Monday, June 29, 2009

You Can’t Eat Currency

I’ve been reading The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, by Niall Ferguson.  It has me thinking about the counsel of wise men and prophets to be temporally prepared for the future—not only with savings in the bank, but with commodities in the home as well.

Today, despite the fact that the purchasing power of the dollar has declined appreciably over the past fifty years, we remain more or less content with paper money—not to mention coins that are literally made from junk.  Stores of value these are not.  Even more amazingly, we are happy with money we cannot even see.  Today’s electronic money can be moved from our employer, to our bank account, to our favourite retail outlets without ever physically materializing.  It is this ‘virtual’ money that now dominates what economists call the money supply.  Cash in the hands of ordinary Americans accounts for just 11 per cent of the monetary measure known as M2. 

…Money is a matter of belief, even faith: belief in the person who is paying us; belief in the person issuing the money he uses or the institution that honours his cheques or transfers.  Money is not metal.  It is trust inscribed: on silver, on clay, on paper, on a liquid crystal display.  Anything can serve as money…And now, it seems in this electronic age, nothing can serve as money too.

The past several months have exposed cracks in the world financial system that should serve as a warning to the underprepared.  However, even as we dwell within the chaos of the obvious, the learned of the world stand above in towers shouting that “all is well in Zion,” and that we need not alter our fiscal behavior—that we should even consume more in support of the collective economy. In the face of the obvious, the loudest voices still declare sound carnal security (2 Nep. 28:21).

The reason of the inspired is all the more valuable today.  Said the 14th-century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, “Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.”  Let no person or institution on earth shame you out of your right to be prepared for any potential material hazard. 

Having food, water and emergency goods on hand is a sensible idea, but the instruction is not based on logic alone.  The Lord tells us “all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given you a law which was temporal” (D&C 29:34).  He instructed, “organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing” (D&C 88:119) because he loves us, and he knows we can better withstand adversity of all kinds when our physical needs are met. 

We can’t eat a dollar bill, a gold coin, or an electronic check.  We can follow Gordon B. Hinckley’s wise advice, added to a century of prophetic counsel on the topic, “In the day of plenty, prepare for the day of scarcity.” 


For more, see the March 2009 issue of Ensign magazine, “Family Home Storage: A New Message.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Real Moral Standard

"If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilised morality to savage morality, or Christian morality to Nazi morality. In fact, of course, we all do believe that some moralities are better than others. We do believe that some of the people who tried to change the moral ideas of their own age were what we would call Reformers or Pioneers--people who understood morality better than their neighbours did.

"Very well then. The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people's ideas get nearer to that real Right than others. Or put it this way. If your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the Nazis less true, there must be something-some Real Morality--for them to be true about."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

"There are but two parties on the earth, one for God and the other for the world or the Evil One. No matter how many names the Christian or heathen world bear, or how many sects and creeds may exist, there are but two parties, one for heaven and God, and the other will go to some other kingdom than the celestial kingdom of God."

(“Discourses of Brigham Young”, comp. John A. Widtsoe, 1966 ed., Deseret Book Co., p. 70.)

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth; but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as though nothing ever happened."

--Winston Churchill

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Asks why, and still obeys

The prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best… He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

The Screwtape Letters

The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!

Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!

Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father’,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 22

Abide with me! fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me!

I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me!

Hymns, #166
Text: Henry F. Lyte, 1793–1847

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Soul Knows Its Home

A page from the devil’s playbook:

Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is "finding his place in it", while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want.

The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unraveling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth.

Apparently He wants some—but only a very few—of the human animals with which He is peopling Heaven to have had the experience of resisting us through an earthly life of sixty or seventy years. Well, there is our opportunity. The smaller it is, the better we must use it. Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you possibly can,

Your Affectionate Uncle,

From Marvin J. Ashton:

If he could have his way, Satan would distract us from our heritage. He’d like to keep us so busy with comparatively insignificant things that we don’t have time to make the effort to understand where we came from, whose children we are, and how glorious our ultimate homecoming can be!

Perhaps as much as anything in this day and age of mass media, instantaneous worldwide communications, and modern conveniences that seem to help us pack more into each day than would have been considered possible just a few decades ago, we need to focus and direct our attention to the things that really matter. And simply, what really matters is a personal testimony of Jesus Christ, an understanding of who we are and what we’re doing here, and an absolute determination to return home.

When we have a yearning and don’t know what it is for, perhaps it’s our soul longing for its heartland, longing to be no longer alienated from the Lord and the pursuit of something much higher, better, and more fulfilling than anything this earth has to offer.

Marvin J. Ashton, “A Yearning for Home,” Ensign, Nov 1992, 21

From the poet Isaac Watts:

The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days;
Oh, let my house be thine abode, and all my works be praise.
Then will I find a settled rest while others go and come—
No more a stranger nor a guest, but like a child at home.

Excerpt from
My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, 1719

What are the Relevant Questions?

He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking, "Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is it the way that history is going?" they will neglect the relevant questions.

And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them make. As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vaccuum, we have a better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on.

This passage from the brilliant C.S. Lewis' novel The Screwtape Letters seemed a wonderfully fitting subject for my blog. Screwtape is a demon in hell, exchanging letters with his novice tempter nephew, Wormwood, who is on earth attempting to lead his first patient away from God ("the Enemy.") Screwtape's collection of letters read like a 'devil's secret playbook,' though Lewis has "no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands."

The world is noisy, erratic, complex and painful. Infinite absurdities beg our immediate attention. Dangerous forces flatter our intellects with complicated and unanswerable questions. Enlightenment lies in asking the very simple questions, the relevant questions--those foundational spiritual questions for which God provides simple, relevant answers. This blog is dedicated to the shedding of worldly complexities and the promotion of the infinitely relevant.

A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.

--Edward Hodnett, American poet, 1841-1920