Politics Mingled With Scripture

KC KernMormon 30 Comments

The bloggernacle has seen a good deal of political chatter this past year. Mormons have typically been political active, and are usually pretty predictable voters. While the Church emphatically asserts its political neutrality, it is no secret that the Mormon political mold spells something along the lines of socially conservative Republican, with an aversion to those naughty “liberal democrats.” Given the apparent link between religion and political leanings, I find it very worthwhile to turn to the scriptures in order see what political directives we might find there.

First a disclaimer: While I make an effort to stay informed and fulfill my civil duties, I am not a political scientist, and, as is usually the case in politics, I am sure that anything I present here can be soundly rebutted by very valid counterpoints. Even so, I want to try to see what perspectives and insights regarding politics, government, and society can be gleaned from the standard works.

In the early chapters of the Bible, we learn of a theocratic regime: Moses, effectively a theocratic dictator, was charged with receiving, establishing, and enforcing a massive piece of legislation (Leviticus & Deuteronomy.) Failure to comply with these laws was met with a penalty, oftentimes capital punishment.

Post Moses, we see a venn diagram of political systems; the ruler occasionally had prophetic roles (Solomon/David,) and sometimes did not. (Jeroboam, Rehoboam). Even if we simply look at the books of the Old Testament, we see the political overtones (Kings, Judges.)

The New Testament mixes things up a bit with Jesus at once identifying himself as the “King of the Jews,” yet asserting that his “kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) When asked about the local government, Jesus seems to advocate a clear separation between church and state:

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:13-17)

In terms of economic philosophy however, things get a bit more complicated. The parable of the talents and even the widow’s mite suggest ideas of economic relativism, even perhaps leaning towards the concept of “each according to his needs, each according to ability.” That said, we also see the concept of reciprocity come through many of Jesus’ teachings—reaping what you sow, and being judged accordingly. The accountability of the individual seems to be in place to generate the type of personal motivation that we would see in a successful laisser-faire free-market economic system.

We don’t have any information regarding what social programs King Benjamin implemented as king, but we do see some ideas come through in his speech that hint at some economically liberal themes:

“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. Perhaps thou shalt say:

‘The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just,’

But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4:16-19)

The Nephites, while their government usually kept close ties with the religious leaders, had a society that valued personal liberty. We learn that “there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.” (Alma 30:7) It was these liberties that Captain Moroni rallied his people to defend during the Amalickiah conflict. It may seem odd that Moroni, given his exceptional moral and religious character, would want to defend someone’s right to disbelieve, but I can’t help but think that he would agree with Voltaire’s famed statement, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In many ways, this ideology encapsulates the core of libertarianism, and is articulated in other places in the scriptures as well:

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27)

I found it a bit amusing when one of the US presidential candidates (with libertarian leanings) had as one of his slogans “Choose Liberty,” which I identified as coincidentally having come from this 2 Ne. 2:27 scripture. Again looking deeper in the scriptures, we see that the defense of choice, agency and liberty is a major and dominant theme in our account of the pre-mortal world:

“Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4:3-4)

Looking from a more modern perspective, we see these ideas continued in a specific reference to the United States government:

“…According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; … And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” (D&C 101:77, 98:5-6)

Here we see the Lord take credit for the establishment of the rights, freedoms, and principles set forth in the US Constitution, which was in large part were drafted by James Madison, a near poster-child for classical liberalism.

However, when we look at the what we might consider the “goal” of a society, we might consider the post-Christ Nephites, the city of Enoch, or the Zion described in the D&C. We learned that they had “all things in common,” and exhibited economic characteristics of what might be essentially described as Utopian communism (although Ezra Taft Benson would assert that it is simply “consecration.”) Of course, there are sharp differences in ideology between the Mormon United Order and Marxist proletariat communism, but in terms of practical economics, the differences more or less boil down to nomenclature.

I’m afraid I’ve done quite a poor job as masking my own political biases, but what I want to emphasize as the take-away from this post is the broad span of ideologies that are in fact compatible with LDS scripture. Also, I wish to point out that there is often a lack of clear-cut answers to be derived from our holy texts regarding these political issues.

For example, in terms of military strategy, we see both pacifists (Ammonites) and warriors (army of Helaman) among the righteous. The scriptures also show us successful, righteous societies under a range of theocratic, monarchical, judicial, socialistic, federal, tribal, patriarchal, decentralized, and democratic governments, and the embracing social, economic, and political ideas that are at times liberal, at times conservative, and at times both.

I suppose that’s why politics is so fascinating, and renders itself to such great debate topics. It seems to be one of those things that on any given issue, two people with differing views can both be right; and the question of who is more right is left up to the observer. Does these ideas carry over into any broader gospel concepts?

Comments 30


    Tell me why these elite Federal government officials have been allowed to evolve in congress to a number that they are destroying our county. They block impeachments of those who have committed treason and they block bills that would eliminate wrong doings. They interfere when they are on committees and insist on directing large contacts to substandard and even sham government contractors. It is at a point where congress can’t conduct business.

    Tell me why top state and federal officials who are members of this elite group have a greater alliance to the body of this group than they do to the constitution of the United States?

  2. KC – You missed Acts of the Apostles where in verses 44 and 45 of chapeter 2 we read:

    “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”

    I think the most appropriate conceiving of the normative economic system according to the many scriptures and modern prophetic teachings on economics is that the system is laissez-faire. High taxes always seem to be condemned, which are necessary to prop up economic redistributive bureaucracies.

    However, sounds like the ideal normative state of economic righteousness is to be personally Marxist in the sense of one of Marx’s most foundational statemets: “From each according to his means, to each according to their needs.” I think, therefore we believe in free markets as the macrto system, not communism, socialism, Fabianism, internationalism. etc. But we’re also not capitalists or utilitarians as Adam Smith would assume we all are–we’re not out to maximize our utility, a la John Stuart Mills, which accurately describes economic behavior of the natural man–something we’re commanded to “put off.” Mormons are really good at condemning economic tyranny, not so good at practicing personal economic socialism. I hear many say they’ll wait until the Church declares consecration to be in force, but aren’t we commanded to live it in the temple? The truth is that many Mormons are true believers in the invisible hand and utilitarianism, ideas which are condemned by the Lord.

    Politically, its hard to translate, because both parties are NOT laissez faire. Both parties want heavy-handed government to protect interests, Democracts for the poor and needy, Republicans for protecting corporations and monopolies from the free market.

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  4. In my opinions, one of the main things that divide Christians politically is this question:

    If the scriptures say we should do something, does that mean we should fully support our government doing it? Example: The scriptures say we should give all we can to the poor, so does that automatically obligate us to promote all government programs that give to the poor?

    I have my own opinions on the matter, but I think the scriptures don’t explicitly address this issue and so both positions (liberal and conservative) are valid, scripturally.

  5. Mike L.,

    Perhaps a better question is should we support our government when it does something scriptures dont support such as preemptive war?

  6. Joshua, of course, how could I be so stupid? My question is far worse than yours. I propose we all debate the scriptural validity of the war for the 145th time instead of debate something as trivial as world poverty.

    (And if the war were really so blatently anti-scriptural, why didn’t the prophets speak out against it. Oh wait, it must be because we are not to be commanded in all things and so the apostles are just hoping the rest of the members get it).

  7. Mike L.,

    I wasnt trying to be snarky or start a debate. I think to the same degree that we should be wary of enforcing some form of morality by government force, we should be just as wary of supporting our governments actions, that in my opinion, are not Christian and run counter to Christ’s life, teachings, and death. I am against coercion and force no matter the cause.

  8. I apologist for over-reacting. I took offense by the word “better” in your comment, but I realize now that I don’t think you meant it that way. Still, I find it annoying how for some people everything political comes back to the war.

  9. And Joshua, I take your point, even if I disagree with your example. Here’s another example: certainly if the government passed a law that taxed poor people a higher rate than rich people, that would be immoral and it would be our moral obligation, according to the scriptures, to oppose it.

  10. If anyone is interested…you should read William Van Wagonen’s upcoming article in Sunstone which can also be found here entitled “An Introduction to Anarchism and Mormonism”:

    Also read “Working towards Zion” By James Lucas and Warner Woodworth. Woodworth has an article in the most recent Mormon Worker. He speaks of cooperative economics and how the United Order might work in our current economic climate. Again…it seems that cooperatives are the basis of the system…Rudolph Rocker the Anarchosyndicalist has done similar work in this area. Woodworth’s fantastic article can be found here:


    Rudolph Rocker’s Anarchosyndicalism here:

    I had never realized all of this before I discovered Anarchism and Libertarian Socialism but the political ideals demonstrated in such a philosophy are incredibly similar to the ideals that have been expressed above. Laissez-Faire markets, with voluntary cooperation.

  11. I think what we can learn from the scriptures in terms of the governance of the people of God is that God is no respecter of polity. He allows people to be governed by a dictator, by kings, by judges, by religious leadership, by democracies and so on. I don’t think anyone can safely go to the scriptures to try and back their favorite form of government, or even political ideology. There are, frankly, too many diverse examples of what previous peoples of God chose as their favored form.

    I think this post is good, albeit quite light, treading ever so lightly on what is a great topic.

  12. I personally lean toward a scientific bent, with a small government. Here’s my feelings, with very little to support it scripturally:

    I feel that it is the role of government to do very little. I think it is the role of the people to help each other. As I said in teaching gospel doctrine yesterday: if we had a proper love of our fellow man, we would not need church programs, or anything of that nature, because we would be helping each other. If we had proper love for each other no one would ever go hungry (or without a place to live, or get behind on bills OR have any other problems), because those in the church and out of the church would be helping each other voluntarily to such a degree that it would be impossible to go for more than a few minutes in need without someone noticing and helping you out.

    But because we are all imperfect we need church programs. And because we are all imperfect there is a need for some government programs, but I am in favor for fewer programs because I want to give people the opportunity to use their money to make good decisions or bad. I am a personally a proponent of consumer taxation rather than income taxation because I don’t want to tax the industrious, I want to tax those that are consuming more than they need. So you allow people to consume a base amount tax-free. What is needed to sustain their household at a certain level (how you accomplish this is debatable), and then any consumption above this is done at their own expense.

    Public education is something I am all for, but not unless it is done in a politically neutral manner (which is not, as near as I can tell, the current situation). Same for a lot publicly funded programs. Actually I see helping the poor as an imperitive, but I’m not sure how to do that without encouraging more people to rely on a dole, which has ALWAYS been my concern with any government-level form of socialism or Marxism. The United Order and the law of consecration is a bit different because it has a motivation factor built into it and is voluntary. I have seen small communes that have worked and been quite succesful (luxurious even) for the same reason–the individuals were highly motivated and it was voluntary. I think that any sort of Socialist society requires that same type of buy-in: it must be voluntary and it must have a strong motivation built into it. That’s why I don’t think there have been very many successful multi-generational communes. The second generation didn’t have the motivation or buy-in. Once you take that out, it become very difficult to maintain ‘all things in common’.

    Look at the Nephites in the Book of Mormon after Christ. 1st generation–most were converted, and they were able to establish the Common Order. Everything in common, no poor. 2nd generation–everyone converted, Common Order fully functioning, no poor. 3rd generartion–mostly the same, but some problems. 4th generation–it’s falling apart. It doesn’t take long. And why not? I think it’s a motivation issue.

    Notice that the early Christian church had the same issue in Jerusalem. Whatever that expirement was, it didn’t last long, and I strongly suspect it was for the same reasons.

    It the modern church under Joseph Smith there was a similar problem, and Joseph Smith couldn’t even get it fully established before it fell apart. If he had been in Utah he probably could have, but he never went far enough west. If Joseph Smith had gone Utah instead of stopping in Nauvoo, I think the United Order would have been established for a much longer period. I also think the church would have developed much differently.

    Ultimately, though, the final analysis to me indicates that small to medium voluntary societies where it is decided to take care of everyone within a geographical region work quite well, but there is a slight skew to this: generally those that join these societies are all motivated to put forth a lot of effort. There are few freeloaders, and therefore the system isn’t bogged down with people that don’t want to work. Which is exactly why I’m highly skeptical of government level social programs–there are too many people that don’t want to work. Freeloaders destroy the ‘From each according to their ability, to each according to their need’ model precisely because they aren’t giving according to their ability, but rather according their desire, which is very different indeed.

    From a behavioral science perspective (and I’m sorry, you simply cannot ignore economics and psychology on this–these models work, and the data is there–ignoring data because it’s inconvenient to your thesis is bad scholarship, and should be avoided; if there is inconsistent data then you need to figure out what the moderators are–that’s what meta-analysis is for [if you don’t know what that is, take a stats class or look it up]) it is a fairly basic principle that if you are providing individuals a motivation to not work (basic necessities of life regardless of work) then they are going to choose to do those things that they enjoy doing rather than those things that benefit society. Statistically there will some percentage of individuals for whom those things overlap, but the economics are unlikely to work out in favor of a viable model. It is also a basic principle that if people must do work that is beneficial to the good of society in order to have the necessities of life, then they will do so. It is very simply a matter of setting up the motivations correctly.

    The gospel does this in a different manner by setting up a motivation that is tangential to the situation at hand, and works in direct proportion to the degree of belief (faith) that the individual has in the gospel. Thus we find that Mormon businessmen who are successful in their business and who are strong believers are quite charitable, tend to help those around them, and are very generous. (I’m fairly certain the same holds true of other faiths, to be honest). Thus gospel-centered communes are very effective because they say–we want this to work and as a matter of faith, we need to work hard at this. Therefore it works.

    A government-based system could only do this IF it could engender sufficient patriotism to make everyone interested. I think this could only be done in a war-time situation, under extreme threat. The USSR comes to mind, but even that wasn’t particularly successful. The country didn’t exactly have a luxurious lifestyle for the masses, which is what the ideal would be. I rather suspect that the conditions necessary to engender sufficient patriotism would also require significant resource expenditure on wartime efforts (and propaganda), such that certain basic services would be largely unavailable. Somehow not quite the ‘all things in common’ we want!

    You can discount my line of reasoning if you like, but think about it carefully. The argument is not that I want poor people to suffer for their sins, or that I blame them for their situation. I, of all people, certainly understand what it is to be in a hard situation even though you are trying your best to keep your head above water and are struggling just to keep up. Especially right now, and I’m making decent but not great money. I would love to be making twice what I am. I feel the cost of living in an area that is really far too expensive. I feel all sorts of pain for it, and I understand what it is to be behind on one’s bills. With all that in mind, though, I really don’t think that more government programs are the answer to the problems that this world faces, and especially in the USA. I know it has and is working for many countries to have socialized medicine (as an example). Good for them. I don’t know if that situation will work here (I do know that our current situation is untenable and needs to change).

    Politically I stand my ground as a non-party libertarian. I can’t condone the American Libertarian party’s stance on the drug-war. While I’m not sure I agree that we are going about things the right way with regards to narcotics, I am certain that the sudden legalization of hard drugs would be problematic. I am a strong supporter of individual 2nd amendment rights–I firmly believe that the only reason a government has to take guns from private citizens is to enable oppressive regimes. I do not believe it does much to keep guns from those who are using them to commit violent crimes except in rare and unfortunate circumstances. I am against partial birth abortions, but also against the banning of all abortion. I think in most cases it is a difficult and terrible decision. The church allows abortion in certain circumstances, and I will follow that lead. In other circumstances I do not agree with the decision, and I personally feel it is morally reprehensible. I’m not sure what should be done about it, but frankly I feel that a partial birth abortion is absolutely murder. That is the ONE abortion that I absolutely would ban in all cases. Other situations are more tricky, but that is one that I would have no trouble with.

    The death penalty (another traditional ‘conservative’ idea) is one that I am mixed on. I can take it or leave it. I personally feel that if I am ever in a situation where I am compelled to kill in cold blood (I can imagine it happening–don’t ask), I would seek the absolution of being killed by the state, as that is the only hope for forgiveness that I could imagine. However, with that said, I do not think that it is generally appropriate considering the cost that we are currently having to pay for enacting the death penalty and the probabilities of sentencing an innocent person to die. I am still left uncertain what to do with certain criminals where I do not think reform is a possibility.

    Other conservative ideals are strange to me. I get very upset about things like the PATRIOT act & the DMCA–what a bunch of garbage those were! I also happen to think digital and information rights are so insanely important that it is criminal that to have ignored them. I am ashamed to think that we have let the movie and music industry (rather than the artists and creative types or consumers) define the rights we have in respect those issues. I have a lot of issues with labor laws, and fall orthogonally on many of those issues.

    I get highly incensed when I see politics defined as ‘left vs. right’ because that is such a narrow and stupid view that I want punch my monitor. It ISN’T TRUE. IT ISN’T THAT SIMPLE! There’s more than one dimension! There are more than two or even 3. On some issues there are so many possible approaches and solutions that politics can’t even begin to approach the issue, but then I hear Obama, Hillary or McCain reduce to a one sentence sound-byte and I get furious because the reporters all nod as if something sage has been said.

    Oh well.

    That’s my rant for the day.


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  14. I’m going to let the snake digest for a sec and back up to this statement: “James Madison, a near poster-child for classical liberalism.”

    I don’t love the label “liberalism” applied to James Madison because the word means something quite different at this stage of the ongoing American political debate. The debate to me seems began with these two arguments, in this order:
    1 – anarchy vs. government (government won)
    2 – confederation of states (European model) vs. federal nation (federal nation won with some concessions to states’ rights)

    All subsequent debates seem to be lesser versions of the above two but with the caveat that the above two were settled on a basic level (e.g. there will be a government, and it will be one nation). So, I believe Madison’s greatest contribution was in creating a nation, not where liberalism would thrive, but where the debate would continue forever. Here are some modern examples of those same debate points:

    1 – anarchy vs. govt: legislating morality, public vs. private schools, free market vs. trade restrictions, individual rights vs. taxation, role of government in health care, poverty programs, etc.
    2 – state vs. federal rights. funding/culpability in wide-scale disasters, school funding & standards oversight, and rights that are too divisive to be determined at the federal level that get defaulted to the state level (abortion, gay marriage, and death penalty).

  15. KC Kern.

    Yeah, sorry about that. Feel free to throw tomatoes or rotten fruit and yell ‘thread killer’ in your best English peasant imitation. I hadn’t really really realized how long that post was going to be when I got going, but then I posted it and felt just a bit guilty.

    I’ll try to be a bit more concise in the future, but with election season coming up I’ve been a tad touchy on the matter of politics.

    Really I’ll shut up now.

  16. hawkgrrrl…

    Great response. I am glad that you have addressed this. I think it is very interesting to see how the semantics of liberalism and conservativism and interchanged. The likes of the late William Buckley, by many republicans, was seen as a new type of conservative that was drifting towards the left. Now we see with Neoconservatives….a party that Trotysky would be happy with due to its heavily centralized planning and totalitarianism. Lets not forget that Buckley was infact a CIA disinformant most likely hired to convince the American people to prop up the ever growing military idustrial complex through interventionism.(just my 2 cents.)But now we have pseudo-journalist like Bill O’Reily…who are less articulate and cultured then Buckley who infact present us with demogaguery and spin then real news that allows us to decide for ourselves.

    hawkgrrrl…when you mention “anarchy versus government”, Do you mean chaos versus organization or do you mean control by the people versus centralized control by rulers/masters? Anarchism, organization and government are not antymonous. I will therefore take it as “chaos vs. organization” and if that is the case then I do not accept the premise.

    Benjamin O…I commend you for your libertarian declaration(and I spell it with a little l in your circumstance as you say you are non-partisan.) There seems to be many like you in America…good people who feel that the Republican Party no longer represents their social and fiscally conservative values due to the rise of the Neoconservatives.

    The term liberal has changed much in America. In the 1920’s the New York Times criticized “the expropriation of the time-honored word ‘liberal'” and argued that “the radical red school of thought…hand back the word ‘liberal’ to its original owners.”

    Liberal in the form of classical liberalism is what old conservativism (not neoconservativism) is about. Anarchism resembles classical liberalism in many ways. The anarchist and Austrian economist Murray Rothbard did much work here.

  17. Stephen Wellington – I meant anarchy in the sense of “no government,” and by first argument, I mean that when early Americans declared independence and fought England in the Revolutionary War, many of them thought they were fighting to get rid of government entirely, not to create a new one. Based on their experiences with England, they were naturally skeptical that any government would be uncorruptable and would not oppress their rights. The “no government” argument was clearly not feasible (don’t tell true libertarians that), but there was a lot of initial resistence to all forms of government.

    My point is that while “having a government” beat the “no government” argument, we are still in a tug of war over the amount of governance we will tolerate, probably moreso than any other nation.

    A libertarian friend of mine would go so far as to say there should be no police force because he doesn’t want to have to pay taxes to support it, and why should we trust a government with our safety. He’ll just get a gun and take care of it himself. Fortunately, he moved to Singapore, and we can all sleep easier now.

  18. lol…the story about your friend is funny.

    Right…so you mean “no government”. I am quite strict on my definitions of anarchism as I am one myself. It is kind of like being strict over how people define you as a Mormon. I take anarchism as a literal greek translation meaning”no rulers or masters”…so it permits government but not illegitimate and unjustly coercive government. I am not in favour of no government…definitely not and I dont know many anarchists who are!! Limited and government controlled and set out by the people economically, militarily and socially…that is what I am in favour of and is what we do not currently have.

    Some brands of Anarchism declare “destruction of the state” but they do not mean that institutions and organizations in any form should be abolished aswell. They merely mean destruction of the state in its present form and the building of a new, more free and more populist one. There are positives and negatives to this.

    I am definitely not in favour of getting rid of organizations that provide security, just think that transparency and accountability to the people are of prime importance. Whether the police be privatized or socialized(as it is now) I think the people should be able to decide.

  19. Thanks for the anarchism angle. That clarifies a lot. When some of the early Americans acquiesced and agreed to some form of government, many of them still favored an anarchist notion (if I understand what you are saying–true “by the people for the people” but in a very literal sense). We are far afield from that notion today with our super delegates, etc.

  20. hawkgrrrl….You are so right about the current political situation today. I think Jefferson and Madison would very disheartened if they were to come back now. Wikipedia has a great definition that I just had to copy:

    “Anarchism(anar-kisim)(from Greek ἀν (without) + ἄρχειν (to rule) + ισμός (from stem -ιζειν), “without archons,” “without rulers”) is a political philosophy encompassing theories and attitudes which reject compulsory government (the state) and support its elimination, often due to a wider rejection of involuntary or permanent authority. Anarchism is defined by The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics as “the view that society can and should be organized without a coercive state.”

    Madison and Jefferson were very much pre-capitalist not envisioning the type of corporate fascist society we would live in today. I am just glad…like you said…that we are able to have this debate!! But would prefer compulsion and cooercion to be eliminated.

  21. Stephen, I’d say that I’m closer to you’re anarchist feelings that I’ve realized. I’ll need to take a look at those resources a bit closer. Meanwhile, back to work.

  22. ‘The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just,’

    Uh, this is a command to the individual, not society. There’s a big difference between charity and employing the government to redistribute wealth. If you look in past priesthood manuals under welfare, it lists the order someone should seek help. You should go to your family first and then to the Church. Nowhere does it mention turning to government. I challenge you to find a place where state welfarism is taught by the church.

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    hawkgrrrl #16: You’re right–James Madison is far from what is currently understood to be liberal. I intentionally put “classical liberalism,” with a link to wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism . This is very different than current welfare-state liberalism, and is actually closer to what we now term libertarianism; the main focus is on upholding liberties (hence the root word)

    Mikie Conder #24: I’m glad you noticed that! Note I prefaced the quote with “We don’t have any information regarding what social programs King Benjamin implemented as king.” This brings up an even juicer debate: To what point does the government have the right to enforce morality? Sustaining the rights of others (like the right to live) is one thing, but do poor people have the right to be rich? The pro-small-government people out there are all in favor of individuals doing good things, but realize its not the government’s place to ensure that it happens.

  24. I have been pondering the issue of consecration vs socialism, and a google search landed me here. I just wanted to say that Benjamin O had a good point in his eternal rant about communal living only working if it is voluntary and if people are strongly motivated. I would add to that two things:
    1. Private ownership of property must be maintained. That way, anyone who wants to opt out can do so at any time, with property. This is one of the big differences between communism and consecration.
    2. Those overseeing the redistribution of the wealth must be trustworthy, must personally know the givers and receivers of all goods, and must share a basic value system with those they serve.
    I believe that our country’s welfare system is so maddening, inefficient, and wasteful because none of these criteria are met. In consecration, all of them are met.

  25. It boils down to this. If you believe that we should have to be forced to be charitable by the government (whom we know takes a chunk of that change for themselves) than you should ask yourself if you believe the doctrine that states that forcing people was Satan’s plan. I think that applying the term marxism to LDS theology is misleading. I think its obvious that our system is meant to be capitalist, but with moral values, one that is willing to give of thier own accord. I find nothing that suggests we should allow the government to force the money out of us. Fact is that if God inspired the constitution and God wanted the government to institute socialism we would have been a socialist state in the first place rather than being a Republic that has been ruthlessly sabotaged by Wilsonian socialism. In order for our goodness to hold merrit we need the freedom to choose.

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