2 Nephi 28: 13

“They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”
You must keep the prior verse in mind as you read this one. They are a continuation of thought.
It is an interesting thought to equate “fine sanctuaries” with “robbing the poor.”  Why do you suppose Nephi would make that equation? Does it give us any pause?
What “duty” would be owed to the poor that entitles them to come before a “fine sanctuary?”
Is there a duty to care for the poor that comes before the right of someone to wear “fine clothing?”
What does it mean to “persecute the meek?” Can you “persecute the meek” just by ignoring them? By neglecting them? Does any religion owe some duty to the meek? What obligation is owed to the meek by people of faith?
Who is “poor in heart?” What obligation do we all owe to the poor in heart?
Now look at the last phrase. It begins with “because.” Isn’t Nephi saying that our defects are all due to “our pride.” That is, “because of their pride they are puffed up” and this is the reason we “rob the poor.” This is the reason we “persecute the meek.” This is the reason we “persecute the poor in heart.” Or, in other words, we are proud and puffed up and therefore we cannot help but cause these other offenses.
We necessarily ignore our obligations to the poor and meek because we are filled with pride. We don’t give a second thought to what we’re doing with resources entrusted to us to bless and benefit others, because we believe we are entitled to have “fine sanctuaries.” We just presume we are justified in our “fine clothing” without regard to what we may owe others. 
There is a moment in film that helps illustrate this verse. It is in the closing of the movie Schindler’s List. The Allies had overrun the area and the Nazi rule had ended. As Schindler was receiving the gratitude of those who had been saved by his efforts, he was struck by what more he could have done. He was less interested in receiving gratitude than he was guilt ridden by how many more lives could have been saved had he parted with a ring.  Had he parted with a car it would have secured other lives. The thought filled him with guilt. He had done some, it was undoubtedly true. But his conscious was filled with remorse because he could have done more. And in that setting, doing more was saving lives. He preferred a ring to another man’s life. He preferred a car to a family’s lives. It tormented him. If you can harrow up your mind to remember this scene, then think of what we might have done with the great resources we have been given in place of some of the monuments we have built.
Why do we need chapels at all? Why not meet in homes? What good could be done with the money we have invested in the chapels we have built? Joseph Smith built temples; he did not build chapels. General Conference was held in an outdoor bowery. Do we have anything to apologize for in how we use our resources? Were or are there poor toward whom the Lord would have preferred us to show mercy, and do more? There are families who have supplied church leadership from their large construction companies who have built projects for the church. I am told these relationships are natural. They call who they know and associate with, after all. I suppose that is true.
Nephi seems troubled by his view of us. We seem untroubled by his words. At least we don’t seem to change our behavior much because of Nephi’s counsel.  We deflect it, and point to others as his real target.
Well, Nephi is nothing if not relevant to almost everything going on today.

25 thoughts on “2 Nephi 28: 13

  1. Denver: If you keep this up, people are going to start throwing rocks at you. :)
    If this post doesn’t hit like a ton of bricks than not sure what more will.

  2. I must say, I absolutely loved this post. It is one I have thought about for many, many years and can’t seem to find too many that see it the same.

    I had to chuckle, because my husband is the one who worried about “steadying the ark” and he’s said several times that every time he sees the Conference Center he thinks it looks like the great and spacious building.(he really does think like you, Denver)

    I like the added insight this blog gave me because my thoughts on this verse had always focused on us as individual latter-day saints, rather than as a church. Maybe that’s been a stretch because Nephi WAS talking about the churches just beforehand…but I still like the individual application because that’s what I have control over.

    Do our extravagant homes qualify as “fine sanctuaries?” How about our expensive or trendy automobiles, SUV’s and cross-overs? Some people I know would never be seen in certain vehicles, or certain jeans, or carrying certain hand bags, or shopping in certain department stores. How finely decorated do our homes need to be? Smaller families, bigger homes…that’s the norm. When I visited Palmyra and saw the log home Joseph Smith lived in with all his siblings…I must say I was ashamed of the worldliness and coveting I have been guilty of. I am not claiming innocence. But I have tried to make some course corrections. I have longed for a REALLY DIRECT call to repentence on our worldliness. I’ve heard a few hints at it…nothing bold, though.

    The argument that tires me the most when I discuss this with associates is that as long as you can afford it, it’s okay. Then a myriad of high profile individuals are held out as examples to emulate. Afterall, they give enormous amounts to charity and they still live in a monstrous house and drive extravagant cars and they have high positions…so obviously, the Lord is telling us there’s nothing wrong with it as long as you can afford it, and pay your tithes and offerings as well, right?.

    I have always tried to point out that the point never has been HOW MUCH someone is giving (as shown by the widows mite), but what is the SACRIFICE that the giver actually made in making their offering. In other words…did your offering cause you to do without something…can you actually feel the sacrifice. Joe Christensen gave a conference talk about this years ago quoting CS Lewis. If I make a billion dollars and give 100 million away, I still have 900 million that I get to squander on myself. Not much of a sacrifice. But if my sacrifice made me do without so that I could bless someone else…now that’s the real spirit.

    My sister-in-law told me recently that her father in law (who served in a temple presidency), took them to the temple and taught them that when we covenant to sacrifice for the building of the kingdom of God…that we must remember our family is part of that kingdom. This was then used as justification for all kinds of worldly approaches to life based on the rationalization that it is for your family. Wow! I held my tongue.

    This life is NOT the time for us to be building our mansions. That is a reward for a humble, sacrificing life lived here.

    Just my opinion.

  3. I know this comment relates more to a post from July 21 st regarding 3 Nephi 21:26—but I just ran across this story and it was so amazingly cool I just had to share it today so more of you would see it. It actually correlates well with Kisi’s post from July 21 also. It is the story of how the indigenous people in Ecuador were introduced to and taught the gospel. Oh, how I look forward to the day I can entertain angels as well. I would have copied this story and posted it, but it is part of a book review and wouldn’t let me do it. So hopefully the link will let you find this story. If not, the book is called “Beyond the Veil Volume 2” and the chapter with the amazing story is Chapter 11, by Fred Bohman (who I was lucky enough to meet with and hear him speak last night.) I just love the gospel! It brings me so much joy when I hear truth.


  4. Thank you for stating what most are fearful to say. How sad it is that we are afraid to read the scriptures and comment on the fulfillment of the prophecies. Just shows that the church itself is guilty of the institutional pride.

  5. This post immediately brought to mind two articles that might be of interest:

    * Hugh Nibley’s classic Goods of First and Second Intent [Denver seems to be channeling HN’s spirit of social commentary lately–which makes sense since both are based on a close reading of the scriptures];

    * and Revitalizing Zion: Nineteenth-Century Mormonism and Today’s Urban Sprawl [PDF] by Brigham Daniels (in the Journal of Land, Resources, and Environmental Law). In the 19th century there was an ethos against land speculation. Some lots in settlements were left vacant so that subsequent immigrants could obtain them on equal footing as the original settlers ensuring a roughly equal mix of “rich” and “poor” in neighborhoods. Toward the end of the 19th century and in the 20th we lost this ethos and those with means tended to move resulting in the economic stratification East vs West that can be seen in the Salt Lake valley today.

    I think the Church would be healthier at a local level if we still hand a better socio-economic blend at the ward and stake level like our pioneer forbearer’s had.

  6. This is an interesting subject when it relates to the individual. I’ve struggled to know the answer for quite some time.

    The mentality I’m hearing in these comments is that giving money away equals saving souls. I don’t think I can agree with that. Otherwise I would have to ask Denver the question “How many lives could one Harley save?”

    I have no debt and have some money in the bank. Should I be downsizing my house and giving it away to charity? Or should I earnestly strive to be a good steward?

  7. This verse has always made me ask questions similar to those Denver asked. The story in Schindler’s List has had a similar impact on me as described by Denver. The issue of if our church buildings are robbing the poor or producing pride that Nephi spoke about is one we should think about; even though there may not be a “right” answer, but seeking spiritual insight and person reflection about how our hearts and actions should be concerning this subject is of worth. On one hand we have the ideas that Denver invited us to think about, such as do we even need church meeting houses, because we could use the money for more charitable uses (which is one bias). Perhaps we don’t; but I feel strongly that the church houses have been a great blessing in my life. I suspect most members (and some non members), rich and poor, have been blessed by them. From another bias, church houses provide a great resource to the saints in many different ways that the Lord wants to bless us with; which includes comfortable conditions to partake of the sacrament, teaching the gospel, having socials, having places for the youth to gather, and to do administrative duties. The early saints would call it a blessing of the Lord to have such buildings. The conference center is a magnificent building. Is it exstream or is it a reflection of the growth and blessings given the church from the Lord? Every great civilization through out history has shown its greatness in the structures they have built. I suspect the greatest buildings the Nephite’s built were done from 1 AD to 200 AD (my opinion). Buildings need planning, preparing, cooperation, leadership, hard work, creativity and diligence; all which are quantities the Lord would have us have (and perhaps can come in no other way than from building projects). Without building programs, cultures and societies suffer as well as individuals and families (rich, poor and middle class). Joseph Smith must have known this since he seemed obsessed with building. I suspect Pres Hinkeley understood the power that great buildings have on its people. Pres. Benson taught us that there is no righteous pride. So being proud (meaning we use it to separate us from others) of a building, including our houses, would be contrary to the gospel plan. But loving the temple (and other great edifices) and the things they represent and the dignity they offer the builders and users can be a great blessing.

  8. I think this is the one subject where our western culture really blinds and hurts us from seeing the right answers.

    I know that one of the reasons for current welfare practices in the church is to avoid the evils of “the dole,” which can discourage self-sufficiency.

    At the other extreme, the argument that the real way to help the poor is to let money be concentrated in the hands of capitalists to create “jobs” does not address the situation fully (though in general I am an advocate of the freedom of exchange for current babylon).

    The promise of Zion, of no poor among us, of equality, cooperation, freedom and stewardship are so foreign to us as to be unbelievable.

    I’m grateful to live in a relatively well mixed ward. We have half of a retirement mobile home park, a standard middle-income subdivision, and a handful of duplexes, both occupant owned and rentals. We’re lucky to have an economic mix without the challenges and problems that a very high turn-over apartment complex has.

  9. I love President Benson’s talk on Pride. To this day, I cannot say, “I am proud of my kids”. I do, however, say, “I am well-pleased with…” or “I am happy with…”.

    That is the central theme of the Book of Mormon. I do get a little uncomfortable if things are too lavish, including our own possessions. I like nice things – but there is a time when I might be looking up from hell at the man or woman who had nothing and asking some hard questions.
    We are turning our home over to LDS Philanthropies after we and potential successive spouses have passed on. There will be no contention after we are gone and the kids will be able to designate their equal portion to the charities of their choice within the umbrella of giving that the Church offers. We are such stinkers….

  10. On another point, Joseph Smith probably could have been accused of “robbing the poor for fine sanctuaries” with the kirtland temple. That was a time of extreme poverty, but nearly all resources went to prepare that building.

    Even the Savior was criticized for “robbing” the poor by accepting the anointing with ointment by the woman in Bethany.

    I know some of what was entailed in the Conference Center build, my father designed and built all of the equipment used in the translation floor of that building. We on the Wasatch front, and even in the US do not always have the best perspective on the way many parts of the world are blessed by things that look trivial or wasteful to us.

    The current number of languages that can be handled was simply not possible in the Tabernacle. My own mission country, Hungary, did not enjoy a conference broadcast via satellite until the Conf Cent. was finished.

    One more point specifically about the CC: it was built to be a very long-term building. Think 100+ years. Extra expense to build to that level, yes, but the effort was to provide a facility for the very long term. I don’t think that building was built for our generation.

    I’m not saying every project can be defended that way, but at least there was recognition that this was a very great expense and it needed to meet a high standard to justify it.

    We certainly, all of us, don’t do as good a job as we should of really looking out for the poor among us, and trying to genuinely help them personally, not just through institutional means or a few dollars here or there to soothe out conscience.

    On a slightly lighter note, there was someone who worked daily in the Conf Center (no longer works there), who would answer his phone, “great and spacious building…”

  11. This is a great subject to reflect on and the story in Schindler’s List was very powerful on me and caused me to reflect. As for church ward houses, I have seen some extravagantly built and perhaps out of harmony to Nephi’s teachings (the explanation the Church gives is that they build to suite the neighborhood they are in). But having said that, the ward buildings have been a great blessing to me and I believe that most members (rich, poor and middle class) are blessed by them. I suspect the early saint would agree. As for the conference center, is it taking from the poor or is it a blessing from the Lord? Building projects are what great civilizations have been judged on. They take creativity, planning, cooperation, hard work, determination, following processes, overcoming problems and more; all of which are things the Lord would have us do or learn and perhaps could not be accomplished in any other way. I believe Joseph Smith understood this principle since he seemed obsessed with building. I believe Pres Hinckley also understood this as well when he had the conference center built. Perhaps someday many of us will hear the Savior speak at its podium.

  12. Throughout these blogs and throughout the last 4 of Denver’s books I have asked to understand why there has been an almost continuous thread of discussion showing the apostasy within the Church and among its people. These blogs have been used to show in detail the extent that it has reached. In the beginning I couldn’t understand why this was so, but I had already received the witness from the Spirit that what Denver was writing was according to the Lord’s direction. The Church is the Lord’s and He can do with as He sees fit and if He is using Denver to show these terrible weaknesses then I have accepted this.
    Today I remembered the Lord’s statement in Ether 12 to Moroni who was fretting about the Gentiles accepting his words. The Lord stated:
    Ether 12:27-29:
    27 And if men come unto me I will show unto THEM their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
    28 Behold, I will show unto the GENTILES (US) their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.
    29 And I, Moroni, having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith;

    In reading this today I could see the Lord was talking about these same ‘weaknesses’ that Denver is ‘showing unto us'(Gentiles) so that we will see that it if we can see these weaknesses – not only the church, but in ourselves – if we will acknowledge the existence of them and humble ourselves before him – each Gentile – that His ‘grace is sufficient for ALL and He will make OUR weak things strong.
    The Church is a collection of individual ‘Gentiles’ and the promise is to each who are part of this apostasy.
    It occurred to me the reason the Lord, through Snuffer, is pointing out the weakness of the leaders is that we will no longer desire to follow them and recognize only His Grace can make OUR WEAK things strong and will ‘humble’ ourselves and ‘come unto Him.’
    I think we must learn to look to Christ and not the leaders for guidance and strength – Vs. 29 to Moroni sums up the whole of it and we too can be comforted – by He who is the Comforter.

  13. Oh this subject is something that plagues my thoughts often. How much do you give to those in need and how much do you hold back to provide for the needs and wants of your family. Most everything we have is a want. We need very little to survive. I have asked my husband a number of times if it wouldn’t just be better to sell all we have and live in a hut in Africa and try to serve the people there. Is that a better use of our resources? Maybe? It’s such a tough line to walk individually and as a church. I wish the answers came more easily. I pray to be a wise steward, but I know I fall short. I hope the church isn’t falling short too, but it would seem Nephi may have seen it that way.

  14. Hmmm. I think if the Lord didn’t want Chapels he would commuincate that to the Brethren.

    There could come a day when the Lord calls out some to go to places without chapels, and it will be a test of Faith at that time. The ones that aren’t prepared to leave will ask to take over the chapels which will not be protected.

    One thing I am glad about is the Church has scaled down the Temples to being less opulent and auspicious.

    So, at this point there is no need to get worked up over chapels. Compared to other Faiths our chapels are modest and quaint. I have a Catholic friend who comments about the “no frills look” of LDS chapels..


  15. What exactly is it that we are to ‘give up’ – consecrate – in order to be reconciled to Christ- to ‘become perfected in Christ’ as per Morm. 10:32? In Hyrum Andrus Principles of Perfection 204 he he staes:
    Princ. Perf. 204 “Sanctification comes to those who reconcile themselves to Christ. It is the Lord’s purpose to sanctify man through the gospel, and in Him is centered the power to do so. But to be sanctified, man must perform, in faith and love, the works of reconciliation and service which the law of God requires. To the degree that man does these things, he may be sanctified. Mormon wrote of a group of Nephite saints: “They did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. (Hel 3:35)
    It is our Hearts- our whole soul (spirit and flesh) by covenant to Christ’s work (See Moroni 7:27-32)

  16. Anonymous
    I have heard this distinction made – considered it – would be interested in your thoughts on it.

  17. We also need to realize the poor and needy will be among us. Joseph stated this as such. I think a weeding out process *could* be in the final hours (literal hours) before Jehovah arrives as a spot check on how Charitable we are. Are we wiling to walk away from are swanky homes on a moment’s notice etc.

    Also, complaining about the 3 Billion dollars spent reconstructing downtown SLC by the Church breeds the spirit of contention. This reminds me of Judas telling Christ how to spend some money donated to them and Christ correcting Judas.

    For all we know the Church wants this and that the Brethren were actually inspired to do this so as when non members arrive in downtown and realize City Creek Property is owned by the Church and very well kept-they might be implored by the Spirit to learn more about a religious body that has clean, well kept shops and malls and an absence of bars and strip clubs.

    That said, there is plenty of ways for one to help the needy around them. For the complainers:when is the last time one here has changed a bed pan, visited an AIDS Clinic or volunteered at a soup kitchen?

    I think when sometimes it’s easy and tempting to find fault w a prosperous institution, and almost in vogue to do so-because one feels he or she is being brave, where in reality HF is grieved at the individual for finding fault w this institution, namely the LDS Church-which still represents His kingdom on earth.


  18. As Prophets have said, The essence of true religion is caring for the widows & the fatherless & the poor & the needy.

    The real success of a religion is not in it’s great & wonderful buildings or even in numbers of members or in wealth, but in how they take care of especially the widows & the fatherless.

    It is said that the ‘neglect’ of these needy women & children, was the greatest sin of Sodom, far worse than anything else happening at the time, which Prophets have said is again happening now, even worse than it did in Sodom.

    Thus, we must not be taking care of widows & the fatherless either. And I have seen far too much evidence that we aren’t.

    No matter what else a Church may do, it cannot prosper for long if it does not take care of & protect the widows & the fatherless, those who are or have been abused & abandoned.

    For the penalty of not honoring this commandment, is ‘amen’ to the Priesthood & Authority of those men.

  19. Many of you are right in a lot of ways with what you say with chapels, riches, etc., but Denver is more right on this one. Don’t risk an offense on this principle! Even if you are right, let it go, please! Even if you can not live this fully now, do not shun it! Do not let this one slip by!

    Can we not lay down the debate on this one? I don’t know everything, that is sadly apparent in my comments. I don’t know everything about these ideas, either, but I feel the whole point of anyone reading this blog from interest in Denver’s other writings would be wasted if this post is laid to rest, ignored, trampled under feet, scoffed at, trivialized, etc. Tread lightly, please, we are on holy ground! It is the ideas, not Denver. Be careful with the ideas!

  20. I will always remember my grandparents had the articles of faith posted on their refrigerator, with a 14th hand written in as a joke. It stated “We believe in justification and rationalization.”

  21. Reminds me of the class my wife and I took years ago when we were in college. It was a housing class detailing design and construction methodologies. When we got to the section on bathrooms, the instructor took the time to point out to us that historically, multiple civilizations are known to have had amazing baths immediately before their destruction. (i.e. the Romans)

    All you have to do is visit your local parade of homes to get an idea of how ridiculous and extravagant our baths have become. It is an interesting sign of the times, for what it’s worth.

  22. John C in regards to your comment, “creativity, planning, cooperation, hard work, determination, following processes, overcoming problems and more; all of which are things the Lord would have us do or learn and perhaps could not be accomplished in any other way.” raising a family comes to mind…

    Ben, you said, “I’m grateful to live in a relatively well mixed ward. We have half of a retirement mobile home park, a standard middle-income subdivision, and a handful of duplexes, both occupant owned and rentals. We’re lucky to have an economic mix without the challenges and problems that a very high turn-over apartment complex has.” I would say that those in the mobile home park don’t feel so “lucky.” I realized years ago why we, as a people, are damned in our spiritual growth until we have all things in common. The barriers wealth and poverty place in our paths are massive!

  23. 2 Ne. 9: 50-51
    50 Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.

    51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.

  24. Seems like most always want to think about themselves rather than putting there real faith into the Lord. As I live with the American Indians , i saw them give an entire paycheck that was needed at home to another in their clan cause they needed it worse. In our Gentile mind we would of figured it out how to help a little and keep the rest for us. I see those insights of justification, in responses in others comments. As President Benson told us we are under condemnation , it went of our minds like water off a ducks back , Why ? because the book of Mormon is all about giving and sacrificing, And we cant do it. We cant live the united order, They did id Christ time and in the book of Mormon . but not these haughty people today. They still want to have control and pride as President Benson talked on . The want there worldly things more than they want more light . Like the other two thirds of the book of Mormon. Thank you Denver for your great insight. No us Gentiles don’t seem to want more light, Its like our first ancestors in Kirtland and , Nauvoo the first ones in bought more land so they could raise the price and make money off the next ones coming in, have we changed much from that to this day.

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