Is Socialism Wrong? And What is Socialism?
Occasionally I get emails from people asking for statements from the prophets on socialism. These requests typically come as a result of discussions with other Latter-day Saints who don’t understand why socialism is evil, or even understand what socialism is. Some of the latest questions have stemmed from discussions with those who don’t understand why government controlled health care is socialistic.
One of the purposes of my website ( www.LatterdayConservative.com ) is to show that it’s not just my opinion that socialism is wrong, but that the latter-day prophets since Joseph Smith have also taught that socialism is wrong, and more than that, they’ve also defined it.
I have compiled the following quotes in attempt to answer the question “Is socialism wrong? And what exactly is socialism?” These are not my words, only the words of the prophets. Also keep in mind that these are only some of the statements regarding socialism. The prophets have also told us that we should uphold the US Constitution, yet the socialistic laws and policies within the government are in violation of the Constitution. The prophets have also made many statements against communism, which shares many of the same ideas as socialism.
Is Socialism Wrong? And What is Socialism?
“I attended a second lecture on Socialism, by Mr. Finch; and after he got through, I made a few remarks… I said I did not believe the doctrine.” (History of the Church 6:33)
Heber J. Grant
“We again warn our people in America of the constantly increasing threat against our inspired Constitution and our free institutions set up under it. The same political tenets and philosophies that have brought war and terror in other parts of the world are at work amongst us in America…
“… 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… Latter-day Saints cannot be true to their faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to any of these false philosophies. They will prove snares to their feet.” (Grant and McKay 273, 343)
David O. McKay
“Church members are at perfect liberty to act according to their own consciences in the matter of safeguarding our way of life. They are, of course, encouraged to honor the highest standards of the gospel and to work to preserve their own freedoms. They are free to participate in non-church meetings that are held to warn people of the threat of Communism or any other theory or principle that will deprive us of our free agency or individual liberties vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.” (”Statement Concerning the Position of the Church on Communism” 477)
First Presidency 1941 ( Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay )
“We believe that our real threat comes from within and not from without, and it comes from that underlying spirit common to Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, namely, the spirit which would array class against class, which would set up a socialistic state of some sort, which would rob the people of the liberties which we possess under the Constitution…
“As we see it, there is no way in which we can, to use your own words, “preserve and perpetuate our freedom—freedom to govern ourselves, freedom of speech, and freedom to worship God according to our own light,” except we shall turn away from our present course and resume the normal course along which this great country traveled to its present high eminence of prosperity, of culture, of universal education, and of the peace and contentment which we enjoyed prior to the inauguration of the “New Deal”. (1932-3)
“These things are not matters of partisan politics with us. We care nothing as Church leaders about partisan politics as such, nor about the dominance of one party or the other. We grant to every man the right to vote as he wishes, and we would not control his vote even if we could. But we do reserve to ourselves the right to tell our people what we think is right regarding politics as affecting the fundamentals of our government system, to warn them of the dangers that lie under the present course, and to try to persuade them that their peace, their happiness, and their security do not lie along the path of the present trends of government.
“Truly, we do not believe that—again to quote your own words—we can “preserve and perpetuate our freedom—freedom to govern ourselves, freedom of speech, and freedom to worship God according to our own light” unless we turn squarely about and return to the old-time virtues, and re-enthrone our liberties and free institutions.” (A Letter to the Treasury from the LDS First Presidency in 1941 )
Ezra Taft Benson
“No true Latter-day Saint can be a Communist or a Socialist because Communist principles run counter to the revealed word of God and to the Constitution of this land which was established by men whom the God of Heaven raised up unto that very purpose [D&C 101:80].” (”A Four-Fold Hope” 11)
“President McKay has said a lot about our tragic trends towards socialism and communism and the responsibilities liberty-loving people have in defending and preserving our Constitution. (See Conference Report, Apr 1963, pp. 112-13.) Have we read these words from God’s mouthpiece and pondered on them?” (”Be Not Deceived” 1064; compare GFC 340)
“Let us not be deceived in the sifting days ahead. Let us rally together on principle behind the prophet as guided by the promptings of the Spirit. We should continue to speak out for freedom and against socialism and communism. We should continue to come to the aid of patriots, programs, and organizations that are trying to save our Constitution through every legal and moral means possible.” (”Be Not Deceived” 1065; compare GFC 342)
“We must be righteous and moral. We must live the gospel principles—all of them. We have no right to expect a higher degree of morality from those who represent us than what we ourselves are. In the final analysis, people generally get the kind of government they deserve. To live a higher law means we will not seek to receive what we have not earned by our own labor. It means we will remember that government owes us nothing. It means we will keep the laws of the land. It means we will look to God as our Lawgiver and the Source of our liberty.” (CHB 28-31)
“I fear for the future when I realize that for some thirty years our once-free institutions, political, economic, educational and social, have been drifting into the hands of those who favor the Welfare State, and who would “centralize all power in the hands of the political apparatus in Washington. This enhancement of political power at the expense of individual rights, so often disguised as ‘democracy’ or ‘freedom’ or ‘civil rights,’ is ’socialism,’ no matter what name tag it bears…
“I fear for the future when I see an affluent but complacent citizenry paying little or no attention to these and many other socialistic trends in America.
“Dr. V. Orval Watts, noted political economist, has described this socialist system which I fear-and I have but suggested a very few evidences. Here are his words: ‘Socialism… is the theory and practice of coercive collectivism. It is the evil fruit of greed for other men’s possessions and greed for control over other men’s labor.’” (Elder Ezra Taft Benson December 10 1963. A Race Against Time.)
“We have moved a long way – and are now moving further and more rapidly down the soul-destroying road of socialism. The evidence is clear – shockingly clear for all to see…
“Now we should all be opposed to Socialistic-Communism, for it is our mortal and spiritual enemy – the greatest evil in the world today. But the reason many liberals don’t want the American people to form study groups to really understand and than fight Socialistic-Communism is that once the American people get the facts they will begin to realize that much of what these liberals advocate is actually helping the enemy.
“The liberals hope you’ll believe them when they tell you how anti-Communist they are. But they become alarmed if you really inform yourself on the subject of Socialistic-Communism. For after you inform yourself you might begin to study the liberal voting record. And this study would show you how much the liberals are giving aid and comfort to the enemy and how much the liberals are actually leading America towards Socialism itself.
“For Communism is just another form of socialism, as is fascism. So now you can see the picture. These liberals want you to know how much they are doing for you – with your tax money of course. But they don’t want you to realize that the path they are pursuing is socialistic, and that socialism is the same as communism in its ultimate effect on our liberties. When you point this out they want to shut you up – they accuse you of maligning them, of casting aspersions, of being political. No matter whether they label their bottle as liberalism, progressivism, or social reform – I know the contents of the bottle is poison to this Republic and I’m going to call it poison.” (Ezra Taft Benson. Stand Up For Freedom. Assembly Hall at Temple Square, Feb 11, 1966. Given to The Utah Forum for the American Idea)
Howard W. Hunter
“You were given a great message by Elder Marion G. Romney which was inspiring and profound. He compared socialism with the United Order. I encourage you to study carefully that message. He gave much of the basic theory, the principles, the similarities and the differences between these two basically conflicting systems. As I accept his premises, logic, and conclusions, with your permission, at this time, I would like to use his message as a springboard for my own. The basic principle in his message is the same principle in mine, as already discussed – the principle of the Law of the Harvest – As a Man Sows, So Shall He Reap.
“From my own experience in business and as a lawyer and church worker, and from my firsthand observations in this country and other countries of the world, there appears to me to be a trend to shift responsibility for life and its processes from the individual to the state. In this shift there is a basic violation of the law of the harvest, or the law of justice. The attitude of “something for nothing” is encouraged. The government is often looked to as the source of wealth. There is a feeling that the government should step in and take care of one’s needs, one’s emergencies, and one’s future. Just as my friend actually became a slave to his own ignorance and bad habits by refusing to accept the responsibility for his own education and moral growth, so, also, can an entire people be imperceptibly transferred from individuals, families, and communities to the federal government…
“What is the real cause of this trend toward the welfare state, toward more socialism? In the last analysis, in my judgment, it is personal unrighteousness. When people do not use their freedoms responsibly and righteously, they will gradually lose these freedoms…
“If man will not recognize the inequalities around him and voluntarily, through the gospel plan, come to the aid of his brother, he will find that through “a democratic process” he will be forced to come to the aid of his brother. The government will take from the “haves” and give to the “have nots.” Both have last their freedom. Those who “have,” lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who “have not,” lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got “something for nothing,” and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift.
“Under this climate, people gradually become blind to what has happened and to the vital freedoms which they have lost.”
(Speeches of the Year 1965-1966, pp. 1-11, “The Law of the Harvest.” Devotional Address, Brigham Young University, 8 March 1966.)
I would also recommend that everyone read the talk by Elder Marion G. Romney entitled “Is Socialism the United Order?” This talk was recommended by Elder Hunter, and as mentioned by Elder Romney, he was asked by “the Brethren” to give this talk in General Conference Priesthood meeting of April, 1966. Here are some excerpts from that talk:
“Thus in both implementation and ownership and management of property, the United Order preserves to men their God-given agency, while socialism deprives them of it… Socialism is political, both in theory and practice. It is thus exposed to, and riddled by, the corruption that plagues and finally destroys all political governments that undertake to abridge man’s agency.
“…No, brethren, socialism is not the United Order. However, notwithstanding my abhorrence of it, I am persuaded that socialism is the wave of the present and of the foreseeable future. It has already taken over or is contending for control in most nations.
“We here in the United States, in converting our government into a social welfare state, have ourselves adopted much of socialism. Specifically, we have to an alarming degree adopted the use of the power of the state in the control and distribution of the fruits of industry. We are on notice according to the words of the President, that we are going much further, for he is quoted as saying: ‘We’re going to take all the money we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the ‘haves’ and give it to the ‘have nots.’” (1964 Congressional Record, p. 6142, Remarks of the President to a Group of Leaders of Organizations of Senior Citizens in the Fish Room, March 24, 1964.)
“Socialism takes: United Order gives.
“That is the spirit of socialism: We’re going to take. The spirit of the United Order is: We’re going to give.
Even the scriptures warn us against socialism:
“Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!” (D&C 56:17)
“They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isaiah 65:22)
What greater condemnation of Socialism could there be than from God himself? A witness from the Old Testament, and one from the current dispensation through Joseph Smith, as well as many other warnings through His prophets and apostles throughout the years.
I recognize that some people, with good intentions, have been deceived into thinking that socialism is good. I think what needs to be realized and understood by those who feel that socialism is in line with the Gospel and teachings of Christ is that the problem is not regarding whether or not we should help each other, we do have a responsibility to help those in need, the problem is in others using force and violating our agency to accomplish it. The ends do not justify the means. Socialism violates man’s agency. We must be free to give unto others of our own choosing.
Socialism and other false “isms” which take away our agency are part of an ongoing battle; the war that started in heaven continues on earth today.
Further recommended reading:
- Moral Agency by Elder D. Todd Christofferson
- The War in Heaven on Earth Today by Brian R. Mecham
- Is Socialism the United Order? by Elder Marion G. Romney
- The Proper Role of Government by Ezra Taft Benson
- Two Contending Forces by David O. McKay
- Jesus Christ – Gifts and Expectations by Ezra Taft Benson
- The Law of the Harvest by Howard W. Hunter