What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said yesterday that he thinks Mitt Romney (a Republican and member of the same church) is “not the face of Mormonism,” and that Romney has “sullied” the faith.
Reid’s position came as an agreement to comments made by an author, Gregory A. Prince, whose recent op-ed urges readers to “not judge Mormonism on the basis of the Mitt Romney that was unveiled to the public this week.” Prince’s reference was to a video in which Romney is heard claiming that “there are 47 percent who are with [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it—that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”
The allegations in this statement are debatable, and ultimately irrelevant to the underlying claim, namely, that Romney’s belief in and publicizing of these allegations means that he has “sullied” the Mormon faith, “whose official mantra,” Prince writes, “is ‘to take care of the poor and needy throughout the world.'”
Because Romney claims in this statement that dependency and an entitlement mentality are problematic, Prince alleges that Romney is out of step with his faith and therefore on this basis alone is not a good “face” for it. The converse of this claim suggests that those who promote government welfare programs and dependence upon government are in fact a good face for the church. Of course, both Jesus Christ for whom the church is named, as well as those he has called as its leaders, have repeatedly affirmed that helping those in need is properly done not through government programs based upon coercion, but by individual initiative implemented through persuasion. I detail many such statements in the welfare chapter of Latter-day Liberty, but sharing one here will help disprove the claim advanced by Senator Reid. This comes from an apostle of the Lord, one who can actually be considered a legitimate and authoritative “face” of the church whose public image Reid seems so concerned about. Elder Robert D. Hales, when he was Presiding Bishop in 1986 (and thus tasked specifically with the temporal welfare of church members and those throughout the world), described how the Lord’s approved method of welfare contrasts those implemented by government:
The [church’s] welfare plan is an integral part of the plan of salvation. Some have become confused about what “welfare” really means. Some approaches to welfare in the world foster idleness, give subsidies with no labor required, create a burden of debt, and promote greediness—an appetite for things of this world rather than the riches of eternity.
Too often rich and poor alike shut their hearts to the divine attributes of love and compassion. The rich languish in their abundance and justify turning the poor away as “welfare cases.” The poor are likewise entrapped, becoming dependent on others in a system destined to trample initiative, undermine family responsibility, foster divisiveness, and erect barriers to equity, opportunity, and fellowship.
The Lord rejects such welfare programs.
Strong words such as these condemn the claim made by Senator Reid and actually strengthen the position, imperfectly enunciated by Mitt Romney, that reliance upon government programs for one’s welfare is a bad thing. Romney’s position does not “sully” the Mormon faith any more than a high-ranking leader (and Jesus Christ himself) sully the faith by saying similar things.
If Reid wasn’t so concerned with partisan bickering and actually wanted to get to the heart of issues that might legitimately “sully” one’s publicly expressed faith, he might have pointed to Romney’s support for preventive war, the NDAA, the war on drugs, and a whole host of policies which violate the Constitution to which he would swear an oath.
Of course, Reid can’t point to those things, because then it would mean that he has for years been sullying his faith.
Awkward position, that…