resident businessmen and bankers to moralize about the incredible laziness of the less fortunate and potential employees. Even those who themselves have been out of work got in on the act. My reaction was not anger but an overwhelming sadness. It’s come to this. We actually despise the poor and the needy. I could, as I sat there, hear the words of Moroni ringing in my ears.
Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doings, I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts, and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying and strifes, and malice and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities…
For behold ye do love money, and your substance, and your find apparel and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. Moroni 8:36-37.
When a scripture suggested in the lesson was read depicting how God intended to rise up the poor by bringing the rich low, what followed was a predictable set of self-justifications. That’s to be understood ‘spiritually’ one said. It’s okay to be rich, how else do all of those poor people get help after all? The idea is that the poor are getting exactly what they deserve. There is no need to go into you the folly of such an idea. I have to admit that I’ve been greatly disturbed by the whole thing. Not one defense of the poor, not one, not even from me. I’m increasingly ashamed of myself for not speaking up. “But woe unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore their treasure is their god…” 2 Nephi 9:30.
So, now that I’ve sat in judgment against a good portion of my ward what to do? Well, I’ve decided on the only course of action that I can - which is to repent. I can clearly see that there is a problem, and it’s not just with my ward members but with me. I can’t do anything about what they do but I can control what I do. The only kind of true self-reliance is the kind that turns you to the Lord for forgiveness and mercy and to help others. All others are foolish and treacherous.
I really am astonished by this whole thing. The Great Recession, which, when it began I thought might just lead us to a place of greater kindness and understanding, at least as Mormons, has, I can see, had the opposite effect. Instead of an uncertain future leading to greater faith and reliance on the Lord, it has lead to fear and harsh feelings toward one another, to great divisions. To the point that one can actually go to a church meeting and openly hear the followers of Jesus describe despise the poor and heap praise on the rich.
We live in an upside down world. Everything is completely inverted. A wave of sexual promiscuity on one hand and open hatred of the poor people on the other. A great tidal wave of immoral behavior. Each immoral act feeding and gaining strength from the other. It is amazing how it works. Each and every one of us finding a covering for our sins in the sins of another, I include myself, it hasn’t been lost on me that I just spent a great deal of time listing the sins of my ward. We have but one way out. As much as I try to justify my actions my only choice, is to choice to repent and do what I can do.
Forgive and repent and depend upon Jesus. The great trap is Pride and self-righteousness after all. The cure, as Benjamin told us is to always remember the greatness of God, his goodness and mercy to us unworthy creatures. If we do that, remembering our nothingness, and call upon him daily we will always rejoice and always retain a remission of our sins.