When Mormons were socialists
“You are cursed because of your riches!”
It was a bummer message that nobody wanted to hear. Samuel the
Lamanite stood alone atop the great wall of the city of Zarahemla to
warn the inhabitants of their pending destruction.
Now you have probably never heard of this Samuel, nor the capital
city that was once the center of the Nephite nation. But Mitt Romney
certainly has. In 6 BC, as the story goes, somewhere on the American
continent, the inhabitants of this mythic city had grown decadent. There
were extreme class divisions. Politicians were corrupt. The government
disregarded the sick and poor.
God had called Samuel to essentially Occupy Zarahemla, to stand up
and speak out against corporate greed and wealth accumulation. For his
trouble, he was promptly thrown out the front gates. Undeterred, he
bravely scaled the city’s exterior wall, evading a barrage of arrows and
stones to stand defiant. He offered Zarahemla a choice: repent or be
destroyed by God. Like any of us who have ever witnessed the ranting of a
doomsday prophet, the Nephites couldn’t be bothered. Four hundred years
later, Samuel’s prophecy would sorely come to pass. After decades of
perpetual wars and extreme environmental upheavals, the inhabitants of
Zarahemla were wiped completely off the continent and out of history.
They had been warned.
The rise and fall of the Nephite nation is a cautionary tale included
in the Book of Mormon. The book purports to be the history of ancient
American people, written by prophets who foresaw the present day and
knew that calamity was coming. Joseph Smith reportedly translated the
record by “the gift and power of God.” The prophetic message of the
scripture is sharp; if Americans are obedient to God, we will be blessed
with riches. If Americans set our hearts on riches and ignore the poor,
we will be destroyed.
It’s an ontological dilemma facing every millionaire Mormon.