Saturday, April 30, 2011

Camels are large animals

I just wrote a big ole long blog post about my personal feelings on this topic, but I'm afraid I'm still trying to figure out what those feelings are.

In the meantime here's this wonderful article that I ran across when searching for a quotation. I know for most people this topic isn't an obsession like it is for me, but I do think it's worth pondering.


hukolb said...

So Joseph and I discuss this issue often. I think we agree on the more or less principle that it is wrong to do less than you should but also not necessarily right to go overboard and do more than is expected, asked by our church leaders and promptings of the Holy Ghost for our own personal revelation and stewardships. Not only is there pride looking up but pride looking down, saying I am better than this person because I don't have lots of stuff or money and gave it all away. You can do good with money and God does tend to bless those who he knows will do good with it. Not saying it equates to righteousness directly and there are many people who chose different paths and have equally as much. But its what we do with what we have and the "where much is given much is expected" idea. And yes, if you are financially stable you can serve missions and not leave your family behind starving...sorry that's how it works:). Joseph's addage is always the scripture "it is not meet that we possess more than another or the world lieth in sin". So on that note I think its a personal decision and stewardship and I think its not up to us to judge someones righteousness related to their income any more than we can make final judgement on anyone! The longer I live the more I realize there really are more circumstances involved in someone's life and choices than meets the eye and we do have to realize we can't know what they all are when we see someone pulling a yacht behind their hummer:). Thanks for the thought provoking article. Joseph says if they prophet told us to sell all our belongings and live in a covered wagon we would without question, but for now provide for your family in a mainstream way and donate to the PEF (which we always do:).

hukolb said...

PS - In our KY ward we had a very poignant example of two men passing away at relatively the same time, one had an insurance policy and will and plans laid out and his family was taken care of with little burden on the ward besides emotional mourning and support for his widow and two young children. The second was from Africa and was in very poor health for his age, had not made any arrangements and so the church and ward had to find a way to get him back to Africa and all the cultural red tape that went along with it. Our bishop subsequently asked all the men with families to get their financial affairs in order and have a life insurance policy. I think it is important to use your talents and means to provide for your family first as that is the stewardship you have most direct responsibility for. Next your fellow men. And remember, teaching a man to fish is so much more life altering than just giving the fish over and over...

hukolb said...

I guess with my mommy brain I just can't consolidate nor leave the issue alone:). I also think its a good point to remember we need to sacrifice our time and talents as well, going out with the missionaries, serving in the temple, serving missions, most of which do require some income to support! I think that is just as important, or more so, giving of our time until it hurts is often harder than giving of our substance... I should have just sent you an email! Sorry!!!

Mary said...

I like Nicole's comments on the subject. I think that it really isn't any of our business what other people do with their money. Everyone has different areas in which they spend more than others. We just need to pray and ask the Lord what he would have us do with the things he has blessed us with. The Lord does not command that we live in poverty, we just need to be careful to not place our hearts on material things. We are commanded to make others rich (not poor) like unto ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I'm anxious to read the big ole long blog post! Post it, post it, post it! (When you're ready, of course.)

There's no doubt that this is a complicated issue. But by and large, I think people let themselves off far too easily on it. Income inequality should bother us, I think. Not to say that it should paralyze us, or we can't come to a conclusion about how we should live or earn or spend. But if I read the scriptures accurately, it should be something we think about and grapple with...a lot more than I think many Mormons do, at least many of the Mormons that I interact with. It is not always a popular position to take, but I think we should question and contemplate every single purchasing decision we make. Questions like, "Is this something I need?" or does it fit in some other category like "will make life slightly more comfortable" or "will entertain me momemtarily." At the every least, I think we should be very deliberate about these types of issues.

Matt Yancey said...

Thanks for sharing the article. I’ve enjoyed studying this subject in my free time, so I get excited when I see others taking an interest in it as well. I thought the author has some great points. First and foremost being we should give generously to those in need. Lori and I were recently listening to a commencement address where the speaker said that after getting married he was earning just over $300 a month. Of that, he and his wife chose to give $50 to charities, and encouraged the graduating class to make contributions a pattern in their lives.
The second point I agree with is that righteous living does not directly equate to wealth. We often hear stories told in church of how a person was blessed in their financial life or career by the God. After hearing so many of these we can fall into the trap of thinking that if we are living righteously we should be blessed financial.

While I enjoyed those points I do think the writer is misinformed in other areas. The argument that it morally wrong to have more than what we need is flawed. There are many examples of how the Lord has blessed people with not just what they need, but with abundance. In the Old Testament God blessed Jacob in his dealings with his father-in-law so that he received an increase in his cattle. In Malachi we learn that it may be possible to be blessed by the Lord so much “that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Amulek even instructs the ancient saints to “Cry unto him [the Lord] over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them. Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.”

The author also makes the statement that if we have more others have less. However, that’s not how the world economy works. There is not a set amount of money in the world. Money is simply the medium of exchange we use for the goods and services we produce. If we produce more or better goods then we are adding to the current value of the world, not taking value away from others. GDP, or the value of the goods and services produced in the world increases from year to year, it is not simply redistributed across the countries.

I also don’t agree with the author’s statement “We must give until it is physically and emotionally uncomfortable.” I don’t believe that part of the Lord’s plan is for us to be living on a subsistence level. In fact, in D&C the Lord says “Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;” If we choose to live at a level that is physically uncomfortable, we are not being gracious recipients of the blessings the Lord has prepared for us. President Lorenzo Snow said “The Lord does not intend that the Saints shall live always in dens and caves of the earth, but that they shall build fine houses. When the Lord comes he will not expect to meet a dirty people, but a people of refinement.”

I also think the author’s statement “I cannot walk uprightly before God if my standard of living is above that of my brother” is ironic. Only about half the world can afford internet access, and in Africa that goes down to only five percent. The fact that the author is writing this on a blog shows that her standard of living is already well above most of her brethren. Another irony that I found when looking through the website is that it condemns capitalism but supports micro loans, which are small business loans.

Those are my thoughts on the article. Below is a link to a general conference talk I think you may find interesting. The first half talks about this subject.

Tonya said...

The article and everyone's comments are very interesting. We have some thoughts of our own but haven't written them down.

However, we found this article that sheds some light on the idea of a camel going through a needle (you have to scroll down to get to the part about the camel):

Rachel Leslie said...

These are all great comments guys! I appreciate the insight and will hopefully be able to articulate my opinion soon. Until then . . thesis!

xan said...

That's a very good question. In my life, I'm not sure that how I spend my money is a big problem. I have plenty of problems, certainly, but materialism isn't one of them. My philosophy is that in general, the less stuff you have, the less work you have to put into taking care of it, the less you have to lug around, and the more care free of a life you have. Smaller houses mean less cleaning. Riding a bike instead of going in the car means I don't get fat and I don't need triple-bypass surgery when I'm 40.

And that's even ignoring the problem of other peoples' poverty and such.

But money is only part of the picture. One thing that I bought an enormous amount of last semester with my abundant money was time. I decided not to have a job. I didn't need the money, and didn't want to exchange my time for the ripoff of eight dollars an hour or so.

I was, (and still am, on this internship), very rich with time, richer than most people ever get to be. So what am I to do with these riches? Well, I did well with my studies and got good grades, and found some reasonable opportunities to serve.

I also wasted a large amount of time going on auto-pilot, getting ready slowly in the morning, eating slowly, wandering aimlessly from room to room on errands that seemed important at the time, but were forgotten within 5 seconds of me going to do them. It's a peculiar habit of mine, and one that has consumed much of my time.

More recently, I've learned some things that may help me curb this problem, such as writing down the more weighty of my thoughts, which are usually the most distracting ones. Still, I have a long ways to go on this one, and, having started in earnest only yesterday, there is no guarantee that this will be a habit 6 months from now.

Being a wise steward of money is easy. Being a wise steward of time is not. At least that's how it is for me.

Today, I was talking with Paul, Elodie, and their family. They're the members from France that I take the sacrament with. They were talking about their landlord's family, who they are good friends with. The wife asked Elodie, "what do you do with your baby when it is crying?" Elodie answered that she tried to find out if the baby is hungry, dirty, tired, etc, and fix the problem. "Yes, but what medicine do you give them?" As the conversation went deeper, Elodie discovered that a doctor told them to give their baby girl valium. "It works like magic! I give it to her at night, and she goes right to sleep. Even in the day time, she goes right to sleep." They tried to warn them of the dangers of that, but haven't yet been successful.

How comforting for them to know that their money that they pay for rent is going towards making their landlord's daughter mentally retarded because of following the advice of a quack doctor who bought his degree.

Mere money will not solve this problem. Only education can, which is bought in part with money, but mostly given with time and talents.

xan said...

It's also been interesting for me to learn more about the history and politics of Tajikistan. Thanks to money that was thrown at Tajikistan by well-intended donors, including enormous IMF and World Bank loans, a corrupt President has thoroughly consolidated his control, which had been fairly weak after the 1997 peace agreement, and pushed opposition members out of the government (they were guaranteed 30% of parliament seats during the peace agreement, but now hold almost 0). The enormous drug trade is coordinated at the highest level of government (By the way, I found more recent U.N. statistics that put Afghanistan's contribution to the world supply of opium at 92%, not 87% anymore). Government oppression is building up pressure as the large population bubble of youth is maturing. They do not have the same recollection of and revulsion towards war.

We gave them money, but the strings attached were too fake to have the money do any real good. There is plenty of aid money floating around that is not intelligently used, and that in fact ultimately ends up being detrimental.

Stephen and Rachel, I do not doubt in the least that you are wise stewards over your money, with, at the worst, occasional minor blunders. The management of money is too quantitative to be hard, if your heart is in the right place.

But the consecration of time and talents is too qualitative to be easy for anybody. Those are ultimately the "weightier matters" in all of this, and, consequently, much harder to perfect.

Another question that for me has no easy answer, that I will not write so in depth upon, is how to encourage others, who are clearly not using their material resources wisely or selflessly, to use them well. There seems to me to be no excuse for certain peoples' blatant misuse of their own money. But these aren't just conveniently distant CEOs that we can whine about. These can be ward members and close acquaintances, and neither accusing them, nor ignoring the problem, seem to be appropriate in our efforts to build Zion.

Still, writing a sincere blog post about a troubling question, and waiting to see other peoples' responses before sharing your own thoughts on the matter, seems to be about the best way to handle that issue that I can think of (besides the obvious universally applicable solution of being a quiet, good example). But I'm not usually creative enough to think of things like that. I don't recall a specific situation in which I felt it was my duty to bring up somebody's use of their own money, but in other sensitive, supposedly "none of your business" issues, tactful "accusations," although usually not very creative, have at times produced the most rewarding results for me.

Then again, at other times, not so much, particularly when there were detectable levels of self-righteousness.

That's about all that I can think of for now, but I'll definitely be interested to read your thoughts on the matter. Until then, good luck with your thesis!