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Epistemic Status: Extremely confident in the priciples. The more general or high level things are, the more confident I am. I become less confident as things become more detailed.
Chapter 9: “Interest of His Neighbor” 1
“Now come on,” Eli said, standing up. “I have a request from a bishop to help enforce judgment on a violation of the Law of Consecration.”
“Wait, enforce judgment?” Josiah asked. “Not judge?”
“Correct. I have no power over the Law of Consecration, except when asked.”
“Why? That seems so…backwards compared to everything you’ve told me so far.”
Eli smiled. “Yes, it seems that way, doesn’t it? But there is a good reason.
“The Law of Consecration requires that every man sacrifice his desires for where and how to work, to be set by someone else, so that needs are met and so there is minimal waste. Imagine if I had the power to dictate what people could do; we would be back to the authoritarian Communist governments of old.
“People would not be free.”
“But if someone else decides for them, isn’t that the same thing as you deciding?”
“No. It is subtle, but there is a difference.
“There is only one chief judge and only a few judges. That means that if we could decide, we could have an effective monopoly and control over the economy.
“However, the power to decide the Law of Consecration does not rest with me, or even with any government entities. It rests with bishops.
“And the thing about bishops is that there is one in every ward. And if you don’t like what the bishop in your ward is asking, you can go to another ward. That is the freedom: to choose another place in Zion to live.
“Now, if I were to ask someone to do something they did not want to do, their only choice would be death or banishment, and to choose whether to submit or to be cast out, that’s not a real choice at all.”
Josiah rubbed his forehead. “How do you employ people in the government, then?”
“I go to the bishop or bishops where I want to employ people, tell them I will pay each employee such and such amount, usually dependent on the size of the family, and ask them if it’s okay. If it’s not, we negotiate.
“Once they agree to it, I’m free to hire the people I want because the bishops will tell them that their place is to do the job I have hired them to do.
“Yes, the bishops can tell me what to do with regards to economics. This is essential to making it work properly.”
“I don’t believe you. There’s no way that could ever work.”
“That’s the only way it could work,” Eli responded. “The bishops know what the needs are in their ward. For example, if the ward is a rich ward, they’ll only make sure I pay enough to support those families, but if it’s a poor ward, they’ll ask for much more.
“There is no way I could know everything that a ward needs, so it makes sense to abide by the requirements of the one that does.”
“Even if that’s true,” Josiah mused, “you should never build in a poor ward.”
“That’s exactly where I try to build,” Eli said. “Everyone pays a flat 10% tithing to the Church, and a flat 10% tax to the government. I cannot change that number. It does mean that I cannot raise taxes, but it also means I cannot lower taxes. Sometimes, that means wards with poor industry are hard hit.
“But if I employ people there, it improves the industry and brings money back without the overhead of government welfare programs such as existed in the old United States. In addition, by not having government welfare, it avoids the political lobbying for money from the government, which is just pure waste.
“For example, the Fusion Research Center was built in mountainous area, where things cannot be easily grown or built. But it was built basically against a mountain where we found a good place to store spent radioactive material, should any be produced. The geography is not great for industry, but we made it work by making our own industry that fit the geography.
“Sure, I pay a premium, but it levels out the differences between wards. And it keeps me from having too many government employees and too many programs.”
“How does it level out the difference between the wards?” Josiah asked. “You’ve only given extra money to some people; that won’t help others in the wards.”
“Oh, but it will,” said Eli as they exited the Judgment Hall. “Most of the time, those bishops require my employees to give some of that money to the ward.”
“Why? They can’t require that!”
“They can; that’s the entire point of the Law of Consecration,” Eli replied. “The bishop gives you your place in society, and he guarantees you a comfortable life no matter what you do.
“For example, you may be a construction worker, or a cook, or some other job that does not have a high rate of pay. The bishop, if he asks you to do that job, will also ensure you receive funds from the ward to be able to live comfortably with your family.
“But if you are an engineer, or a programmer, or the director of a Fusion Research Center,” Eli continued, “the bishop will ask you to give up a portion of your pay to the ward.”
“That’s still just redistribution under another name.”
“Perhaps, but it’s under local control, and the decisions are from bishops that know the people and their needs. Quite different from a nameless government bureaucracy.”
“Maybe, but regardless, I hate the Law of Consecration,” Josiah muttered. “Why should I give up my pay for others?”
Eli pulled out his phone and said, “You are being greedy, and the Lord has frank words for that:
Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness.
These things ought not to be, and must be done away from among them;
“It’s not greedy to want to keep what’s mine!”
“It’s not yours,” Eli countered. “It is God’s, and He has given it to you.
“Everything we have, every talent we possess, and every blessing we receive, is from the Lord. He gives these to us; we don’t earn them, through whatever cleverness we think we have.
“Thus, everything we have is a stewardship; we are required to manage them well and to give back any portion the Lord requires through His bishops.”
Eli pulled up a scripture.
And verily in this thing ye have done wisely, for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity.
For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father.
Verily I say unto you, the elders of the church in this part of my vineyard shall render an account of their stewardship unto the bishop, who shall be appointed of me in this part of my vineyard.
Eli said, “In our modern times, we can only know what the Savior meant with that scripture if we look to ancient times.
“In ancient times, when stewards existed, a steward would have immense power in managing his master’s estate, but his master could, at any time, require him to use some or all of it for the master’s own purposes.
“So it is with our own stewardships; the Lord may require not just some, but all of it at any time.
“So yes, you are being greedy to think that anything is really yours.
“And Brigham Young said that if you are greedy, you are not even worthy of intelligent society:
I look around among the world of mankind and see them grabbing, scrambling, contending, and every one seeking to aggrandize himself, and to accomplish his own individual purposes, passing the community by, walking upon the heads of his neighbors—all are seeking, planning, contriving in their wakeful hours, and when asleep dreaming, “How can I get the advantage of my neighbor? How can I spoil him, that I may ascend the ladder of fame?” This is entirely a mistaken idea….The man who seeks honor and glory at the expense of his fellow-men is not worthy of the society of the intelligent.”
Josiah grumbled, “That’s harsh.”
“Is it really?” Eli rebutted. “Jesus Christ had similarly harsh words:
And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—
And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—
Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.
This order I have appointed to be an everlasting order unto you, and unto your successors, inasmuch as you sin not.
And the soul that sins against this covenant, and hardeneth his heart against it, shall be dealt with according to the laws of my church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.
“I don’t know about you, but being under the power of Satan sounds terrible.”
“Your god is cruel if that is what happens,” Josiah said.
“No, that’s just natural consequences,” Eli replied.
“Wealth is a type of the Sword of Damocles, as is power. It will control you.
“There is the saying, that ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ and it is true. But wealth is, itself, a power because you can pay people to do things for you.”
Eli looked slyly at Josiah. “Weren’t you saying yesterday that I needed to pay people to get them to be in the posse?
“Anyway, so imagine if someone in Zion was allowed by even one bishop to be more wealthy than another. He could then pay for more luxury, or if he desired for power, he could use his money to get it.
“As he became more powerful by spreading money around, so would those he paid, and eventually, they would become powerful enough to change the actual functioning of government.
“That’s what happened in the United States near the end of its history; powerful and wealthy people just paid, directly or indirectly, for what they wanted. The ‘justice’ system had two tiers of ‘justice,’ one for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else.
“That’s why having a system to put everyone at the same level is so important. It’s also why so many people fell for Communism, because that’s what it promised, even though it couldn’t deliver.
“But Zion delivers.”
“If Zion is really all that great,” Josiah bickered, “why wasn’t Zion created before in all of human history?”
“People hated the idea of Zion, and the reason people hated the idea was because Zion is too strict for their tastes.”
“Well, it is, mumbled Josiah.
“Complain all you want, but that’s the entire reason Zion works,” Eli said.
“But it means that, for example, no one can have nice things!”
Eli scoffed. “It does not mean that. It just means they can’t have anything nicer than anyone else.
“Say someone has some extra money. Perhaps they choose to buy finer clothes than anyone else in their ward, or Zion, has. Nephi explains what that is:
They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing;
Josiah exclaimed, “Having nicer clothes is not robbing the poor!”
“Yes, it is,” Eli insisted. “When God gave you that blessing, He may require it at any time, and He has, by the commandment to care for the poor.
“You are robbing the poor by not giving them the things that God has told you to give them, things that are God’s, not yours.
“I don’t see how that’s so important to Zion.”
“Because if everyone is comfortable, they risk losing that if they upset the status quo.”
“Think about poverty in the United States or other historical societies: the poor would be under pressure to find their next meal. Sometimes hunger overrides morals, and they steal.
“But that theft then errodes the social contract, which can spiral, slowly at first, but accelerating, until the social fabric is mere threads.”
Eli adjusted his feet. “But on the other hand, if people take care of each other, community is built and the social contract and fabric get woven thicker and tighter.
“That’s why community is so important: it is easier to give if you are giving to people you know, and it is what drives seeking the interest of your neighbor.”
“That just sounds so pithy,” Josiah said.
“Perhaps, but the fruits of it are right in front of you. Zion’s people are happy, fed, and not under pressure.
“In fact, over time, Zion grows richer, and as it does so, so do its citizens. At this point, they are all rich. They’re all equally rich, yes, but they are rich.
“As an example, your father, someone who normally is very frugal…”
“Don’t remind me…” Josiah grumbled.
“He actually owns and races a supercar.”
“What?!” Josiah whipped to face his dad.
“You have never earned the privilege of riding it, much less driving it,” Samuel deadpanned.
“You never gave me a chance!”
“I gave you plenty. Trust is earned. You never even tried.”
Eli put a hand on Josiah’s arm and pulled. “You see, people can be rich in Zion; they just have to all be equally rich.”
Josiah glared at Samuel but turned away. “It sounds great and all, but quite frankly, I don’t believe any of it could work if Communism can’t.”
“Communism centralized economic power; the Law of Consecration decentralizes it. And that makes all the difference.”
“What stops companies from just not paying their employees good enough?”
“Think about it: the company leaders tend to live near their employees, so any extra money they get would just go to the bishop, who would give it to those poorly paid employees anyway.
“Plus, we don’t have corporations or other investment schemes in Zion, which create perverse incentives, especially toward growing a company to generate returns.
“Without the possibility of outside investment, there’s less incentive to have a company outgrow its revenue; in other words, it’s always wise to stay profitable.
“This change allows the company owner to focus on providing a good product or service and on providing good livings for the employees and their families without worrying about a competitor flush with investment money swooping in, starting a race to the bottom with that money, and driving them out of business.
“Yet another way that wealth buys power and corrupts everything.”
And as Eli opened the door to a store, he said with finality, “And that is why we must all be equal in the riches of the Earth.”