This article was adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Click here to receive a free sample.)
Imagine a world in which there is no poverty of any kind—neither the impoverishment of financial distress, ignorance, relationship problems, nor emotional, physical or spiritual health. Amazingly, a few civilizations achieved this ideal by applying to a higher law. Enoch’s people set the standard:
The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish.
And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION.
And it came to pass that Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever.[i]
Melchizedek’s people followed suit. Like Enoch’s people, who built “the City of Holiness, even ZION,” Melchizedek’s people built Salem, meaning “city of perfection”[ii] or “righteousness and peace.”[iii] This city became the forerunner of Jerusalem,[iv] the eternal city of God.[v]
Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.[vi]
Melchizedek, like Enoch, was enormously successful in establishing the principles of Zion in the hearts of his people: “And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch.”[vii]
In the Meridian of Times, the Nephites and Lamanites achieved a society devoid of all forms of poverty.
And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift….
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.[viii]
How To Eradicate Poverty and Achieve Prosperity
In the latter days, do we have the faith to achieve a poverty-free world? If so, how might it happen? The answer lies in a principle that is a gospel irony, a paradigm of thought that eludes the world. Here is the principle:
Give your way to prosperity, freedom, safety and security.
This principle was widely known and practiced by ancient Zion people, who managed to flourish while the world around them collapsed under the weight of selfishness, greed and wickedness. Those Zion people discovered that by living this principle, they simultaneously invoked the law of restoration,[ix] or the hundredfold law.[x] That is, whatever they gave immediately gained power to return to them many times more than their sacrifice. Thus, by the simple act of charitable giving they prospered, and in the process, they achieved greater liberties, safety and security.
Knowing that history is wont to repeat itself, we wonder if we, who will face the prophesied judgments of the last days, will choose to embrace this principle and prosper by it, or choose to suffer with the world as it spirals out of control and implodes around us. One thing is certain: The days of attempting to mix Zion and Babylon are over; the day of decision is upon us.
A Foundation That Will Revolutionize the World
At the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith prophesied of the impact of the glorious latter-day work while simultaneously raising the anti-poverty flag: “I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world.” The Prophet’s use of the word revolution was not meant to suggest conflict: “It will not be by sword or gun that this kingdom will roll on,” he said: “the power of truth is such that all nations will be under the necessity of obeying the Gospel.”[xi] What is the Lord’s mandated goal that could revolutionize the world and eradicate every form of poverty? Here are his words: “You are to be equal…every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just.”[xii]
Equality! Covenant people recognize these inspired words as central to the law of consecration, the same law that governs the celestial kingdom,[xiii] and the law that is intended to govern the kingdom of God on the earth.
How is this to be done? The Lord gives the answer: “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.” That is, to achieve equality, we must first recognize that all things belong to the Lord and that by covenant we are stewards of his (not our) property. The Lord declares this arrangement is for our good: “It is wisdom in me.”
To make the leap from being owners to stewards, we must adopt a new mindset and rethink our priorities regarding our time, talents, money, property, and our treatment of the poor; then we must agree to include the Lord in the decisions we make regarding the use of the things that he has entrusted to us. Moreover, we must agree to be accountable to him for the discharge of our stewardship: “Therefore, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall organize yourselves and appoint every man his stewardship; that every man may give an account unto me of the stewardship which is appointed unto him. For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.
We might try to excuse ourselves from living this law by appealing to a false presumption in Church history: Wasn’t the law of consecration put on hold or at least lessened because of the failings of our fathers? Absolutely not. Any attempt to locate scriptural or authoritative evidence that this law was rescinded or is waiting to one day be implemented will be vain. If we are truly a covenant people then we are a consecrated people, and as such, we have bound ourselves to be stewards dedicated to equalizing the condition of the Lord’s children by the proper use of the Lord’s resources that he has placed in our hands.
As stewards, we agree to do the work of the Lord with his resources. That work is the “immortality and eternal life of man.”[xv] While we cannot give anyone the gift of immortality, we can, through our charitable actions, help someone achieve a more exalted level of immortality. And the highest level, of course, is called eternal life. Broadly, this is the work we covenant to assume, and to do so, we agree to consecrate all that we are and have.
In Mine Own Way
A central part of the Lord’s work is to level up the condition of his impoverished children: “And it is my purpose to provide for my saints.” To accomplish this feat, he employs us, his stewards, who have entered into a covenant of consecration to do this very thing. The Lord dictates the specific way that he, through us, will care for his children: “But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.”[xvi]
On the surface, this statement could appear like the socialistic doctrine of forced redistribution of wealth; but, as we shall see, consecration is neither an experiment in socialism nor an adaptation of an economic order. The Lord’s way is founded on personal agency and the condition of the steward’s heart. Implemented properly, the Lord’s way prospers, enlightens and exalts, while man’s way impoverishes, discourages and damns.
In the latter days, the Lord has placed an extra burden on the well-to-do saints to care for their underprivileged brothers and sisters in impoverished nations: “…for I will 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.”[xvii] The word Gentiles in this context means the members of the Church who live in wealthy gentile nations; the “poor of my people who are of the house of Israel” live elsewhere in less favorable circumstances. We, who are privileged, are responsible to contribute generously to the programs of the Church that level up our brothers and sisters, allowing them to share equally with us in the Lord’s blessings.
Enough and to Spare
The Lord promises ample resources to accomplish his purposes: “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.” Therefore, we need only go about doing all that we can to care for the Lord’s children. Finally, taking care of the impoverished remains our choice, but how we choose will bring judgment: “I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.”[xviii]
Imagine, then, a world impacted by the Lord’s stewards. Such people would go about doing good works in the similitude of their Master, whose work it is. Joseph Smith said, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”[xix] With the resources that the Lord had entrusted to his stewards, they would search out and attack misery wherever they encountered it. They would always have their antennae up, seeking to become a conduit through which the Lord could channel blessings to his needy children. To such stewards the Lord would direct a continuous flow of opportunities and resources for the purpose of blessing his children.
When the stewards became aware of a need, they would receive the intelligence with the attitude that the Lord had brought the matter to their attention. The stewards would not and could not turn away; rather, they would assume that the Lord expected them to do whatever they could to supply the necessary need and continue until stability and equality were achieved.
A Lesson from the Good Samaritan
The parable of the Good Samaritan[xx] is a case in point. Although the Samaritan did not know the abused nameless man whom he encountered, he nevertheless assumed the responsibility for the man’s welfare. The Samaritan provided generously for the man’s needs; then he offered to supply anything else that might be required until the man was made whole. Clearly, the Samaritan was the Lord’s steward, and as such he was continually on the Lord’s errand.
When he saw the beaten and destitute man, he recognized that the Lord had caused two paths to converge for the purpose of saving an impoverished soul. The Samaritan received the honor of blessing the man as the Lord would have blessed him. No matter the inconvenience and notwithstanding the required time and resources that would be needed (these things belong to the Lord anyway), the Samaritan saw life through the eyes of a steward, who was under covenant to use his Master’s resources as directed.
Significantly, the Samaritan needed no blinding revelation to take action; the fact that he had encountered need was revelation enough. Assumedly, the Samaritan had previously made a decision that if the Lord would take occasion to make a need known to him, the Samaritan would receive it as a revelation and an invitation to act. Jesus ends his parable with a commandment to each covenant person, who would be a steward: “Go, and do thou likewise.”[xxi]
Could a group of such people change the world? The Samaritan clearly changed the world for at least one nameless impoverished soul. Doubtless, in his lifetime, the Samaritan changed the world for many poor individuals who needed the Lord’s time, talents and resources. Is there any way that the Samaritan’s generosity might have diminished him or reduced the resources in his trust? Of course not.
If we knew the rest of the story, we would expect that the Samaritan was restored in each instance “an hundredfold” so that he could give again. We simply cannot extend merciful blessings to God’s children and not experience a harvest of merciful blessings in return.[xxii] As we give what we have, replacement comes with increase.[xxiii]
This principle, then, is part of the revolutionary foundation that Joseph Smith intended to establish that would one day change the entire world. When employed, this principle prospered, secured, protected and exalted the most successful civilizations that have ever existed.
It is central to “the law of the celestial kingdom,”[xxiv] and therefore we must become converted to living it if we ever expect to inherit that kingdom. It is the last law and obstacle that stand between us and celestial glory. For now, it has the power to transform the condition of mankind and achieve the unimaginable: No poor among them!
This article was adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Click here to receive a free sample.
[i] Moses 7:17:20.
[ii] Galbraith, Ogden, and Skinner, Jerusalem: The Eternal City, 41.
[iii] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 321.
[iv] McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 531.
[v] Ezra Taft Benson, Come unto Christ, 114; Hebrews 12:22.
[vi] Alma 13:17–18.
[vii] JST Genesis 14:34.
[viii] 4 Nephi 1:2-3, 15-18.
[ix] Alma 41:3–6, 15.
[x] Genesis 26:12; 2 Samuel 24:3; Matthew 13:8–23; 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 8:8; D&C 98:25; 132:55.
[xi] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 366.
[xii] D&C 82:17.
[xiii] D&C 105:4–5.
[xiv] D&C 104:14, 11-13.
[xv] Moses 1:39.
[xvi] D&C 104:15-16.
[xvii] D&C 42:39.
[xviii] D&C 104:16-18.
[xix] History of the Church, 4:227.
[xx] Luke 10:30-37.
[xxi] Luke 10:37.
[xxii] Hinckley, “Blessed Are the Merciful,” 68.
[xxiii] Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” 54–55.
[xxiv] D&C 105:4–5.