By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog
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Great stuff here, John: a powerful reminder for us all to avoid priestcraft and to remember just who the true light of the world is.
“Priestcraft” deserves some real thought. Does this mean paid clergy? (Not necessarily. Most clergy work very hard and receive modest pay.) Does it mean there can be no making money from religion? (If so, should we shut down Deseret Book?) Was it wrong to have people change money in the temple? (In Jewish law, a ban on Gentile coinage seems reasonable to me.)
What is the crux of the problem?
Certainly a paid clergy isn’t sufficient to constitute priestcraft. And, despite our aversion to paid clergy as Mormons, 2 Nephi 26:29, our key definition of “priestcrafts,” does not require a rejection of it. (Contrast a devoted Anglican vicar working his or her entire life on a very meager salary to build up his or her local parish church, succoring those in need of succor, lifting the hands that hang down and strengthening the weakened knees, all in an effort to achieve something like Zion with a mega-church minister in the United States raking in millions from his work preaching a prosperity Gospel. It is clear where the priestcraft lies between the two according to 2 Nephi 26:29.) And we Mormons would do well to remember that we also have a paid clergy given that most General Authorities receive a modest stipend/salary for their maintenance and support since they devote their full lives to service in the Church.
I see the issue as framed in 2 Nephi 26:29 as focused on the profit motive. So your example with Deseret Book is spot-on: a lot of stuff there might actually fall into this definition of priestcrafts, that “men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.”
Applying this to the moneychangers in the temple, their focus was on profiting from the transactions. I agree with you that it was legitimate to require converted Gentiles and diaspora Jews to convert their Gentile money with its graven images into temple-appropriate currency for purchasing sacrificial birds and animals. But the monopoly on the sale of those animals enabled the priestly elite to grind the face of the poor in gouging people on the prices charged, and in ripping them off on the exchange rates, the temple aristocracy was not seeking the welfare of Zion. Instead, they were making a mockery of Isaiah 56:6-7, as Jesus alludes to in paraphrasing that passage while casting out the money changers.
When we preach, we MUST do so without setting ourselves up for a light unto the world with the hope of making a profit off of our efforts. We must seek the welfare of Zion with an eye single to the glory of God. And if Zion is our goal, then this should be our focus in all other areas of our lives as well, not just in our sermonizing (see D&C 89:16-20, esp. v. 19). Let us therefore reject Adam Smith’s invisible hand and replace it with Joseph Smith’s single eye.
The Living Christ
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