Observations of a Liberal Mormon


September 12, 2010 by The Mormon Worker

Below is an essay by Brooks Wilson, about being a Mormon Liberal. Even though I am to the left of liberals (ie. anarchist/libertarian socialist), this essay I felt was useful to post because it shows how Mormons can have a wide spectrum of political views, even though I don’t agree with all the assertions the author makes. Enjoy.

Observations of a Mormon Liberal.

I was born in 1929. My country was born in 1776. I have witnessed more than 1/3 of our nation’s life. I have seen incredible change. My first trip to town which was a post office, mercantile and a pool hall, was in a wagon. I remember the advent of the automobile, airplane, telephone, radio and television. It doesn’t seem that long ago.

I have seen my country go through a lot of different phases; war, peace, economic depression and economic boom. I have served in the military (Korean War). I grew up poor and fatherless. My mother was on welfare when I was in HS and my brothers were in the service during WWII. I served in the 82nd Airborne which is based in North Carolina and I saw, first hand, the treatment of the “colored” by the people in the South.

I served in law enforcement for 25 years and remember when minorities, particularly African Americans were systematically excluded from employment as cops. I can remember black kids and Mexicans not being permitted to use the public swimming pool in Fontana. I have worked in the private sector as a construction worker and built houses for 25 years as a general building contractor. I have worked in government and I have worked in the private sector. I have a degree in Economics and a Master Degree in Public Administration. My personal experience and observations have shaped my world view or “weltanschauung,” as the Germans call it.

I have learned to trust government more than business. During the depression, government helped us; business exploited us. To me, it really is that simple. I have a deep concern for those who are poor and suffering. Yes, I have become a “Bleeding Heart Liberal.” When people call me that, I am not insulted.

I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints (LDS), a Mormon as people call us. I wasn’t always active but I am now. Mormons are the most humble, generous, loving decent people I know. They take care of their own poor and are always ready to lend a hand. Every family, every member is fellowshipped by a fellow Church member. Recently, I had heart surgery and while still recovering my bathtub developed a leak in the supply line. My “Home Teacher” was at my home within an hour of when I called and repaired the leak. Mormons do not need a lot of help from the government. But most aren’t Mormons and do not have that advantage and I simply cannot understand the total disconnect with Mormon’s politics and what they practice among themselves and what the Scriptures teach them.

I am not JUST a Mormon, I am also a member of the larger group of citizens of the world in general and the USA in particular. I have studied the scriptures, the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. The scriptures tell me, along with common decency, that we ARE, in deed our brothers keeper. They tell me, and I can only speak for myself, that capitalism is not divine. It’s a system developed my men to make money. There is nothing wrong with that, it works, for the most part for all our benefit. It is the most efficient system extant and we need to preserve it until we have a better one, one created by God. Capitalism is based on greed. It is Darwinian and the sole purpose is to make a profit. If a profit can be made by helping people, it does it. If a profit can be made by exploiting people, it does it.

For those who love capitalism I can tell them that we can only preserve it by protecting against its excesses and by providing help for those who are left out of the process. It is fragile and can be replaced. It nearly was in the Depression era. Failure to provide for those excluded foments dissatisfaction and leads to insurrections. Not only do we need to make the system more secure for sake of the system, we need to take care of those excluded because the scriptures tell us to and we like to remind everyone that we Americans are mostly Christians.

In Mark 10:21, Jesus tells a young man that to be perfect he must sell his possessions and give to the poor. The same conversation is reported in Matthew 19:21. A better economic system is depicted in Acts 4: 31-37 where everything was held in common. No, I’m not advocating socialism; we are not ready for it; still too much greed and sloth. But I am saying that socialism is not evil and attacking a social program by calling it “socialistic” is counter productive and non-Christian. We Mormons are commanded even further to take care of the poor, without trying to separate the truly needy and the malingerer, by King Benjamin in Mosiah 4:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 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—

18 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.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

22 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.

23 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.

24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

If we are to survive as a capitalist society, we need to make adjustments. If we want to say we are Christian, we should be Christian. A society should not be evaluated by its ability to make war but rather on its desire to take care of each other.

2 thoughts on “Observations of a Liberal Mormon

  1. Joseph says:

    I appreciate this post. One thing I enjoy about the Mormon Worker is multiple viewpoints are allowed. Ideological purity always leads to totalitarianism.

    And I agree with what Brooks is saying. Philosophically I am for the most part an anarcho-socialist (or, as the individual who introduced this post describes it, libertarian socialist). But right now I tend to vote Democrat in elections (a sin according to many anarchists I know, but nobody’s perfect, and again, I never claimed to be ideologically pure). I’m just not up for quixotic quests to get the perfect candidate elected. I believe that if people were properly educated, law of consecration and united order societies are possible right now. We don’t need any further biological evolution. We just need to repent. But it’s not happening. I think co-ops would do a better job taking care of the tasks we place on government, but government is what we have at the moment. This isn’t a campaign, just saying (or confessing?) some things about myself. I will say, I’m pretty scared of what will happen if Republicans (yes, I am getting partisan here) take Congress this coming election. I don’t think anyone’s going to be safe. The shift to the right is so hard at the moment, something needs to happen to at least moderate that.

    Anyway, to sum up, I think what Brooks has to say makes sense.

  2. Greg says:

    Haven’t been over here in a while. Although to some it may appear that American society is a “capitalist society”, Robert Higgs suggested that it is more akin to a Participatory Fascism-type society. “It is “a bogus capitalism indeed, a sham deferral to individual economic rights readily nullified whenever political leaders deem it expedient.”

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