I usually do not post on political themes, but I could not pass up sharing these words of a prophet of God, particularly when they are so in tune with current political ideologies.
Below is a YouTube video of President Ezra Taft Benson speaking about socialism on April 12, 1977. (post continues below)
Since President Benson’s words are so pertinent today, I have included them below:
Socialism–a Philosophy Incompatible with Man’s Liberty
Another notable counterfeit system to the Lord’s plan is collectivized socialism. Socialism derives its philosophy from the founders of communism, Marx and Engels. Communism in practice is socialism. Its purpose is world socialism, which the communists seek to achieve by revolution, and which the socialists seek to achieve by evolution. Both communism and socialism have the same effect upon the individual–a loss of personal liberty. As was said so well by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “The two are as two peas in a pod in their ultimate effect upon our liberties.”
Why is socialism incompatible with man’s liberty? Socialism cannot work except through an all-powerful state. The state has to be supreme in everything. When individuals begin to exert their God-given rights, the state has to suppress that freedom. So belief in God must be suppressed, and with that gone freedom of conscience and religion must also go. Those are the first of our liberties mentioned in the Bill of Rights.
There are some among us who would confuse the united order with socialism. That is a serious misunderstanding. It is significant to me that the Prophet Joseph Smith, after attending lectures on socialism in his day, made this official entry in the Church history: “I said I did not believe the doctrine” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 6:33).
Socialism Disguised under Welfare State Measures
As citizens of this noble land, we have marched a long way down the soul-destroying road of socialism. If you question that statement, consider the recent testimonial from the Nobel prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman. He indicated that government spending in the United States at all levels amounts to over forty percent of today’s total national income. If we continue to follow the trend in which we are heading today, two things will inevitably result: first, a loss of our personal freedom, and second, financial bankruptcy. This is the price we pay when we turn away from God and the principles which he has taught and turn to government to do everything for us. It is the formula by which nations become enslaved.
This nation was established by the God of heaven as a citadel of liberty. A constitution guaranteeing those liberties was designed under the superintending influence of heaven. I have recounted here before what took place in the St. George Temple when the Founding Fathers of this nation visited President Wilford Woodruff, who was then a member of the Twelve and not president of the Church. The republic which was established was the most nearly perfect system which could have been devised to lead men toward celestial principles. We may liken our system to the law of Moses which leads men to the higher law of Christ.
Today, two hundred years later, we must sadly observe that we have significantly departed from the principles established by the founders of our country. James Madison opposed the proposal to put Congress in the role of promoting the general welfare according to its whims in these words:
If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasure; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor. . . . Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for [and it was an issue then], it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America. [quoted in Donald L. Newquist, Prophets, Principles, and National Survival, p. 342]
That statement, given as a warning, has proved prophetic. Today Congress is doing what Madison warned about. Many are now advocating that which has become a general practice since the early 1930s: a redistribution of wealth through the federal tax system. That, by definition, is socialism!
Americans have always been committed to taking care of the poor, aged, and unemployed. We have done this on the basis of Judaic-Christian beliefs and humanitarian principles. It has been fundamental to our way of life that charity must be voluntary if it is to be charity. Compulsory benevolence is not charity. Today’s socialists–who call themselves egalitarians–are using the federal government to redistribute wealth in our society, not as a matter of voluntary charity, but as a so-called matter of right. One HEW official said recently, “In this country, welfare is no longer charity, it is a right. More and more Americans feel that their government owes them something” (U.S. News and World Report, April 21, 1975, p. 49). President Grover Cleveland said–and we believe as a people–that though the people support the government the government should not support the people.
The chief weapon used by the federal government to achieve this “equality” is the system of transfer payments. This means that the federal governments collects from one income group and transfer payments to another by the tax system. These payments are made in the form of social security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, and food stamps, to name a few. Today the cost of such programs has been going in the hole at the rate of 12 billion dollars a year; and, with increased benefits and greater numbers of recipients, even though the tax base has been increased we will have larger deficits in the future.
Today the party now in power is advocating and has support, apparently in both major parties, for a comprehensive national health insurance program–a euphemism for socialized medicine. Our major danger is that we are currently (and have been for forty years) transferring responsibility from the individual, local, and state governments to the federal government–precisely the same course that led to the economic collapse in Great Britain and New York City. We cannot long pursue the present trend without its bringing us to national insolvency.
Edmund Burke, the great British political philosopher, warned of the threat of economic equality. He said,
A perfect equality will indeed be produced–that is to say, equal wretchedness, equal beggary, and on the part of the petitioners, a woeful, helpless, and desperate disappointment. Such is the event of all compulsory equalizations. They pull down what is above; they never raise what is below; and they depress high and low together beneath the level of what was originally the lowest.
Are we part of the problem or part of the solution?
Recently a letter came to my office, accompanied by an article from your Daily Universe, on the matter of BYU students taking food stamps. The query of the letter was: “What is the attitude of the Church on taking food stamps?” The Church’s view on this is well known. We stand for independence, thrift, and abolition of the dole. This was emphasized in the Saturday morning welfare meeting of general conference. “The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, October 1936, p. 3).
When you accept food stamps, you accept an unearned handout that other working people are paying for. You do not earn food stamps or welfare payments. Every individual who accepts an unearned government gratuity is just as morally culpable as the individual who takes a handout from taxpayers’ money to pay his heat, electricity, or rent. There is no difference in principle between them. You did not come to this University to become a welfare recipient. You came here to be a light to the world, a light to society–to save society and to help to save this nation, the Lord’s base of operations in these latter days, to ameliorate man’s social conditions. You are not here to be a parasite or freeloader. The price you pay for “something for nothing” may be more than you can afford. Do not rationalize your acceptance of government gratuities by saying, “I am a contributing taxpayer too.” By doing this you contribute to the problem which is leading this nation to financial insolvency.
Society may rationalize immorality, but God cannot condone it. Society sponsors Sabbathbreaking, but the Church counsels otherwise. Society profanes the name of Deity, but Latter-day Saints cannot countenance it. Because society condones a dole, which demoralizes man and weakens his God-given initiative and character, can we?
I know what it is, as many of your faculty members do, to work my way through school, taking classes only during winter quarters. If you don’t have the finances to complete your education, drop out a semester and go to work and save. You’ll be a better man or woman for so doing. You will have preserved your self-respect and initiative. Wisdom comes with experience and struggle, not just with going through a university matriculation. I hope you will not be deceived by current philosophies which will rob you of your godly dignity, self-respect, and initiative, those attributes that make a celestial inheritance possible. It is in that interest, and that only, that I have spoken so plainly to you. ((“A Vision and Hope for the Youth of Zion,” BYU Devotional, April 12, 1977; emphasis added.))
In a few short days we will choose whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution. Compare these words of a prophet with things that have been said by Barack Obama. In recent days Obama had a conversation with a plumber, in which the plumber asked, “Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?” Obama responded in part:
It’s not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too … My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody … I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody. (See the YouTube video)
In other words, Obama wants to redistribute wealth through forced legislation in the tax system, precisely what President Benson warned of.
Now, in case you think this was a misspeak, in times past Obama has expounded on this ideology of government-mandated redistribution of wealth. In a 2001 radio interview, embedded below, Obama strongly laments the fact that the civil rights movement didn’t do enough through the courts to set up a system of “economic justice” through redistributed wealth in the nation, and that it will probably have to now come through legislation, even at the expense of the principles set up by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution. These philosophies are clearly not in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as delivered by the prophets of God. If elected president, Obama will legislate socialist programs in our country aimed at redistribution of wealth, and try to rewrite the constraints on government as outlined by the Constitution to determine how the government “must” support the people, precisely what prophets of God have declared will lead to our nation’s downfall:
Yes, taxes are forced charity when the government takes my tax money to give to other people just because they say they need it. I have no choice in the matter.
The argument always seems to return to the virtue of a democratic voice, that if the majority of the people vote it, it must be right. Well folks, a democracy does not always choose righteousness. Our prophet President Hinckley once taught:
And by the way, Brad, I will never “keep quiet.”
I don’t know who there is left for you to vote for, Bryce. John McCain, Oct. 12, 2000, speaking at Michigan State University: “Look, here’s what I really believe: That when you are, when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.”
Am I to assume, then, that you and all of the brethren will be going third-party?
The government derives its powers from the people. The people can only delegate to the government powers that they have. Nobody has the right to forcibly take property from one person and give it to another. So the government cannot have the power to do so either. So while the citizenry can collectively impose taxes on itself and then use those funds to provide services to everyone in the population, they cannot justly impose a tax on themselves and then use those funds to provide services to only a portion of the population. Libraries, Fire Departments, Public Parks, etc. are available to all citizens. But when the government starts to use the taxes to give only certain groups of citizens benefits that are not equally available to others, while funding those services using money taken from the excluded others, we have to ask from where its power to do so comes? Does the ends justify the means?
The Constitution says “promote the general welfare” not “finance the economic welfare.”
If you believe Obama’s views are in harmony with God-given truths, then go for it. I for one believe his views are in direct opposition to God-given truths, and I will do my best to voice my opinion about it.
This discussion reminds me of a friend who showed me to G.A. quotes from the early 1900’s about how public schools are bad because we need inspired and righteous teachers. That is all well and good for the members of the church, but what about educating the other 90% of the American children? Voluntary, private charities do great work and we should support them, but they have never and will never have the resources to address the degree of poverty in the world. I have no doubt that the poor in our country are far better off because of controlled government welfare programs than they would be without them.
Just because an Apostle made a statement does not mean it was inspired. Did ETB ever claim that his opinions were revelation? Apostles have personal opinions, just like everyone else, and they can be wrong, just like everyone else. Unless a prophet says that it was revealed by the Lord, it is (usually) good advice, but obedience to that statement is NOT binding on anyone.
I didn’t say that majority approvalof something in a democratic society makes it virtuous; just non-compulsory.
Will you be voting for McCain/Palin, then? If so, how do you reconcile the statements you’ve been using from ETB with McCain’s initial opposition to the Bush tax cuts, Alaska’s socialized natural resources, etc. (not to mention the numerous other matters in their private lives and public positions that could arguably fall “in direct opposition to God-given truths” in other areas)?
Charity can’t be forced or it is not charity! What part of that sentence don’t you understand?
Politicians can advocate and encourage charity till they are blue in the face, and it is all right and good. Prophets and apostles do the same. But as soon as they legislate it it has turned into something completely different than charity, and takes away God-given liberties. Lucifer too wanted forced obedience, but it was by sacrificing agency, and look where it got him. An offering, a donation, an act of charity, can never be forced. As soon as the government socializes economic welfare, we are running into the same trap Lucifer gave in the beginning.
I like how the libs from BCC not only ban conservatives from BCC, but they come to their conservative blogs and try to silence them here.
You’re not a fool Bryce, you see through their misdirection. Keep it up.
Refer to my comment at 1:34pm.
I never argued that forced charity is charity. What thread are you reading. I argued that taxation for social programs is not forced charity. That doesn’t mean it’s authentic charity either. Just good policy in moderation. Definitely not socialism, your absurd (il)logic notwithstanding.
“As soon as the government socializes economic welfare, we are running into the same trap Lucifer gave in the beginning.”
The reason you can’t convince anyone that you understand what you’re talking about is that you keep talking.
Your comment at 1:34 did not explain how you reconciled the positions I mentioned, but simply stated that you had.
You said at 1:55: “Charity can’t be forced or it is not charity! ”
Okay, fine. Let’s not call it charity. I don’t have a problem with not calling it charity. Let’s call it “social infrastructure.”
No one’s saying that should replace charity. Goodness.
“I for one believe his views are in direct opposition to God-given truths”
I’ll admit that I don’t agree with Obama on all of his policies. In fact I’m directly opposed to a few of them. I just happen to be directly opposed to quite a few more of McCain’s policies than Obama’s.
I used to vote for both Republicans and Democrats and never ascribed to any platform; I voted for the person, not the platform. That was before W. Because of the extreme, flagrant and abhorrent policies of the Bush administration I’ve been forced to vote against the Republicans simply to get things back to where they were. I would LOVE to be able to vote for a Republican again. But until I see one that isn’t planning to continue the same failed policies of Bush, I’ll be voting against them.
When the government institutes social welfare programs through the tax system, it is forced charity. It is taking money from one person to supposedly give to someone else more needy. The Lord’s mode of caring for the poor and needy is through voluntary, freewill, offerings of charity. That is the Lord’s way. Forcing such charity through government institutions is not the Lord’s way, and is in opposition to it, for it makes all needy. When all become needy, then we will become a full-blown socialist nation whereby the government takes care of us all.
Why doesn’t the government advocate setting up donation banks where people may voluntarily donate money for the care of the poor and needy? Why hasn’t that crossed their minds? That would be closer to the Lord’s way.
You may call it whatever you wish, but when the government takes money from one person in order to give it to another, it is socialism.
“Why doesn’t the government advocate setting up donation banks where people may voluntarily donate money for the care of the poor and needy? Why hasn’t that crossed their minds? That would be closer to the Lord’s way.”
Uh, take a look around you. That has crossed their minds. But the notion that the only proper thing a government can spend tax money on is its own administrative costs is a logical impossibility — what would it administer if it could only spend tax revenue on administrative costs? Your ridiculous assertions that social security, medicaid, medicare, public education, government subsidization of student loans, urban infrastructure are all luciferian evils that will end civilization are utterly disconnected from reality (as is your belief that Hugh Nibley was a democrat despite sharing your logically absurd ideas about taxation and social programs). All they illuminate is your own intelligence.
What would it administer? Good grief. The government can do many things excluding handing a check to an individual because they are classed by the government as “poor.” That is socialism, and such practices will cause the fall of our nation. I quote Anonymous above:
We’re done, particularly when comments begin to venture into ad hominem.
A reader emailed me some additional teachings from President Benson, given in a BYU devotional address on September 16, 1986. In the MP3 version of the talk, Pres. Holland (now Elder Holland) said these prefacing remarks:
Now for some of President Benson’s counsel:
Did Nibley believe in the socialist form of redistribution of wealth? Hardly. Greg over at Believe All Things has put together an excellent grouping of quotes from Dr. Nibley on the subject, which accurately reflects his view on the law of consecration, which is far from socialism.
I just received some other great quotes from one our readers, Ferreira. Below is a letter from the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and David O. McKay) to the U.S. Treasury, dated September 30, 1941, and quoted by Elder H. Verlan Andersen in “The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil”:
Another from President Harold B. Lee:
Steven Montgomery sent me a link to an article he wrote entitled “The Perfect Law of Liberty,” which is a very well-written commentary on what freedom is, and the relationship of the gospel of Jesus Christ to that freedom. I particularly agree with his comments about how we may use the “measuring rod” of agency to judge the actions of all men.
New Book of Mormon Text Discovered! « The Sunday Page
[…] is authentic. Supporters of SBoM have postulated that perhaps President Ezra Taft Benson (given his anti-socialist persuasion) has edited these key passages to produce what we now know as BoM. Detractors from SBoM argue that […]
Nibley on the Redistribution of Wealth · Believe All Things
[…] | 35 comments Part 8 of 8 in the series Notes on SocialismYesterday, I read Bryce’s post A Prophet Declares “Redistribution of Wealth” is Socialism. If you read through the comments to that post, you may have noticed it generated quite a debate […]
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