The Case Against Book of Mormon Socialism

In last Sunday’s op-ed by Troy Williams entitled, “The case for Book of Mormon socialism,” (link) the author’s personal interpretation of scripture violates the principles of agency and the United Order, and in my opinion does not reflect the LDS church teachings.

The scriptures Troy refers to carry prophetic commands to take care of the poor, but those instructions are given to members of the church, not to the government. If it were forced on people through the government, then those people that did not want to take care of the poor would be forced against their will to provide for others in violation of the eternal principle of agency. In essence, this socialist line of thinking attempts to save everyone through a program of force, similar to what the LDS view as Satan’s plan in the pre-mortal life. Alma provides an example of what the Book of Mormon teaches in Alma 4 when he saw the gross inequality among the people and the oppression of the poor. He gave up the judgment-seat and began to preach the word of God to the people to pull down their pride and materialism. He did not set up a government program but he taught the people to use their agency to help the poor.

The core of the United Order is that all property belongs to God who gives man stewardship over a portion of it. He asks man to willingly give up what he does not need, and through agency, man learns how to act in doing good with that stewardship.

Socialism rewards idleness which is clearly not scripturally supported. The parable of the talents illustrates the need to work and the reward given to the laborer. In D&C 42:42 the Lord said “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shalt not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.” Socialism violates this law and puts man in a category of being acted upon which violates the nature of man’s existence (D&C 93:30).

Do we have mega-rich people in this country that are not generous? Certainly. Is it our place to forcibly take from them and ensure they pay their share to the poor? Absolutely not. Speaking to the rich members of the church, King Benjamin said:

“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, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.” (Mosiah 4:22-23)

How can there be a just judgment unless the rich have a chance to use their wealth for good and then neglect it? We supplant God’s judgment when we enact socialist policies.

Socialism is inconsistent with the scriptural command to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) If God does not compel individuals, no Christian can argue that forced righteousness is a principle of the gospel.

For anyone confused about the difference between socialism and the United Order, here are two excellent talks that address the subject.

J. Reuben Clark, “The United Order Vs. Communism,” General Conference, October 1942
Marion G. Romney, “Socialism is not the United Order,” General Conference, April 1966

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