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Mormons and Socialized Medicine

What should Latter-day Saint’s position on socialized medicine (or socialized anything) be?

I always look at what the brethren have said in general conference and there have been a number of statements on this subject made from the pulpit.

The apostle Ezra Taft Benson said:

No true Latter-day Saint and no true American can be a socialist or a communist or support programs leading in that direction. These evil philosophies are incompatible with Mormonism, the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Conference Report, October 1961, p.74

President David O. McKay expounded on the why:

Every collectivist from Karl Marx to [the present leader] has agreed that faith in God must be destroyed before socialism can take over.

Conference Report, October 1966, p.5

Let us not be deceived by those who equate Christianity with socialism — they are incompatible.

Any Mormon familiar with our history and doctrine sees socialized medicine as unconstitutional as such programs entail government take-over of liberty and property. Elder Marion G. Romney explained:

Socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property and the division of the resultant income equally and indiscriminately among the entire population.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 ed., Vol. 20, p. 895
Conference Report, April 1966, p.95

President Obama is on record saying that the Constitution is flawed because it fails to address social and redistributive justice (if you need documentation for this just put the following words into a search engine: ‘obama’ ‘constitution’ ‘negative’ ‘liberties’). Since our current president feels that the federal government needs to be empowered to abridge our constitutional rights, (for our own good of course), we should be doing all in our power to fight Obamacare.

Elder Benson gave us some instruction on how to go about it:

Fifth, each priesthood holder should use his influence in the community to resist the erosion process which is taking place in our political and economic life. He should use the political party of his choice to express his evaluation of important issues. He should see that his party is working to preserve freedom, not destroy it. He should join responsible local groups interested in promoting freedom and free competitive enterprise, in studying political issues, appraising the voting records and proposed programs, and writing to members of Congress, promoting good men in public office and scrutinizing local, state, and federal agencies to see that the will of the people is being carried out. He should not wait for the Lord’s servants to give instruction for every detail once they have announced the direction in which the priesthood should go.

Conference Report, October 1961, p.75

I realize there are those who may view socialized medicine as a charitable act that should be supported. I urge you to examine the issue more closely; as responsible thinkers we must recognize that medical care does not exist in unlimited quantities and that those who practice medicine spend many years and dollars learning their profession. Socialized medicine by necessity takes away medical professional’s freedom to practice medicine as they choose. It dictates the treatments they must offer, the manner in which they provide those services, and what they can charge for their work. This is just one way constitutional freedoms are abridged by this legislation, and you can read hundreds more in the 2,700 pages of Obamacare. (And you have fun with that — our entire standard works total 2,476 pages!)

What we are witnessing is nothing new. Elder Benson expounded on how unconstitutional ends are achieved. (Note the similarities in the terms he cites from the past…they are almost a carbon copy of those used today persuade us to vote our liberties away):

During the first half of the twentieth century we have traveled far into the soul-destroying land of socialism… In this retreat from freedom the voices of protesting citizens have been drowned by raucous shouts of intolerance and abuse from those who led the retreat and their millions of gullible youth, who are marching merrily to their doom, carrying banners on which are emblazoned such intriguing and misapplied labels as social justice, equality, reform patriotism social welfare.

Gospel Ideals, p. 273
Conference Report, October 1961, p.74

In conclusion I cite the first prophet of this dispensation, cited by Ezra Taft Benson in that same talk:

It is significant that 118 years ago this month the Prophet Joseph Smith, after attending lectures on socialism, made this official entry in church history: “I said I did not believe the doctrine.

History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 33

Those who oppose socialism are regularly accused of being heartless, cruel, and many other unflattering names. This is done on purpose to guilt the freedom-loving into giving up their liberties. If you stand against socialistic measures you should count on being impugned — it comes with the territory. Let’s just be the happy warriors befriending and standing up for the U.S. Constitution.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Jettboy July 22, 2012, 8:28 am

    Amen! What more can be said? Of course you know what the response is going to be if there is one. They will bring up the United Order and Consecration, and that stuff. What they just can’t get in their heads is the difference between private and government institutions in implementation. And they can’t seem to grasp the concept of free will participation and coerced legal actions.

  • Amy Lockhart July 22, 2012, 10:34 am

    Amen! and Amen! Thank you for this post, and its following comment, truly. If only there were some way to force it upon the nation, but then it wouldn’t work now would it.
    Amy Lockhart recently posted…The Power of LiteratureMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith July 22, 2012, 10:40 am

    Jettboy, the audience here at Mormon Momma tends to be far different from that at T&S. The general response will likely be more yours with the opposition coming from outliers. Unless, of course, a progressive links to the post. 🙂
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…The Happiness Advantage – 5 Easy Steps to a Happier LifeMy Profile

  • Martin Holden July 22, 2012, 3:12 pm

    The problem with this post is that you are using quotes from church leaders, (which may be personal viewpoints and all of are quite dated) about socialism and not health care. The term “socialised medicine” is a loaded term. It is not seen that way in most other countries, In the UK the National Health Service ( national because it caters for everybody regardless of race or income) is supported by all parties. non-socialist as well as socialist. To non-americans it seems strange that the US is about the only “first” world country that doesn’t believe it can afford to provide free health care for those that cannot afford it. To us it is not about socialism but about providing equal health care to all that require it. Again in Britian I have never heard any member want to get rid of it. I suspect that most members in countries that have national health care would not want to change it.

  • DavidH July 22, 2012, 3:37 pm


    which of the above statements may still be found on lds.org? Which of our living prophets or apostles have made similar statements?

    What does “socialized” mean for the purposes of the quoted statements?
    Does it include socialized police forces, fire fighters, public streets and highways, libraries? What about public school? Or what about private schools receiving taxpayer provided “vouchers”?

    I assume the condemnation of socialized medicine applies to Medicare and Medicaid, which are socialized in the sense of being taxpayer funded. Therefore, no true LDS can support Medicaid or Medicare.

    What about LDS is all the industrialized countries with “socialized” medical systems? To be good members, should they advocate moving to a completely private system?

    Alison, no one linked to this, just saw the post on ldsblogs.org.

  • OAK July 23, 2012, 8:15 am

    So we trade chickens for health care treatment as one republican candidate in Nevada suggested last election cycle? Don’t have that many chickens!

    If we were paying the health providers instead of large health care executives that would be one thing but the way US health care is set up it exploits the sick and needy. It is a modern secret combination. Is a modern day health provider a socialist set-up? Using a couple of conference statements from 50+ years ago from a former member of the John Birch Society as a basis for this idea is silly.

    Some of the Elders of the church interpose personal political beliefs into conference and other talks . While it does not happen as often as it used to, it still occasionally surfaces. The leadership of the Church is mainly white, american, businessmen and they bring their politics with them. It is a world wide church and postings such as these reflect the Utah centric view of a few members.

    Whatever happened to the outwardly wonderful radically thinking that characterized the Church in its early days? Progressives and patriots banding together for liberty for all.

    Now its wrapped up in election pay for play on TV. Cue the patriotic music and flag while we tell another lie about “socialism” or democrats or republicans or independants. And while I am ranting, lets not get into the latent and hidden racism that permeates the LDS church in the US.

  • MB July 24, 2012, 9:29 am

    Elder Benson, who had been seriously involved in the political world before he was called to be an apostle, was very concerned about the socialism and communism that developed in Russia and Eastern Europe during his lifetime. The greatest concern he had was the devastating effect it had on freedom of religion, its authoritarian control over people’s agency to work in their chosen professions, and its insistence, in it’s then extreme forms, that the existence of God be denied.

    It is a mistake to take the label “socialism” from Elder Benson’s words and decide that its definition is the current proposed and legislated changes in our nation’s healthcare. That is too great a leap.

    I am not in favor of the above legislative changes as I am convinced that there are wiser and more effective ways to take care of the needs of those who cannot afford good medical care, but I in no way consider the current changes to be “socialism”.

    Throwing around labels without taking care to study exactly what that label means and what you are throwing it at can lead to panic and dogmatism where it is not needed.

    A side note: I remember when President Benson was called to be the president of the church. I listened carefully to every conference talk he gave after that. I was surprised and impressed that from that point on he never, once, spoke on the topics of communism or socialism from that pulpit or in his first presidency messages. The mantle seemed to have changed his focus profoundly. I learned from that too.

  • Amy Lockhart July 24, 2012, 10:00 am

    And this is how we are deceived into giving our freedoms away. Obamacare has little to do with “taking care of the needy” and much to do with limiting freedoms, taking private property and making it subject to governmental regulations, redistribution of wealth through taxation and other means, and much, much more. Unwillingness to see things for what they are leads us down the slippery slope that is socialism in its fulness.

    America was founded on different principles than any other country. Moves toward “social” programs and “big brother” government fixing all, and providing all, in “fairness”, is quite simply moving away from those principles which make America America.

    We are guaranteed the PURSUIT of our own happiness, not the granting of said happiness by government deciding what will make us happy and how it should be doled out. When you take over any portion of a persons life they begin to believe they can’t do it on their own. You are left with a country that “needs” so many programs in order to vicariously live for its citizens, that it can not possibly financially provide. Then you beg borrow and plead from nations than would be giddy to see your demise all in the name of “helping”.

    America is based on, and was built upon, people knowing they can do it all on their own. That’s my America.

    What we truly need is less government, much much less, and plenty more blood sweat and tears to pursue our OWN happiness.
    Amy Lockhart recently posted…The Power of LiteratureMy Profile

  • MB July 25, 2012, 6:40 am

    Whether or not I agree with the premise of Michael’s post, there is one thing about it that concerns me, and that is the first sentence:

    What SHOULD Latter-day Saint’s position on socialized medicine (or socialized anything) be?

    The use of the word “should” makes it clear that the author thinks that in order to be a good latter-day saint, or at least in order to be considered a correct latter-day saint, that person must have arrived at a certain political decision. That implies that anyone who is a member of the church who does not agree with that certain political position is lacking.

    The sad thing is that such thinking is divisive and causes the thinker to judge the righteousness or accuracy of his fellow saints, either judging them as failing to see what is true or judging them or considering them sinners (intentional or not) for failing to see what he sees. And I strongly believe that such thinking, be it in a family, a branch, a ward, a stake or a church, makes it more difficult for us all to create Zion and the unity of fellowship that God requires of us.

    The gospel requires that we love one another and come to a unity of the faith, but does not require that we come to a unity of political belief, nor does the church. We may disagree with each other’s political positions, mildly or strongly, but we tread on divisive ground when we start thinking that in order to be a true latter-day saint, a fellow church member’s political thinking should be like our own.

  • Amy Lockhart July 25, 2012, 7:58 am

    Great point. I agree wholeheartedly. There is no room for judgment of people for different ideas. I did not see that as you did in the initial post. Not that it’s not there, it just wasn’t what I was focused on.

    I do think that a great many people are completely unaware of the dangers that accompany Obamacare and many other things he has done, and is planning to do, in office. I am friends with, and love dearly, many that are completely on board with the government taking over in “fairness”. It’s frustrating to have conversations with said individuals due to the misgivings they have regarding what they are voting for and agreeing with. That is my limited experience and not a collective statement towards all people that believe in his methods.

    I do believe that Obama thinks we would all be better off if we just saw it his way and swallowed his gigantic pills so he could take over. I am one that would like to see the governments sticky fingers get out of a great many things. Obama seems to see himself as somewhat of a savior. He believes he can save us all from ourselves, that he is doing it for our own good, and that he just knows better than we do. We’ll all bow down and thank him later, we just need to vote for it all now and not worry about what it means. He is visibly irritated when he gets caught with a real question that he clearly does not want to answer.

    When it comes right down to it, I think both sides want the same thing, they just have very different methods. Since the beginning there have been these two great conflicting ideas; force vs agency is no new concept. Many I know see government takeover as the law of consecration. I say that is a heavenly law and cannot work when brought about by force. The only reason it works is because you have people giving of themselves freely, with no thought of power, fame, fortune, or otherwise.

    There is currently a great deal of that mentality and helping others in our country, it’s just not seen, as the goal for those people is not to be seen, it’s simply to live a genuine life. What is seen is a government willing to solve all your problems, fix everything, give everybody what they deserve according to their idea of things, and in general just take care of it all. It sounds so lovely unless you are willing to think of the ramifications. There are always strings attached and the consequences that come always remove agency in some way.

    America was built on freedom and working hard, incredibly hard, in the pursuit of our own happiness. Challenges and extremely difficult times were plenty, that’s just part of the deal. We cannot expect to keep our freedoms and have the government take our worries, it just doesn’t work.

    No matter what any of us believes we are no less of a mormon or child of God because we see things differently. Thanks for the post MB.
    Amy Lockhart recently posted…The Power of LiteratureMy Profile

  • PDN July 25, 2012, 9:31 pm

    I, too, (as MB so eloquently stated) believe that rhetorical speak about any political dogma that asks “What should Mormons think about….?” is divisive and unhealthy. As also has been stated in a previous comment, I too long for the days of Joseph and Brigham at times. They were radical thinkers; they were raw (and sometimes reckless and even mistaken). So unlike our modern, whitewashed, “the-thinking-has-already-been-done-so-don’t-ask-questions” way of being. I don’t believe it’s God’s will either.

  • Michael J. Snider July 26, 2012, 1:52 pm

    Some responses to various comments…

    To Martin Holden, who said: “The problem…is that you are using quotes…which may be personal viewpoints and all of are quite dated”

    MS: If the conference library held only a few quotes like the ones I cited I might agree with your “personal viewpoint” stance. The problem is that there are literally hundreds and they all align with each other perfectly on constitutional issues. As far as being dated – there is no shelf-life on doctrine presented in conference talks.

    and… “The term “socialised medicine” is a loaded term. It is not seen that way in most other countries.”
    MS: I don’t know how “loaded” it is. Call it any number of things from single-payer, to government-run health care, the fact remains that when money is taxed or taken from some to pay for others’ health care, it’s socialized medicine. In any case, the U.S. Constitution is part of our scripture as well as the General Conference canon. However, the constitution only applies to U.S. citizens, so if those in the UK wish to support it I don’t see any conflict.
    – – – –
    To DavidH, who said: “What does “socialized” mean for the purposes of the quoted statements? Does it include socialized police forces, fire fighters, public streets and highways, libraries?”

    MS: The functions you mention are not socialist in nature. You confuse government services that we all share in, (no matter what the level of usage of each), with government takeover of an industry that consists of private transactions for individual services. While it’s true that “socialization” exists in varying degrees of any government service, what I refer to is that socialism entails the limiting of choice where it previously existed, often accompanied by the enslavement of professionals where govt. bureaucrats determine salaries, limit services, etc. (Go talk to any of the multitude of Canadian doctors who came to practice in the U.S. to escape the socialization of their profession.)
    – – – – – – –
    To OAK, who said: “Using a couple of conference statements from 50+ years ago from a former member of the John Birch Society as a basis for this idea is silly.”

    MS: I’m surprised at the comments on older conference quotes. Exactly what is the expiration date on doctrine presented in general conference talks?
    Re: Pres. Benson’s Bircher roots:
    A) When Benson was a member, it had not yet morphed into a racist organization and he left when it did.
    B) Bensons’ Bircher roots apparently didn’t negate his worthiness to become God’s prophet..I guess it didn’t bother the Lord as much as it does you.
    – – – – – – –
    To MB, who said: “Elder Benson…was very concerned about the socialism and communism that developed in Russia and Eastern Europe… The greatest concern he had was the devastating effect it had on freedom of religion”

    MS: The ACA contains provisions requiring employers to provide birth control in their health plans. I would call that a pretty devastating effect on our religious freedom by a bill that is very socialist in nature.

    “Throwing around labels without taking care to study exactly what that label means and what you are throwing it at can lead to panic and dogmatism where it is not needed.”

    MS: Your implication that I have not studied socialism is unfounded and, in my opinion, unbecoming someone who wishes to be taken seriously.
    – – – –
    To Amy Lockhart, who wrote: “Obamacare has little to do with “taking care of the needy” and much to do with limiting freedoms, taking private property and making it subject to governmental regulations, redistribution of wealth through taxation and other means, and much, much more. Unwillingness to see things for what they are leads us down the slippery slope that is socialism in its fulness.”

    MS: Well-put!

  • MB July 26, 2012, 9:09 pm

    I apologize. Your post seemed pushy to me in tone and I found that unbecoming as well and responded with a bit more bite than I should have.

    As to the provision requiring abortion coverage in insurance. I am aware of that and also aware of the numerous law suits that have been filed by religious organizations in response to it and its treading on religious liberty. I look forward to watching the outcome of those legal challenges. It is certainly not the first time that our nation’s legislature has blindly trod upon religious freedom in its enactment of legislation in our country’s 236 year history. It has happened numerous time and been fought against fiercely each time, sometimes quickly and sometimes very slowly. This is another of those fights.

    And I will continue to maintain that one provision of a piece of legislation does not make the whole thing fall into the category of socialism.

  • MB July 28, 2012, 9:09 am

    And if you are interested, here’s some recent information on the progress of one of those suits:

    http://www.becketfund.org/private-company-wins-challenge-to-hhs-mandate/ is a report from the law firm, the Becket Fund, onyesterday’s win of a preliminary injunction against the HHS Mandate, in favor of a private, for-profit company, run by a family which tries to conduct its business according to religious principles:
    “In [a]… ruling today, Judge John L. Kane Jr., a senior federal district judge (appointed by President Carter) in Colorado granted a preliminary injunction on behalf of a religious for-profit company challenging the HHS mandate. Granting the preliminary injunction prevents the federal government from applying the HHS mandate against the company.

    The law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom, represent the Newland family, who were the victors in today’s court ruling. Twenty lawsuits against the HHS mandate remain.

  • Martin Holden July 28, 2012, 11:41 am

    You can see how proud the Uk is of its National Health Service from the emphasis on it in the Olympic games opening ceremony. Socialised well in the same way that education and defence is. Perhaps you should try and encourage your government not to be engaged in such activities, fancy using your taxes for the benefit of others! How terrible of a government to do that. I repeat to us it seems strange that the US is about the only “first” world country that doesn’t believe it can afford to provide free health care for those that cannot afford it. The US constitution may be inspired but it is definitely not scripture. I am not aware of any church leader making that claim.

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