The famous geologist Julian Huxley was a zealous preacher of anti-sermons: "In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer need or room for the supernatural," he said. "The earth was not created; it evolved. So did all the animals and plants, . . . mind and soul, as well as brain and body. So did religion."1 G. G. Simpson was fond of reminding his audiences that there is no Santa Claus, that even though it may be hard for children to give up Santa Claus, bringing his presents from the sky, mature people should abandon such wishful thinking and accept reality. The only causes at work in the universe are the random causes of blind chance. This is "that 'modern' view, still current today," writes one scientist, "that the earth with everything in it is dangling in the isolation of a universe whose cold majesty disdains it. Today we have long since become used to the thought of our humble position in the cosmos. Deep down, we are probably even proud of the detachment with which we accept our 'true' situation. . . . Much of the cynicism and nihilism characteristic of the modern psyche can be traced to this chilling conception."2 (In my youth the in thing was to quote the Rubaiyat on the subject: "Lift not thy hands to it for help."3) But the scientist in question, Hoimar von Ditfurth (a researcher with an unusually broad background), continues, "Scientists are now discovering this world view to be essentially false."4
Three different approaches can illustrate the surprising trend:
1. "Local physical systems are always exporting energy."5 "All living tissue . . . must import . . . energy."6 "Energies emanating from celestial regions remote from Planet Earth are indeed converging and accumulating in Planet Earth's biosphere . . . both as radiation and as matter."7 "We aboard Earth are receiving just the right amount of energy to keep biological life regenerated on board despite our manifold ignorance and . . . wastage."8 "Van Allen belts, . . . ionosphere, . . . atmosphere progressively refract the radiation, separating [it] . . . into a variety of life-sustaining increments."9 "Vegetation . . . [is] the prime energy impounder."10 Earth is measurably [retaining and] impounding the [stellar] radiation "by progressively angular refractions . . . into separately discrete frequencies; . . . [then] the biologicals are continually multiplying their beautiful cellular, molecular, and atomic structurings which . . . constitute a comprehensive pattern . . . of orderly energy concentration, . . . [resulting in] the . . . formation of the Earth's chemically regenerative topsoils [being] . . . progressively pressure buried . . . as high energy concentrate fossil fuels. . . . Energy . . . impoundment . . . in both the Earth's atmosphere and . . . hydrosphere . . . provides [for] the weather and ocean currents."11
Such gifts from on high make Santa Claus look like Scrooge by comparison. (For that matter, Dr. Simpson's precious evolutionary rule of thumb that answers all our ultimate questions for us without further effort would be a far more fervidly wished-for present than anything one could ask of Santa.)
2. More recent and detailed than Buckminster Fuller's poetic exposition is a book by the above-mentioned von Ditfurth. "A planet capable of sustaining life did not come into being independently of the rest of the universe."12 "Our earth can be shown to be a focal point where various cosmic powers conjoin to fashion a living world. . . . Certainly the earth is not the center of the universe. . . . But this crowded earth is a focal point in the universe: one of those perhaps innumerable places in the cosmos where both life and consciousness could flourish. . . . What a concentration of mighty forces upon one more or less tiny point!"13 He makes the surprising observation that "more discoveries have been made [in astronomy] . . . during the past ten years than in all the centuries since Copernicus."14
He tells us how the earth is exposed to solar winds from one direction and cosmic radiation from the other; how they check each other (as evidenced by the "Forbush Effect") and so keep us from getting too much of either, while Van Allen belts absorb excess radiation and release it in more sensible quantities; how the earth is protected from an excess of both by its magnetic field, made possible by the moon; how that field is temporarily disrupted from time to time by the jarring effect of giant meteors striking the earth; how the weakening of that protective magnetic shield allows breakthroughs of "background radiation" that affects the genes of living creatures, leading to the disappearance of some species and the sudden appearance of others,15 and so on. He goes on to explain how comets swapping orbits effect "a constant exchange of matter . . . at the border regions of neighboring solar systems" and how "our Milky Way too contains matter . . . [that] has continually filtered down to the surface of the earth."16 "The earth is the child of the universe; the matter composing our planet came out of the depths of space."17 More gifts from heaven.
3. Most recently, the eminent and never-dull astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, in a talk given at Caltech last November , brings us up to date.18 Beginning with the strange fact that all space is filled with particles whose presence is only too apparent in the way in which they make all nebulas look like nebulas (hazy and foggy), he recounts how in the 1950s those grains were believed to be formed of particles of water ice, then later of graphite, then of a mixture, but each time they failed to fill the requirements for such. So the astronomers tried various metals and silicates in different combinations but finally concluded that they had to consist largely of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen—in what form? "The grains had to be made up largely of organic material."19 (Brigham Young said, "There is not a particle of element which is not filled with life, and all space is filled with element."20) But such could not survive "the heat of the solar nebula," so they must flourish far out, "especially in the regions of the distant comets." So, Hoyle concludes, life did not begin on earth but was conveyed through space by comets, "breaking up and scattering their contents all the time"21 in a process that is still going on. Examining "the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules," Hoyle, as he reports it,
was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe [vs. only in the right way]. So try as I would, I couldn't convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes—by what are called the blind forces of nature. . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes [forming those biological grains out in space] would be by thought, not by random processes. . . . Rather than accept the fantastically small probability of life having arisen through the blind forces of nature, it seemed better to suppose that the origin of life was a deliberate intellectual act.22
So here we are being constantly showered with gifts from the sky as part of a great conscious plan, the greatest being the gift of life itself, planted, as we have always been taught, by visiting angels acting upon higher instructions. Thus, organizing is an open-ended process (see Moses 1:33). I have quoted some passages at length because they bring out two important facts relevant to the recently revived and long-lived debate between the Darwinists and the Fundamentalists, in which I think the gospel rejects the most basic principle of each side. The official definition of creation accepted by conventional Christianity and Judaism and by their scientific opponents alike requires a creation that Aquinas specifies must be (1) instantaneous and (2) simultaneous—everything was created, and that in a single flash. That idea came out of Alexandria and is not found in the early Christian or Jewish writers. This is the "creationism" they are arguing about—it does not concern us in the least. Neither does Darwinism concern us. Nothing could be further from the picture given by modern revelation of the long succession of phases, each preparing the ground for the next, according to the plan worked out and agreed among the intelligences existing before the world was, with much discussion, deep thought and debate, testing and inspecting. That second point, thought and discussion, rejects the very keystone of Darwinism, the one sublime contribution to thought with which Darwin's discipline credits him above all others: "In the evolutionary pattern of thought," writes Huxley, "there is no longer need or room for the supernatural."23 Darwin hardly deserves the credit that was poured on him during the Darwin Centennial year—after all, Laplace told Napoleon the same, as Lucretius and a long line of Sophists told the ancients.
This surprising turnabout of 180 degrees in the thinking of some renowned scientists is matched at the same time by the reversal of our moral philosophy in the opposite direction. Heretofore most people have believed in a kind, benevolent providence that cared for us and somehow watched over us—the "Santa Claus" that Professor Simpson dismissed with such withering contempt. (To that some would now recall us, without knowing how we should go about it.) The great Russian physicist Nikolai Kozyrev objects to the cold, impersonal universe in which by the law of entropy everything can only run down—it is negative, repellent; and above all, he says, it is false, for all around us we see something at work against that inevitable disruption and dissolution.24 The famous biologist Lewis Thomas (author of The Lives of a Cell) puts it this way: "I cannot make my peace with the randomness doctrine; I cannot abide the notion of purposelessness and blind chance in nature. And yet I do not know what to put in its place for the quieting of my mind. . . . We talk—some of us, anyway—about the absurdity of the human situation, but we do this because we do not know how we fit in, or what we are for. The stories we used to make up to explain ourselves do not make sense anymore, and we have run out of new stories, for the moment."25 The gospel recognizes the claims of entropy (2 Nephi 9:6-7).
We would say it is time for these people to consider the gospel—what would they lose, since they confess themselves utterly out of ideas in any other direction? But it is precisely many who have accepted the gospel today who are assuring us that there are no gifts from heaven. That is indeed the foundation of our economic and social life today. But just as the gospel spares us the folly of time wasted in that old debate, so it likewise delivers us from the cosmic tussle between capitalism and communism, since, as Solzhenytsin observed in a talk recently given at Harvard,26 both rest on the same identical ground principle—there are no gifts from heaven; there is no Pie in the Sky, no Free Lunch. Each is a thoroughgoing dialectical materialism in which we are all ordered to work like mad or perish. The one fact of life is the economy. Darwin was the Bible of both camps, and dialectical materialism of the one was matched at every point by that of the other—Ayn Rand's militant atheism is as realistic as that of any Marxist. For both, the earth is nothing but a source of raw materials, and the object of life is not joy but power and gain. In a word, both reject the free lunch; for both, the bottom line is survival; and for both, survival means work, work, work—everybody must work.
No free lunch? I lived on free lunches once. I never worked so hard in my life as when I was getting free lunches. I had a university fellowship; in accepting it I had to agree not to accept any gainful employment as long as the fellowship lasted. Lunch and room and clothing were provided with the understanding that I would engage in much more important and much harder work than it would take to earn any amount of lunch. But more emphatically I was not to work for lunch. Was I guilty of getting a free lunch?
Brigham Young with his usual insight applied this situation to all of us: We have been permitted to come here, he explained, to go to school, to acquire certain knowledge and take certain basic tests27—"wherefore," says Nephi, this "state became a state of probation" (2 Nephi 2:21). While we are at school our generous parent has provided us with all the necessities of life we will need to carry us through. ("Adam, I have created for you this earth and have provided it with everything you will need—go to, enjoy yourself, take care of the Garden"—that was work. But Adam was not working for lunch: that was free—"Of every tree thou mayest freely eat!") Now suppose toward the end of the first semester of the school year my kind patron pays a visit to the school, meets me, and asks me how I am doing—"Oh," I say, "I am doing very well, thanks to your bounty." "Are you learning a lot?" "Yes, I am making good progress." "What fields are you studying in particular just now?" "Oh, I'm studying how to get lunch." "You study that? All the time?" "Yes, that's the important thing in life, isn't it—how to get more lunch; there's no free lunch, you know." "But my dear boy, I'm providing you with that right now." "Yes, for the time being, and I am grateful—but my purpose in life is to get more and better lunches. Room and board is nice, but I want super room and board—and other things." "Things of this world," says the patron. "Yes, that's it." The patron is disgusted, to quote Brigham Young!
Or take another parable. A man had a very gifted child who wanted to become a pianist. A worthy goal, said his father; great pianists make lots of money. But before you can begin lessons you must earn your own piano. Pianos are very expensive. You can begin with a job in a supermarket, then become perhaps a car salesman or real estate agent; you might even be able someday to start your own business. Then by the time you are thirty or so you can even have your own piano. Just a minute, says his mother. At that rate he will never become a pianist. That reminds me of my cousin Jake, she adds, who had a beautiful voice and went to work in a boiler-factory to get enough money to take singing lessons—but by the time he had earned the money he was stone deaf. Well, says the father, why can't the kid do both? Why can't he be both a business man and a musician? Because, says the boy, who has been to Sunday School, we are granted enough time on earth to serve only one master. Every day of our lives we have to make a choice, a choice that will show where our real interests and desires lie. From the very beginning of the world the choice was provided as a test for each of us during this time of probation. Satan is allowed to try and tempt us in his way, and God is allowed in his: as Moroni puts it, "The devil . . . inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually" (Moroni 7:12-13). It is going on all the time, the ancient doctrine of the Two Ways. The point is that we cannot choose both ways. They go in opposite directions—man simply cannot serve both God and mammon, the Lord said, and mammon is simply the Hebrew word (both ancient and modern) for dealing in money. So the first commandment given to the Church was "Seek not for riches but for wisdom" (D&C 6:7)—making it perfectly clear that they are mutually exclusive. This sounds to most Latter-day Saints today like an alarming doctrine, so I wish now to avoid the controversial side of it entirely (which should be easy, since there is no controversial side—if the world is overwhelmingly leaning to the one side, the scriptures are crushingly overloaded on the other, and I go by the scriptures). I want now to think about the delightful, happy side of the whole thing. "Deny not the gifts of God" (Moroni 10:8) is the impassioned plea that sums up and concludes the Book of Mormon. I put it this way: Try accepting them and see what happens.
The words gift and giving are the key words.
Adam comes into a new world in which he is given everything the heart of man could desire. He did not make the world; it was already prepared for him when he opened his eyes: "We have prepared for you this earth, and placed in it all manner of foods and delights, everything springing forth spontaneously."
"We have also planted for you a garden eastward, already planted, already blooming. Now go to, get to work, take good care of the garden—which we gave you and wanted you to have. Enjoy yourself, be happy." Adam did work before the fall, but not for money, or to accumulate anything, for the garden brought forth everything spontaneously—a free lunch all the time. Notably, the Creator himself worked for six periods and rested on the seventh. So Adam did not need to work to keep body and soul together, because he was immortal.
Cast out of the garden, Adam still must work; he and Eve must both "labor," he to bring forth the fruits of the earth, she to bear children. Yet all is still a gift. In neither case do they produce anything: it is all given them. Adam cannot make a blade of grass grow; and as for producing children, the lowest of God's creatures can do the same! There is no credit here: as elsewhere, the work is stimulating exercise.
The solution to Adam's problem in the desert is still a gift, which he must ask for, seeking ever greater light and knowledge, which God had promised him if he would but ask. It is all brought to him as a gift, one brought down from another world by special messengers sent to instruct Adam in things he never could have discovered or made for himself, worlds without end. The instructions, laws, charges, covenants, signs, tokens, and ordinances are expressly given to him. "Adam," says the messenger, "we have been instructed to give unto you . . . "
These gifts enable Adam to return to his former blessedness in the shortest possible time. The word give and its synonyms occur ninety-nine times in the record.
So Adam is well on his way back when an old rival shows up, whom he does not recognize. He announces to Adam, as he does later to Abraham and Moses, that he is the God of this world. Everything in it is his private property—his greatness and glory. He rules the whole thing as a model estate, with everything under his strict control—and nobody had better make any trouble! He is not giving anything away; yet we can have anything with money, and you get the money by working for him: no free lunch.
When he meets others on the premises, he immediately charges them with trespassing, with trying to take his property from him. He is willing to let anyone have anything in his world—but at a price. All is for sale: there is no free lunch in his kingdom.
To Adam, the rival offers to put the gift business on a paying basis. He starts out by offering Adam his gifts, asking him three times, "What is it you want?" assuring Adam that he is able to give whatever is requested.
And in fact, he does rule; he is "the prince of this world" (John 14:30), having staked a claim on all the mineral riches of the earth—gold, silver, and other treasures. He then is able to buy up political, military, and ecclesiastical support and run the whole show.
He assures Adam that he has the supreme gift, the gift that will get Adam anything else in the world: "At the devil's booth are all things sold, each ounce of dross."28 But Adam turns him down, refusing to sell for money the gifts God has given him, for they are sacred. The heavenly gifts are not negotiable. Which is what Peter told Simon Magus: "But Peter said to him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:20). You "requite" his goodness in another way.
But as the case of Simon shows, Satan was able to find plenty of other people willing to go along with his system. Cain and Lamech became willing partners in his deals. Before long, almost all of Adam's posterity preferred Lucifer's lucrative contracts and "gifts": "They loved Satan more than God" (Moses 5:13), while poor Adam and Eve could do nothing but "[mourn] before the Lord" (Moses 5:27).
So ever since the Mahan school of economics was founded, we have had—instead of free gifts—bargains, earnings, percentages, options, returns, markets, investments, deals—which utterly deny the gifts of God. Necessarily—because you cannot have both. They despise the gifts of God, gently or scornfully pushing them aside: "That was all right for those times, but this is the 'modern world.' " Indeed it is, and the last days of that world. As the Lord told Joseph in the grove, "Behold, the world lieth in sin."29
Help yourselves to all you need; there is no need to take more than you need (manna for forty years)! There is plenty around this earth for men. Trust me.
The gifts of God include everything we can possibly want. All we have to do to get them is to ask him for them, and he will give us "whatsoever things ye shall ask" (3 Nephi 27:28). Will that spoil us, weaken our character? No more than my fellowship did—it was the most toughening experience I ever had—doing exactly what I wanted to do with the most immense exertions. We ask him for good health; that makes things easier for us. Does it weaken our character? You do not miss your health if the whole object is study; to preserve it you must eat—would you make that your main design? But God promises to give us anything at all—as a specific bonus: it will include, if we agree to it, only what is "expedient for us to have." And that in itself is one of the nicest gifts of all, since deciding what we really should have in the long run, in consideration of future developments of which we have not an inkling, is practically impossible for us; to solve that problem we would have to spend all of our time toiling away at computers. But God has taken care of that for us too. The law of the harvest is that God gives the increase. You reap by design of grain, you say, but you did not produce the seed in the first place and you expect much more than you sowed. That increase is a gift of God.
This granting us only what is expedient not only keeps us out of mischief and saves us a lifetime of wasted endeavor, it also lets us know all the time when we are on the right track. Like Oliver Cowdery, we are instructed to make our own decisions and then ask God whether they have been right (see D&C 9). This does not mean that we need to weigh and measure the advantages and disadvantages of breaking any of the Ten Commandments—we do not even consider such a possibility. We never should ask the Lord whether or not we should commit adultery, theft, murder, or fraud. That question would never arise. Another question we should never ask is "Should I seek after riches?" For if there is any point on which the Book of Mormon is fiercely emphatic, it is that no one should ever set his heart upon riches. "Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, . . . tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world" (3 Nephi 6:15). Note that Satan had the power to try man and to tempt him; he was given that power in order to put the people on this earth to a test, by placing his gifts by the side of God's, with every man free to choose between them.
The choice is a hard one: Would I make a living first or would I take a chance on the lunch? It was not meant to be easy. It is hard to give up financial security to demonstrate your faith in the good intentions of your Heavenly Father. It is a seemingly sensible and innocent concern: to get rich. Speaking on "Sixty Minutes" last Sunday, Malcolm Forbes (publisher of Forbes), the archapostle of the rich, was shown addressing the students at a commencement at the University of Ohio. He made a remark which I immediately wrote down, for to me it said everything: "Nothing gives freedom like a buck in the bank!" I immediately thought of Cain's cry of joy and triumph when by a conspiracy (D&C 84:16) he succeeded in putting his brother out of the way for the sake of getting gain; he was not ashamed at all, we are told, but "gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands[!]" (Moses 5:33).
But almost all the young people I know today want to believe that we do not have to make such a drastic choice as between trusting in God entirely and working for money in the bank. Again may I remind you, the choice was deliberately designed to be a hard and searching one. But surely, I hear all the time, there must be a compromise, a common ground between them. The favorite text to support this is "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). This is commonly interpreted as meaning that I should first go on a mission or get a testimony, thus seeking the kingdom of God, and then I will be free to seek the other things. First wisdom, then riches. But you never cease seeking wisdom, and you are forbidden to seek riches. This is a classic case of a text out of context. There is no thought here of seeking the other things—if you need them they will be added: When are you supposed to stop seeking the kingdom of heaven?
We Latter-day Saints are meticulously selective in picking our way among those verses of scripture that seem to support our economic position; but this passage, like many others to the same effect, must be taken as a whole. And if we do not like scriptural passages on this subject, we say: "Oh, that is out of context." Therefore let us take them in context. What the Lord is saying here, as clearly as it can be said, is that we are not to worry about the room and board, because God will provide it if we, so to speak, accept the fellowship and spend our time doing the things he wants us to do: Listen to him as he addresses his hearers as "O ye of little faith[!]" (Matthew 6:30).
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth [securities, annuities, investments, and so on; as President Kimball says: seeking security in these things is an act of little faith, a vote of no confidence in God]. . . . But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven [note again that you can't have both]. . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also [you must choose the one or the other]. . . . No man can serve two masters. . . . Ye cannot serve God and mammon [meaning in this case explicitly business security, as the Lord continues to pour it on]. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink [your three squares a day, no less]; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on" (Matthew 6:19-21, 24-25).
He concludes: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) [Of course they do! Aren't they vital to our very survival on earth? Indeed they are, and in the next sentence the Lord takes full cognizance of that fact] for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. [And since he is fully aware of that, he will provide us with them if we do his work:] But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:31-33). By him, that is, since the Lord has just told us in the preceding verses how he provides for his other creatures that "sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" (Matthew 6:26). "Take therefore [he repeats in conclusion, driving the lesson home again] no thought for the morrow" (Matthew 6:34). We're being "improvident," and yet this happens to be the most repeated passage in all the scriptures!
The same discourse is contained in Luke 12, where the Lord makes it clear that he is speaking to the whole church, not just to the apostles; here, however, he explains things even more fully as yet another parable: he tells the story of a man who was very provident and who did gather into barns and made himself very rich and secure for the future the way we would all like to be. "The ground of a certain rich man gave forth plentifully: And he thought within himself [being very far-sighted], saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits [he was expanding—a growing economy]? . . . This I will do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater [bigger and better]. . . . And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years [now you can retire and take things easy for a while]; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" (Luke 12:16-20). They won't be yours anymore; you take nothing with you. It is certain. You are free to choose treasures in heaven or treasures on earth, but you cannot have both. In this life men are free to go after what they please, just as they are free to break all the commandments of God, if they choose, which millions do every day. (Note that the sacred principle of free agency does not sanctify the ways men choose to use it, though this is often taken as a justification for seeking after riches.)
When a rich man felt horribly deprived in his afterlife, Abraham spoke to him from on high and said, "Son [for he was a son of Abraham—a member of the Church], remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things [he was a beggar—we do not like beggars in our Latter-day Saint community]: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. . . . There is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" (Luke 16:25-26). There is no passing between you. The rich man did have feelings, however, for he begged Abraham to send the beggar to his five brothers "that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment" (Luke 16:28). That will not be necessary, Abraham told him, since it is already laid out for them in the scriptures. Yes, said the rich man, but if someone actually came to them from the dead—that would really convince them to repent. No, Abraham replied, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31).
Note it well—on this very matter of whether to seek riches or not, the scriptures have spoken so clearly and so much that we are out of order in asking for more revelation on the subject. We are already swamped with instruction; we have to maneuver skillfully to avoid it. No doubt the five brothers would immediately protest that the scriptures are being quoted "out of context." That is what the populations think today. When we can use that argument, what do we do? When I took up the first version of the new Topical Guide to the scriptures and turned to the heading "riches," lo and behold, there was nothing on the subject—the word was not even there. I had to assume that this was a deliberate omission, since the word riches is a very convenient topical handle, and it occurs no less than sixty-one times in our modern scriptures. It is hardly possible that all sixty-one times could be put out of context! Why was such an important item left out? (In more recent editions, it has been included.) "Treasures" is there, an ambivalent term that can be either good or bad but is mostly spiritual—"riches" is the bottom line, and one has only to read the passages found under that label in ordinary concordances to learn that what modern revelation has to say about acquiring riches is anything but encouraging to those who do it.
There are evil gifts: "Lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing" (Moroni 10:30). What is the evil gift, the unclean thing? What first springs to mind is the powerful epithet—filthy lucre. That is what is unclean. This is what Satan had to offer: gold and silver, the treasures of earth.
Which claimant do we recognize? The one says: "The earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves" (D&C 104:17). Help yourself but be careful of one thing. It is all free on this condition: "If any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel [contained in Deuteronomy, the New Testament parables, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants], unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment" (D&C 104:18), which of course refers us to the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
The other tells us that "every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and . . . conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime" (Alma 30:17)—there is no such thing as a rip-off. Judgment hereafter? Just remember, says Korihor, "when a man was dead, that was the end thereof" (Alma 30:18). Forget about rules "laid down by ancient priests" (Alma 30:23) to keep you from doing as you please, so that you dare "not look up with boldness, and . . . enjoy [your] rights and privileges" or even "make use of that which is [your] own" because of a lot of old teachings taken out of context (Alma 30:27-28).
If we ask not we receive not. The gifts are not in evidence today, except one gift, which you notice the people ask for—the gift of healing. They ask for that with honest intent and with sincere hearts, and we really do have that gift. Because we are desperate and nobody else can help us, we ask for it with sincere hearts of our Lord.
As for these other gifts—how often do we ask for them? How earnestly do we seek for them? We could have them if we did ask, but we don't. "Well, who denies them?" Anyone who doesn't ask for them. They are available to all for the asking, but one must ask with an honest heart, sincerely. The greatest gifts are those listed in Moroni 10, ten gifts.
Do people prefer temporal gifts today? That's a strange thing; people don't want them, either. "What are the temporal gifts?" we ask ourselves. Anything you could possibly ask for in order to get along in the world. "People don't want them?" No, not as gifts—they are proud and don't want to accept a dole. (I'm arguing with myself here.) "Isn't that rather admirable?" It looks that way. Their hearts are really set on these things—they want to have them but they want to earn them fair and square and to be beholden to no one for them. They want to say, "This is mine because I earned it." No one has a right to a gift; no one can go to the giver and demand it as something he has earned. What is owed you, you don't receive as a present but as your due. That makes us all beggars. In our Anglo-Saxon ethic we just don't like the idea of having to depend upon anyone else—we must be independent before all things. Well, I say, "What's wrong with that?" I answer, we think we are being realistic about it, but are we? Independent of what? Of God? Of our fellowman? Of nature? So we actually reject the gifts of God. As gifts we despise them.
"Ye are cursed because of your riches," says the prophet Samuel, "and also are your riches cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them, and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you. Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches, not to thank the Lord your God for them" (Helaman 13:21-22). They simply refused to regard or treat their riches as gifts, but insisted that they were earnings.
The gifts of God are intimate and personal. You do not ask God for gifts for someone else, because only God knows the mind, heart, and the real needs of any individual, and only he knows what is really expedient in each case. What I ask for you might be what you neither want nor need—a sheer impertinence on my part. Gifts can embarrass. That is why we are told that in giving a gift to another you must "not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (cf. Matthew 6:3)—there is no bookkeeping of gifts. The manna experience and the Lord's prayer teach us that!
There is something infinitely degrading about worrying whether others—especially those who have less than we do—are getting more than they deserve. We think of the spoiled child at the party, who jealously watches what the other children are getting, grabs everything in sight, and starts fights when the goodies are being handed out, then complains that he has not got as much as somebody else. But don't judge the little fellow—he is merely maximizing profits, like the rest of us. We see the heroes of epic literature and oriental romances jealously measuring their "portions" at the banquet table lest the "meed of honor" of one noble lord be either too far above or below that of another. That leads to nasty remarks, jealous outbreaks, savage brawls, and usually to bloodshed—all over gifts, of all things!
In the repeated passage, "Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich" (D&C 6:7). That is the wealth the Lord is speaking of, the riches he promises: "You shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God" (D&C 14:7). It is a pure gift—we have no right to it; we have proven our helplessness to achieve it and our unworthiness to possess it. Jesus Christ bought it for us: he paid the ransom price, he redeemed us when we could not redeem ourselves, and he gave us eternal life as a free gift. He has taught us how to qualify for the gift, but the gift itself we could never earn by our own efforts. And what does he require of us in order to qualify, to show that we do not hold such a sacrifice cheaply or disdain it because it is a gift? In return for the gifts, without which we cannot survive an hour, God seeks of us, first of all, that "we despise not his gifts" by putting them in second place to our own "virtuous industry." "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant . . . to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. . . . [Come and help yourselves! But they all alike began to make excuses:] I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it. . . . I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them. . . . I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. . . . The master of the house being angry [and insulted at these people who placed business before pleasure, sent his servant to bring in the poor, maimed, halt, and blind, those so poor they must have been lazy bums]. . . . For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper" (Luke 14:16-21, 24).
Matthew 22 gives a shorter version: A king invites them to a marriage feast with all things prepared—a magnificent spread. "But they made light of it [they despised it], and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise" [they were all business]. Then the king said: "The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy." They thought that each of these can be worked for, each of these can be bought. But they were fools (Matthew 22:2-10).
Some accept the heavenly gift and then go back to business again, and put it in second place: Such a one "received [the] seed [and] . . . heareth the word; and the care [the word is merimna—concern, business] of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches [apate tou ploutou—they promise you what they cannot deliver] choke the teaching, and he becometh unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).
God's second requirement of us is that we share what he gives us liberally and impartially: "Let every man esteem his brother as himself. For what man among you having twelve sons . . . and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?" (D&C 38:25-26). On the other hand, the one who serves Mammon most obediently can count on getting more than all his other brothers put together—for a time.
The supper is still spread: "For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance" (D&C 49:19), with the strict understanding, "Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need" (D&C 49:21). You take all you need—it is provided in abundance—but never more than you need. Above all, "it is not given that one man should posses that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin" (D&C 49:20). More than enough corrupts us with his gifts; he will not allow us to take more. How then can anyone who has more than his fellows claim that God has given it to him, when God has declared in the strongest terms that that inequality is the basic cause of evil in the world today?
All gifts come from God and are freely given. It is a risky business when men start dealing in gifts—the careful reckoning of who gives what and how much, and who gets what and how much from whom, leads to dangerous complications and bloodshed in the gift-giving of heroic literature or the legends of the gods—the gifts always lead to trouble.
First with Satan's gifts: "Thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous" (Exodus 23:8). "Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous" (Deuteronomy 16:19). Whenever we accept a gift from another we are under obligation to him.
But God wants us to be under obligation to him; he wants us to feel our dependence on him at all times: on a day-to-day basis: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). This is the manna; they could not do business with it.
But there is more: we have too often returned God's kindness with disobedience to him and meanness to our fellows, so the Lord continues: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). We ask the maximum from him, and in return he asks us to give a little of it to our fellowmen. He tells us the Parable of the Steward:
[There was] a certain king, . . . [and] one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But . . . he had not to pay, [and] his lord commanded him to be sold . . . and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, . . . saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. . . . His lord . . . said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt. . . . Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? . . . and delivered him to the tormentors (Matthew 18:23-34).
Please note that the strict, no-nonsense servant was acting within his legal rights; even as his master was acting within his legal rights in cracking down on a delinquent. The servant, freed by the compassion of his master to exercise his own legal rights, took advantage of his refound liberty by claiming his own legal rights on another to the full extent of the law. Legal, to be sure, but what could be more base or depraved than to use the gifts and advantages God has given us as a club to deprive others of the lesser gifts which God has given them! Yet we see this all the time. We hear a lot today about a certain meanness of spirit which is becoming more conspicuous in our lives. An ancient philosophy has been revived, according to which the holdings of men whose wealth increases without their knowledge and while they sleep call their increase "earnings"—as if Trimalchio or Seneca or Varro or Brutus had worked a thousand times harder or were a thousand times smarter than the rest of us (that being how much richer they are); and these huge accumulations of capital were held to be (in Rome) the ultimate source of all wealth, so that even slaves should feel grateful to these men for at least providing them with a living. Accordingly, the owners of the earth were under no obligation whatever to give anything to anybody, since their only obligation to society was to get richer, so that in the long run everybody would benefit. Indeed, anything that would diminish their holdings in any way was considered morally wrong as damaging to the well-spring of the economy. An exception was Herodes Atticus: it was the right of those who had it to abuse the gifts of God, even more vicious, that everyone was forced to play the game.30 Such were the imperial Romans of whom we read in the great satirical literature of Rome and in the Church Fathers, who, to paraphrase Moroni, adorn themselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted (who did have life—but not a very happy one) to pass by them, and notice them not (cf. Mormon 8:39). "Behold, the sword of vengeance was hanging over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you" (Mormon 8:41). Because Rome ignored these principles, it fell—the best thing it ever did. According to President Kimball, those words which I just read from Moroni himself—the one who talked with Joseph Smith—were describing not only our own day but our own society.31 (Incidentally, Seneca observed that great fortunes come easily or not at all—they do not come by hard, continual, lifelong toil, which at best lays aside a rather pitiful nest egg compared with the treasures of the earth, which are won through manipulations in the law courts.)
We may ask for some gifts, as they are given, without measure, without limit; with others enough is enough, as Paul tells us (see 2 Corinthians 10:13). The unlimited gift that God's children from Adam on have been encouraged to seek with unceasing zeal is of course light and truth: "And finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me [says Abraham], I sought for the blessings of the fathers, . . . desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge . . . and to possess a greater knowledge, . . . desiring to receive instructions" (Abraham 1:2). Selfish? The greatest pleasure in having knowledge is to spread it around.
The other is the limited gift: "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare [for the rich person by definition is one who has more than he needs—and that is too much; the snare is a trap—Satan has caught them], and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierce themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:7-10). The word for love here is not sexual love—the English translation is unique in giving us that way of escape: it is philargyria or cupiditas, which simply means desire for wealth.
And so the two gifts are placed side by side before us in the first commandment given to the Church in these latter days: "Seek not for riches, but seek for wisdom" (D&C 6:7).
How is your health, my aging cronies ask me. My health is very good. No aches, pains, disabilities, headaches, blackouts, hangups, no chronic ill? No, none at all. You do not have to watch it all the time? No, it is the same as always. Then you are getting a free ride. There are many at this age who spend most of their time testing drugs and visiting specialists, toiling and suffering at being hypochondriacs. The ancients used the same words for work, toil, labor, pain, and suffering. Doesn't your good health make your life dull—nothing to talk about? Doesn't it make you feel lazy, uncomfortable, guilty? Doesn't it weaken your character? What I am getting at is that working for lunch all the day is just as silly as concentrating on the condition of your physical plant in other ways. If it is working well, you should forget it and do the more admirable things of which it is capable. Take the case of the Nephites: The Lord is about to bestow upon them gifts of such a nature that it is forbidden to discuss them. But before he bestows those gifts, he makes sure that their temporal wants are all taken care of: "Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them" (3 Nephi 17:7). Then he commanded his disciples "that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him" (3 Nephi 18:1), and when the multitude "had eaten and were filled" (3 Nephi 18:4), he taught them about the sacrament. Then Nephi himself went down into the water, and he and all the others were baptized—cleaned up for a special meeting with the Lord the next day. Once he had taken care of all their physical wants, then his great teaching could begin. Once the people are all fed, clothed, and healed of any physical affliction, and cleansed of all impurities, then they can receive the gospel. With most churches that preliminary requirement is the whole story; it gives them all a worthy program, and it is an indispensable prerequisite in which we too should be engaged. But like the Word of Wisdom (another free gift and a temporal blessing), it is only to put us in condition for the real work, in which by now we should all be deeply engaged. Instead of which, I hear everywhere, "Wait until I can make enough money—then I can help the Church." God asks no such favors, "What is property unto me?" he asks (D&C 117:4).
We are often told that wealth is the reward of certain qualities of character—admirable qualities—and that is certainly true. Among the qualities that make for success in business are hard work, dependability, sobriety, firmness, imagination, patience, courage, loyalty, discrimination (taste), intelligence, persistence, ingenuity, dedication, courtesy, humor, sensitivity, determination, tact, and so on. Those happen to be the very same qualities necessary to make a successful athlete, musician, soldier, international jewel thief, painter, scholar, hit man, spy, teacher, dancer, bank robber, minister, politician, author, general, con man, astronomer, builder, engineer, physician, smuggler, astronaut, inventor, godfather, explorer, and so on. Too often these attributes of character are represented as the singular and unique adornments of the business world, putting a stamp of special glory on the man in the executive suite, whereas actually they are needed everywhere. Consider the statistics alone. There are over 600,000 millionaires in the country—but how many first-rate composers, or artists, or even scientists are there by comparison? Some of the largest corporations in the country wisely reject applicants whose IQs are too high.
All those professions we just named are ladders to be climbed. Each one develops character and offers rewards, but as Brother Packer reminded us, it is not only important to be climbing a ladder, the really important thing is which ladder we climb.32 I once heard Stephen L Richards give a talk in which he denounced careers in making it clear that any career is the wrong ladder, since careers are only for the short run (we retire from them eventually), while we should be doing what is for the long run—the eternal run, and that here and now!33
Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of today's state of things is that it permits us only a very limited choice of ladders, nay, it forces us to choose between business and law, the alternative being starvation. (A man must become a sharp operator, as Isaiah observes bitterly, purely in self-defense: if you do not learn to take others you will get taken; Isaiah 59:15.) Of course, the choice of ladders is actually as wide as ever, but our young people are thoroughly intimidated. Satan wants to get us in that position where we are paralyzed to oppose him: "If I leave his employ, what will become of me?" This is a terrifying thought from the chairman of the board to the one working on the assembly line. The answer is very reassuring: "Hear the teachings of the gospel along with the rest of the human race—and follow them, and you will not have to worry about Satan's hold on the economy, for then you will observe and keep the law of consecration."
What are we instructed to do, then, in our fallen state? One of the shortest and most concise sections of the Doctrine and Covenants tells us, "Let your time be devoted to the studying of the scriptures; and to preaching, and to confirming the church . . . and to performing your labors on the land" (D&C 26:1). The Great Triple Combination—farming, church, and study. Even so Adam was told to cultivate his garden, preach the gospel among his children (a most strenuous mission), and finally to seek ever greater light and knowledge. Let me remind you that this system has worked throughout the ages, whenever it has been given a try. What is the result of our industrial-military complex, which seems to be the inevitable trend of every greedy industrial society? It has never worked; not for one decade has it failed to fill the earth with blood and horror. Where has it brought us at the present moment? Hear the words of Henry C. Wallich, the Governor of the Federal Reserve, as he describes our society in which the economy is all-in-all: "It's a form of fraud, perpetrated by everybody on everybody. It is a world in which nobody keeps his word. Even if you could adjust perfectly for it, it would be a very unpleasant world."
"Well, don't you think this idealistic immaterialism of yours is quite unrealistic? (I ask myself). Indeed it is for non-Latter-day Saints; it is simply laughable in the present world. Remember—what we regard as real and what the rest of the world regards as real are by no means the same thing. For us the great reality is the visitation of heavenly beings to the world. Nothing could be further from reality or distract one's mind further from the cold, factual, work-aday realities of life than an angel with gold plates or a gold book. The Latter-day Saints will tell you a story that to them is perfectly real, whatever the world may think about it.
So the gifts of God are to be received in the same unstinting and joyful spirit in which they are given—freely, magnanimously, never counting the cost. (That was Brigham Young's motto: When the work of the Lord is to be done, never count the cost.34)
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (3 Nephi 14:11). God gives us temporal things, Brigham Young was fond of saying, expressly to see what we would do with them.35 He is to be our example in all things, and he has given us one of the finest gifts of all, the privilege of practicing gift-giving exactly as he does. And don't worry. As anyone can tell you who has practiced the art even a little, the gifts will never run out, for they are what we would call supernatural: "Now, when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus whom they both saw and heard" (3 Nephi 20:9). What was all the excitement about—hadn't they ever had bread and wine to eat before? Was a good meal such a novelty to them? No, it was not the gift but the privilege of actually seeing and hearing the giver. Many a person afflicted with a sore but temporary illness, upon being healed by the ministrations of the priesthood, has shouted for joy. But if he was bound to get well anyway, where is the thrill of it? Again, it is not the gift but the hand of the giver that is everything. The momentary glimpse of the source is what is reassuring. The gift we appreciate might have come by chance. Such a thing may never happen to us again. It is the awareness in receiving the gift that it comes from the infinite and inexhaustible love that fills the immensity of space and enlivens the eternities that admonishes us to look upon everything good of which we are aware as the gift of God.
*This is a transcript of an address given in the spring of 1982. It covers several of the same points made in "Gifts," pages 85-117.
1. Julian Huxley, quoted in John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1964), 443.
2. Hoimar von Ditfurth, Children of the Universe (New York: Atheneum, 1976), 10.
3. Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, tr. Edward Fitzgerald (New York: Avon, n.d.), LII.
4. Von Ditfurth, Children of the Universe, 10 (emphasis added).
5. R. Buckminster Fuller, Intuition (Garden City, NY: Double-day, 1972), 81.
6. Ibid., 82 (emphasis added).
7. Ibid., 105 (emphasis added).
8. Ibid., 107.
9. Ibid., 109.
10. Ibid., 110.
11. Ibid., 111-13.
12. Ibid., 12.
13. Ibid., 13.
14. Ibid., 15 (emphasis added).
15. Ibid., 89-92.
16. Ibid., 265-66 (emphasis added).
17. Ibid., 266-67.
18. Fred Hoyle, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections," 20. Engineering and Science 45 (November 1981): 8-12.
19. Ibid., 10.
20. JD 3:277.
21. Hoyle, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections," 10.
22. Ibid., 11-12 (emphasis added).
23. Julian Huxley, in Whitcomb, The Genesis Flood, 443.
24. Nikolai Kozyrev, "An Unexplored World," Soviet Life (November 1965): 24, 43-45.
25. Lewis Thomas, "On the Uncertainty of Science," Key Reporter of Phi Beta Kappa 46 (Autumn 1980): 2.
26. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, "A World Split Apart," in Solzhenitsyn at Harvard (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, 1979), 3-20.
27. JD 8:135.
28. James Russell Lowell, The Vision of Sir Launfal IV, lines 25-27.
29. The 1832 recital of the First Vision as dictated by Joseph Smith to Frederick G. Williams. See Milton Backman, Joseph Smith's First Vision (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971), appendix A; cf. Dean C. Jessee, "The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision," BYU Studies 9 (Spring 1969): cf. also D&C 49:19-20.
30. For Herodes Atticus, see Philostratus Lives of the Sophists II, 546-48. For an English tr., see E. H. Warmington, Philostratus and Eunapius (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968), 139-41.
31. Spencer W. Kimball, "The False Gods That We Worship," Ensign 6 (June 1976): 3-5.
32. Boyd K. Packer, "The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord," Ensign 6 (August 1976): 61.
33. Stephen L Richards, Where Is Wisdom (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1955), 400.
34. JD 8:355.
35. Ibid., 9:255.