Poverty and Resurrection

Poverty is perhaps the major curse of our world. The many millions of poor and even destitute people throughout the world certainly suffer from reduced quality of life in comparison with those of us who are lucky enough to live in better economic conditions. Perhaps even more vivid is the reduction in quantity of life that often accompanies poverty: according to the United Nations World Development Report, people born into the least developed countries in the world in 2002 had a life expectancy of 51.06 years; those born into high income countries, by contrast, had a life expectancy of 78.19 years. Would all those who would happily sacrifice 27.13 years of their lives please raise their hands?

The following graph, showing 2002 life expectancies for 21 randomly selected countries, may better convey the range of life expectancies throughout the world:

January_2006_Povertyt

Those born in Sweden have the highest life expectancy of any country in the graph; those born in Rwanda the lowest. The lives of Swedish folks are, on average, just over twice as long as those of Rwandans. Even setting aside the differences in how lives are lived in those two places, the gap in life expectancy is staggering. Swedes have twice as many years to spend loving their families, twice as long a window in which to repent and prepare to meet God.

Most readers of this post live in countries with quite high life expectancies. How can we deal with the contrast between our relative prosperity and the poverty throughout much of the world? In effect, every year after our 40th is a result of our good fortune in not living in destitute countries like Rwanda, Namibia, Swaziland, or Cote d’Ivoire. Why do we live when others die due to a simple geographic and socioeconomic accident of birth?

One useful resolution to this question arises from the doctrine of resurrection. If we believe in resurrection, then this life with its brutal inequalities is not the whole picture; the global injustice of the present may be balanced out by loving compensation in the eternities. This is certainly a message of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus essentially teaches that His justice involves producing an inversion of mortal conditions, so that the meek rule, those who mourn are comforted, etc. (See Matthew 5:3-11). The same message of inversion, in a setting more explicitly connected with socioeconomic conditions, can be found in the story of Lazarus the beggar (Luke 16:19-31). Here, a wealthy man fails to relieve the beggar Lazarus from his mortal poverty. After both men die, Lazarus ends up in “Abraham’s bosom” while the wealthy man goes to hell. Abraham explains this result to the wealthy man: “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” So, in the next existence, the pain of poverty will be compensated by divine blessing.

Are the relatively prosperous then justified in disregarding the brutality of poverty in this life? Since the pain, suffering, and injustice of earthly poverty will be compensated with eternal reward, can we spare ourselves the care and effort of trying to do away with poverty in the here and now?

The scriptures issue a resounding warning against such an attitude. The wealthy man in the story of Lazarus ends up in hell because he did not act with sufficient vigor to end the plague of mortal poverty. King Benjamin likewise explains that retaining the grace of Christ requires active efforts to eliminate poverty: “for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God–I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.”

Divine compensation in the next life counterbalances the manifest injustice of mortal inequality, preserving justice as an attribute of God. But it doesn’t automatically create the attribute of justice within us. If we would acquire that Godly trait, we must necessarily take every reasonable opportunity that comes our way to resolve poverty and inequality in this world.

Comments

  1. Aaron Brown says:

    Great post, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say later. For now, I just want to nit-pik:

    “Would all those who would happily sacrifice 27.13 years of their lives please raise their hands?”

    Isn’t this a bit misleading? I could be wrong, but aren’t discrepancies in life expectancy more a function of high death rates for children under 6 years old, than they are a function of how long the average person who survives to adulthood actually lives? In other words, once you make it to a certain age, doesn’t your likelihood of reaching advanced age improve significantly beyond what a casual reading of these numbers would suggest? (I recognize that AIDS, war, etc., in some places has a significant effect on life expectancy, but I thought that for the most part, low life expectancy was a function of poor nutrition and health care for young children when they are at their most vulnerable stage).

    None of this changes the tragedy of poverty, or mitigates our need to respond in some fashion, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be more accurate to ask:

    “Would all those who would happily run the x% risk of dying before the age of 6 please raise their hands?”

    Maybe I’m wrong about all this. You tell me.

    Aaron B

  2. Aaron there is the element of child death before 6. But I served my mission in Africa and can tell you that a man or woman over 60 is quite rare. I went to countless funerals for people who died of natural causes in their 40′s and 50′s. In the US very few of these people would have died.

  3. Nice post–a lot to think about.

    I concer with Aaron–with data like this, I’d like to know if it’s an average or a mean (and if it’s an average, I’d like to see the standard deviation). The SD will tell you A LOT with something like life expectancy per country. also, a major reason besides access to health care is warfare… and, to me, that is so tragic–and I wish there was something more we could do… but maybe fighting poverty is the first step and less warfare will follow?

  4. I have to admit that this coupled with some ideas of foreordination, when carried too far, result in something that I find regretable (though, I imagine that the average Zimbabwaian probably has greater probability of accepting the gospel than say the average Swede.). It is also a problem with certain speculative theologies of repeat mortalities.

    I agree that you’re moral case is sound. The difficulty lay in the institutional response to such moral infractions.

  5. Aspen,

    I think you are interested in knowing if the chart shows the average or median. Also, the standard deviation would be useful, but might not fully address your concern because you and Aaron both seem to be worried about the skewness of the distribution rather than simply the standard deviation.

  6. Aaron, Aspen, etc., these data do reflect mean values. Furthermore, mean life expectancy is partially determined by young child mortality. The problem is that those mortality figures are less available in the poorest countries than the life expectancy figures. (Data quality issues are the bane of social scientists working in the third world.) But for the countries where such figures are available, there’s a strong but not total statistical relationship between young-child mortality and life expectancy; in my 2002 data, the correlation is about .36, which means roughly that about a third of the variation in life expectancy is linearly related to child mortality. So you’re partly right and partly wrong. Of course, child mortality is even more morally alarming than early-adult mortality; children cannot possibly have done anything to deserve a death due to starvation or disease.

    Karl, both the standard deviation and the skewness of the within-country distributions would be valuable. Unfortunately, I don’t have acccess to them. There’s probably substantial inequality in lifespans within most extremely impoverished countries, though.

    Aspen, warfare is obviously a component. Whether warfare is a consequence of poverty or not, it’s clear that war with particularly high casualties has been mostly confined to impoverished countries in recent decades. The causal relationships there are complicated, to say the least.

    J. Stapley, I agree that determining the best institutional response to poverty is a difficult puzzle. But scripture (and common decency) demand that we try to solve it. Clearly, third world poverty (or even poverty within the US) is not a particularly salient issue in US political debate right now, and hence efforts to address these problems receive less attention at the top than Supreme Court nominations. It would perhaps be a reasonable first step for us to try to reprioritize poverty as a meaningful theme in public discourse.

  7. Elisabeth says:

    J. (a.k.a. RT) – great post, and excellent comment. I agree – and if we transfered the ecclesiastical resources expended lobbying legislatures on same-sex marriage laws into finding ways to alleviate poverty, perhaps the discrepancies between the rich and the poor in the Church may not be so grave. There is a wonderful man in Haiti right now struggling to keep his Branch alive – who just emailed my husband the other day. These are real people who need our help.

  8. How about asking the question, “All those who would like to have died before the age of accountablity raise their hand.” Prolonging the days of our salvation is important to those of us beyound the age of accountability…I need a long life. Those who die young don’t!

  9. Great post, man.

    For those interested, the theology of resurrection serves a purpose almost completely lost modern in modern Christianity (Mormons even more so). If you’ve got the time, I suggest reading the nearly 1,000 page treatise on resurrection by N.T. Wright The Resurrection of the Son of God, Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003. Poverty is a big part of the picture, but not all of it. In Mormon terminology, “it’s a testimony builder.”

  10. Ebenezer Robinson says:

    Right on, Elisabeth, on all counts. The welfare program is great, but an institutional commitment to overcoming poverty in the Church (never mind the World) is hard to discern, at least since the last of the United Order experiments died out.

    J. Stapley, I hope your reference to foreordination in this context doesn’t imply some idea that individuals are placed in their birth circumstances intentionally (and therefore as a presumable result of behaviors in the pre-existence). That teeters perilously close to some of the folk explanations of the pre-1978 ban on blacks holding the priesthood. The whole concept is personally abhorrent to me; bad enough to be born in bad circumstances through the luck of the draw.

    Anent a couple of comments relating to the age of accountability, I used to wonder a lot (especially pre-1978) how most Mormons were going to react to finding the Celestial Kingdom overwhelmingly populated by Africans, Indians, and Chinese who died before the age of 8.

    JNS, I appreciate your comment about the reality of the resurrection not relieving our personal (and I would add institutional and governmental) responsibility to work toward overcoming poverty in all parts of the world. One of the many tragedies associated with Katrina is that the effects of poverty on mortality and general suffering got media attention for all of about 2.5 days (and MUCH less than that in governmental awareness).

    As Laurie posted some long time ago on a related issue, “Where’s the outrage?”

  11. Elisabeth,

    I don’t think you could find a single bishop in the church who spends more time lobbying legislatures about marriage than they do handling church welfare problems, and I’d guess that extends for almost all of the ecclesiastical leaders. Temporal welfare problems consume far more of church leaders time than members realize. Two bishops have told me that was the part of the job they most underestimated prior to being called.

    JNS,

    I’m not saying that it’s not important, but what scriptural mandate for an institutional response to poverty do you have in mind?

  12. Matt, I don’t know how to answer that question. Are you opposed to institutional responses to the problem of murder? That’s a parallel situation; if police forces are a moral choice, then food aid and immunziation programs are, too, I think. But God doesn’t need to tell us the details; we’re supposed to work those out for ourselves.

  13. Jason,

    Thanks for data and for tying the questions arising from that data to our faith.

    So, in the next existence, the pain of poverty will be compensated by divine blessing.

    I’m just going to come right out and say it: this idea of ultimate but indefinitely delayed justice and equity is thematically repeated through-out the scriptures and is one that I find disturbing…in fact, I find it to be highly conservative of the status quo. It steals the the hope and passion of human endeavor and places it beyond the reach of this life. I find it ugly and uninspiring.

    Matt Evans wrote:

    I’m not saying that it’s not important, but what scriptural mandate for an institutional response to poverty do you have in mind?

    If it’s in fact important…what does it matter what the scriptures say or do not say on the subject?

  14. Watt, I think the idea of ultimate compensation for mortal inequity can certainly be used as an ideological basis for reinforcing existing power structures. The Catholic church made this kind of argument during the Middle Ages and indeed up until the middle of the 20th century, and all the established churches did the same for centuries after the Reformation.

    On the other hand, I think the clear scriptural notion of accountability for our own decisions with respect to poverty tends to undermine this idea. If people are condemned for a failure to take actions to address poverty that are within their power, then the gospel becomes a strong incentive for social transformation — and this has also been true, for instance in the American Civil Rights movement.

    I think the idea of eventual, eternal compensation for mortal inequality can actually be a positive force in our lives. It frees us up from the burden of facing a problem that is too large for us as individuals to even begin to solve. Instead, it allows us to focus on the change we can produce — and leave the injustice which is out of our reach in God’s hands.

  15. Jason,

    At the level of the state, an involuntary arrangement, I’m very reluctant to coerce “positive rights” or to implement affirmative moral injunctions, like forcing people to attend church, or to give their bread to those without. Force should be used only to protect negative rights and to prevent negative moral injunctions (murder, theft, abuse).

    I don’t have any problem with people anxiously engaging to form voluntary organizations, like churches or charities, with the common goal of implementing their affirmative good cause (alleviating poverty or increasing church attendance), but I can’t think of a scriptural injunction concerning the poor that requires an institutional response even at the church level. All of the injunctions to care for the poor that I can think of are personal, like the injunctions to fast and pray. Some people understand those commandments to mean that God wants more prayers and fewer poor people, but I understand them to mean that God wants *me* to pray and for *me* to care for the poor.

  16. I agree…for the most part…and I certainly don’t mean to undermine the good that does come from the scriptures.

    …and leave the injustice which is out of our reach in God’s hands.

    In the few cases where the only apparent redress would be to break a moral law, I think the hope in god concept makes sense.

    In the cases where the thing just appears too big, well, I can see the value of hope there as well…but only to the extent that it frees us to experiment (and fail) with imperfect attempts. But my experience has been that this hope in god’s justice has been more popularly understood as as a reason to wait rather than seek redress and solutions now, in this life.

  17. Watt Mahoun said (# 16)

    “But my experience has been that this hope in god’s justice has been more popularly understood as as a reason to wait rather than seek redress and solutions now, in this life.”

    Sir, you are a true Joe Hill fan – “You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”

  18. Mark IV wrote:

    Sir, you are a true Joe Hill fan – “You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”

    You Sir, have done your research! :-) Thanks for that.

    I’ll take my pie now, thank you.

  19. Matt, the negative/positive distinction is slippery. Is redressing poverty a positive right or affirmative command, or a negative moral injunction? When the Lord instructs government leaders not to “grind the faces of the poor,” is that not a negative moral injunction?

    More generally, taking acts to create an institutional solution is one form of acting to care for the poor. If I put my resources and effort into experimenting with programs, whether governmental or non-governmental, that help reduce poverty and alleviate the horrible death rates in poor countries discussed above, how is that not responsive to the moral duty imposed on me by the scriptural text? In my view, institutional solutions only become problematic if we a) become dogmatic about them and disregard evidence that the particular solution we’ve adopted isn’t working, b) don’t let the people involved in funding the institution and the people being helped by the institution have a meaningful voice in how the institution works, or c) see the existence of some institution as an excuse for not making reasonable sacrifices in our own lives to alleviate the suffering of our fellow humans.

  20. BTW, I find it beautifully ironic that Joe Hill was sen to get his “pie in the sky” by a Utah State execution squad. Blood atonement can be alternatively called “fast-food”.

  21. JNS,

    I’m not sure how your item b) in #19 above applies to the church fast offering system. Neither the donor nor the recipient has any control over what is done with the money. Or did you have something else in mind?

  22. Mark IV, actually, the recipient of fast offerings has a voice in the planning process — or is at any rate supposed to have a voice according to the church welfare training that I was required to attend a few years ago. But you’re right that the donor doesn’t have a voice. When we give fast offerings, we’re obviously acting with a kind of faith that wouldn’t apply — wouldn’t even be advisable — if the program in question were a secular NGO or were run by the government.

  23. Jason,

    I should add that I strongly believe Mormons (and everyone else) needs to do more caring for the poor than they do.

    What I think is really counterproductive (and immoral) is waging the battle against the machine, trying to force the system to coerce *others* to give to the poor, rather than to voluntarily give of their own time and resources as they’ve been commanded. Most people rage against the machine because they don’t like admitting that the problem lies in their own heart.

    You and I may wish that Trump read the scriptures more, or worked harder for the poor, but I think it’s immoral for us to compel him to do either.

    The most important step, as I see it, is to stop glamorizing fine consumption, and to instead see consumption as an emphatic sign that the person does not love their neighbor as themselves. I think a politician should be as reluctant to have his picture taken with Trump (using Trump as a symbol only) as with an infamous drug trafficker.

  24. Matt Evans wrote:

    Raging aginst the machine…

    While I appreciate the virtue in this sentiment, I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that those who do choose to leverage the networks and assets and influence of large organizations by seeking to influence them are somehow misguided and less effective.

    Like it or not, the US and other world-wide organizations accumulate and funnel massive amounts of aid. For the US this is sometimes an extension of our foreign relations policies, but nevertheless…many individuals and smaller organizations (see RESULTS for example) focus on helping to educate and guide the application of these resources.

    Individual efforts have proven to be massively effective…like a trim-tab on the rudder of the ship of State. There is an ethical and moral imperative in such activity.

  25. Matt, the issue of “compulsion” is probably not one that we’ll be able to resolve to anyone’s satisfaction in this thread. In my view, democracy provides a reasonable solution to this dilemma; if Donald Trump (for example) wants less tax money to go to alleviate global poverty, then he is free to organize people to vote for candidates who will reduce our investment in assistance to the global poor. In fact, he has immense economic resources that facilitate such action. If he decides this isn’t worthwhile, or if he does it but is outvoted by people who want more of our tax money to be spent on the global poor, well, that’s how democracy works.

    I should note, of course, that this discussion is largely hypothetical, as the actual US investment in alleviating poverty outside our borders is less than 1/5 of 1% of our gross national income. It would hardly be possible for our government to make a smaller effort in percentage terms!

  26. Watt,

    I agree that an organization that raises money without regard for how that money will be used opens itself to lobbying to spend it on one’s pet projects, worthy or not. I’m more interested in the means whereby large organizations get their money, and if they’re taking money with the aid of the fist, then there are strict limits on the purposes for which it can be gathered, and on the ways it can be used.

    Jason,

    I don’t think your argument that it’s okay to force Trump to pray five times a day because, if he doesn’t like it, he can always organize a campaign to change the law, works. I’m focused on the moral limits of majoritarian rule, those things that a majority should *not* impose even when it has the power, and I think the moral limit (and the one used by prophets in the Book of Mormon and Latter-days) is on affirmative acts. No compulsory fasting, worship, taking care of the poor, or thoughtful cards on Mother’s Day, no matter how good they are. Preventing negative acts (i.e., murder, theft, prohibition, gambling) is fair game if you can muster the votes.

  27. Preventing negative acts (i.e., murder, theft, prohibition, gambling) is fair game if you can muster the votes.

    And preventing the suffering and injustice that arises from ignorance, intolerance, and lack of organized effort or will is equally fair game…if you can muster the votes.

    As Joe Hill said while facing his firing squad: “Don’t mourn for me. Organize!”

  28. Matt, again, I don’t buy the distinction between compelling positive acts and preventing negative ones. (See comment #19.)

  29. Jason,

    If you don’t recognize any distinction between requiring affirmative acts and preventing negative acts (I agree that the distinction is not always neat, as Watt points out above), then on what basis would you oppose a majority from using the police power to ensure everyone prays before bed, and sends their mother a bouquet of flowers every Tuesday? It seems like you’ve conceded that unless a majority of people think everyone has a moral duty to pray, they should compel everyone to do so.

  30. Correction: “It seems like you’ve conceded that if a majority thinks everyone has a moral duty to pray, they should compel everyone to do so.”

  31. Whatt,

    To address your comment specifically, “And preventing the suffering and injustice that arises from ignorance . . .”, it is the use of the passive verb “arises” that shows you aren’t preventing a negative act but requiring an affirmative one — the negative outcome would happen if I didn’t exist at all, and you are requiring me to affirmatively act to intervene in the natural course to help alleviate suffering, or pay for your temples, or whatever else you and the majority think I should do to make the world better.

  32. Matt, this is all about trade-offs among principles. We as a society have decided that freedom of religion is important to us. So we’ve agreed that making rules about religion will require a supermajority constitutional amendment, not just a majority vote. But that requirement flows from an institutional decision more than from principle. Furthermore, the real underpinning of religious liberty for the long run is popular support for the cause. Rather than trying to come up with eternal principles here, it’s better to convince people one generation at a time that they should vote for politicians who won’t undermine religious liberty.

    Note also that we haven’t seen fit to give economic rights the same degree of supermajority protection that we have assigned to some other rights. If you want to change that, okay. The solution is to get a constitutional amendment passed — which is, once again, about persuading a lot of people to think the way you do. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep trying to convince people that it’s worthwhile to experiment with institutional as well as extra-institutional solutions to global poverty.

    If a majority agreed to require the bouquet of flowers on Tuesday, well, that would be strange and pointless. So there’s probably a good chance that you could get the decision reversed politically. But whatever.

    My point is that these issues can comfortably be handled in a pragmatic way. I like maintaining a lot of individual autonomy on moral issues. But a good way of trying to get to that point is to help people come to see the world that way so that they vote the way I’d like.

  33. …it is the use of the passive verb “arises” that shows you aren’t preventing a negative act but requiring an affirmative one — the negative outcome would happen if I didn’t exist at all, and you are requiring me to affirmatively act to intervene in the natural course to help alleviate suffering…

    Actually, I was thinking more of “ignorance, intolerance, and lack of organized effort” … and I would add: ill-conceived priorities and actions … as my negative acts (yes, I see them as acts). Also included would be economic theories, budgets, and policies, etc that are based on the idea that human suffering is the “natural course of things”.

    We can choose to see the lack of positive acts or acts that are based on ignorance (or any number of immoral states of mind) as a negative acts.

    And we can democratically seek to rectify such acts without becoming the police state that you’re worried about.

  34. Matt wrote: “Some people understand those commandments to mean that God wants more prayers and fewer poor people, but I understand them to mean that God wants *me* to pray and for *me* to care for the poor.”

    The pre-modern origins of most scripture strongly suggest to me, at least, that the prophets were not assuming atomized individual readers or urging a sort of autonomous individual moral virtue in commandments of this sort, but were instead assuming a collective audience and a collective (that is, insitutional) moral subject.

  35. I think Rosalynde is right. I think the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, just adopt a view that is largely alien to American individualism. We are a community first and an individual second.

    It’s interesting that Mormons are often criticized for adopting a view like that whereas I think technically we do a horrible job of accepting community responsibility.

  36. JNS,

    It’s not just that majorities must choose among competing principles, it’s that there are some *good* laws that are immoral no matter the size of the majority because doing the act due to coercion strips the act of its goodness. God cares not just about outcomes but about means, and a prayer coerced and a gift made unwillingly (it’s hard to think of a gift made less willingly than one made at the point of a state gun), cannot meet our moral obligations.

    Too many people interpret the commandments about the poor as requiring that we raise their standard of living, but despite nearly everyone in the world now having a standard of living higher than the people in 4th Nephi, we’re not even close to living in Zion. The reason is that the commandments about Zion and caring for the poor are not designed to improve people’s standard of living but our standard of loving. A side effect of universal brotherly love, as each man works for the benefit of his neighbor, is a reduction in the relative poverty rates, but that is only a side effect — the primitive community in 4th Nephi was far happier than the contemporary community in Beverly Hills, even though they were all impoverished by contemporary standards, because they had love.

    My concern is that focusing on the effect, rather than the means, distracts us from our true obligations. It allows the most prosperous among us (we’re all prosperous) to think they’ve done their part by giving a generous fast offering because they’ve improved the poor’s material welfare. But that isn’t the purpose of the commandment to build Zion — we’re not commanded to raise material welfare but to love our neighbors as ourselves, and though we give everything we have to the poor, and love not our neighbor, it has NO moral effect.

    Most importantly, sucking fast offerings at the point of a gun (using the coercive power of the state through taxation) to improve everyone’s standard of living is a step backwards toward our obligation to foster brotherly love and affection. That is why the prophets adamantly condemned communism and unhesitatingly rejected efforts to compare Marxist thought to the United Order. God cares about means as much as he cares about ends, and proletarian revolutions with the gun do not increase brotherly love.

    Rosalynde and Clark,

    Of course the commandments were given communally and not individually, but the community must heed the commandments at the individual level. If God commands a community of 10 to pray morning, noon, and night, that doesn’t mean he wants 30 prayers each day. He wants three prayers from each person (whether personally or in community) each day. It would not be of any moral benefit for 6 of them to tax the 10 to pay for a Bureau of Prayer that would ensure that 30 prayers are said each day. Coercing people to help the poor fails to satisfy God’s commandment to love and work for our brother in the same way.

    God’s affirmative commandments can only be satisfied through voluntary action.

  37. I don’t understand why those countries are less advanced than we are. They’ve got a lot of natural resources, their citizens have bodies, just like us, and brains, just like us. I honestly am stymied about that.

    But, JNS/RT, I raise my hand and loud and proud say I will trade places with anybody in Africa who thinks it would be fun to live to 80. Because then I would be already dead and getting some rest.
    I see a lot of older people who are not enjoying being old at all.

  38. Rosalynde and Clark,

    I understand that pre-moderns tended to be more communal, but I don’t see this at all in King Benjamin. It is very rare for a Book of Mormon prophet to come up with an institutional solution to poverty. King Benjamin did not tax the people and use the proceeds. He worked to convince them that their personal salvation depended on their personal charity. Here is an example, note the “that man” that makes it personal, even if the discourse is, of neccessity, addressing a group.

    “I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.”

    RT,

    That is all very pragmatic of you, but Matt’s point is that that pragmatism is not coming our of King Banjamin or the Book of Mormon. It is all you. What we get from the scriptures are individual responsibilities. If you wish to tax people to give away their money, you are welcome to that desire , but it is not obvious that that desire is grounded in scripture.

    I think there are institutional structures that can be handy in these endeavors, among like-minded people. But the difference between charities and the government, it seems to me, is entirely a question of how excited you are to get your hands on other people’s money. And I don’t see injunctions in the scriptures to use someone else’s money to help the poor.

  39. Rosalynde says:

    Frank— What you point out about King Benjamin’s apparent (and apparently anachronistic) assumption of an individual moral subjectivity is quite true, and not at all comforting to me. As it happens, however, I’m kind of working on a post about that very matter…

    Matt– I disagree with your interpretation of God’s moral economy; or at least I think the evidence for such an interpretation would be far from complete. However, I’m willing to let the matter rest at assertion and counter-assertion rather than progressing to full-blown argument. I’m not sure either of us has ever succeeded in communicating effectively with the other even once! (Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy the exchanges anyway.)

  40. Anne, your comment assumes a level playing field. Yes the citizens have bodies and brains, but don’t have adequate social ties. Centuries of colonialism has had a significant impact on virtually all of Africa. The natural resources a re procured by western owned corporations who are more interested in obtaining resource cheaply than elevatint the country (not saying they necessarily should, they are corporations, their purpose is to generate profit). But That, combined with the schisms reinforced through colonialism (see the Tutsi vs hutu conflict), combined with the high level of capitalization (finance) and equipment and scientific knowledge needed to compete, it just makes it hard. Essentially it is asking to pull up by the bootstraps with no bootstraps from the bottom of the grand canyon. This is my short, condensed, probably nonsensical

    As to Frank, you said we see no injunctions to use someone else’s money. I agree, to an extent. We allready use other’s money to pay for a lot of things (defense, road building, education etc). And rightly so, they are important (with no scriptural basis to do so). So we have allready justified crossing the OPM (other’ peoples money) line. Once we have gone past this, OPM is just an extention of personal and social choice. And since we do have a commandment to help the poor, the logical choice is to use government funds to help the poor (to the extent that there is the option to do so)

    I won’t go into the fact that perhaps the money we have is not ours, but a greater manifestation of social/community capital. But I won’t get into that

  41. Matt, I agree: voluntary action is required. Let’s act as a community and voluntarily vote to increase our tax burden so as to reduce poverty worldwide. In the meanwhile, let’s ramp up our support of nongovernmental efforts to address the problem. Relatedly, I agree that the scriptures aren’t concerned about out absolute level of wealth; rather they’re concerned about the degree of social equality. On this point particularly, consider the following two Doctrine and Covenants references, here and here. “Ye” is a collective plural — and that collective plural is commanded to seek economic equality or spiritual blessings will be denied. These commandments have never been rescinded.

    Frank, the pragmatism is a political philosophy that allows modern societies to exist without being either anarchy or totalitarian regimes — indeed, I am not aware of another approach that accomplishes this. But what flows from the scriptures taken as a whole is both an individual and a collective responsibility for the poor. The two Doctrine and Covenants references above are clear evidence of the collective dimension of this responsibility. And I think seeing the Benjamin speech as involving atomized individuals is a 20th-21st century misreading; rather, the speech seems to address a deliberate covenant community, a “gathered church” in Protestant terms, in which free individuals willfully surrender their autonomy to create a broader unity. This helps clarify the fact that the pronoun through most of the sermon is, once again, “ye,” the collective plural. Occasional discussions within the sermon instead use “you” or “I,” but these discussions are intended to warn against ways of breaking the covenant and falling out of unity. The crucial summary command relating to economics is posed in fundamentally collective terms:

    And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. (Mosiah 4:26)

    The point isn’t about using other people’s money. It’s about the collective community using the resources of the collective community to achieve relative economic equality.

  42. Jay S,

    I served my mission in Africa. I would not say that colonialism is the root cause of the problems there. Colonialism added to the mix of problems but the colonists also brought with them and left behind infrastructure and functioning government agencies. 2 nations in particular have done much better self governing themselves Namibia (were I served some of my time) and Botswana. The issues are really complex but here is what I recall. Not in any particular order

    1. Tribalism
    2. Cronyism
    3. lack of a tradition of respecting the rule of law.
    4. Corruption. I have even seen senior couple missionaries buy off officials with gifts to ensure missionary visas
    5. Central government control over natural resources. This usually leads to massive corruption in cahoots with the western Corps due to 1-2-3 above. IE the dictators family/tribesmen takes all the cash and put it in Swiss Banks
    6. Colonial boundary drawing that put opposing tribes in the same nation. One of the advantages that Botswana (tswana) and Namibia (Ovambo, nice people by the way) enjoy is that both countries have a dominant tribe/culture group without a strong tribal enemy within the nation to compete with. Plus their close ethnic ties with segments of the South African populations ensure investment and economic cooperation.
    7. A sense of entitlement that the world owes them something.

    I personally think that solution to Africas problems would require nothing short of a miracle. I would love to see it. There is nothing more wonderful than the African people on a personal level. Its hard to describe the love that Africans are capable of demonstrating. I have strong memories of teaching school in African townships for service hours as a missionary and hoping that someday the bright students I encountered would prosper under a fair system of government and resource allocation. When PEF was announced I was so happy.

  43. Matt Evand wrote:

    but the community must heed the commandments at the individual level

    No question about it. Yet, not everyone has an equal need for various benefits of any given commandment. In the stated scenario where god commands all to pray, one can argue that all benefit from this commandments, yet, depending upon the subject and response to any given prayer, some individuals will benefit to a greater extent.

    Should we make the OPM argument extend to OPP (other people’s prayers) then we’d all be worried about someone taking our prayers.

    Additionally, I don’t appreciate the repeated suggestion that taxation is a “point of the gun” type of coerced system. Sure, theoretically it could come that…but even today, a small minority of tax protesters and an uncounted number of societal incognitos do not pay taxes…with varying degrees of consequence.

    In our democratic republic the power remains for the people to increase, decrease, or eliminate taxes (certainly a difficult task, yet possible)…and as always, to influence the spending of funds collected.

  44. Rosalynde,

    I don’t understand the nature of your disagreement. Is it that you believe a Bureau of Prayer, funded through coercive taxation, could satisfy a community’s obligation to pray, or that you believe that our commandment to love and care for our neighbor is unlike prayer, and can be satisfied with coercive power?

    JNS,

    I support voluntary taxation. If we could vote to tax ourselves, and not our neighbor, then there would be no moral prohibtions against our using our money to achieve moral objectives you and I like but our neighbor doesn’t. Your voting to give away your neighbor’s money does not satisfy the commandment that you love your neighbor and work for his benefit, and I think coercing that effort is actually detrimental and counterproductive to building Zion.

    Watt,

    Our tax system is coercive. Otherwise it would be voluntary. As it is, if you don’t pay your taxes the government can haul you into court, and if you don’t agree they will use the barrell of a gun to get you there. And if you still refuse to pay your taxes after your in court, they’ll pull the gun back out to get you into your jail cell.

    It’s not surprising that most people pay their taxes when that’s the alternative.

  45. Jay S wrote:

    I served my mission in Africa…I personally think that solution to Africas problems would require nothing short of a miracle.

    Jay, The whole list items that you give are human problems and just as real in the US as Africa…I’m sure you know that. So to suggest that these are the primary reason for African poverty is probably inaccurate. What we might look at is why these human weakness have run amok (comparatively speaking).

    BTW, we still believe in miracles don’t we? And faith without works is dead, right? So let’s get busy! :-)

  46. RT,

    KB was addressing a group, so I’m not sure what other language you expect him to use. And let me assure you that I have no problem with you and I joining together to tax each other. But for that, we do not need taxes. To live KB’s Zion as a community, we do not need taxes. We give freely. The purpose of the _government_ is to enforce, with guns and prisons, the demand for money. It is to make people abide by an “agreement” that they do not agree to.

    So you and I are free to join together as a community— we call that fast offerings. We could even agree to vote on how much to give, agreeing to be bound by that. But that is not at all the same as income taxing people forcibly in order to help others. And it is not what Alma or KB did when they saw inequality. When Alma saw inequality, he left the government and went to preach repentance.

  47. Matt Evans wrote:

    It’s not surprising that most people pay their taxes when that’s the alternative.

    I don’t mind disputing this statement. It’s clear to me, from personal experience, that _most_ people pay taxes because they think it’s the right thing to do…not because they’re afraid. This nation has many fears…fear of paying taxes is not one of them for most people.

    I appreciate your anti-tax zeal, but the police power of the state, though it may be applied in some tax evasion cases, is primarily about law enforcement in general and not taxation specifically. You may have a problem with taxation, so you fear the police state…others don’t share your fear. But others may fear it for another reasons.

    If you have a problem with the limited police power in this country, perhaps you should address its entirety, rather than focusing just on it’s application against your personal peeve.

  48. Jay,

    I am not talking about what secular society chooses to do or not. I agree that that is a seperate question from what we get from the scriptures. I am saying that there is no scriptural injunction to force others to pay. I am actually fine with all sorts of government activity (preferring local to federal, and small to big, and well-thought-out to stupid).

    But I do not pretend that such a desire stems from the scriptures. Whereas, as RT shows, it is common among some groups to make that kind of leap from KB’s talk.

    And, if you don’t mind, I’m going to ignore your boilerplate diatribe about Africa’s problems and colonialism.

  49. Frank and Matt, evidently the two of you don’t believe in the existence of community other than as a collection of atomized individuals. But inequality is an inherently collective phenomenon; one person in isolation obviously cannot be “unequal.” So I think the scriptures inherently presuppose a world where people are in collective, binding aggregation. I make the same supposition. The moral question involves how we will choose to organize our community — what aims we will pursue. That’s the point I’m trying to address.

    Frank, I appreciate your point about preaching the gospel as a response to inequality. In fact, I think that’s what I tried to do in the original post here!

    You may or may not be aware of this, but people’s voting decisions about taxation and welfare are typically only weakly motivated by material self-interest. Instead, the political psychology research has shown, these opinions almost always reflect a basically exclusive concern with what’s best for society as a whole. So, when people vote to raise or lower taxes, or to increase or decrease welfare spending, they’re typically not thinking about “my money” or “your money.” They’re instead thinking about “our money.” This is one of the major reasons that vote choice in the US doesn’t correspond nearly as closely to socioeconomic status as people imagine; wealthy people are relatively likely to want to use “our money” to help the poor or preserve the environment, whereas poor people are not infrequently angry about how bureaucrats seem to waste “our money.” But the point is this: the voting decision is sociotropic — i.e., collective — not self-seeking, for almost all voters. Hence, the moral logic of collective obligation is native to the language of electoral decision-making.

  50. Frank, let me point out that I don’t think the scriptures tell us to do government charity. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, I think the scriptures leave us to work out the best mechanism for caring for the poor ourselves.

  51. Watt,

    If we’d receive almost the same amount of tax dollars under a voluntary tax system, because most people pay their taxes because they want to, then we should just scrap our coercive system and it’s baggage.

    I don’t, however, share your conviction that a voluntary tax system would generate almost as much revenue as the current one.

  52. RT,

    The voting data are not really related to the question of scriptural injunctions, nor does it address the basic points Matt and I have raised, since voting is actually the perfect example of an activity where individuals don’t matter. One’s vote is irrelevant in a federal election.

    “But inequality is an inherently collective phenomenon; one person in isolation obviously cannot be “unequal.” So I think the scriptures inherently presuppose a world where people are in collective, binding aggregation.”

    This is just nutty. You’re saying that because the scriptures talk about inequality, they must be ignoring individual accountablility? Or that they cannot be using my definition of community as a collection of individuals? That is really weird. I can talk about inequality just like it does in the scriptures and still allow that charitable responsibility is individual. And as the scripture I quote shows, KB does the same thing.

    I already quoted a specific scripture, and could quote tons more, that _salvation_ is based on the actions of a man and the Savior, not the crimes of his brother. But maybe you’re right. In which case I’m dreadfully sorry if you have to go to the Telestial kingdom because I’m a bad person.

    As for Alma, Alma did not go preach that we need a state program. He could have effected that much better as the chief judge. He went out and preached that we must each help the poor. To the extent you are doing the preaching the latter, I’m on board.

  53. RT, I just saw your addendum. I agree that the scriptures leave each of us to work this out for ourselves. But I fail to see how your responsibility to help the poor could ever be satisfied by taking money from a third party. KB’s advice to those that did not have was that they desire to give. Not that they should look to give other people’s money.

  54. Sorry, JNS, every community is a collection of distinct individuals, there’s no way around it. There can be no community without distinct individuals.

  55. Anonymous a says:

    Bbell

    If you had provided your services in Africa as a non LSD missionary..you might rethink your statement about colonialism NOT being the root cause of the problems.

    Missionaries from EVERY denomination end up doing more harm than good and usually come from the premise (usually american) that they have all the right answers and what africa needs is their particuar religious instruction for the purpose of salvation. You swan if for your set period of service and seek to understand and then make analytical comments about the state of affairs from your brief and very closeted experience in a township.

    If you were actually african, if you understood the cultures from a lifetime or at least years of living there as a local rather than a privileged missionary and if your focus was simply on practising the christian values of charity and love, maybe you would have a more long lasting affect on the people you encounter and a better understanding of africa’s plight. You may have fewer Mormon converts and branches in Africa, but you would actually help more people not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually and those talented individuals would have the resources – not just physical – to work towards changing the infrastructure and root causes – that are actually attributable to colonialism and countless missionaries and western do gooders over the years who ALL have an ulterior motive – whether it be the spread of their ‘religion’ or capitalism. You have your lifestyle and luxury in the US because of countries like africa. If you properly studied the tribal differences, you will see that the evils of coruption that have now been adopted and flourish through the tribal differences have the root in the very fabric of western society and no place in the tribal history. Please do not be self righteous and reluctant to take responsiblity for the sins of your country and missionaries of all denominations and do not presume that because you are Mormon and American, you are always doing the right thing for the rest of the ‘poor world’. That is not the way Jesus operated or spread his word or helped those less fortunate!

  56. Anonymous a says:

    Annegb
    if you do not understand why these countries are less advanced than ‘you’ are..maybe you should spend less time blogging and more time studying your own countries history and foreign policy and basic econmics of capitalism and the western world..what an incredibly american and self righteous non christian ignorant comment!

  57. Anon a,

    Be nice, please.

    Cheers.

  58. Hey Anon a.

    Ba Sukeza. Ndi fundisa Ka Afrika

  59. Frank (and Matt),

    I’m actually mostly on your side here, so don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you might oversimplify the situation a bit.

    For example, you like the United Order because it’s voluntary, but you don’t like government taxes because they are not. But the United Order had it’s own set of complications. People showed up with various amounts of wealth and deeded it all to the church. After that, if you decided church leaders were wrong or corrupt, you were out of luck. You could leave, but then you’d have to start with nothing. If you were a child raised within the system, you might find it very difficult to have the resources to leave. So the UO was sort of like a government itself, albiet one in which the original participants explicitly entered into the social contract. In this government the tax rate was 100%, and democracy was very limited.

    So continued participation in the UO is not really any more voluntary than participation in governments can be. You might as well argue that state taxes are not coercive, because you could always move to another state. Or even federal taxes…you could always move to another country. Yes that might be hard, and you might not be able to go to any country you might wish, but similar difficulties could arise in trying to leave the United Order.

  60. Matt #54, I understand your point of view on this. But you should consider the fact that most people in most societies throughout history just wouldn’t agree with you. The concept you have of “distinct individuals” is a socially-created one that’s really a product of Enlightenment philosophy as channelled by Western pro-market ideology. Many worldviews throughout history have seen the community as ontologically prior to the person, which is actually the opposite of your perspective.

    I find it most helpful to think of community and individual as mutually constitutive. But community is certainly something more than aggregation of individuals. If you don’t think so, compare your experience in Sacrament Meeting with your experience going through security at an airport or driving on a freeway. All of these situations involve aggregations of individuals — but Sacrament Meeting is a quite different experience in large part because a community exists that partially unites the individuals.

  61. ed,

    The United Orders didn’t last long enough to require them to face the dilemma of children born into the order wanting to leave, but I think everyone would agree they should be able to exit, just like the church. It wouldn’t make much sense to say someone can leave the church but can’t leave it’s city, or it’s economic structure. As for adults entering voluntarily, as they did, it was proper to enforce their contract whereby they granted everything to program, even if they later decided to leave.

    If I were to construct the system I would probably allow people leaving the order to take their share per-person share of the collective property.

    I agree that mobility does make tax systems less coercive than they would be under a true government monopoly, and think that the United States, by using less coercion than other governments, has benefitted from the emigration of the talented mobile people from around the world escaping their more-coercive governments.

    JNS,

    “Distinct individuals” aren’t a social construct, they are ontologically whole children of God, agents unto themselves. They join together as mutually dependent individuals to serve and love, but their existence is assured forever. Pre-restoration societies relied on socially-constructed views of society and individuals because they knew neither the nature of God or man, but now that we have the benefit of knowing that God himself is a distinct individual, we aren’t limited the way those cultures were.

  62. Matt Evans wrote:

    I don’t, however, share your conviction that a voluntary tax system would generate almost as much revenue as the current one.

    I’ve said nothing of the sort. Please.

  63. ed wrote:

    You might as well argue that state taxes are not coercive, because you could always move to another state. Or even federal taxes…you could always move to another country.

    Thanks, ed. You hit the fallacy on the head.

  64. Matt Evans wrote:

    If I were to construct the system I would probably allow people leaving the order to take their share per-person share of the collective property.

    Good luck creating that algorithm. :-)

    Seriously, once something is community property…how exactly do you determine what portion is individual property?

    The fact is that individual property is a social construct, agreed upon and granted by the community. It only comes into being when granted as such, and when returned to the community it ceases to exist.

    You suggest that each individual has a clearly defined personal property ownership in community property, as if it were similar to stock. This is not the case.

    What you describe is only possible if the individual is assigend personal shares when entering the community…in which case it is not community propperty but shares of personal property…no exactly the UO concept.

  65. Watt,

    You had said that most people pay taxes because they think it’s right, and not due to the coercion. That means you believe most people would continue to pay taxes if we removed the coercive elements and made it voluntary.

    I admit that allowing people to move to other countries aleviates some of the coercion, but the coercion is there nonetheless. This kind of market analysis is done all the time by the FTC, and a proposal to create a market that resembled the “citizen market” — with all it’s barriers — would be laughed out of the FTC. The US government has a monopoly on the citizen market in the United States.

    As for a share of the united order, it would never be too hard to figure out the cash value of the order, then divide it by it’s number of members to determine the per-member-value. Accountants and analysts have reliable tools for that kind of appraising.

  66. Coercion of fear (the gun as you put it) is not the reason most people pay taxes. For me coercion is a continuum rather than black and white.

    We are coerced my many things, including the desire to do what society expects from us…including the desire to do what is “right”…which I will admit often has an element of not wanting to get in trouble. Neverthelass, most people are focused on doing whtat is right rather than worring about getting in trouble. i.e. they live in the less vilent end of the coercion continuum.

    But I still stand my my original assertion about you, Matt…that you seem to be more concerned about not paying taxes and the possible force that may arise from such civil incooperation, than you are about the real good that comes from paying taxes and seeking to influence how such public funds are spent.

  67. BTW Matt,

    It’s not that I disagree with your opposition to police force. I, for one, would seriously consider civil disobedience regarding such subjects as the misappropriation of tax dollars for war and war profiteering…if I felt that sufficent barriers to the politial process have been raised…and…if state brutality were raised against me, I’d be pretty upset.

    Some tax protester even claim that they refuse to pay because they don’t want to contribute to war-making.

    But this is more about disagreeing with the manner of spending than with taxation in general.

    If your disagreement is with the manner of spending, I understand.

    If your disagreement is with taxation in general, that’s fine too, as long as you acknowledge that there are many benefits to society and individuals that are funded by taxation…and you are also willing to forego all those benefits in exchange for not paying…which would be arguably impossible to do without leaving the planet.

    No matter what your disagreement, you have much more power (at this time at least) to seek political influence over spending than to protest my refusing to pay.

    At least that’s how I see it.

  68. Actually guys most people pay taxes because of automatic withholdings by their employers!!!!

    This is why small business owners get so worked up over taxes cause they actually have to write checks with a pen and actually put them in the mail.

  69. bbell wrote:

    Actually guys most people pay taxes because of automatic withholdings by their employers!!!!

    yeah…makes a pretty easy to cooperate, this is true.

    My guess, however, is that if the church were printing the money and regulating the business…tithing would also be withheld…you know, just like the good old days before separation of church and state? :-)

    Which makes this whole thing really just a gripe session about Caesar having more power than god…at least in this world.

  70. Matt, you are right that it might be possible let people cash out of the United Order (although there would be numerous practical complications, including how much weight to put on the amount originally conferred upon joining the order). But an important and crucial feature of the Order is that you don’t get to decide how it works, and you don’t get to cash out when you leave. Not only that, you have little say (“voice”) over how it’s run while you’re there, unless you happen to be the Bishop or something (and you’re completely out of luck if you’re a woman). So once you’ve signed up (or your husband or father has signed you up), your continued participation is actually equally involuntary, more intrusive, and less democratic, than your continued participation in state or local government taxation.

  71. Watt,

    There are definitely benefits to society, my point has just been to show that the scriptural imperatives to care for the poor can’t be satisfied with coercive measures like government action.

    ed,

    To work well I think the United Order would have to be voluntary at all times. People who want out should be allowed to leave out because otherwise they’d spoil the program. No communal system will work if the people aren’t genuinely motivated by a concern for their neighbor, and if someone decides they can’t live the higher law, they shouldn’t be coerced into staying. They’d only breed discontent. It would be more important to keep morale high by only involving those who are happy to be there. And frankly, if people are motivated by their love for their neighbor, there would be no need for a formal structure in the first place. Everyone would be happy to help their neighbor, and every neighbor would express appreciation for the help. This is the oversight of utopian planners everywhere, Joseph and Brigham included: utopia isn’t made by right plans, but right hearts.

  72. ed, I challenge this assertion:

    Not only that, you have little say (”voice”) over how it’s run while you’re there, unless you happen to be the Bishop or something . . . your continued participation is actually equally involuntary, more intrusive, and less democratic, than your continued participation in state or local government taxation.

    I’m just speculating, since I don’t know what the UO was really like, but D&C 82:17 at least gives scriptural authority to the idea that the participants had some influence on how the order was run:

    And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—

    I have never had the state or local government ask me what my wants and needs are.

  73. Actually, this problem of contracting among those born in is quite central. Orderville, so the story goes, came apart in the second generation, among those who had not bought into the contract. Thus I can like the idea of a United Order, but people should be allowed to explicitly contract in, not be forced in because they wish to live on a particular continent (which is what the U.S. comparison amounts to).

    Also, this “you can always move” argument is exactly the issue. That is why I am far more in favor of obtrusive local government than federal. One can much more readily escape. But as the costs of leaving rises, so should the respect for individual choices.

    Lastly, I think I would be much more interested in a tax based welfare system the more I was in a homogenous group of people who all wished to give (like a religion). Then the tax becomes a coordination device which can be largely helpful, rather than using the power of the law to impose someone’s idea of a good idea on others who don’t like it.

  74. ed,

    “your continued participation is actually equally involuntary, more intrusive, and less democratic, than your continued participation in state or local government taxation.”

    I think Mark is right that you are overplaying the totalitarianism of Zion. And there is a huge spiritual difference between covenanting to do something and so being obligated, and just plain being obligated by the law.

  75. Frank wrote:

    And there is a huge spiritual difference between covenanting to do something and so being obligated, and just plain being obligated by the law.

    Yeah, like…with the government of man you might get your head blown off (Matt Evan’s assumption) if you don’t pay taxes, but at least god will reward you in the next life for being valiant…

    …but fail to pay your tithing and you may be emoliated in this life, and definitely in the next life…

    …and if you’re under the UO of Brigham Young, you might just get your head blown-off anyway…you know, blood atonement. :-)

    We certainly are getting off topic here, aren’t we?

  76. Substitute “emoliated” with “immolated”… :-)

  77. Frank and Matt, good comments.

    You’re right that it makes a lot of sense for communal systems to allow voluntary opt-outs, and to have mechanisms to ensure that the next generation joins up only if they want to. I’m no expert, but I’m not aware that the UO (in either of its versions) had such provisions.

    Also, you’re right that to the extent that a communal system has these features, it is in an important sense less coercive than government.

    As far as issues of control, I’m not saying the UO is “totalitarian,” just that there are few/no democratic checks on power. The verse in D&C 82 doesn’t implies to me that allocations should be equal, but it doesn’t seem to say anything about equality in decision making. (The modern church lacks control in the same way…not only do I have zero say over how my tithing is spent, I’m not even allowed to know how it’s spent!)

  78. I really wanted to get the last word on this thread, so I’ll finish it off…let it regain its vigor and walk and walk again.

    This remains a great post and a vigorous discussion…but as is sometimes the case, it did not age well…as the discussion descended from a high and hopeful challenge down to a whipping-boy for our basest fears.

    Sleep well good post. You shall live again in another form as they creator sees fit.

    Until then, adieu.

    PS. Now I defy anyone here to raise it from the dead. Some miracles are not meant to be!

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