I’m sure you’ve seen this: [Report on purported talk in Stake Conference by a Stake President in Sandy, Utah. I have no idea if the notes of the talk are accurate or the talk itself even happened as reported. But there have been no denials. And I have certainly heard these same sentiments expressed by LDS Church members in less formal settings and certainly all over the internet.].
This is a great example, a Mormon example of what Thomas Frank in his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas” calls the Plen-T-Plaint. Here is his definition:
…Everything seems to [anger] conservatives , and they react by documenting and cataloging their disgust.”He continues defining the plen-T-plaint as:
A curious amassing of petty, unrelated beefs with the world. Its purpose is not really to evaluate the hated liberal culture that surrounds us; the plen-T-plant is a horizontal rather than a vertical mode of criticism, aiming instead to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on. The plen-T-plaint winds us up. If offers no resolution, simply reminding us that we can never win.
Using that explanation, this talk is almost a perfect example of the genre. That most of this is untrue, or highly colored isn’t important. That for example, we didn’t choose Socialism over Capitalism isn’t really important. Nibley pointed this out in “How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book.” The important thing is creating an atmosphere. One could go on and on documenting the many ways this Stake President gets things wrong, or the ways in which his vaunted capitalism has manifestly destroyed the American economy. The wars conservatives have started, or the torture they’ve endorsed. The irony that their hatred of Hollywood doesn’t extend to their one of their own - a master of the very violence on film the Stake President so seems to hate, who, when he shows up to the Republican National Convention and speaks to an empty chair, they can hardly contain their glee. But this would be a waste of time.
It’s not that I totally disagree with what was said, I disagree with the cause. I don’t agree that most American are takers, at least those who voted for Obama. We didn’t vote, those of us who did vote for the President, for redistribution but economic fairness. Redistribution has been occurring for the past thirty years and is factual when you view the world in terms of the haves and have not’s. The "haves" have been influencing, tax cutting, job shipping, profit maximizing, deregulating and outright influence peddling their way to the type of wealth concentration not seen since before the great depression. And this at the expense of those who cannot afford to have a high-priced lobbyist in D.C. making sure that this or that regulation is not passed, or their taxes are cut or that they get that big fat government contract with no oversight (thanks Halliburton). Who’s making sure that your local bank isn’t giving loans to dead people? Who’s making sure that the local oil rig isn’t actually cutting corners to get that extra crude out of the ground to make a little extra profit that you as the consumer will never see. And when that rig dumps a few billion gallons of crude into the Gulf, Oops. It goes on and on. Why was that never brought up? Why are the poor and the needy and the sick and the afflicted the takers in this man’s apocalyptic universe? Why are they the lazy slackers and it’s not the guy from Halliburton, or BP or Goldman Sachs. Why isn’t it Mitt Romney? A man who systematically vulture capitalized his way to hundreds of millions.
Why does this man get to quote Helaman 5:2 indicating that the people choose evil rather than good and not put that in context? The context of his speech makes it seem that the Nephites were guilty of the same things we are guilty of. But not so. What were they guilty of? Well back up to chapter four. It was because of the abominations among the church:
And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—Helaman 4:11 - 12
They oppressed the poor, they withheld food from the hungry, they were proud. The lesser evils were their moral crimes listed last. This man lives in an upside down world, an world more influenced by his conservative thinking than the Gospel he’s supposed to be preaching.
Where, in this address is the indictment of pride? Where the indictment of gain or greed? Where the indictment of power or popularity? It’s not there. Of the four things Nephi says will destroy a people he misses three of them, or they are mostly present in others although he does acknowledge them in his Stake, at least the lusts of the flesh, Nephi’s fourth. (See 1 Nephi 22:23) But it’s clear from the text that our problems, as he sees them, mostly come from others. Actually he’s simply glowing about his Stake.
Why should I be surprised? I realize that I have great need to repent. I acknowledge the great evils in the world, that we live in a moral cesspool. The Gospel solution proposed by Joseph Smith was to repent and come out of the world, and to invite all who desire to come out to join us. We can’t consistently keep one foot in the world and one foot in Zion. But the LDS have always temporized in this, at least since they were forced out of Nauvoo. We have always wanted it both ways. Since the Stake President was fond of quoting General Authorities to bolster his case I can’t help but quote Brigham Young “Some of the Latter-Day Saints had an idea that they could take the follies of the world in one hand and the Savior in the other, and expect to get into the presence of the Lord Jesus.” Perhaps I should tie all of this up with Moroni:
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But . . . Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. . . . For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. (Mormon 8:35, 37).
That pretty much sums us up.