1 And now there began to be a great curse upon all the land because of the iniquity of the people, in which, if a man should lay his tool or his sword upon his shelf, or upon the place whither he would keep it, behold, upon the morrow, he could not find it, so great was the curse upon the land.
2 Wherefore every man did cleave unto that which was his own, with his hands, and would not borrow neither would he lend; and every man kept the hilt of his sword in his right hand, in the defence of his property and his own life and of his wives and children.
A declining civilization is characterized by a lack of trust. Samuel the Lamanite prophesied to the Nephites that their possessions would become “slippery.” He told them that they would say, “Behold, we lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle. Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land” (Helaman 13:31, 34-35).
By the time of Mormon and his son Moroni, this prophecy of Samuel had been fulfilled. As Mormon wrote:
And these Gadianton robbers…did infest the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof began to hide up their treasures in the earth; and they became slippery, because the Lord had cursed the land, that they could not hold them, nor retain them again (Mormon 1:18).
As Moroni describes in the passage above, the same thing happened at the end of the Jaredite civilization. The people couldn’t trust each other, and so the whole concept of possessions became more restricted. If they left a tool or a weapon on a shelf, when they returned it would be gone. The only way to keep anything in their possession was to literally keep it in their hands. What a miserable way to live! We are all impoverished to the degree that we can’t trust each other and that we have to spend valuable time and energy safeguarding and protecting our possessions.
The Savior taught us not to allow ourselves to become attached to our earthly possessions:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (3 Nephi 13:19-21, Matthew 6:19-21).
To the degree that these Jaredites now had to spend all of their time guarding their few remaining earthly possessions, they were far from this ideal. Unfortunately, they were also fighting a losing battle, as evidenced by the series of kings, each of whom ruled only briefly before being killed and replaced: Shared (Ether 14:8-9), Gilead (Ether 14:10), and Lib (Ether 14:16). Why would anyone want to participate in such a system, in which everyone cared only for themselves, and therefore no one was able to prosper?
Today, I will be grateful for the trusting relationships in my life. I will seek to strengthen that trust, both by behaving in a trustworthy manner and by placing the welfare of other people ahead of my own selfish desires. I will remember that a strong sense of community is essential for our collective prosperity and safety.