Mormonism, Materialism, and Politics: Six Things We Must Understand in Order to Survive as Latter-day Saints

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Abstract: We are called as Latter-day Saints to be a force for good in the world in every way possible, which necessarily includes active and positive engagement with political and social issues. At the same time, it is essential to our spiritual survival that we never allow ourselves to forget the radical difference between the philosophies of men — no matter how superficially harmonious some of these may seem with particular principles of the gospel or with some aspects of traditional Mormon culture — and the teachings of the prophets. In a world that constantly entices us with messages designed to lure us away from the eternal truths of the restored gospel and into the embrace of philosophies that are partially and contingently true at best and actively destructive at worst, we must exercise constant vigilance. This essay suggests and discusses six propositions that, if understood and embraced, should help us maintain that vigilance.

The Fundamental Problem

While the wider world and its myriad cultures offer many different theories concerning the ultimate meaning of life, the existence of a reality beyond the natural and physical, and what constitutes a good and noble manner of living, those of us living in the industrialized West are, for the most part, immersed in a culture that promotes, both explicitly and implicitly, a strong philosophy of materialism. This is not only “materialism” in the colloquial sense of an overweening focus on the accumulation of wealth and consumer goods but also in a philosophical sense: the belief that nothing exists that is not physical and measurable. In this latter sense, the term “materialism” is roughly coterminous with “naturalism” and “scientism.”1

Even in the United States, where religiosity of various kinds remains widespread (to the head-shaking amusement of our European friends), the controlling assumptions that inform our politics, our systems of education, and our popular culture are overwhelmingly materialistic. Within these systems, materialist and naturalist assumptions are generally treated as reasonable or even as obviously true, while appeals to the supernatural or the transcendent are regarded with tolerance at best, more often with condescension, and at worst with hostility. There are exceptions, of course, and politicians and tastemakers regularly pay lip service to religious values of various kinds, but here in the industrialized West, the cultural water in which we swim every day is that of materialism — in both the consumerist and the philosophical senses.

This reality poses a variety of challenges to Latter-day Saints and especially to those Latter-day Saints who seek fully to be disciples of Christ, to make and keep sacred covenants with a God who is real, and to follow modern-day prophets. Since doing those things necessarily means consecrating our means to the building up of the Kingdom of God, giving the eternal a higher priority in our lives than the temporal, and affirmatively accepting the existence of a reality beyond what is perceivable and measurable by physical senses and instruments, the Latter-day Saint concept of Christian discipleship necessarily constitutes a radical rejection of much of Western culture and the assumptions that shape it. We can reasonably expect our culture to respond with irritation, and even aggression, when it senses our rejection. To be a disciple of Christ means setting oneself at odds with the world in very real and concrete ways; true discipleship is, in other words, a countercultural stance. In reality, it has always been so.

Firm Submissiveness and Gentle Defiance

Being a Latter-day Saint, then, to the degree that it constitutes an authentic commitment to abide by Christ’s teachings, keep sacred covenants, and follow the prophets, is simultaneously a position of firm submissiveness and of gentle defiance. We submit by subjugating our will to that of our Master; we do so firmly in that we submit to Him without making any apology or excuse to the world for our submission. At the same time, when we stand in defiance of the world and its wisdom, we do so gently, with meekness, and without arrogance or anger. True disciples do not persecute those who disagree with them, and they do not attack or ridicule the enemies of God’s Kingdom — nor, equally importantly, do they fail to stand up to those enemies boldly in defense of the Kingdom when such is called for. Boldness does not require overbearance, and in fact, the boldness required of Christian disciples precludes it.2

Nor does true discipleship require us to withdraw from the world, to see only ugliness in it, or to find no value and even wisdom in the philosophies of men. On the contrary, those who follow the teachings of the Savior will be actively engaged in the world, and those who follow the teachings of modern prophets will seek to understand the world, its people and cultures, and the ways it works.3 This suggests at the very least that both knowledge of and active engagement in social and political issues are expected of us as Latter-day Saints. True discipleship does, however, require us to recognize the transitory and contingent nature of worldly wisdom, and never to mistake the philosophies of men for eternal truth.

It is important to note that one does not have to be an authentic Christian disciple or even a committed Latter-day Saint in order to be a member in good standing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although Church members receive regular instruction in gospel principles and doctrine, we are rarely asked directly or officially to account for what we believe; 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 — and a member does not have to hold a temple recommend in order to be a member in good standing. What this means is that rejecting the world and its philosophies is not necessary in order to be a genuine member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, to the degree that we fail, in our minds and hearts, to displace those philosophies in favor of eternal truth and saving doctrine, our authenticity as actual Christian disciples (as distinct from simply members of the Church) is threatened.

Unfortunately, the world will not cede its place in our minds and hearts without a fight. To reject the world is tremendously difficult, and its pull on us is incessant and powerful. This is partly because the world itself offers such tempting delights; it is also because those who embrace the world and its philosophies see those who reject the world as deluded and perhaps dangerous and will work constantly and with great sophistication to entice, cajole, or threaten the followers of Christ out of their discipleship.

Six Propositions

In light of this reality, I suggest six propositions that I believe are essential to understand and accept in order to survive as Latter-day Saints in the world in which we now live. These are not doctrines or principles of the gospel; rather, they are propositions about the nature of the world and human society that I believe we must understand in order for our testimonies to take root deeply and anchor us against the currents that seek to pull us away from true doctrine and from exalting discipleship — or, in other words, for us to survive spiritually as Latter-day Saints.

The first is that things as they seem to be are not things as they really are. This is perhaps the most fundamental fact about earthly reality that we have to accommodate in order to be open to the gift of a genuine testimony of the gospel — without which we may survive, and might even continue to call ourselves “Mormons,” but without which we will not be Latter-day Saints in any meaningful sense. If we cannot accept the fact that there is a reality beyond the grasp of our brains and the reach of our temporal instruments of perception and measurement, we will not be able even to start down the road that leads to saving faith in Christ and a testimony of the restoration of His gospel in the latter days.4 Belief in Jesus as a real historical figure who set a good example and taught good moral principles can easily take root in a mind committed to the materialist worldview; belief in Jesus as the atoning Christ cannot.

Unfortunately, the complex of social and cultural systems within which most of us live has a great deal invested in the proposition that, in fact, things as they seem to be truly are things as they really are. Materialist scientism is the prevailing religion in the developed Western world. Believing in the reality of something beyond the obviously material will attract the world’s derision, and actively proclaiming such a belief will tend to invite its anger and its active opposition — although it is also worth noting that in this particular regard (among others) we do have allies among those of other religious faiths. We are called by our Heavenly Father to live and function in this world and in it to stand as witnesses of His gospel. In order to honor and respond to that call, we have to recognize and accept the fact that doing so will get us into some degree of trouble with the world.

In fact, this means that doing the right thing will often (though not always) mean offending the world. While the world will generally smile on us for being kind to our neighbors, caring for the poor and needy, and providing for our children (though maybe not for having so many of them), we should be prepared to accept the world’s disgust and anger when we follow the prophets. The role of a prophet is to speak hard truths to the world, including the truth that there is a true and living God to whom we owe submission, and our role as Latter-day Saints is to stand for those truths, publicly and without apology. If we cannot accept and endure the world’s disapproval, we will not survive as Latter-day Saints — even if we remain in the Church and/or continue to call ourselves Mormons. Consider the implications of Lehi’s dream: the failure to bear the world’s ridicule is what leads people in that scriptural account to abandon and walk away from blessings and joy beyond any they had previously experienced: they had held fast to the iron rod of truth; they had followed it until they realized the exceptional rewards to which it led; and then, having done all of that work and while actually enjoying the fruit, they dropped the fruit on the ground and walked away from it because they could not stand being made fun of by a world that, in many cases, had no idea what it was missing.5

However, we need to be very careful. As Latter-day Saints we are also human beings who regularly misunderstand revealed truth, misinterpret prophetic counsel, implement that counsel selectively or incorrectly according to our individual prejudices, and misjudge the boundary that separates our own personal opinions and desires from revealed truth. So while doing the right thing will often offend the world, and we have to be willing to accept that, we also need to be careful not to assume that every time we offend the world as Latter-day Saints, we have necessarily done so by doing the right thing. Authentic discipleship means not only standing unapologetically for Christ; it also means being ready to repent and change when we learn that we have mistakenly been standing for something else.

More importantly, however, even when we are not wrong, but are in fact doing the right things and standing for the truth, those who oppose us are not necessarily operating in bad faith. Some people who oppose us in our efforts to live and proclaim the gospel are doing so as conscious agents of wrong. I tend to think that these constitute a small minority of our opponents. Most of those who oppose us believe sincerely that doing so is the morally right, or at least intellectually responsible, thing to do. These people may be deceived but are probably not insincere, and that matters. Recognizing that they are not evil should not lead us to sympathize with their misguided positions, but responding to our enemies as if they are evil is probably not a wise or productive approach, nor is it obviously in keeping with the teachings of Christ. We can — and, as disciples of Christ, we are instructed to — stand our ground without returning railing for railing or assuming that we know the hearts of those who set themselves up as our enemies.6

In doing all of these things, we need to bear in mind that the very elect may be deceived.7 Our testimonies are often fortified by the examples of spiritually powerful people around us. Being strengthened in this way is a blessing to us, and being such an example to others is part of our duty as Latter-day Saints. However, if our testimonies are founded on those examples, rather than merely fortified by them, we are relying on the arm of flesh and building our spiritual houses on foundations of sand. Our testimonies must have independent foundations of revelation that do not rely on the faithfulness of anyone else.8

Mormonism and Politics

This brings us to the issue of Mormonism and politics, an issue that most readers may, at this point in the essay, be wondering if I was ever planning to address.

What does politics have to do with the aforementioned points relating to testimony and faithfulness? The careful reader will have noticed a conceptual thread binding all of those points together: it is the thread of intellectual and spiritual independence from the world, in the face of both its opposition and its enticements, and regardless of its opinions of us as Latter-day Saints, whether positive or negative.

The world will always oppose the gospel for the simple reason that the gospel exists to change the world radically. It is on the earth in order to call people out of the world; to extract us from the world’s behavioral patterns and from the visceral, transitory pleasures those patterns offer; to encourage us to turn our backs on the ideologies in which the world has invested so much; to turn our hearts from supporting the ideologies and systems of selfishness, egocentrism, power-seeking, materialism, coercion, and conflict on which Satan’s kingdom is built; and to turn our hearts towards the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and the establishment of a Zion society in which such things are obviated and done away.

Among these ideologies and systems are every single social and political philosophy conceived by mankind. To be sure, not all political ideologies are equally noxious. It is also true that the great majority of political ideologies embrace at least some principles that are in harmony with eternal truth.9 A political ideology that contains some truth is not, however, the gospel — any more than a pile of sawdust that contains some flour is bread.

If no political philosophy can be counted on to offer pure, complete, and consistent truth, then it should be clear that the allegiance we hold to any political philosophy should be contingent at best and that our deepest and most unswerving loyalty are reserved for the principles of the restored gospel.

In light of this reality, it should come as no surprise that those who oppose us and want us to fail as Latter-day Saints are to be found across the political and social spectrum. Some of them oppose virtually everything we stand for; some support some aspects of the restored gospel (doing good to all people, the sanctity of the family, etc.) but really wish we would shut up about other things (consecration, priesthood authority, the Book of Mormon as a historical record, etc.)

This last proposition has important political and spiritual implications, particularly for Latter-day Saints in countries like the United States, where there is a deep and growing divide between those on the political Left and those on the Right.

I have seen people leave the Church because it is too conservative, and I have seen people leave it because it is too liberal. I have seen people leave the Church because they disagreed with the Church’s stance (or lack thereof) on one particular social issue or another. Many of us have heard members of the Church complain that the prophet should speak out more in support of some initiative or philosophy that they passionately support and that he should be quiet and leave public commentary to the experts when he expresses disagreement with their favored position.

Fortunately, none of us is under any obligation whatsoever to embrace in an unreserved and uncritical way any worldly political philosophy or platform. Speaking from an American perspective, we may find that the platform of one particular party comports better than the others with our own understanding of what is good and true. Thinking in broader terms, each of us may identify as more “conservative,” more “moderate,” or more “liberal,” feeling that one or the other of those positions on the political spectrum is the wisest and the most often correct. Taking such a position does nothing to threaten our authentic discipleship.

What none of us should do — what would threaten our survival as Latter-day Saints, both individually and collectively — is to drift from contingent alliance (“I am a liberal or a conservative because I generally agree with that philosophy, recognizing its limitations as a source of reliable truth”) to unswerving allegiance or, far worse, to the belief that to be more enthusiastically and purely an adherent of that philosophy is necessary to be a better and more faithful Latter-day Saint.

The danger in doing so lies in two dimensions: first (and more abstractly), it is to make what philosophers call a “category mistake,” by confusing the philosophies of men with eternal doctrine; second (and more concretely), it is to treat as steady and constant a guide-star that is, in fact, erratic and unreliable by its very nature. The fact that liberals may often seem closer to the teachings of scripture on matters of socioeconomic equality10 or that conservatives seem generally closer to the Church and its teachings on matters related to sexual behavior and family values11 does not mean that either of those worldly philosophies can be relied upon to harmonize consistently with divine teaching on other matters.

In the final analysis, there is simply no way to live comprehensively according to the teachings of the Church without living highly selectively according to the teachings of the world. “My ways are not your ways,” the Lord has sternly rebuked His disciples more than once,12 and it is essential to our spiritual survival that we both believe and apply that sobering principle in our lives.

Failing to do so can lead us into a host of intellectual, spiritual, and social behaviors that are dangerous both to our own spiritual survival and to that of others. These can include:

  • Wresting the scriptures to suit our prejudices or using only those passages of scripture that flatter our social beliefs while ignoring those that complicate or even contradict them.
  • Condemning or persecuting those whose social and political views differ from our own.
  • Communicating to others (intentionally or not) that holding social or political views different from our own would make them unwelcome among the Saints.
  • Teaching for doctrine the philosophies of men.13
  • Seeking to gather disciples unto ourselves, rather than inviting all to come unto Christ, a practice condemned by prophets both ancient and modern as “priestcraft.”14

It is important to note that what leads to these behaviors is not the adherence to any particular worldly philosophy — it is the unswerving adherence to any worldly philosophy rather than to the revealed truths of the gospel.

All of these tendencies have a single antidote: genuine and submissive Christian discipleship 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. There is no other way for us to survive spiritually as Latter-day Saints.


1. The concept of “Mormon materialism” refers to a somewhat different idea: the concept, apparently taught by Joseph Smith, that there is no such thing as “immaterial matter” and that therefore the things we call “spiritual” are, in fact, constituted in matter that is too fine for us to perceive in our fallen physical state. Without rejecting that teaching in any degree, for the purposes of this essay I will use “materialism” in the more commonly understood senses, as explained in the text.

2. See Alma 38:12.

3. See Doctrine & Covenants 88:78–80.

4. See 1 Corinthians 13:12.

5. See 1 Nephi 8.

6. See 1 Peter 3:9, 3 Nephi 6:13.

7. See Matthew 24:24.

8. See jst Mark 9:40–48, especially v. 44.

9. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Does the Church Endorse Political Parties?,”

10. See Doctrine & Covenants 78:6, 82:17, and 104:16; also, 2 Corinthians 8:14.

11. See The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,”

12. See Isaiah 55:8–9, Ezekiel 18:29, Hebrews 3:10.

13. See Colossians 2:8, Matthew 15:9.

14. See Alma 1:16, 2 Nephi 26:29; also, Elder David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 66–67.

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About Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson is Associate Dean for Scholarly Resources & Collections in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah.  He earned his B.S. and M.L.I.S. degrees at Brigham Young University, and has worked previously as a bibliographer for YBP, Inc., and in management and administrative positions in the libraries of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro and the University of Nevada, Reno. He serves on numerous editorial and advisory boards and is a regular contributor to the Scholarly Kitchen blog and to Library Journal’s Academic Newswire. In 2005, Rick was identified by Library Journal as a “Mover and Shaker”—one of the “50 people shaping the future of libraries.” In 2008 he was elected president of the North American Serials Interest Group, and he was named an ARL Research Library Leadership Fellow for 2009-10. In 2013 Rick received the HARRASSOWITZ Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award and was invited to give the Gould Distinguished Lecture on Technology and the Quality of Life at the University of Utah.

24 thoughts on “Mormonism, Materialism, and Politics: Six Things We Must Understand in Order to Survive as Latter-day Saints

  1. 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. 😉

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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?”)

  5. 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.

  6. 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).

  7. “…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.

  8. 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.

  9. “…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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