In chapter two, Jacob warns the people of two sins in which they are beginning to labor: 1) Pride/love of money 2) committing fornication.
Pride and Seeking Riches
Just as President Benson explained in his talk on pride, Jacob explains that the Nephites are in competition with one another in the seeking of money. Pride is wanting to have more of something than the next person has. This is not the absolute central meaning of pride, but it is a major faucet of pride. President Benson quotes C.S. Lewis when he said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man…It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109-110). President Benson also states in his talk that “the proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measure device against others” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4). Jacob clearly testifies of the Nephites’ pride when he said, “ye suppose that ye are better than they” (v. 13).
President Benson makes another point in his talk concerning pride. He states that, “our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest.” Jacobs tells us of the poor example of the Nephites’ motives in verse 13, “because some of you have obtained more abundantly that that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts.” The Nephites desired to obtain more than their brethren and thus their motive for seeking riches is manifest. Jacob teaches them the true motive for seeking riches in verses 17 through 19. He counsels them to think of their brothers as themselves and to be “free with [their] substance, that they (their brothers) may be rich like unto [them].” Next, Jacob sets our priorities by stating that we must first seek the kingdom of God before seeking riches. And if we still desire riches after obtaining a hope in Christ, then we ought to seek riches with the intent to do good (to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, liberate the captive, and administer to the sick and the afflicted).
Before continuing on, I’d like to make a commentary on something else of a similar nature that has something to do with Jacob’s counsel. When I was a student in the Marriott School of Business Management, I took a class from a Dr. Doug Moore. He taught business law as well as practiced law in Provo. During one of his classes, he mentioned to us that we ought to read a book entitled The Richest Man in Babylon. It is a book by George Clauson in which the author explains the governing principals of saving money and making it work for you. Before I ever opened the pages of the book, I speculated in my mind that the richest man in Babylon probably became rich by giving it away. Of course, I found this not to be the case, rather it is a book about the governing principals of finance. What perplexed me the most when I was thumbing through this book the other day was the dialogue between two of the characters essentially said, “I want money so I can be happy.” Nevertheless, what the book teaches is still true no matter what the motives of the two characters were. I’d like to contrast the example of the richest man in Babylon to perhaps the richest man in Zion.
Probably one of the richest men in Zion (and the world) is Jon Huntsman. He spoke at Jill’s graduation at BYU after receiving an honorary degree of some sort. But what I remember most and what obviously stuck with me is the story of this man’s life. Currently, he owns and manages one of the largest biochemical companies in America. He has at least one Lear Jet that he has designated for the use of the Prophet’s travels. He was not always rich. In fact, when he and his wife were poor college students, they decided that they would 1) always pay a full tithe and 2) donate as much money as they could to charity. John testified that the more he gave away to charity (to help the poor, feed the hungry, free the captive, and relieve the sick and the afflicted) the more money he got back. It then became a recurring cycle of giving and receiving more and more. We cannot forget that he also must have worked very hard and diligently and sought after money with the intent to do good.
I am grateful for Jacob’s counsel on obtaining riches. Jill and I have tried to do our best with our finances. We haven’t always done our very best, but we have always paid a full tithe and donated to charity. Time and time again, we have seen the hand of the Lord in our lives regarding our finances. The most recent example concerns the purchase of our 2nd home.
In 2006, we began to prepare to sell our 1st home. We knew that we were either going to move to Houston (company move) or we'd sell and buy a bigger home for our growing family. When we found out in October of 2006 that the company was not going to move us to Houston, we decided to sell our home. For me it was a difficult decision because of the costs of selling and buying and moving. I thought that it would break us financially in the long run. But I kept analyzing our budget and put together several forecasts and I finally came to a comfort level with our decision. With all that said, we still felt a confirmation by the Spirit that what we were doing was the right thing.
January 31, 2007 came and we sold our 1st home and bought our 2nd home. We were in a little hole from the move and closing costs and all, but we knew we could work ourselves out of it on the income that we had. But we also knew that a raise would be coming in March. The question was how big it was going to be. I determined the percentage at which I'd feel comfortable and then we prayed and waited. During this waiting period, whenever my worries would begin to surface, I'd simply remind myself that we have always paid a full tithe and have given a generous fast offering.
My boss finally called me into his office one day and gave me the news regarding my raise. He handed me the post-it note with the numbers on it. The raise better than hoped. We feel so blessed, again, and know that the hand of the Lord is watching over us.
It is and always has been my testimony that the Lord blesses those who pay a full tithe and give a generous fast offering. Countless are the blessings we have received by obeying this counsel. Indeed I testify of the truthfulness of the prophet Malachi when he said "prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
The next part will deal with Jacob’s counsel on immorality. Interestingly enough, these two subjects (riches and immorality) are both connected to pride and both afflict the world and Zion today.
The Lord clearly states here in Jacob the law of chastity. Men are to have one wife and no concubines. In other words, men are not to have any sexual relationship except with his wife. For the Nephites, they were not to have other women in their lives. The same goes for the saints today. To keep this from happening, barriers must be placed around this principal so that this temptation is avoided altogether. We are counseled not to be alone in any situation with other women. We need to guard our thoughts at all times and to stay far away from any content that is of a pornographic nature. As you make these barriers and fences and rules, you are building a stronger fortress against evil and temptation.
What is the major consequence and harm in breaking the law of chastity? First of all, in the temple we make a covenant to keep the law of chastity and second, the tender hearts of our wife and children would be crushed knowing that their husband and father were unfaithful to them.
This same problem has plagued the saints in our day too. In my parent’s lifetime, they may encounter less than half a dozen close friends or family who will divorce (which divorce may or may not have anything to do with immorality). I think I can make a pretty safe assumption that when my dad was my age (25 when this was written) he did not have any friends whose parents were divorced. Today as I write this, we personally know two women whose first husbands either abused them or had an affair. What is even more sad is that they are part of my generation. Growing up as a kid, I had several friends whose parents were divorced and where the husband had an affair. The common denominator in all this is the broken hearts of the wife and children. My friends did not lead normal lives after the divorce. I felt sorry for them and wished they had childhood experiences like I had.
I am grateful for Jill and our children. I love them so much and I can’t imagine life without them. I am grateful for Jill’s parents and for my parents. They are a couple of the many faithful saints who raised us kids in a struggling generation.