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.
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.
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)
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)
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?