Gospel Doctrine Lesson #14: The Law of Consecration

Gina teaches cultural studies, media represetation, and critical pedagogies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.  She blogs at KiwiMormon and we are pleased to have her as our guest.

Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.

Professionally I research, teach, and think a lot about teacher positionality and cultural locatedness. Teachers inevitably bring their whole cultural selves into the profession but are often unaware that they are culturally constituted, socially constructed beings. It’s the most challenging of tasks to have them interrogate their own assumptions, and to see themselves as other than ‘the norm’. I’ve spent some time thinking about this issue in LDS teaching contexts, where, in an increasingly international church, Sunday school teachers from all variety of political persuasions are delivering the LDS curriculum. This becomes reasonably important when we consider a divine political economy such as the Law of Consecration. I would argue that ones culture, whether North American, French, or Samoan, will have a significant influence upon the approach of the teacher as she or he delivers this lesson.

So, I would like to do three things. Firstly, I wish to show how one’s cultural position will inevitably flavour a lesson, and secondly, I would like to demonstrate why my particular approach to this lesson is undeniably true –with a capital ‘T’. Thirdly I would like to invite you to think about how similarly emphatic, but ideologically loaded declarations might just serve to obfuscate the very essence of God’s word in the wrangle over who’s right, and who’s wrong. I still think I’m right, but I’m also aware that there are those at the opposite end of the political spectrum who also think they are right – the challenge is sorting out this messy place in the middle without compromising the very essence of this beautiful and transcendent law in a bun fight for political traction.

So here goes. I’m a socialist. I’m well aware of the negative currency that this has in American contexts, but here in New Zealand, notwithstanding our recent neo-liberal turn, being a socialist is not an epithet one tries to hide. I grew up in a staunch trade union family; I was carried on the shoulders of my grandfather to street corner meetings to listen to left-wing members of parliament; I went to university and read Marx; I joined the Labour Party of New Zealand and became a national youth representative until they sold out with their diabolical Thatcheresque market reforms in the 1980’s, and I’m currently on the Industrial Professional committee of the New Zealand Tertiary Education Union. I believe in social justice, in equity, in the redistribution of wealth and the rights of workers. I believe a nation or a community is weakened by naked competition, and strengthened by collaboration and cooperation. I’m in a perpetual fury over American capitalism’s ideological and systemic grasp. I’m incensed at the US for their overinflated industrial military economic complex that fueled an illicit invasion of a sovereign state that has lead to a disaster that will have repercussions for innocent people for generations to come. If you were to put me in an Orem ward, I believe I’d be excommunicated as a heretic and a dissident. But I don’t really care.

I was right about the Iraq invasion when I stood against my US associates in our expatriate ward in Taiwan, and I’m still right. What happened 10 years ago is symptomatic of a voracious nation state who continues to be the engine room for an insatiable political economy that whirrs on, generating wealth for a paltry few at the expense of the vast majority.

What makes my rage all the more acute is the following;

• Despite the explicit theology of wealth threaded through our scriptural canon that condemns nations for vesting their entire interest in financial interest at the expense of the people.
• Despite the fact that we have a remarkable book that maps out magnificently the fate of a greedy and gluttonous nation state that rejects Christ’s explicit injunction to overturn the moneychangers tables.
• Despite the fact that Joseph Smith attempted an applied theology that addressed his fundamental concerns about material inequality.
• Despite the fact that the most serious of our sacred rites warns that Lucifer’s will work stealthily over time to purchase both power and influence because he is confident that it is a sure fire way to ruin a people.
• Despite the fact that the enemy of God has declared his desire to use his emissaries (the wicked in high places) to purchase the means to conquer our world through ideological and material power where he has in mind to rule with carnage and terror.

Despite all of this, like a cancer, cultural Mormonism’s outright rejection of these fundamental doctrines has become it’s own shameful religious hegemony. A cultural hegemony that draws our attention to nose piercings, coke drinking, gay marriage, swearing, and skirt length at the expense of broader and a more thorough exposition of the essential, and resounding message of the scriptures – the contest between Babylon and Zion.

As a people we are poverty stricken in our discourse. Our expressions of faith have been reduced to a vapid preoccupation with decorating our homes with kitsch LDS paraphernalia featuring Jesus as the white, smiling, bearded, children loving street preacher of our mythologies, rather than the brown outspoken, theological subversive, and divine radical that he really was.

And it will be this philosophical background that will inform my approach to the Gospel Doctrine lesson on ‘The Law of Consecration.’

So lets just say what it is. The Law of Consecration was an applied theological experiment. Joseph Smith saw that the church was suffering under the heavy burden of inequality, he took is concern to the Lord and came up with an inspired formula for reorganizing the material affairs of the people he lead. This meant the installation of a system where the Bishops played a central role in receiving and redistributing property. Not that this kind of arrangement is anything new. If one reads the Lord’s intent for ancient Israel one cannot help but notice that God’s economy is one in which private wealth is institutionally consecrated for the common good. The litmus test for living according to the law of God is not the accumulation of massive wealth and the aggrandizement of the exceptional, but rather the conditions in which there is literally no poverty, and no class system. It would appear that God’s economy (in the very few examples of success we have available to us) brings about a state of blessed peace and happiness.

These days we talk about the Law of Consecration as simply the consecration of our time and talents, and our means to the establishment of a godly kingdom. A thorough exposition of the scriptures would suggest however that the Law of Consecration is not a good-will economy, or the simple aspiration of generosity in a halcyon future. It is philosophically and ideologically profound and complete. It is premised on absolute spiritual maturity, and relies on a community who consciously and enthusiastically works to confound the present political and cultural arrangements in favour of a social system that is heaven sent. Few communities have lived it in its entirety, Even the early Saints failed miserably leaving Brigham Young to lament:

Some of our Elders, and, in fact, some of the Twelve will tell you, “Yes, yes, the Order is a splendid principle and will bring happiness, etc., but it is not hardly time to enter into it, wait a little while until the people understand it a little better.” Why, they are fools! They don’t know what they talk about. They have ears to hear and will not hearken, and have eyes to see and will not understand.

So that’s my position. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that socialism IS the United Order, or wholly akin to the Law of Consecration. Its inferiority is obvious in socialism’s eschewal of spirit, and the law of the gospel. But I do believe there are echoes and traces of the socialist aspiration in the Law of Consecration, and I’m convinced that neo-liberal market capitalism is the Law of Consecration’s enemy.

So, I will carry this ideological baggage into my Gospel Doctrine class. I might not present my political resume so explicitly but my politics will be present, because I can’t detach from my politics – as you will not be able to either. The difference is, I’ll be right, and if you aren’t of my political persuasion – you’ll be wrong.

Comments

  1. Jacob H. says:

    Fantastic!

  2. I like very much everything you said.

    I think it is important to understand the difference between the Law of Consecration and United Order (or United Firm). The latter was just one way to live the Law of Consecration, the Law itself still holds. We make sacred covenants to obey it.
    I highly recommend the Past Impressions podcasts on this topic:
    http://www.mormonchannel.org/past-impressions/20 The Law of Consecration
    http://www.mormonchannel.org/past-impressions/21 The United Order

  3. Leonard R. says:

    Brilliantly done. While I cannot abide the socialist party in my country (NDP of Canada), I think this is spot in; in particular your hinge statement regarding the poverty-strikenness of our discourse. I hope we can all strive for the spiritual maturity and sense of fellowship to enable us to discuss the gospel within the context of our actual world – yes, politics and economics included – in a way that will strengthen and stretch each other. Open acknowledging our biases and background is a great start.

    Also, I was in that Taiwan ward just after you it would seem (2005-2009). Wonder how many people we knew in common…

  4. I’ve often been struck by how American Mormondom can so enthusiastically extol the Law of Consecration in principle, bemoaning the early saints’ inability to implement and live it successfully and longing for the time when we as a people will “be ready”, and then vilify with even greater intensity every tenant of socialism. This is easy to do, after all, since the latter is “Satan’s perversion of God’s law”, substituting agency and love with government compellence. It has failed over and over again (conflating, as is often typical, socialism and communism) because people are not motivated to perform well. Deeper down, though, I suspect a more common base for much of the opposition. A decade or so ago, I attended two successive Elders’ quorum meeting in different states (Arizona and Utah), one of which was off by one week in the manual – so I got the Law of Consecration lesson twice in a row. In both cases, the lesson and ensuing discussion played out exactly the same. It started with the idea of how great was the idea of living the Law, and ended in a very passionate rejection a la: “I work hard for what I have. I don’t want some freeloader taking advantage of my effort!” and, paraphrasing, “If I work harder, I deserve to get more stuff!”

    So while I’m no more “ready” than the next guy (I too like stuff and am wary of drastic structural economic change), I’m a little uneasy with the ease with which socialist principles are rejected. I don’t know how we get there as a people, but I suspect you are correct that a focus on skirt length will not cut it.

  5. I appreciate this post. I’ve always found it strange why so many LDS are knee-jerk defensive when it comes to discussion of political theory – maybe it is more prevalent in the US. It was nice to have some of this touched on by E Uchdorf’s address, so maybe in time there will be a thawing of things and a return to an understanding that we strive to be followers of Christ first, and our ‘gospel hobbies’ should take a back-seat.

  6. ‘Our expressions of faith have been reduced to a vapid preoccupation with decorating our homes with kitsch LDS paraphernalia’

    Alternatively, our expressions of faith include:
    Full-time missionary service with little contact with family
    Time consuming and often costly temple service
    Serving many hours in callings in an effort to build faith in children and youth
    Sacrificing to serve the poor and needy
    Providing meals and blessings and other forms of comfort to the sick
    Keeping covenants in difficult circumstances, including paying tithing when ends don’t quite meet

    But if you want to reduce the faith of average members to what they choose to hang on their walls, press on. Hope you find that Zion you’re looking for.

  7. It looks like BCC brought in the right kiwi for the job.

    Gina, I think you’re hitting the right balance. I firmly believe that the greatest enemy to “socialist” economic policy, is for Christians to start living the teachings of Jesus, in terms of how they view their possessions and prosperity. As you point out, Mormons have even less of an excuse.

  8. The obvious counterpoint here is 4 Nephi: 3, which states that the Nephites living in a Zion society “had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.” Now, “all things in common” sounds like a socialistic arrangement with shared wealth, but if you dig deeper, footnote b on “heavenly gift” directs to the Topical Guide for Gifts of God, the first reference to which takes us to Ecclesiastes 3:13, which states “that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.” This proves that the Lord’s “heavenly gift” is, in fact, market capitalism. Thus “all things common” is properly understood to mean that the Nephites individually enjoyed the goods of ALL their labor in an idealized market-based economy, not PART of their labor redistributed by government fiat.

  9. Casey, “proves” might be a little strong. Even aside from the fact that the author of 4 Nephi did not in fact write the Topical Guide, once could just as easily argue that market capitalism prevents every man from enjoying the good of his labor, because an unequal share of that labor goes to the fat factory owner guy (as seen in all those fun Soviet propaganda posters) in the top hat with the long cigarette. Socialism, on the other hand, might be defended as allowing allowing every man to enjoy that fruit by preventing concentration of the benefits in the hands of the few.

  10. it's a series of tubes says:

    Just clicked the virtual “like” button for James’ post at 6:46 AM. The OP is a bit too sweeping in her condemnation, methinks.

  11. I think my post ran up against the Libertarian equivalent of Poe’s Law.

  12. Gina, I’m confused by your conflation of American capitalism and global projection of American power. In a piece focused on the evils of capitalism, you decry the country’s “overinflated industrial military economic complex” and the government’s drive to “purchase the means to conquer our world through ideological and material power”. The U.S. is able to sustain its unparalleled military might because of its large collective wealth. The government draws on the wealth of all, not just those at the top, to fund and equip collective armed forces. If an alternative socialist economy were to generate as much total wealth, shouldn’t it be equally capable of taxing, building power, and projecting it? Of course, if such systems generate less total wealth then the collective will need a tighter belt. But then it sounds like you are arguing against prosperity rather than inequity.

  13. I’m going to let James, Aaron, it’s a series of tubes speak for me … adding only that one need not be anti-American to be pro-Law of Consecration.

  14. You first, and everyone else who readily agrees to do this with you. Bless you as you redistribute your own wealth.

  15. COJCOLDS HQ is in US =/= COJCOLDS US members support current US politics … to equate the two greatly exaggerates the influence that US members hold on politics

  16. I think the main difference I see is that the Law of Consecration is intended to be a voluntary redistribution of wealth while socialism is designed as an enforced redistribution. I do think consecration to help our brothers and sisters is important, but I also think that agency of individuals is equally important. Partly this is because I think the true blessings of consecration will only be realized when we as individuals understand the importance of lifting up the hands that hang down and voluntarily give of our surplus from a place of love and empathy and a desire to help others. It definitely takes more time to bring about that kind of redistribution, but I think God wants us to consecrate by choice, not by force. And I worry that forcing people to do so only makes them dig in their heels in resentment – possibly denying them the opportunity to come around to the idea on their own. Which may be counterproductive to both them and those who need their help.

  17. If we want to view the law of consecration through the lens of politics then we will all have blinders, I have taken the view lately of a Political Atheist for what it’s worth. All social economics and political systems as practiced today are an “abomination in the sight of god’ since none of them have agency, stewardship and accountability, with an over-arching doctrine of loving god with all our might, mind and strength and to love our neighbor likewise. If I could be anything it would be a Zionist, not in the traditional sense but one who is freely living with one heart and one mind, living in righteousness and no poor among them. I do not have to wait for some system/policy to be employed by the church or the state to start living this way. I freely consecrate my heavenly gifts to god and my fellow man and wait patiently on the lord. I pray that I will hear his voice.

  18. Mandy,
    This is a strange argument. I voluntarily vote for a party that believes in a well-regulated economy and for the support of the poor. As we are in a democracy, if I can convince a majority of people to want the same, we will do this. You may not like it, just as I might not like the fact that the other party lets hedge fund managers rake in money at half the tax rate as their secretaries. It does not change the fact that in our social contract I am honor bound to allow this, just as you are honor bound to honor my view if it is the majority.

    It is my observation that in a complex society where poverty in all its forms (financial, spiritual, educational, opportunistically, etc.) is substantial, that we, as Christians, will use whatever mechanisms are available for its amelioration. To hid behind free will as a defense of your spiritual poverty, which gives not to the poor, I think, is a very poor defense.

  19. FWIW, I think it is easier to live the law of consecration if we are living as hunter-gatherers. In a small group we easily give to the hungry and protect the weak because they are our relatives and we know them very well. It is not hard to give to the ones closest to us. I have, for example, given a veritable fortune (for me) to my children for their food, clothing, housing, education, and modest luxuries. I would not do that for your children, I honestly admit. There are just too many of your children and just one of me, and I do not know them.

    The law of consecration, as far as I am concerned, is a deep desire to go back to this earlier society. We all know the benefits of this as share and share alike. The other side of this coin is that hunter-gatherers lived a brutal life. There were many killings and murders. Tribal warfare was rampant. (See the Yanomamo in Wikipedia) We have a deep distrust of the “other” and do not want to give to people not of our tribe. We are fine giving to people that look like us and talk like us. We do not want to give to people who do not, in general.

    I think that this is the real Christian challenge, the Samaritan challenge, to give to people we do not know, to people who are not of our tribe, even to the dirty and smelly, the children of drug-addled parents, to people who are incapable of honest labor for multiple reasons, insanity being one. There are people who are only capable of minimum wage jobs. There are children born into very difficult circumstances. We cannot do this by absolutely voluntary means, the problems require the mobilization of large resources.

    As far as Mormons with the white Jesus on the wall: I have no idea. As far as temple service is concerned, I have no idea. (I have an affinity for the statement, “let the dead bury the dead.” except we know they are not dead, exactly. But I trust God will make that OK in the end. I do like genealogy because of the turning of hearts.) I do know that “if ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

  20. Swisster says:

    Where can I read about or discuss how to implement the LoC now? I can participate in the church’s periodic or temporary efforts like paying fast offerings to help a ward member pay rent for a short time, or helping the donate bishop’s storehouse food to the local food pantry. But what about the obese boy in our ward whose parents can’t afford to put him in any kind of sports program? Should I take that to the ward council or just offer to enroll him and pay $40/month? Etc. etc.

  21. Mandy, you seem to be overlooking the fact that if “socialistic” policies develop in free market western democracies, then it is a result of legislation throug the democratic, process, i.e. those policies will be an expression of the people and there is political accountability built into the process in case legislators have overstepped their bounds and voted outside the preferences of their constituencies.

  22. John f., I have the same initial reaction:

    If we get together as a church and collectively decide to take care of one another, then that’s called motivation by love to exercise our agency on behalf of one another.

    If we get together as a community and collectively decide to take care of one another (by choosing people to represent us in enacting our desires), then that’s called being forced by an oppressive government to submit us to its will.

    Why is the idea that “government is simple the name we give to the things we choose to do together “ so anathema to so many (aside from the rather polarizing source of the quote)?

    I suppose the difference between the two scenarios above is the option to individually opt out. In the second case, once we make that decision, and until we collectively change our minds, we might be bound by law to uphold it. Is that the essential difference? If so, it doesn’t seem necessarily absolute, since “opt in” could in principle be built into a government program as well.

  23. I don’t think condemning people with different opinions as being in “spiritual poverty” is an indication of being more christlike or on a higher spiritual plane. And it’s wholly unnecessary as we agree in fundamentals, just not in practice. I agree that we are in a democracy and that means majority rules. But as we have seen, that doesn’t always mean the majority is right or that their decision is right for all people (see prop 8). One of the difficulties of government in this world.

    And as it happens, I am not personally “hid[ing] behind free will as an excuse for [my] spiritual poverty.” I do believe in and live the law of consecration, giving all I can afford to the poor and far more than either the government or the church ask of me. My response was a defense of people who do not feel ready, for whatever reason, to live that law. Just as there is room to reconsider other laws that infringe on some people’s freedom (again, see prop 8), I think there is room to look closely at redistribution of wealth. It can certainy do a great deal of good, but it can also do harm, as can most laws. And I think it’s worth considering the views of those who don’t agree with the majority. We may be able to come up with a third option that is even better if we listen without judging.

  24. namakemono says:

    Gina, I am tempted to move back home just to sit in on your classes!

  25. John f., your last paragraph is the difference I was trying to point out between church and government consecration, perhaps unsuccessfully.

    If we really want to create a zion community, I think we have to get to a point where everyone opts in. We can try to make people do that, of course, but it won’t be the same. And a lot of people will find ways around it. But if we can lead by example and encourage people to truly care about each other, I think that could have a more powerful influence for good than simply passing a law. Because if people are invested in the concept, they may well give more than the law would demand. My grandfather was an incredible example to me. He was quite well off but always lived very modestly. Many people never knew he had money because he never flaunted it. I knew he spent a great deal of money helping less fortunate family members, friends, etc. but not until after he died did we find out how much he had helped other people. At his funeral, so many people came up and told us how he had helped them out, rescued them from foreclosure on businesses or homes when they couldn’t get bank loans. And he did it all so quietly, never mentioning it to anyone beyond the person he helped. His example was what gave me a testimony of consecration and encouraged me to live it in my own life to the best of my ability. And that is the effect I hope we as a society could have on those who hesitate.

  26. Sorry, Aaron’s last paragraph, rather than John’s.

  27. Thanks Mandy – your grandfather’s story illustrates that in a sense each of us is free to live a law of consecration to whatever extent we are willing. We can do that within church structure, by taking of our income only what we absolutely need and giving the rest to fast offerings, etc, or we can manage it ourselves, as your grandfather did.

    The question remains, though, if the program structure preserves individual opt-in/opt-out, would your support still require that it be administered by the church rather than the government/community?

  28. No, I actually think it’s necessary for government to manage things to a certain extent. Churches can’t cover every aspect of society’s needs. I do worry about corruption in govt. so I think we should increase our governmental checks and balances to make sure the money goes to those who need it, rather than politicians or big business or unnecessary govt. expenditures. But I don’t believe government should take all or even most of people’s surplus. A portion is necessary to support a functioning society. But I think its important to let people use their own discretion in many things so they can see the direct benefit on the people they help – which in turn may motivate others. I’m thinking of that guy in England (sorry, can’t remember his name) who’s giving most of his income to charity. He’s inspiring in a way that government usually isn’t. And I think it’s his voluntary sacrifice that touches so many people.

  29. Gina, great post, I love that you go where so many fear to tread. I wish I was in your class. Many of the comments prove the points you made. Why do members keep justifying bad policy or the Church’s slow progress towards or even retreat from divinely instituted laws on “people are not yet ready to live that law”? We have covenanted to keep certain laws. What are we doing to prepare to live those laws, in this case the law of consecration? If we continue to support and sustain a political and economic system inimical to that law, we are not ourselves preparing to live it now nor in the future, and neither are we helping our brothers and sisters to do so.

  30. Sorry, Aaron, I didn’t fully answer you. If it was strictly opt-in/opt-out, then people could choose to give to govt or church. And either would be fine with me – wherever people feel good about helping, I say, let them.

  31. Sounds reasonable, Mandy. I suspect though that religion has much greater potential to motivate selflessness in the masses than secular programs ever will. In the government program, people would probably have to recognize a direct tangible benefit to self (e.g. education, health care, transportation, etc) in order for widespread “opt-in” to be realized.

    Regarding one of your other points, I’m not sure that increased “governmental checks and balances” is likely to find correlation with reduced “unnecessary govt. expenditures”…

  32. Awesome discussion. I just wanted to say something to Aaron who questioned my argument that there is a relationship between American capitalism and their industrial military complex. The US is able to sustain its military complex because it perpetuates global inequality by targeting poor countries, exploiting their resources and confronting local resistance with their military strength. Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction – it was about exploiting their oil reserves. The US doesn’t invest so heavily in their military because they have a mission to democratize nations, they do it because they want to defend and reproduce their economic privilege and it works – at cost to everyone but the US.

    With respect to how we live the law of consecration, now I think there are multiple ways that we can do it both in our LDS communities and neighbourhoods. The plenitude principle, working toward a cashless community economy such as timebanking, community gardens, reducing our work days and making our homes more productive. Our wards are such a great place to start this. Rather than activities that entertain and consume, we need to be thinking of integrated community activities that bring all of us together eg. to put up solar panels, gardening together, sharing our resources and skills, learning the skills of practical self-reliance. I just feel that we need to move beyond the one conceptualisation of charity as ‘I sacrifice for you’ to ‘we serve each other for the good of the whole’.

    That’s just my two cents worth!

  33. Maybe we could get volunteers to do the checks and balances. :) I do believe the church would do a better job managing things and many people would be more likely to opt in with the church. But maybe atheists or agnostics would prefer the govt route and be more likely to give that way.

  34. Gina, I think that Iraq invasion for Iraqi oil is an oversimplification, but that discussion might be an unnecessary sideline. Even if you are correct, what does socialism do for us? If the U.S. were socialist then we would not want to own cars, or we would not want to drive our cars as much, so we would not have such a thirst for oil, so we would not go looking for it and seeking to preserve our access? Doesn’t sound very convincing to me.

  35. I never said the US should be socialist. I just said that I was, and that therefore colours my politics and therefore the way I will approach my lesson. I actually think we can do better than socialism.

  36. Mark Brown says:

    Thank you, Gina. I appreciate what you have written.

    Perhaps the most disappointing thing for me, and solid evidence of our spiritual poverty, is the way we are unable to even think about consecration except in terms of some kind of contest between government aid or private charity. We pay attention to the Book of Mormon long enough to learn about Kingmen and Freemen and draw the conclusion that we should vote for low taxes, but that’s about it.

    We need to have a conversation about what the Book of Mormon teaches about collective guilt, and collective responsibility for the poor. In my opinion, this goes far beyond expecting individuals to be more generous with their fast offerings. It demands that we re-think the way our society is structured, from top to bottom. Unfortunately, we cannot even have that conversation because we are stuck in a Skousenist exegesis, and seem to be happy with it.

  37. Kathrin Raab-Questenberg says:

    BRILLIANT!!!!

  38. Mandy,
    I am sorry I was harsh. There are many people who despise government programs and hid behind “free will giving” as a defense for their unwillingness to share.

    About your grandfather. This is an example of helping people in your own tribe, in general. I have given lots of money to help my close relatives and friends. But the schizophrenic woman I once home taught was an endless pit of need which I could not, at all, financially dent by my self. I do not believe, at the present time, that the Church takes on long term dependencies. I believe the Church shifts the long term responsibility to the state.

    What makes government awkward is exactly the oversight you mentioned. Government makes legislation and tries to nail down every potential problem. In reality something else happens and the agents of the government are bound by the law. I think we saw this in the FEMA housing after Katrina. Government is not fast and agile because it takes an act of Congress to change the laws. This is done to make sure the money is not wasted or fraudulently used. Another example of this were the welfare laws of the past generation which denied benefits to families with an able-bodied man at home. This was done, quite logically, so that benefits would not go to the undeserving. You know the outcome which lasted for more than a generation. (Thank you Bill Clinton and the Congress for ending this.)

    Neither your Grandfather nor I want to go to backwater Mississippi to deal with the problems and issues of rural poverty there. We are glad to shift that burden onto professionals hired by the government to do what we cannot. I am sure that the consensus of the Church is the same except for the sizable group that thinks that starvation is OK and that the War Between the States was fought over states rights.

    However it is my dream to start a company with fair-minded and honest people who respect each other’s opinion. With people who do not have a trace of sociopathology or narcissism who wish for and work for everyone else’s success as much as for their own. From what I know of myself and others, it will not happen in this life. This is why the United Order and Consecration are really utopian dreams. I will settle for liberal democratic social programs in the here and now.

  39. Post Script: I have a hard enough time getting consensus with my dearest wife over our social spending. How could I deal with people I like less? Could we, collectively, fall in love? Could I really love my bishop? I guess when he and I love each other in a meaningful and visceral way, then the Second Coming is at hand and the United Order will be ushered in as the Order of Heaven.

  40. Belated AMEN to the OP.

  41. No worries, RW. I wish your dream could be a reality.

  42. OK, Gina, you didn’t say the U.S. should be socialist. But as you point out, it’s difficult to disentangle your political-economic philosophy from the rest. Particularly with all the “my politics are right” and “if you aren’t of my political persuasion – you’ll be wrong”.

  43. There’s always so much debate on this issue. My answer would be to forget about the conditioning of the world, open our minds and hearts, and look at the actual teachings of Church leaders and the writings of those they recommend. Some years ago I put a site together to enable LDS to do just that. No opinion, just the sources: http://www.ldsfreedomportal.net

  44. Socialism is Satan’s counterfeit of The Law of Consecration. Socialism is a rejection of free agency, while consecration is a totally voluntary exercise. Capitalism in its purest form (free from governmental interference) is a system in which individuals voluntarily exchange and cooperate, and is totally in line with the principles of free agency.
    General Authorities such as Marion G Romney, Ezra Taft Benson, and William O Nelson have warned about the evils of socialism, as it is a perversion of God’s Law of Consecration, and D&C 134:2 specifically states that men have a right to property: “We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.”

  45. @Wexley: Considering the global economic climate, capitalism, with its focus on self-interest, greed and personal profit (see “Wealth of Nations” for example) does not seem particularly appealing. Furthermore, there is a difference to being an owner as to being a steward, once deemed, all goods to the church (Lord), you no longer own them you become a steward. D&C 134, a declaration not a revelation, ought to be seen in its historical context on the treatment of members of the church. Notably most of the ‘modern’ rhetoric is found in the Cold War era — A link back to a 2008 BCC article might also help. http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/03/25/capitalism-and-mormonism/

  46. The cognitive dissonance that the author must feel over her avowed political ideology having been savagely and repeatedly condemned by scores of general authorities in the Church she purports to believe in must be… challenging. Her profound misunderstanding of the Law of Consecration and the vast distance between that and socialism is head-shaking. Doubtless, a bright person, but she really needs to better grasp of history, economics, and LDS doctrine.

  47. Wexley, the problem with “socialism is a rejection of free agency”, as an absolute statement, is that it doesn’t make any sense. Connecting to your final quote, socialism has nothing to do with free exercise of conscience, does not preclude all right and control of property, and I can’t even imagine how protection of life is supposed to tie in.

    Gina, sorry for the terse reply – I had to leave last night before finishing. To shop for pants with my wife. Turns out they were heche en Mexico. Anyway, for me your post points to what is perhaps the most critical of global problems. Namely, that there is a huge global inequity in standard of living, with nations like the U.S. at the top consuming resources at a tremendous rate, and it is not clear that the planet can support everyone at that level. Although I believe “First World” nations contribute in significant ways to countries lower on the developmental rung, there is a ton more that could be done if we were willing to accept even modest reductions in standard of living, especially for those at the very bottom. Principles of socialism and Consecration speak to these inequities by advocating a redistribution of wealth and consequent homogenization of standard of living. I think this is most likely to succeed within a country that is already pretty well off. Some will come up a bit and some will come down a bit, but the place isn’t going to look fundamentally different after the transition, and everyone gains a sense of security.

    It’s a harder sell on a global scale, though, and I’m not convinced there’s a there there. The oil example speaks to this. There are a lot of reasons Americans use so much oil, ranging from cultural to geographical. What I don’t see is realistically how collectivist principles are supposed to drastically reduce that demand. Ditto for the huge range of global inequity in general. Unfortunately, I don’t see any other final solution either. Development works to some extent, with China chasing the U.S., others in line to become the “new China”, and still others in line to become whatever the “new China” used to be. Probably making the pants I bought last night. But I don’t see how this model can possibly be sustainable.

  48. Shane, doesn’t it get boring just telling people they’re 100% lacking in understanding and faith, without making any effort to delve into the issue, support your position, or understand where they’re coming from?

  49. Jacob H. says:

    For those who extol consecration and denigrate socialism, how is it that you can put so much emotion into how much better and different consecration is, while at the same time being aware of how unproven your claims are, and that every attempt at living consecration has arguably been a spectacular disaster? If it really is so great, how come consecration has been unable to overcome human frailty and achieve lasting success even among faithful, committed saints?

  50. The problem with socialism (and arguing with socialists) is that they utterly fail to understand that government can never foster moral agency, and socialism as a system cannot exist without government force. Socialism is an inherently immoral, violent enterprise, as it absolutely depends on coercion and theft to support and propogate itself.

  51. No worries, Shane – I am not a socialist, so there’s still hope that I might “get it”. For starters, can you explain to me how capitalism fosters moral agency? Secondly, would you advocate a capitalist economic system with no government force? I thought that was called anarchy.

  52. You make no bones about being very confident of your own rightness. So, do tell, what is your opinion of the War in Heaven, which resulted when Lucifer attempted to strip away man’s agency and coerce mankind into doing “right?” I don’t remember it very well myself, but I understand God was not impressed. Actually rather wroth, I hear.

    Every one would like to see a society that has more goodness and less badness. But you cannot increase the amount of goodness in a society by violating man’s agency and coercing him to do what you think is right and good. An otherwise charitable act isn’t charitable if it is performed at the point of a gun. People have to “choose” goodness for there to be actual goodness. Coercing your version of goodness upon others only expands wickedness.

    Don’t get feeling too holier than thou just yet. You seriously need to work on taming your aggression towards your fellow man. I’d suggest you voluntarily turn over your entire net worth to the poor before you tell anyone else you’re going to forcibly steal their property because you know what’s best. And really do something about that pride.

  53. Capitalism doesn’t foster moral agency, but it does allow it (which is vastly superior to any of the alternatives). I’ll quote a friend who explained this briefly and well: “Capitalism is just the absence of state economic interference. It’s a condition, however, that is presupposed by any act of “consecration” because consecration presupposes a pre-existing valid entitlement (ownership) and the agency to turn it over. You can only “consecrate” something that you own and have a moral right to keep for yourself. Otherwise the act of consecrating it means nothing.” Even without the full monty of “consecration” on the table, any form of non-voluntary wealth redistribution is a suspect action for the same logical reason.

    As for your second statement, the answer is yes (with some modest exceptions, as I am not an anarchist, but rather closer to what some would call a minarchist). As much as is humanly possible, I think it morally and ethically necessary to not engage in coercion, aggression, or theft. Earthly government presupposes the use of force (which I do not wholly reject in very, very limited circumstances) and socialism (and like systems) absolutely require to function.

  54. So, no public police force? No armed forces? No enforcement of laws? Isn’t all such enforcement either use of government force, or threat of its use?

    But I’m still trying to get at the essence of your point about agency, so I have four more questions:
    1. Does socialism imply to you the absence of democracy and, if so, why?
    2. If I were to get together with a bunch of friends and we decide to start a company, in the U.S., that will be collectively owned by all the employees of said company, then how has anyone’s agency been violated? Or is your moral opposition limited to state socialism as opposed to socialism in general?
    3. Similarly, is your moral opposition to socialism limited to those incarnations that would prohibit all private ownership? If so, it seems that would be an almost vanishingly small set. If not, then what’s all this stuff about not being able to choose to “consecrate” or give to others what’s yours.
    4. Finally, do you view every act of government-administered welfare as a violation of your agency? Is the existence of a public education system also a violation of your agency? What about zoning laws? Are city parks a violation of your agency? Fire department? The library? What is the threshold for surrendering all those hard-fought gains won in the War in Heaven?

  55. Geoff - A says:

    Part of the problem here is that what an American understands when he hears socialism is not the same as the rest of the first world hears. What those who talk of the state forcing obedience, violated agency, stealing by governments etc, are thinking of is far removed from the understanding of social democrats.

    If you live in a social democracy (socialist country) you find most people proud that they have a political system that cares for those who are unable to care for themselves, that provides, healthcare, education, child care, support for single parents, better work life balance etc. It is not about fear, or forcing or stealing, it is about collective will to create a better environment for all.(especially families)

    There is an index done by the CIA, the gini index, which compares countries by their income equality, by how far the richest are from the poorest. North western Europe (socialists) are best, places like Australia, NZ, and Canada are pretty good, and America is the only first world country that seems to not get the concept that a healthy society has no poor among them and that the rich are less removed from the poor ( a zion society)

    Talk of governments stealing your money is a particularly American thing and a result of the us v them environment created by the extremes of wealth and poverty. You need to realise that your version of capitalism is too divisive, and selfish to be admired by any other first world country.

    There is a much more supportive, inclusive, understanding, and accepting feeling in a socialist country compared with the US.

  56. We had this lesson yesterday, and the teacher repeated something I’d first heard in seminary back in Ohio in the 90s: that the stewardship was deeded back to the individual, and they owned it, not the church. But back when I was in seminary I was also reading the History of the Church, which contradicted what the teacher said. After church yesterday I went and looked it up, and indeed in the appendix to volume 1 you will find copies of these deeds. The stewardship was explicitly LEASED back to the person; ownership remained with the church.

    I’m wondering if this point was raised in anyone else’s Gospel Doctrine lesson this year.

  57. Shane, your project appears to be against democracy itself, not “socialism” by which you appear to mean Soviet-style communism as opposed to the social market democracies that have been established in virtually all western democracies. All acts of a democratically elected legislature essentially “force” someone to do something. Such enactments represent the voluntary commitments of the majority whom the legislators represent. A minority of the voters will not have supported the currently acting representative who votes on behalf of his or her constituency for any given enactment. Republican democratic systems and virtually all parliamentary democracies include countermajoritarian protections for minorities in the mechanisms of their governmental systems. But these usually apply to inappropriate discriminatory legislation by which the majority tyrannizes a minority based on suspect classifications such as race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, etc., and not based on simply being in the legislative minority. For that, political accountability is built into every system — if a large enough group disagrees with the elected representatives’ votes on certain issues, the remedy is to vote him or her out of office and send a representative who will work to roll back assistance to the poor (if that floats your boat and apparently it does).

    All of this is provided for in all free market western democracies. Thus, when the policies of such political systems start trending toward social market democracies, which, in essence, are simply free market democracies with appropriate levels of regulation to protect people from the abuses that naturally arise from unchecked dog-eat-dog capitalism, then it is not an example of the government “forcing” people against their will to live as part of a broader community. It is simply democracy in action. As a result, I see your opposition here as a complaint against democracy. Western democracies have been successfully and beneficially employing robust social market democratic policies for decades. It has freed millions from a significant portion of the existential angst that attends citizens of countries without effective and reliable social safety nets (such as the United States). People are actually freer in countries like that because they can more realistically pursue their dreams. All of society invests in everyone else. The standard of living and quality of life are all consistently measured at much higher levels in those countries. Those are societies and communities that are following Book of Mormon teachings more closely than we supposedly pious Americans are for the simple reason that they are effectively caring for their poor and needy — effectively addressing the problems of grinding the faces of the poor — by enacting such robust social legislation through the democratic process.

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