Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is Mormonism's Approach to Politics Socialist, Conservative, or Libertarian?

**I'm not an official spokesperson for my church! Just a concerned citizen, who studies her scriptures. Read, study and share your opinion if you think I misrepresented anything!**

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints maintains a position of political neutrality. Even still, I have heard more than one friend argue that their political party or persuasion was the most true and that all members of the church ought to believe what they believe about politics or else! I have heard statements like, "You can't be a Democrat and a faithful member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints!" and "How could we ever possibly be ready to live the Law of Consecration if we don't accept Socialism first? We are too selfish!" Recently, my friend Georgia said to me, "So, Mormonism is socialist." If only she had read this post I wrote a while back on the evils of Socialism! ;) Many more progressive type Mormons were upset at me for the perspective I shared there.

But honestly - is Mormonism socialist? Well,. . . kind of. It is also kind of conservative. And kind of Libertarian. And kind of a lot of other things, all wrapped up into one. It is also not really any of those political philosophies, either. The truth is, Mormonism has its own system of government and its own set of doctrines and laws that we believe are based on eternal truths, and directed by Christ, and under Him, Prophets who are called by God and guided by revelation. There is a structure and a system, but it is its own creature. 

Though it hurts for some to hear - our system is not principally liberal, conservative, or libertarian, or any other system! It is something entirely different - a system of God pointed in the direction of Eternal Salvation. A system which is centered in our belief in Jesus Christ and our desire to more closely follow Him.

About the the wisdom of different political approaches, Elder Dallin H. Oaks - a modern day apostle said:

"Those who govern their thoughts and actions solely by the principles of liberalism or conservatism or intellectualism cannot be expected to agree with all of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As for me, I find some wisdom in liberalism, some wisdom in conservatism, and much truth in intellectualism—but I find no salvation in any of them." (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Criticism")

Currently, our system of governance is a lesser law than the law of consecration - it is a law of tithing, fast offerings, donations and Bishop's store houses. It is a well-regulated system, but it is not the Law of Consecration in its purest form. Life under such a society would give the clearest view and purest form of what the Mormon system of Government would be like. In a sentence, the Law of Consecration is "an organized way in which individuals consecrate their time, talents, and possessions to the Church to build the Lord’s kingdom and serve His children." You can read more about the Law of Consecration at this link. I think studying the Law of Consecration and how it would play out, gives us a better understanding of the virtues and vices of other political philosophies, according to Mormonism, as well as a proper perspective on Godly principles for political governance in the here and now.

What a Mormon System of Government under the Law of Consecration looks like: 

Recognition that all we have is a gift from God, and so we are to be good, wise and just stewards over everything we have. All we have is already "on loan" from Him. (Mosiah 4:19) There is a sincere recognition of each person's obligation to prepare their children to serve God, by teaching them His ways, so that hopefully they will also choose to do the same for their children.

Is capitalist in that everyone keeps their own property, deeded in their own name. Have ability to leave any time with deed (though cannot legally reclaim the excess donated). Every body works their land, or improves their skills as they see fit. Everyone works by the sweat of their own brow. (Isaiah 65:22) Honest trade exists. There is some variability in what people own, as what is given away or kept, is determined by both wants and needs. (Doctrine and Covenants 51:3)

Is Libertarian in that it respects agency. People can leave if they don't want to conform to laws of group. It is a system which encourages and celebrates self-sufficiency. The goal is for everyone to be as self-sufficient as possible. (Isaiah 65:22)

Is socialist/communist in that after each family provides for their own needs and wants, it is fundamentally oriented toward helping the common good to be able to do the same for their own families. This is done by the more wealthy CHOOSING to give of their excess for the less wealthy, those with more talents sharing and teaching those talents to others, etc. (Moses 7:18) Also, it is progressive in that it is a system which tries to grow itself to include others. Through missionary work, others are encouraged to join in the system of their own free will and choice, or to become more committed to it. (John 21:16)

Is conservative (or classically liberal) in that it conforms to reason and moral truth - with respect to marriage being between one man and one woman. See this post about the rational approach to same-sex marriage. It also values ALL human life without respect to race, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical capacity. All people are valued. (A.K.A. Abortion, forced sterilization, Euthanasia - you know, Nazi-like practices of killing "less fit," are out.) Judgment is based on individuals' choices, not any of their protected statuses. 

Unlike our government which has conformed to a Judeo-Christian model as inspiration for its laws (that is NOT a specific religion - therefore not an undue violation of separation of church and state - but a more broad approach to morality), this is a theocracy, which would conform with religious, eternal truths of one specific religious sect for its laws. The goal being to encourage all to freely choose to make covenants (or two way promises) with God in the temple, to serve Him and by so doing be blessed, and with those talents to serve more, and so on.
Our system is not a place where differences of opinion are debated. They are studied and accepted as the Spirit teaches us the truth about issues:

"Public debate—the means of resolving differences in a democratic government—is not appropriate in our Church government. We are all subject to the authority of the called and sustained servants of the Lord. They and we are all governed by the direction of the Spirit of the Lord, and that Spirit only functions in an atmosphere of unity. That is why personal differences about Church doctrine or procedure need to be worked out privately. There is nothing inappropriate about private communications concerning such differences, provided they are carried on in a spirit of love." 
(Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Criticism")

That is the general framework of Mormonism's political system. See? Totally unique. Here is my little list of the virtues and vices of different political philosophies as they are understood in comparison to Mormonism's unique political system.

Conservatism (A.K.A.Classic Liberalism)

Virtues:
  • Respect for individual liberty and property - especially economically - and equal treatment of others.
  • Respect for life and for institution of marriage, and other morally defensible laws for the common good. 
  • Supports equal treatment of individuals, regardless of gender, color, race, nationality, etc.
  • Capitalism is the economic vehicle of choice. All people are treated truly equally. You keep what you earn. You earn what you keep. Generally speaking. (More so than with liberalism, less so than with libertarianism.)
  • Protects natural rights, and only natural rights in order to preserve freedom. Focus on individual responsibility. This freedom protects people's ability to worship and speak as they see fit.
Vices: 

  • Now, in fact, research shows that conservatives are the most independently generous political group. Most lean a bit progressive in that they still support the idea of a government safety net - a well-regulated financial safety net at that (drug-testing, short term, limited, closely regulated, strict limits.) But, often there is a sort of callousness in how causes for the social good are discussed from conservatives. Ayn Rand conservatives make the best philosophical case there is for Capitalism. However, she argues that everything should be done from a completely self-interested approach. This capitalistic approach from Ayn Rand, often heralded by conservatives, is a completely godless philosophy. Mormonism teaches that we should actually live our lives in service of God and others. (See Matthew 10:39) 
  •  Proponents often justify reckless treatment of the Earth in the name of it being ordained for our use, but without proper attention to the importance of the doctrine that we are in fact to be good and wise stewards over the Earth, and to use its bounty with wisdom, proper judgement and not "by extortion." (Doctrine and Covenants 59:16-20)
Progressivism/Socialists/Communists/Statists/Most Establishment Republicans

Virtues: 

  • Puts a high priority on protecting the Earth and its bounty, being wise stewards.
  • Puts a high priority on the common good and the social responsibility we all have toward one another. It is generally oriented toward helping others.
Vices: 
  • While a premium is put on helping others, forced redistribution (theft) is the mode by which "charity" is obtained, thereby severely stunting or limiting individuals' ability to assist those in need of their own agency and choice. A sympathetic heart in individuals collectively throughout society diminishes as personal responsibility to care for others is pawned off on some other "higher class"
  • Progressivism values individual liberty at the expense of truth, even when rationally and morally defensible. (As with abortion and marriage.)
  • Also falsely believe that progress for humanity is collective and can be passed from generation to generation - not learned on an individual level. While Mormons espouse a semi-collective salvation idea in that they believe families can be saved together, everything ultimately comes down to individuals and the choices they each make about where they want to end up. Salvation is individual, not collective in Mormonism.
  • Progressivism values bigger government control or "protection" at the expense of the free market. Additionally, progressives (particularly establishment Republican progressives) turn a blind eye to the crony capitalism going on in the government and some big companies - saying that the ends (protecting the workers) justify the means (special legal perks and benefits - "too big to fail") - the truth is that companies that are too big to fail, are too costly to insure and they are unstable. Big companies and banks are allowed breaks, while smaller companies and banks have to deal with more costly, limiting legislation. Democrat progressives, pick their own crony pet projects with favoritism through subsidies and pork for their states.
   Libertarianism

Virtues: 

  • As champions of agency, freedom and choice - especially on the part of the individual, Libertarians are king. Perhaps their most winning virtue through the Mormon philosophical lens.
  • Heavy emphasis on individual work ethic. You sow what you reap.
  • Is a philosophy that does not try to convert others by force, but by reason.
  • Defends actual equal treatment of individuals and government officials, and corporations and banks, under the law. 
  • Biggest defenders of the free market.
  • Properly recognizes that moral laws can only exist in a society where the people are also moral.
Vices:
  • Though not all those who subscribe to Libertarianism personally feel this way, this philosophy upholds Capitalism, and therefore rejects the idea of doing things for others.
  • Is very isolationist and individualistic, where perhaps the Law of Consecration would be slightly more community oriented.
  • Lacks firm commitment to defending moral principles around fundamental life issues like abortion and marriage, in the name of protecting freedom. However, this ironically ultimately leaves less freedom as morality continues to decline all while Libertarians stay silent . . . Does not properly recognize that only a moral people can ever truly be free and protect all their choices and agency!
If you read all this, I own you a cyber hug. AND - I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post!

Did I cover all the bases here on the virtues and vices, Mormon friends? Is this accurate?

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