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  1. TT

    How do you think ETB feels about a tax system that “redistributes the wealth” from the middle class to the wealthy? It strikes me that any tax system at all is a “redistribution,” and the only world in which there is no redistribution is a world where there are no taxes. I think that the ethical and economic choice that one has to make is whether to redistribute wealth away from the middle class by keeping their taxes high while lowering the taxes on the wealthy, or toward the middle class by reducing their taxes and raising taxes on the wealthy. Neither can honestly claim to not be a redistribution.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re saying that any member of the church in good standing should not vote for Barack Obama. That seems to go against the words of the prophets today, who say that both major political parties are compatible with the gospel. Elder Marlin K. Jensen even gave an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune (with the blessing of Neal A. Maxwell, among other church leaders) talking about how being a Democrat and a good member of the church are perfectly compatible.

  3. Steve Evans

    Ezra Taft Benson was not speaking as a prophet in any of those talks you address. And he was wrong.

  4. TT,

    Any government system which redistributes wealth from one sector of the population to give to another is socialism. A tax is a “pecuniary burden laid upon individuals or property to support the government” (link). Taxes were never meant to take from from one group of people to give to another. That is socialism. Taxes are meant to support the operation of government. This is exactly what President Benson stated – “though the people support the government the government should not support the people.” Our government was not instituted to support people economically, whether lower class, middle class, or upper class.

  5. Ben Pratt

    I agree with TT that taxes (specifically the income tax) forcibly redistribute the wealth. Some argue that the bulk of said wealth is removed from the middle class and non-elite wealthy and distributed to the elite and well-connected, by way of the Federal Reserve System (see http://www.paradise-paradigm.com/res/GrandTheft.html). Personally, I would love to see the Sixteenth Amendment repealed and the Federal Reserve system dismantled, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Obama does indeed appear poised to accelerate the push toward socialism in this country, but I’ve seen no indication that John McCain intends to slow this push, let alone stop it. This is only one reason I refuse to vote for either of them.

  6. I do not believe taxes should ever forcibly redistribute wealth, from any class. That is not what taxes are meant to do. Taxes are the financial means whereby government functions. It is not the means to legislate government welfare. I’m not sure why we have a disproportionate tax at all.

  7. Steve,

    Why wasn’t President Benson “speaking as a prophet” when he gave this talk? He was an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time, who we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. And why was he wrong? Choose you this day…

  8. Rameumptom

    On the other side of things, we have Elder Dallin Oaks discourse at the 1994 Freedom Festival in Provo: http://www.ldsinfobase.net/liberty/DHO_citizenship.htm

    I come now to the first two fundamental citizen responsibilities that have been compromised in my lifetime in the United States: serving in the military and paying taxes.

    Modern opponents of compulsory military service and of enforced payment of taxes have this common objection. Both claim that the government compulsion to do these unpopular things interferes with freedom. The issue, they say, is freedom versus slavery.

    The problem with this argument is that it proves too much. It would take us back to the toothless Articles of Confederation from which our inspired Constitution rescued us. A government that cannot compel military service or a government that cannot compel the payment of taxes is not much of a government.

    At root, these objections to government compulsion are objections to the whole idea of government. Such objections are contrary to Christian doctrine. Jesus did not preach sedition. He taught his followers to “Render… unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:21). His apostles taught the same, as I have already noted.
    Today there is a comparable objection to the payment of taxes, but this objection comes primarily from the political Right. People who object to some of the ways the government spends its tax revenues contend that they should not be forced to pay taxes to support activities they condemn. This picking and choosing which laws to support is the same legal approach the young men of the political Left used to try to avoid military service during the war in Vietnam.
    The first legal objection is that the basic law is unconstitutional. I do not remember such arguments being made against the draft law during the Vietnam War. However, for reasons I cannot explain, some persons are now arguing that the federal income tax is unconstitutional.

    Church members involved in various forms of tax protest have sent me many legal memoranda that purport to justify their positions. For the first several years of my service as a General Authority, I did a good deal of personal research to evaluate these legal theories in view of the principles I had learned during a quarter of a century in the legal profession, including several years teaching tax law in a major law school. In not one single instance have I found any merit in the legal theories asserted as a basis for these tax protests. Yet, some good people are still being misled by them, and their mistaken reliance on false theories is wrecking havoc with their financial prospects and even their spiritual lives.
    One of the most important of the great fundamentals of our inspired Constitution is the principle that the sovereign power is in the people, not in a state or nation just because it has the power that comes from force of arms. Along with many other religious people, Latter-day Saints affirm that God gave the power to the people, and the people consented to a Constitution that delegated certain powers to the federal and state governments and reserved the rest to the people.

    However, it does not follow from this principle that each citizen is free to determine which laws he will obey or that one or more citizens are free to redefine the concept of sovereignty. That would result in anarchy, a system in which the only source of power is the sword. In that system, no person is free. The United States Constitution and the constitutions of the several states have defined the powers citizens have granted to their governments, the procedures for amending those grants, and the means by which controversies over the exercise of those powers can be resolved.
    One recent letter to Church headquarters (concerning state citizenship) even suggested that such persons have no legal need to get a marriage license, and therefore should be able to have a temple marriage without one. Persons who claim the right to pick and choose which laws of the land they will observe are not far from claiming to choose which laws of God they must observe.

    I feel sad that persons can be so misled. The wise will beware of teachings on the Constitution that are based on peephole history and selective readings of historic documents. They should also beware of the related advice of persons who advocate private armies or the collection of heavy weapons or extraordinary quantities of private arms. Responsible citizenship has no shortcuts when the going gets tough–not draft avoidance, not tax evasion and not eccentric theories that purport to free us from the obligation to be subject to t constitutions and laws of our states and our nation.
    The solution to many of the major problems in our nation is for more citizens to participate more actively and more effectively in democratic government, by their votes and by their letters and other communications to elected representatives. This fundamental responsibility of citizenship is a prerequisite for the perpetuation of freedom.

    I will cite three major national problems that I believe would yield, long-term. increased citizen participation.

    1. The budget deficit….
    2. The allocation of power between federal and state governments….
    3. We need to reestablish the constitutional principle that our federal government is a government of limited powers
    Even as I call for greater citizen participation to resolve national problems, I must voice one caution about citizen participation. I believe that citizen participation in single-interest groups is actually weakening representative government.

    Interest groups are inevitable and desirable in a democratic government. For example, political parties are interest groups, comprised of persons with many different specific interests. Political parties blunt the extreme effects of their constituent special-interest groups as those parties compel the internal compromises necessary to mold their constituencies into a working coalition. In contrast, single-interest groups confront government directly with uncompromised demands on a narrow spectrum of issues. These groups are so specialized that they lack the perspective to move against the large problems, and they also lack the incentive to make the pragmatic compromises that are the enabling force of democratic government in a pluralistic society.

    Some of the most powerful influences in the government of our nation in this last decade of the twentieth century are the multitude of single-interest groups. Whether the subject is gun control, medical care, criminal punishment, welfare reform, government aid to this or that, or whatever, these single-interest groups are a formidable force in lobbying, in fund-raising, and in citizen involvement. None of these groups is powerful enough to steer the ship of state by itself, but many have sufficient power to prevent the vessel from being steered toward the solution of more general problems. In other words, single-interest groups are not able to lead toward the solution of general problems, but they are commonly able to block such solutions. And what they block can be the solution of the large general problems that affect the entire body politic, such as deficit-spending or others I have mentioned.

    Contrast the example of the founding fathers. The United States Constitution could never have been drafted or ratified if each of the delegates to the convention had focused on his own special interest and had demanded full satisfaction as the price of his support. The history of our Constitution is replete with examples of far-sighted statesmen who were willing to support a document that failed to implement many of their personal preferences. For example, influential Thomas Jefferson, who did not serve as a delegate because he was in Paris negotiating a treaty, felt strongly that a bill of rights should have been included in the original Constitution. But Jefferson still supported the Constitution because he felt it was the best available at the time. Benjamin Franklin described that same approach when he said: “The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good.” (Notes of the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787. Reported by James Madison, p. 653.)

    end of quote

    Sometimes we need to make sure we do more than quote an apostle from 1977. Had you given us excerpts from Pres Hugh B Brown or N. Eldon Tanner or James E. Faust, perhaps the story line would have changed some.

  9. I agree with Steve. Also, socialism does call for a redistribution of wealth. So does any decent moral conception of political economy. Ezra Taft Benson was in government because of his knowledge about crops, not economics or politics.

    Legislation is not forced, let alone by the President. It is enacted by the two bodies of Congress and signed (or not) by the President. It is not government mandatated, it mandated by the people (of course, I believe in a Constitutional process). Democratic socialism in no way is a violation of Constitutional principle or liberty.

  10. Austin,

    We should not vote for anyone who advocates principles which are in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the prophets and apostles of this Church, and I believe that Barack Obama is advocating principles which are in opposition to the gospel.

    That is not against what the prophets have said today. I am not talking about political parties. I’m talking about principles which are contrary to the gospel. Being a Democrat and a good member of the church are compatible, it’s true. What is not compatible is when members of the Church vote for candidates who advocate issues that are incompatible with or contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  11. Steve Evans

    So, it’s possible for a good Mormon to be a Democrat, so long as he doesn’t vote that way in this election. Bravo, Bryce.

  12. Steve,

    If a Democrat votes for a candidate whose views are not in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ, then yes, he is in error. The same goes for a Republican, or Libertarian, or any other member of the Church. Nibley taught that we should be “in the party, not of the party.”

  13. Explain to me how it is a violation of liberty first, since I do not see it that way. To say it over and over (as Pres. Benson and Skousen do) does not make it so. Remember, I am talking about socialism which is implemented by legislatures in democratic republics.

  14. Bryce,
    “Taxes were never meant to take from from one group of people to give to another.”

    Are you familiar with the history of taxation in the U.S.? Redistributive effects have been built into our tax law since at least 1914 or so. It may be (and, in fact, probably is) the case that it was built in earlier than that, but the income tax as we know it was instituted around 1914. Redistributive taxation may well be socialism, if you define “socialism” as “redistributive taxation,” but otherwise, no.

    Plus, what Steve said: President Benson didn’t make any of those statements qua prophet, and he was factually wrong. (He also denounced Pres. Eisenhower as a communist. He was wrong then, too. That’s just fine–there’s nothing wrong with a prophet’s being wrong, or my being wrong, or your being wrong, but there’s also no evil empire awaiting us on the other side of Obama’s presidential victory.)

  15. Rameumptom,

    Your quote from Elder Oaks is a straw man. I’m not advocating a tax protest or that we should not pay our taxes. The government has every right to mandate a tax. That is not the issue. The issue is whether the government should have the right to use the tax system to redistribute wealth, and whether we should vote for someone who has that view.

  16. “Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence. ”
    –Ezra Taft Benson, 26 February 1980

  17. Jeremy

    First: even if you go into Deseret Book today buy a book by a current Apostle published by DB or Covenant or somebody, it will have a statement in the front making clear that the words in the book represent opinion rather than canon. There are apostate groups that, because they didn’t understand this, use selective quotes by President Benson to advocate for not paying taxes at all.

    But let’s just say that your selective reading of ETB is totally correct and doctrinally sound. Where exactly, then, does his counsel kick in? Presumably somewhere between the current top tax rate of 36% and Obama’s proposed top tax rate of 39%?

    Finally, for what it’s worth: when Benson was Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture, the tax rate for the richest Americans was 51.6%

  18. Bryce, I never criticized the Lord’s anointed. Rather, I simply asked if you believe everything ETB taught during his tenure as an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I think that it is a fair question given that you accuse so many other commenters of not believing or buying what ETB taught concerning socialism. Do you believe everything Elder Benson taught during his time as an apostle.

  19. Chris H.,

    The kind of socialism we are talking about is forced charity in an attempt to equalize economic differences in a population. Taking wealth from one individual and giving it to another is a violation of liberty. The government should not have the right to take money from one person in order to give it to another. Nibley did NOT believe in a government-mandated redistribution of wealth. Approaching Zion is one of my favorite books, and I’ve read it several times. As Nibley explained over and over and over again, charity, by definition, must be voluntary. The law of consecration, by definition, must be voluntary. As soon as you start forcing people to give their money to others, you have taken away their agency (and liberty), and have converted what the Lord instituted as His economic plan for the Adversary’s counterfeit.

  20. Christopher,

    I believe what President Benson taught concerning socialism, yes, as it has been repeated time and time again by the prophets and apostles for decades.

  21. Bryce, Nibley was a liberal democrat who fervently supported the New Deal and other redistribution regimes. You’re wrong. I know you think you’re right, but you’re not. You’re wrong.

  22. And you’re wrong about other prophets and apostles. They uniformly criticized Soviet Communism, but ETB departed from the crowd by equating (as you do here) government administered social programs funded by taxation in democratic societies with socialism. Again, you’re wrong. And ETB was wrong.

  23. Jeremy,

    When the living prophets and apostles teach something over and over again, you may know that it is scripture. That is continual revelation. Again, I’m not advocating not paying taxes.

    Where does his counsel kick in? It kicks in when the government takes money from one group of people to give it to another.

  24. Bryce, it’s clear that you believe what ETB taught concerning socialism.

    But do you believe everything Elder Benson taught during his time as an apostle and prophet? I’m talking specifically about what I mentioned in the comment you deleted, which was repeated time and time again by the prophets and apostles for decades.

  25. Brad,

    I know Nibley was a democrat, but I do not believe he was in favor of forced charity. Please give me some quotes of his that say otherwise.

    President Benson was not wrong, and the redistribution that we are likely to see in the near future will fulfill his words.

  26. Christopher,

    I do not have to believe everything President Benson ever said to believe he was speaking the truth about our government and about socialism.

    Again, returning to continual revelation, when living prophets and apostles reveal things that are different than they were in the past, we follow the current direction. Please show me anything the living prophets and apostles have said which counter President Benson’s remarks.

  27. “the redistribution that we are likely to see in the near future will fulfill his words.”

    Like it did during the 1930s? Like it has ever since? Virtually all discretionary spending is tied to some form or another of wealth redistribution. Social security, medicare, and medicaid do as well. My student loans are subsidized by wealth appropriated by the government through taxes, and my family receives WIC food in the same fashion.

    As for Nibley, if you’d like I could get any number of his kids to come on the site and correct your belief that he agreed with ETB on the relationship between government funded social programs and the evils of socialism. If Nibley came back and read what you are saying in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.

  28. Brad,

    Government administered social programs, by definition, take away the liberty that I have to consecrate my money in the way I choose to do so for the support of the poor and the needy. The government takes my money, and does with it what they choose to do.

    Forced charity never was, and never will be, a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  29. Brad,

    It is not worth the energy.


    “As for Nibley, if you’d like I could get any number of his kids to come on the site and correct your belief that he agreed with ETB on the relationship between government funded social programs and the evils of socialism. ”

    I am calling your bluff.

  30. Steve Evans

    But Bryce, LOTS of things aren’t part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Militaries. Hospitals. Roads. The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us basic principles; it is not a substitute for a system of government or infrastructure on any level. Unless you are currently living completely off the grid, you’re already a beneficiary of government-administered social programs.

    Or is the problem that some money is going to the poor?

  31. Jeremy

    I hate to recycle the same questions I peppered my high school friend with when he was going through his fervent Atlas Shrugged phase, but:

    Bryce, you avoided the question. You keep restating a vague general principle rather than telling us how it should be applied in real life. Is the current 36% top tax rate socialism? Was Eisenhower’s 51.6% top tax rate socialism? Is the fire department socialism?

    Is this socialism?:

    “…collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” That’s Sarah Palin’s description of her state’s system of wealth-sharing from the oil industry — a system they chose over privatization.

    I guess what I’m asking is: how is an upstanding believing Mormon supposed to apply your simplistic reading of ETB to the complexities of the real world?

  32. Here, I’ll help you out (by reposting them):

    in 1966 FP member Hugh B. Brown stood before the BYU student body and praised liberal Democrat Hubert Humphrey for his efforts in the Civil Rights movement and for the Great Society program. At that point, HBB was a senior to ETB as well as a FP member.

    Joseph Smith redistributed wealth, within a context where the Church acted as a de-facto civil government (Kirtland), calling on the saints through revelation to consecrate their properties to the support of the poor.

    In Utah territory, communally held property and resource redistribution figured to varying degrees in the implementation of various local governments and united orders. Additionally, right after the saints’ arrival in the territory, Albert Carrington was appointed assessor and tax collector for the new government, vested with the power to “pin down upon the rich & penurious, and when he comes to a poor man or a widow that is honest, instead of taxing them, give them a few dollars.”

  33. micah

    Why quote Edmund Burke when we have available to us multiple passages in the Book of Mormon promoting equality and castigating Nephite society in their treatment of the poor?

  34. From reading through these comments it has become apparent to me that while religion and politics can overlap in some areas, they are largely independent of each other. They exist to serve different categories. Thus, when we discuss those areas in which they do overlap we tend to be conservative or liberal first, and LDS second.

    I’m not sure if the gospel can strongly comment on the pros and cons of socialism, but I know my personal view is that socialism is a terrible way to run a country.

    The saints have a long tradition of proud self-sufficiency and of humble charitable giving. Neither of those goals need a government to help.

  35. TT

    There is something profoundly unAmerican about your political philosophy that would undue not only medicare/medicaid, welfare, public education, and infrastructure in poor areas of the country, but you should know that your critique of government also precludes you from voting for McCain as well.
    If you don’t want to accept the political philosophy that guides this great, prosperous and generous nation, I invite you respectfully to move to another country. Russia is a good option for you since they have a 13% income tax.

  36. “A tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand [always the singular] is required at the feast of the weeks” (i.e., Pentecost; cf. Deuteronomy 16:10). The offering, the tribute, is required; but the amount you determine yourself, by your free will… (Nibley, “The Law of Consecration,” Approaching Zion, 426)

    Note that the law of consecration, and of the welfare support of the poor, is a tribute, an offering, of freewill, by my individual hand. This is the system of charity that the Lord teaches. It is not a forced offering, by penalty of fines and prison, to give my money to others, through the hands of the government, by the tax system, and at the government’s discretion. It is not the same program.

    Yes, we are to render to Caesar’s that which is Caesar’s, but not when it comes at the sacrifice of our life, liberty, property, and happiness. Those are the very principles upon which our nation was founded, and which current political ideologies are now seeking to take away.

    I’m going to write about the law of consecration soon, and the false perceptions that we hold in the Church regarding it. The law of consecration is not a forced law. There will not be a “future day” when we will be required to live the law of consecration. It was never revoked, and it will never be required.

  37. Steve,

    Yes, the gospel does give us basic principles, and when government officials try to institute programs and policies which are in opposition to those basic principles, it is our duty as members of the Church of Jesus Christ to vote elsewhere. For example,

    We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

    Is this a substitution for a system of government? No. It is voting for those candidates in office which reflect our basic gospel principles.

  38. Jeremy,

    I believe there should be a level tax rate for everyone. I don’t believe in disproportionate tax. I don’t believe some people should be taxed more than others, because that immediately calls to question who gets to choose who pays more than others. And why should some pay more than others? That is not a correct principle.

    When we are taxed, we should be sure to vote for candidates who will use that tax money responsibly, for the express administration of government, not to take upon itself the economic welfare of the people.

  39. Bryce,
    I’m not sure how many other ways anyone can say it. Taxes in a democracy are not forced charity. All taxation bills must originate in the House of Representatives, and when the government taxes the citizenry, it is because the citizenry has collectively elected to impose taxes on itself (through majority vote) and distribute that wealth (as it has since the beginning of the republic) how it sees fit. Just because you can find a quote from Nibley where he describes the freewill offering as non compulsory, that is no more a sweeping denouncement of redistributive economic policies than the fact that fast offerings are non-compulsory is. Until you can demonstrate an even pedestrian understanding of how governments work, of the political theory behind taxation, or of basic American history, you’d be better off just keeping quiet and cutting your losses.

  40. James

    While I do tend to agree with the Republican side of things in that the welfare state that has been corrupted desparetly needs to change, I *strongly* will have to disagree with your statement that says Obama’s tax plan is socialistic.

    If Obama’s plan is socialistic, then we were living under socialism in the ’90’s. Because the increase in taxes for those 5% making more than a 1/4 million a year will simply go back to the exact same tax paid by the rich during the ’90’s. And the poor and middle-class will similarly be taxed less in keeping with similar tax percentages in the last century.

    In short, it is a more fair tax to almost everyone whereas the existing tax is highly favorable to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. A fairer tax existed in America in the past with no socialism ties.

    However, and let me make this point clear, there are decidedly many “welfare state” programs that are misused, misunderstood, and mishandled to the detriment of the country. These, I believe, should be eliminated or retooled to be much less of a free hand-out and much more of a helping hand. Similar in nature to the LDS church’s welfare program that lifts people from poverty by teaching them how to work instead of simply throwing money at the problem and hoping it will go away.

    If you’ll look closely at Obama’s plans, you will notice that there are many programs he illustrates that look on the surface to be free givaways. But look deeper. For example, his plan for college education makes sure that the recipient of education *must* also give back to the community by committing themselves to significant public service. It’s not a free gift. And this is not the only example.

    And since there is no direct correlation between a tax plan and social welfare, I truly do not see how anyone can call Obama’s plan socialism unless they are listening to only Right-wing propaganda at the expense of all other views. Please, those who are opposing programs from either the Republicans or the Democrats, do not rely only and completely upon your platform’s sound bites. Both sides distort and manipulate. Look at the facts. Dig underneath the media’s ten second attention span and look at what the truth is before you attack someone else’s opinion as being anti or pro Mormon.

    Because, believe me: it is very painful to be called anti-Mormon by other Mormons simply because I happen to vote for a Democrat.

  41. “The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. . . . The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. . . . It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion. ”
    –Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

  42. “When we are taxed, we should be sure to vote for candidates who will use that tax money responsibly, for the express administration of government, not to take upon itself the economic welfare of the people.”

    I hereby call for us to remove the “promote the general welfare” from the preamble of the Constitution because Bryce does not agree that we should look out for the well-being of people. Madison…what a socialist.

  43. TT,

    I never said I agreed with Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, public education, or Social Security. These are systems that, you will note, are in large part failing. Why? Because they are largely government welfare systems. Thus they will always fail. Government-run welfare systems will always fail.

    I support the political philosophy of this nation when it is run by candidates whose views are in harmony with gospel principles. Will I continue to live in a country that is run by candidates whose views are contrary to gospel principles. Sure, but it won’t be fun! I will vote according to principles which I believe are in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If others take office, then I will do my best to vote for those measures which will limit their control until I can vote for another candidate.

    As for our current election, if there is a better of two evils, then we must choose the better part. No candidate is perfect, but we can vote for that candidate whose views most closely agree with ours.

  44. James

    “No candidate is perfect, but we can vote for that candidate whose views most closely agree with ours.”

    I emphatically agree with you! Very well said. That’s exactly why I’m voting for Obama.

  45. Steve Evans

    Actually Brad, saying that Government-run welfare systems will always fail is a truism I agree with. We are talking about failed human systems; everything we do will fail, sooner or later.

  46. Except Charity never faileth. Which is why all other human activity is evil, and all politicians who advocate any human activity other than charity should not be supported by righteous Mormons like Bryce!

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