Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Coping Techniques for Economic Cycles Planned into the Law of Moses

In modern times economists have noted a cycle that seems to occur every so often, about ever three to five years. There is a boom with prosperity and ready money and plenty of employment and good things, and then soon after there is a bust in which there is a surplus of over-production and then many people lose their jobs as it takes a while for the surplus to be used up. Keep this in mind as you read the following:
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord.
3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.
6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee,
7 And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat. (Leviticus 25:2-7)
20 And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase:
21 Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.
22 And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store. (Leviticus 25: 20-22)
This scripture suggested to me that Heavenly Father was well aware of this cycle and had His own way of handling it and even planned it into the religious observance of His ancient covenant people so that they would think of it not as a bad thing, but as a thing to be planned for and even an opportunity to become closer to the Lord and to increase personal righteousness through exerting faith and demonstrating charity.

I had an interesting realization. We’ve been counseled by the prophets for many many years that we should build up a year’s supply and a financial reserve. It may be that this is not just meant to save us from a sudden cataclysmic event that wipes out farms and transportation systems that bring us our food. It may be that this is how Heavenly Father has provided for us to deal with the boom-bust cycle of the economy so that we can be prepared and not fear during the periodic ups and downs. If we think of it this way, we can see that we need to be saving up and using the boom times to prepare for the bust times that will immediately follow.

Here’s something else I found.
8 ¶ And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
11 A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.
12 For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
13 In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.
14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another:
15 According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee:
16 According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee.
17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God.
18 ¶ Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.
19 And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety. (Leviticus 25:8-19)
Not only does it seem that Heavenly Father was aware of economic cycles, but it seems that Heavenly Father was well aware of the tendency for excessive debt to pile up over a few generations and since He is very interested in promoting freedom from bondage of all kinds, He appointed the 49th year as a jubilee with releasing from debts and reverting of lands, giving the downtrodden a fresh start. (There’s more on the specifics of Jubilee in Leviticus 25: 23-55, if you’re curious.)

The Jubilee year was a codified act of slate-clearing to return some equity to the people, since there was a tendency for the poor to get so deep into debt that they couldn’t get out and wealth would become more and more concentrated in the hands of a few. Other ancient nations had the practice of periodically “clearing the slate”, but it was usually at the whim of the ruler. The innovation of the Law of Moses to codify the slate clearing was that it could be planned for and anticipated, thereby being fair to both creditors and debtors. It was highly practical, not utopic.

The promise that the Lord gave for living the law of the Sabbath year and the Jubilee year was:
  • the people would dwell in the land safely,
  • the land would yield her fruit, and
  • the people would eat their fill.
That sounds similar to what we’ve been promised for building a year’s supply of food and a financial reserve, doesn’t it?

The Lord wants us to be free to be HIS servants. We can’t fully serve the Lord if we are in debt or bondage. The intent of all of this is to preserve our self-reliance so that we can serve the Lord freely, rather than be serving our debt.

It’s easy to think that a Jubilee is only something of an ancient practice and hasn’t been done it modern times, but I ran across a paragraph in the booklet “Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” on page 96 that said differently:
On 6 April 1880, Church members celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the organization of the Church. They called it a Jubilee Year, as the ancient Israelites had named every fiftieth year. President Taylor forgave many of the debts owed to the Church by its needy members. The Church also contributed 300 cows and 2,000 sheep to be distributed among its “deserving poor.” The Church’s Relief Society sisters donated almost 35,000 bushels of wheat to those in need. President Taylor also urged Church members to forgive individual debt, especially among the distressed. “It is the time of Jubilee!” he declared. A spirit of forgiveness and joy was strongly felt among the Latter-day Saints.
What do you think? Do you think the Latter-day Saints could do a Jubilee year in the present day?


Jennifer O. said...

Glad you brought up this topic.

I recently read an article at Meridian Magazine (link below) that detailed how 2008-2009 is the 70th Jubilee. The article had fascinating information including how living the Jubilee would have helped the Pioneer's drought problems in 1855. It also brought to light that modern-day apostle L. Tom Perry has spoken of it. The article further links the jubilee with economic conditions like you mentioned in your post (read the notes in the articles - fascinating!)

After reading this article last year, and realizing that, like the Sabbath, the jubilee celebration has never been recinded, my husband and I immediately decided we were going to celebrate the jubilee this year. We made a list of all the debts which people owed us, which was in the thousands of dollars. We called each person and explained that the debt was forgiven and would not need to be repaid. I was amazed at the reaction - many had told that they had been praying for financial relief, that they had been stressing over how to pay their debts. Others asked why and we were able to engage in missionary work through explaining the importance of the Jubilee. The greatest benefit, however, came from the feeling of LIBERTY that we felt in our family. Words cannot explain the liberation and feeling of peace that came, and we felt that we were given an added measure of the Spirit 100-fold.

I liked the comment in the article that someone had suggested that if we celebrated the Jubilee now, all of the nation's financial problems would be eliminated. It certainly shows that the Lord knows what is best, and that the higher laws of forgiveness, consecration, etc. truly bless all who are involved.

I now have a testimony of this principle of the jubilee and our family will continue to celebrate it along with other important festivals/feasts to help draw us closer to God.


Michaela Stephens said...

Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your experience! What an inspiration! I totally believe you about those blessings of declaring liberty too.

Does anyone have any other experiences with this? Does anyone else have the courage to try it?

Jennifer O. said...
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Michaela Stephens said...
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