They got one thing right…

Melissa is a self proclaimed loud and proud Texan who left that great state to attend Notre Dame, where she studied Political Science & European Studies and also where she joined the Church and married the illustrious Patrick Mason. After graduation, she worked with the local homeless population and became interested in issues of poverty. Melissa has taken the last few months to “find herself” and pursue art, selling her first painting earlier this month. She also looks forward to an Irish national championship. She will be joining us for the next few weeks. Welcome!

I’ve been called a bad Catholic before. Quite a few times actually. I’ve also been called a bad Mexican, but I’ll save that for another post.

Having grown up in an almost entirely Hispanic (read: almost entirely Catholic) town on the border, my childhood memories are filled with incense, candlelight posadas, and gory stories of saints burning at the stake. My entire education from day care through college save my years in high school was spent in Catholic schools. Because of this, I’m usually the one people turn to and ask “what do the Catholics think about that?” My usual answer: “Heck if I know.”

Surprisingly, after so many years of religious instruction overseen by a nun with a long ruler and a quick wrist (seriously), I remember very little about my former faith besides the bitter taste it left me. It wasn’t until I got to college that I moved beyond the ritual and spiritual aspects of the religion and delved into the intellectual and social. There I discovered a tradition that would reshape the way I saw the world.

Catholic Social Thought is a tradition shaped and informed by the Scriptures, as well as countless papal and conference documents published by the Catholic Church over the past hundred or so years. Through six principles, Catholics are guided in their approach to the world around them.

“The foundational principle is the common good based on the understanding in Catholic social thought that persons are created as social beings, always in interrelationship and interdependence with others (Principle 1). Catholic social thought also promotes the dignity of every human being, as each is made in the image and likeness of God, but this dignity always needs to be seen in relationship to the promotion of the common good ( Principle 2). Human dignity grounds and is protected by a spectrum of human rights and corresponding duties. This principle of the correlation of rights and duties promotes just living conditions for all as well as the dignity of work and the rights of workers (Principle 3). Many persons, though, are marginalized in our society and all are called to make an option for the poor (Principle 4), keeping those who are economically poor in the forefront of our minds in all decision-making. As stewards of God’s creation, both in terms of people and the earth, (Principle 5) we need to face the environmental concerns of our day, which disproportionately affect the economically poor. In response to how decisions are made to address the challenges in each of the spheres of society, the principle of subsidiarity (Principle 6) calls for action at the lowest level possible.”

Catholic Social Thought holds that the family is central to our identity as social beings and provides the structure to hold together societies and promote the common good. Now I don’t have a copy of the Family Proclamation on my wall like I’ve seen in many Mormon homes, but if I did, I would have a copy of the principles of Catholic Social Thought right next to it. Because while I appreciate that we’ve been given a definitive statement on how we relate to each other as families, it seems we are incomplete until we can understand exactly how we relate to each other as human beings.

What would “Society: A Proclamation to the World” look like? What would it do for us? Would members of the church have fewer Jet Skis and more hours to devote to service? Would we be as concerned for children in Peru as we are for the children in our ward? In short, would we move beyond the norm of focusing on our small communities within the church while leaving the global work to the Humanitarian Center?

So what did I ultimately get out of my Catholic upbringing? Well I got to Catholicism’s educational shining star: Notre Dame… where I became a Mormon. Bet those nuns didn’t see that one coming.


  1. “Because while I appreciate that we’ve been given a definitive statement on how we relate to each other as families, it seems we are incomplete until we can understand exactly how we relate to each other as human beings.”

    I find this to be half-informed about what the Proclomation on the Family is saying. Read the entire proclomation and you will find that if we follow on its declaration there would be no need for a social proclomation. Our family relations IS how we related to human beings. Besides, the Catholic quote you gave is full of mushy liberal political statements and doesn’t quote even one relevant Scripture to back it up.

  2. Society, a proclamation to the world might look a lot like the Book of Mormon…

  3. nice way to crap all over the OP. Aside from the poor spelling, it is a shining example of the bigtory I find in far too many Mormons who seemingly can’t find any virtue in any other church. I was born and raised Catholic, and my entire extended family are very faithful Catholics, so I do get kind of defensive with all the LDS-based Catholic bashing.

    Maybe in my case,I guees you can take the boy out of the Catholic church, but you can’t take the Catholic out of the boy.

  4. MikeInWeHo says:

    Yeah, Jettboy, there’s nothing scriptural in a statement like THAT (snark snark). Where did I leave my New Testament anyway?????

  5. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    “Our family relations IS how we related to human beings.”

    I disagree that the Family Proclamation shows how we relate to each other beyond our family units. The Proclamation sets up family structure and purpose, it shows us how Heavenly Father wants husband and wife to treat their children, to raise their children, but certainly doesn’t address how we relate to other people’s children. While we know we have a specific duty to raise our children to be “good citizens,” we don’t even know exactly what this means. Although I’m sure there’s a Scout manual out there that could lend help. I’d simply like to go beyond our micro-relationships as families to our macro-relationships as children of the same Heavenly Father. And I think we as a church need an official statement to light the fire under us.

    “Besides, the Catholic quote you gave is full of mushy liberal political statements and doesn’t quote even one relevant Scripture to back it up.”

    The quote itself is a summary of Catholic social thought, which is why it doesn’t have scriptural references. Keep in mind, that this summary functions to Catholics as, say, a general conference address would to us. It is rooted in teachings of the highest tier of the church, stated by (or in this case drawn directly from statements by) Popes and Bishops, and therefore understood (and trusted) by the general audience of the faithful to be a true statement inspired by God. Scriptural references would certainly enhance it, but the absence of them does not make the statement any less true or important to the faithful audience.

    However, if you really would like a scriptural basis, I would echo Mike and pass you a copy of the New Testament.

  6. I didn’t say there wasn’t anything scriptural. I said there wasn’t any scriptures to back up the political sounding statements. In other words, it sounded more like a secular document than a religious one. I would agree with Matt that the Book of Mormon is more of a Societal proclamation to the world.

  7. Jettboy,
    If the problem is with the document itself, please make clear what you find to be “mushy” political speech there and why you find it lacking scripturally. I am curious to know what about the statement’s content you find objectionable. At first glance, I don’t see anything that I wouldn’t agree with, as it seems to express a need to help the poor and a need for people to treat other people with respect (both concepts bearing long scriptural pedigrees). I don’t understand your objection even a little bit. You need to be clearer about what you are objecting to. Also, yes…I am obtuse.

  8. Jettboy, I find your comments half-informed. There is nothing in the scriptures about caring for the poor or for the earth? ummm.

    I very much much agree with Melissa’s sentiment. I think that as the Mormon faith matures, there will be a more concerted effort to focus on the issues that she raises.

    I admit that I personally am caught between the “take care of our own” and “who is your neighbor” sentiments. I’m reminded a bit of JFS message in the early years of the RS Bulletin:

    One of the principal objects of this organization is to consider carefully and at all times, first, the needs of the Latter-day Saints and, secondly, the strangers within our gates. All the children of God have a claim on the attention of the Association, but the obligation of the society rests first with the children of the kingdom, with covenant people. It is essential that we should look after the sick, the poor, the helpless and the aged among our own people, and then extend our charity, and kindness, and attention, and loving care to others as far as it is in our power to do so.

    …Yet while the purpose of the society is not to accumulate money, it is your duty to gather and use the funds you gather for relief of suffering. Not only the poor and sick, you must remember, but for the aged must be cared for.

    …When you go to the poor you go to see if they are in need. You must see to it that they are not in need from their own neglect or idleness. If it is the fatherless or motherless you go to learn the needs of that child. Look after such a child. See that it is put on a plane with other children so that it will not be handicapped.

  9. the Catholic quote you gave is full of mushy liberal political statements

    If true, that would be an interesting twist of irony considering liberalism’s roots in the humanism of the renaissance, which challenged the church’s authority and claim to morality, and the Enlightenment, adherents of which proposed reason as an alternative to the church’s claim on truth.

    Is the Catholic church coming full circle? Or is the term “liberal” being wielded more for rhetorical effect than for the sake of precise argumentation?

  10. Melissa-

    Great post. The controversial, but decidedly Catholic, approach to social justice through Liberation Theology is seems to be a souped up version of Mosiah 4 in the Book of Mormon (or vice-versa). There is much in the LDS scriptures that compels social justice, but we don’t hear about it much over the pulpit or in our correlated lessons.

    The 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to the Grameen Bank, which is, rather ironically, a non-Christian organization, but Grameen functions according to many of the principles Christ taught.

  11. I guess that I should add that according to the standards of the time the JFS gave that talk (1913), just about all the American saints are quite wealthy while many in the world meet the chriteria of aid.

  12. Melissa,

    First, what a great name you have! Melissa Mason sounds like a movie star, and Melissa De Leon Mason has such an exotic and poetic sound. How do you stand being so cool?

    I googled Catholic Social thought because I wanted to get the long version of what you present here in summary form. I was impressed with what I found. Some of it sounds just like the proclamation. I hope you don’t mind of I offer some quotes.

    …the Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.

    The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined.

    …every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities—to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

  13. Rosalynde says:

    ECS, as an aside, were you aware that Muhammed Yunus has ties to BYU? He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters (or something) in 1998, and was the graduation speaker at the August 1998 commencement. (I might add, if you’ll forgive the immodesty, that I was the student speaker at that event, and had opportunity to meet and speak with Dr. Yunus a bit.) I believe he has also been involved in a number of microlending projects with the business school.

  14. Melissa — How widespread through Catholicism is this formulation of Catholic Social Thought? I mean, is it generally limited to liberal North America, or is it accepted in more conservative Catholic societies too?

    It’s interesting to think of a Mormon reformulation of this. Principle 2 would start out pretty much the same, I think, because we already have so many statements that begin with an acknowledgement of our being sons and daughters of God. I think we would not end it the same, though, because side by side with all the gospel teachings about duties to each other, we still see each individual as having a direct and personal relationship to God that exists apart from our relationship to others.

    Would/Could/Should we ever distance ourselves so far from our individual relationship with God, and our stewardships for specific small groups of family and neighbors (narrowly defined), that we see all humanity as a single amorphous unit? Wouldn’t that lead to our neglecting to do for one what we cannot do for all?

    This is awkwardly expressed; I hope you understand what I’m reaching for.

  15. Melissa, is there a website where we can view your artwork? I’d like to see examples.

  16. Rosalynde, I had heard about that connection – one of my friends was marginally involved. I wonder how much BYU works with Grameen now?

  17. I get a similar negative feeling when I hear fellow Mormons preaching at me. I wonder if I only give credence to the things I’m unfamiliar with? The Proclamation, for instance. It’s truly wonderful, IMHO, yet it bothers me also. I do not like to be preached at by fellow Mormons.

    I have many Catholic friends. We are respectful, careful of each other, careful to make the point that God loves all His children and religion is not necessarily the be-all and end-all. I wonder if we’re being dishonest with each other. I certainly believe the church is true. I’m sure Brother Seraphim believes in Catholicism just as devoutly.

    I love him, he is a kind and gentle friend and I would never slam his religion, nor would he slam mine. I wonder if we’re being too careful.

    Melissa, you see Catholicism (am I spelling that right?) from the inside out. You see its warts, as I see Mormonism’s. I think Comment #3 was a little rough on you. But we are human and nothing if not defensive, picking our battles here and there.

    I think ultimately God is giving pretty consistent messages to all “His” churches, all “His religions” all “His” peoples. Bottom line: the family is pretty damn important.

  18. Much to her consternation, my wife came back from attending the Exponent II weekend retreat this fall to find that I had posted our framed copy of the Proclamation on the Famiy in our newly redecorated study/office/2nd bedroom. I would love to have a Mormon equivalent of the “Catholic Social Thought” document to post next to it. Might help me start dig my way out of trouble.

    So, who’s putting the first draft of the Mormon version together and when can I get a copy?

  19. You can read the speech Mr. Yunus gave at BYU (see comment # 14) here.

    And in answer to the question posed by ECS in # 17, the Marriott school of business at BYU appears to maintain ties to Grameen. See here, for example.

  20. Sorry for the bad link in 19. The link for BYU’s Marriott school is here.

  21. I really love the idea of a Proclamation on Mormon Social Thought, but I wonder if there isn’t yet enough clarity in the teachings of our modern church authorities to flesh it out meaningfully.

    I suspect that the overall tone of the PMST would be conservative but that it would have a surprisingly high number of “liberal” sounding ideas and principles. It might be a challenge to convince the rank and file members of the Church that it really does reflect Mormon doctrine/thought (because of these “liberal” sounding principles) unless you can really cite to prophetic teachings and statements from the scriptures.

  22. I think the Proclamation on the Economy from 1875 might be a good starting point, and I like the formatting of this version:

  23. The mission statement of Mormons for Equality and Social Justice makes a valiant attempt at this kind of thing. Here it is, with sciptural/prophetic support (and lightly edited):

    [Latter-day Saints should be] “anxiously engaged” (D&C 58:27) in working for the gospel values of peace, equality, justice, and wise stewardship of the earth in a spirit of Christ-like charity and concern …

    As Latter-day Saints, we come from a heritage of people who had “a vision of a different world, a world where injustice and oppression, poverty and ignorance would be dispelled and a world where men and women would be brothers and sisters” (Alexander B. Morrison, in Church News [14 Oct. 1995]: 4) …

    LDS scripture and prophetic teaching speak out strongly for social justice: for peace, equality, democracy, human rights, and wise stewardship of the earth’s resources.

    Latter-day Saints are enjoined to “plead the cause of the poor and the needy” (D&C 124:75) and to work towards a society in which “there [are] no poor among [us]” (Moses 7:18). We are challenged to “renounce war and proclaim peace” (D&C 98:16). The Book of Mormon teaches that “there should be an equality among all” (Mosiah 27:3) and calls us to stand against racism, gender inequity, and injustice on the principle that “black and white, bond and free, male and female;…all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). The scriptures commend democracy, constitutional law, and human rights (Mosiah 29:26; D&C 98:5; D&C 101:77), while speaking harshly against inequity, exploitation, oppression, and violence (2 Nephi 20:1-2; 3 Nephi 24:5; D&C 38:26; Moses 8:28). Scripture teaches us that we are stewards of the earth and its resources, which should be used “with judgment, not to excess” (D&C 59:20).

    As Latter-day Saints, we seek the guidance of the Spirit and look to the teachings of Church leaders in our efforts to achieve equality and social justice in our communities and the world at large.

    I think you could tweak this to your heart’s content and put it on the wall.

  24. Huh. Interesting. I love both 22 and 23, but unfortunately they don’t sound much like my Church. Someone explain to me again how conservative ideology has come to dominate discourse in the Church.

  25. ETB, John Birch, and the Red Menace.

  26. #25,

    That is some of it. Its also abortion, shacking up, SSM, hollywood. All promoted and supported by the political left

  27. Re ETB, when I was in the MTC my district included some Samoan Elders going to various polynesian island missions. One of them (I think from the LA area) loved to rap and had a great one about the prophet who had signed all of our mission calls. The part I’ll never forget was the reference to “EZT and the Twelve Apossies.”

    I wonder if ETB would have been a little less prone to indulge in the excesses of conservative philosophy if he’d had a little more hip-hop in him.

  28. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    ECS (#10) Liberation theology is interesting to look at. Although the Catholic Church has seemed to have a love/hate relationship with it, there are many prominent Catholics who are making it work. Paul Farmer is a great example of this completely bottom-up approach, and frankly, I think one of the best modern examples of a Christ-like life.

    Ardis (#14) It’s hard to say how widespread CST is at this point. Without hard evidence, I would guess that it’s far more popular outside of the more liberal American church. There have been political movements based on CST across South America and in many parts of Europe, where the Pope’s words are taken more seriously. John Paul II really made a point of encouraging principles of CST, it’ll be interested to see what Benedict XVI does with it.

    Danithew (#15)- I don’t have a website, but I’m working on it.

    It seems to me that through the Book of Mormon and D&C, as well as statements by General Authorities, there is plenty that could be used to construct a Mormon Social Thought and the mission statement for Mormons for Equality & Social Justice has a good start on that. I think that Travis is right on though, the end result would sound so liberal that even though it comes from our Scriptures, most members wouldn’t even recognize it. How sad that the politicization of certain terms prevents us from embracing principles taught in the same Scriptures we extol.

    So would we listen better if it came directly from the prophet, rather than buried in a chapter of the Book of Mormon that we read drowsily before going to bed? Would we go beyond listening and put it into action?

  29. The 6 bullet points look pretty innocuous to me. It’s always the implementation where the frcition starts.

    One can repeat those bullet points all day long and it won’t change the fact that some people want to use force to redistribute money and others don’t. It is there and issues like it, not in the above bullet points, where conservative vs. liberal ideologies really collide.

  30. Melissa, what statements from the Book of Mormon do you think your fellow Mormons would not recognize as being Mormon?

    What information do you glean from the fact that the prophets have not chosen to emphasize these issues instead of the ones they have?

  31. #23,

    I actually like the statement and find it compelling. The issue is how to implement. To me and most American LDS it would be in a conservative manner.

  32. bbell and Frank,
    How would a conservative implement that statement (#23)?

  33. Melissa, I’m glad to hear you are working on a website for your art. Please let me know when you have it up. I’d love to see it.

  34. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Actually Frank, your comment (22) is totally right and shows me a need to correct what I said. Instead of saying that I don’t think rank & file Mormons would recognize a summary of statements developing a possible Mormon Social Thought, I should restate that it’s actually the implementation that they wouldn’t recognize or at the least, that they would be completely uncomfortable with. I would guess several reasons for this although they certainly aren’t all the reasons and I haven’t completely thought them through:

    First, current politics has appropriated “moral issues” to serve a political purpose, emphasizing issues like abortion and gay marriage that are politically galvanizing, and leaving out the moral issue of poverty, which is frankly unsexy. Also, of course, social programs are a “liberal” concept. Because mainstream Mormons tend to be conservative, there would be a certain discomfort crossing the mainstream Mormon line to take up a liberal cause. If we were to have a codified MST, there would be some confusion when it came to working to instituting it politically. For example, if I felt an obligation to oppose a gay marriage amendment, I would feel torn about voting for a politician that supports it AND supports programs to combat poverty as well.

    Second, because of J. Stapley’s dilemma (#8)

    Finally, it would be difficult because the current setup has the Humanitarian Center taking the burden of service off of members of the church, making it convenient for us to fill out a line in our tithing slip and go on with our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Humanitarian Center is wonderful. I recently took the tour there and was amazed by the holistic approach they take to combat poverty and wholly support their mission. BUT with the introduction of a MST, we would have to change our mindset to rely less on the Humanitarian Center to fulfill our duty for us. That would certainly move some out of their comfort zones.

    I don’t think that the prophets have not addressed this. They speak often about reaching out to those in need, to serving our fellow man. It’s clear that they support the admonitions in the Scriptures. They just haven’t addressed it in the way that I think we need if we as a church are actually going to act to follow the admonitions of the Scriptures.

  35. “I should restate that it’s actually the implementation that they wouldn’t recognize or at the least, that they would be completely uncomfortable with.”

    So I guess the quesiton becomes, how sure are you it is they who would be uncomfortable with the implementation of MST rather than you? It seems to me quite plausible that the Church is implementing, and has for decades, if not longer, its vision of MST. It involves voluntary donations along with preaching to people to encourage said donations.

    Is the current implementation something you are comfortable with? I mean, we’d all like to see more generosity in other people, but we’d also like to see honesty and chastity and loads of other things too.

    So, given the current state of righteousness, and given that people have agency and stewardships over their goods, perhaps what we see is what there is to MST. Is there some reason to think otherwise?

  36. HP,

    Remind me next month and I’ll try to write something up.

  37. Deal!

  38. My two cents on implementing the proposed statement in #23:

    The real issues come from the tension between individual rights and the needs of the group. At the most basic, so much of what the Church does is bind the individual to the group, whether it is by nuclear families according to the Proclamation, or by sealing individuals to their families, or to reference another thread, by implementing the United Order. The instituional church seems more intent on fashioning us into the “body of Christ” than in leaving the ninety-and-nine to look for the one.

    “Social Justice,” on the other hand, seems to be more about the rights of the individual, separate and apart from the institution. We believe in being subject to kings, rulers, magistrates, etc, after all. The only individual right the Church seems to champion is the right to worship as we see fit.

  39. Jerreld Newquist wrote a book, Prophets, Principles and National Survival, comprised solely of statements from apostles, in general conference, about political and social issues. Most of the passages deal with an apostle applying a scriptural passage or principle to contemporary issues, and is as authoritative a Mormon Social Thought as I know of.

    The apostles’ authoritative statements do not comfort those wanting the state to force more money out of the people.

  40. Wait…so the way to approach this is:
    No state sponsored helping the poor, as that is an undue tax burden and individuals should give as seems fit
    Giving to the church’s charitable fund is the appropriate way to help the poor, calls for individual giving/involvement are unnecessary and burdensome

    I don’t think I am reading ya’ll (read Matt and Frank) right, so please correct me.

  41. HP, if you were to print out all of the apostles’ conference talks that call for the federal government to spend more money on the poor, and line them up end to end, you wouldn’t need any paper. Newquist’s book of apostlic statements, on the other hand, is about 300 pages long. The majority of the statements attack government for seeking to deny the agency of man.

  42. so, do you feel all government taxation is a violation of human agency or just tax dollars spent on the poor?

  43. While a lot of good things have been said, we are sometimes too focused on the world and not enought on our own communities. I myself have found that, perhaps because my family has run a small non-profit, and are highly involved in several other humanitarian aid projects and foundations–that I tend to focus too much on something far away rather than the people right around me.
    And, I must add, I think people would be surprised at how many church members are very involved in global humanitarian aid, and the others simply don’t know where to look.
    I don’t think it is so much a matter of letting the church humanitarian aid letting us do our work for us, as much as it is extremely efficient. I think it would be much less reasonable for every person, or every ward–set up there own non-profit to benefit the needy. It is somewhat wasteful when there are so many great organizations world wide that we can contribute to, even on a small scale.
    Certainly there are needs, and we should find them and try to fill them. But I would venture to say that much of the time the need is being filled quite adequately within the realms of another organization.

    I think if we are not careful, we end up like Lisa Simpson, looking for a cause for the sake of a cause.
    Frankly, what is most needed usually is to simply fill out that tithing slip, where every penny counts.

    On another note. I used to do extensive volunteer work at Catholic Community Center–and some at Jewish Community Center, both in Salt Lake City. While I love the good things that come from their organizations, sometimes even the resettlement of refugees was done so at a profit to the organizations–and leaving refugee families in great debt. At times it seemed like they were indentured servants in a new country and could not/can not get ahead. Just because they have a great creed, doesn’t mean it is followed beautifully.

  44. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    “So I guess the quesiton becomes, how sure are you it is they who would be uncomfortable with the implementation of MST rather than you?”

    Great question. All this that I’m envisioning is based on what I would like to see and how I interpret our duty to serve. I just have to believe that when we are asked to mourn with those who mourn, that doesn’t only mean to donate money and move on. I think the Catholic Church provides a good model in giving its members specific guidance on this.

    So no, the current implementation is not something I’m comfortable with. I think despite our weaknesses and imperfections, we (the church) can do better. I look to followers of CST as an example, they are as imperfect as we are, but they’re still trying.

    “perhaps what we see is what there is to MST. Is there some reason to think otherwise?”

    There’s no reason for me to think otherwise other than my faith that we have great potential.

  45. The Newquist book (originally published in 1963) to which Matt Evans refers is found in electronic form at this site:

    The book includes not just apostolic statements from conference addresses, but also from the Journal of Discourses, other published speeches or books authored by Apostles (or members of the First Presidency).

    The Newquist organization states on its home page, among other things, that “[i]t is our intent that truth be represented whether from The John Birch Society, The Eagle Forum, a Catholic Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, a scripture from the Book of Mormon, or a quotation from the Founding Fathers.”

    In his preface, Brother Newquist makes clear that welfare is diabolic: “When Mormons fully appreciate the significance of the War in Heaven, they immediately realize the similarity between the forced righteousness program of Lucifer and the program of the collectivists — or government interventionists — whether they are welfare staters, Fabians, socialists, fascists, or communists.”

    I have not read the entire book. I do not know if it quotes Hugh B. Brown in any part, or if it mentions the 1875 Proclamation on the Economy of the 12.

  46. MikeInWeHo says:

    Maybe these tensions (ironies?) exist because the Church (variously described as a kingdom, etc) essentially competes with secular government as an organizing force. Ever dollar given over to the government to support poverty relief, for example, is one less dollar that could go into the Church’s welfare system.

  47. DavidH,

    “I have not read the entire book. I do not know if it quotes Hugh B. Brown in any part, or if it mentions the 1875 Proclamation on the Economy of the 12.”

    These are perfectly good questions. But if I have ETB on one side and Hugh Brown on the other and I take an average, I still end up with a very conservative, non-statist approach to helping the poor. The same if I just average across apostolic statements. And for all its talk about the evils of ineqality, does the 1875 statement suggest government redistribution? It looks to me like a directive to support ZCMI coops.

  48. But wasn’t ZCMI coops effectively government redistribution in 1870’s Deseret? I actually am asking, as I thought that was the case, but maybe it wasn’t.

  49. We do not live in a theocracy, thank heavens. As such we can not leave it to the good intent of hearts to take care of the poor. It is in the best interest of every society to take care of the poor for the greater good. Government is instituted so that society can thrive.

    I find it troubling that it is put to the people to put people in office that are voted in on merits of wanting to take care of the poor—but so many people think we shouldn’t have to pay taxes. It seems to me it is more anarchist than libertarian.

  50. Thanks for the link, David, and the correction about the statements not all being from General Conference. His standard was to include only statements made *after* they’d been made an apostle.

    I like the Catholic statement myself, and see no reason why it couldn’t be embraced by all Mormons. As others have said already, it’s relationship to the NT is pretty direct and only mildly attenuated. The challenge is applying the grand principles to specific issues, in which case the statement doesn’t help us figure out the right course any better than a direct appeal to the New Testament. The reason some people would think it a politically-suspect document is that it is necessarily interpretative, and people are right to treat claims of authoritative bible interpretation with suspicion.

  51. HP,

    My understanding was that the co-ops were businesses. As I read the 1875 statement, it urges members to buy stock in the co-ops. That sounds like a business entity, not a government tax, enforced by prisons and guns. But that is not my specialty so I’d be interested to hear more from those who study it.

  52. I suppose my quibble is that it seems like we are drawing distinctions between government, business, and church that would not necessarily have been apparent in the territory of Deseret. That said, I am far from an expert myself.

  53. Two points regarding the 1875 Proclamation on the Economy.

    First, I like it. The solution the apostles propose for a more egalitarian distribution of wealth was for people to purchase shares in corporations. Financial planners from Prudential say the same thing — that’s good advice for everyone. (I don’t know if this is an example of the church being ahead of the curve or not, but they articulated then what is the conventional wisdom today.)

    Second, I take great pleasure noting that the people most likely to cite this statement, and President Kimball’s “False Gods” talk, are the same ones who argue that, because it’s been six years since the prophet last discouraged mothers from working outside the home, or spoken against R movies, or encouraged members to have big families, is strong evidence that the church has abandoned the position and moved ahead.

  54. HP,

    I think this is where the rubber hits the road. To me, there is all the difference in the world between a Church leader urging me to donate or buy stock, and a legal requirement that I give up my money or go to jail. I am not , by the way, opposed to all taxes.

    But I don’t kid myself that they are the same as voluntary action.

  55. My third and fourth sentences should read, “The solution the apostles proposed for a more egalitarian distribution of wealth was for everyone to purchase shares in the corporation so that everyone would share in the profits. Financial planners from Prudential say the same thing today — that’s good advice for everyone.”

  56. Frank,
    Is the difference here that the Kirtland Safety Society was voluntary and not founded on good economic principles while participation in the co-ops was (mildly) commanded and founded on better economic principles (I am assuming with the economics thing, as I wouldn’t know a business plan if it bit me on the behind)?

    Isn’t the leaders urge more compelling, in part, because we are far more worried about the eternal consequences of failing to heed prophets than politicians?

    Also, since Matt brought up the thread jack, doesn’t the fact that actual texts have changed over the past several years indicate that there might be something to some of those claims aside from prophetic silence?

  57. Mark Butler says:

    Contemporary ‘liberals’ believe in salvation through positive government – i.e. coercion. Conservatives (those that believe in salvation anyway) believe in salvation through voluntary action (i.e. religion).

    Negative laws (the thou shalt nots) are the classic province of government. We cannot tolerate murder, theft, and fraud among other things.

    Positive laws (the thou shalts) are the classic province of religion. If you make too many of them strictly compulsory, you have nothing so much as bondage, slavery or tyranny.

    Contemporary conservatives would like the government to enforce a few more of the negative laws, and keep out of the business of positive laws as much as possible, and leave that to voluntary organizations: family, religion, etc.

    Contemporary liberals want the opposite. They generally care relatively little whether the government enforces any of the negative laws (at least not very seriously), but they want the government to have as many positive laws as possible. A kinder and gentler form of slavery, more or less, with power as centralized as possible. Sort of like Thomas Jefferson’s nightmare.

    Now it seems apparent to me how to implement the United Order in a realm of limited government, in a realm that is saturated with nearly as much government as a society can handle, it seems a far dicier enterprise. We couldn’t even run our own schools – due to the divine right of [government school] teachers devised by Rousseau and adopted enthusiastically by the (often unwittingly) anti-religious ever since.

  58. “Isn’t the leaders urge more compelling, in part, because we are far more worried about the eternal consequences of failing to heed prophets than politicians?”

    Well I suppose that may be why the leaders don’t talk about it more than they do. But no, I think that doing something because God commands you is vastly better than doing it because someone will put you in jail if you don’t. Leaders compel us based on our faith in the next life, not our fear of this one.

    What changes to actual texts are you thinking of?

  59. I used to be Catholic also. Catholics are awesome. In the Church there is a cheap joke which goes about which says “Catholics make great converts..” or something like that. This is true. Why? Because Catholics are great Christians. I think Legrand Richards quoted well when he always emphasized that in all of Christendom, there are Mormons, and there are Catholics. Either the Apostacy and Restoration happened, or they didn’t.

    I am grateful I joined the LDS church, but I am equally grateful for my Catholic heritage.

  60. Frank,
    I think you may have accidentally agreed with me in your last comment.

    Regarding changes, Wording in “For the Strength of Youth” has changed regarding movies as had wording in the GHI regarding birth-control decisions. I wouldn’t dare say what those changes portend (or what they should portend). I was just pointing out that those who disagree with Matt regarding R-rated movies, etc. have more behind their argument than prophetic silence. I wasn’t making a statement regarding whether or not I found their argument compelling, however.

  61. Oh no, HP! Clearly it was you who agreed with me! :)


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