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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

155: DECADENCE: DECLINE OF A SOCIETY

Next week is the one year anniversary of the dedication of the LDS Church's City Creek Center. In light of that I thought I would post some thoughts:

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Everyone knows why the Roman Empire fell. It became decadent. Decadence is a luxurious self-indulgence. It is often used to describe a decline of a society due to a focus on self and worldly gain instead of a focus of being self-less and helping those in need.

The Book of Mormon repeatedly point of the four things that will destroy a civilization. It is the lust for power, riches, popularity and the desires of the flesh. Nibley addresses this in his book "Approaching Zion."

Below is an image of City Creek Center. Visible in the photo is Tiffany's, the premiere store to buy gold and silver. In Alma 31:24 we read, "Now when Alma saw this his heart was grieved, for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; yea, he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods.


The antithesis and antagonist of Zion is Babylon. Its worldliness and its focus on the outer appearance all combine to make Babylon the symbol of decadent societies and spiritual bondage.

Babylon was, in the time of ancient Israel, a city which had become sensual, decadent, and corrupt.

Below are two billboards that are advertising the City Creek Gym. Now, I want to make it clear that the Church does not own the Gym (unlike the one it operated across from the Temple called Deseret Gym), but this new Gym is part of the City Creek Mall, and uses the tagline, The Gym at City Creek. These huge billboards are hard to miss and are located off of 500 South as you enter into downtown Salt Lake. Funny how I feel I should apologize for posting them, but these are advertisements drawing people to what has been justified as a place to beautify the surrounding area of the Temple. 



What do we worship? The God of Abraham?..or the god of this World?

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I found this talk given in General Conference in 1971.. over 40 years ago.

"Many thoughtful people are deeply concerned about the religious and social conditions that prevail in our society. It is the contention of some students of history and men of learning that our civilization is rapidly deteriorating and we are drifting into a decadent period of existence.

The thing that is needed more than anything else today is a return to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the gospel plan that he gave. Today, as perhaps seldom if ever before, civilization is in need of a knowledge of the true and living God. Yes, the cure for the ills that beset the world today is true religion. We need the humility of prayer, and a determination to learn God’s will and to keep the commandments that he has given. We need faith that our Savior lives, faith in his redeeming sacrifice. In other words,  Christ and his teachings should become the center of our lives.




Sidenote: 

I sent a letter over a year ago to the President Bishopric about my concerns about City Creek. I thought I would post the response letter I received: 
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Dear Brother,

I have been asked to respond to your letter to the Presiding Bishopric expressing concern about City Creek Center advertising.

When the project was first announced in October 2006, Church leaders were careful to explain that City Creek, as a mixed-use enterprise of office space, residences and retail stores, would operate under commercial business standards. They repeatedly made plain that City Creek is fundamentally different from the ecclesiastical properties at Church headquarters.

City Creek Reserve, Inc. (CCRI), a real estate investment arm of the Church, has sought to create a place of beauty and economic vitality that is welcoming to all Salt Lake City residents and visitors, whether members of the Church or not.  We have worked with our retail partner, Taubman Centers, Inc., with city leaders and with other downtown stake holders to design, construct and operate a combination of businesses that will revitalize and enhance downtown for decades to come.

In their advertising, Taubman is inviting a broad, diverse audience, many of whom are not Latter-day Saints, to come and enjoy this new shopping and dining destination. Taubman wants everyone to feel welcome, including those who interpret what is tasteful and acceptable in fashion and dining in ways that differ from Church teachings. Of course, Taubman must abide by state and city decency laws, but you can readily appreciate that standards required by law are not the same as Church standards.

Thank you for all you do to teach and uphold the standards of the Church in your calling and in leading your family

Sincerely,
Director, Communications and Marketing.
City Creek Reserve, Inc.
Joseph Smith Memorial Building
15 E. South Temple St. Rm 800
Salt Lake City, UT 84150

15 comments:

  1. I appreciate that the Church leaders were "careful to explain" that a fundamentally different standard would be allowed in their commerical endeavors. I am ok with it all now.

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  2. I wonder if the person writing the letter to you felt ashamed and embarrassed having to justify the practices of Church Leaders?

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  3. I noticed that the writer of the letter did not sign his name, only his position as director of marketing (or did you delete his name to save him the embarrassment of having to write this letter for the church?).

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    1. I deleted his name.. not to save him the embarrassement, but felt that was best.

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  4. Decline of a Society decribes this whole "Let's Go Shopping!!!" debacle very well. We have many many members of the church, both in the USA and around the world, who are hungry, sick, cold, and suffering to a great degree, but our supposed church of Christ turns away from them, literally, and builds a retail monument to excess and vainglory, and all I can see is that anyone who planned, approved, or supports this effort in any way is lusting after power, popularity, wealth, and a myriad of other things the Book of Mormon has repeatedly warned us about. My word, do our leaders in SLC even read that blessed book???

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  5. Boy, if that letter isn't the biggest "if you don't like it, you can suck it" response I've seen in a while, I'm not sure what is.

    The thing that puzzles me is that I thought that the Lord and the prophets (particularly those in the Book of Mormon) condemned this type of double standard. Seems like there was a word for it that started with the letter "H", but I may be mistaken.

    Love the blog -- keep up the good work.

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  6. Just keep repeating in my mind... "The Cleansing is coming..... The Cleansing is coming....."

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  7. hmmm, well--

    I live far away from SLC, and I can tell you that people "out here" are struggling, members, anyway--

    there is a lot of division; our ward is not unified at all. People are losing heart. I wouldn't generalize, but I know very few in our ward who aren't 'hanging on for dear life'--

    I know very few in our ward who aren't struggling with depression and discouragement.

    People in our area of the church matter, too, and this mall isn't helping anyone to feel encouraged about . . . the spiritual future of this church or the kingdom of God. It isn't discussed frequently, but when it has come up there is usually just silence. Nobody is defending it.

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    1. Yes, these are turbulent times. Charity, Love, and Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is paramount. Selfishness, Fear, and Reliance on Men will destroy us.

      "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost."
      2 Nephi 28:31

      Unfortunately, it is very difficult to put a moving train back on the tracks once it has derailed. It requires either an act of God, or the train needs to come to a complete stop.

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  8. What ever happened to the common sense shown in the Temple by Peter when someone we all know all too well mentions, "You can buy anything in this world for money" and Peter replies, "We have enough for our needs".
    Ah for the good old days when we were separated from Babylon and happy to be such!
    JR

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  9. The ever monetary minded Judas lamented and criticized the "waste" in oil used to anoint Jesus. "The poor ye always have with you," is a thing that comes very instructive, for those knowing the story.

    I hear people criticize the church and its leadership with the construction of what they term the "Hinckleynacle" (Conference Center.) These critics sit in lofty judgement and condemnation of money's spent, and perhaps with valid concerns. (Moroni 8 is valid, for example, speaking of we who "pollute the Holy Church of God.")

    The buildings of Zion, will surpass in grandeur anything presently found in the great capitals around the earth, be they gloriously constructed palaces, grand buildings, churches, parliament buildings, etc (Brigham Young spoke to this.)

    To my friends who condemn the "Hinckleynacle," I sit in awe and wonder if, as Zion is built, they will not constantly be found bemoaning every building, every favorable piece of art and architecture and the costliness thereof.

    What would they presume to be the alternative? Never advance in construction projects, for that money should be given to the poor?

    I'm not ever inspired or elevated by their commentary.

    In Brigham Young's day, think of the great evils of the construction of the extravagant Tabernacle? Think of the extravagance of the Mansion House in Nauvoo, which was intended to give a place for Joseph to entertain visitors to the city! Why not show virtue and host dignitaries on the bank of the Mississippi under a tree, touting the great care for the poor with money's that otherwise might be used for the construction of homes and temples?

    To those friends ever muttering under their breath criticism of the church, I feel to say:

    "Lead out! Lead out, I say. Please show the way to Zion. If you are doing the works of Jesus and it is manifest, then I shall follow your lead."

    In the meantime, they do not the works of Jesus in a magnificent fashion, but merely criticize and criticize, and criticize.

    I too, criticize---certainly the Latter Day Saints who too often are hostile to the very scriptural precepts they profess to believe in. I'm not here as a self-righteous man posting condemnation on the rest, but I feel tonight perhaps in a sour mood at the tone and "sackcloth and ashes" lamentation some dear friends speak to regarding church building projects.

    I don't discount this post and commentary having merit. But somehow it's lacking a spirit that elevates and inspires.

    To my friends who lament the "Hinckleynacle" and harp on current church leadership, I would find a powerful spirit with their message if it were one of charity. Do they pray for and plead with The Lord for the church leadership, even if, lets say, that leadership is off kilter, or even apostate? No. They are good at articulating flaws, but they themselves don't seem to be imbued with Charity, which is greatest of all and shall not fail, when everything else shall fail.

    The City Creek project has problems, and I recognize this. I'm left introspective to wonder how I should deal with it. I certainly don't want to be an "all is well in zion" type, blind to the things spoken of in scripture (Mormon 8.) But likewise, I hate to be party to an incessant criticism, which comes easy and natural to me. What might I share that elevates, inspires, imbues the Spirit of The Lord into the minds and hearts of others?

    I'm pondering this now.

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    1. I agree that we should have charity in our hearts for even apostate leaders, we should always hope & pray that everyone in the world repents.

      Yet, part of having Charity is not ignoring the errors, evil & falsehoods done & taught by church leaders.

      From the scriptures & history, we know that prophets are not perfect and they often fall and lead whole groups of people & churches astray with them.

      Thus just because Joseph or Brigham or today's leaders spent a lot of money on buildings, homes, or even temples, doesn't mean it was right or God's will. Christ taught that our tithes & offerings should go 1st & foremost to the poor. He taught that the whole essence & reason for religion is to teach us to take care of the widows & fatherless, the poor & needy. This is true charity. To cover for leaders & make excuses for them is not loving, helpful or Christlike, even to the erroneous leaders.

      I am sickened and saddened when I see such blatant & past feeling extravagance by the Church, especially when I think about how all of the fatherless single mothers I know, are being so ignored, neglected by leaders and even made to feel bad & guilty by their Bishops for asking for a little help from the Church to pay their light bill or a little food for their empty cupboards. While these same leaders totally support & reward the men who abused & abandoned these single mothers & don't make them support the wives & children they left behind, but instead roll out the red carpet for these men to remarry & do it again to another woman & her children.

      Charity is to warn others of evil when we see it. If evil is really happening around us it isn't criticism to point it out, it's loving service, it's doing what so many prophets like Samuel the Lamanite, Abinadi, Nephi, Moroni & so many others did, they spoke up about the evil they saw and thus tried to awake others to repent & not support it.

      When beautiful buildings and temples are being built in Zion it will be only after all the poor are taken care of 1st and none are going without. There will be no poor in Zion, that is why the people will prosper so much, for they will put 1st things 1st.

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    2. Charity never faileth. I know I lack.

      As far as your other comments. I was somewhat confused by your comments. Nothing in this post mentions the Conference Center, Hinkley, or the Tabernacle...The main point of the blog was showing examples of decadence, including imagery on billboards of a suggesive nature.

      Part of the duty of a teacher is to watch over the church always.. I think part of that is to point out things that are amiss. Does watching over the church mean to just lavish praise and compliments on our leaders and the church?

      David

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    3. @anonymous 10:25.

      You are right; it IS easy to criticize. I pray for the leaders of the church, and I feel true concern for them--

      and I don't want to condemn them; I don't condemn them; I just find myself speechless at everything--

      but I need to say that Judas did not care about the poor, and Jesus knew it--

      I don't remember that there was much poverty in Nauvoo either; the saints took care of their own quite well. I do know that my ancestors were better off there than they were after they went west--

      they had homes, property, farms; everyone had a chance at it--

      in Utah it was a lot more 'dog eat dog'--

      so . . . Joseph Smith did not live opulently--he was quite modest in his wants and needs--

      Brigham was another matter--

      but even though I see some major problems with Brigham . . . I don't have the right to condemn him either--

      But Judas wasn't thinking of the poor--

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  10. One difference between Joseph Smith's day and ours is that in Joseph's day, the church membership actually had a say in what happened.

    According to Rock Waterman over on the Pure Mormonism blog, quoting a couple of history books in his post http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2012/12/are-we-paying-too-much-tithing.html, Joseph and Sidney tried to give themselves a huge salary but the church membership lifted their voices against it and the salary was rescinded.

    We don't have that kind of say anymore. Get in line or get out. Your "vote" to sustain your leaders is not a vote at all but is just your chance to show that you sustain them. And we never get to vote on decisions like what our church president's salary ought to be.

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