One of the more interesting articles to come out about Mitt Romney's faith comes from online magazine Salon in which the author of the article, Troy Williams, claims that the Book of Mormon and Mormon history embraced and supports Socialism.
That claim is flat out not true.
Progressives are intentionally using cherry picked historical facts and scriptures to score political points against Mitt Romney as Lane Williams points out in his op-ed for the Deseret News:
The first was in the online magazine Salon from Salt Lake blogger Troy Williams about how the Book of Mormon and Mormon history teaches Socialism. The article’s subheadline: “Joseph Smith would be horrified by the religion's present-day materialism — and uber-capitalist candidate.”In fairness, some of Williams' article was thoughtful and thought-provoking, but exactly why is it Salon’s role to glibly say what would horrify Joseph Smith?It’s off-putting, to say the least, when someone with an ax to grind cherry-picks elements of the Book of Mormon to bludgeon a political opponent or to score points in a public debate or to even try to further, as it seemed to me, the old trope that Latter-day Saints are hypocrites.
Progressives are attempting to use false and distorted facts to promote socialism getting the uninformed and the far left to believe this lie about the doctrines and history of the LDS Church. They are also attempting to scare voters away from voting for Mitt Romney either because of his faith or because of the strong opposition to socialism by conservatives and Republicans.
What Is The Law Of Consecration?
Wikipedia has a nice and simple explanation for those who are not familiar with this religious doctrine:
The Law of Consecration, as practiced by the Latter Day Saints, was for the support of the poor (Doctrine and Covenants 42:30). Latter Day Saints were asked to voluntarily deed (consecrate) their property to the Church of Christ, and the church then would assign to each member a "stewardship" of property "as much as is sufficient for himself and family" for his "needs, wants, family, and circumstances." If consecrated property became more than was sufficient for the assigned steward, the "residue" was "to be consecrated unto the bishop" kept for the benefit of "those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants."
Is The Law Of Consecration And Socialism The Same?
A simplistic description of the differences between the Law of Consecration and socialism reveals that they are philosophically not the same. In 1942 the First Presidency of the Church issued this strongly worded opposition to socialism and communism and explained why its different from the Law of Consecration:
Communism and all other similar isms bear no relationship whatever to the united order. They are merely the clumsy counterfeits which Satan always devises of the gospel plan. Communism debases the individual and makes him the enslaved tool of the state to whom he must look for sustenance and religion; the united order exalts the individual, leaves him his property, "according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and his needs," (D&C 51:3) and provides a system by which he helps care for his less fortunate brethren; the united order leaves every man free to choose his own religion as his conscience directs. Communism destroys man's God-given free agency; the united order glorifies it. Latter-day Saints cannot be true to heir faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to any of these false philosophies. They will prove snares to their feet. [Conference Report, April 1942, p. 90]
Not only is the Law of Consecration not the same as Socialism in theory, but the are radically different in practice. An in depth look of the history and application of the Law of Consecration demonstrates how unlike these two systems are. Here's Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church explains how the Law of Consecration works:
“Concerning the consecration of property:—First, it is not right to condescend to very great particulars in taking inventories. The fact is this, a man is bound by the law of the Church, to consecrate to the Bishop, before he can be considered a legal heir to the kingdom of Zion; and this, too, without constraint; and unless he does this, he cannot be acknowledged before the Lord on the Church Book therefore, to condescend to particulars, I will tell you that every man must be his own judge how much he should receive and how much he should suffer to remain in the hands of the Bishop. I speak of those who consecrate more than they need for the support of themselves and their families.“The matter of consecration must be done by the mutual consent of both parties; for to give the Bishop power to say how much every man shall have, and he be obliged to comply with the Bishop’s judgment, is giving to the Bishop more power than a king has; and upon the other hand, to let every man say how much he needs, and the Bishop be obliged to comply with his judgment, is to throw Zion into confusion, and make a slave of the Bishop. The fact is, there must be a balance or equilibrium of power, between the Bishop and the people, and thus harmony and good will may be preserved among you.“Therefore, those persons consecrating property to the Bishop in Zion, and then receiving an inheritance back, must reasonably show to the Bishop that they need as much as they claim. But in case the two parties cannot come to a mutual agreement, the Bishop is to have nothing to do about receiving such consecrations; and the case must be laid before a council of twelve High Priests, the Bishop not being one of the council, but he is to lay the case before them.” ( History of the Church, 1:364–65.)
One of the key differences both in theory and practice is in the distribution and ownership of private property:
The stewardship is private, not communal, property . The consecrator, or steward, was to be given a “writing,” or deed, that would “secure unto him his portion [stewardship]” ( D&C 51:4 ). Although it has been acknowledged that all things belong to the Lord, a stewardship represents a sacred entrustment of a portion from God to the individual. The stewardship is given with a deed of ownership so that individuals, through their agency, are fully responsible and accountable for that which is entrusted to them. The deed protects individuals if they are disqualified from participation as stewards (see D&C 51:4 ). For legal purposes, the stewardship was private property, even though the stewards themselves understood that it ultimately belonged to God. President Marion G. Romney explained:“This procedure [of providing deeds] preserved in every man the right of private ownership and management of his property. Indeed, the fundamental principle of the system was the private ownership of property. Each man owned his portion, or inheritance, or stewardship, with an absolute title, which, at his option, he could alienate [transfer], keep and operate, or otherwise treat as his own. The Church did not own all of the property, and life under the united order was not, and never will be, a communal life, as the Prophet Joseph himself said.“The intent was, however, for him to so operate his property as to produce a living for himself and his dependents.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 119; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 93 .)
By now, the distinction should be clear: Law of Consecration involves giving whereas socialism involves taking.
The taking is mandatory and is forcefully ripped out of your hands either by taxation, government confiscation or outright theft. If you don't "contribute" to the socialist community, harsh punishment follows which can range from imprisonment to death. The giving is also mandatory. You must rely on the state and no one else for support. Your moral and individual will eventually becomes lethargic, weak, and atrophied in which you no longer can work to support yourself and obtain what you need because everything is provided for you. Once you are completely dependent on the state, you become a slave of the state.
Ironically, the promised equal redistribution of wealth never happens since the takes all the property, gives back a very tiny portion of the redistributed property according to what they think you need in order to take the minimal effort it takes to keep the social order while the leaders keep everything to themselves. That is why you'll see leaders under Communist Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea and socialist Venezuela living in wealth while the rest of the population lives in poverty.
Another irony is that the socialism promises a better community in which people are brought together closer by sharing equally what they have with the less fortunate. However, the government actually robs people of the responsibility and need to give charitably since people feel that someone else, typically the state, is responsible for the poor and downtrodden and that individuals will only donate what the government requires them to give. As a result, the community is destroyed
In contrast, the Law of Consecration is a voluntary system in which you give to the Church everything you have, what you think you need is given back to you and you give away the rest of what you don't need so that others can have what they do need. Under this system, the community actually grows stronger, closer and united.
The Law of Consecration is a unique doctrine proposed by the LDS Church. However, even the simple practice of voluntary charity as practiced by various social and religious organizations produces better results for the poor and the community. I highly recommend two books that deal with the American history of charity prior to the New Deal programs of the 1930s and its decline afterwards. The first book is The Charity Organization Movement in the United States; A Study in America Philanthropy by The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky.
Did The LDS Church Ever Embrace Socialism?
The simple answer: no.
In fact, it was immediately rejected by the Prophet Joseph Smith when the political theory was being spread to people in the United States.. The Prophet Joseph Smith attended a presentation on socialism in September 1843 at Nauvoo. His response was to declare that he “did not believe the doctrine.” ( History of the Church, 6:33). Since Joseph Smith's initial rejection of Socialism, prominent church leaders throughout LDS History have spoken out against socialism. The most well known and fierce rejection of socialism comes from the Prophet Ezra Taft Benson who gave a landmark speech on the LDS Church's rejection of socialism. Another vocal opponent of socialism was Elder Marion G. Romney (no relation to Mitt Romney) who spoke out strongly against it.
The fact is that the LDS Church has never supported socialism in its doctrines, in its practices or from its leadership starting with its founder to is present and current leader. Moreover, the LDS Church has always remained strongly opposed to socialism.
Troy Williams wants you to believe that Joseph Smith would be disturbed by "the religion's present-day materialism -- and uber-capitalist candidate" Mitt Romney. But Joseph Smith would be more disturbed that Mr. Williams would claim that he and the Book of Mormon supports socialism.