Why I think Mormonism is incompatible with conservatism

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Next week, Canadians go to the polls to cast their ballot for someone to represent them in the federal government. (Well, most will vote for a party instead, but that’s another post altogether.) At 78 days, this year’s election campaign will be the third longest since confederation but the longest since 1872.

On top of that, the election campaign for the 2016 American election is also underway, as candidates for party nominations debate and campaign across the United States.

And because I have so many Facebook friends in Canada and the United States, I have been seeing so much political content shared on social media. And it’s quite polarized.

The fact that a good portion of the posts are shared by friends who are Mormon means that a good portion of the posts shared laud right-wing conservatism.

Because my journey toward communism has overlapped these campaign periods has allowed me to see this attachment to conservatism in a light different from how I have seen it in the past.

I’ve come to the conclusion that despite what the conventional traditions and culture of Mormonism indicate, the scriptural doctrine of Mormonism includes far more principles of socialism and other left-leaning political ideals than it does of conservatism and other right-leaning political ideals.

Here are a few examples to illustrate my conclusion.

Personal responsibility

One thing that conservatism espouses is that each of us has a personal responsibility for our own success. If we’re not successful yet, we need to work a little harder to overcome our circumstances.

The problem with that is it completely contradicts the many scriptures that advocate helping the poor. I don’t have time to go through them all, but consider at least Matthew 19:21, when Jesus counsels the young, rich man:

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Related to this is an idea I see many of my conservative Mormon friends express: we should be careful giving to the poor because they may just use the money for drugs and alcohol. King Benjamin addressed this in Mosiah 4:17–18,22:

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—but I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. . . and if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God

Free, open markets

I have heard conservatives use the argument that the law of the harvest (see 2 Cor. 9:6 and Gal. 6:7) to justify their support of free and open markets. In fact, I had someone just this morning try to argue this point with me.

The problem with this argument is that it’s just not true. In a capitalist society, no one reaps all of what they sow unless they’re self employed. Either you reap only a portion of what you sow or you reap a portion of what others sow.

I don’t think that the law of the harvest was meant to be applied to economic theory, but if it was, clearly it would be more closely related to something far more egalitarian than capitalism.

Environmentalism

Conservatives are more likely to disagree with the commonly held belief that climate change is heavily influence by human behaviour. They are also more likely to favour economic generation over environmental conservation (it’s okay, for example to rip up tens of thousands of square kilometres of boreal forest and peat bogs to extract valuable petroleum).

While it’s true that the scriptures teach that all things were made for our use, Mormon scripture specifically teaches that that use has limits:

“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.” (D&C 59:18–20)

Racism

One particular event has overlapped the two election campaigns, bring further light to the racist leaning of conservative policies: Syrian refugees. This crisis has brought out the worst in people, and I have been astounded at the racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric being used by people who consider themselves Christian. Their hate-filled diatribes and meme-sharing go against the foundations of pure Christianity to love all.

Even in his inaugural Sermon on the Mount, Christ was clear in his instructions for us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Paul echoed this sentiment throughout his epistles.

“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” (Rom. 12:14)

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.” (Rom. 12:20)

“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” (Rom. 14:13)

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.” (Rom. 15:1)

Religion in schools

This has been particularly prominent in southern Alberta this year as some schools are debating whether to allow such things as the Lord’s Prayer in school. While support for this often falls under the freedom of religion camp, it almost always is Christian-centric. In fact, when the issue arises of other religious practices occurring in schools, the same people clamouring for respect for religious freedom fear for the eroding of Canadian (or American) values.

Joseph Smith was clear that government should not favour one religion over others:

“We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.” (D&C 134:9)

Marriage equality

While there are Mormons who support marriage equality, you will be far more able to find one who opposes it. One need only read up on Prop 8 in California to see the level of involvement of Mormons and—to some degree—the LDS Church.

However, even Joseph Smith stated that our religious beliefs should not infringe on the rights of others:

“We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others” (D&C 134:4)

And if a supreme court should rule that all people have the right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation, we should not infringe upon those rights.

As I said, these are only a few examples. There are far more examples. Christianity, at its core, is about helping each other, not taking advantage of them (whether economically, socially, or any other way). Early Christians lived in societies where they had no poor, all things were common, and everyone was equal (see Acts 2:44–45; 4 :32–35; and 4 Nephi), things that don’t occur in today’s capitalist societies.

What do you think? Is Mormonism compatible with conservatism?

17 thoughts on “Why I think Mormonism is incompatible with conservatism

  1. What you missed: Not a single one of these points in any way points to governmental coercion but toward a freely entered covenant community. Not a single one of the scriptures cited has anything to do with governmental action which parades as a facade for charity by forcing others to be charitable for you, Not a single one of the scriptures cited even refers to a governmental action or program. That is why your argument is a category mistake — and nothing else.

  2. A good article, but I don’t subscribe to an inference I think is made in this article that true Christianity does not believe that individuals are responsible, at least to some extent, for working to improve their own circumstances. When Jesus counsels us to feed the poor, cloth the naked, and visit those in prison, etc, I think he is observing that in any worldly society or system of government, we have a in individual and societal responsibility to minister to the marginalized, and those who are not able to able to fend for themselves. Our government policies should reflect this stewardship. This article does support my contention that the political right has, for some time, been hijacked by the religious right. While I don’t believe all political conservatives are bad and/or misinformed people, and I do accept that many are motivated by righteous and honorable objectives, I do think that far too many have have drawn the incorrect conclusion that the political right is the exclusive domain of the righteous.

    1. Great points.

      I wasn’t trying to infer that no one has personal responsibility, but I can see why someone might assume that. I think D&C 93 makes a case for improving through progression as Christ progress from grace to grace.

      I should be clear that I don’t think all conservatives are religious, and my arguments will be irrelevant to the them. I was commenting, as mentioned in the title, specifically to the assumption that Mormons must be conservatives.

  3. Let me clarify what meekmile was saying. It is a conservative belief that any government involvement in our lives is coercion. This is, of course, nonsense. Government in a democratic republic is our tool for helping create a just, prosperous, and peaceful society. Conservatives have bred hate for government for decades now, portraying it as the problem itself rather than as a source of solutions to our problems. This is part of the reason why the Republican Party is in such disarray. They keep running further and further toward logically indefensible positions. When they bump up against the constraints of reality, all they have to fall back on is ideology, since they have abandoned reason.

    I was a conservative for many years, until the Republican Party became so incompatible with my Mormon beliefs and values that I could no longer support the GOP agenda. I look forward to the day when more Utah Mormons realize that the GOP is antagonistic toward Christianity. Many Mormons assume that abortion and same-sex marriage are the only issues worth worrying about. But there has never been a more insidious anti-Christian dogma than supply-side economics.

  4. Actually, I can clarify my own point and express my surprise that you did not understand what I was saying. You cite several scriptures for the argument that a politically conservative point of view is incompatible with the gospel although that vast (and it is a very large) majority of Mormons just must be too stupid to realize it. The fact is that you cite scripture for propositions they do not support even remotely. None of them support government action. Indeed, they all refer to individuals acting through their own charitable acts.

    For example you cite Mosiah 4:17-18 urging us to be nonjudgmental and charitable. How does that support government programs or action? King Benjamin who could easily have set up governmental programs as king asked for individuals, not governments, to act charitably. Just how is that incompatible with conservatism which urges individuals to act individually and through charities — which are far more effective, far lest wasteful, and do not act through coercion.

    With respect to environmental issues there is once again a request that we individually respect our stewardship over the earth — there is never a call to governmental programs to save the environment. Neither scripture nor church statements say anything about global warming so this point is simply irrelevant.

    Racism — really? Are you suggesting that all conservatives are racists? How do you fail to see that your own suggestion in this regard is the hallmark of bigotry by lumping everyone together and not taking folks as individuals?

    Marriage equality — yeah right. While it is appropriate to treat all others with respect and love, the gospel does not support same-sex conduct as morally equivalent to heterosexual conduct within marriage. Your suggestion otherwise lacks all plausibility and this is not a basis for suggesting that the liberal position which supported and argued for same-sex marriage is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of repeated statements by the Church and the prophet to the contrary.

    1. I never argued that the vast majority of Mormonsare too stupid to realize that conservatism is incompatible with the Gospel.

      I never claimed any of the scriptures I cited supported government action.

      No, I never suggested all conservatives are racist.

      The Gospel says nothing about same sex conduct (whatever that means), so it neither supports or opposes it.

      Thanks for your comments.

      1. Kim: Yes, the gospel does say something about same sex conduct — it says it is a sin and you cannot get a temple recommend if one engages in it. Did you miss that?

  5. In my opinion a faithful Christian could vote anywhere on the political spectrum. It doesn’t matter so much how they vote as why they voted as they did.

    The left generally is morally permissive but more generous when it comes to government programs. The right is generally is less permissive socially but less altruistic economically. One could find a morally justifiable position in either of these camps.

    I think Jesus would lean more left than right but that is a personal judgement. Jesus said his kingdom “is not of this world”, so I don’t think he cares that much about politics.

    The right often reacts with hostility to big government … but D&C 134:1 says…

    1 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

    I don’t think scripture supports the view that big government is inherently evil. The right see Obama’s Health Insurance as intolerable. I see universal health care as being “for the benefit of man”. We are our brother’s keeper. Saying that we won’t help the poor because they haven’t earned it is like believing you can actually earn salvation. Grace is not for sale. Remember King Benjamin, we are all beggars. Remember the year of Jubilee when property was returned to the original owners. The Old Testament Law of Moses unashamedly redistributed property and protected the poor.

    Regarding you interest in Communism is am suspicious of most “isms”. I bet the Lords ways are better than most human ways… but since we are free to choose how we want to live Communism is worth considering.

    If we take seriously the having all things in common in Acts and 3 Nephi communism can not be overlooked. The saints have never successfully had all things in common for long. Perhaps we will again.

    If we do have all things in common again I don’t believe it will be the political infrastructure that brings it about.. It will have more to do with the condition of our hearts.

    Knowing many Latter Day Saints as I do I would be embarrassed to think that any of them support Donald Trump. Even Stephen Harper who has consolidated power in the P.MO. so effectively that the voice of the people is no longer heard.

    1. I so agree with you on the implementation of communism. I think capitalism is far too ingrained in our political system to change things.

      It will be interesting to see what society looks like when Jesus returns.

  6. Kim said: “And if a supreme court should rule that all people have the right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation, we should not infringe upon those rights.”

    Do you feel the same way about the ruling on Second Amendment gun rights? Given your logic, once the SCOTUS speaks, we should all just genuflect and back off and support such rights. (Note: I am for strict gun control including requiring a note from a psychiatric exam certifying that one is sane enough to own a gun before being allowed to purchase a hand gun).

    1. Well, I’m not sure what the Second Amendment is. I never said that we should support rights acknowledged by a supreme court . (Why do I seem to be using “I never said…” so much when I’m responding to you?)

      Joseph Smith made it clear that the exercise of our religious opinions should not infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. I quoted it directly.

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