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Matthew J. Tandy

The case for Book of Mormon socialism

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So a former BYU student and academic friend posted this on his facebook profile. As I have had problems in the past engaging him in politics as he tends to become a bit more heated and take things personally in these matters, I did not post against it. Nonetheless, I thought the article, which I think misses the boat on so many points in it's short length, was worthy of discussion.

A couple of rules:

1) Yes, I know this is inherently political. We try to avoid these topics on the board. But this was published in the SL Tribune and is making its rounds, so it definitely affects both doctrine and how certain members in the church plan to interact with the church (and use it) for their perceived ideas of Zion. Thus, it has relevance beyond just the politics.

2) ABSOLUTELY NO POLITICAL MUD-FLINGING WILL BE TOLERATED. This means no ad hominems, no statements such as "liberal and intelligent is an oxymoron" or "capitalist pigs". I will have you blocked from the thread if you try it. This includes absolutely no mud-flinging about Glenn Beck or Al Sharpton or such.

3) The point is to discuss both the article itself from a textual critical standpoint (ie, is it supported or not by the underlying texts and culture referenced), it's portrayal of its opponents in the context of truthful, honest, etc, and also some of the concepts of how they feel the Book of Mormon should be "reclaimed".

The case for Book of Mormon socialism

BY TROY WILLIAMS

First published Feb 26 2011 12:15AM

Updated Mar 1, 2011 03:23PM

Whether one accepts the historical or theological claims of the Book of Mormon, one theme in it is obvious: At their most righteous, the Nephites presented in the book were benevolent socialists; at their most depraved, they were greedy free-market capitalists.

In the zenith of Nephite culture,

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That's a pretty good article.

I would argue that our entire society in the US has become full of socialized capitalists. Our very tax structure in the US creates an environment of socialized capitalists. With tax cuts I want to be as 'charitable' as possible because I'll get more of a return with my taxes. With government subsidizing corporations and foreign nations our taxes go to a very special class of people, corporate officers and tyrants. With government subidizing people's wants, and not neccessarily their needs, we have created a welfare class. With the media and their fans promoting government-entrenched unions this is only going to get worse. And with the media and their fans promoting democracy around the world this is only going to get worse.

I would also argue that no where in government do we have representatives with a strong moral character or an understanding of the United Order so it is going to become much worse before it gets better.

I would also argue that too few outside of government have an true understanding of the United Order to make a difference.

Socialism is NOT the United Order and does NOT follow the Law of Consecration. But with an ignorant population co-dependent with government you are going to need some big event, or a critical mass of people willing to make that change. Either way its going to be very painful.

Edited by Tribunal
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We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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Funny how those words meant something different when they were written than what they mean now, and what they mean now is interpreted in many different ways.

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Doesn't the Trib have access to the same Conference database we do? I mean, they're supposed to be the leading newspaper in the state, right?

Socialism and the United Order Compared

Elder Marion G. Romney

Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles

Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, April 1966, pp. 95-101

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Funny how those words meant something different when they were written than what they mean now, and what they mean now is interpreted in many different ways.

"Funny" is the last word I'd use to describe this phenomenon. It's lamentable, deplorable, despicable, abhorrent

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Lehi:

Letting them govern themselves is a good idea.

http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa51.htm

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

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We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the people

(In other words, from whence we derive our power to establish this)

In order to form a more perfect union

(The Articles of Confederation, created as a reaction to the Revolutionary War were in effect destroying the nation at that point)

establish Justice

(many states in the North found themselves closely tied and manipulated by Great Britains trade control and their local governments had pretty much been bought off by Great Britain, so too in the South)

ensure domestic tranquility

(Shay's rebellion proved that no state could protect itself from small groups who seek to overcome or destroy the state.

provide for the common defense

(any state could veto the establishment of an army in order to protect the nation, whether it be the British or French or Indians)

promote the general welfare

(now here the original interpretation was to ensure that everyone had the same opportunities to succeed, not ensure that everyone had the same thing. Indeed the idea of modern welfare was considered an anethma to the founding fathers who felt that the riches of the nation were such that anyone could succeed if they but worked - I still feel that today.)

secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

(those blessings being the abiltiyt ot succeed or fail, at least from the writings of the Federalist Papers).

We interpret things differently, but the preamble in a sense tells us what the Constitution is for, and what its goals should be, and why it was written.

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Irrespective of the objectives (and I do not give most socialists any credit for compassion

Edited by Vance
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I have some time to share a few quick thoughts:

Though redistribution is the highest economic order in Mormon scripture, Sen. Chris Buttars vehemently denounced Alpine School District for allegedly advocating
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Nice analysis, saves alot of us time to put it together.

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This scripture sums up my belief with regards to socialism vs. capitalism:

"And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given. And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul." (Mosiah 18:27-28)

We have a personal responsibility to take care of the poor. The richer you are, the more you should give. However, it should not be by compulsion (aka, state welfare), but by your "own free will and good desires towards God" and your fellow man. Should the state play a role in this? Perhaps if it were agreed upon by all that they wanted the government to administer the program. Sure! However, that's pretty much impossible in a world where few people feel or see alike. In Zion (as a political entity), however, it will happen because all will be united and all will give freely. There will then be no poor at all.

Edited by DispensatorMysteriorum
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I actually posted in the comments for the SLTRIB article a few days back and made the LDS case that there is no approval of socialism in the scriptures or LDS doctrine and in fact socialism is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I thought it was a great article. Socialism does not require coercion as some have suggested. Socialism is simply a system where the ownership and control of the means of production is by the workers themselves - not the " government".

This is not correct. Coercion is not righteous whether is comes from one or many. The bottom line is that socialism always requires a dictatorship to be implemented and carried out. The Law of Consecration, on the other hand, demands that private property rights be respected and that one can use his stewardship (considered private property) as he pleases even to the point of accumulating wealth which is not necessarily removed each year, only what is necessary to sustain the poor.

The Lord, being a freemarket capitalist by doctrinal example, seems to understand that under socialism, no wealth is created and over time, nothing remains to help the poor as everyone becomes poor.

Edited by BCSpace
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This scripture sums up my belief with regards to socialism vs. capitalism:

"And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given. And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul." (Mosiah 18:27-28)

I have been edified. I will add this scripture to my repertoire.

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This is really quite simple. We can either obey God by investing in riches in heaven, by giving up worldly things, or we can invest in the world (private property). It seems to me that if Satan were involved at all, he'd be encouraging the latter.

Since when did private property = "investing in the world". I reject that notion.

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I have been edified. I will add this scripture to my repertoire.
Fortunately, the teachings of Jesus Christ do not carry such qualifiers. Christ commands us to give to the poor because nothing we have is truly ours to begin with. Free agency is taken for granted, but that doesn't preclude the commandment. Everything we own belongs to God. We earned nothing. And as his followers we are entrusted with these things only so we can righteously distribute the wealth to those who need it most. Christ said to give your shirt and your coat to the poor who have neither. He didn't say we should offer him a job so he can "earn" clothes, nor did he say do it only if you want to.

This is really quite simple. We can either obey God by investing in riches in heaven, by giving up worldly things, or we can invest in the world (private property). It seems to me that if Satan were involved at all, he'd be encouraging the latter.

I think the error in your logic is neither did Christ command government enforcement of this nor did he or his apostles set up any type of "Christian Communism" or socialistic society according to LDS doctrine on Acts 4 etc.

And how do we know what Alma said wasn't just his own opinion?

There is no LDS doctrine that this was his opinion plus his statement is consistent with other doctrine such as agency and personal responsiblity. Plus, by your own logic which I don't agree with, should we not then assume that other statements, seemingly in support of socialism, are just opinion? Rather, I consider all the scriptural statements on the issue and I find them all taken together to be consistent with already stated LDS doctrine on the subject.

If we are to use the Book of Mormon as a model for perfect government then we'd have to abandon our Republic and go with a Monarchy.

Maybe or elected judges. Doesn't change the fact that Christ did not institute an economic system but rather has essentially reguired a free market capitalist system for his welfare system to be able to operate in.

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Christ didn't make this distinction between helping the poor via government or private means. His main focus was that the poor receive help. He wasn't interested in politics, but I don't see how this helps your case as you're still stuck with the commandment to give what you have to the poor because it really isn't yours. You guys seem to be more interested in the means, rather than the end. I think Christ was more interested in the end, which was abolishing poverty because he didn't want people to suffer. Some people seem to think people suffer because of their own fault, not because they are born in a system that requires poverty (which Capitalism does).

In other words, neither socialists nor capitalists can call upon Christian doctrine to enforce their worldview upon Christians. However, doctrine also speaks to the fact that coercion, or government forceably taking what is yours or what you have earned, and then by governments good graces decide which distribution is best. I don't see Christ as viewing Ceaser as a partner in Christianity. That being said, those who do not espouse a socialist system tend to be more involved in doing charitable work because of personal internally driven concepts. When the government forces you to do good, are you truly doing good or abrogating your agency to a non Christ entity. I find that a dangerous position personally.

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Plus, by your own logic which I don't agree with, should we not then assume that other statements, seemingly in support of socialism, are just opinion? Rather, I consider all the scriptural statements on the issue and I find them all taken together to be consistent with already stated LDS doctrine on the subject.

And yet you cannot reconcile the scriptures I reference. You've yet to acknolwedge what Christ taught. Telling me he didn't set up a communistic system is not an answer to your problem. You still have to deal with the New Testament teaching against private property, and that we are commanded to take care of the poor. We're not commanded to chastize them for being lazy, freeloaders, slackers, or whatever slur FOX News is using this week. Because when you do this. you're essentially judging them, as if you would do any better if you were in their shoes. And Christ said to judge not for we will be judged in the same way. I think too many people think that everyone in American can actually become rich, if they were so motivated or what not. The fact is it this is an impossibility in a Capitalistic system. Under Capitalism, a poorer class must always exist. In short, what Christ preached against, is actually a necessity in this system.

The reconciliation I think of is personal responsibility versus letting a powerful system with no allegiance to God take my money and have faith in its benevolence. We are commanded to help, but also not to waste talents. We are not supposed to be foolish servants who bury or give away our talents. If you consider the parable of the talents, you will find that it is not only ideal in describing how we are supposed to use what we have, but also to use it in a capitalistic way. If we look at talents as we do social security, burying it in the government and then taking pretty much that same talent at the end of our lives, we are indeed poor servants since we did not use those talents to expand what was available.

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Doesn't change the fact that Christ did not institute an economic system but rather has essentially reguired a free market capitalist system for his welfare system to be able to operate in.

Christ never required a free market capitalistic system. This is something which you will never be able to substantiate. Most of the people with wealth in the New Testament had inherited wealth, they didn't "earn" it through entrepreneurial means as you probably envision. When it came to taxes, Christ said give it all up because all the wealth belonged to Caesar anyway. What Christ taught was investing in heavely riches and independency from earthly riches.

How does one increase talents in a socialist system where the government decides where to spend our money? In a capitalistic system, we increase the talents through various means. In a socialist system we cannot increase wealth and depend on the Ceaser to make our lives better. I don't like depending on Ceaser, I prefer to use my individual basis, at least until a system directly aligned with God creates the environment where I can, with faith give the money I earn.

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Povery is not a virtue. Being wealthy is not a sin but loving your wealth more than God or your neighbor is a sin. We should be free to produce as much as we want. We should be free to excel at what ever we want to do. There is nothing wrong with it as long as we are chritable with the poor. You can't create a society of equal people by beating down the people who want to excel. Equality can only happen through love. The only hope for equality we have is though the united order under the priesthood. Everything else is evil and will result in unrighteous dominion.

I don't think equality means that we all have the same amout of substance. It means that we are all treated fairly and that we all have the same opportunities and that we are not restricted from doing what we want.

I don't think the United States is a "free-market". The US has been heading down the road of socialism for 100 years and thats what is wrong with america. There are tax loopholes for the mega rich which is wrong. But thats not as much of a problem as the existence of an income tax. There was no income tax for over 100 years in america. We don't need one. Most of the money from the Income tax goes toward paying interest on debt. Most of the debt is owed to banksters who created fiat money and loaned it to the treasury in echange for bond notes. In america we are free as long as we are not threatening the interests of big business or big government. All governents in the world are the same. If you try to make and sell of solar panel that is 80% efficient instead of 19% efficient you will quickly realize that you are not free.

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Christ didn't make this distinction between helping the poor via government or private means. His main focus was that the poor receive help. He wasn't interested in politics, but I don't see how this helps your case as you're still stuck with the commandment to give what you have to the poor because it really isn't yours. You guys seem to be more interested in the means, rather than the end. I think Christ was more interested in the end, which was abolishing poverty because he didn't want people to suffer. Some people seem to think people suffer because of their own fault, not because they are born in a system that requires poverty (which Capitalism does).

And yet you cannot reconcile the scriptures I reference. You've yet to acknolwedge what Christ taught. Telling me he didn't set up a communistic system is not an answer to your problem. You still have to deal with the New Testament teaching against private property, and that we are commanded to take care of the poor. We're not commanded to chastize them for being lazy, freeloaders, slackers, or whatever slur FOX News is using this week. Because when you do this. you're essentially judging them, as if you would do any better if you were in their shoes. And Christ said to judge not for we will be judged in the same way. I think too many people think that everyone in American can actually become rich, if they were so motivated or what not. The fact is it this is an impossibility in a Capitalistic system. Under Capitalism, a poorer class must always exist. In short, what Christ preached against, is actually a necessity in this system.

I would agree with you that in America (and every onther country in the world), there is a requirement for poverty. Not everyone can be rich. This however is because of a corruption in the constiution. All money is debt (created as loans through banks) therefore there must be debt if we are to have money to buy the things we need. We can't all be free and weathy under the current system. Socialism will not fix this, only a free money system will fix this. The united order under the priesthood will permanently fix this propblem becauase under the united order there will be no need for money.

Socialism does not abolish poverty; on the contrary, under socialism, everyone is poor (except the ruling elite). There is no such thing as charity under socialism becasue the choice to give is taken from you, its evil. God wants us to help the poor because we are a loving people not becasue we were forced to give. Being forced to do good will not help us become like Christ. The means is extremely important - even paramount. If God wanted to force us to do good we would not be here making choices, we would be minions serving a dictator god. The purpose of life is to learn how to love. Having poor people to give to is a means to that end.

Edited by zelder
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I see little has changed while I've been away.

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The notorious villains of Nephite civilization were the Gadianton Robbers, who perpetuated policies that exacerbated class inequality. They eventually
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They demand fiscal austerity but are unwilling to fairly tax the super rich.

Not to digress, but this indicates that Mr. Williams has utterly no idea what he is talking about.

They demand the poor make sacrifices, but are unwilling to end corporate welfare and tax loopholes that keep big business from sharing the burden. They want to cut public funding for education, arts and health care but remain unwilling to defund our military occupations abroad.

This is basically now a scattergun leftist attack on an ever expanding roster of opponents and policies that it would probably digressive to delve into, at this point.

They denounce socialism but have no problem when the redistribution of public wealth goes upward into private hands. Gadianton himself would feel right at home amidst Utah
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Yes, because they own 50+% of the wealth. Makes sense to me. Warren Buffet understood this well enough when he complained that his secretary paid more in taxes than he did. The tax havens and loopholes have resulted in hundreds of corporations paying little to no taxes whatsoever, depite the 35% rate that is on paper. Of course, don't expect to hear about any of this from Conservative talk shows.

As of 2008, the top 5% of earners paid 58.2% of income in taxes. The top 50% paid 97.3%. What do you mean that the top 5% own 50% of "the wealth"? What do you mean by "wealth." That top 50% mike, also, in the vast majority of cases, earned that wealth through productive economic activity (serving their fellow citizens by creating and providing goods and services that they were willing to trade some portion of their property for, of their own free will, because they desired that good or service more than that quantity of property (money)). It is nothing more than economic liberty and the rule of law that has created these conditions, and it is only by the severe restriction or elimination of free agency in the economic realm that widely differing levels of economic condition can be attenuated or erased.

Not true. In a socialist system, the workers control.

Would you like to provide a single historical instance of a socialist society that was not controlled and dominated by an oligarchic political class and in which the "workers" were forcibly and institutionally impoverished?

Everyone is paid an equal amount because the workers decided it. It is a very democratic system that is not given to corruption as is ours, because no one is allowed to be elevated over another. Kinda like Christ sees us all, as equals.

Uh huh...

Nonsense. It would be controlled by the working people. You don't seem to understand what Socialism really is. It has hardly existed in a pure form, same as Laissez Faire capitalism.

No mike, you clearly have not the slightest idea whatsoever of what socialism really is. Hence, we are doomed perhaps to repeat history to the extent that people like you control the institutions of our society.

There are some among us, and even in the Church, who deserve neither freedom nor security, but so long as the divinely inspired Constitution and principles of the Founding persist, all of us will be protected under its umbrella of inalienable individual rights, regardless of the nature of our just desserts.

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Christ didn't make this distinction between helping the poor via government or private means. His main focus was that the poor receive help. He wasn't interested in politics, but I don't see how this helps your case as you're still stuck with the commandment to give what you have to the poor because it really isn't yours.

In which case, if you wish to be logically consistent, it really isn't theirs either, and cannot be so long as the fundamental principle in play, as you have stated it, is that we must give to the poor because what we have isn't really ours at all.

If wealth and material things are not ours, then then they are not ours across humanity as a whole. They do not belong to the poor anymore than they can belong to the middle class or to the rich. Your entire principle then, appears to turn upon and consume itself as soon as it is stated.

As the things given to the poor do not belong to the either, to whom to the poor give what they have been given? Once the rich have been impoverished by divesting themselves of all their material goods, to whom do they turn for sustenance? Should the poor then give what they have received back to the rich, as the rich are now among the poor?

Where did the wealth come from that the rich gave to the poor, and where will the wealth come from now that the rich are now poor, and the poor, after consuming the wealth given from the rich, will become poor again, to alleviate the poverty of all?

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Christ never required a free market capitalistic system.

I doubt very much you can substantiate this. He certainly wasn't averse to helping his followers bring in loads of fishes, which was their sustenance.

Most of the people with wealth in the New Testament had inherited wealth, they didn't "earn" it through entrepreneurial means as you probably envision.

CFR. I don't recall reading anything like this. Maybe if you are talking about the elite but not necessarily the ordinary citizen.

When it came to taxes, Christ said give it all up because all the wealth belonged to Caesar anyway.

Again CFR. That is not what that little incident was saying.

What Christ taught was investing in heavely riches and independency from earthly riches.

What Christ taught was not letting the poor suffer. Please explain who will take care of the poor if no one is concerned about earthly riches?

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