A non-member friend whose husband was Mormon asked me why so many Mormons are right-wing Republicans when Democrat’s policies of caring for the poor seem more in line with Church doctrine. My friend knows the Book of Mormon is loaded with references to caring for the poor including Mosiah 4:21-22 which not only tells readers to “impart of the substance that ye have one to another,” but condemns people who judge those asking for aid. The Doctrine & Covenants is full of commandments to share our property including the statement, “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.” (49:20)
Of course, the Book of Mormon is also replete with prosperity promises, “And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper . . . .” (1 Ne. 2:20) The Doctrine & Covenants also promises prosperity for obedience, “Do this thing which I have commanded you, and you shall prosper . . . .” (D&C 9:13)
Human propensity to ignore the less appealing and emphasize the more attractive probably explains many Mormons’ emphasis on the prosperity rather than the sharing doctrine. I can’t help wondering if scriptural prosperity promises are linked to the radical right-wing politics of many Mormons.
For several years a right-wing, pre-Tea Party family lived in our ward. The Lintons were devout Mormons with a large family, a stay-at-home-mom, and a dad with a low-paying job. Although they had children in their teens, they lived in a rented duplex. They had moved to Utah from California. The economy was not bad at that time, and I never learned why they were in straitened circumstances. Was it a failed business venture? Lack of job skills? Had they fallen for a scam? Was it Brother Linton’s poor social skills?
Because they were commandment-keeping Mormons, I suspect they felt entitled to a prosperity that eluded them. The Lintons were outspoken in their hatred of government and resentment of paying taxes to help lazy welfare recipients. Apparently, they believed that taxes kept them poor, although I doubt they paid much income tax considering the size of their family.
I know other families like the Lintons who suffer economic hardship although they attend church, pay tithes and offerings, pray, and hold family home evenings. A selective reading of Mormon scriptures may give them a false sense of entitlement causing them to blame government for their failure to achieve economic sufficiency.
A person who meticulously obeys the commandments of her church, but does not receive the promised blessings is in a tough spot. She can’t blame the church she believes in—that might get her in trouble with God. Blaming herself or a loved one is unhealthy. The government becomes the fall guy—not a bad solution—unless one believes that accepting personal responsibility is essential for personal growth.