What Ethical Standards do Mormon Consumers Have?

Stephen WellingtonMormon 12 Comments

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now Interviewing Charles Kernaghan, the executive director of the National Labor Committee

I propose that we, as concious & intelligent members of Mormondom and the world, should have high ethical standards of citizenship. Of all the words of warning given by prophets that should stand in our eschatological mindset is that we should not live beyond our means.

Christianity can be summed up in the Golden Rule.

If the opposite of the Golden Rule is Satan’s rule…then Satan’s rule would be “Do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you.” If keeping “Satan’s Rule” is a sin…then why do we so blindly keep it as consumers?

Why do we buy clothes and commodities from sweatshops and cheap slave labor in foreign countries where we know that people are working 6 day weeks for 14 to 16 hour shifts at a time and getting paid a tuppence for it? Where even last year it was found that children were producing clothes for GAP…a company that was meant to have the highest of ethical standards. Disney, Walmart, Gap, Nike, Adidas, Tescos etc. all these corporate brands use cheap labour in China and other 3rd world countries where the workers are exploited. They even produce dangerous and toxic toys that are hazardous to the health of our children. When will we put our foot down?

As Mormons, we have a socialist heritage in the early church whereby we only took what we needed and gave the rest for others. In my mind, we should still care for our fellow men in our productive and consumptive lives, viewing the United Order as the way God would like us to commune with eachother.

What can we do to be ethical consumers and show love for our fellowmen in an ultra-capitalist world?

My 5 simple goals that I suggest to others:
1) Have as your values…Human Rights, Sustainability, Fair Trade, Workers Rights, Animal Rights NOT status, luxury, influence and greed. Think “Need..not greed.” (Thomas S. Monson) God does not love you more because you are wealthy.

2) Everytime you buy something…think about where it came from, who made it, the situation in which they made it. Apply these principles to industrial farming and the situation animals live in…we are stewards of the earth and of the animals thereon.

3) Everytime you spend money…it is just the same as when you vote for a president/prime minister…it really is! Use it wisely and morally.

4) Secondhand clothes and consumables (etc.) beat fresh sweatshop made designer clothes hands down! Dont believe the garbage that advertisement companies feed you.

5) Get involved in a Union and only buy products where the workers have Union Rights…many Chinese companies deny workers the right to Unionize.

It starts with us…and in the spirit of Martin Luther King. Jr…

One man or woman can make a difference!

Comments 12

  1. I cannot even begin to parse some of this.

    “I propose that we, as concious & intelligent members of Mormondom and the world, should have high ethical standards of citizenship.”

    Well, good. We’re agreed. For example, good citizens should not affiliate with racist, sexist, and homophobic organizations.

    “Of all the words of warning given by prophets that should stand in our eschatological mindset is that we should not live beyond our means.”

    If people have an eschatological mindset, then wouldn’t the tendency generally be to not engage in long-term planning? Take Jesus of Nazareth. He was among other things a first-century Jewish apocalyptic with a belief in imminent eschatology. He made various statements about people not being particularly concerned about worldly goods in consequence. I suppose that depending on one’s vision of the apocalypse one could load up on guns and weaponry. That seems a lot more useful than canned goods.

    “Christianity can be summed up in the Golden Rule.”

    Umm, ok. I would sum up Christianity as a religious movement rooted in the Western monotheistic tradition that places some special significance on the life and ministry of Jesus. I would sum up Jesus’s message as that people needed to prepare for the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God, in which he and his followers were to have a special place.

  2. A thoughtful perspective, Stephen, and one to which I am inclined to agree. Although I approach the idea from a different angle, I do agree that supporting these large corporations is detrimental to society. I would echo the stance of educating one’s self about the issues. PBS Frontline did a nice litte expose on Wal-Mart that you can view here:


    Another helpful site for things of this nature is http://www.zcommunications.org

    Maybe not quite on the same topic as consumerism, but some online books by Noam Chomsky really opened my eyes to some of the injustices that surround capitalistic imperialism.


  3. I don’t think that most people will do anything until they hear something from the pulpit at general conference. Also, many people who are working to have a mother stay home will rationalize that buying clothes produced at sweatshops (and therefore saving money) is for the greater good. While I don’t agree with that I think it is something we may hear. I often hear “the greater good” as a rationalization for why someone cannot or will not do something.

  4. If people have an eschatological mindset, then wouldn’t the tendency generally be to not engage in long-term planning

    Interesting point, especially as the LDS Church leaders have constantly emphasized that the proper mindset to have, regardless of what the future holds, is the long-term one. Plant fruit trees, even if the second coming is tomorrow. It nourishes an approach to life that is better for the mind and spirit than the temporary approach.

    I’m currently still buying my tennis shoes from New Balance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Balance generally getting them on clearance as well. My favorite pants are a) cheap and b) made in Nicaragua (which is a coincidence).

    Getting to a serious point.

    Before the issue left the popular attention, Nike tried raising pay dramatically (as an advertising expense it was nominal in what it did to product costs) at a few sites. They immediately found that they had gutted the local schools of teachers. They were paying much better and school teachers make better workers. That pushed them to making adjustments. When they were trying to work things out, the public quit paying attention. My brother left Nike and I don’t know what happened next.

    In transition from that, I’d refer to a lot of analysis about employment and jobs and the things that need to be done to avoid child labor. Interesting concepts. Too bad Wal-Mart lost so much market share when it tried to hold the line with “made in USA” products. That opened the flood gates to our current consumer economy changes.

  5. I am the local moderator for our Freecycle.org group (like craigslist except that everything is FREE). It’s a wonderful way to move beyond commercialism and it feels great to give away unneeded items and also to receive them. In my town we have nearly 2000 members in our Freecycle group. You can find nearly anything there (cars, furtniture, clothes, appliances, etc). I also buy my clothes secondhand–at the goodwill or used on ebay–or if I do have to buy something new I make sure that it is of a make and style that it can last (like my last pair of shoes I did buy new and I’ve now worn them nearly daily for 4 years and will do so until the sole wears through–which might be any day now). When necessary, I patronize companies like Patagonia for new items. My brother works for Nike so I can get man of their products nearly free–I try not to take advantage of this very often. I am a book junkie and I try to buy them used whenever possible. I also try to buy from nearby sellers so my half.com books aren’t using so much fossil fuel to reach my doorstep. Most of my groceries come from our weekly farmer’s market or from local choices at Trader Joe’s.

    It takes time and planning and commitment to choose not to over-consume. Even if it doesn’t make even a small dent in the world’s consumption of commercial goods, it makes me feel good to put my clothes on in the morning and know that I’ve made ethical choices in purchasing them. Same goes for the food I eat and my choice to bike or walk to work rather than drive.

  6. I’m going to have to agree with Tanya Sue. The church promotes larger than average families, getting married young, getting an education and SAHM’s. In today’s economy, that is really, really hard. So what I have observed is that families are much more concerned with the price of goods than they are with things like the enviornment or child labor, or companies that treat thier families well. Being frugal seems to be most important.

    I think you would have to see these sorts of issues in a Sunday School manual or have the President of the Church speak of them at conference in place of things like food storage (which really doesn’t make a lot of sense when a REAL disaster strikes) in order to see change in church membership’s attitudes.

  7. Post

    I appreciate all your comments. I was hoping the essence of the post would be pondered upon and the syntax given some mercy as I have been undergoing examinations the last few days and have been academically engaged.

    NM Tony – Thank you for those links. As you know, I worship Chomsky and will read the link you gave me.

    Jana- you have some excellent suggestions that I havent posted…I will take them on board and try to incorrporate them into my lifestyle.

    Latter-Day Sustainablist- thanks for the talk…I will read it. Do you mind if I have a link in my blog to yours? I really like the stuff you are posting and your perspective.

  8. Stephen,

    In the 1980’s Nike wasn’t paying the minimum wage to its workers in Indonesia, which was something like $1.20/day. The workers went on strike and Nike fired 40,000 workers and had the government blacklist them so they couldn’t get work anywhere else.

    Our government is not helpful in these sorts of issues either. In Burma for example, the military government doesn’t let the democratically elected leader take power and oppresses the people mightily, occasionally massacring protesting monks etc. Our government gives lip service to promoting democracy over there, but will not criticize the US oil industry which is in bed with the Burmese secret combinations.

    Our government overthrew the government of Guatemala in the 1950’s because the United Fruit Co. was going to lose money after cheating the Guatemalan government for years. The government then support the military dictatorship which allowed the United Fruit Co. to continue its pillaging while the people were terrorized by their new US supported government. We still buy their bananas today as they changed their name to Chiquita Banana after they got bad publicity from the incident. We support the murder and oppression of the poor around the world with our consumption here. We are like the people that Moroni wrote about in Mormon 8 who pass by the poor, the naked and the needy and notice them not.

    You have nice action points listed above, but we also need to pressure our wicked government leaders to do right by the poor of other nations. You addressed that partially when you mentioned we should support fair trade with other nations. Our government has the blood of so many people on its hands because of its support for big business. Truly the secret combinations of the day are embodied in this twisted marriage.

  9. Curtis,

    You are spot on with the issues you mention. I was just noting the flip side. And did note that it was considered as “as an advertising expense” — not out of any corporate responsibility.

    You may not know it, but in El Salvador we had a Bishop who was part of the communist resistance. He had an interview with Ezra Taft Benson at the general conference he attended. He went home still an LDS Bishop.

    The issue is just very complex. Obviously, if I stick to local farmers markets and the like I’m less likely to buy from terrorized farmers, etc. Food is fresher, tastes better.

    But we need to resist the combinations that seek to rule with blood and horror.

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