Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mormon Culture -- Pioneer Day & "Welfare Mentality"

I read the Facebook feed of a FB friend, I have never met this individual but I know he is a fellow political junky. This friend had decided to commemorate Pioneer Day by posting the following:
"our pioneer ancestors would be ashamed at our welfare mentality."
This produced some jeering agreement, one commenter mentioning "immorality" in Zion (he is a Mike Lee supporter, so maybe he is referring to those not supporting the one-true conservative, constitutional expert for Senate) and some decent with KVNU and Amicus blogger Tom Grover bringing up the United Order and the law of consecration. Tom's inference that the law of consecration and the United Order are akin to welfare, raised a fair amount of debate and disagreement. Some commentators arguing that the two are completely different, and others argued that tithing is the church portion of the law of consecration and the providing for the poor portion of the law has been replaced by government welfare programs through taxation. One argument made mentioned that millennial consecration will be administered by the government, which was countered by a "actually it will be administered by the church" which should be realized (according to the Mormon canon of scripture) that church and government will be one and the same in the millennium.

This debate spurred this internal question: Do Mormons believe it a sin to seek or receive welfare?

Judging from the pious indignation that some commentators on this feed showed, and some comments I have heard made in the communities of "Zion" where I have lived it would sure seem like it. What does "our welfare mentality" mean anyway? I have always believed that we are to have compassion for the poor and the needy -- isn't that the point of welfare, government or church administered? It can be ceded that the LDS church welfare system has a very wise "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" approach -- while much of Federal welfare remains focused on the giving of the fishes. However, the fact remains that both systems serve the purpose of helping the poor and the indigent.

Although I agree that government welfare is in fact different from the law of consecration (although my unrighteous mind can't quite wrap around the idea that everyone will share everything we have without any compulsion, but I also don't support Mike Lee for Senate and therefore am a stubble candidate). As I mentioned in a earlier post, I think many LDS church members need to examine their compliance to a commandment that Christ identified as the second greatest -- LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF. Members of the LDS church here in Utah (self-included) are quick to become myopic in their view of the gospel focusing on some pet commandments or self-imposed dogma (i.e. the commandment of self-reliance, having the mother not work in a family, or the twelfth article of faith) rather than remembering that our observance of commandments needs to be all encompassing -- even the ones (like loving thy neighbor) that require the flexing of a lot of Christ-like muscle. Like Eve, we need to look to the spirit of the commandments rather than, like Adam tried in vain to, be myopically bound to the letter of the law. It is good to self-reliant, but it is not good to condemn those who are unable to be self-reliant (temporary or permanent) for using welfare that is available. The Church of Jesus Christ recognizes this as they maintain one of the most impressive welfare programs in the world, and members who are overly pious about their self-reliance need to realize this as well.

I choose to commemorate Pioneer Day differently -- I believe our pioneer ancestors would be quite proud of the people of Zion. Welfare is available to all when the need arises, and, as the last couple of years has shown, no one is immune to being needy or wanting at sometime or another in their lives. I'm grateful for welfare, church administered or governmental, because it is there to catch me and any of my neighbors when the floor falls out from under us. Most people in Zion do there best to be self reliant, and our church has become a world leader in providing welfare for the poor by helping provide temporal needs in the short-term and educating the needy for job skills necessary to attain self-reliance long-term.

On the other hand. If you are a LDS church member, needing welfare may likely reveals one sinful aspect of that members life -- not following the admonition of the prophets to have a years worth of food storage. There I admit that.

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