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Half a Million Roubles. Is it Enough?

In early 1994 I went to Russia for the purpose of visiting a factory in Bryansk, which is located at the meeting point of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This was not a factory producing high tech military hardware, but something more prosaic but important for our modern world: diesel pile driving equipment, used in the construction of roads, bridges and buildings.

Below: a YouTube video of the inside of this plant.

Soviet diesel pile drivers on display. Did our intelligence services mistake these for a new missile technology?

These were the days when the Russian Mafia reigned supreme, so we had to be careful. The plan was for me and my representative to cross Moscow via car and metro to the Moscow Kievskaya train station, board for a six hour “overnight” train trip to Bryansk, spend the day there, and return as we came to Moscow. Except for our plans for avoiding the criminal element, this wasn’t a very difficult trip.

So we made our preparations. No US cash, no credit cards. I even switched my wedding band to my right hand. We were planning on travelling light, but we had to have some spending money. So, as we prepare to leave, my representative whips out a wad of Russian cash and asks me, “Half a million roubles. Is it enough?”

I was boggled by the question. Not even family trips with my mother to the Ritz-Carlton cost half a million. But here the currency had collapsed with communism; the exchange rate was about 1300 roubles to the US dollar. So we were only talking about US$385, which was a reasonable sum considering that much of our travel (especially by train) was subsidised by the government.

Some of you reading this live in a place where the currency is parcelled out with many zeroes. But it’s interesting to note that, to my knowledge, no currency started out that way. If we look at major currencies today, we see that all of them are either “substantial” in their value (dollar, euro, pound) or were at one time (yen, and of course the rouble itself.) But there is a greater lesson here.

If Islamicism has done one thing, it has put monotheism on the front page of the news, whether the secularists like it or not. (And they usually don’t.)  This is something, of course, that Islam has in common with Christianity and Judaism. But there are still many who believe that there is more than one god, in fact that there are many gods. The most important representative of this is Hinduism, where literally millions of gods are resident and demand worship of some kind.

But then there are those religions who take things a step further: they posit that it is possible for people to become gods. This was the first proposition that the serpent placed in front of Eve:


Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'””You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:1-5, from New International Version)

Becoming (or in some cases being) divine is a cornerstone of New Age religion; however, since everything is relative in this movement, it is sometimes hard to know what method will work. (At least the serpent presented a definite technique, albeit false.)

A religion with a more concrete game plan in this regard is Mormonism. This is odd in one respect, since the Book of Mormon itself is consistently monotheistic:


And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. And Zeezrom said unto him: Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being. Now Amulek said: O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations? Believest thou that there is no God? I say unto you, Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him. And now thou hast lied before God unto me. Thou saidst unto me–Behold these six onties, which are of great worth, I will give unto thee–when thou hadst it in thy heart to retain them from me; and it was only thy desire that I should deny the true and living God, that thou mightest have cause to destroy me. And now behold, for this great evil thou shalt have thy reward. And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God? And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No. (Alma 11:22-29)

As was the case with many things, Joseph Smith found a new revelation after he received the “fullness of the everlasting Gospel” (Doctrine and Covenants, 20:9 and 27:5, referring to the Book of Mormon.) In his “King Follett Discourse” (a funeral oration,) Joseph Smith stated that “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people in it,” and moreover “Here then is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God, and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves.” (Journal of Discourses, VI, 1-11) This began the concept that is enshrined in Lorenzo Snow’s mantra, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”

This is the promise of Mormonism; to make men gods. Their missionaries use this as an incentive, and portray this as superior to Christians’ promise of eternal life with the one true God. The problem is this: once you’ve made millions of men gods, what does it mean? How significant is that, even if you give them authority to rule, as Mormonism does?

A good illustration of this is the current situation in the United States Senate. Senate Majority Leader and Mormon Harry Reid, resplendent in his Temple underwear, wanted to get his and President Obama’s agenda through the Senate, if for no other reason than to show who’s boss. So why did someone who is waiting for deity have so much difficulty pulling this off? Because there are one hundred senators, and many of them didn’t agree with him! And one of these was none other than Temple Mormon Orrin Hatch! How can someone expect to rule with millions of other gods around when he couldn’t even rule over one hundred senators, and in many cases over all of those in his own party? Or his own religion?

This is the central problem with any system of belief that affirms the existence of more than one God; the more “gods” there are, the less meaningful the whole idea of deity becomes. Like the roubles we took to Bryansk, there may be many of them, but they’re not worth very much. Both Russian roubles and Mormon gods are the product of the same process: too many of each were “created” for the intended purpose. Religions such as New Age and Mormonism attempt to exalt humanity by debasing divinity, but they end up debasing both. As with currencies, we are better off with one God who is worth it all than many which are, individually and frequently as a group, worth very little. The promise of divinity doesn’t look all that good when seen in this light; it is a mirage that vanishes as we approach it.


Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9 from New International Version)

Socialist states love to trumpet their own successes, real or just propaganda. The collapse of the rouble left just about everyone in the Russian Federation with more than a million roubles (about US$770 in early 1994) of net worth. So I declared to my representative, “Seventy years of socialism, and everyone’s a millionaire!”

His response: “It was their greatest achievement!”


3 Replies to “Half a Million Roubles. Is it Enough?”

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