Mormons and the State
“Today the devil as a wolf in supposedly a new suit of sheep’s clothing is enticing some men to parrot his line by advocating planned government guaranteed security at the expense of our liberties.”
― Ezra Taft Benson (Former Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
To start, I apologize for the seemingly random nature of this post, but I remain fairly confident that you’ll find something useful herein. My purpose in writing this post is three fold. One, to show those of the LDS (Mormon) faith, that will listen, at least one major contradiction in the doctrine pushed by their leaders; not to discredit their beliefs or experiences, as I am an Agnostic-Atheist, but to help them actually live by what their core doctrine teaches. Two, to show to the broader religious community, a pernicious and cultish idol that has entered almost every house of worship today. Three, to express some thoughts that I, as a former mormon and missionary, have sifted through over the years.
The LDS church, from here on out we’ll simply call it “the Church”, centers its teaching and reason for existence on something called the Plan of Salvation; God’s plan, wherein we (his literal spiritual children) were to come down from his presence to live on Earth, which would serve two purposes, one: to test us, and two: to give us physical bodies which we would one day be resurrected with and potentially live with God again. The part I find the most important however is the test.
As the church teaches, every soul that has ever existed once dwelt in God’s presence as his sons and daughters. Him, being the kind Father he was wanted his spirit children to have bodies of flesh and bone like he did. He brought together all of his spirit children and held a great council where he told us his plan of salvation. That we would come to earth, get bodies, be tested, die, get judged and resurrected, and live in one of heaven’s three kingdoms. However, one of his spirit children, Lucifer (Satan, the Devil, The serpent, Etc…) wanted a different plan, one where we would come to Earth, and rather than being tested, he would force us to follow God’s commandments and each and every one of us would end up back in God’s presence just as perfect as the day we left (click here for official church description).
God’s plan was one centered in agency though, where we would be able to decide what to do when and where, who and what we would believe in, and ultimately what we would decide to become. That was the purpose of having a Savior (Jesus), so that when we inevitably made mistakes there would be a way to reconcile those with God and become “clean” again.
With this as a framework, in fact, the most foundational framework in the entire religion, there are a few basic concepts that can be deduced.
Firstly, in connection to the plan, God has said multiple times throughout canonized LDS scripture and via Church leaders that we are to strive in every way to be like him (Matt. 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48, 3 Nephi 27:27). This, to me, seems like an insurmountable problem for the believer in both a state and the Church. Satan’s plan, which was rejected by God, was to force others to do and be what was objectively right (God is the foundation of morality in this scenario). How then can we if we’re to be like god, even perfect as he is perfect, force man to do what we believe is right? Or keep him from doing what we believe is wrong? How would we be different from Satan? Will we then force every man woman and child to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ (believed to be the key to eternal and earthly joy and salvation) by the sword or the point of our rifles? No, of course not, that sounds absurd.
How then is it possible that we can justify, by initiated brute force and existential threat, that a man, woman, or child do or not do something that is entirely their business in the same way religion is. Let me explain, the thought of forcing someone to go to church at gunpoint is an obvious contradiction to God’s voluntary nature; on the same hand though, most Mormons believe that many if not most drugs should be illegal. Illegal meaning, if you are caught purchasing, selling, transporting, using, possessing, or intending to obtain said illegal substances you will be either kidnapped and locked up in a cage, or fined under under threat of being kidnapped and locked in a cage; even better though, is what happens if you resist this assault, if you aren’t killed outright by the police officer, you’ll be beaten into submission and then locked in a cage for even longer. This logic can be applied to all laws wherein an individual isn’t directly harming another person.
“If you personally advocate that I be caged if I don't pay for whatever "government" things YOU want, please don't pretend to be tolerant, or non-violent, or enlightened, or compassionate. Don't pretend you believe in "live and let live," and don't pretend you want peace, freedom or harmony. It's a simple truism that the only people in the world who are willing to "live and let live" are voluntaryists. So you can either PRETEND to care about and respect your fellow man while continuing to advocate widespread authoritarian violence, or you can embrace the concepts of self-ownership and peaceful coexistence, and become an anarchist.”
― Larken Rose
No matter how good an idea seems to you, i.e. salvation for all no matter what, it is a blatant contradiction of the Gospel to force it upon others. If the entire idea of mortality is to be tested and become in both spirit and body like God, how then can someone who claims to believe in the Plan of Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ employ Satan's own tactics and plan here on Earth without batting an eye. Not only that though, but the Church some years after its founding came out with a set of basic beliefs, all of which make relative sense until you come to the 12th item on the list:
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
Tell me, how does a king, president, ruler, or magistrate operate? How do they exist and what are means and methods of ruling? The answer is force, this is the one tool of the state, the only way any ruler such as has been known, can rule. If the use and threat of force is absent then it simply isn’t a ruler or a government. It would be colloquially known as a business, charity, service, church, club, etc… the fundamental difference being the means by which they acquire the money or assets by which they function; any organization that isn’t labeled a state must acquire assets through voluntary trade and donation. Government on the other hand, no matter how benevolent or malignant it’s doings and intents are, acquires its capital and monopolistic status via force or the threat thereof.
This to me, seems like a cataclysmic distortion of what would be a peaceful doctrine within the Church. How can any organization that bases its own divine existence in the a gospel of voluntarism from God down, embrace the most abominable manifestation of Satan’s tactics in existence. Government is supposedly justified because people have certain needs or desire, things like roads, welfare, disaster relief, and security, these services are undoubtedly important, but when will you be justified in acting opposite of God? Do you really believe that those goods and services provided by the state can’t conceivably be funded or maintained voluntarily? If so, I would first start to question your faith in God, has he created us in a way that necessitates utilizing sin; not that we will never sin, but that he condones sin in this area? Then indeed he was wrong to say that we ought to strive to be like him in every way, he should have said “every way except when it comes to regulation of food and drink, or the building and maintaining of roads. In that case, you may become the usurper.”
The notion of life without a government looming over you and me is foreign indeed. Ask yourself though, why is that so foreign? Why is a state, a band of robbers playing dress-up, a necessity of civil life? The short answer: it’s not. Belief in the need for a state, who’s only tool is violence, is one fundamentally set in dogmatism and religious faith, in other words, an Idol.
The state is thought of, if not in word then at least in practice, as a God. Despite failure after failure to deliver any semblance of order, peace, or prosperity it is given holy reverence. Not only that though, individuals operating within its lines are given a pass to commit some of the most vile sins imaginable. Every war of aggression ever fought, every police officer that has ever arrested a peaceful (non-violent) individual, every judge that passed a wrongful sentence, every interrogator employing means of torture, all of these men and women would be looked at as some of the most repugnant sinners imaginable, think of the lives ruined and lost, the families separated. Every “casualty of war”, every dollar stolen via taxes or fines, none of these are given even a word so long as the actor was being employed by the state. Why is this possible? Because like God, the state is the decider of right and wrong, the state decides what is murder and what isn’t, what is theft and what isn’t, what can be put or not put into our bodies.
“A category of government activity which, today, not only requires the closest scrutiny, but which also poses a grave danger to our continued freedom, is the activity NOT within the proper sphere of government. No one has the authority to grant such powers, as welfare programs, schemes for re-distributing the wealth, and activities which coerce people into acting in accordance with a prescribed code of social planning. There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me…In reply to the argument that a little bit of socialism is good so long as it doesn't go too far, it is tempting to say that, in like fashion, just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too! History proves that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check before it comes to its full flower of dictatorship. But let us hope that this time around, the trend can be reversed. If not then we will see the inevitability of complete socialism, probably within our lifetime.”
― Ezra Taft Benson
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
The Church, whether it’s God’s true church or not has fallen under a sheet of contradicting superstition. I don’t care if it is or isn’t God’s church, but it is absolutely in my own self interest to help lift it out of it’s authoritarian idolatrous worship, and help to realign it with the ideas of voluntarism and freedom is supposedly espouses, as I happen to live in an area heavily populated by Mormons, and still have many friends and family members still in it.
There are so many wonderful things I learned during my 21 ½ years in the Mormon church, but also some things that have taken time to forget. I still have a tremendous amount of love towards many of its members and some of its teachings; like the plan of salvation. I want to see it practice what it preaches.
For more information on the philosophy of voluntarism listen to this short audio book: No Treason: the Constitution of No Authority, by Lysander Spooner