Thursday, May 30, 2013

Skousen vs. Nibley: Personal vs. Social Responsibility

If you are not a Later-day Saint, you may not know the names W Cleon Skousen or Hugh Nibley. Then again, if you are a student of ancient scripture or the US Constitution you might.  Skousen and Nibley were prolific LDS writers.  

Skousen wrote a variety of US Constitution-based books that Glenn Beck has recommended everyone read.  Skousen's books include "5000-year Leap", "Cleansing of America", "Naked Communist", "Naked Capitalist", and "The Making of America".

Hugh Nibley, an LDS apologist, wrote on Ancient Scripture and Religion. However, one particular book "Approaching Zion" discusses the issues of social justice.

Very Briefly, the point of this blog is in response to a question about how LDS should rectify conservative vs. liberal thought? On one hand we have the Conservative Skousen whose writings talk about personal responsibility and limited government.  On the other hand we have Nibley's book "Approaching Zion" that stresses our social responsibility to care for the poor. Zion is a religious ideal of a society were there is "no poor among [us]" (Deut 15:4) (Moses 7:18). 

So, the question is how do we rectify personal responsibility with social responsibility?

Personal vs. social responsibility can be rectified when we realize that helping the poor is a personal responsibility and should not be a government program. Helping the poor is best administered through families and the church and NOT the state. When the state doles out welfare there is little accountabity. In many cases there just is a check in the mail.  State-directed welfare often enables slothful and destructive behavior. However, when individuals, families and the church help the poor there is more accountability and those thst help and those who are helped rejoice together.   There is nothing better than helping your fellow being and seeing them progress via that assistance.  With state-directed welfare there is very little if any progression and no joy for the giver or receiver.

It is a less well-known and unfortunate fact that building orphanages creates more ophans.  But this fact doesn't mean individuals don't have a personal responsibility to help the fatherless.   Helping the widow and the fatherless in their affliction is "pure religion" according to James in the Bible (James 1:27).  Unfortunately, the US has turned welfare (the business of religion) into a government program. Government needs to get out of the business of religion.  

On the flip side of the coin, religion needs to do its job better.  First, religion needs to teach and expect virtue from its adherants.  Virtuous behavior like chastity, honesty and sobriety would prevent much of the need for welfare in the first place.  Second, churches can strengthen and support families in taking care of their own members and caring for those individuals who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

Again, when it comes to rectifying personal and social responsibility, helping the poor is a personal responsibility.  Each of us have a sacred duty to serve and care for each other. However, this assistance is best administered through families, religious, and private organization and not by the state where enemies of the state can use welfare programs as a political weapon to buy votes, create dependance, expand the power of the state, and finally bankrupt the whole institution.

But until the poor are taken care of by individuals, families, and churches; they will, of necessity, rely upon the state.  It is my opinion that our best hope is not to cut the poor off but to care for the poor in such a way that they no longer need the state. 

We can best rectify conservative personal responsibility with liberal social justice when we realize that helping the poor is a personal, family and religious responsibility (pure religion) and not to be a government program administered by the state.  Religions need to better do the work of religion (charity and virtue). Only then can the state get out of the business of religion.

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