In my last area in the city of Barranqueras one day we were clapping houses on a random street when we got to a house where there were an unusual number of dogs. After we clapped at the front gate a man came to the door and greeted us (along with all his dogs). We quickly explained who we were and said that we were sharing a message about Jesus Christ. He noticed the Book of Mormon that I had in my hand and asked if that was the book that we were selling. I informed him that we were not selling the book but if he would like to read it then we would let him have it for free.
He continued on as if I had not said anything and explained that he could not buy our book today because he didn't have any money right then (he explained that he had spent all his money on food for the dogs, apparently he had taken it upon himself to take care of all the strays in the neighborhood). I again told him that we were not selling anything and that he could have a book or a pamphlet for free and that we would never demand payment. He looked at us and said, "I know you want some money. I know how this works."
I again protested and said that we were not selling anything and we would not ask for money. We only wanted to talk to him about Jesus Christ and tell him about the Book of Mormon. He responded by saying, "I know you have your quota to fill and you have to sell a certain number of books. That is just what you do."
My companion asked him if he was getting us confused with the Jehovah's Witnesses and he said that he knew we were not the same people and that he had seen us pass by several times. We tried to explain a little more about what we did and our basic message, but he again insisted that he would not buy our book. We again told him that we were not trying to sell anything and that we were giving the Book of Mormon away for free.
He looked at us and with a slightly exasperated tone in his voice he again told us that he wouldn't buy our book and that he knew that we were just here talking to him because we were getting paid to do it. At this point my companion was also getting a little frustrated and he told him quite bluntly that we would never ask him to pay for anything, nor are we getting paid to do what we do. He interrupted my companion to ask him how much we were getting paid, to which my companion said that WE were PAYING to be here, we did not receive any money for our work.
The man responded by saying, "Oh you may not be paid right now but when you go home you will be given a position in your church where you will be paid. That is how it works, I know."
I told him that we did not get paid for our work and we would never be paid for our work and that the leaders in our church do not receive any money for their work. The man looked at us like we were stupid and said, "You have to get paid or have some guarantee of a future position where you are paid or you would never do what you do."
My companion looked at the man and said, "How can we explain to you that we do this because we want to and not because we are paid? We will give you a book for free and not ask for any money. We will talk to you and explain to you our message, and we will never ask for money."
To which the man responded, "You are planning on getting paid or of having some position in your church because of what you are doing. There is always money involved. It's always about money. I know you want some money for that book."
My companion, now thoroughly fed up with the man said, "If you really want to pay us for the book then you can give us 2 pesos [about $0.70] but we will give it to you for free."
At that point the man said, "See I knew you would ask for money! It's always about money."
We said goodbye and wished him and his 37 dogs a good day and continued on. We walked down the street and at the corner we paused to marvel at the man that we had just talked to. We concluded that he was just really off his rocker.
As I thought about that man I realized that I had actually met many more people like him. They may not have been as extreme in their view that it is always about money, but there were many people who for them everything was about money. They may not have been as fixated on money as that man was but still there was always this undercurrent in all they said and did that everything in life was about money. Everything.
There were people who were members of the Church who always seemed to find fault with the branch president or with other church leaders. When I asked them what was wrong and why they had problems with the church leaders they were always slightly evasive, but at some point in the conversation it would always boil down to money. Basically they would look for anything in the actions or manners of the branch president or bishop to complain about because he got to hold the tithing money and he got to disperse the tithing funds and fast offerings. They hungered after money, even if they only got to hold it. For them money was the purpose of existence and because it was their motivation in all things they assumed that it was the same for everyone.
For those who were fixated on money (let's call them money fixers) they could not conceive that anyone else would be motivated by anything other than money. To the money fixers it didn't make sense that we would give a book away for free or that we would not only not be paid as missionaries but that we would pay to be there. We may as well as told him that we were fish swimming in the ocean.
The reason why I thought of this experience is because I recently came across a blog of someone who has recently been excommunicated from the Church. In his blog he spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the scriptures and gospel topics. Based on what he has written it may be hard to understand why he was excommunicated. Several people have expressed disbelief that such a "spiritual man" would be excommunicated. But in a recent blog post of his I noticed a major red flag that makes me suspect that he is fixated on money.
He stated that the only reason why the Church was building temples was to increase tithing revenue. He said that the church leaders were taking a business approach to everything and were planning all temple construction around maximizing tithing revenue. For him it was all about money. There could be no other explanation, for why else would we build temples if not to drive tithing revenue? Like the man I met in Argentina because he assumed that everything the church leaders did was about money there is no argument, statement or fact that could convince him otherwise. Just like the line from the Simon and Garfunkel song The Boxer "Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."