“Over-Zealous to Inherit”

In the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, a man named Zeniff wanted to reclaim the “land of [his people’s] fathers’ first inheritance,” at his time occupied by an enemy people. Looking back on his decision years later after he had led his people into a trap that locked them into a backbreaking tributary situation under their enemies, he wrote, “I [was] over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers.” His people, the Nephites, had records from prophets saying that the land would be consecrated unto them, and so I’m sure Zeniff felt confident that the Lord was on his side in his endeavor. But he was not working under instructions of the Lord, and the timing for the inheritance was not right.

There are many other scriptural examples of untimely-claimed inheritances going badly: the prodigal son, the children of Israel as they prepared to enter their promised lands the first time after leaving Egypt, Esau, Cain, Saul, etc. There are many opposite examples, of inheritances that were given in the Lord’s time: Joseph, the son of Jacob, and his childhood visions; Abraham and his innumerable posterity; Jacob working fourteen years for Rachel; etc.

What things are we over-zealous to inherit? This begs the question: what is our inheritance? We are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). And what does Christ inherit, that we can join in? “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). So, as joint-heirs with Christ, we may become “therefore perfect, even as [our] Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), and inherit all our Father has. Well, if we’ll inherit everything anyway, why can’t we just have it now? As shown above, inheritance is all about timing—and most of the things we are promised are conditional upon our showing good stewardship of the “talents” assigned to us.

In the parable of the talents, they were not given to the servants, but were assigned to the servants for the purposes of the master. And when he returned, he did not give the good servants any talents, but rather greater stewardship. Too many of us take the talents assigned to us and spend them, taking very little thought for the pruposes the master had for them. We will “inherit” very little in this world. This is not to say we cannot live full and happy lives in the bounteous terrestrial environment and love that God has provided us. But we will not “inherit” from the Father until the time is right.

Abraham, Moses, and Christ (among others) understood this as they each faced Satan and his promises of great wealth and power (the two objectives of capitalism). They understood that the world Satan offered was not his to give—he had only bought control of it through the selfishness of mankind. It’s a beautiful irony that Satan was offering Christ a world that Christ himself created, a world that Satan could never truly have because the only way to truly receive the earth is to inherit it, as the meek will do.

Moreover, Abraham, Moses, and Christ understood that the power Satan offered was not real power—the only real power is the priesthood. What Satan offered was the perception of power as demanded by the fear and greed of mankind. And this kind of false power can only exist where its subjects fear man more than God. In Sargent Nibley, PhD, it cites a scene witnessed by Gustave Gilbert of a Jewish family facing their death by gunfire at a mass grave. They were together, kissing and hugging each other, giving their last goodbyes; they followed the orders of the SS soldiers and were soon dispatched. But did the Nazis really have power over them? No. These people knew their God and they knew that they were beyond the superficial “power” of violence.

We can believe we have power over another, like I feel when I threaten my children with physical coercion or punishment, but it only works when they don’t understand their relationship to God and man. Therefore, anytime I force my children to do anything, I’m distorting their understanding of power and love. I can only get true power if I inherit it from God. And, ironically, he rarely coerces physically the way mortal parents often do.

But, some may contend, wasn’t man given “dominion” by God? As Dr. Nibley points out:

“Dominion, . . . deriv[ative] of domini-um, property, ownership, f[rom] dominus, lord,’ specifically ‘the lord of the household,’ in his capacity of generous host, ‘pater familias and owner of the house [domus].’ The title of dominus designated the Roman Emperor himself as the common benefactor of mankind inviting all the world to feast at his board. In short, lordship and dominium are the same thing, the responsibility of the master for the comfort and well-being of his dependents and guests; he is the generous host, the kind pater familias to whom all look for support.”

We cannot inherit the earth in its paradisiacal glory if we have abused it in life, any more than we have rights to live with a wife and children in the hereafter whom we have abused in mortality. What is abusing the earth? According to Brigham Young it is taking more than we need. That “need” can be defined along a very extensive spectrum, according to each person’s understanding. It’s definitely something to think about, though. Where do I cross the line between partaking of the God-given bounty of the earth and exploiting the earth? And what about all those good church-members who are very wealthy; are they claiming their inheritance before the proper time? I think that wealth can be a “talent” that the Lord gives us to have dominion over, in the role of “the common benefactor of mankind,” not as a means of control or power, and certainly not as an end in itself.

And what about my spiritual brothers and sisters? Can I expect to live and work with them in a heavenly community if I have taken advantage and exploited them here on earth, especially if my justification was to pursue the temptations of Satan, wealth and power?

So what does all this teach us about the American Dream? What was once the pursuit of freedom and later the pursuit of opportunity has become the pursuit of wealth and leisure. When there are only two things we can take with us to the next life—our righteousness and our learning—all of our daily pursuits seem trivial. Would we be disappointed if we, like the Levites of the Old Testament, were told we wouldn’t be given land like the rest of the tribes because “the priesthood of the LORD is [our] inheritance” (Josh. 18:7)? We have been commanded to take care of our temporal needs, but never to the exclusion of our spiritual needs. Our society is so wrapped up in the temporal, the fleeting, the trivial, the superficial. How much of what we ingest each day—celebrity worship, politics, current events, gossip, pointless entertainment—is simply “a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more: . . . a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing”?

I’m pretty disenchanted with politics right at the moment. I don’t see how anything that happens in Washington or even Utah’s capitol building can really change what needs to change. As Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

I’ve decided I’m going to stop worrying about the world and start worrying about changing myself, trying to live Christian principles, not only those hijacked by the movements of the day, but the ones that “[have] been found difficult and left untried.”

I don’t know how long this “resolution” will last. It will be hard for me to leave my seductive mistress, politics. If I don’t give up my political domain name, does it mean I’m not serious, like I’m keeping her number in my little black book?

I want to be able to allow Christianity to permeate all the facets of my life. In order to do this I need to learn a lot more about Christ and start following His teachings more closely. But I’m already having second thoughts and doubting myself.

Anywayz . . . .

2 Comments

Mike W. says:

Second thoughts about what and doubting yourself about what? Don’t leave me hanging.

I think the process is a long one, but one that can be journeyed with joy. I believe that Gandhi was a great example of the process you are talking about. He completely let go of his cynicism, his hatred, his need for immediate justice, his focus on ends, his impatience with others. However, it wasn’t an easy process and it didn’t happen overnight. His life is a great example of daily struggling with the challenges of the multi-faceted human nature.

Mike W. says:

This, however, isn’t resignation. See my post on desirelessness here:

http://www.theidealist.us/2008/04/24/gandhi-desirelessness

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