Guest Post: Work We Must, But the Lunch Is Free

The voices of inequality and brutal Social Darwinistic capitalism have enjoyed a resurgence on the bloggernacle…even and including attacks on the character of the poor. While I am not surprised to hear these things, like Brother Nibley, they sadden and sicken me. Also, today I am teaching in Elder’s Quorum about Work and Responsibility. I will be mentioning Brother Nibley (fitting since I incorporated Kant last week).

I have recently invited Brother Nibley back from the dead to re-post, in a way, his classic condemnation of the 1980s. It is not just a critique of the world, but also a condemnation of Latter-day Saints for becoming the champions of inequality.

Hugh W. Nibley

Reprinted with from Approaching Zion, vol. 9 of The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1989), 203–51.

    Bounty from on High–All or Nothing.

The famous geologist Sir Julian Huxley used to go from school to school in the manner of a traveling revivalist, preaching his gospel of evolution: “In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created; it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it including our human selves, mind and soul, as well as brain and body. So did religion.” He was fond of reminding his audiences that there is no Santa Claus, and that mature people should give up wishful thinking about such things as gifts and blessings, spiritual or material, bestowed from on high.

The high school youth of my day took great satisfaction in reciting the words of Omar Khayyam: “And that inverted bowl we call the sky, whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die, lift not the hands to It for help, for It rolls impotently on as Thou or I.” This is, as one eminent commentator on the scientific scene, Hoimar von Ditfurth, puts it, “that ‘modern view,’ still current today, that the earth with everything in it is dangling in the isolation of a universe whose cold majesty disdains it . . . 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.”

But within the last decade or so, leaders in scientific research have begun to express the opposite opinion to this, saying that they more than suspect the possibility (1) that the somebody out there cares–i.e., there is direction and purpose to what is going on; and (2) that gifts sent down from above are more than a childish tradition.

The first of these ideas was recently expressed by the biologist Lewis Thomas: “I cannot make 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.” A grand old–timer in biology, the 1937 Nobel Prize winner, Albert Szent–Györgyi, recently wrote:

According to present ideas, this change in the nucleic acid [which determines the nature of protein molecules formed in a cell] is accomplished through random variation. . . . If I were trying to pass a biology examination, I would vigorously support this theory. Yet in my mind I have never been able to accept fully the idea that the adaption and the harmonious building of those complex biological systems, involving simultaneous changes in thousands of genes, are the results of molecular accidents. . . . The probability that all of these genes should have changed together through random variation is practically zero. . . . I have always been seeking some higher organizing principle that is leading the living system toward improvement and adaptation. I know this is biological heresy, . . . e.g., I do not think that the extremely complex speech center of the human brain … was created by random mutations that happened to improve the chances of survival of individuals. . . . I cannot accept the notion that this capacity arose through random alterations, relying on the survival of the fittest. I believe that some principle must have guided the development toward the kind of speech center that was needed.

More surprising is the story now unfolding as various fields of research combine to give us a picture of gifts being showered upon us from on high–the literal reading of the Santa Claus or Kachina myth. Thus Buckminster Fuller says: “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. “We aboard Earth are receiving gratis just the amount of prime energy wealth, to regenerate biological life on board…. Van Allen belts, . . . the ionosphere, stratosphere and atmosphere all refractively differentiate the radiation frequencies, . . . . separating [them] into a variety of indirect life–sustaining energy transactions.” “Vegetation is the prive energy impounder”; from stellar radiation “the biologicals are continually multiplying, their beautiful cellular, molecular, and atomic structurings” which complete the equation…. “Certainly the earth is not the center of the universe,” writes von Ditfurth, “. . . but this crowded earth is a focal point in the universe; one of perhaps innumerable places in the cosmos where life and consciousness could flourish. . . . What a concentration of mighty forces upon one more or less tiny point!” Is it possible that someone does have us in mind?

This is the thesis which the famous astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle is now pursuing. In a talk given at Caltech last November (1981), he begins with the strange fact that there are distributed in all directions throughout the immensity of space particles whose presence is revealed by the way in which they obscure the galaxies everywhere, making them all look hazy? Whence their original designation as “nebulas” or fuzzy clouds. After almost 20 years of investigation the inescapable conclusion has been reached that “the grains had to be made up largely of organic material.” Like the biologists quoted above, Hoyle too, as he puts 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 [and yet these were correctly constructed], 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.” That is where he, too, balks. “By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, NOT 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.” One of the most exciting things about the process, he finds, is that it is still going on, and always has been, and to all purposes always will be. Instead of beginning with a single cell on this one lone planet billions of years ago, life has been brought down to earth from realms above in massive installments. “It was quickly apparent that the facts pointed overwhelmingly against life being of terrestrial origin … [here Hoyle pursues a long line of argument and review of research]; e.g., because a few comets are breaking up and scattering their contents all the time, the process was not relegated to the remote past.” “Taking the view, palatable to most ordinary folk but exceedingly unpalatable to scientists, that there is an enormous intelligence abroad in the universe, it becomes necessary to write blind forces out of astronomy,” as Thomas and Szent–Györgyi do out of biology.

As if to counteract these growing heresies, the old Darwinian view is being puffed today for all it is worth in a half dozen prestigious TV documentaries in which we are treated to endless footage of creatures ranging from amoebas, to giant carnivores, stalking, seizing and with concentrated deliberation soberly crunching, munching, swallowing, and ingesting other insects, fishes, birds, and mammals, etc. This, we are told again and again, is the real process by which all things were created. Everything is lunching on everything else, all the time, and that, children, is what makes us what we are; that is the key to progress. And note it well, all these creatures when they are not lunching are hunting for lunch–they all have to work for it: There is no free lunch in the world of nature, the real world. Lunch is the meaning of life, and everything lunches on something else–”Nature red in tooth and claw.” Tennyson’s happy phrase suited the Victorian mind to perfection. He got the idea from Darwin, as Spencer did his even happier phrase, “survival of the fittest.” Darwin gave the blessing of science to men who had been hoping and praying for holy sanction to an otherwise immoral way of life. Malthus had shown that there will never be enough lunch for everybody, and therefore people would have to fight for it; and Ricardo had shown by his Iron Law of Wages that those left behind and gobbled up in the struggle for lunch had no just cause for complaint. Darwin showed that this was an inexorable law of nature by which the race was actually improved; Miall and Spencer made it the cornerstone of the gospel of Free Enterprise–the weaker must fall by the way if the stock is to be improved. This was movingly expressed in J. D. Rockefeller’s discourse on the American Beauty Rose, which, he said, “can be produced … only by sacrificing the early buds which grow up around it. . . . This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely the working–out of a law of nature and a law of God.”

In this divinely appointed game of grabs, to share the lunch–prize would be futile, counter–productive, nay immoral. Since there is not enough to go around, whoever gets his fill must be taking it from others–that is the way the game is played. “In Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, or anywhere else in England,” as Brigham Young reported the scene in 1856, workers knew that “their employers would make them do their work for nothing, and then compel them to live on roots and grass if their physical organization could endure it, therefore, says the mechanic, ‘If I can get anything out of you I will call it a godsend,” and does what he can to rip off the boss. If he gets caught, he is punished, yet he is only playing the same game as his employer.??

Three years after Brigham made his observation, the Origin of Species appeared, putting the unimpeachable seal of science on the lunch–grab as the Supreme Law of Life and Progress. And it was expressly to refute that philosophy on which Brigham Young founded the BYU in 1875: “We have enough and to spare, at present in these mountains, of schools where … the teachers … dare not mention the principles of the gospel to their pupils, but have no hesitancy in introducing into the classroom the theories of Huxley, or Darwin, or of Miall and the false political economy which contends against cooperation and the United Order. This course I am resolutely and uncompromisingly opposed to. . . . As a beginning in this direction I have endowed the Brigham Young Academy at Provo and [am] now seeking to do the same thing in this city [Salt Lake City] .” With his usual unfailing insight, President Young saw it was the economic and political rather than the scientific and biological implications of natural selection that were the real danger and most counter to the gospel.

    The Two Employers

But what about those goodies that actually descend from the sky, according to the New Astronomy? They take us back to our Latter-day Saint creation story in which all the earth’s food supply is indeed brought from above, as seeds of all kinds are carried down and planted in a special program of preparing the earth for its great calling. “Adam, we have created for you this earth, and have placed in it everything you could possibly need–all finished and ready for use. Help yourself–of every tree thou mayest freely eat.” Was Adam idle and bored, his character undermined by such easy living? Hardly! He went happily about his work of taking good care of the place; he enjoyed frequent conversation with angels and in the cool of the evening strolls with the Lord himself–what a vast expansion of mind and spirit that evokes! And to spend one’s days with a woman of infinite understanding, whom age could not wither nor custom stale, was enough to fill the days with endless delight. When Adam left the garden, he went right on with his work of cultivating the earth, himself, and his numerous posterity, engaging in the three activities which are recommended as the proper way of life to all who work in the vineyard: “Behold, I say unto you that you shall let your time be devoted to [1] the studying of the scriptures, and [2] to preaching, and to confirming the church, … and [3] to performing your labors on the land” (D&C 26:1). Study, the work of the kingdom, and the cultivating of the soil were Adam’s calling for almost a millennium–and he never got bored. Though no longer in Paradise, he enjoyed the visitation and instruction of heavenly visitors, who undertook to teach him how he was to return again to his preexistent splendor with enhanced qualifications and credentials for what lay ahead. To merit such promotion, he was to be tried and tested while he was here, and for that express purpose Adam had to come to an understanding with another type of visitor, a person of enormous ambition and cunning, who was purposely turned loose in the place to put Adam and Eve to the test. What he tempts them with is lunch. We can put the situation in terms of two employers who are competing for the services of the man Adam and his posterity, who are intentionally placed in the middle between them: on the one hand, “the devil … inviteth and enticeth … continually” to work for him, while on the other, “God inviteth and enticeth … continually” to work for him (Moroni 7:12–13).

The first employer offers us lunch, and since lunch is something everybody must have, he is in a powerful position to bargain. He explains that this glorious earth is his private estate, that it all belongs to him to the ends thereof; in particular he owns the mineral rights and the media of exchange, by controlling which he enjoys the willing cooperation of the military, ecclesiastical, and political establishments, and rules with magnificent uproar. He keeps everything under tight control, though, for all the blood and horror–nobody makes any trouble in his world from the rivers to the ends thereof. Well can he ask Adam, “What is it you want?” for he claims to be the God of this World, and the Lord himself grants him the title of Prince of this World. All who are not working for him on his estate he charges with trespassing, including even heavenly messengers, whom he accuses of spying out his vast property with an eye to taking over the whole of it. But he is willing to make a deal if they have money. To have merely sufficient for your needs, however, is not what he has in mind–that would be the equivalent of the free lunch, lamely ignoring the endless possibilities for acquiring power and gain that the place offers; this developer has a vision of unlimited sweep and power?”You can have anything in this world for money!” Beginning, of course, with lunch. Because money is the only thing that will get you lunch–and since everybody must have lunch, that is the secret of his control.

This almost mystical identity of money with lunch we see in the reports of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others of their missions in England, where people were literally starving to death in the streets, while many in the city were living in the greatest opulence. The trouble was that the poor people had to starve because they could get no money, and they could get no money because the factories were closed, and the factories were closed because of an unusually severe winter–an act of God. So there was plainly nothing to be done and no one to blame–one does not oppose the Laws of Nature and of God: There is no free lunch. Brother Kimball tells how his family in this fair land lived for weeks on boiled milkweed; they had worked very hard, but still there was no lunch for them, because the money they had saved up by their diligent toil was suddenly worthless–it is money alone that gets you lunch, mere work is not enough. Your prospective employer explains how that is: The money part is necessary to keep things under control. For the Kimballs, lunch was life itself, the bottom line of any economy. What would happen, then, if lunch was always provided free for them? Would they not lose their most immediate incentive to work–the need for lunch–money? And since money, as they tell you in Economics 101, is “the power to command goods and services,” who would ever do any work again? How can you command somebody to work for you if he doesn’t need your lunch? That, the shrewd employer explains, is why he must never cease reminding one and all in his domain that there is no free lunch. It is that great teaching which keeps his establishment going. “All I have to do to bring my people into line,” he says, “is to ask them: ‘If you leave my employ, what will become of you?’ That scares the daylights out of them; from the man on the dreary assembly line to the chairman of the board; they are all scared stiff. And so I get things done.”

So let us go across the road for an interview with the Other Employer. To our surprise, he answers our first question with an emphatic: “Forget about lunch! Don’t even give it a thought!” “Take no thought of what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink or wherewith ye shall be clothed!” “But what will become of me then?” you ask. Not to worry, “We will preach the gospel to you, and then you will find out that lunch should be the least of your concerns.” Let Brigham Young explain the situation.

We have been permitted to come here to go to school, to acquire certain knowledge and take a number of tests to prepare us for greater things hereafter. This whole life, in fact, is “a state of probation” (2 Nephi 2:21). While we are at school our generous patron has provided us with all the necessities of living which we will need to carry us through. Imagine then that at the end of the first school year your kind benefactor pays the school a visit. He meets you and asks you how you are doing. “Oh,” you say, “I am doing very well, thanks to your bounty.” “Are you studying a lot?” “Yes, I am making good progress.” “What subjects are you studying?” “Oh, I am studying courses in how to get more lunch.” “You study that? All the time?” “Yes. I thought of studying some other subjects. Indeed I would love to study them–some of them are so fascinating!–but after all it’s the bread–and–butter courses that count. This is the real world, you know. There is no free lunch.” “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; I want to go right to the top–the executive suite, the Marriott lunch.” “But that is not the work I wanted you to do here,” says the patron. “The question in our minds ought to be,” says Brigham Young, “what will advance the general interests … and increase intelligence in the minds of the people[?] To do this should be our constant study in preference to how shall we secure that farm or that garden [i.e., where the lunch comes from!]. . . . We cannot worship our God in public meeting or kneel down to pray in our families without the images of earthly possessions rising up in our minds to distract them and make our worship and our prayers unprofitable.” Lunch can easily become the one thing the whole office looks forward to all morning: a distraction, a decoy–like sex, it is a passing need that can only too easily become an engrossing obsession. Brigham says, “It is a folly for a man to love? Any other kind of property and possessions. One that places his affections upon such things does not understand that they are made for the comfort of the creature, and not for his adoration. They are made to sustain and preserve the body while procuring the knowledge and wisdom that pertain to God and his kingdom [the school motif], in order that we may preserve ourselves, and live forever in his presence.”

And about work? I once had a university fellowship for which I had to agree not to accept any gainful employment for the period of a year–all living necessities were supplied: I was actually forbidden to work for lunch. Was it free lunch? I never worked so hard in my life–but I never gave lunch a thought. I wasn’t supposed to. I was eating only so that I could do my work; I was not working only so that I could eat. And that is what the Lord asks us: to forget about lunch, and do his work, and the lunch will be taken care of.

Not being an economist, I must here turn to the scriptures, where I find a succinct but detailed and lucid statement of the lunch situation, that is, of God’s economic precepts for Israel, in the book of Deuteronomy.

    Moses distributes the Lunch

After Moses had led the children of Israel for 40 years, he summed up all the rules and regulations by which they were to live in a great farewell address, which was to be preserved in writing on stone and parchment and periodically and publicly read to all the people. All prosperity and life itself in the new promised land would depend on the strict observance of the law. Certain general principles were to govern every aspect of life among the children of the covenant:

1. This is the law by which you are to live, and the only law (Deuteronomy 4:1): “It is your life: and through this ye shall prolong your days in the land” (Deuteronomy 32:47).

2. However impractical and unrealistic these rules and precepts may seem to the world, you are not of the world, but wholly withdrawn from it, a people chosen, set apart, removed, “peculiar,” sanctified, “above all people that are on the face of the earth,” “an holy people” (Deuteronomy 7:6). Israel is under a special covenant with God which has nothing to do with the normal economy of men; they are forbidden to do some things and required to do others which may seem perfectly absurd to outsiders.

3. The legal aspects of the thing are not what counts–the business of lawyers is to get around the law, but you must have it written in your hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), to keep it “with all thine heart, and with all thy soul,” because you really love the Lord and his law, which begins and ends with the love of God and each other (Deuteronomy 6:5). It must be a natural thing with you, taken for granted, your way of life as you think and talk about it all the time, so that your children grow up breathing it as naturally as air (Deuteronomy 6:7#150;9).

4. Remember that everything you have is a free gift from God: You had nothing and he gave you everything (Mosiah 2:23-25).

5. Never get the idea that you have earned what you have; beware lest “when thou hast eaten and art full,… Then thine heart be lifted up and thou forget the Lord thy God,” and you say to yourself: “My power [ability] (koakh) and might of mine hand [hard work: otsem yadhi, meaning the strength of my hand, or etzem yadhay, meaning my own two hands] hath gotten me this wealth [fortune]” (Deuteronomy 8:10, 14, 17). But you must bear in mind that God alone has given it all to you, and that it is not for any merit of yours, but for the sake of confirming promises made to your fathers that he has done it–if you forget that for a moment you will be destroyed (Deuteronomy 8:18–19). “And while our flocks and herds were increasing upon the mountains and the plains,” said Brigham, “the eyes of the people seemed closed to the operations of the invisible hand of Providence, and they were prone to say, ‘It is our own handi-work, it is our labor that has performed this!?”

6. The gifts of God have come to you not because of your righteousness, because you are not righteous, and have in no wise deserved what you have received, nor are you worthy of it (Deuteronomy 9:4–29). It is all given to fulfill promises made to righteous men before you. Moses’ parting word to the people after 40 years of struggling with them was, “Behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?” (Deuteronomy 31:27).

As the law is laid down to Israel by Moses, each precept is accompanied by a reminder of their endless obligation to Jehovah, who took them in his charge when they were the lowest of the lowly and brought them with signs and wonders to a land where they have everything. With this in mind, God expects them to be as loving, merciful, and open–handed in dealing with down–and-outers as he has always been with them (cf. Deuteronomy 15:7–8). With this goes a promise, that no matter how much they give to others, he will always make it up to them many times over, “for the Lord shall greatly bless thee” (Deuteronomy 15:4).

Let us remember that Israel had been living for 40 years on a free lunch–manna from heaven. They did not have to work for it; indeed they were effectively prevented from taking any advantage of such a bonanza–it was simply their daily bread to which everyone had a right and of which no one could take more than he needed for himself on one day. If you ate more, it would make you sick; if with far–sighted business sense you stocked up on it, you would find yourself properly rebuked, for the stuff rotted and stank after twenty–four hours, except on the Sabbath. Every attempt to make the manna an object of free enterprise was ruled out–this was the ultimate free lunch. On the day the people entered the promised land, Moses told them that from then on there would be no more manna–but the free lunch would continue without a break. For in this hill country, he explained, they would be just as dependent on the rain of heaven as they ever were on manna from heaven for their sustenance, and God alone would provide it as ever (Deuteronomy 11:11–15). And what would they do to keep it coming? “If ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments, . . . I will give you the rain of your land in his due season,… that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send the grass … for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full” (Deuteronomy 11:13–15).

And what were the specific commandments they are thus enjoined to keep? That is what Deuteronomy is about. A large part of the law is taken up with “forms and observances” (see also Ezekiel 43:11); in particular, all the people are required to come together at regular intervals to celebrate, feasting and dancing together with great rejoicing, both to thank God for the abundance he had given them and to solicit a continuance of his bounty. Everybody was to have a good time and observe perfect equality in all things, seeing to it that nobody went hungry or neglected. With the first harvest in the new land, they were to bring a basket with samples of all the firstfruits in it, place it before the altar and say: “a Syrian ready to perish was my father” (Amorite, meaning “displaced homeless wanderer, vagrant”), dying of hunger; “and he hath brought us into this place, and hath given this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me.” The starving Syrian in question was Abraham the Hebrew (which also means “a displaced vagrant”). Saying this, “thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God: and thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord [Jehovah] thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you,” to show the Lord: “I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them” (Deuteronomy 26:5, 9–13). If the people ever fail to observe this joyful activity of giving and sharing, they will suffer a complete reverse of all the promised blessings, “because thou servedst not the Lord [Jehovah] thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (Deuteronomy 28:47). In bringing his substance to the Lord, every man shall say: “I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house” and then “give them unto the Levite and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments” (Deuteronomy 26:13). What was thus hallowed or consecrated to the Lord’s work could not be used for any other purpose–it was still manna and not negotiable.

In passing through any field or vineyard in Israel, anyone was free to take what he needed if he was hungry (as the Lord and the apostles did; Mark 2:23); if the owner denied him that, he was breaking the law; if the person took more than he needed for lunch, then he was breaking the law–it was still manna (Deuteronomy 23:24–25). When gathering harvest, said the law, never go back to make sure that you have taken all the olives, grapes, or grain of your farm to the barn or to the press. That may be sound business practice, but the Lord forbids it. Some of it must always be left for those who might need it. From the wine and olive presses we get the word “extortion,” meaning to squeeze out the last drop, another way to make a margin of profit–putting the squeeze on, wringing out the last drop. The Latter–day Saints, like the ancient Israelites, are to accept God’s gifts gratefully and not “by extortion” (D&C 59:20).

The “primitives” and the ancients everywhere celebrated the free gifts of heaven with seasonal rites closely resembling those of the Israelites. The ritual showering of food from heaven was an important part of the ceremonies, dramatized by the actual throwing down of food and tokens from a high platform, mobile or stationary, into the crowd of worshippers. To these rites, which we have treated at some length elsewhere, Israel added a strong sense of moral obligation. Under the Mosaic Law everyone was constantly being tested for his generosity quotient; for as Brigham Young often reminded the saints, God has placed whatever we have in our hands only to see what we would do with it- whether we would waste, hoard, or bestow it freely. Though generosity cannot be legislated, no one in Israel could get out of taking the proper test, to show how far he was willing to go, granted complete free agency, in carrying out God’s express wishes regarding the distribution of his bounties. “A tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand” was required of everyone; the offering could not be evaded, but the amount was left entirely up to the giver, “a freewill offering … according as the Lord has blessed thee” or, as the Septuagint puts it, “to the limits of your ability.” The amount is left up to you because it is you who are being tested (Deuteronomy 16:10).

Thus at the end of six years a servant must be allowed to leave the master’s absolutely free of all obligations; and “thou shalt not let him go away empty” (Deuteronomy 15:13); no, nor with two weeks’ severance pay, either: “Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of the floor, and out of thy winepress, of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him” (Deuteronomy 15:14). And then comes the most important part of the test: “Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him” (Deuteronomy 15:10). It is how you really feel about it that counts. If you hear of a poor man in the neighborhood, “thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother” (Deuteronomy 15:7–11). It is not sound business sense, obedience to orders, compliance with custom, or recognition of duty that are being tested, but the feelings of the heart, the capacity for compassion. No one is ever to charge interest for a loan, and every seven years all debts shall be automatically cancelled (Deuteronomy 15:1–2). Only by such a sweeping and uncompromising order as “the Lord’s release” can men break the insidious network of indebtedness by which Satan holds all mankind in his power.

But one may not refuse a loan because the Lord’s release is near, in which whatever you lent will not have to be paid back: “Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother [the calm, appraising stare], and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee” (Deuteronomy 15:9). This is an example of that meanness of spirit which offends God more than anything else. We have no laws ordering men to be charitable and open–handed, or penalizing that meanness of spirit which so often means an enhanced profit, for the obvious reason that no one can know what is in the heart of another. But God knows, and meanness of spirit is the one thing he will not tolerate. If one loved God with all his heart and soul and his neighbor as himself, few if any laws would be necessary; for such love, said the Lord, comprises all the Law and the Prophets; laws against base and contemptible actions are unnecessary for people to whom such actions are themselves unthinkable.

Thus to bring a flawed offering to the temple may be a shrewd and thrifty move, but it “is an abomination unto the Lord,” because it is also a mean and petty thing (Deuteronomy 17:1), as are also double bookkeeping and different sets of weights in business (Deuteronomy 25:13). For the strong to take advantage of the weak is the standard pattern of meanness: Israel is not to pull its weight against weaker nations nor “meddle” in their affairs, even in her own interest (Deuteronomy 2:4–5). The greatest of curses was reserved for King Amalek, because he attacked the feeble ones who lagged behind when the Israelites were passing through his land (Deuteronomy 25:17–18). Israel must never forget any favor shown them by another nation, even reluctantly–ingratitude is meanness (Deuteronomy 23:7–25). To make merchandise of another’s necessity is an offense to human dignity (though it is the basic principle of present–day employment practice). Thus if one takes a captive woman to wife and then wants to get rid of her, she must go her way free and not be sold for money, for “thou shalt not make merchandise of her” (Deuteronomy 21:14). Anyone who takes advantage of a virgin must marry her and pay her father handsomely, for “he hath humbled her” (Deuteronomy 22:28–29). One who is just married is not permitted to go to war, for by law he must stay home one year and “cheer up” his bride (Deuteronomy 24:5). It is base to question the virginity of a bride (Deuteronomy 22:13–30), and one who refuses to beget issue by his brother’s widow is openly held in contempt, though he cannot be punished–he has offended her human feelings (Deuteronomy 25:5–10). One is required by law not only to shelter any escaped servant who flees to one’s house, but to treat him well, living in his new home “where it liketh him best”; and what is more, the benefactor may not grumble about it–the slave’s humanity outweighs all other factors (Deuteronomy 23:15–16).

Particularly reprehensible in Israel was the withholding of lunch from the helpless, the best–known rule of all being that “thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn”-i.e., to keep him from eating any (Deuteronomy 25:4). We are told that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah put nets over their trees to deny the birds their lunch, and “Abraham, seeing it, cursed them in the name of his God.” The Ammonites and Moabites were under a special curse for having refused the Israelites, their enemies, bread and water while marching through their lands (Deuteronomy 23:4)?”aid and comfort to the enemy,” indeed! The Iron Law of Wages may never be invoked in Moses’s world: “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy,” i.e., by offering him the right to work on your terms (Deuteronomy 24:14). Some of Moses’s laws would be quickly repealed by our present legislatures, such as that making it a crime to pretend not to notice when another man’s ox or ass has fallen down and needs help (Deuteronomy 22:4)–even as a priest and Levite once looked away from one lying helpless and bloody by the road to Jericho. Regardless of expense, every man must put a railing around the flat roof of his house lest somebody fall and get hurt (Deuteronomy 22:8); that smacks of safety inspection–anathema to industry and especially to our Utah congressmen.

    Private Property

In all the law of Moses with its perpetual concern for giving and receiving there is never any mention whatever of who deserves what, whether rich or poor, or who is worthy to receive what he needs–God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good,… the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Need is the only criterion where lunch is concerned. Those who basely set themselves to scrupulously calculating the exact point at which they can open or close their hand to their brother, with meticulous definitions of “the truly needy,” should consider how much of what they are giving is “truly private property,” since the law of Moses deals impressively with the concept.

The words “property” and “private” have the same root (prop = priv by Grimm’s Law) and emphasize the same thing–that which is the most intimate and personal part of an individual. The Oxford English Dictionary specifies “privatus–peculiar to oneself –that belongs to or is the property of a particular individual; belonging to oneself, one’s own.” And “proprius–own, proper, … property, the holding of something as one’s own.” Both definitions fall back on Old English agen (German eigenï) “expressing tenderness or affection … in superlative, very own.” Webster has “Latin privatus apart from the state … of or belonging to one–self, … single, private, set apart for himself.” What is privatum or proprium is therefore peculiar to one person alone (not a corporation). It is something I could not do without, under any social or economic system, and which would have little interest for anyone else, such as my clothes, shoes, books, notes, bedding, glasses, teeth, comb, etc. Because they are personal and indispensable to me and of no value to anyone else, they must be inalienable to me, for there is great danger if they fall into the hands of another. The bully on the block who grabs another boy’s glasses can get him to do almost anything to get them back, because he must have them, and the bully knows it. The mill–owner who threatened to withhold lunch from the workers could always get them to work on his terms, claiming their lunches as his private property to dispose of as he chose.

These two totally different views of private property are sharply contrasted in a case often brought to mind by Brigham Young in telling of the good Latter–day Saint businessman who buys a widow’s only cow from her for five dollars, “and then [goes] down on his knees and thank[s] God for his peculiar blessings to him.” The widow’s cow was truly her private property and by the law of Moses could not be take from her. But Old Bessy was something wholly different to the man who saw in her only an addition to his profits. He had no more personal interest, that “tenderness and affection” for one’s own, than a dealer has for a thousand acres of canyon land (set aside by God as the proper sphere and element for his other creatures) which he bought last month, hoping to sell it next month to a Chicago syndicate or Arab oil emir for a neat profit. Such cannot be called private property at all.

But lunch is. In Israel every man received a plot of ground, assigned by lot, as his inalienable “inheritance”–it was his lunch and could never be taken from him, even because of debt. It was only as much land as he could “quicken” by his personal labor and loving attention, and no more. The same rule was observed in the settling of the Salt Lake Valley, where no man was allowed to buy and sell land or take more than he could cultivate. The small farm bestowed from tribal lands was also lunch and independence to the early Romans. But when the Conscript Fathers, claiming special privileges by divine decree for and by themselves, seized thousands of farms from the plebs to create their immense estates (the latifundia), as the English and Scottish lords did in the nineteenth–century Enclosure Movement, they forced the former owners either to stay on the land and go on working for them as serfs–for lunch only; or to move to the city, where the emperor, as God’s vicar on earth, provided the famous “bread and circuses.” The landlords, the industrialists of the time, did not contribute to the public lunch, the annona, which was a ritual and sacred affair, the food and lunch–tickets (tesserae hospitales) being actually showered from the skies by the emperor, acting as the kind and generous father of all. This should be noted here, because bread and circuses are routinely deplored as the cause of Rome’s decline. What made them demoralizing was their secularization; in the later Rome in which money was everything, nobody took the divine scheme of things seriously (see the Roman Satirists); lunch was lunch and nothing more. Rome’s Zion passed away with Numa, the Roman Enoch. So once lunch was taken care of, the poor Roman had nothing to do but go to the shows and support the political candidates who spent the most on getting elected, while the rich enjoyed their notorious Roman banquets and the depraved pleasures that went with them. For without a sincere religious awareness the free lunch corrupts rich and poor alike. It is the recognition of divine law that both sanctions and requires the free lunch for everybody.The closing chapters of Deuteronomy describe point by point the calamities that will befall Israel if every item of the law is not scrupulously observed. It is the exact reverse of the list of blessings promised if the law is kept. And these terrible things are more than warnings, they are specific prophecies of just what is going to happen, and just what did happen to Israel, “because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (Deuteronomy 28:47). The identical situation obtains in the Book of Mormon, to which we now turn.

    King Benjamin and the Free Lunch

In the time of Lehi, to judge by the Lachish letters and other evidence, the ruling party in Jerusalem was sponsoring an enthusiastic revival of the law of Moses in its purity. The trend is signified by the large proportion of personal names ending in –yahu or –iah, referring to Jahweh, Jehovah the Lord, who gave the law. Five hundred years later there was another such revival among the Nephites led by a pious and learned king, Benjamin, who was determined to preserve the same law in its purity. The name he gave his son Mosiah is clear indication of the survival of the tradition, of which King Benjamin by his dedicated studies was well aware. At the end of his reign he does exactly what Moses and later Joshua did: he summoned all the people together in the great annual assembly (they brought their firstlings with them) to hear a final exposition of the law from him as he handed over the rule and priesthood to his son. His great farewell address covers the same points as did that of Moses, yet it is highly original.

In both Deuteronomy and the book of Mosiah the great discourse on the law is divided into two parts. The first deals with the nature, importance, and purpose of the law. The history of Israel is traced from the beginning and the steps by which the people were brought to a knowledge of Jehovah, recounting their trials, tribulations, follies, punishments, and rewards. The holy nature of the covenant they have entered into is presented to them, and the glorious rewards and terrible punishments connected with it. In both books, the promised rewards are the same: You will prosper in the land which the Lord has given you, heaven and earth will bring forth in abundance, you will never have to fear a foreign enemy–success and security should be yours, for “a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9). “That ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers,” says Benjamin, consciously appending his words to those of Moses (Mosiah 1:7). “Ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you” (Mosiah 2:31).

For his great farewell address, Benjamin summoned all the people to gather by families around the temple, bringing “the firstlings … that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses; … that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men” (Mosiah 2:2–4). There you have it in a nutshell. He begins his discourse on an economic note: I “have not sought gold nor silver, nor any manner of riches of you” (Mosiah 2:12). “I, myself, have labored with mine own hands?. I can answer a clear conscience before God this day?. Learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:14–15, 17). “I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are” (Mosiah 2:26). He is setting the keynote, which is absolute equality. And that follows naturally from the proposition that we owe everything to God, to whom we are perpetually and inescapably in debt beyond our means of repayment: “In the first place,… ye are indebted unto him … and will be forever and ever” (Mosiah 2:23–24). Let no one boast that he has earned or produced a thing: “Therefore, of what can ye boast…? Can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay,” right down to the dust of the earth, it all “belongeth to him who created you” (Mosiah 2:24-25). It is his property, not yours! What is more, no one can even pay his own way in the world, let alone claim a surplus: “If ye should serve him who … is preserving you from day to day … and even supporting you from one moment to another?I say if you should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants,” i.e., consuming more than you produce, unable even to support yourselves (Mosiah 2:21).

And what do we do, then, to qualify for his blessings? “Behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land” (Mosiah 2:22). It never fails, says Benjamin, “if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless and prosper you” (Mosiah 2:22) and in return, “ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are” (Mosiah 2:34), which is simply the law of consecration.

In his preliminary address, Benjamin, like Moses, impresses upon the people at length the great importance of the instructions he is about to give them, their binding obligation to keep them, and the great rewards that will follow. He purposely gets them into a high state of anticipation by telling them (confidentially) that what he is about to give them was made known to him personally “by an angel from God,” so that this is indeed a divine restoration of the law that is being celebrated (Mosiah 3:2). Furthermore, he assures them that it is all good news, “that thou mayest rejoice [said the angel]; and that .. thy people? may also be filled with joy” (Mosiah 3:4), for all this looks forward to the coming of the Lord. Eager as they are, the people must again be cautioned before the law itself is set before them, for though the law of Moses is adapted to their weaker natures, these people, like those taught by Moses, remain “a stiffnecked people” (Mosiah 3:14), and after all God did for them, “yet they hardened their hearts” (Mosiah 3:15). “For the natural man is an enemy to God… and will be forever and ever, unless he… becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things” (Mosiah 3:19). At this point Benjamin again follows Moses’ example by declaring that the words “which the Lord thy God hath commanded thee… shall stand as a bright testimony against this people” (Mosiah 3:22, 24).

Thus ended the first address of King Benjamin, by which the people were quite overcome, crying out for forgiveness and receiving a manifestation of the Spirit that filled them with joy (Mosiah 4:2–3).

Benjamin now recognized that they were ready to “hear and understand the remainder of my words,” because at last they were “awakened… to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state” (Mosiah 4:4–5), aware that they could only put their “trust in the Lord,… keeping his commandments?. Believe in God;… believe that ye must repent;… always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and longsuffering?. If ye do this ye will always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God” (Mosiah 4:9–13). That being so, “ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due” (Mosiah 4:13). And who decides what is due him? Not you! The Lord will tell you that: “And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked, [or] … transgress the laws of God” (Mosiah 4:14). Lunch will be provided, and “ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another,” with no fighting or quarreling among themselves–this was not to be a competitive society (Mosiah 4:15). And beyond your family, “ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him.” A beggar is one who asks, for some reason or other not having what he needs: “Ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish” (Mosiah 4:16). He begs because he is hungry, and we must all eat to stay alive–to turn any beggar down, for all you know, is to sentence him to death–it has happened (Mosiah 4:16). The usual pious appeal to the work-ethic–there is no free lunch–will not do: “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I… will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just”–I worked for mine! (Mosiah 4:17). Indolent and unworthy the beggar may be–but that is not your concern: It is better, said Joseph Smith, to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition. Anyone who explains why he denies help to another who needs it, says Benjamin, “hath great cause to repent… and hath no interest in the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 4:18), which kingdom is built up on the law of consecration. “For behold, are we not all beggars?” That is no mere rhetoric–it is literally true: we are all praying for what we have not earned. No one is independent: “Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for … food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver and for all the riches which we have?– You are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are” (Mosiah 4:19–20). And that is just what you must consecrate to the building up of the kingdom: “O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Mosiah 4:21–22). We all give and we all receive, and never ask who is worthy and who is not, for the simple reason that none of us is worthy, all being “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21). “And if ye judge the man,” who asks for your “substance that he perish not,” and find him unworthy, “how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God,” who wants you to hand it on, and is testing you to see just how willing you are to hand it back to him when he asks for it–not at some comfortably unspecified date, but right now (Mosiah 4:22). Benjamin says he is speaking here to the rich, but the poor may not hold back either, for everyone should have enough but not wish for more; hence the poor who want to be rich, who “covet that which ye have not received,” are also guilty (Mosiah 4:24–25). In giving, the poor may keep what is sufficient for their needs, and food, clothing, and shelter covers it (Mosiah 4:26), for the rule is summed up simply, that every man “should impart of [his] substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath”–which is also the wording of Deuteronomy, for all have a right to food, clothing, and medical care, “both spiritually and temporally according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26; 18:29).

Benjamin ends with the wise remark that no list of prohibitions would be sufficient to keep the people from sin: “Finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them” (Mosiah 4:29). Instead of telling them what they should not do, he has told them what they absolutely must do, the minimum if they would expect God’s blessings. If one who has more than he really needs (without which, in fact, he would be one of the “truly needy”) and withholds it from those who do not have enough, he is stealing, holding on to that “which doth not belong to you, but to God” (Mosiah 4:22), who wants to see it distributed equally.

And that ends King Benjamin’s discourse, devoted not to pious and high–sounding generalities but to the rule that whoever has more than he can eat must share to the limit of his resources with those who do not have enough. Two things are stressed in the address–need and the feeling of dependence. As to need, not a word is said from first to last about hard work, thrift, enterprise, farsightedness, etc., the usual preludes to the No-Free–Lunch lecture, and wo to the man who questions another’s qualifications for lunch, for “the same hath great cause to repent” (Mosiah 4:18).

The second issue is independence. Charged with a special emotional impact for Americans, the word has become a fetish for the Latter–day Saints, and led them into endless speculations and plans. “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare,” says Paul–all of which the Lord has strictly forbidden (1 Timothy 6:9). In the scriptures the word “independent” occurs only once, describing the church with no reference to any individual: “The church may stand independent above all other creatures,” because it is entirely dependent on “my providence” (D&C 78:14). It is dependence that is important for Benjamin, total dependence on God; and if you serve him with your whole heart and with your whole soul, you are free from dependence on any other being. In the law of Moses the Lord’s release cancels all indebtedness of man, while God transfers his claims on our indebtedness to the poor; it is through them that he asks us to pay our debt to him. Let us refer back for the moment to Satan’s promise of independence. When, following Satan’s instructions, Cain murdered “his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain” (Moses 5:50), he declared his independence: “And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands!” (Moses 5:33). Recently this gospel was proclaimed by one of the richest Americans addressing the student body of Ohio State University (on TV): “There is nothing that gives freedom,” he said, “like bucks in the bank.” This seems to be the policy we are following today, and there is no doubt whose policy it is.

Feeding the Multitude

With the coming of the Lord in the meridian of time, the feasts of thanksgiving and supplication continued, yet without the shedding of blood, except at Easter, when the paschal lamb, like the earlier blood offerings of the temple, remained a similitude of the great atoning sacrifice. The Lord’s Supper and the agape (love, charity) were meals of real food, shared whenever the saints came together for a meeting; and when the Lord visited them after the resurrection he routinely shared a real meal with them, in which he provided the food, looking forward to the time when they would all share in the new wine of the world to come.

The Lord gave lunch to the people in the first place simply because they were hungry, they needed it, and he “was moved with compassion” (Matthew 14:14, 15:32). He both fed them and taught them, but the knowledge was worth far more than the food–he told them not to labor for that (John 6:27). When he miraculously produced the lunch, they wanted to accept him as their prophet and king (John 6:14–15), even as the Nephites, who when they had eaten and were filled all burst out in one joyful chorus of praise and thanksgiving (3 Nephi 20:9). Why the excitement? Hadn’t they ever eaten dinner before? That had nothing to do with it; what thrilled them was seeing clearly and unmistakably the hand of the Giver, and knowing for themselves exactly where it all comes from and that it can never fail. Now if we ask, who at these love–feasts got the biggest share or ate the most? We at once betray the poverty and absurdity of our own precious work–ethic. Such questions would be nothing short of blasphemous to all present, as if one were to interrupt the ordinances and stop the feast by announcing: “Hold it right there, you people! Don’t you know that there is no free lunch?”

The free lunch looms large in the Sermon on the Mount. First the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11); this comes with the understanding, expressed in the same sentence, that in return we are to show the same free and liberal spirit towards each other that he does to all of us: “And forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Next comes fasting, a most effective reminder of God’s generosity to us and also of our complete dependence on him, a thing to be joyfully acknowledged (Matthew 6:16–18). Then an all–important principle; you cannot have it both ways, you cannot work for both employers, you cannot lay up treasures both on earth and in heaven–you cannot divide your heart between them; for to one master or the other you must give your whole and undivided devotion–both employers demand that, but only one of them can have it (Matthew 6:19–20). You must go one way or the other, there can be no compromise (Matthew 6:22–23). “No man can serve two masters”: love and hate cannot be divided up between them, “ye cannot serve God and Mammon,” mammon being to this day the regular Hebrew word for business, particularly money and banking (Matthew 6:24). You must not yield to the enticings of that other master, nor let his threat of “no lunch if you leave my employ” intimidate you–you must ignore him and his arguments completely: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet … what ye shall put on” (Matthew 6:25). All such things are taken care of for God’s creatures: “Behold the fowls of the air, … your heavenly Father feeds them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26). It was the practice in Sodom and Gomorrah, we are told, to rob all strangers of their money and then let them starve to death because they could not buy food; and the cities’ inhabitants would put nets over their trees so that the birds would have no free lunch on their fruit. For Abraham, such meanness, as we have seen, was the last straw, and “he cursed them in the name of his God.”

On the subject of dress and appearance the same rule holds as for lunch–sufficient covering is necessary, but don’t go beyond that. If you cannot add a cubit to your stature, don’t try to add other splendors to your person which it does not possess: forget the obsession with an impressive appearance that goes with aspiring to the executive lunch (“dressing for success”); simply appear as what you are, and don’t fuss so much about it (Matthew 6:27–30). “Therefore,” he says again, “take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Matthew 6:31). The Gentiles spend their time going after these things–but you are not Gentiles.

Now comes a most enlightening explanation of the economics of the gospel, the answer to the natural question, How shall we get on in the world if we don’t even think about such things? The injunction “take no thought” must be taken seriously, since it is one of the most oft–repeated in the scriptures, occurring in all the Gospels, in the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Here the formula “all these things” applies specifically to what we must eat, drink, and wear–food and covering (Matthew 6:32). It occurs three times as an objective clause, and the key word is seek. In the same breath we are told that the Gentiles seek after all these things, but we are definitely not to seek after them. We are to be busy seeking after something else, “the kingdom of God, and his [its] righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). But what about the other things, won’t we need food and clothing too? Of course, they are very important, and you can rest assured that “your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:32), and he will provide them. If you have enough faith to trust him (Matthew 6:30), and spend your days seeking what he wants you to seek, he will provide “all these things” as you need them (prostethesetai).

“But seek ye first (proton) the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added” (Matthew 6:33). It has become customary to interpret this as meaning that one should first go on a mission or get a testimony some other way, and then turn to the business of getting ahead in the world. But the word for first, proton, means first in every sense–first and foremost, before all else, in preference to all else, etc. It usually refers to time, but not in this passage. We are not told to seek first the kingdom and then seek “all these things”; nothing whatever is said about seeking them except the explicit command not to seek them. There is no idea of a time sequence here: Does one ever stop seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness in this life, or was there ever a time before, during, or after a mission when one did not need food and clothing? We are not to seek them ever, for God supplies them ever.

The same teachings of the Lord are summarized in Luke 12, where he makes it quite clear that the command to “take no thought” applies not only to the apostles but to the entire church (Luke 12:22). He illustrates the principle of taking no thought for the morrow by the story of a man big in agribusiness (though it is only fair to note that it was a particularly fertile piece of ground and not the owner which “brought forth plentifully” and that the man himself did not, of course, do any work in the field). When with foresight and planning he had completed his arrangements for a splendid retirement he congratulated himself, saying, “My soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry”–the deluxe lunch assured complete independence forever, with no humiliating necessity of praying for daily bread. “But God said unto him, Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:16, 19–20). Shouldn’t he have worked for lunch at all, then? Answer: He should neither have made it the goal of his labors, nor got it by manipulating others.

God is not pleased with those who rebuff his offer of free lunch with pious sermons about the work ethic: “A certain king … made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again he sent forth,… saying,… I have prepared my dinner,… and all things are ready…. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm another to his merchandise” (Matthew 22:2–5). Back to the office and the farm as they virtuously called attention to solid work to be done and “made light” of mere partying. Yet it was a gross insult to their generous host. “Deny not the gifts of God!” is the final plea of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:8). Who would despise such gifts? We do, by not asking for them: “Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh” (2 Nephi 4:35), and they receive not because they ask not (2 Nephi 32:4). Moroni enumerates the spiritual gifts in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, yet we rarely ask for these gifts today–they don’t particularly interest us. There is only one that we do ask for in all sincerity, and duly receive, and that, for obvious reasons, is the gift of healing. But the other gifts? Who cares for them? We make light of them and prefer the real world of everyday life. We do not even ask for the temporal gifts, because we don’t want them either–as gifts.

“Ye are cursed because of your riches,” says Samuel to the people of Zarahemla, “and also are your riches cursed.” Why? For two reasons: (1) “because you have set your hearts upon them,” and (2) you “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 wanted the riches desperately, worked for them diligently, and were obsessed with them once they had them; but they simply would not accept them as gifts, but only as earnings. Today we have gone so far as to drop the idea of “unearned increment,” and insist on labeling all income, even that of which the recipient is totally unaware, as “earnings.” Nobody is going to make us accept welfare!

    Enough is Enough

“Having food and raiment,” says Paul to Timothy, “let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8). We must have sufficient for our needs in life’s journey, but to go after more is forbidden, though you have your God–given free agency to do so. “Our real wants are very limited,” says Brigham; “When you have what you wish to eat and sufficient clothing to make you comfortable you have all that you need; I have all that I need.” How many people need to eat two lunches a day? We all eat too much, wear too much, and work too much. Brigham says if we all “work less, wear less, eat less,… we shall be a great deal wiser, healthier, and wealthier people than by taking the course we now do.”

It should not take too much hard work to assure anyone of the makings of a lunch; but what is one to do after that? That is the question. Aristotle’s famous dictum in the Nichomachean Ethics I, that our proper function on earth is not just to live but to live well, to live as we can and should, reminds us that there should be no serious economic problems at the human level: after all, mice, cockroaches, elephants, butterflies, and dolphins have all solved the economic problem–their mere existence on earth after thousands of years of vicissitudes is adequate proof that they have found the secret of survival. Can we do no better than to dedicate all our time and energy to solving just that one problem, as if our whole object in life were simply lunch? “What is a man,” asks Shakespeare, “if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. Sure he that made us with such large discourse, looking before and after, gave us not that capability and god-like reason to fust in us unused.” And what is it to be used for? Those very popular how–to–get–rich books, which are the guides to the perplexed of the present generation, say we should keep our minds fixed at all times on just one objective; the person who lets his thoughts wander away from anything but business even for a moment does not deserve the wealth he seeks. Such is the high ethic of the youth today. And such an ethic places us not on the level of the beast but below it.

For today many a TV documentary will show you the beasts of the field not spending their days perpetually seeking out and consuming each other for lunch, as we have been taught, but in pleasant relaxation, play, family fun, bathing, exploring (for many of them have lively curiosity), grooming, sparring, and much happy napping, etc. Even the most efficient killers hunt only every few days when they are really hungry, kill only weaker members of the herds, thus strengthening the stock, and never take more than they need, usually sharing it with others. Between meals we see leopards, lions, and tigers calmly loping through herds of exotic ungulates, who hardly bother to look up from their grazing at the passing visitors. It is only the human predator who keeps a 24–hour lookout for victims in the manner prescribed in the flourishing contemporary success literature.

“No free lunch” easily directs our concern to “nothing but lunch.” The Adversary keeps us to that principle, making lunch our full–time concern either by paying workers so little that they must toil day and night just to afford lunch (his favorite trick), or by expanding the lunch–need to include all the luxury and splendor that goes with the super–executive Marriott lunch, about which Paul’s letter to Timothy is most instructive. Let us return to it, considering the passage in the “original”: “Having adequate nourishment (diatrophas) and decent covering (skepasmata) we shall with these suffice ourselves (arkesthesometha). But those who want to be rich (ploutein) fall into temptation (peirasmon, a test) and a snare (pagida, a trap, noose, decoy), and into hankering for many things (epithumias, a passionate desire to possess) which are silly (anoetous ; mindless, senseless) and harmful (blaberas), and which drag (buthizousi, plunge) human beings down to ruin (olethron, deadly danger) and utter destruction (apoleian). For the root (rhiza) of all evil doings (panton ton kakon) is the desire for money (philargyria, cash–loving), being driven by which people have gone astray, got lost (apeplanesthesan, Heb. abad, stray from the path) from the faith and become hopelessly involved (peripeiran, spitted, engangled) in agonizing situations (odunais, rapids, pangs). But thou, O man of God, keep away from these things” (1 Timothy 6:8–11). The Lord teaches the same lesson when he tells how members of the church fall away because of “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, [which] choke the word (logos), and it becometh unfruitful (akarpos, fruitless, barren) (Mark 4:19; Matthew 13:22).

The parables of the Lord are particularly rich in matters relevant to the free lunch, and in them Jesus appeals before all things against meanness of spirit. What could be more abominable than to “offend one of these little ones,” taking advantage of the helpless? What shall we say of one who uses the gifts that God has given him to take from others, no matter how legally, the gifts which God intends to give them? “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king…. One was brought unto him which owed him 10,000 talents…. The servant 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 forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out and found one of his fellow–servants, 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 had him taken to prison (Matthew 18:28). It was all perfectly legal–we cannot legislate pity and compassion; altruism, argued Ayn Rand, is the greatest weakness in our society and the greatest obstacle to the unhindered operation of free enterprise. But the kingdom of heaven, of which the Lord is here speaking, does not operate on that principle: “O, thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me,” said the Lord. “Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?” (Matthew 18:23–35). Then the King “delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses [or debts, the word is aphete, cancel a debt]” (Matthew 18:34–35).

    And you are to be equal

For the Last Days everyone has been invited to work for the kingdom with singleness of purpose and to enjoy the free lunch of the saints. The first words of the Lord to the youthful Joseph after he had introduced himself in the grove were, “Behold the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one…. And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording [sic] to this ungodliness.” That being the present situation, we may well ask in just what it is that renders the present world so depraved. The answer is loud and clear: “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). Malthus was wrong; there is no need for grabbing, “for the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare” (D&C 104:17). And what is wrong just now? But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” (D&C 49:20). So that is where the offense lies; some are taking more than they should and using the power it gives them over others to make them do their bidding. But how much is too much? “And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need” (D&C 49:21). The one criterion for taking is need, specifically “for food and raiment,” not for sport or display.

We begin, as in the other scriptures, with the basic principle that everything we have is a free gift from God: “The earth [is] my very handiwork, and all things therein are mine;… and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints” (D&C 104:14, 16). That does not mince matters but gets right down to business. He wants us all equal, “that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low” (D&C 104:16). And he wants to make us co–workers in the project, which is all for our benefit: “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” (D&C 104:13). He wants all his creatures to enjoy his bounty, with never a mention of who is worthy or deserving–as ever, the only principle of distribution is that of need: “You are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties for… your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just” (D&C 82:17). That limitation on wants is important, since one often wants what one should not have; a want is “justified” only when it is a true need, and as we have seen, our real needs are few…”food and raiment,” mansions and yachts not included. In introducing this particular revelation, the Lord repeats for the third time what he has said in the grove: “The anger of God kindleth against the inhabitants of the earth; and none doeth good, for all have gone out of the way” (D&C 82:6). And always the same reason is given for that anger, that men withhold God’s gifts from each other in a power–game, and that this is the prevailing evil of the age.

How do we distribute it then? “I have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves” (D&C 104:17). You are perfectly free to make all the money you can; just as you are perfectly free to break any one of the Ten Commandments, as millions do every day, though God has forbidden it, as he has forbidden seeking for riches. But your behavior once you have entered a covenant with God will be judged by the standards which he sets: “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” (D&C 104:18). A clear reference to the rich man who fed Lazarus the beggar with crumbs (Luke 16:23).

Modern revelation has some interesting things to say about idlers: “Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church” (D&C 75:29). We are all to work in the kingdom and for the kingdom. “And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, inasmuch as they are appointed to labor,… for the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord” (D&C 68:30). Note that it is not the withholding of lunch but the observant eye of the Lord that admonishes the idler. This refers to all of us as laborers in Zion, and “the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish” (2 Nephi 26:31). That is the theme here: “Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; … they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness” (D&C 68:31). An idler in the Lord’s book is one who is not working for the building up of the kingdom of God on earth and the establishment of Zion, no matter how hard he may be working to satisfy his own greed. Latter–day Saints prefer to ignore that distinction as they repeat a favorite maxim of their own invention, that the idler shall not eat the bread or wear the clothing of the laborer. And what an ingenious argument they make of it! The director of a Latter–day Saint Institute was recently astounded when this writer pointed out to him that the ancient teaching that the idler shall not eat the bread of the laborer has always meant that the idle rich shall not eat the bread of the laboring poor, as they always have. “To serve the classes that are living on them,” Brigham Young reports from England, “the poor, the laboring men and women are toiling, working their lives out to earn that which will keep a little life in them [lunch is what they get out of it, and no more]. Is this equality? No! What is going to be done? The Latter–day Saints will never accomplish their mission until this inequality shall cease on the earth.” But the institute director was amazed, because he had always been taught that the idle poor should not eat the bread of the laboring rich, because it is perfectly obvious that a poor man has not worked as hard as a rich man. With the same lucid logic my Latter–day Saint students tell me that there were no poor in the Zion of Enoch because only the well–to–do were admitted to the city.

But quite apart from who works hardest, how can the meager and insufficient lunch of a poor child possibly deprive a rich man’s dinner table of the vital proteins and calories which he needs? It can only be the other way around. The extra food on the rich man’s table does not belong to him, says King Benjamin, but to God, and He wants the poor man to have it (Mosiah 4:22). The moral imperative of the work–ethic is by no means the eternal law we assume it to be, for it rests on a completely artificial and cunningly contrived theory of property. Few seem to be aware today that less than 50 years ago it was considered among the upper classes of England to be a disgrace to work for a living, and the landed gentry refused intimate contact with families who were (sniff) “in trade,” i.e., business. It is custom alone and not an eternal law of nature that gives us our attitude toward these things.

A common objection to the economic equality on which the scriptures insist is that it would produce a drab, monotonous sameness among us. But that sameness already exists–we all have about the same number of eyes, ears, arms, legs, etc. Few people are twice as tall or twice as short as the average, and Binet was unable to come up with an IQ double the average. Also, few of us need two lunches a day. We might as well face it, we are all very much alike in such things, though the thought mortally offends some people. It is in the endless reaches of the mind, expanding forever in all directions, that infinite variety invites us, with endless space for all so that none need be jealous of another. It is those who seek distinction in costly apparel, living quarters, diversions, meals, cars, and estates who become the slaves of fashion and the most stereotyped people on earth. And it is because communism is a “dialectical materialism” that it is the drabbest show of all, though our rival establishment is not far behind. “You may say,” says Brigham, “‘If we live, we must eat, drink, and wear clothing’; and ‘He that provideth not for his own household, has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel’; [by ‘providing’ the same writer means ‘food and raiment… and therewith content’] numberless arguments of this kind will present themselves to the minds of the people, to call them away from the line of their duty.” It is Satan’s clever decoy to that fervid consumerism (Veblen’s “conspicuous consumption”) which is a confession of mental, moral, and spiritual bankruptcy.

Brigham Young also noted, however, that if the wealth were equally distributed one fine day, it would not be long before it would be as unequal as ever, the lion’s share going to the most dedicated and competent seekers for it. True enough. But wealth is not lunch, and to make it such is an offense against nature. Let us say the lunch is equally distributed one day, and soon one man because of his hustle is sitting daily on 70,000 lunches while many people are going without. He generously offers them the chance to work for him and get their lunches back–but they must work all day, just for him and just for lunch. Lunch and the satisfaction of helping their generous employer to get hold of yet more lunches (for that is the object of their work) are all they get out of it. Is this an exaggeration? Come with me to the mines of Scotland in which my grandparents toiled, as described by them and by Her Majesty’s Commission on the Labour of Women and Children in Mines, 1842:

Children are taken into these mines to work as early as four years of age, . . . often from seven to eight, while from eight to nine is the ordinary age…. Female Children begin to work in these mines at the same early ages as the males…. Parish apprentices, who are bound to serve their masters until twenty–one years of age,… shall receive only food and clothing. [Lunch is what they live for.] The employment … assigned to the youngest Children,… requires that they should be in the pit as soon as the work of the day commences, and,… not leave the pit before the work of the day is at an end…. Children engaged in it are commonly excluded from light and are always without companions…. In some districts they remain in solitude and darkness during the whole time they are in the pit…. Many of them never see the light of day for weeks together…. From six years old and upwards, the hard work… begins,… [requiring] the unremitting exertion of all the physical power which the young workers possess…. Both sexes are employed together in precisely the same kind of labour…. [All] commonly work almost naked…. In the East of Scotland [where the Nibleys were so employed], a much larger proportion of Children and Young Persons are employed,… and… the chief part of their labour consists in carrying the coals on their backs up steep ladders…. The regular hours of work for Children … are rarely less than eleven; more often they are twelve; in some districts they are thirteen; and in one district they are generally fourteen and upwards…. In the great majority of these mines night–work is part of the ordinary system of labour….The labour … is … generally uninterrupted by any regular time set apart for rest and refreshment; what food is taken in the pit being eaten as best it may while the labour continues. [Why not? If there is no free lunch, why should there be a free lunch hour?] In many mines the conduct of the adult colliers to the Children … is harsh and cruel; the persons in authority in these mines, who must be cognizant of this ill–usage, never interfere to prevent it…. Little interest is taken by the coal owners in the Children…. In all the coal–fields accidents of a fearful nature are extremely frequent…. No money appears to be expended with a view to secure the safety, much less the comfort, of the workpeople…. Very generally in the East of Scotland, the food is poor in quality, and insufficient in quantity; the Children themselves say that they have not enough to eat; and the Sub–Commissioners describe them as covered with rags,… confining themselves to their homes on the Sundays [because] … they have no clothes to go in…. Notwithstanding the intense labour performed by these Children, they do not procure even sufficient food and raiment…. The employment in these mines commonly produces… stunted growth of the body…. The long hours of work, [etc.], in all the districts, deteriorates the physical constitution…. The limbs become crippled and the body distorted…. Muscular powers give way…. This class of the population is commonly extinct soon after fifty.”

One thinks of the infamous Roman mines, the ultimate in human horror stories; yet the workers there were all condemned criminals and enemies captured as slaves–these in Great Britain were innocent little children. No free lunch to undermine their characters! The pious mine–owners even waived the sacred imperative of the Sabbath in their case–even that yielded to the sanctity of the work–ethic: “A custom bearing with extreme hardship upon Children and Young Persons [is] … that of continuing the work without any interruption whatever during the Sunday,” when “the labour … is continued for twenty–four hours in succession.” –a 24–hour shift to make up for the every other Sunday they have off! When some proprietors tried doing away with the system it was found that is was “without disadvantage to their works”–they lost nothing; yet even after it was shown unprofitable, the “custom… still prevails.” Better break the Sabbath than lose the honest day’s work these kids owe you. The triumph of the Work Ethic is complete.

Of course the mine–owners and their lawyers responded with moral fervor to the charges in the report. They freely admitted that the condition in the mines “in regard both to ventilation and drainage is lamentably defective.” But what can they do about that? “To render them… safe does not appear to be practicable by any means yet known” …so don’t hold them responsible! Again, if “persons in authority in these mines… never [interfere] to prevent… harsh and cruel [treatment],” it is because, as they “distinctly [state], that they do not conceive that they have any right to do so” let us keep this on a high moral plain, it is the owner’s own business what they do with their property. If no money at all is “expended with a view to secure… safety” …remember, that would be confiscatory–need we be reminded that in 1982 a very devout Senator from Utah labored to cut federal mine inspection in half to save money for the mining companies? If the kids work in “passages… so small, that even the youngest Children cannot move along them without crawling on their hands and feet, in which unnatural and constrained posture they drag the loaded carriages after them,” again I ask you–is anyone to blame for that? Did the owners create those thin seams of coal? To quote the report: “As it is impossible, by any outlay compatible with a profitable return, to render such coal mines… fit for human beings to work in, they never will be placed in such a condition [of fitness], and consequently they never can be worked without inflicting great and irreparable injury on the health of the Children.” So you see there is just no way around it; the work must go on, since the coal is “a main source of our national wealth and greatness,” which makes the mine owners benefactors of the human race. Also bear in mind that if “notwithstanding the intense labour performed by these Children, they do not procure even sufficient food and raiment,” it is “in general” because of their “idle and dissolute parents, who spend the hard–earned wages of their offspring at the public house.” Though nearly all of the parents worked in the mines too, very many of them were too crippled by sickness or injury to continue, but that is no excuse for getting drunk.

Of course we must not overlook the fun side of working in the mines. “The coal mine, when properly ventilated and drained,… and the side passages… of tolerable height, is not only not unhealthy, but… is considered as a place of work, more salubrious and even agreeable than that in which many kinds of labour are carried on above ground” –an eloquent commentary on those other kinds of labor. And the excitement of it: where “seams of coal are so thick that horses go direct to the workings, or in which the side passages from the workings to the horseways are not of any great length, the lights in the main ways render the situation of these Children comparatively less cheerless, dull, and stupefying.” Here the little nippers could pop out of the side passages and take a look at the magnificent sight of a feeble line of lights burning in the damp and murky main passage–and when you hear a horse–car actually go by, what a thrill! And rest and relaxation– “From the nature of the employment, intervals of a few minutes necessarily occur during which the muscles are not in active exertion,” so it is not necessary after all to “interrupt” the work “by any regular time set apart for rest and refreshment; what food is taken in the pit being eaten as best it may while the labour continues.” And that labor builds strong bodies: “The labour in which Children … are chiefly employed,… namely, in pushing the loaded carriages of coals,… is a description of exercise which, while it greatly develops the muscles of the arms, shoulders, chest, back, and legs, without confining any part of the body,… afford[s] an equally healthful excitement to all the other organs.” So who are they to complain if they are crippled at the ages of thirty and forty, and “extinct soon after fifty”?

The story of the mines has been told not to harrow up our souls, but as a gentle reminder that the principles and practices of the nineteenth–century industrialists are still wholly and enthusiastically endorsed by the people of our own society, in proof of which we could cite present–day instances almost if not quite as horrendous as Grandpa’s stories of bonny Scotland. The reason things have not changed lies in the basic nature of those principles, of necessity stern and inflexible. A thing is either free or it is not; a free lunch would have to be for everybody, and that would never do in the “real world” in which we live. The communists are even more insistent than we are on having a world in which everybody must work, work, work for lunch, with no other expectation in time or eternity than a booming economy here and now. Their periodic slumps and collapses are as predictable as our own, but that will not correct their fanatical obsession with a single way of doing things. We are wasting our time talking about free lunch in the world as we know it.

But the world as we know it is the very antithesis of Zion, in which we should all be living at this very moment. I have cited a few passages from the Pearl of Great Price, Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants to show that whether we like it or not, in all those five dispensations of the gospel the free lunch was prescribed for all living under the covenant, and at the same time very special kinds of work were assigned to each and all of them, the object of which was not lunch but the building up of the kingdom and the establishment of Zion. Our real temporal wants, we have been told repeatedly, are few, and are taken care of by the law of consecration. And in every dispensation, failure to act on principles which they promised and covenanted to observe, the most important being the law of love, has brought to an end the felicity of God’s people and covered them with confusion as their enemies prevailed against them. No one is more completely “of the world” than one who lives by the world’s economy, whatever his display of open piety.

Thus Moses sums it up: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil, . . . blessing and cursing” (Deuteronomy 30:15–19). We have already seen what is required of us to merit the blessing, and to these things Moses adds a useful list of the worst crimes that Israel is likely to commit, the most certain to incur the cursing. There are eleven sins in the list (Deuteronomy 27:15–26); all of them are of a secret and underhanded nature, and at least eight of them consist in taking advantage of weaker parties. The essence of evil being thus clearly exposed, the rationalizing, theorizing, and legalizing of the dialectical materialists on either side of the Iron Curtain is irrelevant to the issue. Which is, that anyone who can argue that it is permissible to deny food to the hungry when we have food “shall with the wicked lift up his eyes in hell.”

This started out to be an exhilarating study of the pleasures and advantages of the free lunch. But as it progressed it became more and more depressing as the relevant scriptures accumulated and the gulf steadily widened between the Zion of God and those Babylonian institutions in our midst that brazenly bear the fair name of Zion as a gimmick to promote local business.

We are being asked even at this moment to choose between the peculiar economy which God has prescribed for us and what we have always considered the more realistic, convenient, and expedient economy by which the world lives and in which at the moment it is convulsively gasping and struggling to survive. The difference between the two orders is never more apparent than at lunchtime, in the homely perennial ordinance that was meant to unite us all for a happy hour but which instead divides God’s children with the awful authority and finality of the last judgment–in which, by the way, the Lord assures us that the seating order is going to be completely reversed.


* This talk was given April 20, 1982, to the Cannon–Hinkley Club at the Lion House in Salt Lake City. It was published in BYU Today (November 1982): 8–12.

1. Quoted by John C. Whitcomb, The Genesis Flood (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964), 443.

2. Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, tr. Edward Fitzgerald (New York: Avon Books, n.d.), LII.

3. Hoimar von Ditfurth, Children of the Universe (New York: Atheneum, 1976), 10.

4. Lewis Thomas, “On the Uncertainty of Science,” Key Reporter 46 (Autumn 1980): 2.

5. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, “What Is Life?” in Biology Today (Del Mar, CA: Painter, 1972), xxix–xxxi.

6. R. Buckminster Fuller, Intuition (New York: Doubleday, 1972, 135.

7. Ibid., 138, 142.

8. Ibid., 110.

9. Ibid., 112.

10. Von Ditfurth, Children of the Universe, 13.

11. Fred Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” Engineering and Science (November 1981): 10,12.

12. Ibid., 12.

13. John K. Galbraith, The Age of Uncertainty (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), 48.

14. JD 3:323

15. Dean C. Jesse, ed., Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons (Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1974), 199.

16. JD 11:115

17. Ibid., 8:134

18. Ibid., 3:257.

19. Hugh W. Nibley, “Sparsiones,” Classical Journal 40 (June 1945): 515–43.

20. Gerald Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer (New York: Hermon Press, 1965), 176; cf. Lewis Ginsberg, Legends of the Jews, 7 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publications Society of America, 1968), 1:245–50; cf. Nathan Ausubel, A treasury of Jewish Folklore (New York: Crown, 1948), 124.

21. JD 13:302.

22. Friedlander, Pirke ke Rebbi Eliezer, 176; cf. Ginsberg, Legends of the Jews, 1:245–40; cf. Ausubel, A treasury of Jewish Folklore, 124.

23. JD 13:302

24. Ibid., 12:122

25. Shakespeare, Hamlet, act IV, scene iv, line 38.

26. Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness. (New York: Signey, 1961), vii–xi.

27. The 1832 recital of the First Vision as dictated by Joseph Smith to Frederick G. Williams. See Milton V. Backman, Joseph Smith’s First Vision (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971), appendiz A; cf. Dean C. Jessee, ed., “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” BYU Studies 9 (1969): 280.

28. JD 19:47.

29. Ibid., 1:200.

30. “First Report of the Commissioners: Mines,” in British Parliamentary Papers, 11vols. (London: Clower and Sons, 1842; reprinted Shannon, Ireland: Irish University Press, 1968), 6:255–58 (emphasis added).

31. Ibid., 259.

32. Ibid.

33. Ibid., 255.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid., 257 (emphasis added).

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid., 259.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid., 258.

42. Ibid.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid., 256.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid., 258–59.

46. Ibid., 258.



  1. A classic! My interpretation (with due deference to Chris H.’s views) is that Brother Nibley wrote insightfully about the opposing economic systems and social orders in society. And although all have truths, the only system that can work is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That may be one reason why the twelfth volume in the series called Temple and Cosmos contains the byline, Beyond this ignorant present.

    I have the feeling that he was anxious or somewhat impatient for the Latter-day Saints to have their fill of these man-made systems and move on to that order of things that only the gospel can satisfactorily address.

  2. Nibley considered the series of these essays and sermons to be the most important work he did. At least at the time 😉

  3. Thank you Stephen. After years of studying his writings, that seems to come through.

  4. Stan Beale says:

    In the last few years as I have watched the rise of the Paulistas, tea baggers, admiration for Gordon Gecko and veneration of Ayn Rand take hold of so many in this country, I have wondered what a modern day Karl Marx would observe and say. Today, I would posit that he would see the 1840″s also coming back in a generation or so.

    The sources of his reasoning would be examples such as the following:
    1. The legislature and Governor Walker of Wisconsin are posed to pass and sign a budget bill that effectively removes the bargaining rights of all public employees (except for public safety) as well as substantially reducing their compensation. The governor has also readied the National Guard to deal with protests from those affected.
    2. Governor Scott of Florida seeks to cut funds for public education, family services, medical care for the poor, severely limit bargaining rights for public employees and cut pension benefits. All this while he would increase the budget for his office by about 50% and not only reduce corporate taxes but institue a process to end them by 2018.
    3. Various plans to reduce Social Security benefits now, even though the system would not be in trouble for another 26 years. The claim, of course, is that Social Security is broke. Not true, but very effective propaganda.
    4. Revenue proposals like a flat tax or national sales tax that are regressive in nature, that is, the poor pay a higher percentage of their income than the wealthy.
    5. The gradual shift of the lower and middle classes’ share of the national wealth to the upper class over the last 20 years.

    One difference he would probably observe is that religion is not the opiate of the people, but that Fox News/ Rush Limbaugh/ and the Beckster himself have replaced the church in that role. Attacking the poor, labor unions, volunteer groups helping the less well off, strong women and the idea of health care for all is their stock in trade. Oh, I forgot Bill O’Reilly and his gratuitous showing of scantily clad women (a little something to titilate the male troglodyte, sort of a modern Circus to take people’s minds off of reality).

    It is my hope that their are more people like Hugh Nibley who in the future will change the hearts and minds of people so that the above would only be considered the idle rantings of an old 60’s radical. That we truly have turned a corner and work for a”good lunch” and a good life for all.

    Personally, besides my future wife, It was people like Hugh Nibley and Lester Bush that got me to even pray about joining the church. I have a very soft spot in my heart for the people that led me to hear a simple answer to my prayer, “This is the church for you.”

    Thank you for posting this tremendous essay

  5. It is worth mentioning that most conservatives despise Ayn Rand’s philosophy on moral grounds. See this article for example.

    Lumping together fans of Ayn Rand, Gordon Gecko, and Ron Paul isn’t particularly illuminating. I know Paul doesn’t deserve that. Certainly many of Paul’s views are shared by exactly the same people who despise Ayn Rand’s.

    As far as Hugh Nibley goes, the problem is that his style is more like an extended rant than something resembling a careful argument. Thought provoking, absolutely. Fair to anyone or anything? Not even close.

  6. Omigosh–this is just too bountiful of a banquet to hardly comment. Might have been easier if you’d split it into a series of posts?

    This gem: “I was eating only so that I could do my work; I was not working only so that I could eat” was something that I’ve been pondering….

    It’s also interesting to consider people whose payment does not reflect the value of their work, such as schoolteachers and parents, who are very much underpaid for what they do.

  7. Stan Beale says:

    Mark D. I never meant to indicate they are the same. Each type of person or character presents a different danger to the working man or woman. A brief summary of some of the attitudes and policies each represent, I believe will make my point.

    The Paulistas generally have three positions that bode poorly for the “average Joe or Josephine.” First, a return to the gold standard would tighten money and make it harder for the ones who have to borrow–the family who wants to buy a house, the young person who needs loans to attend college or the small businessman who desires to expand. Ending the U.S. Department of Education would take away support for scdhools that are in very poor states or impoverished communities. The , elimination of much government regulation in the light of Enron, the Crandall Canyon mine collapse, the housing market collapse just boggles the mind.

    The ignorance of so many of the tea baggers is staggering. Forget the birthers and the people who want to recreate the 1831 Ordinance of Nullification, Look at the people like Nevada Senate candidate Sue Lowden who believed you should be able to trade a chicken for medical care. Congresswoman Bachmann who apparently doesn’t know that slavery existed and that we have a long history of ethnic prejudice. But of course we have Freedom Works and AFP funding much of the nonsense–groups that are pro big business anti labor and anti working man to the tee,

    Gordon Gecko and Ayn Rand are in essence poster children for the “I want as much as I can get and I don’t care a rat’s patootie about you” generation. “Greed is good” and ending books with dollar signs in the sky are not Christ’s message.

  8. You know this is an essay I loved in college but the more I think about it the less I like it. Indeed it seems to expose a rather fatal flaw in Nibley’s thinking. Effectively it’s a mindset that works great were we all able to live in the City of Enoch but not too terribly effective for the rest of us who aren’t at that level. Which isn’t to say we can just ignore big problems of inequity. But it does suggest things are much more complex than Nibley does.

    I also think a big problem is the common charge of Nibley privileging a primitive agrarian society. However I think most of us want things like continuing medical progress. How do we reconcile such things? (I know some will immediately say there’s no problem – yet would a more primitive society of the sort Nibley seems to value ever have been able to develop such things?)

    Most problematic is the question of what the lunch is. That is does Nibley end up undermining his own equality? If this equality is of our basic wants (which appears to be what he says we should only be concerned with – and which appears to exclude things like advanced medicine and plumbing) then are we equal if we all have that lunch? I think it clear Nibley wouldn’t think so and that equality is more than just having our basic needs taken care of. But basic needs seems to be a rather moving target which only happens because equality is still defined in the very terms Nibley wants to move us away from.

  9. I too thought this essay was profound when I read it in college, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I now think of it as an explosion of frustrated angst by an intellectual who yearns for heaven on earth, but is stuck poking about in the muck of mortality.

    I find the musings of Jerry Pournelle an almost perfect mirror of Nibley, but from a different viewpoint. Here is one sample:

    I like Nibley a lot, but I don’t always agree with his writings, especially when they are being used as a club by somebody else.

  10. At a Zone Conference on my mission, a General Authority answered a question from an Elder who said he felt uncomfortable teaching the Law of Tithing when he had not lived the LoT himself prior to his mission, not having ever worked for an employer to gain an income on which he could have paid his tithing.

    The answer was, “Elder, we teach the ideal.” Nibley here, so far as I’m concerned, is teaching the ideal and at the very least is giving us food for thought as we’re reminded that the ways of the world are not the ideal.

  11. I think that’s the point Mark, I’m not convinced what Nibley presents is the ideal.

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