excess, extortion, Fantine, Gomorrah, Jean Valjean, Les Miserables, Sodom
I had a brief but edifying discussion with someone about my previous entry concerning Jean Valjean and Fantine, two characters in the popular historical novel Les Miserables. In my previous entry I said that it is by extortion that makes thieves of beggars like Jean Valjean and harlots like Fantine who after selling her hair and her two front teeth in order to provide for her child, resorts in desperation to surrender her virtue by prostituting herself so that she might survive. I was told that “Valjean and Fantine were victims of the evilness in human hearts, which is universal, not economics per se.”
I replied by saying Satan’s sole purpose in taking ownership of the Earth was to bring the posterity of Adam and Eve into captivity. The Earth already belonged, by God’s decree, to Adam and Eve to use freely, even after they were driven out from Eden. The root of evil in men’s hearts is avarice, or the love of money. It is avarice, greed, etc, that motivated Cain to deprive Abel of Abel’s substance. Satan convinced Cain that such wealth would liberate Cain and so Cain assumed Abel’s property by extortion, or in other words, force of his death. Cain extorted from Abel Abel’s wealth by killing him. And when Cain acquired his ill gotten gain, he figured he would never have to live all the days of his life by the sweat of his brow.
Moses 5:32 And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.
33 And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.
Extortion means the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats. Fantine’s virtue was extorted by a man who otherwise could have provided for her through godly means–gifting. Instead, he took from her that most precious thing by threat of ultimatum. He lorded over her his power to provide for her freely, but instead he leveraged her virtue in order to satisfy his basest desires. She chose to finance her bread with her virtue. Of course this could also be viewed as a voluntary exchange. Nobody forced Fantine to submit to the man’s terms! But this is how our economy in this fallen world has been for a very long time. But to reiterate:
D&C 59:18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
More often than not, we tend to justify ourselves in accumulating wealth, a savings account, or in other words, “excess.” If I am a good and honest and hard working man, I deserve every penny I earned and it is mine to do with as I please. Isn’t free will great? But if my neighbor (see Luke 10:29-37) is not as cunning in his industry as I am, then he deserves to be poor or destitute.
Mosiah 4:17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remissions of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay…
If God offers forgiveness and salvation freely, why do we not likewise offer freely to the downtrodden? There is only one justification according to scripture for obtaining wealth:
Jacob 2:12 And now behold, my brethren, this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully.
13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.
14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.
15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!
16 O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!
17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
Isaiah had something to say about this. What he prophesied would happen to his people would also come to pass in the last days. Concerning the covenant people at Jerusalem, he wrote:
Isaiah 3:9 ¶ The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
10 Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
12 ¶ As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts.
16 ¶ Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.
In Isaiah chapter 1, the Lord addresses His covenant people: 10 ¶ Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah…
I find this interesting. Zion denotes an elect people. The main archetypes in the book of Isaiah include “Babylon,” “Assyria,” “Israel,” and “Zion.” So it’s interesting to see the Lord address the Israelite men as “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah” and the women as “daughters of Zion.” But the women do not escape His judgment. Although we tend to view Sodom and Gomorrah as places where so much sexual activity took place, the Lord declared much more. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were proud, self righteous, vain, oppressors of the poor and needy, etc.
Isaiah goes to an extreme length to list all the varieties of dress and accessories that the women tend to wear. It isn’t too difficult to see the same today. I can’t remember if it was a family member or a neighbor that once explained to me why women have to have so many shoes and clothes and stuff. She said that when they’re little girls they dress up all their Barbies. But when they grow up, they become Barbie. Women seem programmed from an early age to “doll up” and accessorize. I’m not sure why. They seem to have to have an outfit for everything and their clothes have to be interchangeable, and match by colors or patterns or whatever.
As for men, we tend to compete to become Alpha males in our various circles. Even the Lord’s disciples kept bickering among themselves who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven among them. It’s just a guy thing. We compete. I think that women are the same, but for a different reason. Women seem to tend to size each other up by how many more men they can attract than the next woman. They measure their worth by being able to attract the Alpha males and this can make them insecure and catty. I’m sure not all women are like this just like not all men have to be Alpha males. Obviously, women feel an innate need to feel beautiful and cherished and loved. It’s either that or perhaps women are just as vain as men are.
In any case, it isn’t difficult to conclude that when we carefully study the scriptures and liken them to ourselves, we are just like the people back then. We judge others by their looks and deeds, but we judge ourselves by our best intentions. We always have the best intentions, but our deeds don’t always measure up. They probably seldom do. So we ignore the scriptures and instead of getting gain for the sole purpose of lifting those who are powerless to lift themselves up, we use our increase to accumulate more wealth and substance, thus esteeming ourselves better than the poor. We define ourselves by our styles of clothing, our elaborate homes and vehicles and toys, or in other words, our excess. After all, having worked so hard to acquire them, we make ourselves worthy to possess them.