Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Epic quest for political tolerance in the Mormon Church

This post is going to be epic. As far as blogs go, it will be epic in length at least. 


I've been barraged by political posts and comments the past week and I was reminded of the importance of political understanding and tolerance especially within the church. A friend posted a talk from President Brown in which he said:
"Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent.”
This all reminded me of an email correspondence I had with a friend. The healthcare issue was hot at the time and he was very much against "Obamacare." After he was in a long debate with someone over it on a church outing, I tried to mediate in part by noting that in some ways the interface of my religious/political beliefs were articulated by President John Taylor. His stance was basically that all governments fall short and are sub-par compared to the Kingdom of God and we just need to make due. I sent him these links (here and here) to show him what I was talking about. What follows is the correspondence that developed as I sought to develop more political tolerance within a mormon theological framework:


Emails written to me are in Red.
Emails I wrote in response are in Blue.


Geoff,


Great stuff in the article. The gospel is a cure for more things than we people seem to realize. We seem to have created a variety of solutions to solve our problems . . . many of which are some sort of political system or something that ends in "ology" . . . when the gospel is, indeed, the best course of action. Sometimes it is difficult to see the correlation between some problem and the gospel as a solution, but adherence to the gospel at both the micro and macro level brings about miracles and other results that we can't completely comprehend. It seems to heal the individual, congregation, and society in the most wonderful way. I was glad to see this theme in the article.


Also, to circle back to the discussion on a nationalized system of health care, it seems that there are sections of this article that speak against it. First, that it is immoral to take what someone else has earned (though we can definitely debate what "earn" means, see Wall Street) and, second, that a redistribution of resources/new system of procedure isn't going to really improve anything. I don't think there is a country in the world that is full of healthy, happy people or non-existing or shrinking deficits. I have only been in Austria, Germany, Slovakia, and Ireland . . . my wife having been in China and Mexico and the countries I mentioned . . . and things aren't really better there. I would argue that they are worse . . .


However, I can only argue this from my point of view, which is perhaps an LDS point of view. This sheds light on perhaps why LDS people often are more conservative. Quite simply, it serves our needs and plays to our strengths. Despite the weaknesses and even wickedness that exist among LDS people, I would argue that they deserve freedom in high quantities. They deserve to accumulate resources. Most LDS people donate 10% of their money to the church, a fabulous organization that not only does a lot of humanitarian work, but spreads the same gospel John Taylor claims is the foundational solution to the unfortunate state of the world. Fast offerings increases this a few percentage points. The accumulation of resources also can lead to an increase of time; time that is used to, again, plant and grow the gospel cure mentioned by Taylor.


I also enjoy the notion that LDS people have the freedom, even though some do wicked things, to accumulate resources, not only for the day-to-day causes just mentioned, but for the future when reliance on each other will become stronger. I might buy a $6 million home if I were confident that I could sell it in 30 years for 12 million because I want to, if needed, have as much as I can to give to the church and its members, whether that be through the law of consecration later, a trip to Missouri, etc. Needless to say, I would not live in it! If I am ever rich, no one will ever know it. ;)


The unfortunate thing, as I saw in Austria and Germany, is if members are so strapped by taxes that they can barely get by, especially when one considers that their money is probably better spent in their own hands than in their elected officials (unfortunately) because the members have the solution, as Taylor suggests. Because of natural law, the natural man, secret combinations, and other means, their money may not even get to where it was intended to go and, as mentioned by Taylor, is not leading toward the real solution, rather (circling back to our health care discussion) providing some sort of health care, that may or may not make sense, that may or may not be "deserved" (God be the judge), and, ultimately does not solve any long-term problem.


In short, it is the kingdom of God that is needed and, although any and every government has strengths and weaknesses, the one that seems to play to the strengths of bringing about this kingdom is less involvement by people that don't have the solution(s) (elected officials/politicians), less resources being funneled their way and, likewise, more involvement and resources found among those who are fortunate enough to have the solution.


I guess this is why I value freedom more than lives, mine included. The gospel needed to be restored in a free land so it can work its magic . . . long-term, for the whole world. So, in this light, the value assigned to lives, especially mortal ones, becomes more clear. I mean, there are many things worth suffering and dying for. So, when we are talking about just health care, to an approximate 15% of the country who are without great means to get it (especially when there is reason to believe that this already small number has been inflated), I have a hard time seeing why we would even flinch. Plus, on top of this, it isn't going to work, as Taylor suggested. Austria and Germany had health care problems and had difficulty affording and administering it when I was there. On a lighter note, I thought it was kind of sad that people often didn't think to put Neosporin and a band-aid on a cut . . . they just went to the hospital. To them, it seemed that such things were not really within the realm of the home, rather the hospital and, by extension, the government.


Anyway, I still think that we should just do what we know is right and try to preserve as much freedom and liberty as we can, even if others are evil and do terrible things with it. In the end/last days, I think it would be nice to have money, resources, and, dare I say, power to fight for the kingdom of God as opposed to watching governments, having just spent years and years taking and taking from it citizens, squander those resources, crumble, and leave its citizenry empty-handed. Simply stated, more freedom in the hands of LDS people (ones with the potential to distribute to cure, as Taylor suggests) is better than freedom limited by taxes and elected officials who, ultimately, are mostly clueless when it comes to the purpose of the earth and mortality.


Oh yeah, here are some quotes. They are all either right on, or at least in the same vein of what I was trying to say. I'm pretty sure they all fall in the categories of "general conference" or "first presidency," with a few exceptions. Some of these come from talks that are worth reading in their entirety, particularly the one by J. Reuben Clark outlining the differences between socialism/communism and the united order. I would be interested in any similar quotes/talks that suggest that increased government/welfare is something that LDS members should support and pursue. Here we go:


"The history of the world with all its contentions and strife is largely an account of man's effort to free himself from bondage and usurpation.


Man's free agency is an eternal principle of progress, and any form of government that curtails or inhibits its free exercise is wrong. Satan's plan in the beginning was one of coercion, and it was rejected because he sought to destroy the agency of man which God had given him.


When man uses this God-given right to encroach upon the rights of another, he commits a wrong. Liberty becomes license, and the man, a transgressor. It is the function of the state to curtail the violator and to protect the individual. (President David O. McKay Oct. 1965)




"Force rules in the world today. Individual freedom is threatened by international rivalries and false political ideals. Unwise legislation, too often prompted by political expediency, if enacted, will seductively undermine man's right of free agency, rob him of his rightful liberties, and make him but a cog in the crushing wheel of regimentation." (President David O. McKay Oct. 1965)




"Pernicious efforts and sinister schemes are cunningly and stealthily being fostered to deprive man of his individual freedom and have him revert to the life of the jungle. With faith in the revealed word of God, let all true believers in individual freedom cherish the spiritual ideals of the Christ, and ever strive to make real the dream that all men shall be free, and that some day many nations will unite, not for war, but for peace and the establishing of the kingdom of God on earth." (President David O. McKay Oct. 1965)




"These defamers say that the Constitution, and our government under it, are outmoded; not responsive to present-day conditions of life and living; not sufficient to meet and solve present-day problems; and that we need a modern, up-to-date system of government. They let us know what should be done to meet their ideas and plans, which seem always to run to despotism.
I have observed that numbers of these defamers take advantage to the utmost of every liberty and freedom created and protected by the Constitution in order to destroy it and its guarantees, so to make easy the setting up of a tyranny that would deprive the common man of his freedom and liberties under it, so permitting these defamers to set up a government that would give place, power, and privilege to them in a despotism to be imposed upon the mass of mankind." (J. Reuben Clark Jr. April 1957 General Conference)




"Furthermore, under our form of government, we the people of the United States, as the Preamble to the Constitution declares, formed this government. We alone are sovereign. We are wholly free to exercise our sovereign will in the way we prescribe. The sovereignty is not personal, as under the Civil Law. The Constitution expressly provides the only way in which we may change our Constitution. We may well repeat again: We the people have all the powers, we have not delegated away to our government, and the institutions of government have such powers and those only as we have given to them. The total residuum of powers, including all rights and liberties not given up by us to Federal or State Governments, is still in us, to remain so till we constitutionally provide otherwise." (J. Reuben Clark Jr.
April, 1957)




"Today, brethren, we are in danger of actually surrendering our personal and property rights. This development, if it does occur in full form, will be a sad tragedy for our people. We must recognize that
property rights are essential to human liberty. Former United States Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland, from our own State [Utah], carefully stated it as follows: "It is not the right of property which is protected, but the right to property. Property, per se has no rights; but the individual --the man--has three great rights, equally sacred from arbitrary interference: the right to his life, the right to his liberty, and the right to his property. The three rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life, but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes life worth living. To give him liberty, but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave." (From George Sutherland's speech before the New York State Bar Association, January 21, 1921.) (President David O. McKay, Oct. 1962 General Conference)




"No, brethren, socialism is not the United Order. However, notwithstanding my abhorrence of it, I am persuaded that socialism is the wave of the present and of the foreseeable future. It has already taken over or is contending for control in most nations. We here in the United States, in converting our government into a social welfare state, have ourselves adopted much of socialism. Specifically, we have to an alarming degree adopted the use of the power of the state in the control and distribution of the fruits of industry. We are on notice according to the words of the President, that we are going much further, for his is quoted as saying: "We're going to take all the money we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the 'haves' and give it to the 'have nots.'" (1964 Congressional Record, p.6124, Remarks for the President to a Group of Leaders of Organizations of Senior Citizens in the Fish Room, March 24, 1964.) Socialism takes: United Order gives That is the spirit of socialism: We're going to take. The
spirit of the United Order is: We're going to give. We have also gone a long way on the road to public ownership and management of the vital means of production. In both of these areas the free agency of Americans have been greatly abridged. Some argue that we have voluntarily surrendered this power to government. Be this as it may, the fact remains that the loss of freedom with the consent of the enslaved, or even at their request, is nonetheless slavery." (Elder Marion G. Romney, April 1966 General Conference)




". . . That we will develop the understanding, the desire, and the courage born of the Spirit, to eschew socialism and to support and sustain, in the manner revealed and as interpreted by the Lord, those just and holy principles embodied in the Constitution of the United States for the protection of all flesh, in the exercise of their God-given agency." (Elder Marion G. Romney, April 1966 General Conference




"Personal unrighteousness can lead toward a welfare state. What is the real cause of this trend toward the welfare state, toward more socialism? In the last analysis, in my judgment, it is personal unrighteousness. When people do not use their freedoms responsibly and righteously, they will gradually lose these freedoms. If man will not recognize the inequalities around him and voluntarily, through the gospel plan, come to the aid of his brother, he will find that through "a democratic process" he will be forced to come to the aid of his brother. The government will take from the "haves" and give to the "have nots." Both have lost their freedom. Those who "have," lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who "have not," lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got "something for nothing," and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift. Under this climate, people gradually become blind to what has happened and to the vital freedoms which they have lost." (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 169.)


“There would be a further huge expansion of government and of its control over our economy, education, medical services, and every detail of our family and individual lives. During such a period, it is reasonable to expect — unless sufficient brakes are put on the present stampede to the left, we will get exactly what the communist-socialist coalition is planning– the nationalization of insurance, transportation, communications, utilities, banks, farms, housing, hospitals, and schools. To take over our schools, the educational system will first have been federalized and then prostituted entirely to serving the propaganda needs of the state planners with absolutely no regard for truth or scholarship or tradition.”
Ezra Taft Benson, Address at BYU in 1966, published in 1993 in "An Enemy Hath Done This." 


I despise Deseret Book . . . so I don't see this as undebatable doctrine, but he was an apostle when he said it and a prophet when published it, so the chances of it being wrong or bad, though not 0%, is probably small.


"These systems [public welfare] rely for their financial resources upon public treasuries which are fed out of the taxation of the people. The donor thus becomes not a voluntary giver but a compelled giver. Between him and the beneficiaries of his contribution there is no bond, hence the character building value which attends voluntary responses to the cry of the need is lost… On the other side the beneficiary of aid paid under the mandate of law is all too likely to forget the sense of gratitude which should well up in the heart of one man who receives voluntary rendered succor. Instead he is all too apt to fall into the habit of thinking that he is getting only what is of personal right his and in that spirit to become demanding and grasping for more and greater bestowals…"(Albert E. Bowen, Apostle, Church Welfare Plan, 1946)


"I have had some of the most insulting letters that ever came to me, condemning me for not being in favor of the Townsend Plan [proposal for Social Security], and that I must be ignorant of the plan. I am not ignorant of the plan. I have not read every word of it, but I have asked one of my secretaries to read every word of the plan and to give me the important points, and to my mind it is in direct opposition to everything I have quoted from Brigham Young and from the revelations of the Lord. The idea of allowing every man and woman who has reached the age of sixty years and wishes to retire from working to get two hundred dollars a month from the government!" (Heber J. Grant, Conference, October 1936)


"Satan argued that men given their freedom would not choose correctly; therefore he would compel them to do right and save us all. Today Satan argues that men given their freedom do not choose wisely; therefore a so-called brilliant, benevolent few must establish the welfare government and force us into a greater socialist society." (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference, April 1965)


"Today two mighty forces are battling for the supremacy of the world...Those forces are known and have been designated by different names throughout the ages. 'In the beginning' they were known as Satan on the one hand, and Christ on the other...In these days, the are called 'domination by the state,' on one hand, 'personal liberty,' on the other hand; communism on one, free agency on the other." (President David O. McKay as quoted by Ezra Taft Benson, Conference, April 1965)


"Reduced to its lowest terms, the great struggle which now rocks the whole earth more and more takes on the character of a struggle of the individual versus the state..." (J. Reuben Clark as quoted by Ezra Taft Benson, Conference, April 1965)


"We who hold the priesthood must beware concerning ourselves, that we do not fall in the traps he lays to rob us of our freedom. We must be careful that we are not led to accept or support in any way any organization, cause or measure which in its remotest effort, would jeopardize free agency, whether it be in politics, government, religion, employment, education, or in any other field. It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support. We must be right!" (Marion G. Romney, Conference, October 1960)


"Today the devil as a wolf in a supposedly new suit of sheep's clothing is enticing some men, both in and out of the Church, to parrot his line by advocating planned government guaranteed security programs at the expense of our liberties. Latter-day saints should be reminded how and why they voted as they did in heaven...and cease promoting this subversion." (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference, October 1961)


"WE ARE not given the step-by-step backsliding of this Jareditic civilization till it reached the social and governmental chaos the record sets out, but those steps seem wholly clear from the results. Put into modern terms, we can understand them. First there was a forsaking of the righteous life, and the working of wickedness; then must have come the extortion and oppression of the poor by the rich; then retaliation and reprisal by the poor against the rich; then would come a cry to share the wealth which should belong to all; then the easy belief that society owed every man a living whether he worked or not; then the keeping of a great body of idlers; then when community revenues failed to do this, as they always have failed and always will fail, a self-helping by one to the goods of his neighbor; and finally when the neighbor resisted, as resist he must, or starve with his family, then death to the neighbor and all that belonged to him. This was the decreed "fulness of iniquity." "(Prophecies, Penalties, And Blessings -- J. Reuben Clark, Jr. of the First Presidency, Improvement Era, 1940, Vol. Xliii. July, 1940. No. 7 )


"As God’s children all, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, we must as a matter of spiritual responsibility and pursuant to positive divine command care for the helpless, the unfortunate, and the needy. Furthermore it is essentially a neighbor to neighbor obligation. It is not a function of civil government. This is fundamental.." (The First Presidency, excerpt from a Letter to the US Treasury, 1941)


"Viewing all of these things it will be easy for you to understand that the Church has not found it possible to follow along the lines of the present general tendency in the matter of property rights, taxes, the curtailment of rights and liberties of the people, nor in general the economic policies of what is termed the “New Deal”. The great bulk of what these people are trying to do is, in final analysis, absolutely contrary to the fundamental principles of which we have spoken. It is the considered, long considered opinion of President Grant and those who are associated with him, that our nation cannot be preserved if the present governmental policies shall continue." (The First Presidency, excerpt from a Letter to the US Treasury, 1941)




Well, to address this last email I'm going to try and reiterate points you made.  I've found this is usually good to do at the start, that way you know that all following points I make are based on these assumptions I made about what you said.  I could be wrong on what I think you said, so feel free to correct me.

1. It is immoral to take what someone else has earned
2. A redistribution of resources isn't going to help anything
3. The Gospel is the real solution
4. Members, when free to accumulate large sums of money are able to do more good than others or government

So I'm going to try and address most of the quotes and points generally.  I found that when I try to address every minuscule point, emails get long and break off into thousands of tangents.

We both agree with number 3 whole-heartedly.

I agree with your number 1.  You were right though that we can argue about what it means to earn.  I feel that (somewhat analogous to the gospel, although that analogy falls apart if taken too far) there is a fine line between what we personally earn and a combination of the benefits we receive from being a part of this society and luck.  Luck plays an incredibly large role.  Now I say this assuming that luck also can mean blessings from God.  You still didn't earn it under that definition and God expects us to do what King Benjamin said about the poor.  http://scriptures.lds.org/en/mosiah/4/19-22#19  (in fact, King Benjamin's interpretation is that we can't ever earn anything, it's always thanks to God and we are to use it to care for the poor)

In response to number 2, I'd just say I disagree and point to these:  http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/49/19-20#19  http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/104/18#18  You could argue people are meant to voluntarily do these things.  Granted, we legislate other moral issues which people should use their own agency to follow, but again, that is another issue and also a matter on which I think intelligent people can easily disagree.

Number 4 might be ok, but the truth is Mormons are very middle class.  We have very little poor, in large part due to our added layer of welfare over and above what people can get from the government. We also have less rich people.  http://pewforum.org/uploadedimages/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/Christian/Mormon/Mormons6.gif  If we had way more rich people, then I could see going with your more Laissez Faire approach.  Given that we have less rich people than the American average, and given current trends of the rich acquiring waaaaay more wealth than the rest of the country, I'd say letting it continue would be unwise.  http://www.slate.com/id/2266025/entry/2266026/

In fact, Brigham Young and other church leaders noted that when we have such a large gap between rich and poor in society, society has less freedom.  Here are some selections from an Apostolic Circular in 1875:

"The experience of mankind has shown that the people of communities and nations among whom wealth is the most equally distributed, enjoy the largest degree of liberty, are the least exposed to tyranny and oppression and suffer the least from luxurious habits which beget vice. Under such a system, carefully maintained there could be no great aggregations of either real or personal property in the hands of a few; especially so while the laws, forbidding the taking of usury or interest for money or property loaned, continued in force.
One of the great evils with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. The very liberties for which our fathers contended so steadfastly and courageously, and which they bequeathed to us as a priceless legacy, are endangered by the monstrous power which this accumulation of wealth gives to a few individuals and a few powerful corporations. By its seductive influence results are accomplished which, were it more equally distributed, would be impossible under our form of government. It threatens to give shape to the legislation, both State and National, of the entire country. If this evil should not be checked, and measures not taken to prevent the continued enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and the painful increase of destitution and want among the poor, the nation is likely to be overtaken by disaster; for, according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the sure precursor of ruin."
So yeah, while I'm weary of the possibility of government oppression which would limit freedom, I'm also worried that "[t]he very liberties for which our fathers contended so steadfastly and courageously, and which they bequeathed to us as a priceless legacy, are endangered by the monstrous power which this accumulation of wealth gives to a few individuals and a few powerful corporations."  As you can see with the slate.com article I cited above, the reality is we're living in a society like that right now.  So while I am afraid of the possibility of the government being oppressive, I'm more concerned with the immediate threat from private individuals and from corporations.  A great example of this is the recent Supreme Court decision on citizens united, where corporations (to which foreigners can contribute) can now use unlimited funds to donate in elections.  I think that as Brigham said a these must be "checked, and measures [need to be] taken to prevent the continued enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and the painful increase of destitution and want among the poor, [or] the nation is likely to be overtaken by disaster; for, according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the sure precursor of ruin."

With regards to your interpretations of what President Taylor said, I was trying to find where Pres. Taylor said "that it is immoral to take what someone else has earned," but I couldn't find it.  I assume you were referring to the following two passages:
Passage 1


"There is also another political party, who desire, through the influence of legislation and coercion, to level the world. To say the least, it is a species of robbery; to some it may appear an honorable one, but, nevertheless, it is robbery. What right has any private man to take by force the property of another? The laws of all nations would punish such a man as a thief. Would thousands of men engaged in the same business make it more honorable? Certainly not. And if a nation were to do it, would a nation’s act sanctify a wrong deed? No; the Algerine pirates, or Arabian hordes, were never considered honorable, on account of their numbers; and a nation, or nations, engaging in this would only augment the banditti, but could never sanctify the deed. " 
This refers to the Republican Party.  The Republican party platform when it was first established was to:
1. Abolish Slavery, and 
2. Abolish Polygamy.
At this time, many laws were being passed which were crafted to only apply to Mormons which would allow the government to take the church's money, buildings, etc.  This passage refers to a minority group being attacked by the majority through legislation.  Allowing the public to vote on taxes is different than taking over a minority group's property.


Passage 2
"Wealth is generally the representation of labour, industry, and talent. If one man is industrious, enterprising, diligent, careful, and saves property, and his children follow in his steps, and accumulate wealth; and another man is careless, prodigal, and lazy, and his children inherit his poverty, I cannot conceive upon what principles of justice, the children of the idle and profligate have a right to put their hands into the pockets of those who are diligent and careful, and rob them of their purse. Let this principle exist, and all energy and enterprise would be crushed. Men would be afraid of again accumulating, lest they should again be robbed. Industry and talent would have no stimulant, and confusion and ruin would inevitably follow."
This needs historical context.  Just reading this without it, it does seem that this implies that we can't have taxes going to welfare.  This was written 3-4 years after a wave of revolutions swept through Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolution_of_1848  Pres. Taylor is talking about individuals rising up and stealing from the rich.  The idea being that even though it was unjust that the poor in those countries were starving to death, they aren't justified in stealing from the Bourgeoisi (let alone be-heading them as was happening).  This is more a statement of the importance of government stability than anything else and doesn't say much about taxation and welfare.
As for there being an 'LDS view' in politics, there is an interesting history to that.  I'm not sure how much of the following you're aware of, but I'd imagine you know about at least most of it.  After President Woodruff received the Manifesto ending polygamy, the church continued pursuing statehood for Brigham's old proposed state of Deseret.  The leaders knew that Utah probably wouldn't be admitted if the church was still viewed as a monolithic bloc of all democrats, so they began assigning people to be Republican, and also asking for volunteers.  Elder Jensen of the seventy "repeated an anecdote told by prominent LDS Democrat Oscar McConkie about his father's recollections of a church leader telling a congregation during a Sunday morning meeting to "sign up to be Republicans."  When members of the flock returned for an afternoon session, the Republican sign-up sheet remained blank, Jensen said. "Brothers and sisters, you have misunderstood," said the church leader. "God needs Republicans." "And Oscar said his father would wink and say, `And you know, Oscar, those damned Republicans think they've had God on their side ever since,' " Jensen said."
As you're well aware, in the early days of the church, the leaders glorified the fact that we were different and peculiar.  We scoffed at Christians and their trinitarian view.  Early leaders taught of a finite God with body, parts, and passions.  This emphasis on our differences with everyone else changed in the early 20th century.  The church began to put much more emphasis on our similarities with the rest of Christianity.  We lost the beards, garments changed ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_garment#Post-19th_century_modifications_by_the_LDS_Church ), the "oath of vengence" was discontinued ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Vengeance), just to name a few of the changes.  This was happening the same time that the USSR came into being.  Now, imagine you are hearing about the law of consecration for the first time and also hearing of the Soviet Union.  There are many similarities, especially when you ignore the religious aspects and simply look at the money.  While the law of consecration wasn't communism, it was a form of communalism.  So given that the church was moving to be more integrated with society (which was inspired, we're much more effective at accomplishing the purposes of the church when we are a functioning part of society) it made obvious sense to try and downplay the similarities between the two.  Not to mention that the USSR was a declared Atheist country.  Given that Brigham and early church leaders taught that Jesus was conceived by God the Father having sex with Mary, you could see how Christians would consider us closer to Atheism than Christianity.  It would have been easy (especially with quotes like the one from Brigham et al. about the dangers of capitalism I quoted above) to insinuate that Mormons were communist.  So wouldn't it make sense for leaders during the time of the USSR to express displeasure with communism?

An even more important point here is that we have living prophets.  We need them to give us guidance for our unique time and circumstances.  During the time of the Soviet Union, the church leaders made distinctions between our faith and an Atheistic governmental system, even though there were many economic similarities.  This possibly helped the saints not to think they should join the communist party even though it shares some features with the law of consecration.

I'll also note here that we don't believe, as the Catholics do, that our leaders are infallible.  They can and do make mistakes.  None of them will cause the church to fail in its purposes.  So the church leaders can have their opinions about politics and be wrong, and it frankly doesn't matter (like I said, I like the almost apathetic approach of John Taylor that in the end, all political systems we have suck)
Here's some interesting history of the church and various political parties:
"In their eagerness to coexist with the [Nazi] government, American officials of the German Church resorted to public relation efforts . . . Probably the clearest example of this tendency is an article by West German Mission President Alfred C. Rees entitled 'In the Land of the Mormons.' The article appeared in a special issue of the Nazi Party organ Der Volkische Beobachter dated April 14 1937. In the Editor's Preface to the article, President Rees is called 'the representative of the Church in Germany,' who 'paints for our readers a portrait of Mormonism today, a church which views the New Germany with sympathy and friendship.' Whether President Rees originally wrote the article in German or not, the language of the piece abounds in such loaded terms as Volk and Rasse, and a picture of Brigham Young bears the caption, 'Fuhrer der historischen Mormonenpioniere.' But the significance of these linguistic gaffes is magnified by hindsight. More disturbing is the way President Rees blatantly parallels Mormonism with Nazism. As Rees warms to his topic, Mormonism begins to sound like a fulfillment of Nazi teachings, providing 'the practical realization of the German ideal: "the common good takes precedence over the individual good."' Rees concluded by assuring his readers that 'Mormons are people who put this healthy doctrine into action.' Reading articles such as this, it would have been easy for a German Saint to mistakenly conclude that the seal of official Church approval had been placed on the Nazi regime."



Dec 9,1933 - Church News article "Mormonism in The New Germany," enthusiastically emphasizes parallels "between the LDS Church and some of the ideas and policies of the National Socialists." First, Nazis have introduced "Fast Sunday." Second, "it is a very well known fact that Hitler observes a form of living which Mormons term the Word of Wisdom. Finally, due to the importance given to the racial question by Nazis and the almost necessity of proving that one's grandmother was not a Jewess, there no longer is resistance against genealogical research by German Mormons who now have received letters of encouragement complimenting them for their patriotism."
Jan 25,1936 - Church News Section photograph of LDS basketball team in Germany giving "Sieg Heil: salute of Nazi Party.
This is a pretty good summary of church political associations with socialism:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints#Mormonism_and_the_national_debate_over_socialism_and_communism Elder Ezra Taft Benson held many extreme-right-wing views.  He thought Dwight Eisenhower was a communist, he thought the fluoridation of water was a communist plot, and he thought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement was.... you guessed it a communist and communist plot.  http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/ezra-taft-benson-and-mlk/ President N Eldon Tanner had a long political career in Canada's socialist party http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Eldon_Tanner Also, about a decade ago, the church asked Elder Jensen of the 70 to speak in behalf of the church about the lack of political diversity, and surprise, he said we need waaay more of it.  http://www.utahcountydems.com/content/view/178

Plus there is the political neutrality statement http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/official-statement/political-neutrality

My point?  We have a long history in the church of diverse political views.  As the church recently said, principles of the gospel can be found all across the political spectrum.  So while you did give a good list of quotes backing your political views, I hope this overview of political diversity in the church illustrates that I could also arrange quotes from church leaders to back the political views of Nazis, Socialists, and everything in between http://cdn.okcimg.com/graphics/politics/chart_political.gif
Well, I hope you know that I respect your opinions and think that rational people can have large disagreements on how things should be.  I also must say that I appreciate your honesty and willingness to accept fact.  Not many people who don't want socialized medical are willing to accept well established facts that it would be much more economic.  http://andrewgelman.com/movabletype/mlm/healthscatter2.png
Geoff,




Brilliant stuff. You don't know how long I have waited to be provided such a perspective as to why there is legitimacy to the democratic party, socialism, government welfare, etc. While we are both aware that there are a variety of naive members who are conservative because their parents were, everyone else is, or because of one issue like abortion, I have also, unfortunately, only bumped into to more liberal-leaning people who can't give me any more justification for their position than "meanness and sadness:" it's mean to force someone to be pregnant, it sad that some people don't have insurance and those selfish rich people aren't worthy of keeping their stuff, etc. I have never been able to get any sort of deeper, doctrinal basis for their positions. Most often, they just end the conversation. There is one I am trying to have with someone else as well. She took five weeks to respond and still hasn't responded to my last e-mail. All this time, I have just been trying to understand. Though, with her, she's a social worker and doesn't really have anything more to offer than, "health care is a right because sickness, suffering, and death is so unpleasant." Up until this point, I have concluded that people who believe in welfare, national health care, etc., are really just people who can't accept many of the harsh realizations of mortality and, to cope with this, fight against it their whole lives, doing anything necessary to change the natural laws of the world . . . one approach being taxing the rich. So, I was quite thrilled when I scrolled through your e-mail and their was actually some substance to it . . . and later went back and read it when I had the time.


There are some things you said that were great, others that I am not interested in, not because they are bad, but because they just aren't my language or I do not value them. There's one clarification and two questions. I'll start with the parts I am less interested in . . . in my quest for greater understanding of these issues. You probably would agree that they were not your favorite parts of your e-mail as well.


1. Democrats/socialists in leadership positions. I assume that there are LDS people who are democrat and that being so would not prevent them being a general authority of the church because the church is politically neutral. So, I am more interested in what President James E. Faust (democrat) says as a leader than how Brother James Faust votes in his personal life. However, this does thwart the notion that the more you understand the gospel more likely you are to become, well, less democrat/socialist . . . because we assume that such leaders know the gospel well and were still democrat.


What I do find intriguing is what such leaders actually do say about politics when fulfilling their roles as leaders. As I have gathered up talks and quotes, I have yet to find any that suggest, even among those non-conservative leaders, that suggest that big government/welfare is something LDS people should pursue. As for sources, I like to be pretty stringent . . . I prefer prophets and apostles at conference or first presidency statements because then there is less debate about the validity of their comments. I have known of mission presidents, temple presidents, and general authorities who done/said ridiculous things . . . and even Elder McConkie, an apostle, got the whole "blacks and the priesthood" thing wrong, so I don't respect Deseret book very much, really. You two are obviously big respecters of conference as well, so I have really wanted to see some talks/quotes by prophets/apostles at conference that support such claims. I'll even take just a prophet or apostle at any venue as starters. As of now, there are about 50 or so conference quotes by prophets/apostles in conference that are a few-minute Google search away suggesting that this is not something that God would have us support. So, how they vote personally is of less interest to me.


2. Results, in this context, are not my language either. I thought your chart at the end was cool, and I don't doubt that it is accurate. But for me, my lack of interest in results is two-fold. One, I am most interested in whatever freedom and liberty produces. So, if in America, the most free land in the world, our bubble landed where it is on your chart, then so it is and, again, I don't doubt it. Economic efficiency is not what I value, nor is life expectancy, unless it is reached by the people, on their own without force, you know the drill. Likewise, if income inequality is also reached . . . I don't know, maybe I am evil . . . but I am okay with it (even though I will probably be on the poorer side with my seems-to-be-worthless M.A. HA HA). I just want as much freedom as possible to make my choices and accept the consequences of them, now and at the judgement . . . even if that freedom enables someone else to blow up my house. I guess I am just okay with seeing how things work out, even though it is/will be rather scary. Second, even if I knew of a country that was perfectly communist and everything was just perfect, I think it the issue then becomes that of priesthood authority. I would compare it to, perhaps, a baptism that is just like an LDS baptism in every way, even in a church building, but there is no priesthood authority. So, I think the law of consecration, or such forms of government that collects all resources, redistributes, etc. requires the priesthood authority of God. To me, the phrase "No man taketh this honor unto himself" applies to the establishment of a United Order (or something similar) more than perhaps anything else (maybe not sealing for time and eternity . . . who knows . . . that's a tangent). My point is that I feel that if God would have us do that, his Church leaders would do it, or the inspired constitution would have prescribed it.


Now on to the things I liked.


1. The Brigham Young quote was legit. I think it basically speaks to why a United Order prevents people from becoming rich, much like some of your DC scriptures suggest (yes, I think voluntary is all over all the verses you cited). In reality, in an ideal society, in a United Order, there would be and are checks to keep people from having more than another. Again, I can't say how pumped I was that you sent that. As to how I would interpret it, I think my logic would go as follows. First, ideally this is referring to the Law of Consecration. However, we don't have that, so I assume there would be some relevance to what he is saying in our current systems of government. So, what would that relevance be? I think (and probably you think) that the various governments around the world could start implementing such checks. Honestly, in many cases I would not have issues with that. I would interpret that as, "We are taking some of the brilliance of the Law of Consecration and applying some of those principles in our systems." But I really do believe, as some of the quotes I sent suggested, that secret combinations abound in Washington D.C. big time. So, truly, my number one priority is less power and influence in D.C., to politicians from any party. Hence, I wouldn't try it today. I have always said that if I could have a super power, it would be to be undetectable so I could follow the man in charge around and see what is really going down. So, although I disagree that such checks should be done now, I am VERY grateful for the quote because I can at least see the justification and, more importantly, the intentions of those who think in such a way. Again, until now, they just seem like people who are trying to rid the world of sadness and adversity. So, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.


2. The Marlin K. Jensen article is something I was familiar with, but had not read word-for-word. Brilliant stuff, as was the neutrality statement by the church (which I was aware of, of course). So, this definitely helps me out on the macro level. The current U.S. parties are so off that it is obvious that neither is even close, so one shouldn't really be excited about either. Plus, there is the principle of taking advantage of the brilliance of the Law of Concecration today (which means you kind of have to pick and choose from each party). So, at the macro level the need is clear. If the LDS church was 90% of either party, that would be horrible.


In theory, I am okay with this at the micro level as well, except for the fact that most LDS democrats seem to vote how they do for less-than-thoughtful reasons. So, rather than rejoicing in the political diversity that this leads to, it is often difficult for me to see past the fact that they are really just an interest group (at least the ones I have spoken with). Admittedly, conservatives do this as well, perhaps even more so, but it is easier for me to "forgive" (too strong of a word) someone whose one issue is abortion or gay marriage. So, I am okay with people being more liberal if they, indeed, feel it is right for justifiable, doctrinally sound reasons (like your e-mails, for example). I knew of some democrats in my stake back in Fremont and I always wanted to talk with them (both of them lawyers) because I assumed their reasoning was a bit deeper than "isn't it so so sad, mean, unfair." I am more interested in doctrinal interpretations than emotional ones.


Clarification:


Thanks for shedding some light on the wealthiness of LDS people. "Wealthy" is such a relative term. To me, everyone seems wealthy. HA HA. I really only focused on that part because of some comments made about wealthy LDS people, suggesting that they are perhaps too selfish. I think I would accurately say that I like the idea of LDS people being able to keep what they have, regardless of the amount.


Questions:


With regards to legislating morality, there is difference between telling people they can't do something and punishing them if they do (like prostitution or drugs) and legislating people taking care of the poor. It makes sense to establish some common belief about something that is bad and then punish people when they do it, but does it make sense to punish people for failing to do something good? So, assuming people still have the choice of not paying taxes that would be used for health care if they did not agree with such a tax, does it makes sense to require, so to say, people to do good things (give resources to the poor) and then punish them for not doing it? Can you think of any good examples of this that we currently do that make sense? You didn't do good thing ABC, so you are now fined/jailed? In short, I could be wrong, but it seems that we legislate morality by punishing people for doing deliberate acts, not by assuming they have the means to donate to the poor, claiming that not doing so is a crime, and then punishing them (I suppose it is an easy assumption with the super rich, but still, even if your rich, it doesn't automatically mean you don't have good things you would like to do with your money).


Finally, I understand that church leaders can be wrong, but those were a lot of general conference quotes I sent. This wasn't like a Mormon Doctrine entry on the blacks and priesthood. I didn't send you a lot of the ones I found. I guess you would be suggesting that it was an entire era of church leadership that was off . . . I guess that is possible, but I think I am really stretching to consider this. Even putting those quotes aside . . . check out this general conference talk from Marion G. Romney, member of the First Presidency (having pointed out his name, title, and the venue, forget about it and just look at the doctrine . . . and forget about the lame website it is attached to, I just needed the text from somewhere): http://www.latterdayconservative.com/articles/marion-g-romney/is-socialism-the-united-order. Do you really think he is wrong? It seems to check out doctrinally, right?


All in all, great stuff. I'm appreciate your perspective and approach to such discussion, as mentioned.




So I'm going to try and address the questions, comment on some of your points, and elaborate all simultaneously.
First, good guess with Brigham's quote. It was about ZCMI. Also, a fun interesting fact about it: it is on par with the Family Proclamation. It was written to the Latter-day Saints and was signed by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Normally I'd say, wait, I think the Family Proc is a little more significant, but since the recent change in the wording of President Packer's talk in which he (or someone higher in authority than him) changed referring to the Family Proc as a “revelation” to a “guide” I think they're now basically even. http://mormonsformarriage.com/?p=299 Anyway, the address to the Saints on ZCMI was interesting. ZCMI was in some ways a new attempt at fulfilling the commandments to exalt the poor in that the rich are made low (http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/104/16#16), the first being the one canceled until Zion is redeemed. ZCMI was established just as the transcontinental railroad was about to be completed. The Saints already worried since every past interaction with the US had been horrible. Additionally, they were already being persecuted in the Utah territory by the merchants in the form of price gouging on various necessary goods. Brigham (and others, I'll elaborate later) suggested the various Mormon businessmen band together to essentially create a monopsony http://economics.about.com/od/termsbeginningwithm/g/monopsony.htm (not dissimilar to the effects that would happen if the government became the main buyer of healthcare). By banding together, they could get better prices and work together in sales. ZCMI is “America's First Department Store.” As it developed, the church basically ran all these businesses, with major leaders from the Council of Fifty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Fifty) on the board of directors deciding how all the various businesses would act.

I'll digress here to talk about the Council of Fifty and the role it was to play. It was to be the seed of the Millennial government. Since many (if not most) of the people alive during the millennium will not be Mormon, Joseph and Brigham each appointed non-members to this Council of Fifty. It was also involved in legal issues and was to be a legislative body in the millennium. The last action the Council of 50 did before it dissipated (other than giving counsel to President Taylor on the legal issues with polygamy) was to establish ZCMI. This council would, I assume, continue to run ZCMI had it (the council) continued into the millennium. This means an elected group of people who aren't necessarily members (including Muslims, agnostics, etc. based on statements from Brigham, Joseph, Joseph F, Joseph Fielding, etc.) would be running this socialist system of ZCMI (since the council would have become the government it would definitely be defined as socialist).
ZCMI caused many of the prominent socialists from around the world to come visit Utah to observe how ZCMI was run and how it functioned. Famous American socialist Edward Bellamy visited many main branches of ZCMI and visited with President Lorenzo Snow for a week while studying for a novel he wrote entitled “Looking Backward.” Ruth & Reginald Wright Kauffman (prominent socialists) also wrote a book, though this one non-fiction, after visiting the Church in Utah, discussing the church and ZCMI from a Marxist perspective. After Albert Brisbane and Victor Considerant (2 more prominent socialists) visited Utah, Considerant said “thanks to a certain dose of socialist solidarity, the Mormons have in a few years attained a state of unbelievable prosperity.” Well, almost 20 years after ZCMI started (and about 12 years after this proclamation from the Brethren) the government was passing laws to take properties owned by the church and began to do so. The government did this for a couple reasons. The main one was that Republicans were carrying out their platform promises of eradicating polygamy. The other was reports from non-members in Utah that the church was interfering with capitalistic institutions, and that this control and the church's influence in political life were inconsistent with democracy. ZCMI ceased to be run by the church in its 'socialist' form (using the term the way socialists would). After the Manifesto in 1890, the church never returned to the same kind of socialist set-up, possibly to not further irritate relations with the US government.
Fast forward to the 1930's. The depression hit and it hit hard. The New Deal started and people who had no work (or work opportunities) began to get aid from the government. Mormons (who were arguably more socialist than the rest of the nation at this point given the history I've shown above) began receiving aid. Ironically, even being in Utah, the Beehive state (named after Deseret meaning honeybee), known for its industry and hard work, they had a much higher percentage of people receiving welfare than the rest of the country. President Grant, not wanting the church to be seen as idle and lazy, began emphasizing and trying to restore industry, thrift, and hard work among the Saints. Again, he couldn't directly aid in this by restarting things like the church control of ZCMI, so the emphasis was placed largely on the evils of free handouts and the encouragement of self-sufficiency. This was also the birth of our modern church welfare program.
This seems a decent place to transition to another topic. President Grant, in addition to keeping the church out of “interfering with capitalistic institutions,” also instituted the “good neighbor policy” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Neighbor_policy_%28LDS_Church%29 and had to continue to squelch polygamous practices. In 1935, a group in Arizona continued to refuse to renounce polygamy. Their evidence was this revelation from President John Taylor: http://www.mormonfundamentalism.com/NEWFILES/1886RevelationNew.htm President Grant acknowledged that this was written by President Taylor, but said that because it wasn't in the church archives he denounced it. The members he excommunicated then formed the FLDS church. I bring this up to ask myself what constitutes the word of the Lord, and what constitutes the opinions or interpretations of our leaders. From what I can tell from your last email, your take on it is that it needs to be a statement from Prophets and Apostles at conference, or First Presidency statements. I can't necessarily even take that as a given for hardcore doctrine. President Taylor said in this letter “thus saith the Lord” and then says that plural marriage will never be ceased. Then President Woodruff gives us the Manifesto which is now canonized scripture. Brigham Young taught in conference throughout his life the Adam-God theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam%E2%80%93God_doctrine). Elder George Q Cannon in conference in 1879 gave the first Mormon reason for the cause of homosexuality. He said that the “false tradition” of monogamy was the reason. Evidently if you're only legally allowed to be with one woman, you might get bored and decide to try being gay (http://connellodonovan.com/etiology.htm). You pointed out Elder McConkie's “blacks will never hold the priesthood” mistake (which he got from several statements from earlier church leaders, including Brigham stating that if the church gave blacks the priesthood, it would be a sign that the church had gone astray). Ironically, Elder McConkie also gave some of the best advice I've seen in how do deal with such situations. Here's something he wrote to Eugene England when asking him to stop teaching a doctrine taught by many early church leaders (about God continuing to grow in knowledge and understanding):
“I am a great admirer of Brigham Young and a great believer in his doctrinal presentations. He was called of God. He was guided by the Holy Spirit in his teachings in general. He was a mighty prophet. He led Israel the way the Lord wanted his people led. He built on the foundation laid by the Prophet Joseph. He completed his work and has come on to eternal exaltation. Nonetheless, as Joseph Smith so pointedly taught, a prophet is not always a prophet, only when he is acting as such. Prophets are men and they make mistakes. Sometimes they err in doctrine. This is one of the reasons the Lord has given us the Standard Works. They become the standards and rules that govern where doctrine and philosophy are concerned. If this were not so, we would believe one thing when one man was president of the Church and another thing in the days of his successors. Truth is eternal and does not vary. Sometimes even wise and good men fall short in the accurate presentation of what is truth. Sometimes a prophet gives personal views which are not endorsed and approved by the Lord. Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel. But, be it known, Brigham Young also taught accurately and correctly, the status and position of Adam in the eternal scheme of things. What I am saying is that Brigham Young, contradicted Brigham Young, and the issue becomes one of which Brigham Young we will believe. The answer is we will believe the expressions that accord with the teachings in the Standard Works. Yes, Brigham Young did say some things about God progressing in knowledge and understanding, but again, be it known, that Brigham Young taught, emphatically and plainly, that God knows all things and has all power meaning in the infinite, eternal and ultimate and absolute sense of the word. Again, the issue is, which Brigham Young shall we believe and the answer is: We will take the one whose statements accord with what God has revealed in the Standard Works. We do not solve our problems by getting a statement from the president of the Church or from someone else on a subject. We have been introduced to the gospel; we have the gift of the Holy Ghost; we have the Standards Works and it is our responsibility to get in tune and understand properly what the Lord has revealed and has had us canonize. The end result of this course of personally and individually pursuing light and truth is to reach that millennial state of which the scriptures say it will no longer be necessary for every man to say to his neighbor "know the Lord," for all shall know him from the greatest to the least. Joseph Smith says this will be by the spirit of revelation.” http://www.mormonstudies.net/html/mckonkie/mcconkie_england.html


The irony that I'm proving a point with a quote from a church leader about not using quotes from church leaders to prove your points isn't lost on me. Anyway that's why I tend to get slightly annoyed when I am asked to provide quotes from leaders of the Church, especially on political or economic issues. I don't mind with you because I can tell you just honestly want to know why I think the way I do, and not to try and prove me wrong or start some argument with quotes from church leaders as ammo. Our church leaders aren't called because they have some deep understanding of the gospel. It's pretty simple, they live the gospel; they're righteous.
I'll try and answer the questions you posed. First, you hit on the common dividing line between moral sins of commission and omission. Generally we only prosecute commission. There are likely many reasons for this. The main reason I see is that it is always easier to prove something did happen (such as a murder or some act of commission) than it is to prove that something didn't happen. How can I prove that you didn't ever help somebody? As for examples of crimes of omission, I first thought historically to the harsh punishments of not honoring your father and mother and of not keeping the Sabbath holy. These are easier to prosecute because in order to omit following them, in a way you must do some other act of commission. In the US today, there are a few punishable omissions. If you know of a crime and don't report it you can be fined or jailed. Sex offenders must report their living locations or be jailed. If you don't get car insurance you are fined. If you don't get health insurance, you'll be fined. If you fail to yield to a cop or emergency vehicle on the road you are fined. So there are a few examples. As far as assuming that people have means to care for the poor, there isn't a lot of assumptions going into it. We know how much they make based on income taxes, so it's not hard to gauge their capacity to give. But you are right, the bulk of our laws are related to acts of commission.
As for Elder Romney's talk, first some background. He gave this talk as an Apostle, not in the First Presidency (the talk was given while President Tanner was 2nd councilor, who again was socialist).  Also, Romney was a Democrat so as we read this talk, keep these things in mind. Do I think he was wrong and does it check out doctrinally? The answer is yes and no. The spirit of the message I whole-heartedly agree with. I see that message as essentially the same as the one President John Taylor gave in the first link I sent you. Comparing God's plan to any plan of man is dangerous, because God's plan is always superior. Same could be said if we substituted any economic system in place of socialism in the talk. As for specifics, I had several issues, most of which can be explained with one truth. His definitions of Socialism and what is implicated and involved with it are gross exaggerations. By the definitions he gave, there is no socialism in the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism As you can see socialism has many different iterations. There's Marxist socialism, Scientific socialism, Democratic socialism, Libertarian socialism, Mutualism, Market socialism, State socialism, Utopian socialism, Communism, Social anarchism, Syndicalism, Social democracy, Revolutionary socialism, Green socialism, Guild socialism, 21st century socialism, and Agrarian socialism. It's like referring to Christianity, within it there are Mormons, Catholics, Mennonites, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals, Anglicans, Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. Socialism is equally schismatic, there are many different opinions as to how, to what extent, in what arenas, through what means socialism is to be implemented. Because of this broad tent of socialism, ZCMI, the United Order, and the Law of Consecration all fall under this tent, but certainly are separate from many if not all of the subdivisions within it. It'd be like having someone give a talk on the evils of Christianity and then describing Christianity as being everything that the Quakers believed. So if I went through the talk, I can agree that the things he ascribes to socialism are bad, but the fact is, those things are not applicable to socialism in general, only a very narrow view of one interpretation of it. So is he wrong, is the doctrine right? Yes and no. I can't entirely blame him for the hyperbolic definition, it was the Cold War, propaganda was high, and it was difficult to get good information (all his references to socialism were from an old Encyclopedia). That said, when he gave this talk both President Tanner and Elder Hugh B Brown were socialists, so I would assume that he knew that it wasn't as simple as he made it out to be, but who knows.

Lastly, paradigms. Our brains are wired such that we analyze the world around us usually using heuristics. We notice a pattern and assume it to be true. This then ignores exceptions to our rule and also sets us up for failure if we determined these rules in a setting vastly different than general setting. For example: if you grew up in Provo, you might assume that if someone swears a lot that they are probably atheists and adulterers. You might assume that if someone drinks Coke, they must not have a testimony. When you then go into the real world, you find these assumptions don't work out so well (or even if you looked closer in Utah and saw President Monson with his daily Coke). I say this in relation to your views of democrats/liberals. Like Elder McConkie pointed out, we need to base our beliefs on the standard works and on prayer. I don't think someone needs a quote from Brigham (no matter how awesome it is) to believe that a system which is systematically making the rich richer and the poor poorer is morally unacceptable. It's unfortunate that most liberal-leaning people you've spoken with haven't said whatever was needed to convince you that their views were based on doctrines from the scriptures. Not to be redundant, but again I don't think quotes from church leaders are needed to show a doctrinal basis. We have the gospel, the Standard Works, and the Holy Ghost; those should be the basis of our testimonies and gospel knowledge. Usually quotes from church leaders are used because they are more specific and when about politics are condemning (ie. Brigham condemns the economic system, your quotes condemn socialism, or at least the straw-man definition of it). For that reason if someone believes that every word spoken at conference is the Eternal binding will of God on the issue, the quotes become WMD's in the discussion. At least in my experience they're generally invoked in order to say “This shows my opinion is God's way, therefore your opinion is invalid/wicked/ignorant of the gospel.” Virtually every time someone says or insinuates that they're on “God's side” or have an LDS-view it becomes almost impossible to convince them otherwise because their political opinions have become intertwined with their testimony and thus their political ideology becomes an issue of faith which can't be changed or compromised in the least. I can tell you that all of liberal-leaning Mormons I know base their political views on church doctrine. Perhaps a good way of getting the point across is to flip this issue. A few of the liberal-leaning Mormons I know think that conservatives are all just greedy people. If the conservatives are poor, they're still greedy because they're coveting the wealth that they hope to have one day, and in that way they justify our unjust economic system. Those same liberals think conservatives are brainless drones who believe anything Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck tell them. I disagree with that inductive line of thought just as much as I do the thought that liberals don't grasp reality. Assuming you agree with the preceding assessment, I assume that you now buy both the macro and micro views of Elder Jensen's talk. I find myself sometimes having a hard time forgiving people for being ignorant on political issues just because of their devotion to one issue. I thought I was conservative for years primarily because of my feelings about abortion and my laziness in investigating the facts of all the issues. When I finally started researching out the various issues, I discovered that many 'facts' I had learned or been told about how and why people held different opinions were either grossly exaggerated or were outright lies. I also found that I was actually left of center on most issues, abortion being the largest exception to this. As I got to know more liberal Mormons, my experience was that they knew LDS and US history much better than the average Mormon and were better informed on political issues. Your experience was a nice reminder that no party or ideology has a monopoly on intelligence or stupidity. Anyway, my main point here is that I hope you won't assume in the future that people with different political views are either less-informed, confused, or are just an interest group.
Speaking of paradigms on corruption, I just have to say that while I acknowledge that corruption in DC is bad, in my opinion it pales in comparison to corporate corruption. The instances of corporate corruption are so incredibly frequent and happen so often it seems pointless to give a large list of examples here. Also, I would argue that the majority of corruption in government is an equal part corruption in business. Look at Blackwater, Halliburton, the recent MMS scandal in which the oil companies and the governmental regulators were literally sleeping together, snorting cocaine, and generally doing anything but their jobs. I see most government corruption as being equally a part of corporate corruption because corporations are seeking to either shape legislation or change its enforcement. So to quote those prophetic words again:
“One of the great evils with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. The very liberties for which our fathers contended so steadfastly and courageously, and which they bequeathed to us as a priceless legacy, are endangered by the monstrous power which this accumulation of wealth gives to a few individuals and a few powerful corporations. By its seductive influence results are accomplished which, were it more equally distributed, would be impossible under our form of government. It threatens to give shape to the legislation, both State and National, of the entire country. If this evil should not be checked, and measures not taken to prevent the continued enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and the painful increase of destitution and want among the poor, the nation is likely to be overtaken by disaster; for, according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the sure precursor of ruin.”
As Joseph said in the King Follett discourse, this doctrine tastes good to me. This and hours of research has led me to fear that we've already allowed the few powerful corporations to shape legislation and that it largely still goes unchecked.
I hope you have a better understanding of how I can be a good Mormon (or at least how I can try to be) and also be pretty liberal. I hope I did a good job answering your questions. As it stands, I missed a ton of sleep last week with school stuff and this week should prove to be another crazy one. If you have more questions, I can almost guarantee that you won't get a response for several weeks (probably not until the end of the quarter). 

If anybody bothers to read this entire thing, email me and I'll give you a special jpg prize on your facebook wall.

4 comments:

James Carroll said...

Well said.

Email me at said...

Hello,

I am rather embarrassed to even be writing this: i am the 'crazy troll' from the rather unfortunate conversation with MCB...i noticed your comments throughout the entire debacle and just wanted to say how much i admire your ability to convey thoughts/information/etc in such a respectful and intelligent manner. I have much to learn from you!

You have given me ample food for thought, I mean that sincerely! Your blog is very interesting and i look forward to reading more...

Take care,

rae
(but you may better remember me as "pam"). I promise you I'm not as crazy as I was portrayed (or maybe I am?!)

Rich Alger said...

I cannot believe the volume of words this post has.

There is a lot of good in it I see, mostly the willingness of two very different points of view to really try to understand each other.

Rich Alger said...

It seems to me that a major point of difference between conservatives and liberals is who do we trust less:
big business or big government?

I trust neither. We must be diligent in breaking up business that are too big to fail as well as the collection of power in government hands.

Separation of power is one of the key principles of the Constitution. I loved lectures 4 and 5 of this series on the Constitution.
http://www.hillsdale.edu/constitution/weekly_course_schedule.aspx