Dr. Kristin Matthews earned her PhD in American Literature from the University of Wisconsin after receiving her BA in English from BYU. She was the featured speaker at the Book of Mormon lecture Tuesday night Oct 6, 2015 even though she never received any diploma for thorough study of religion.
In her lecture titled, “Come into the Fold of God: Caring for the Poor and the Needy”‘ Matthews said her focused perspective of the teachings of the Book of Mormon was a collection of stories written to teach people how to become better disciples and followers of Christ.
“I am a student of stories,” Matthews said, “I’m drawn to those stories that help us understand the ways in which we can create a more human world.”
She also said she is drawn to the stories by those people who are denied a voice in their society. She said she seeks to give a voice to those people. As they struggle to be recognized as persons of value with something to contribute.
She explained the Book of Mormon has two audiences. The people of ‘its’ day and the people of ‘our’ day. She said she tries to perceive how the people of the former time received and followed the words of scriptures in their day and what the stories teach. She focused on what she saw as a theme in the Book of Mormon: poverty and social justice.
“I’ve come to believe that the ‘pride cycle’ to which Latter-day Saints so often refer is a misnomer,” Matthews said, “Rather, I believe it is a greed cycle.”
Matthews said while pride is what eventually destroys the people in the end, it is the result of the people’s’ greed not the cause. Greed for power, money, and authority that grew the peoples’ pride and led them to believe that because of their possessions they were above and greater than those with less.
She called this the fatal flaw.
“Book of Mormon prophets knew a primary problem of our times would be the privileging of wealth over God and His children,” Matthews said.
Matthews pointed out several occasions throughout the Book of Mormon where the people began to forget their God and cared about their material possessions over deity. They saw their belongings as their own and that they obtained them from their own strength, not as blessings from Heavenly Father.
Matthews gave Laman and Lemuel as examples of these feelings of entitlement. How they became angry and frustrated with their father and their God when they were commanded to leave all their possessions behind,and that they needed to go back and use their precious things to obtain the sacred brass plates from Laban.
They viewed those worldly possessions as their own and thought they were great because of those valuables. When really the things they possessed were from God and they had no entitlement to them at all.
She also used the people of King Noah who twisted, changed and used the Law of Moses to justify their actions of wickedness. Putting themselves above the law to help the poor, needy and the stranger. She explained that not only was this hypocrisy, but also apostasy. A deliberate forgetting of God in their lives.
Matthews mentioned that today, as in times of old, that anti-Christs proclaim it is good to seek worldly possessions and to put themselves above others and oppress the poor.
In a 1986 General Conference address Matthews cited, Elder Nelson said that on the multiple occasions that God reprimanded His people, almost always the first reason was because they had neglected the poor.
Matthews also said that most often, if not always, the reason that we see something repeated in the Book of Mormon is because it is important and we need to listen. This case being, we need to use our worldly goods to help the poor and needy.