Commentary: Mormons hate socialism, but only in the United States

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mourners cross Temple Square on their way to the Conference Center to pay their last respects to LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson during his funeral service in Salt Lake City Friday, Jan. 12, 2018.

Almost every day, one of my active Mormon family members posts some scathing comment on Facebook about the evils of socialism. One day, it’s a clip of Meghan McCain dissing democratic socialism. Another day, he makes fun of liberal idiots who don’t know the difference between democratic socialism and real socialism. The day after that, he posts a meme saying, “Socialism can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man that is better off than you are.”

I find his venom odd given that early in LDS Church history, the saints attempted to live the United Order. And during the temple endowment, Mormons agree to live the United Order again if ever required.

The Book of Mormon makes clear that the Nephites lived some form of socialism after Christ visited them, for a good 200 years — and that this was the only time in the entire book where the people lived in complete peace and happiness.

U.S. Mormons I know say that it’s OK if the church wants to implement some form of socialism, but governments are secular and will contaminate anything good they try to do.

That raises the question of why secular capitalist governments are to be praised specifically for their capitalism.

I don’t recall passages from the Book of Mormon lauding capitalist practices. If anything, the scriptures suggest that it was the return to nonsocialist practices that brought about the destruction of the Nephites.

The main reason Mormons in the United States rail against anything socialist is because so much of their “doctrine” is derived from the Republican Party.

Republicans hate any form of universal health care, not because it’s ineffective but because it’s socialist. Yet Mormons in England, and France, and Japan, and all the other countries with such programs, don’t have to denounce their country’s health care system and insist on for-profit health care in order to obtain temple recommends, do they?

Do Mormons in countries with tuition-free college have to travel to the U.S. for their education rather than accept the socialist-provided instruction at home? If they don’t, will they still be worthy to serve missions?

My Mormon family member also posts memes that clearly reflect the Republican influence on his moral values. One reads, “Can you still own a firearm with a straw conviction in California?” thus combining his disdain for environmental conservation with his refusal to approve even one solitary gun regulation that might decrease the massacres that take place routinely in the U.S.

Do Mormons who live in countries that promote renewable energy have to defy their countries’ emissions standards if they want to attend their child’s temple wedding? Must Mormons in countries with strict gun regulations buy guns on the black market to be set apart as bishop or Relief Society president?

In between his posts vilifying the left, my family member intersperses quotes from various church leaders. One from Bonnie Oscarson reads, “We must stop concentrating on our differences and look for what we have in common.”

Then come two posts ranting about how awful black athletes are who protest police officers killing unarmed blacks during routine traffic stops.

Republican Mormons in the United States seem to feel they have to support every cruel, inhumane and destructive “moral imperative” that the Republican Party endorses, even when those policies are in defiance of church history and scripture, even though Mormons in other parts of the world have little or no problem with socialist or democratic socialist or plain old mainstream ideas. Yet most Mormons in the U.S. would flatly deny their views are shaped by politics.

I think many Mormons are misquoting the statement at the beginning of this essay. I think the original must read, “Capitalism can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man that is worse off than you are.” It is the poor, the uneducated, the immigrant, the sick who must be denied a society that would make them equal in any way to “good” people like them.

Or: “Don’t love thy neighbor as thyself.”

People lament every day about those who put party over country. I’m looking forward to the time Mormons stop putting party over morality.

| Courtesy Johnny Townsend, op-ed mug.

Johnny Townsend, Seattle, is the author of “Behind the Bishop’s Door” and many other collections of Mormon short stories.

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