A Forsaken People

There are a set of chapters in 2 Nephi that quote directly a set of chapters from the Book of Isaiah. In 2 Nephi 12:6, Isaiah is quoted as saying, “Therefore, O Lord, thou hast forsaken thy people.” What conditions have led to the Lord forsaking his people?

The first set of conditions deal with the ideas from outside that have caused the people to themselves forsake the commandments of God. But the next set of conditions deal with internal issues: “Their land is also full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.”

While the adjective “God-forsaken” typically applies to a remote, destitute, infertile, and forbidding corner of the world, the adjective here is attached to a center of civilization and commerce. And the implication of those verses is that God forsakes a people because they have forsaken him.

In my focus on the economic issues, for a land to be flush with riches and for those riches to lead to people being more focused on them than on their covenants, there has to be an issue with economic inequality. This is not simply a matter of some people who work hard and some who don’t want to work at all. This is a matter of people who gather riches unjustly and the increasing number of poor because the government either permits or is involved in the unjust transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. A phrase used to describe this in the scriptures is “grinding the face of the poor”.

When a person gains wealth from activities where one does no work, there is a high risk of unjust gathering of riches. Raising rents, refusing or skimping on repairs to rental properties, charging interest, lowering wages in real terms, “company store” arrangements that impoverish workers, fine-print contract clauses that lead to exploited loopholes, false advertising, concealment of the hazards of a product, pollution of the environment: all these things potentially constitute worshipping the work of one’s own hands as one forgets to have compassion towards one’s fellow human beings. And, yes, “charging interest” is on that list. Check carefully in the scriptures how it is universally condemned and then how men find ways to justify a little interest here and a little interest there until they have forsaken that part of God’s word… and become themselves a forsaken people.

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