There are 25 thoughts on “Mormonism, Materialism, and Politics: Six Things We Must Understand in Order to Survive as Latter-day Saints”.

  1. These are exceptional points made…not only in the article, but in the comments, also. I believe that we all have important decisions to make now and in the near future. As has often been said in the past, “the day is arriving that fence-sitting is over.” We may see that day sooner than we expected, and as Rick Anderson so aptly pointed out, individually, we’re probably already experiencing it on a personal basis, already today.

  2. Thank you, Rick Anderson, for your reasoned and lucid commentary on Mormonism, Materialism and Politics.
    But after spending a fair part of my morning reading and re-reading your essay and the ensuing ‘Comments,’ I wonder how you see your – and The Interpreter editors’ and peer-reviewers’ – (collective) efforts differing from and/or adding to what apostles, prophets and scripture have already taught (and continue to teach almost every day)? Why read you (collectively) AND them?

    • The only reason to read what I write about this stuff is if you have a reasonable expectation that it will be helpful. Hopefully, it is. If not, you’ve gotten your money’s worth. 😉

  3. We know that our constitution was inspired, in Brigham Young’s words “dictated,” to the Framers, so essentially revelation. We know that it (in the tradition of the founding fathers) is approved by God as stated in D&C 98:4-7. So that is something we can stand behind and not a philosophy of man.

    • Thanks, Ben. I agree that the Constitution is an inspired document. I’m not sure we can call it a “philosophy,” though. It’s a political framing document that describes the distribution of rights between the American people and their government, and people who subscribe to wildly differing political philosophies are all able to point to the Constitution in support of their mutually-exclusive positions. This is possible because the Constitution doesn’t specifically address all of the many situations in which we find ourselves, and about which we have to enact laws and policies. This means that it has to be interpreted, and the only way you can interpret it is by recourse to values and beliefs.
      For example, those who subscribe to politically conservative philosophies tend to interpret the Second Amendment very broadly, and the Establishment Clause very narrowly. Those on the Left tend to do the opposite. Both invoke the Constitution in defense of their positions. So while all of us seem to agree on the sacredness and central importance of the Constitution, that doesn’t go very far in helping us distinguish between the philosophies of men and revealed truth.

  4. I think one who disparages the “philosophies of men” without being able to refute them runs the risk of appearing uninformed, and not aware of their implications. In fact even disparaging the “philosophies of men” is itself a philosophy of men.

    • I don’t think I’ve said anything here that disparages the philosophies of men in any kind of blanket way, though I certainly am encouraging readers to be careful not to confuse the philosophies of men — some of which, I’m sure you’ll agree, are destructive — with eternal and revealed truth.

      • Well I think resolving this would be too lengthy a discussion for this forum; we have many areas of apparent disagreement which I am sure we could resolve in a few hours of discussion. Semantics is a never-ending problem in these discussions. In light of eternal revealed truth, (D&C 131:7) we know that even spirit is itself “matter” and so I am not sure about the condemnation of “materialism”. I see us AS “materialists”. Further, if there IS a “reality beyond appearances” I have no idea how we access that reality since all we can know is “appearances”. If we start with the assumption that there is a difference between appearance and reality, that problem perpetuates itself in the spiritual realm by thinking something like “What I feel is spiritual reality- but what you feel is just in your mind”. Dualism doesn’t solve the problem- it creates it! I feel that revelation itself can be seen as a sort of perception which involves our minds and spirits and emotions all at once and which conveys to us the true reality all around us. We are simply conditioned by scientism to ignore this “total reality”. I think the everyday world is charged with spiritual energy if we only allow ourselves to see it. With that we need to believe that God teaches us individually to follow the path that might be right for me, but not yet for you.
        But these are probably semantic confusions. I think THAT is what we need to overcome to unify into true disciples of Christ. We need to drop the labels and see things “as they are” to unify ourselves as disciples of Christ. So I think that ultimately we are on the “same page” if we don’t let words get in the way!

        • Mark, I explained how I’m using the term “materialism” in the first paragraph of this essay, and I accounted explicitly for the principle taught in D/C 131:7-8 in the footnote to that paragraph, so hopefully that resolves the semantic question in that particular regard.
          I’m pretty sure we’re in agreement, at least generally, about the issues you raise regarding perception and reality. But while I agree that semantic confusions can be a problem, I’m not sure they are the primary barrier that stands between us and true unity as disciples of Christ. Sometimes we do misunderstand each other — but sometimes we substantively disagree, and no amount of clarification will resolve the disagreement.

          • Wow I really owe you an apology on that one- I totally missed the footnote!
            I feel though that the danger in believing that the “world is not as it appears” leaves one open to accepting false interpretations from others who as alleged “experts”, tell us what “true” reality is and thereby deceive us. But I know you also affirm the necessity of each of us having our own testimonies of the truth. I also at one point in my life belonged to a church which perpetuated many errors based on their interpretation of unseen worlds, and so tend to be suspicious of proposition asserting that appearances are not “reality”
            I tend to place more importance on semantic confusions than most, as a student of Wittgenstein, who believed that they were at the root of all philosophical “problems”. Perhaps some day we can get into it further when we have the time to do so. We certainly agree however that “genuine and submissive Christian discipleship (is) informed by an independent testimony of the restored gospel, built on a solid foundation of fidelity to saving and exalting covenants and a willingness to heed and follow the prophets called by God to lead His church on the earth.” Thanks for your article!

  5. To be a force for good, though gentle defiance and righteous stands, it is vital to understand the evil we are facing. As you note, things are often not as they seem. Failure to understand where the dangers are and what the tactics are of “combined” enemies, if they exist, might leave us vulnerable. More to the point, how can we be a force for good in the world through political engagement if we are, for example, enticed into actively supporting modern Gaddiantons (if they exist) or if we are falling prey to the Adversary’s most deadly schemes to allow him to rule with blood and horror on the earth? When there are powerful philosophies and movements which are “actively destructive at worst, we must exercise constant vigilance” as you observe. But if there are such dangers in our day, we seem as a people to be unwilling to even consider the possibility. We like to think that things are as they seem, with our elite leaders all acting basically in good faith, though somewhat muddled and misguided perhaps, without the kind of corruption and brazen evil from a few megalomaniacs and their machines that have caused so much grief throughout much of world history. Answers? I don’t know. I just wish we could even dare to ask more substantial questions.

    • This is a really tough — but important — issue. Because you’re right, Jeff, conspiracies are real and they can be incredibly destructive. Of course, it’s also true that history has shown us how destructive it can be to cry “conspiracy!” when things don’t go the way we want, or in order to stir up persecution against groups we don’t like. The more that happens, the more difficult it becomes to get serious-minded people to give the very real danger of actual conspiracies the concern and attention it deserves. I guess the challenge for all of us is to (on the one hand) heed the warnings of prophets both ancient and modern about those dangers, while also (on the other hand) heeding the warnings of history, some of it quite recent, about the dangers of unwarranted conspiracy-mongering, and not to let the existence of crackpot conspiracy theories blind us to the reality and the danger of actual conspiracies.

      • While we should be careful to avoid “conspiracy-mongering” and accusing people of conspiracy without good reason, we must recognize conspiracy where it does exist. For example the Fabian Socialists deliberately set out to deceive people to advance their cause. From my book. “Freedom or Serfdom?” I quote the following:
        Conspiracy? That is a strong word, but many statists have been quite open about their intent to deceive. The first hint can be found in the original coat of arms of the Fabian Society, a society devoted to the spread of socialism. That coat of arms was, believe it or not, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Why would any organization chose to be represented by such a symbol? I can think of no other reason than that they planned to use deception to reach their goals. Want more evidence? One of their founders, George Bernard Shaw, instructed them to use “methods of stealth, intrigue, subversion, and the deception of never calling socialism by its right name.” Nor does it stop there. As we shall shortly see, many educational programs hide statist indoctrination under innocuous sounding names.
        (The original Fabian coat of arms can also be found in many places on the internet. A simple search will find it.)

        • Again, there’s no question about the reality of conspiracies. On the Left, we’ve had the Rosenbergs, the Ware Group, Elizabeth Bentley and her various co-conspirators, and others who infiltrated the US government with the intention of sharing state secrets with the Soviets. On the Right, we have the continued threat of secret societies like the Ku Klux Klan, revolutionary organizations like the National Socialist Movement, white nationalist groups like the Traditionalist Youth Network, etc.
          Conspiracies are real, and they are an ongoing problem. Also a problem is people using unsubstantiated claims of conspiracy for political purposes. We need to be vigilant against both.

          • I generally agree, but I would not put the National Socialist Movement on the right. I regard them as being on the left since they are socialist in origin. However, I really think that we need to get away from this left and right terminology, it has become so confused that the likes of Stalin and Pol Pot are accused of being on both the left and right, depending on who is making the accusation. I think a more useful classification is statist vs freedom supporters. (In fact I discuss that in my book. “Freedom or Serfdom?”)

  6. I agree with this article but would like to add my own bit. I think that as Latter-day Saints we should be very concerned about some political trends in the U.S. that are starting to oppose free exercise of religion, and even the right to freedom of belief. This is particularly apparent in the debate over the homosexual agenda and same sex marriage, and on abortion. We have legal mandates that small business owners must violate their deeply held beliefs, and we even have efforts to keep a restaurant chain out of certain cities because of the belief of the owners. We have even had a presidential candidate openly state that churches must change their doctrine on the question of abortion. Whether we support same sex marriage and legal abortion or not, I believe we must oppose those who want to make such support legally mandatory. Freedom is a big part of the restored gospel, and that includes freedom of belief.
    Free interchange of ideas is necessary both to progress in general and to the growth of the Church. As Latter-day Saints we must defend that freedom, even in the face of social and legal pressure.

    • We must also stand against political trends on the other side of the fence. Cries to limit religious freedom for our Muslim brothers and sisters should be condemned strongly. Cries to ban Mosques, immigration based on religion and every kind of attack on religious liberty of non Christians should be disgusting to every Latter Day Saint

      • It is true that we should support freedom of religion. However, that does not include supporting those who would use violence and force to advance their cause. D&C 134:4 says, “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;”
        While I believe that most Muslims in this country support freedom, there is a minority that would use force, even violence. We saw that on 9-11, and we saw it in the earlier attack on the Twin Towers instituted by the “Blind Sheik,” Omar Abdel-Rahman. Sadly, some mosques have been used to recruit terrorists. We must be wise and not allow that to happen. Yes, that means that law enforcement, when there is reasonable suspicion, must be allowed to gather information in those mosques. Allowing those fanatics to continue without finding out what they are up to would be equivalent to legalizing the Gadianton Robbers.

        • While I believe that most Muslims in this country support freedom, there is a minority that would use force, even violence.

          One could say the same of Christians in this country: most support freedom, but there is a minority who would use (and have used) force, even violence, to promote their views and oppress others.
          This is an argument that always goes around in circles: one person points out the importance of protecting religious freedom; another person responds that protecting religious freedom doesn’t extend to supporting religious violence; the first person points out that the vast majority of adherents of the religion in question are peaceful and respectful; etc. The problem is that all of these statements are true, and they don’t even contradict each other — but we wield them in discussion as if each were a refutation of the other.

  7. At some point, the most urgent and relevant lessons of the Book of Mormon regarding politics need to be considered. We Latter-day Saints have been well trained in avoiding discussion of one of the most basic and dangerous tools of the Adversary, and the most effective for politicians and their owners. I speak of “secret combinations” and the related schemes of those who lust for power and wealth. Their corrupting and destructive force should be one of our chief concerns, according to Mormon, yet we are afraid to even think about the issue and reflexively mock or brush off those who do. Could we be missing something?

    • Hi, Jeff —
      The point you’re raising is a critically important one. Can you say how you see it interacting with the issues I’m discussing in this essay?

    • I’ve been pondering recently the enemies in the Book of Mormon and how they relate to today’s world. Consider Captain Moroni: who was his biggest enemy? Of course, there was Zerahemnah, and then Amalickiah, but ultimately it was the “Kingmen” who were the biggest threat to the Nephites. Captain Moroni and Helaman had no real military problems with defeating the Lamanites as long as they had adequate support at home.
      As I see it: there were 4 different enemies that kept showing up. 1) The Lamanites, 2) Apostate religious groups (Nehor, Zoramites, priests of Noah, 3) Power-hungry apostate groups, like Amlici, Amalickiah, et. al. and 4) the Robbers and secret combinations.
      Each, I think, are here in today’s world. I think we are moving towards radical Islam as the Lamanites, the regular Christian groups fill group 2, and the political parties are 3 and 4. Ultimately, Amalickiah and Gadianton were power hungry, desiring to rule and get gain; to live off the people. Most of the enemies in the Church wanted that: to live off the gains of others. And they took different routes: religion, politics, and outright conquest. Today, we call that “statism” and people try to impose it via religion (Islam, mostly, but others too), politics (I would cast Hillary into this camp, along with most other politicians) and outright conquest (various communist/socialist dictatorships like Cuba, Soviet Union, North Korea, etc).

  8. “…we should be prepared to accept the world’s disgust and anger when we follow the prophet”
    Yes, reminds me of the important council to Joseph Smith – You should not have feared man more than God (D&C 3:7).. takes courage to be true to that principle. But I also really like the idea of gentle defiance.

  9. I think the Church in particular has withdrawn a great deal from today’s politics. I was reading the proceedings of the Welfare session of I think April 1979 session of conference (when did that session go away? When did it start, for that matter?).
    To put it kindly, today’s Democrat party does not come off very well. The prophets were pretty open about calling the doctrines of today’s Democrat party evil and satanic.
    That said, it’s not like the Republican party of today is much better; although I think the ideals expressed are at least closer, the actual practice of both parties is repugnant to the gospel.

  10. “…only when applying for a temple recommend is a Latter-day Saint asked formally to say whether she believes in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, whether she believes in the restored gospel, and whether or not she sustains the leaders of the Church as prophets, seers, and revelators.”
    Well I guess this is strictly true in the sense that those asked the baptismal interview questions are not yet Latter-day Saints. However – for converts at least – becoming a member of the Church in good standing requires accepting certain beliefs. Some members who grew up in the Church who come to view Church membership as some sort of ethnic identity do not always seem to understand this.
    I particularly appreciate the first of the propositions enunciated here (though I believe they’re all accurate). It strikes me as a fundamental truth that sometimes we simply don’t appreciate enough.

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