Dennis Potter on Liberation Theology

in my continued reading of the book “Discourses in Mormon Theology” (ed James McLachlan), covering several topics from the initial 2004  conference of the Society of Mormon Theology and Philosophy (SMTP), I cover an article by Dennis Potter (UVSC) on Liberation Theology.

Dennis gives a generous overview of what Liberation Theology is.  He focused on the events of 4 Nephi, where the people had their hearts knit together in unity, sharing all things in common, and having no poor nor rich among them.  Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?  People coming together as a mandate from God to share all things and erasing poverty from the earth.

And it is a mandate. Sort of. As we are asked to consecrate ourselves in the temple to the Lord and his service.

Unfortunately, Dennis only gives a part of the story on Liberation Theology. For example, he states that Catholic priests in Latin America were deeply involved in Liberation Theology in the 1970s.  What he doesn’t mention is that these priests largely connected into Liberation Theology by embracing communism.  Some priests were integral in the communist Sandinista overthrow of Nicaragua.  Dennis doesn’t mention that one of Pope John Paul II’s first trips was to Latin America – to excoriate those priests and call them back into their proper order of serving and teaching Christ.  The Pope ended up relieving many priests of their duties, defrocking many and excommunicating some.  They had replaced the worship of Christ as central to their religion with Liberation Theology based in communism.  In his remarkable history, former Jesuit priest Malachi Martin wrote in “The Jesuits” that when the Pope arrived in Nicaragua, only one priest met him at the airport.  The Pope chastised him publicly. When the Pope arrived for his discourse to the people, the backdrop was not a giant cross (as was the norm for papal visits), but a sign praising the Sandinista government for bringing the Pope to Nicaragua. As the Pope began to speak, intent on condemning communism, crowds of Sandinistas with loudspeakers led the crowds in deafening chants of “God bless the Sandinistas for bringing in the Pope!”  The Pope was frustrated, because no one could hear him.

Interestingly, Pope Francis seems to speak frequently of concepts found in Liberation Theology. Is this a revival of the Latin American love affair with it?

There are four general times when Liberation Theology has been attempted in known history.  First, with the people of Enoch. They required centuries to achieve a Zion state, and then were translated prior to the Flood, during a time of great wars and danger.

Second, was the “millennium” of the Nephites that Dennis references frequently in his article. Their success at Liberation Theology succeeded, but only after a near destruction and a personal visit by Christ. Even with such experiences, this lasted only 2 centuries, followed by a major degradation from civilization into barbarity and annhilation.  Not what one would consider a long term success story.

In the 19th century, several groups attempted Liberation Theology through communalism.  Communes cropped up in many groups, including Mormons and Shakers.  Within a few decades, most of these attempts ended up in failure, and sometimes disaster, as peoples chose their own selfish paths over freely giving of everything.

Of course, the biggest effort toward Liberation Theology has been the institution of communism. Efforts to have society/government force Liberation Theology upon the people have historically failed, as we can see with the bankrupt collapse of the Soviet Union, and the restructuring of Chines and Vietnamese communism to include private property, free markets, and capitalism.  At best, Europe has attempted to implement partial social reforms, with limited success. However, issues arise due to hidden costs and the reality of selfishness and corruption, as we see many of these countries restructuring their medical programs, and seeking to avoid bankruptcy.  As was said by a famous British politician, socialism works great until you run out of someone else’s money….

Even in the Doctrine and Covenants, we see that Zion is not fully realized until the world is in great chaos and danger. Section 45 tells us that “those who dwell among the wicked who will not lift their swords to fight, must needs flee to Zion for safety.”  It seems, as with Enoch’s Zion and the Nephite Millennium, Liberation Theology only becomes possible when the people are in dire straits and are forced to be (and remain) humble.  Even with the Millennial Zion, we read that it does not last. For Satan is released for a season, dissolving the perfect Zion and creating new chaos and Gadianton barbarism. He raises up armies of Gog and Magog to fight Christ’s people in the last day.  It appears that the destruction of the Nephites may be just a small act compared to the final battles for civilization.

So, while I applaud Dennis Potter for his hope for a Zion people through Liberation Theology, it appears to be a very complex and difficult thing to realize and maintain.  And there are many apostate alternatives in the world that seem enticing, but actually end up in tyranny, collapse and misery. I would hope that as we discuss Liberation Theology in the future, we not only look forward with hope to Zion, but also be well aware of the dangers and pitfalls that await those who do not implement or maintain it properly.


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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

34 thoughts on “Dennis Potter on Liberation Theology

  1. I think it would be great if we could have more of an emphasis among Church members on (a modified sort of) “Liberation Theology”. In other words, more emphasis on assisting the poor, cooperative dependence, and improving people’s lives in this life as well as preparing for to meet God. To me, Matthew 25 as well as Jesus’ other teachings in the Gospels gives us a guide to how we should be acting towards others in this life. From what I have seen, the rising generations are far less likely to avoid such an approach on dogwhistle grounds of “communism” or “socialism”, and I think that overall that will be a good thing for the Church.

  2. Remember the plan offered by God and the counter-offer of Lucifer weren’t two completely different plans just different means to the same end. They both involved returning to God, one was with faith and the other was with force. Lucifer was cast here and is still trying to implement his plan of forced consecration through any “ism” that is not according to Gods will. As an example of one counterfeit, communism forces all to be poor together, liberation theology is another. Only Gods plan in priesthood covenants made after the Order of the Son of God provides for both our wants and needs.

    I take joy in knowing that i’ve made a covenant of consecration with God and he has enough faith in me to allow me to try his promise in my faithfulness to our covenant.

    Repentance is awesome when done daily!

  3. ron, what you are missing is that we are not living the law of consecration today. Liberation Theology, when executed right, is living consecration. As in 4 Nephi, it means no longer having any poor nor rich among us, having all things in common. It means there are no more “ites” of any kind, but simply are the people of God. King Benjamin states that we turn no one away who asks, and even if we cannot give, we say “I would give if I could”.

    In the Doctrine and Covenants, it states that we are to have all things in common, and give to the poor according to his “wants and needs” – not just his needs.

    The thing is, we fail miserably in this, and so are living the law of tithes and offerings, a terrestrial law, not a celestial law. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both attempted to achieve a perfect consecration, for Brigham it was in the United Order – a form of communalism. ZCMI came out of that communalism, where the theocratic government tried to provide a department store for everyone to use.

    That we do some great things with welfare, bishop’s storehouses, and charities, is great. But we still have many poor among us. We have storehouses because there are poor in our Church, especially in the Third World. And it isn’t going to go away anytime soon, as we are not giving enough to fully provide for their needs, much less their wants.

    Satan’s plan was not to lead us to God, but to himself (Moses 4:1-4). And that is why communism, socialism, and communalism have failed so far – they have not caused the people’s hearts to be knit together in Christ. As for Liberation Theology, it is something we as LDS need to ponder upon. We must liberate the poor in spirit by bringing them the gospel, and liberate them from poverty by feeding them, educating them, and helping them obtain good paying jobs that pay for a comfortable life.

  4. Rameumtum, I hope we dont talk past each other.

    Satan wanting Gods glory was to be his reward for forcing our return to God, both plans were to return us to heaven.

    Liberation theology is an “ism” because it is a term made by man and makes no mention of Gods Priesthood. It can help us understand consecration indirectly but its not the real thing.

    Tithing is not a substitute for consecration. Tithing is a law that runs the church and runs parallel to fast offerings. Tithing will never be repealed. The measure of ones fast offerings shows the extent one lives the law of consecration. Give till it hurts then give some more because growth doesnt happen until one is streched.

    Christ continually taught that we need to live in such a way as to see that the kingdom is already present. If we wait for a church program to create “no poor among us” it is a lazy way to live the gospel.

    Heres a recommendation, next time a homeless guy walks up to you and asks for a handout dont tell yourself you pay your tithes and offerings, listen to the spirit and give him what he asks for. That person could have been an angel in disguise testing you or you could have been his savior on mount zion, the potential is limitless.

  5. Force is the issue. Goverments use the threat of imprisonment or punishment up to and including death to enforce their laws. Religion is limited to softer persuasion except where the religion and the state are one which can be much worse than state alone, as witness Saudi Arabia etc. The communist states have either co-opted or banned religion. We are currently on the brink of the same thing happening in the US as religions face punishment if they don’t comply with various agendas such as same-sex marriage.
    States seem to reflect the worst characteristics of the people who lead them. The same can be true of religion, but where religion is primarily a voluntary operation where leaders are not compensated according to the number of members they are able to bring into their congregation it is more likely that better desires will be reflected.
    A study that showed that in most of America the more one earns the less of a percentage one gives in charity also demonstrates that more religious areas reverse the trend. In Utah and Millard Counties particularly wealth and generosity go hand-in-hand.
    This seems to demonstrate that the Gospel truly is a means of bringing about greater charity. Ultimately trying to force someone to be charitable is futile

  6. I believe there is a spiritual law or line: 1) I cannot injure another person’s spirit. I can only injury my own. 2) I may use appropriate force to prevent evil (harm) to myself, my family, and my people without injuring my spirit. 3) I may not use force to make another person do or be good without injuring my own spirit. This being true, liberation can never come by a mandatory tax of any kind. Mandatory is just another word for force. The good person who votes to “socialize” even a single person who is unwilling is exercising unrighteous dominion and the spirit will withdraw. A good person may vote to create a program to which we could contribute willingly to provide food, clothing and housing for the poor or a medical services safety net and that would be a good thing. But the very moment we vote to require another to contribute against their will the spirit is grieved and our own spirits are injured; during this wounded period confusion, darkness, and ultimately apostasy will ensue if left unhealed by a return to Christ. The only reason we don’t see the consequences immediately is because of God’s mercy, the light of Christ, and personal probationary timescales. But when seen on Book of Mormon timescales it becomes apparent. We see the lure in the principle of helping the downtrodden, underprivileged, etc. and applaud the early “success” of communism and European socialism without seeing that the violation of the spiritual law of agency is the flaw that turns the short-term successes to bitter failure; first communism and eventually and socialist program.

  7. The primary problem with Catholic Liberation Theology is that it substituted secular action to relieve poverty, for the Gospel, in other words, it placed temporal concerns above spiritual ones. Obviously the Church tries to alleviate poverty through charitable works, but it has never been the Church’s function to dictate forms of governance or economics.

    It also tried to invert the Church’s authority structure by asserting that the Gospel needs to be reinterpreted “through the eyes of the poor”, which in practice meant that groups of laypersons, called “base communities”, were to get together and reinterpret the Gospel for themselves and invent their own forms of liturgy.

  8. I make note that former ‘nacle blogger Roasted Tomatoes (and his wife), who, if I correctly remember, advocated Liberation Theology, and ran the blog “Latter Day Liberation Front” formally left the church. If I correctly remember his notice, SSM and female ordination were among the issues.

  9. “ron, what you are missing is that we are not living the law of consecration today. ”

    I once made a most solemn commitment to live the law of consecration. Was I not supposed to take it seriously?

    We are not living in the United Order, which is a scheme for implementing the law of consecration in small agrarian communities. I do not know if there is an equivalent for a large data-connected industrial community, but if so, the Lord has not yet revealed it. I nonetheless regard myself as under sacred obligation to give anything the Church asks of me. At the moment, the Church is asking me for tithes, fast offerings, time spent in callings, time spent home teaching, &c. and I’m doing my best to give these things.

    I think an understanding of the Law of Consecration that turns virtually every faithful member I know into an oathbreaker needs to be reconsidered.

  10. KGB, I have to agree with Ram’s use of “Law of Consecration.” I too seem to remember hearing GA’s say the Law of Tithing replaced it when earlier saints could not live the United Order.

  11. I think KGB has a good point. Further, consecration does not simply mean giving our means and time. To “consecrate” something is to dedicate it to something greater; to make it holy by its use. To live the law of consecration, I must ask myself if I have dedicated my mind, heart, physical energy, and focused completely on the Lord and serving through the means offered in His church. Am I truly dedicated with Christ as my center? Does that show in my thoughts, my emotions, and my actions? If so, then I am living the law of consecration. Because my priesthood leaders have not asked for the deed to my home or the title to my car, therefore I have not given these things, does not mean I am not living the law of consecration. In fact, if they wanted these things to build up the kingdom of God on the earth, I would be quite willing to give them. Meantime, when I am asked to spend some hours preparing a lesson, or give of my time to help a fellow ward member, or even if not asked, if I reach out to bless and bring Christ’s love into another life, I am living the law of consecration.

  12. I work with several Catholic individuals, and they started talking about Pope Francis and Liberation Theology. It was fun seeing this post shortly thereafter.

    This is the first and great commandment, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, might, mind and strength.

    Whenever something else (no matter how worthy) comes between us and God, that is bad.

    And killing people to make them be “charitable” is also always a bad thing.

  13. Rame, I think you know that I actually lived in Nicaragua as a reporter in the 1980s. There are a few points that are important to consider re: liberation theology. It was not just about consecration and people sharing stuff. Priests involved in liberation theology also, on occasion, advocated violent overthrow of various Latin American governments and actively worked with left-wing revolutionaries in the 1970s and 1980s. There is evidence that some priests actually took up arms. In addition, they completely abandoned the law of chastity and ignored dictates from Rome.

    There was a tremendous struggle between the Catholic church in Nicaragua led by Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo and liberation theologists. I actually went to Catholic mass led by the Cardinal several times, and he was a much more traditional Catholic obviously. Cardinal Obando y Bravo preached the importance of helping the poor *voluntarily.* He demanded that his flock, which included many of the rich people in Nicaragua, *voluntarily* give of their time and money to the poor in Nicaragua. He rejected government force in achieving “equality.”

    It is worth pointing out that the left-wing Sandinistas (who were opposed to Obando y Bravo and were supported by the liberation theologists) all became rich once they got into power. They forced many rich families from the country and then confiscated their homes and businesses. The Sandinista political system was based on keeping the new leaders in power, not in truly helping the poor. So, in effect, the liberation theology types helped create a system of new rich tyrants oppressing the poor. As the Who sang, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” So much for helping people.

    From a Mormon perspective, it is not that far afield to see priests embracing liberation theology as the Kate Kelly and John Dehlins of their day. They were in conflict with the Catholic church, not supporters of it.

  14. Geoff, I was hoping you would add your take on Nicaragua. Malachi Martin writes in detail about exactly what you stated, with priests taking up arms and violently supporting the Sandinistas.

    As for the Law of Consecration, I should have stated that we are not, as a Church, living the Law of Consecration. Individuals do seek to live it as best they can, as individuals. However, we should ponder: does the command Jesus gave to the rich, young man to sell everything and follow Christ, applicable to us? If so, why do we still own homes, cars, and computers? If not, why not? Consecration means you are actually turning everything over to the Lord, not just saying you are willing to do so when He asks for it. Again, it is because the Church is not living the law of consecration completely.

    Historically, Joseph and a few others were commanded to live communally in consecration. The people dwelling in Missouri were also expected to live it, but failed to do so. So the Lord gave them tithing as a replacement until the people were ready to live the full law of consecration (via some vehicle like the United Order). Tithing is a terrestrial law, one will not be burned at His coming if they pay tithing means they are not telestial – or those who will be burned.

  15. In the Great Council, only one plan was put forward, God’s (Abraham 3). The only question God asked is, “Whom shall I send?” It is on this issue that Satan tried changing the plans to meet his own goals.

    For Satan, he would have God’s honor, meaning he was essentially replacing Him as God. The ends justify the means.

    What Satan and many Christians do not understand is that for God, it is all about relationships. God prepared a plan so that through our relating with Christ (through faith and repentance), we could return to God. Existence only occurs or is experienced via relationships. A child cries, expecting someone to come to her aid. We seek to excel, hoping for our parents’ approval. If we do not get love at home, we may find it in other relationships, including gangs, etc. According to the philosopher Levinas, it is how we relate to the Other, whether that Other is God or another being.

    Even God exists or grows due to relationships. Consider the Godhead, while each is a separate being, they are One in love and relationship. Heavenly Father has a Heavenly Wife. As God has children and they become gods, his kingdoms and authority expand – God changes and grows. The doctrine of Christ is for us to become one, so we can join Christ in the Godhead’s relationship (2 Ne 31, 3 Ne 11, John 17). James Faulconer wrote on these concepts in the same book (Discourses in Mormon Theology), and I will be discussing them more in a few days.

    So, Satan’s plan was to destroy relationships, and to be an autonomous ruler over all.

  16. Geoff:

    You write, “From a Mormon perspective, it is not that far afield to see priests embracing liberation theology as the Kate Kelly and John Dehlins of their day.”

    Well said.

  17. Pet peeve but we should distinguish between various implementations of the United Order and our covenanting to consecrate. While the Church doesn’t ask much beyond callings and tithing, that doesn’t mean we haven’t agreed to consecrate more. And on our own we should be doing more.

    Liberation theology does seem highly flawed. But then so too do some members focus on markets to do the gospel’s work.

    I didn’t know RT and his wife left the Church. That’s sad. Dennis left the Church some time ago. I should note that he always had fairly positive views of communism even when he was at BYU with me. I disagreed with him, but I also tend to agree that we often make communism into more of a boogey-man than it deserves.

    As a practical matter though our nation really is failing in terms of providing the necessary structures for the poor, disenfranchised and those oppressed. (Usually by our government) Now I personally favor conservative solutions for this. However the reality is that the party most associated with conservatism, the GOP, has a base that often seems rather disinclined to worry about these issues or apply conservative principles towards them. (Thus the popularity of the most unconservative candidate in decades: Trump)

  18. Rameumptom (9:39) I know I’m being a bit pedantic. I agree with the thrust of what you say. I’d just say that we’re always in relationships just that often those relationships aren’t loving or ethical (in Levinas’ sense). So I don’t think it accurate to say Satan wants to destroy relationships. Rather he wants to replace healthy relationships with unhealthy ones.

    Rameumpton (9:23) Again I’m being pedantic but this relates to what I said in my earlier comment. We’ve agreed to consecrate everything to God. What that means in practice is all that is ours is God and we should so act. Maybe the Church doesn’t formally ask for our things, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t God and we shouldn’t be asking for it. I think you’re conflating various United Order experiments with consecration. I think that leads to confusion. Rather we should be acting on our own and living up to our covenants without being asked. So you’re right it’s more than being willing. But I don’t think consecration entails Orderville like experiments.

    Geoff (8:32) I think Catholic Priests have often been much more politically active than we are comfortable with. Catholicism has often been a kind of quasi-shadow government and of course historically an outright government. Well meaning people have used this. And of course evil people have used this. i.e. the Borges.

    Latin America seems trapped between the poles of a false dichotomy. What gets called capitalism is usually crony capitalism with no government services for the poor as is the case in our country. (Where we assume all parts of a city should get plumbing, equal police protection, schooling, etc.) I think Liberation Theology was caught up in recognizing the wrongs in many of these second and third world countries, wanting to change it, yet not doing so in a good manner.

    As you note, what often happens when the revolutionaries take power is that they maintain crony capitalism, give the appearance of helping the poor, yet in practice the overall structure of society doesn’t change much. This is why George Orwell (a socialist himself) wrote Animal Farm. The pigs become the farmers.

    All that said, I think we should be careful not to confuse the abuses of liberation theology with the theology itself. We might say the theology opens up the opportunities for abuse more. But we might also say that United Orders incentivize free rider problems within our own history of communitarianism.

  19. i agree with Geoff that Dennis Potter seems to have inverted the definition of Liberation Theology from the 70’s and 80’s. I remember the 70’s and 80’s quite well. (i think I’m older than Geoff).

  20. “However the reality is that the party most associated with conservatism, the GOP, has a base that often seems rather disinclined to worry about these issues or apply conservative principles towards them.”

    I’m not sure I’m seeing this myself. There are, for example, fairly good statistics showing that GOP members contribute significantly more per capita to private charity than Americans as a whole.

    I associate this kind of disinclination more with the Ayn Rand flavor of libertarianism.

  21. While giving to charity is great, the giving to charity doesn’t resolve structural problems and in many cases doesn’t target the people in most need. The problem is that many in GOP demonize inner cities rather than try to help it. It’s not just Randians. I think applying conservative principles to these problems are important but they tend to be very far down on the priorities of most in the GOP.

    So this is really a different issue from selfishness or thinking they deserve it. Rather it’s priorities. I do agree it’s a bigger problem with libertarians although there are libertarians that do worry about this sort of thing. (The blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians is a great example of that)

  22. I’ll be happy to demonize inner cities at the drop of a hat.

    The people trapped there, I have a lot more sympathy for.

  23. Clark, I agree with you. You are being pedantic. 😉

    Seriously, as individuals we can seek to live consecrated lives. That said, I see most members more involved in discussing consecration than living it. Those who pay tithes and offerings and fulfill their Sunday School callings often believe that is the extent to the charitable giving and works they need do to live a consecrated life.

    How many of us tend to think we’re consecrated enough? Like the conservatives you lecture that do not give sufficient assistance to the inner cities, LDS often turn the other way in the same manner. I spent almost 17 years serving in the inner city of Montgomery and Tuskegee Alabama,starting the missionary work among the blacks, and trying to get members to step up and help the new poor black members. You can’t imagine how many times I was asked why the poor couldn’t pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, get their own transportation to Church, or home/visit teach themselves – so the white members (including RS presidencies) wouldn’t have to enter the poor areas of town?

    I do not see most members foregoing the new laptop or IPhone 6, and giving those funds to help the poor, instead. Instead, I see Mitt Romney spending tens of millions of dollars on a new home in California – funds that could have sent a lot of poor kids to college or created long term jobs for them.

    I do not see many members offering to give free classes to the poor in their areas of expertise. I see few who offer to mentor members in their wards/stakes, who are struggling.

    When we say personal consecration is to give all to the Lord, do we spend the time pondering how we are using our time and money? I think it becomes a cop-out for us to say we live consecrated lives, but then declare we are waiting for the Church to command before we give. Such is being a slothful servant (and I admit to being that myself). I see us spending more on getting stuff and vacations than on true consecration.

    I am a Libertarian. I am not a follower of Ayn Rand. I am more in the realm of Rand Paul, who has gone to Detroit, Ferguson and other places to discuss what we can concretely do to eliminate poverty and improve opportunities for the poor.

    So, the Church does not require church-wide consecration at this time. Otherwise, we would be turning over our homes, autos, computers, bank accounts, and food storage over for potential use by the Church. However, if we are to claim that we as individuals are living consecration, then perhaps we should spend more time in considering how well or poorly each of us is doing?

    I do see the importance of helping the poor. I do not think we can be saved without lifting up as many as we can, whether they struggle spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, or financially. Sadly, I think most of us choose to think that paying tithing is sufficient, when it is not.

  24. Why do so many people worry so much about how others handle their money, and condemn them for their choices with the condemnation disguised as religion? Let every person help his or her neighbor as he or she sees fit. And let every person be kind to his or her co-religionists.

    I salute those who want to drive to the inner city to give Sunday rides to prospective members — may God bless them. And may God also bless those who don’t, as they do the best they can.

  25. Rameumpton,

    Mitt Romney apparently donated his entire inheritance to BYU, then made his own fortune. Be careful with the cheap shots.

    This may be of interest:

    It appears Utah is notably good in giving opportunity to poor children. Of course, there’s always a lot of room for improvement.

  26. Old Man, while Rand Paul likes Ayn Rand, he is very different than she is. He’s not advocating eliminating government. He is a Christian and is not opposed to using some government. He is more of a Constitutional libertarian, while she tended towards being an anarchist libertarian. There are major differences.

    I understand that members do many good things in charity. That said, I believe few are ready for the big sacrifices that will be required to live some form of consecration on a church or national level. Clark noted that today’s charity does not help with structural issues, and he’s right. Just feeding the poor does not lift them up. Eisenhower’s highway system, a structural issue, opened up the nation to provide jobs for many people – something that could not have been done without a large organization to accomplish it.

  27. Rameumptom, one of the many character flaws I have to work on. LOL. I’m just never sure when it’s worth bringing up the little caveats.

    The issue of when we’ve consecrated enough is a tough one. Usually there’s more we can do. The classic philosophical argument along these lines is Peter Singer’s coat and drowning child:

    You see a child drowning in a pool. You can jump in and save the child but it’d ruin your new coat (or iPhone or some other expensive item). Of course we all say we should adopting the principle of “if you can save a life without sacrificing anything of moral significance you ought do so.”

    But once you accept that principle we see lots of kids around the world dying and we aren’t willing to give up those items. Or, moving beyond life threatening ethics, there are lots of kids without enough to eat, or without good parental structures etc.

    It’s hard to say for most of us in a middle class lifestyle that we couldn’t sacrifice more. Yet we don’t. Why don’t we?

    So I agree with what you say. Heck I’d be happy people just going beyond callings/tithing. I think we will be held accountable for all of this.

    JI, I think we ought worry because the scriptures tend to judge and condemn communities and nations rather than individuals. While it’s great if we as an individual do more, that simply isn’t enough.

    Rameumptom, while Ayn Rand makes me shudder (seriously, just read Nietzsche if you want that sort of thing rather than Rand’s incoherent views) it must be said that few who say they are influenced by her really are willing to adopt her views. I think they like the romanticism of the artificial world she’s set up even if in their heart of hearts they know it is a lie.

  28. Clark, great thoughts.

    I like what C.S. Lewis said in regards to giving to others: We should do it until it begins to hurt. My wife and I try to take that course with fast and other offerings. Every year, we discuss where the “Ouch!” factor kicks in a little bit, and then discuss whether we can do a bit more than that.

    I also agree that the scriptures, and especially the BoM has the Lord looking at the covenant community. Yes, there is a place for individual covenants, however God blesses and curses according to what the entire group is doing overall. This is why King Mosiah noted, in changing the government, that the majority would generally choose righteous things, unless they had become wicked – at which time they become ripened in iniquity and ready for destruction.

  29. It’s tricky because I earnestly think we need downtime and relaxation. However we’re so rich we probably do put too much money on entertainment. So when I criticize, I criticize myself. While I try to help others I’ll be honest that I certainly could do more. Does my house need flowers outside? Do I need that book? Yet I buy them.

    I don’t think I’m being excessive, but where do we put the point? Saying, “give until it hurts” isn’t sufficient I think. Because often the issue is we aren’t planning or budgeting carefully. So for the typical family, given debt and expenses, I bet a $20 fast offering would hurt. But the reason it hurts is because they haven’t given up other things.

    Again, I’m partially calling myself to repentance because I know I could do much more. But then simultaneously I’m not sure beauty and learning are bad either. So how do we balance.

    I confess I did much better at the balance game when it was just me. Since I have had kids it seems like I spend much more on my family than I do charity.

  30. I live in the neighborhood in Utah in which most of the relatively modest homes were built more than 50 years ago. Some of the original residents still remain and lend assets of wisdom and experience to our ward. As this generation has passed away their homes have been purchased by young families who apparently intend to make these modest homes their permanent residences. Smaller house payments mean that mothers stay home to raise their children. They usually have more children than families in the more opulent subdivisions where a second income is often seen as necessary.
    I believe this represents a form of sharing that would not be comprehended by those who do not understand a premortal state where spirits wait to receive bodies.
    Brent Gardner uses the term ‘aggrandizers’ to describe Nephites who began to wear costly apparel and disdain the poor. I am more familiar with the term ‘conspicuous consumption.’ This can even apply to those who make sure their charity is publicly acknowledged. Fortunately our church makes it possible to give privately so that our alms are not ‘seen of man’.
    There is a temptation to judge others. However we cannot know what obligations and burdens are born quietly without appeals for relief or help.

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