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And, lo, Samuel the Lamanite decried the greedy habits of the inhabitants of Zarahemla and proclaimed them doomed: “You are cursed because of your riches,” declared the prophet.
Though a cautionary tale from Biblical times, Zarahemla would seem familiar to us today with its exaltation of wealth, extreme class division, crass money corruption of politics, and government’s disregard for the poor and needy. Only, the fate of Zarahemla is not a Bible story – it’s from the Book of Mormon.
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With lifelong Mormon leader Mitt Romney running for president, the national media’s focus on the religion has mostly dealt with fundamentalist Christian Republicans who insist that Mormonism is an unholy sect. But little attention has been paid to the remarkably-progressive egalitarianism at the center of the Church’s doctrinal founding – an ethos 180-degrees opposite of Romney’s unabashed celebration of avaricious wealth accumulators like… well, like him. Those who criticize Wall Street greed and government policies that favor rich, Romney says, are simply guilty of envy and class war.
However, Salt Lake City writer Troy Williams points out in a recent Salon article that Mormonism’s founders, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, preached and practiced a social order based on communalism. Not communism, in the Marxist sense, but a form of communal living and shared resources. “There shall be no private ownership of [streams and timber],” Young decreed. “These belong to the people; all the people.” The frontier prophet also said, “We have plenty here,” and, under communalism, “No person [will] suffer if there is an equal distribution of the necessaries of life.”
Wouldn’t it be fun to hear Mitt reconcile this moral imperative of Mormon egalitarianism with his present espousal of plutocratic narcissism?
“When Mormons Were Socialists: Why the Mormon Church’s Founders Would be Very Disappointed in Mitt Romney,” www.alternet.com, April 15, 2012.
“Communalism vs. Communism,” www.ldsdoctrine.com, August 29, 2009.
“Samuel the Lamanite,” www.wikipedia.org.