Nephi equates “robbing the poor” with misuse of wealth. Given the obligation to care for the poor, and the ultimate responsibility to have all things in common, misuse of wealth constitutes an abuse of the poor in Nephi’s warning.
I’ve considered the responsibility to build and maintain temples, and how the construction of temples has always meant the finest workmanship and materials as an offering to the Lord. It is His house after all. Therefore, I do not think the warning of Nephi has anything to do with construction of temples.
Nephi says we will “rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) If this has nothing to do with the temples, then to what is Nephi referring?
I have wondered about the City Creek project. Considering the retail portion alone, the funds used to develop the project could have funded approximately 90 temples (assuming an average cost of $30 million per temple). If you consider the office, condominium and remainder of the project, there could have been 150 temples built. The condominiums at City Creek include many priced in excess of $1 million. I “shopped” for a condo there. I found I could not afford one which would meet my needs, and if I bought what I could afford it would not be adequate. The development does indeed contain fine sanctuaries, and does bring an upscale venue to downtown Salt Lake.
Nephi does not confine his warning to us just to sanctuaries. He continues to condemn us because we “rob the poor because of their fine clothing.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) Meaning that if we cover ourselves with unnecessary expenses, we leave nothing to give to provide the poor with clothing. Our wealth is of value when we clothe the naked and feed the hungry, but of no value when we consume it for our own pleasure. (Jacob 2: 19.)
Nephi also draws the same conclusion from our attitudes and demeanor. We “persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.” (2 Ne. 28: 13.) Our pride alone “persecutes” the meek. Instead of fellowshipping them in meekness, we “persecute” them by our arrogance.
This standard is designed to change society. It is designed to elevate us to another level in which we are closer to God. If we heeded Nephi’s warnings, we would become more unified and more equal in earthly things. If we did that, there would be abundant manifestations of the Spirit, which are presently withheld. (D&C 70: 14.)
I think Nephi understood the doctrine better than do we.