Friday, October 10, 2014

Mormonism, Liberalism, Conservatism

Mormonism, Liberalism, Conservatism
A Discussion with R. Davis & R. Hancock

Which way?

R. Hancock

Introductory thoughts on The Liberal Soul: Applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Politics

The Meaning of “Liberal”
· Moral virtue, self-mastery, moderation
· “Liberality” expansive, open to others, communal

Liberalism in American Tradition combined these: Moral Self-Government

Moral self-government depends on shared morality of larger community
· Freedom requires limits, moral framework
· Freedom without limits is not freedom, but radical individualism

Conserving Liberalism
· American Liberalism became its own worst enemy by rejecting defining limits of liberty
· Liberal generosity of spirit severed from traditional moral foundations
· 2 rejections of the limits of liberty – limited constitutional government sacrificed to boundless confidence in bureaucratic state
· Liberty as moral self-government
· Relativism

Bob Dylan: “A self-ordained professor’s tongue…(Eric Clapton)”

The Reign of “Equality”
· Pierre Manent (the adjective “equal” has overwhelmed the noun “liberty”)
· Equality as spiritual ideal = perfect community, ZION?
· But removed from moral & religious context, equality has no content, no rudder

Liberalism as Equality minus Moral Liberty
· Modern liberalism vs. limited constitutional government
· Zion grounds equality equality in moral & spiritual UNITY: ZION works from the inside out (the state works from the outside in)

Critique of The Liberal Soul
· Challenge is not that we have too much confidence in traditional morality
· Counsel from Apostles and Prophets clearly contradicts the New Liberalism
· E.g. Family Proclamation, Elder Oaks, Elder Christofferson, etc.
· “A God who makes no demands…” – Christofferson

To love liberty truly is to embrace the true boundaries... To love liberalism well, one must love it conservatively

R. Davis

(For a prior discussion of his book, see here.)
Practical Political Scientist
Practical, Welfare, Economic State Liberalism – In Line with the Gospel
Church’s mission: “Care for the Poor and the Needy”
Government as a supplement to caring for the poor and the needy / Government is a tool
Church welfare system vs. Government welfare system - Complementary
Family and Community Resources / Church welfare system is a supplement
Enormous burden to the Church without the government
Goods: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Grants, Loans
Embrace economic liberalism rather than opposing it
Ezra T. Benson (speaking as an individual, not espousing Church doctrine) / Cleon Skousen
We accept services from the government, but say that government is bad
Social Justice = Idea that we treat other people at an equal level, considering those who are most vulnerable to get the most attention, women, religious minorities, racial and ethnic minorities, homosexuals (LDS were considered a persecuted minority before)
How will government policies help the poor?  How do we balance the playing field?
“I am not being dogmatic… I have seen the opposite though.”
Diversity, celebrate political and other aspects of diversity
“Be sensitive” to those who are liberal
“Tone” – venue, time for political discussions
The Liberal Soul is an attempt to fill a hole… to show that there are other people that think differently (Left) – open discussions

Hancock and Davis

- Shared truths, common ground
- Both against extremist economic libertarianism (Glenn Beck, Cleon Skousen, etc.)
- Democratic Party and Republican Party (economic, and political)
- How can you be a Democrat and be LDS? (A question that Davis responds to in his book)
- Social issues
- Self-Reliance, moral self-government cannot be taught by government (Hancock)
- LDS are much too complacent about the pursuit of wealth as a way of life

Questions from the audience

- White middle class – tendency toward Republican party?
- Church welfare system is so effective, why? More effective than overarching welfare system by the government, too large, detached?
- Transparency in government?
- What do you think that the government or Church welfare systems could change to improve the care of the poor?
- Do you know of any particular points in the Republican platform that go against Church doctrine? Davis' response = Gun control, Republicans are willing to be neglectful of the poor

A couple of thoughts from Church Leaders that came to my mind:

- "Now, lest I be accused of proposing quixotic global social programs or of endorsing panhandling as a growth industry, I reassure you that my reverence for principles of industry, thrift, self-reliance, and ambition is as strong as that of any man or woman alive. We are always expected to help ourselves before we seek help from others. Furthermore, I don’t know exactly how each of you should fulfill your obligation to those who do not or cannot always help themselves. But I know that God knows, and He will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
- “Even with the universally accepted desire to help the poor and needy, the Lord concurs in our goal but warns, “But it must needs be done in mine own way” (D&C 104:16). Otherwise, in our efforts to help, we may actually hurt them. The Lord has taught us the need to promote self-reliance. Even if we are able to help, we should not give or provide what they can and should do for themselves. Everywhere it is tried, the world learns the evils of the dole. Truly God knows best.” - Elder Stanley G. Ellis
- “This peer pressure tries to change a person’s attitudes, if not behavior, by making one feel guilty for giving offense. We seek respectful coexistence with those who point fingers, but when this fear of men tempts us to condone sin, it becomes a “snare” according to the book of Proverbs (see Proverbs 29:25). The snare may be cleverly baited to appeal to our compassionate side to tolerate or even approve of something that has been condemned by God. For the weak of faith, it can be a major stumbling block.” - Elder Lynn G. Robbins

See here for Professor Richard Davis' follow up response in the Deseret News.
See here for a response by one who considers himself to be a Mormon Iconoclast.

Concluding thoughts:
-A lot depends upon one's view of human nature
-For an interesting prophecy from a non-authoritative source, see here

Hanging by a thread?

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