Now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, the left is increasing its attacks on his Mormon religion, hoping to distract voters into focusing on perceived negatives about Mormonism. The latest attack is shrewdly done. Instead of directly attacking Mormonism, which could look bad, the left is claiming that Mormonism is really socialist.
Last month, the far left website Salon ran an article entitled, “When Mormons Were Socialists.” It relied completely upon a deliberate misinterpretation of a few verses in the Book of Mormon. The author claimed that Mormon doctrine about events in the first century A.D. advocated for socialism. He declared that in the Third Book of Nephi, God punished a city because “the government disregarded the sick and poor.” Tellingly, the Salon article did not indicate where in the Book of Mormon the verses it relies upon are located, because they do not exist. At no time did the Nephite government ever give even a tiny amount of assistance to the poor.
The Book of Mormon is heavily critical of excessive government taxation. Wicked King Noah was criticized for taxing his people mercilessly to fund his extravagant building plan. Like the Bible, which Mormons follow, the Book of Mormon teaches the principle of asking others – not the government – to help the poor.
The Third Book of Nephi is about a city that was punished by God for greed, immorality and turning away from God. It is similar to Bible stories about God punishing the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the king of Babylon.
The Bible and the Third Book of Nephi both criticize the wealthy for their arrogance. Chapter 6, verses 12 & 15 of the Third Book of Nephi, state:
There began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions…..Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.
Similarly, the Bible rails against the greedy rich in James 5:1-4:
1 And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You'll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. 2 Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. 3 Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you've piled up is judgment. 4 All the workers you've exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger.
Another claim made by the Salon author is that the Third Book of Nephi condemned corporate greed and advocated for the Occupy movement. “God had called Samuel to essentially Occupy Zarahemla, to stand up and speak out against corporate greed and wealth accumulation,” he wrote. Yet contrary to his assertion, there were no corporations in 6 B.C. Samuel was merely instructed to denounce greed and selfishness, which the Bible has always condemned. This has nothing in common with the Occupy movement, which seeks to use the government to redistribute wealth. This is the same kind of accusation the left makes about mainstream Christianity, claiming Jesus “occupied” the Temple.
The communitarian living of Mormons in the 1800’s is held up as more evidence that Mormons used to advocate for socialism. However, communal living is not socialism; it is voluntary agreements among private parties. A quote by Brigham Young stating that the streams and timber belong to the people and are not for private ownership is also offered as evidence of socialism. This is not accurate, since most capitalist countries, including the United States, treat rivers and most timber forests as federal or state property.
This latest attack is just a variation on the left’s claim that the Bible and Jesus advocated for socialism. If Mormons are socialists, then evangelicals are too. It is odd the left is suddenly so interested in Mormonism now. Harry Reid, a Mormon Democrat, has been the Senate Majority leader since 2007. Mo Udall, also a Mormon Democrat, ran for President against Jimmy Carter in 1976. The left has never had a problem with their Mormonism.