Tuesday, March 15, 2016

An Evil Unchecked: Warnings from the LDS Church on Income Inequality

“One of the great evils with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. The very liberties for which our fathers contended so steadfastly and courageously, and which they bequeathed to us as a priceless legacy, are endangered by the monstrous power which this accumulation of wealth gives to a few individuals and a few powerful corporations. By its seductive influence results are accomplished which, were it more equally distributed, would be impossible under our form of government. It threatens to give shape to the legislation, both State and National, of the entire country. If this evil should not be checked, and measures not be taken to prevent the continued enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and the painful increase of destitution and want among the poor, the nation is liable to be overtaken by disaster; for, according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the sure precursor of ruin.”

These words, penned in 1875 by the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, rings prophetically true today. In defense of a political cooperative organization, the leaders issued this statement specifically to the Church, encouraging the members to sustain this institution and its purposes. The leaders condemned “large profits…being concentrated in comparatively few hands, instead of being generally distributed among the people” which they regarded as a great evil. They encouraged fixed prices, reasonable profits, and “the determination to sell goods as low as possible.”

Of course we should all earn the money that we make. But you cannot convince me that two parents working full-time are somehow not working enough to feed their children. You cannot convince me that a college instructor with two degrees and working full-time should be on food stamps. You cannot convince me that the vast majority of Americans – 99% of them – are not working hard enough to improve their quality of life, especially when productivity has increased over the past several decades. 

But this is reality.

I don’t advocate taking from the rich and giving to the poor. I don’t advocate laziness, or greediness, or slothfulness.

I advocate a system that awards income according to effort. I advocate a system that allows people the opportunity to make their lives better. I advocate a system that puts families first, not profits. I advocate a system that believes that, given the chance, people will surprise us.

“Co-operation has submitted in silence to a great many attacks. Its friends have been content to let it endure the ordeal. But it is now time to speak. The Latter-day Saints should understand that it is our duty to sustain cooperation and to do all in our power to make it a success.”

In 1875, the leaders of our Church recognized the evils that we see today.  It's time we do something about it. 


For more information on the background of this document and for the full-text, check out Mormon Chronicles. 

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