In 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation instructing church leaders to organize themselves more fully to ensure that the needs of all church members could be met. In that revelation, the Lord taught the following principle:
If ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;Doctrine and Covenants 78:6
What does it mean to be “equal in earthly things,” and why is it a prerequisite for heavenly equality?
Book of Mormon prophets repeatedly decried the attitudes that follow naturally from economic inequality. Soon after arriving in their promised land, the people began to be divided into classes. The prophet Jacob observed that those who had more thought they were better than those who had less. He instructed them:
Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.Jacob 2:17
Alma gave up the office of chief judge because of the inequality he saw among his people. His specific concern was that the wealthy were “despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted” (Alma 4:12). He asked members of the church in Zarahemla, “will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another?” (Alma 5:54).
Obviously, we’re not all the same. To be equal does not mean to have the same personalities, the same capabilities, the same responsibilities, or the same possessions. But when we see people around us whose needs are not being met, we ought to see them as God sees them, as His children with infinite worth and potential. We ought to strive to give them opportunities to grow and excel. We ought to want to make sure that their basic needs are met, so that they are able to live and not just to survive.
Today, I will strive to see everyone around me as my equals and to act accordingly. I will remember the observation of Jacob and Alma that we are all equally valuable in God’s eyes, that no one is better than anyone else. I will also remember that equality is an essential characteristic of heaven, and that I prepare myself to enjoy heavenly equality by striving for earthly equality.