Homosexuality, as we all know, is the sin next to banking.
We learn this in the Seventh Level of Inferno–the level dedicated to sins against nature. Usurers and sodomites are punished together there on hot sands, close to the mass murders, suicides, and others who pervert the natural order. Usury and sodomy are punished together because, as all Medieval Christians knew perfectly well, they were different sides of the same sinful coin: sodomy makes sterile that which nature made fecund (sex). Usury makes fecund that which nature made sterile (money).
Money cannot give birth to money–it is against God’s plan. God’s first instruction to fallen humanity was, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Gen. 3:19). We must work for our sustenance. It is sinful to try to make money sustain us through interest. In the beginning, it was Adam and work, not Adam and VISA. The Bible is unambiguous about this:
Exodus 22:24-25: “And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.”
Deuteronomy 23:20: “Unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.”
Ezekiel 18:17: “That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.”
Psalm 15:5: “He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.”
In the world of the Bible, “usury” means all forms of interest. Charging your countryman interest was–like having homosexual relations or disobeying your parents–punishable by death. We can only mitigate this partially through contextual readings. It is possible that interest and banking were understood somewhat differently in a bronze-age, semi-nomadic society where most people’s wealth lay entirely in livestock. Moneylending might have had slightly different connotations in a society that didn’t actually use money. But God’s laws are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Changes in culture cannot alter the moral laws of nature and the universe.
And there will be no lending at interest in Zion or in the Kingdom of God. Usury is the business plan of Babylon. It has no place in a community where there are no poor among us and where we bear one another’s burdens because of our baptismal covenant, not because we hope for profit. Latter-day Saints know that we cannot in good conscious pursue activities that go against God’s design for the eternities.
However–and here is where we must have compassion and understanding–many people have been ensnared in a usurious lifestyle for reasons that are not for us to judge. About 5% of Americans, including a large number of Latter-day Saints, are employed by banks, mortgage companies, auto dealerships, credit card companies, and other financial services that have set themselves up in direct opposition to God’s laws. Many of these are our friends and family members. And it is incumbent upon us as their brothers and sisters to love and minister to them. We are a hospital for the sick, not a museum for the perfect.
That our society has chosen to abandon God and permit the lending of money for interest is regrettable, but it does not change our Christian responsibility to the truth or to our fellow human beings. Here are some guidelines that I hope you will follow with the bankers in your life:
- Always teach correct principles. Usury is wrong because it perverts the natural order of fecundity and violates God’s direct commandments in the scriptures. We cannot tolerate even a wisp of sin, lest we become desensitized to evil and come to embrace it.
- Stop doing things that cause others to be usurious. In much the same way that we have been instructed not to shop on the Sabbath, so that we do not force other people to work and violate God’s law, we should not use or accept the fruits of usury. This means that we should always pay cash for our houses and cars. We should not accept student loans for our education. And we should never use credit cards. And it goes without saying that we should never accept interest on any money that we invest. Every time we do this, we cause somebody to become a usurer.
- Don’t make assumptions: We just don’t know if people are born with an inclination towards charging interest or if they become usurers through their environment. But it doesn’t matter. Our job is to love people, not to diagnose them.
- Lead with compassion: Nobody who believes the Bible to be the word of God can deny that lending money at interest is a grave sin–but so are inhospitality, cruelty, and lack of compassion. To God it is given to punish; to us it is given to forgive all men. And that probably even means women.
- Talk in ways that emphasize the person, not the occupation. If you have a relative who is a banker, don’t reduce him or her entirely to an occupation. Say, “my sister, who happens to be a usurer,” instead of “my sister the banker.” This will send the message that there is a difference between who people are (which always comes from God) and what they do (which may very well come from Satan).
- Love the banker but hate the bank: Bankers are people, and not all bankers are irresponsible speculators who caused the great recession of 2008. And even those who are deserve the love and respect that we owe all children of God.
And finally, I cannot stress enough that we should welcome usurers into our churches as long as they agree not to lend money at interest in the foyer. Bankers should not use Church facilities for their usurious practices, and moneylenders should not discuss their occupation from the pulpit during talks, lessons, or testimonies. We cannot allow Church time or property to be used in any way that even appears to endorse the practice of usury, or our children might get the idea that banking is an acceptable occupation in the eyes of God.
But let us not allow our disdain for their evil practices to cause us to act disagreeably. We’re Mormons, by golly, and that means we’re supposed to be nice to everybody.