Liz Muir continues her reign of terror as a guest at BCC! Earlier post here.
A few weeks ago, I was watching the movie Paycheck with some friends. In case you haven’t seen the movie, the main character reverse-engineers technology for a living. After every job, his memory for the entire time he worked on the project is erased so that he can’t build it for another company. The premise of the movie is his biggest job yet: $96 million dollars to essentially lose three years of his life. To me, this seemed like an obvious perversion of values–”For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matt 16:26)–and I voiced my sadness with a world that would think such a deal was reasonable. My friends (fellow BYU students) disagreed. They seemed to think it was a pretty good deal. There are few other ways to make so much money so fast and with so little trouble, they said. You’d be set for the rest of your life.
Now, I don’t believe that my friends are more greedy than anyone else I know. Like most Church members, they have a clear understanding that money isn’t the key to happiness–a step in the right direction. But there seems to still pervade in the Church the perversion that Hugh Nibley ridiculed in his “Leaders to Managers” talk: “Seek ye first financial independence and all other things shall be added.” As long as we are also seeking the kingdom of God, it seems that we feel okay with trying to serve Mammon as well. Perhaps some of this justification comes from the idea in Jacob 2:18-19 that “after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them.”
But I don’t think this attitude of trying to obtain riches stems from a desire to be more charitable. The primary desire seems to be for security. I see this attitude when I talk to my dad about my career plans (which are still in the brainstorming stage). Whenever I bring up the idea of writing for a living, he tells me to go to law school first and become a successful patent attorney. Then I will be “set” financially, so I can write all I want. I recognize that providing for a family is of primary importance in the Church; perhaps I just don’t quite understand that philosophy, being female and not having had the provider instinct reinforced in priesthood meetings. It just seems backwards to me to find a job to make you money to support what you really want to do with your life. Shouldn’t a job be first something you want to do and second something you’re paid for? Obviously not everyone out there can be doctors and lawyers–some poor, underpaid souls have to write the magazines in the waiting room and the scripts for Law and Order.
I think this problem extends beyond my esoteric circumstances. Church members don’t seem to worship money, but they trust money. We want money not necessarily for what it can give us, but for what it can protect us from: worry. Perhaps the Saints fear debt more than God? Are we trying to avoid even the appearance of financial insecurity? Perhaps we should try reading some of that money we’ve been working so hard to earn, and trust in God for our financial security.
Or maybe these are just the ramblings of a slightly bitter English major.