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  1. Pingback: Kate and Neil’s Awesome Website » Mormon Stories Podcast

  2. I would like to note for the record that I’m to CO-Founder of MMD.

    The first inkling of the entire idea was that of Jason Brown!!!

    Gotta give props to him for reaching out to me & others and making this happen.

  3. Thank you for this podcast. It is nice to know that there are fellow leftists in the Church. It is a difficult road to follow, but for many of us, it is our conscience and our “liahona.”

    I also experienced a similar change from the far right to the far left, albeit under different circumstances. My story ended up in the Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/03/local/me-tobar3

  4. Thanks so much, Kate, for this interview. You are right that being a left-leaning active Mormon can be a lonely and isolating experience… and hearing the voices of like-minded people like you is a comfort.

    Which is why I’m looking forward to my local May Day events this weekend! We should mention that there’s a complete listing of upcoming events that will be taking place all over the country on the May Day website at http://www.mormonmayday.org/events/

  5. The church seems to believe that it needs to be actively involved in politics because it sees social changes as a threat to religious freedom. Back in February the LDS church’s chief lawyer said the following:

    “I believe that the greatest challenge faced by the Church, is the challenge to religious liberty that is growing worldwide. … A battle is looming over the effort to acquire civil social rights at the expense of civil religious rights. This battle, I believe, represents the acceleration of a disturbing slide downward in the law regarding the place of religion in the public square.”

    Not long after this address, Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gave a speech at BYU and said this:

    “The second point I want to develop is the mounting threats to religious freedom in America and thirdly and lastly, why Catholics and Mormons do stand together and shall continue to do so with other defenders of conscious and the public exercise of religion.”

    “…there are…threats to religious freedoms in America that are new to our history and our tradition. We have seen this with particular clarity in areas that would see at first blush to have little to do with religious freedom: in the question of healthcare and the question of human sexuality.”

    “The founding Fathers understood when they amended the constitution that the separation of church and state springs from the concept of limited government and favors a public role for churches and other religious bodies in promoting the civic virtues that are vitally necessary in a well functioning democracy.”

    Until church leaders change this mindset of religion being under attack I don’t see them backing away from getting involved with politics.

  6. I’ve been keeping up with Mormon Stories for a while and love the work that you, John, have been up to since your days with Sunstone, very important and even-handed stuff. That said, I’ve always been dismayed at the general existence of conservative, liberal and radical Mormon categories – the categories, not the people. Isn’t some measure of the beauty of the gospel had in it’s transcendence of history and politics? (as Roger Waters once said: “I like to think oysters transcend national barriers”)?

    Why must the gospel be viewed through the prism of modern American politics at all? Won’t the application of categories, and acting in accordance with perceived categories increase the divide between those who categorize themselves after this fashion? Won’t relationships and congregations be better unified through discussions of actual scripture (where the words republican, conservative, liberal, or radical make few – I mean NO appearances) rather than the follies of politics? I’m worried when I read that right or left is one’s conscience. Exegesis through the filter of modern political alignment seems completely at odds with seeking additional truth, wisdom and intelligence.

  7. @ elchupacabras- I love the LA Times story about you!!

    Thanks for sharing!!

    @ Happy Lost Sheep- I’m not really sure what religious freedoms they are talking about… the religious freedom to make everyone else obey our religion through the law? 😉

  8. Pingback: 147: Mormon May Day with Founder Kate Kelly | Mormon Stories Podcast

  9. I think the spirit of what Kate said supports my point, but I believe the execution of it will seem self-congratulatory. When we allow political ideology to define us, the inevitable result will be a self-imposed isolation. While Kate defines herself as extreme left, those on the extreme right complain of the same isolation couched in an opposite ideology, which they also cannot publicly express. Defining oneself in terms of political ideology (of any stripe) will only result in loving our fellow men LESS – thus the isolation.

    Furthermore, I can’t see how participating in a politically charged rally then bearing one’s testimony regarding the activities/feelings will decrease one’s feelings of isolation in the Church. It would be the same if a tea-party activist were to bear testimony of their involvement (I can hear the references to the debunked white horse prophecy now).

    She is absolutely right that Church members and leaders have a problem with confusing conservative politics with religion. That needs remedying. I’m firmly in her camp. The answer to this isolation, though, is so simple it’s almost stupid. As our hands are a thousand times more eloquent than our mouths, we must serve. Members and leaders don’t really give a flying frogs fanny about your politics when you are on a widow’s roof fixing a swamp cooler; calling a plumber to another’s home at your expense; repairing and staining a single mom’s deck; drying out a flooded basement; getting a neighbor online to apply for a job; or even having a discussion with a single mom’s teenager about underage sex while teaching him coveted Foo Fighters guitar riffs because you’re the only one who seems to get through to him.

    On second thought, I could be wrong.

  10. @ Xenophon- I can only speak for myself, but no amount of visiting widows in my ward or taking meals to women who have just birthed makes me feel any more included, when I am inundated by covert/overt messages that my political ideology (which I do not so tidily separate from my religious ideology) is not welcome within Mormonism.

    I think it is easy to criticize others (particularly when using a pseudonym and while guarded by the veil of internet-anonymity), but hopefully people who participate in Mormon May Day feel the freeing power of speaking what is in their hearts not a confrontational feeling of clashing with others.

    I want everyone to feel welcome at church.

    The church is an US.

  11. I’m sorry, Kate. I truly meant no offense, and I appreciate your reply. I can see now how my tone seemed confrontational. It was one of those things when I pushed send I immediately had a second thought that I should edit it for tone.

    I guess I should have said that the aforementioned tactic of service has really worked for me – being in the same boat as you. I have felt quite alienated in my history of going to the LDS Church, and the only real thing that worked for me in the last few years was rubbing shoulders with other members and leaders while doing menial tasks, swinging a hammer, that happened to mean a lot to the recipient. At the time, I felt “wow, the scriptural injunctions really work.”

    Regarding separating political ideology from religious: I didn’t mean to suggest that it’s easy. I was an adjunct at the University of Utah for some years in Ancient History, and I guess I see separating out modern politics from religion the same as separating modern culture when reading ancient sources, the scriptures being one of them. This was a significant challenge to my students.

    Regarding Mormon May Day: I have that same hope. Thank God we live in a country where such expressions are allowed to flourish. I have worked as an archaeologist in some very unluckly places by contrast. However, I think we are trending toward more vitriol in political affairs than we have seen in our nation’s history. And politically charged public assemblies (if May Day is one of them) may not be the best way to unify people (eg: tea party movement, Code Pink).

    I think the only hope we have for unity as a people is doing a better job of following Christ.

    Chuck Easton, 2nd generation Mormon and Utah Transplant

  12. So now, are you going to replace Republican talking points passing as gospel principles with Socialist ones?

  13. @ Xenophon- I am totally with you on the “false dichotomy” (apparently a catch-phrase I loved in the interview 😉 )/ polemics created in modern American politics.

    But, I don’t think that it is really possible to separate religion/ideology at all.

    How can you presume to completely extract yourself from modernity to examine the scriptures with “objective” eyes? Impossible, I say. Republican (or any other) talking points, yes. But, bedrock ideology, certainly not.

    @ SkepticTheist- Totally no way. At all. No. None. That’s a negative. I’m not sure how you came away from that 60 min. spiel with that idea…but, please read the above link in “the church is an us” comment that beautifully encapsulates what we are trying to accomplish (I can say this as I am not the author 😉 ).

  14. Kate, I didn’t mean to suggest I “completely extract [myself] from modernity”- your words, not mine, but any good exegesis should undertake to avoid presentism or nunc pro tunc. That’s all I was saying. Of course, it’s impossible to completely remove the mores of the present, but that’s not to say one shouldn’t make the attempt (there are no “objective eyes” – again, your words, not mine).

    Regarding bedrock ideology: My knowledge of the scriptures long predates my knowledge of American politics. I argue that a measure of comfort comes quicker when the former informs the latter.

    Excellent discussion. I really appreciate the open dialogue. It would be a shame to chase away folks from every political persuasion but the one we like (I’m disgusted at how many times I’ve heard “I wish Glen Beck would leave the Church – I hope no one leaves the Church). Take hope, even though things look bleak politically, I believe things are becoming more progressive in wards across this nation.

    I’ve taught Gospel Doctrine for years (I’m not currently in that position), and I’ll never forget teaching how the Rod of Aaron (possible reference to rodomancy) was removed from our current D&C and passing around a Book of Commandments to prove it – in the presence of our Stake President. He approached me after the lesson to commend me on how excellent it was. My wife gave me a good talking to though. I write this not to toot my own horn, but to show that doctrinally, Mormons are more open-minded now than they were 15-20 years ago.

  15. Personally, I am a registered Democrat. When I joined the Church I was a Democrat and nothing has changed my mind on that. I admit, during my crisis of faith, the Prop 8 support by the Church was what caused me to finally go inactive. Personally, I believe in equal civil rights of all Americans. I see the right to same-sex marriage on par with the right to practice Hinduism. Just because I don’t believe in it theologically does not mean that others don’t have the right to believe in it or practice it. Hindu’s should be allowed to practice their faith and gay couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Doesn’t mean that I will practice Hinduism or have a same-sex relation, but their rights mean I can maintain my rights to practice Mormonism and my beliefs. So, I guess I practice politics by how I view the Constitution and I practice Mormonism by how I understand the scriptures.

  16. The topic of this discussion always fascinates me. It a very USA Mormon thing. Here in Australia there are members who support political parties to the left and to the right (really to the left or right of centre). There’s really no division or passion amongst members on the matter of politics. Of course there are some who think because the GAs appear to be to the right they are obliged to be but they are few and far between.

  17. Pingback: MMORG 2 | Main Street Plaza

  18. This political divide was something that drove me crazy when I was an active member. Having to listen to politics in church is something I don’t miss. At all.

    Here’s a telling story: I was working on a campaign in Utah for a Democrat. If someone was favorable to the candidate we’d ask if we could place a sign in their yard. On one street four different people told me the same thing: “I’d love to, but putting up a sign wouldn’t go over well with my conservative/Mormon neighbors.” These people lived just feet from each other and didn’t even know the others were sympathetic to their own views.

    In another neighborhood a man told me, “I’m the Mormon bishop and no one in the neighborhood knows I’m a Democrat.”

    Good grief. It’s time to stand up and be heard. Why can liberals Mormons declare the gospel “from the rooftops” but can’t even whisper what they believe politically?

  19. @ Chuck- I will have to admit, I wish Glen Beck, if not leave the church, at the BARE minimum not be invited to give firesides at BYU (which my parents attended about a year ago in Provo). Ugh. If for no other reason (although there are many) that that brotha’ is seriously creepy.

    @ Colin- Totally agree. I have lived many places abroad & this is more or less a non-issue. Praise the Lord you did not live in… say California circa fall 2008.

    @ Swearing Elder- “Good grief. It’s time to stand up and be heard. Why can liberals Mormons declare the gospel “from the rooftops” but can’t even whisper what they believe politically?” AMEN & HALLELUJAH!

  20. OK, I’m going to throw this out there too… since I am obsessed with Dorothy Day… and I am in the thick of finals, so it is more fun to discuss here than study!

    “Above all she insisted that the church be held accountable to its ideals and founding mission. ‘I loved the Church for Christ made visible. Not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me. Romano Guardini said the Church is the Cross on which Christ was crucified; one could not separate Christ from his Cross, and one must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church.” Robert Ellsberg, quoting Dorothy Day in “Dorothy Day: Lecture on Centenary”

    I am becoming more comfortable with this idea of living in “permanent dissatisfaction” with the church. I do not think that it means you do not value or believe the gospel is true. I love the idea of holding our institutions accountable… as we are held accountable for keeping our actions in line with our ideals.

    What thinkest ye?

  21. Kate: totally agreed with you on Beck. Seriously creepy. Setting his message aside, his delivery is unbelievably affected and annoying. And while I’m sure he’s doing wonders for the Mormon image to the born again crowd, I’m not entirely certain that’s best.

    Swearing Elder: a similar thing happened in our neighborhood. One of my good friends repeatedly put an Obama sign in his front yard. It was usually stolen overnight. So much for freedom of expression. Good thing he had quite a few though. When the voucher question came up our yard sign in support of public education was also stolen – good grief!

    “That is our doctrine—a doctrine of inclusion. That is what we believe. That is what we have been taught. Of all people on this earth, we should be the most loving, the kindest, and the most tolerant because of that doctrine.” – Russell Ballard, General Conference Oct. 2001

  22. I appreciate good dialog on the subjects at hand and personal fasts can be for many reasons but I thought the purpose of the chapel pulpit was to bear testimony of Jesus Christ and how his atonement affects our lives and not the distracting ideologies and works of men and women.

  23. @ Charlie Have you EVER been to a fast & testimony meeting?!??!

    j/k

    Aside from being about random stories of where you went on vacation, what happened when your dog died, and whether or not believing in aliens is part of the gospel (all testimonies I have heard over the pulpit) I certainly think that testifying of Christ is the intended purpose of the meeting.

    However, certainly, you would not rule out relevant experiences/ testimonies about core gospel principles from the “appropriate” purview of the meeting.

    Would you?

    That would certainly shorten up the meeting… hm, I’m starting to like this idea. 😉

  24. Liberals should not whine about conservative attitudes in religion and bark the “social justice” mantra as it relates to the role of government. Governments will NEVER achieve the social justice liberals are looking for. Governments will NEVER achieve the socialistic nirvana that Marx (or his fellow travelers) seek. Why? (Atheists may skip the next part if they wish.)

    Matthew 26:11
    “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.”

    Christ stated that the poor will always be among us. ALWAYS. If you are Believer, then you know that the greatest good you can do in this world is to become one of the “sheep” spoken of in Matthew.

    Matthew 25:34-36
    “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
    “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
    “Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

    These are the “acts of righteousness” the Book of Mormon mentions (Alma 5:16-17,35-36), but fails to detail in sufficient fashion.

    This is how the world achieves social justice. You get yourself right and then you extend the love you have for yourself to your neighbors. You DO NOT PASS THE BUCK to government. Reputable, private institutions and religious organizations are better equipped to handle the needs of the poor than are governments.

    Matthew 22:21
    “[…] Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

    God has called on all of us to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). The government of the United States of America is under no such charge. We the people have declared the government’s job to “provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty…”

    Liberals love to jump all over the “general Welfare” clause in order to seize and spend other people’s money. Wealth redistribution is not the job of government. Please note how the word “promote” is used instead of “provide” compared to how it is used in the previous clause. Promote and provide are two completely different concepts and these words are not interchangeable.

    When people become prosperous, we should promote the idea that we should give of our substance to help the poor and needy. We should promote private avenues for such giving. Many people in this country give billions of dollars to charity or establish their own foundations to help those who do not have as much (or any) of their own substance.

    We are fortunate to be greatly blessed in this country. We are some of the most generous people on the planet. We don’t need governments confiscating our means and wasting it on endless bureaucracies and ineffective programs.

    One last thought: Joseph Smith couldn’t keep the United Order on track. The UO was a miserable failure. True “social justice” will occur when Christ returns and reigns again. The government shall be upon His shoulder and He will provide for the general Welfare for all and He will do it in perfect ways.

  25. Thanks John. I hope I make sense. I also hope that I can awaken everyone (liberals and conservatives) to the responsibility we have to our fellow man. Especially those who have received (through hard work or otherwise) better than sufficient means to live.

    Luke 12:48
    “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”

    or to put it another way:

    “With great power comes great responsibility.” -Uncle Ben Parker

  26. @ Bystander if Christ meant in that scripture that poor MUST always be among us– he sure got that one wrong: (he did not btw)
    Moses 7: 18
    18 And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

    4 Ne. 1: 3
    3 And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.

    I fundamentally disagree with your assertion that “private institutions and religious organizations are better equipped to handle the needs of the poor than are governments.”

    Haiti is an excellent example of this conundrum. Haiti was the first independent black nation ever created. They won their liberty from French colonizers in 1804. Before the earthquake of 2010 Haiti had 10,000 NGOs (including churches) and for an island with a population of fewer than 10 million, that is at least one NGO per 1,000 people. Not one NGO employee per 1,000 people— one entire independent organization per 1,000 people. Despite this incredible ratio giving Haiti the distinction of the country with the highest number of NGOs per capita in the world, even according to the CIA, “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty.” This begs the question: if there are more humanitarian and anti-poverty organizations in Haiti than in any other country, then how does rampant poverty and stark, horrific injustice persist?

    It is because Haiti would be better off with an honest and effective government and legal system than with even a ration of 1 NGO per PERSON at work in a corrupt and weak state.

    Everyone who has taken out their endowments has covenanted to live the law of consecration NOW. Not wait around until Christ reins personally on the earth. While I agree that we must each do personally what is in our power to give, I also think that our “generosity” is just a drop in the bucket and will not, and cannot reach all of those in need unless a more systematic effort is put in place.

    There is a reason that people are poor. Asking why is a very important question. Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara said,“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist.”

    We must ask the difficult questions and make radical, substantive change before we can feel satisfied with our efforts to reach out “unto one of the least of these my brethren.”

  27. @Kate your refutation of Jesus’ declaration that “ye have the poor always with you” is weak at best. You sited one group of people from the time of Enoch and one group of “people” from about 33-34 A.D. As percentage of the entire world population in each instance, I would say that the population of each group was very small. I doubt that poverty was completely obliterated on the planet due to the practices of the groups you sited.

    As for NGOs in Haiti, I will accept your statistics as accurate, but I will refer you to my original post when I stipulated “reputable, private institutions” instead of any old charity with its hand out. How many of the 10,000 NGOs you sited are “reputable” and how many are able to say that they use 96.9% of their donations towards programs, 2.4% toward fundraising, and 0.7% toward administration as claimed by Food for the Poor? (Full disclosure: I personally support FFTP, but I do not represent them.)

    As for the endowment and the so called “law of consecration”, how’s that working out for the world’s poverty situation? Even the LDS church worldwide had issues with poverty. When I was a ward clerk, a majority of stakes in the church were in the red when you added up fast offering donations versus payouts to the poor and the needy in the church.

    Last year my parent’s branch had to cut their annual Thanksgiving Basket event for deserving members of the church because the LDS church HQ said payouts from the fast offering accounts needed to be cut back.

    During general conference KSL TV reported that the LDS church has donated $1.1 billion to humanitarian causes since 1985. I don’t understand why the LDS church thinks this is such a great feat to promote. That works out to LESS THAN $5 per member per year to humanitarian causes! They should be embarrassed.

    But they aren’t. The LDS church just keeps asking for more. On top of tithing and fast offering, they want money for PEF, I get calls to donate to the BYU general fund, etc.

    When it comes to the so called “law of consecration” the LDS church should lead by example. Start throwing out a billion or so EACH YEAR to humanitarian causes. But they don’t. What do they do instead? $3 billion so far for the City Creek Project and another $35 million for a hotel in Hawaii. I believe they should look inward and ask “How is this organization, the church of JESUS CHRIST of LDS, doing to show the members and the world what it means to be financially charitable?”

    I suppose the liberal answer is to take, by force of law, money people have worked for and give to another who hasn’t done a thing to earn it. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Isn’t that right? Here’s what Marx got wrong: Marx didn’t understand the importance of love when appealing to the better nature of humans in charitable giving. Marx certainly wouldn’t have understood the following:

    1 Corinthians 13:3
    “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

    And what is “charity”? The pure love of Christ. The thing that appeals to the human spirit to do good to those in need. Few people I know can endure even the thought of human suffering and want to do all they are able to do to alleviate that suffering.

    You stated that you “agree that we must each do personally what is in our power to give, I also think that our our ‘generosity’ is just a drop in the bucket and will not, and cannot reach all of those in need unless a more systematic effort is put in place.”

    Why do you on the one hand say we “must each do personally what is in our power to give” and then appeal to some “system” (translation: government) to force people to surrender beyond what is in their power? What is there beyond what a person has the power to do that you think can be taken from them? This type of reasoning is confusing at best.

    No one should concern themselves with how many drops are in the bucket, whose drops are in the bucket, and how many drops each person has contributed to the bucket. We are told to “do not your alms before men, to be seen of them” (Matthew 6:1). We are also told to “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1) I believe these are wise counsels. We should only have to answer for our own actions and not be overly concerned with “how much” our neighbor is or isn’t contributing.

    Why do you feel a “more systematic effort” is appropriate? Why aren’t you willing to be long-suffering with those who maybe slow to hear the call to action? Why must liberals always default to force rather than love and charity?

    Liberals seem to always see the bad side of the human spirit; that the better nature of people cannot be effectively appealed to in order to reduce or eliminate suffering and poverty. Liberals seem to fixate on the idea that people must be compelled against their will to give up what “the system” feels is appropriate or correct.

    I’m sorry (and I know some of you reading this will be offended), but that is Satan’s plan.

    Moses 4:3-4
    “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
    “And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.”

    Taking away an individual’s freedom and agency is not the way God intended for His human creations. I believe Satan would have been very comfortable keeping company with Marx and his merry band of liberal redistributionists. (They may be whooping it up as we speak.)

  28. Bystander said:
    “Liberals seem to always see the bad side of the human spirit; that the better nature of people cannot be effectively appealed to in order to reduce or eliminate suffering and poverty. Liberals seem to fixate on the idea that people must be compelled against their will to give up what “the system” feels is appropriate or correct.”
    This statement by Bystander is representative of the kind of thinking that gets expressed in sacrament, gospel doctrine, elders quorum, relief society, high priests group and informal gatherings that cause more liberal mormons to be quiet, and move about in congregations incognito.
    Here is my response:
    In the United States, and in many Western style republics, ‘We the people’ are the government. We are not shifting our responsibility to care for the poor to another entity. When we insist our government legislates ‘social justice,’ it is reflective of the charity we the people have for our own. Legislating social programs through our elected officials is the opposite of “seeing the bad side of the human spirit.” It is, on the other hand, the recognition that God “sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt 5:45). And that we are all a personal, financial, or natural disaster away from needing help.
    I agree with Bystander that charities can do much good in the world, but I disagree with the idea that governments exercising charity is satan’s plan. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Citizens can do much good by trusting their government, and insisting it work for good – by choice.
    I think one of the big differences between conservative and progressive thinkers is that conservatives don’t trust government, and look at government as separate from themselves, while progressives believe that government can do much good, and that they are part of that government. The gulf between these two beliefs shows up again and again in political discussions. And lest I be accused of painting conservatives and liberals with broad strokes, I recognize that adherents of each ideology displays different levels of trust or lack of confidence in their government at different times and about different issues.

  29. There are some very serious fundamental issues here you’re going to need to deal with potlitically. The concept of Free Agency is one. Neither of the 2 main parties all that good at alllowing people to make descisions for themselves. Of course, I tend to go to the right on this issue, or at least what most people would call right, prefering to allow people to earn whatever money they want, say whatever they want, even “sin” or “be racist” or “be greedy” or “uncharitable”. Of course these days it seems the left seems to not care very much for economic Free Agency (heavy taxes on the wealthy, government welfare programs, requiring people to buy health insurance), and the right seemed more concerned with limiting moral Free Agency (they always seem to be complaining about porn, booze, drugs, sexual immorality…)

    I could elaborate a LOT on this..but…i wanted to toss out a really basic summary of my thoughts – see if i could spark some LEGITIMATE discussion
    hope that works…

  30. Michael – are you supporting the idea that the government has the right to force people to be charitable and force them to assist the poor?

  31. Haven’t listened to the podcast yet (I will very shortly), but wanted to throw another perspective in the mix to at least leaven the discussion a bit. (Sorry about the length).

    I consider myself a progressive republican — the worst of the worst, probably according to both sides of the current political gulf.

    I don’t really think there is much argument that market forces, properly utilized, have yielded an unprecedented increase in standard of living, life expectancy, individual opportunity, etc.

    It is also true that market forces, unregulated or misused, have yielded terrible ecological catastrophes, dramatic increases in income disparity, blatant fraud, wars, misuse of government power, etc. etc.

    To me the issue is a pragmatic one. I believe that meaningful employment is the best means to overcome economic distress, and that private enterprise is the best means to generate opportunities for meaningful employment. I also think that it is a legitimate role of the government (which I wholeheartedly accept as “we the people”) to regulate markets to the extent that there are identifiable market externalities — issues that reduce the likelihood of fair competition, or which put potential buyers at an extreme disadvantage vis-a-vis sellers. Or practices that diminish a public good, and for which market forces will not generate an adequate and timely solution. Pollution, information disparities, drug efficacy, food preparation practices, financial sophistication — all of these can be viewed as externalities for which a public entity, with transparent accountability to the people, ought to have the power to regulate. And yes, by force of law.

    To me this is the primary function of elected government — to identify and attempt to mitigate externalities that would otherwise stand in the way of the market economy functioning to efficiently deliver opportunities for improved quality of life and individual economic gain.

    (Obviously this is an over-simplification of government’s role — there are security issues both domestic and international, there are social goods issues like healthcare, especially when it can be demonstrated that government action in these areas, coupled with a fair approach to market dynamics, will yield an improvement in overall costs or quality that society ultimately will absorb one way or another.)

    From a religious standpoint, we are all challenged to grapple with the gulf that separates the ideals attributed to Christ and Christian behavior and the reality of the world we find around us. There is much more complexity than can possibly be addressed with a simplistic and/or idealized reading of scriptural injunction. I think at best, our religious convictions can help establish fundamental principles that we use to evaluate elected leaders and our participation in the public forum.

    But ultimately, we have to recognize two things: 1) we live in an imperfect world, and even the principles we hold most dear are going to find imperfect application regardless of the conviction and caring we put into our efforts. And 2) organizing ourselves into a body politic is necessary to achieve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, a “more perfect union”, etc. By so doing we inevitably (and somewhat ironically) give up certain “freedoms” in order to live modern life in a society based on the rule of law. And we accept that the rule of law will be enforced in some form.

    To me the solution is a pragmatic one: recognize the fundamental good established by an organized government, feel a sense of personal and collective accountability for how well that government responds to the needs of society, base our actions to the extent we can (some compromise is an absolute requirement) on the fundamentals we bring to the discussion (including fundamentals established or influenced by our religious convictions), and recognize that for the most part, the differences in approach between the primary players in the political realm are about where lines are drawn and the resulting implications, not whether we are heading for nirvana or straight to hell. Buying into that overheated rhetoric is, in my opinion, allowing ourselves to be duped by people who are using the complexities of modern politics to benefit themselves. Society at large will be benefited most when we approach our civic responsibilities with pragmatism, soberness, a healthy sense of humor, and a lack of expectation that perfect solutions will be found.

    Unfortunately, many at church (and elsewhere) don’t understand the difference between the principles we choose to embrace and the complex reality of creating a “more perfect union” — not an absolutely perfect union.

  32. Bill,.,, at least in principle…i;m in agreement with you…
    that what i would call Economic free will..aka market forces/capitalism,
    allowing people to use their own best judgment, has produced a flabbergasting amount of affluence in the US, even among what most Americans would call the poor. And yes, i also agree that when missused, in religious terms i think it would probably be called the human capacity for sin or evil, when that kicks in, and is unrestrained……there;’s problems.

    ok, gotta go…more comments later….

  33. @ Bystander- I think the reason that I am not “willing to be long-suffering with those who maybe slow to hear the call to action?” is because I am not the one suffering. I have plenty to eat, adequate shelter & many educational and professional opportunities. This is not the case for the vast weight of our brothers and sisters. They do not have anything to eat, a roof over their heads or any way to learn and work. Asking patience of a person in such a situation is not only unrealistic, it is cruel.

    @ Michael Nelson- I really appreciate your succinct description. Although, it’s true that there are innumerable variations of points on the spectrum, the belief that the U.S. government is US is an excellent way to explain it.

    @ Bill Kelly- While perfection may not be possible, we’ve got to at least shoot for it, no? Like the ol’ strive for perfection so that we will be sanctified through the process (or in politics… reach the best result?) Matt. 5: 48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” In the struggle between realist v. idealist / pessimistic v. optimistic… I think I more often fall on the latter side. Although, I’ll admit, I have my days of dark pessimism about the state of things.

  34. Kate: Thanks for your efforts. I listened to the podcast and agree that the more progressive of the lds need to make their voices heard. I was about to write that we need to balance out the political right in the church, but I really think that it is to let others know we are there and our ideas have as much validity.

    Chris Walker: I think you present me with a choice akin to “When did you stop beating your wife?” I really don’t think that Western governments have rights. They have powers granted them by the people. If a majority of citizens vote in representatives who legislate ways to help the poor, then as a nation, we have added that to our social contract with the government. I recognize your contention that some people will feel forced. So be it. Maybe those people should work harder to elect representatives that legislate their views, then people like me will feel that, for the time, government does not represent our views.
    And Chris I completely agree with what you said:

    “Society at large will be benefited most when we approach our civic responsibilities with pragmatism, soberness, a healthy sense of humor, and a lack of expectation that perfect solutions will be found.”

    Beautifully written.

  35. @Michael Nelson you stated: “I disagree with the idea that governments exercising charity is satan’s plan.”

    I disagree with that idea as well and that’s not what I said. Satan’s plan was to remove agency from man. (Go back and read my post and the Moses reference.) It is fundamentally wrong for any system (government or otherwise) to take by force an individual’s agency to do what they choose to do with the money they’ve earned.

    @Kate you stated: “I have plenty to eat, adequate shelter & many educational and professional opportunities. This is not the case for the vast weight of our brothers and sisters. They do not have anything to eat, a roof over their heads or any way to learn and work. Asking patience of a person in such a situation is not only unrealistic, it is cruel.”

    I want to know if you, Kate, have ever received a U.S. federal tax refund or any amount? If so, did you endorse the check and send the check back to the IRS? Have you at any time offered to pay more taxes to the U.S. Treasury than you actually owed? Did you know that there is a program to make voluntary “contributions” to the U.S. Government?

    If you believe in “the system” so wholeheartedly and you believe a “more” systematic approach is necessary, then why don’t you lead by example and post an image of your canceled checks representing your non-required, voluntary contributions to the federal government.

    Until then, you are just another liberal who loves to spend other people’s money. Remember: “Socialism only works until you run out of other peoples money.”

  36. @ Bystander- Easy, eeeeeeeasy there champ…no need to get all huffy. Let’s keep in mind that I am using my actual name, and actual identity to put forward the ideas I believe in.

    Random pseudo-insults like “you are just another liberal” are counter-productive, especially considering you know so little about me.

    I repeat: it is easy to criticize others (particularly when using a pseudonym and while guarded by the veil of internet-anonymity), but hopefully we can have a meaningful dialogue, and stick to ideas, not insults.

    I want to know if you are tax-resister. Since you are so opposed to the idea of taxation and the U.S. government “taking” your money, why do you give it to them?

    If you are a tax-resister, I salute you. At least you are putting your money where your mouth is… and perhaps that’s why you need to hide your identity while discussing your opinions.

  37. @ Kate: Perfection is a bit of a tricky thing, I think. Opinions certainly differ, as do the education, experiences and other factors that contribute to an individual’s concept of perfection. If we could all stomach a benevolent dictatorship, we could at least pick the version of perfection that seemed best and let one person lead us to that promised land. But we’ve seen that benevolent dictatorships come at a cost as well.

    Before we can confidently turn the dials of public policy to the settings that we’re convinced will yield perfection in society, we need to have come to a perfect knowledge of what the desired result should be, and of short-term and long-term consequences of any action we would take today. This is, in my opinion, impossible. So we’re left with the reality of imperfect people, who have at best vague and incomplete notions of what perfection looks like and how to get there, and who disagree with each other on items large and small.

    A friend pointed out over dinner last night that the genius of the American experiment is the institutionalization of compromise — that if we really wanted to get back to the original intent of the Founders, we would embrace the messy, compromise-requiring system of politics that they set up. Nobody gets to have everything they want, but collectively we’re able to move the ball forward in increments. Yes, this is a form of inching toward perfection, but it is also an acknowledgment that society works best when no one gets to dictate the desired outcome, and no one gets to have free reign as to methods and means.

    I stand by my recommendation that we allow ourselves to be guided in our public responsibilities by the principles we bring from our religious and other experiences, but that we recognize that anything that actually gets done will be through compromise and collaboration, not through the application of one specific set of ideals.

  38. @ Kate — one other thing: I don’t buy the notion that as realism is to idealism, so pessimism is to optimism. I’m not sure if that’s what you meant to say, but I think the mental model ought to be more acknowledging the imperfections of reality, and optimistically operating within our knowledge of these imperfections (including our own imperfect knowledge and experience) to accomplish good outcomes. A binary outlook on life is sure to yield frustration and worse. I believe that the “realistic” outlook gives one the best opportunity for positive outcomes and a hope for overall improvement. Just my two cents.

  39. @ Bill- many thanks for your thoughts. Although I am an idealist (some would say purist… as an insult 😉 ) at heart… I am learning about compromise.

    A historical hero of mine, Jane Addams ( of Hull House fame) thought that interests, if they are worth securing, are mutual and that the right outcome is always the outcome democratically reached. “It is easy for the good and powerful to think that they can rise by following the dictates of conscience by pursing their own ideals, leaving those ideals unconnected with the consent of their fellow-men.”

    I think this consent is key… although I struggle with the implications of the idea that all antagonism is wrong. Addams thought of it as a misunderstanding of the fact that both sides have common goals.

    Perhaps this is a little bit of what @ Bystander was also getting at… that mutual goals should be with consent, and… mutual.

  40. Does this mean Liberal Mormon = Thinking Mormon = Lapsed Mormon?”

    I rather think of it as “Liberal Mormon = Thinking Mormon = Eternally Progressing Mormon”

    We can make changes…… Wasn’t it Spence Kimball who laid low until he was given the reins?

    Keep up the great work John

  41. I am not happy with conservative greed that covets its own substance under the banner of self-reliance. I am not happy with liberal greed that covets the substance of others under the banner of charity. Justifying selfishness is wrong; and stealing from others to do charity is wrong too. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I will have to live apart from political parties and programs: I cannot rely on them for anything (except the recurrent insistence that they need and will have my money, one way or another, and will waste it once they have it). I cannot rely on churches or charities either: many of them are no more moral than our wholly corrupt government. If I want to do good in the world, I have to do it myself. Time to get off my duff already.

  42. When I was at BYU, Harry Reid’s Devotional talk when he claimed that he was a Democrat because of his faith gave me the courage to accept the label Liberal in public. I felt the spirit testifying to me that what he said was true – then I went back to class to hear the rest of my mormon classmates rip the Senator’s words to shreds and question his faith in Christ.

    So in my experience – the Holy Ghost backs socialism. Christ instituted socialism, but the republicans of Utah say that God can have that money for the poor when he rips it from their cold dead hands.

    “philosophies of men mingled with scripture”

  43. @ Patrick- Excellent!

    And, if I recall… Reid gave a forum and NOT a devotional, right? A very subtle, yet obvious at BYU, difference and reflection about the qualifications of the speaker.

    Glen Beck, on the other hand, gave a fireside on a Sunday at BYU.

    I think even that choice sends a pretty particular message.

  44. No, Reid gave a devotional a few years ago. I went to it. I was okay with it – he seems like a good guy, but I’m not okay with his big-government power-grabs that limit freedom and prosperity, especially among the poor.

    A lot of liberals, progressives, or whatever you call yourselves on this site. Don’t think it’s a coincidence.

    And Patrick, the Holy Ghost backs socialism? Christ instituted socialism? I guess a very different Holy Ghost testified to President Benson that socialism was evil: http://www.templestudy.com/2008/10/28/a-prophet-declares-redistribution-of-wealth-is-socialism/

    Look, I applaud that you have your own opinion and that there is diversity in the LDS Church, but don’t throw me the nonsense that the Holy Ghost told you socialism was good. I’m sure you’d object to me, if I came on here saying, I was listening to Ezra Benson’s talk about redistribution and socialism, and the Holy Ghost told me that free, unfettered capitalism was good and that socialism was of the devil. Maybe you wouldn’t. Have your own opinion and voice it with confidence, but leave the nonsense that the Holy Ghost confirmed to you socialism was good. I’m sure it makes you feel good at night that your political ideology has been confirmed by the Holy Ghost, but you really lose credibility (at least to me) when you come on here and spout that nonsense.

  45. This discussion goes to show that statistics, damn lies and scriptures can be used to support any argument. The right way for me is somewhere in the middle. I render unto Caesar, i render unto the Church and I render directly to charities. I’ve heard from those who have travelled that some of the happiest people in the world are by our standards “poor”.

  46. Kate: You must be right if it says it was a forum. I remember it being during devotional hours, being in the Marriott Center, and it was a spiritual message (despite involving politics). So perhaps we’re both right.

    Of course the Holy Ghost testifies of all truth, but it’s nonsense to say a system that has killed millions (Mao’s socialism-induced famine is one example) was confirmed to you to be good by the Holy Ghost. The other problem Patrick runs into is that his “confirmation” runs directly counter to Ezra Benson. The Holy Ghost does not tell one that socialism is good and another that it is evil. One is conflating their own personal emotion with revelation.

    Using my own study of history and economics, not to mention plain logic, I think I’ll stick with President Benson on this one.

  47. Pingback: Oh, those Satanic Socialist Liberals… « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  48. Capitalism has also killed millions over the decades. In fact, it is still killing people today.

    And just because Ezra Taft Benson thought he received an indication from the Holy Ghost that communism was bad doesn’t mean he wasn’t mistaken. The history of the prophets of the Church is rife with them being wrong about various things, even things they said over the pulpit. Just because a prophet agrees with you doesn’t mean you are both correct.

  49. Redistribution of wealth is theft. Socialists (liberals etc) are following Satan’s plan. I’m always in conflict with left-leaning ward members who think the UK Government should provide for them. They will be in for a huge shock over the coming months. No food storage, no savings, on welfare etc. Foolish virgins won’t be getting any of mine!

  50. Pingback: Kate and Neil’s Awesome Website » Nervous Laugh

  51. I loved watching all the heads turn during Gospel Doctrine class when I preceded my comment with, “In his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, Elder Faust said…” I had a few people come up afterwards and say that they were either surprised to know that Elder Faust was a Democrat, or glad that someone had the courage to stand up for diversity.

    I have called people out on jokingly talking about what they consider the questionable temple worthiness of Democrats. I was told that not only was it a joke, but that everyone there knew it was. I said that I continue to find it in poor taste, and that since the ‘joke’ if it really was such, was lame enough it didn’t bear continued repetition. If people don’t object, such nonsense tends to gain currency.

  52. Kris, what is your take on the United Order and the Law of Consecration?

    Are you paying your fast offerings? What do you think that money is for?

    I hope you can be as charitable in your mind as I’m assuming you are with your offerings.
    (Because without those generous thoughts accompanying your donations, I worry that it will be a ‘sounding brass’ of meaningless sacrifice.)

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