Mormonism

Brigham Young Meets Dorothy Day

|

I don't think these folks will be endorsing Mitt Romney:

[T]he 29-year-old Salt Lake City stockbroker and several friends have just published the first edition of The Mormon Worker, a bimonthly newspaper devoted to "promoting Mormonism, anarchism and pacifism."

The editors, all active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will not criticize the LDS hierarchy or institution but plan to provide "radical religious commentary on current political and economic events."

…Though Mormons believe in obeying the law and respecting elected officials, they should see capitalism as a necessary evil rather than a system God endorses, [William Van Wagenen, the stockbroker,] writes. If they were really following LDS principles, Mormons would all be anarchists.

"Every Mormon should look forward to the abolition of government," Van Wagenen writes, "and the building of a socialist society based on free association and mutual cooperation."

The paper's website is here.

I was going to wrap this up by saying my favorite Mormon politician was J. Bracken Lee, an Old Right governor of Utah and mayor of Price who fused fiscal conservatism and opposition to internationalism with tolerance for gambling and prostitution. But then I double-checked his religious affiliation and was surprised to learn that, though he came from LDS stock, Lee himself was unchurched. So instead I give you a list of famous Mormon vampires.

NEXT: FRC V: Landslide Mitt

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. [William Van Wagenen, the stockbroker,] writes. If they were really following LDS principles, Mormons would all be anarchists.

    “Every Mormon should look forward to the abolition of government,” Van Wagenen writes, “and the building of a socialist society based on free association and mutual cooperation.”
    —–

    Wait… what? Aren’t these two concepts mutually exclusive?

  2. Bingo,
    That also caught my gimlet anarchist eye.

    Even though I’m am, by immediate family, a co-religionist with Fred Thompson, there was a black sheep cousin (Isn’t there always?) by the name of Floyd Crockett Stuart of Ogden, UT, who, being Mormon, handed me the Gallaher genealogy on a silver platter.
    The “Crockett” in his name was because of an association with the Crockett family of Davy fame back down in eastern Tennessee.
    (Davy was not born on a mountaintop, by the way.)
    Anybody here ever heard of Floyd?
    He’s surely dead by now, although, who knows. Mormons live forever because of avoidance of caffeine and strong drink , etc.
    Wherever you are, thanks, Floyd!

  3. I wonder how many of those 2,000 copies of a Mormon anarcho-socialist paper distributed in Utah will actually get read? Five? Ten?

    Kinda like the Libertarians for Guiliani movement.

  4. Jesse Walker,

    That list you linked to was a list of people who, the listmaker made clear, were either not Mormons or not vampires, and often neither Mormons nor vampires. The sole person he claimed was a Mormon vampire was described (in the link provided) as someone who *left* the Mormon church.

  5. Wonder if the Romney noted below (from one of the links in the article) is one of Mitt’s ancestors:

    Lee … racked up 94,428 votes, a tribute to his enduring popularity, but that was only good enough for third place against winning Republican George D. Clyde with 127,164 votes and Democrat L. C. Romney’s 111,297.

  6. Are there any famous non-vampires?

  7. The thing with anarchism, is that you don’t get to choose your economic model. You can preach on the virtues of socialism until you’re blue in the face, but if a significant portion of society start engaging in property based economic transactions, there’s nothing you can do about it!

  8. Anarchism and socialism? If I recall my politico-economic theory correctly, under classic Marxism isn’t there supposed to be a withering away of the state under that system?
    Back in the early 1970’s Reason had several articles dealing with anarchism of the left versus anarchism of the right – but I disremember the titles or the issue numbers.

  9. Alright. How in hell did I just do that? I mean, post without leaving an email link with my name? I didn’t do anything different, I don’t think. I’ve never been able to figure out how that’s done by others.

  10. This?

  11. Yup! 🙂

  12. Mormomism is pretty damn libertarian if anybody feels like emphasizing those elements of their faith. They started out by founding their own anarcho-religious country, Deseret, in Utah (everybody there was there because they believed in the faith). American exceptionalism and our religious freedom actually play an official part in their doctrine. They have their own welfare and social services system and I guarantee if the government disapeared tomorrow the church would end up running the show in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, etc. They store food and supplies in preparation for bad times and emphasize mutual aid. They hold up small business men as their model and support saving as a virtue. The church itself is pretty decentralized in organization: all the “bishops” are unpaid business men and farmers. While there are a lot of mormons in the CIA and foreign service because they learn foreign languages on their missions and can pass background checks easily I think there is a lot of hope for anti-state mormonism.

    Then again I’ve heard some people where I’m from in Idaho express support for Mitt Romney because they think he’ll bring the rapture sooner. You be the judge.

  13. bingo said: “Wait… what? Aren’t these two concepts mutually exclusive?”

    That one left me scratching my head, too.

  14. theophanes — My reading of the Pearl of Great Price on free agency would indicate Mormonism should be a very libertarian philosophy, but the Mormons in my ward are overwhelmingly conventional conservatives in favor of the WOD, Iraq War, bans on pornography and prostitution, etc. Much more libertarian on economic issues than the rest of the population, though.

    I’ve been trying to hint at this libertarianism while teaching in our Elder’s Quorum, but keep hitting a wall on the social issues stuff — they’re determined to save everyone by force, and not consider the implications of which side of the Grand Council that puts them on for free agency.

  15. “free agency”? I’m used to that being a sports term. What does it mean in the context of LDS?

  16. Same old tripe, different clothing.

  17. What, “same old tripe” in ed’s clothing? And it ain’t cross-dressing? WTF?

  18. That list you linked to was a list of people who, the listmaker made clear, were either not Mormons or not vampires, and often neither Mormons nor vampires.

    I know.

  19. “free agency”? I’m used to that being a sports term. What does it mean in the context of LDS?

    It refers to the notion in LDS belief that one of the major differences between God and the devil is that God leaves people free to make their own choices, free of compulsion (but not of natural consequences: e.g., no walking in front of a bus and getting away without the following result) but the devil wanted to force everyone to be good and to destroy their agency.

    Thus, despite the actions and effective beliefs of many Mormons, the official theology emphasizes freedom of choice and the absolute wrongness of compelling others to “be good.” You can find plenty of LDS scriptures that flat-out state that the moment someone tries to exercise dominion or authority over someone else, that person no longer has God with them.

    Sounds pretty libertarian to me, and there are in fact a lot of LDS libertarians. I should add that, due to historical reasons, the only group that is likely to distrust evangelical Christians as much as atheists is Mormons.

    Of course none of this means that some Mormons don’t have their own designs on power and something like Christian Reconstructionism, but there would be many Mormons opposed to it and in favor of libertarian policies.

    Despite the snark against Mormonism on H&R, I’m pretty certain that you’d find Mormons are among the most likely of any religious group to read reason and post here.

  20. I’m pretty certain that you’d find Mormons are among the most likely of any religious group to read reason and post here.

    While I’ve met a lot of Mormons sympathetic to economic liberty, the denomination that seems most over-represented on this site are people Unitarian Universalist backgrounds (at least 3 posters, counting me*). This seems a high representation, especially since most UU’s tend to be left-liberal and the fact that UU’s are about 0.1% of the population.

    *I’m a “lapsed” UU. I don’t drink coffee.

  21. Untermensch — any websites where I could meet some of this groundswell of libertarian Mormons you talk about? They seem to be decidedly lacking in my own ward.

  22. Aresen, I couldn’t find any corroborating data in a quick search on teh internets, but I believe UU’s are “over-represented” in college communities. A geography professor I had told our class that Unitarians often had churches by campuses, and that this was a focus of their recruitment during the mid-20th century. Given the general liberality of UU doctrine, I find this easy to believe.

    That would also mean that UU’s in general have a higher ratio of advanced degrees, which corresponds to the population on this board.

  23. Tommy_Grand:
    Are there any famous non-vampires?

    Probably. Some famous people suck, but that doesn’t necessarily prove they’re vampires. Therefore, there should be at least a few non-vampires among our celebrities.

  24. No offense to anyone here, but I quit UU when I realized how uptight and self-righteous those folks could be. Many of them are Jerry Falwells of the left.

  25. Some famous people suck, but that doesn’t necessarily prove they’re vampires. Therefore, there should be at least a few non-vampires among our celebrities.

    Linda Lovelace for example.

  26. “Every Mormon should look forward to the abolition of government,” Van Wagenen writes, “and the building of a socialist society based on free association and mutual cooperation.”
    —–

    Wait… what? Aren’t these two concepts mutually exclusive?

    Socialism and freedom are not mutually exclusive. One can have voluntary socialism, in which people agree of their own free will to live in cooperation, not competition, with their neighbors. Example: everyone pitching in to open and run a community school, or a library, etc. In my town, people pitched in with donations, materials, labor, etc. and built a multi-million dollar school stadium which is now the jewel of the community.

    As long as it’s entirely voluntary I have no problem with it. And, in some cases I think it’s probably a good thing.

  27. FWIW, there are so-called libertarian Muslims. See this book.

  28. Linda Lovelace had a retractable uvula.

  29. I am glad to learn about this group and see some Mormons dissenting from Bushism. What is it about most Mormons that make them more obedient than your average Sheepus Americanus? A lot of Americans went along with the Iraq war because they were petrified of the Muslamonazis setting off a nuke in their closest city, but really, would they bother with Salt Lake before they did New York or LA? I think it’s more about something in the Mormon temperament that values obedience and strong leaders. The Mormon church is pretty monolithic compared to the Protestant sects. Of course Catholicism is also monolithic, but its constituents are too socioeconomically diverse to unify behind a single political program.

  30. What is it about most Mormons that make them more obedient than your average Sheepus Americanus?

    e, I think it’s mostly due to three things:

    1) The Church is headed by a President who is deemed a “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator”, and most Mormons have been taught that whoever is the President is basically infallible and is owed unquestioning obedience — Papal infallibility squared. I think this interpretation is dead wrong, for the reasons so eloquently laid out in Untermensch’s 10:59 am post, but if you buy into this notion, then it isn’t much of a step to also be sheeplike in obeying the President of the U.S, especially in light of:

    2) The twelfth (of thirteen) Mormon Articles of Faith states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” I have a huge objection to this article, since I’ve met politicians at close range and know they’re mostly pondscum, but if you blindly accept it as a God-given truth, then submission to statist claptrap becomes a “virtue”.

    3) The Church has on occasion excommunicated scholars or others like me who too vigorously and publicly ask overly awkward or heretical questions. So, rabble-rousers like me risk being booted out, leaving few effective avenues for change other than the Church leadership, of their own recognizance, deciding that change is needed to keep membership growing.

  31. FWIW, there are so-called libertarian Muslims. See this book.

    iih, I’m curious about how one can be a libertarian Muslim, when Islam teaches predestination, which appears to be “faux agency” rather than “free agency” — that is, it teaches that the universe unfolds exactly according to Allah’s will, and that we only think we can change our fate — unless I misunderstood the gist of your previous comments, in which case I apologize.

    Brought up our previous discussion on this topic in Elder’s Quorum today, provoking a fascinating discussion on the difference between Islamic predestination versus Mormon preordination (which is the concept that we have each been chosen in our premortal existence to accomplish certain lofty goals, but that we can use our agency to behave in such a way that we’re yanked from that task and left to achieve some lesser goal — which we can also screw up.)

  32. prolefeed,

    Short answer. I have in the past, am, and will be making choices like everyone else Muslim or not. Of course there is free choice Islam. What we can not choose are things like being born male or female, into a rich family or a poor family, with a birth defect or not, the time and way I die, etc. I have the freedom to choose to attempt to catch a flight on time, but God has his ways for me not to get to the flight on time if he so chooses.

    If everything is predetermined, how come Muslims decided to work and build a great civilization/empire? They did not just say, “well it is all predetermined, lets just wait and God will take care of the rest”.

    It is certainly more complex than. The philosophers and theologians had a great to debate about.

    I know that I gave you one link in the past, but I am not very happy with the few lines they wrote there. I will try to find a more sophisticated answer that is closer to the Muslim view. In any case, I would say that it is certainly not “faux agency”. It is far closer to “free agency” as Itry to describe in the first paragraph above.

  33. … prolefeed, and the lack of free choice runs counter to many other principles in the religion such as the virtue to struggle to do good.

  34. prolefeed thanks for the informative and insightful post on Mormonism. Were you saying you were actually kicked out of the Mormon church?

  35. e — Haven’t been kicked out of the Church — yet. In fact, I hold a current Temple Recommend, though my most recent interview for a Recommend renewal was a bit dodgy — thought I might be turned down toward the end of the interview. What I was driving at is that people like me who challenge the Church on points of doctrine have sometimes been ex’d when they drew the ire of a General Authority, and I don’t have the meekness to cower and mouth B.S. I don’t believe in just to keep my membership. Most likely it won’t come to that, because I’m a small enough fish that I’m unlikely to draw the attention of anyone with the power to get me ex’d, so my fearless (some might say foolhardy) defiance of some utterances of current and past Church Presidents are falling on the ears of a tiny and unusually tolerant and accepting ward, far from the center of Mormondom in Salt Lake City, that is willing to put up with my impudence and brushes with apostasy.

    iih — Thanks. I’m sorry I misunderstood your earlier post. To paraphrase what I think you just said: Muslims believe that we do in fact have free agency, but that Allah is all-powerful and can choose to thwart our decisions if He desires — but He doesn’t always interfere, he often lets us make our own decisions, even bad ones.

    Is that close, or am I still being a bit thick about the essence of Muhammad’s teachings?

  36. prolefeed–

    You’ve got it right pretty much. As I said, it is more intricate than that and that was why there where these debates back in the early years. I would not worry, though, about emphasizing “Allah” over “God”. If you are doing it out of respect, that is really nice of you. But Allah is just the Arabic word for “God”. Christian Arabs say “Allah”, too. So feel free to say “God”, whose Muslim version is identical to the Jewish version (i.e., not like the Christian version).


    Is that close, or am I still being a bit thick about the essence of Muhammad’s teachings?

    I would put it better by saying it is closer to the interpretation of Muslim thinkers of, not Muhammad’s teachings, but to be more exact, at least as far as Muslims are concerned, closer to the teachings of Quran.

  37. iih — Used “Allah” both to show respect for your beliefs, and to emphasize that what Christians and Jews and Muslims call the Almighty is the same Heavenly Father who loves all of His children, no matter what we call Him, no matter whether we acknowledge His existence or not, and no matter how closely or distantly we grasp His essence. And, I might add, that we ALL fall short of understanding Him to some degree, some more than others, because it is not possible for humans to grasp Him in his entirety. At the risk of engaging in apostasy, no one, not even Joseph Smith or Jesus or Muhammed, had a fullness of understanding of His nature during their time on earth, though one or more of these three may have come very close.

    It’s late — I imagine we’ll discuss this more on some other post.

  38. prolefeed said: “And, I might add, that we ALL fall short of understanding Him to some degree, some more than others, because it is not possible for humans to grasp Him in his entirety. At the risk of engaging in apostasy, no one, not even Joseph Smith or Jesus or Muhammed, had a fullness of understanding of His nature during their time on earth…”

    Even though I believe in God, I’ve felt this way for some time. So I could never be a fundamentalist of any kind.

    I appreciate the posts in this thread by you, Untermensch and iih.

  39. prolefeed, thanks. That was a good exchange as always. I look forward to the next one.

  40. Nothing kills a thread like a civil exhange of ideas. Way to go, guys.

  41. Fuck you, RC Dean!!!

    Let’s see if that can jumpstart things a bit.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.