Monday, April 16, 2012

As Precious as the Other

I heard this phrase in church and liked it a lot.  My new Bishop gave a talk on the subject that was really good.  I wanted to include some excerpts from his talk.  The original phrase comes from Jacob 2:21.  Jacob has been addressing the peoples pride and says the following.  "Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other."

"And the one being is as precious as another."  Apparently the people Jacob were teaching had a different perspective.  They didn't view each other as equals.  Things such as money, chances for learning, position, and costliness of their clothing were what they used to evaluate each other.  This Jacob said was due to pride in the heart.  It made them unequal and perhaps feel more personally precious or important than another if they had more.  As C.S. Lewis said "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man."  The alternative is what Jacob says, which leads to a more Zion like society where the people have "all things in common among them".  

I can only guess at the frequency of this in our own world.  The division into classes and the upside down criteria for how we view each other is probably so common that it's second nature to us.   We don't even notice it.  I too am party to the mentality.  We all are.  The scriptures always claim to have a better way.  Seating charts on airlines is one visible example.  On the bigger planes you've got the first class, then business class, then the coach seating.  Often there is a curtain separating the higher and lower classes.  Southwest Airlines however seems to be headed a little more towards what Jacob is teaching.  All their seating is the same. 

The cure for the people of Jacob was to view and accept one another based on the truth that one soul is as precious as another.  Or, seeing each other as equals, equally indebted to God for what has been done on our behalf.  Not what the "management of the creature" has done to elevate our pride in comparison to our fellow man (Alma 30:17).  This would mean accepting and valuing people not on their age, net worth, church calling, house size, level of education, life mistakes, or any of those other standards.  But instead understanding one soul is as precious as another.      

4 Nephi 1:25-26 has this related verse
"And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.  And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ."

The scripture links this division into social classes with the building up of churches "unto themselves to get gain" which leads to denying the true church.  I would not have made the connection between those two thoughts had this scripture not put them together.  But now that I read it, it makes a lot of sense.

That method didn't work though is the thing.  That civilization failed.  I don't to want to fail, nor do I want our current civilization to find itself in a position that displeases God.  Christ personally had visited their ancestors and within a few generations they stopped going towards Zion, began heading the other direction, and we know the result of what happened to them.  They began in unity, then got divided based on social class, then
start practicing a proud and false religion, then deny the true church of Christ, and then it leads to destruction.

What struck me as a great antidote was His prophetic remedy.  The remedy is to not view people as superior and inferior based on things like wealth, church calling, social class, clothing, education, etc.  Although to us these things matter, Jacob is telling us it should not influence how precious we think a person is, or what value we ascribe to them.  I'm going to try this.  If it's true, than my home teacher has a soul just as precious to God as the Stake President, Area Authority Seventy, or anyone else walking down the street.  A bigger stewardship wouldn't mean superior worth of soul.  Or am I mistaken?  Is a person with extensive responsibility and larger stewardship more precious to God than the person without it?  Food for thought.  As Jacob put it "The one, is as precious as the other."  But so often there is a tendency to act as if the opposite were true.  

I think it's important to remember these kinds of things.  The Atonement provides a chance to accept derivative worth based on something we did not do.  This puts us all on common footing if we cooperate.   

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