Who teaches the teachers? Social In-Justice at BYU

Warning for all you non-religious types… I’m about to exercise my first amendment right and share my secular and religious thoughts based on my personal beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and quote a couple scriptures and LDS church authorities below in support of my beliefs. Naturally all of this article is my own opinion and I’m not speaking for the church. Just in case anyone might get confused about that… ;)

Periodically someone asks me a question like this: “how does this ________ nonsense get into our children’s schools?” Lately I’ve had that blank filled in with social justice. It seems to have gained an unfortunate sympathetic ear among people because they think it’s about helping the poor, when it reality it does just the opposite. There’s a load of articles on the web about how various Common Core players and organizations have come together to promote social justice through the curriculum and assessments they have developed. This article will not focus on those elements, but on the misguided concept of social justice.

A couple weeks ago, someone sent me a link to an article from BYU’s Frontier magazine which is an online magazine for alumni of their college of physical and mathematical sciences.

In the Fall 2014 issue on page 18, you’ll find an article entitled “Solving social injustice one math problem at a time.” The article is about Dr. Kate Johnson in BYU’s Math Education department and her background and experiences which lead her now to entwine social justice into her math teaching.

As if it isn’t hard enough for children to do word problems on new concepts, lets add social justice into the mix so they can feel the plight of the poor and downtrodden and learn about how evil capitalism is.

Now some parents might want this type of class for their child. They might say, yes, I want my college child well rounded by wrestling with these issues in math class instead of laser focusing on the theories and functions of math so that when they go to teach little children, they can help them understand how the rich are evil and the poor are oppressed. Love live the Communist Manifesto!

News flash: This style of teaching isn’t going to improve math education, nor will it fix social injustices. Social justice is the gospel of envy, not Christ’s gospel of love.

It is abundantly true that the scriptures teach us to take care of the poor. However, in each instance, the Lord is commanding people to take care of the poor as a matter of free will, using our agency in an individual charitable endeavor.

Lets get started.

Here are relevant quotes from the Frontier article about Dr. Johnson (emphasis mine):

“Through struggling with how to handle the hard questions her students raised about the world, Johnson realized that math could help them sort through the many differing points of view. The way this is done is through typical math tasks, like a story problem, but the subject of that story problem would be sharing wages in a sweatshop rather than sharing crayons in a classroom.

“The ultimate goal of teaching math for social justice is to help kids better understand the world around them in conjunction with math,” Johnson said. “Students are going to talk about those issues whether or not we give them math as a tool to do so, and so to me, we should be giving them math as a tool to think and talk about those issues so they can see the utility of math and so they can make stronger arguments.”

“I’m interested in teachers’ identities, as it pertains to mathematics teachers, particularly in the context of teaching math for social justice,” Johnson said. “So basically that’s like teaching math in contexts that help bring to light social issues in addition to teaching key math principles. If that’s the way you are going to teach math, then how does your race, gender, class, or awareness of your privilege play a role in the way you teach about those topics? Basically, when you state it broadly, I’m interested in how who we are shapes what we do as teachers.”

I realized that teachers are learners too, in part because I got student teachers and I just started to become interested in the kinds of things they needed to know in order to be productive math teachers,” Johnson said.

I wanted to broaden my impact,” Johnson said. “When I was a high school teacher, I used to say that I was teaching the world one deaf student at a time, and then when I went back to school to be a teacher educator, I said teaching the world a little more than one kid at a time. Because if you impact one teacher, it will impact more children that way, and teaching math through social justice to those teachers will bring about greater social change.

This article in Frontier is all about this particular teacher and I’m not publishing this to get her in trouble because she certainly isn’t by any means the only teacher educator doing this. I just felt compelled to expose what is happening in our schools of education where teachers are taught and ultimately comes to your children’s classrooms. Many of the educators in BYU’s Education and Math Education departments embrace John Goodlad, Bill Ayers, and Linda Darling-Hammond’s left-wing philosophy on social justice. They have attended workshops, joined their organizations, read their books, and even presented at their conferences. I believe the year was 2006 when BYU even hosted Goodlad’s NNER conference. Here’s an ad from just a few years ago for Goodlad’s conference to teach teachers how to implement social justice and the GLBT agenda in your children’s classrooms.

John Goodlad's NNER advertising a teacher training. Also note the GLBT training for teachers.
John Goodlad’s NNER advertising a teacher training. Also note the GLBT training for teachers.

Social Justice 101

So what is social justice? I found this awesome 5 minute video online that explains this concept really well. I particularly loved the statement by the U.N. that if you believe truth and justice are concepts independent of their agenda, you are essentially an enemy of social justice. Truth is so overrated…

I periodically engage in discussions online with people who espouse that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor and that the government is well within its rights to do this. But they fail to remember one core principle of our government which is that it was established by the people, for the people, and of the people. When the people created the government, we delegated to government the ability to do certain things we have a right to do ourselves in order to make those things more efficient. I have a right to defend myself and my property so we created a sheriff and the military to protect those things on a larger scale so I can focus on other things. On the other hand, I don’t have a right to go to my neighbor’s home and take $500 from him and give that money to someone else I know is needy, so I can’t get government to do that for me and keep my hands clean of robbery. Frederick Bastiat called this “legal plunder” in his classic work, “The Law,” when people use government to do things to others that they can’t legally do themselves.

These people further claim that the scriptures and Christ’s teachings justify redistributing the wealth. But what did Jesus teach?

Did Jesus go to the Romans and ask them to exact a tax on the rich to help the poor? No.

Did he go to the Sanhedrin and ask them to do likewise? No.

He told the rich young man to go sell *what HE had* and give it to the poor.

He watched the widow cast in her 2 mites and announced that she had given more than all the rich yet didn’t mention how evil the rich were for not caring for her needs.

Did he organize a redistribution effort among his church? No. He taught compassion, charity, and to put away our jealousy and envy.

The gospel is one of individual responsibility with individual mandates to care for the poor. We have no right to force someone to salvation by making them take care of the poor and in so doing, create just the opposite effect within the breast of those whose compassion we need.

What does our progressive taxation system do? We say if you make X amount of income, you pay 15% taxes. If you make up to Y, then you pay 28%. And so on up the ladder. The more you make the larger the percentage you pay. What does that do to a person who makes more money?

  1. It can destroy their ability to be very charitable.
  2. It makes them feel like they are already giving more for social programs and they don’t need to do more individually.
  3. It destroys the entire holy principle of charity because those with wealth don’t have the opportunity to *give* someone money. It’s taken from them and they never see the needy people it helps, thus causing them to not have their hearts moved with compassion on the plight of the poor. Social justice ROBS the rich of this critical enrichment activity.

What was the Lord’s plan? 10% whether you’re rich or poor? A fascinating contrast, don’t you think?

The very people who want to have the wealthy to have compassion upon the poor have erected a system that prevents it from being possible. They have created a system of hatred where the rich feel taken advantage of. Where did this progressive taxation idea come from? The father of modern-day envy, Karl Marx, a co-author of the Communist Manifesto. This document is the exact opposite of the God-inspired U.S. Constitution. Only in an atmosphere of liberty, can the gospel of Jesus Christ thrive. Personal choices are paramount to the gospel plan. When some seek to overthrow that plan by focusing on social justice instead of God’s justice, and enact man-made systems of charity instead of God’s perfect system of charity, they mingle the philosophies of man with God’s perfect plan of salvation for his children and corrupt society through vanity.

Think about this…some people are born into wealth and some into poverty. It is a social injustice, but it is not injustice on the part of our divine creator who has a perfect plan for each of his children. His plan is to exalt his children and bring them back into his presence. In some instances, that necessitates trials of wealth, and for others trials of poverty. Each individual is born into this world with their own unique challenges to deal with but it is their own personal plan of salvation that God crafted for them. Under no circumstance does the wisdom of man exceed the wisdom of God. We should stop trying to serve the Lord in the devil’s way. Only the gospel of Christ can provide the spiritual salvation God’s children need.

In the April 2010 General Conference of the LDS church, Elder Todd Christofferson said it well.

“In a complete reversal from a century ago, many today would dispute with Alma about the seriousness of immorality. Others would argue that it’s all relative or that God’s love is permissive. If there is a God, they say, He excuses all sins and misdeeds because of His love for us—there is no need for repentance. Or at most, a simple confession will do. They have imagined a Jesus who wants people to work for social justice but who makes no demands upon their personal life and behavior.”

If I may offer an interpretation of what he’s saying… The people had turned to wickedness but they thought that a collective salvation under the gift of God’s incredible mercy for his children would save all of them regardless of their personal choices. They made up a false Christ by imagining a God that makes no demands on our *personal* lives, yet they weren’t forced to comply with heaven’s mandates.

In the April 2013 conference, Elder Christofferson gave another great talk which included much about temporal redemption for the poor. In this talk he pointed out that sometimes when needs are more widespread, larger organizations may need to be involved when needs exceed the ability of individuals to personally take care of the problems.

“Some forms of temporal redemption come by collaborative effort. It is one of the reasons the Savior created a church. Being organized in quorums and auxiliaries and in stakes, wards, and branches, we can not only teach and encourage each other in the gospel, but we can also bring to bear people and resources to deal with the exigencies of life. People acting alone or in ad hoc groups cannot always provide means on a scale needed to address larger challenges. As followers of Jesus Christ we are a community of Saints organized to help redeem the needs of our fellow Saints and as many others as we can reach across the globe.”

Does the church exact a tax on its members to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor? No. The church teaches doctrine and invites people to participate in a gospel plan that helps the rich meet the needs of the poor. He concludes with this powerful statement.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to do all we can to redeem others from suffering and burdens. Even so, our greatest redemptive service will be to lead them to Christ. Without His Redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice. That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.”

In my own words, we have an individual mandate to help the poor, but if our own personal efforts to help the poor don’t actually bring them to Christ and redemption through his atonement, then the gospel is only a gospel of social justice which may give someone temporary assistance with their temporal needs, but does nothing to provide the ultimate redemption we all need.

In the recent October 2014 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey Holland gave a great talk on taking care of the poor as well. He pointed out that when Mary anointed Jesus’ head with the expensive spikenard and Judas complained that it could have been sold and distributed to the poor, Jesus rebuked him and said, “Why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work…She hath done what she could.”

Judas’ envy had got the better of him and he wanted that wealth taken from Mary and given to someone else. Perhaps he was jealous that he hadn’t saved his own money in the way Mary had done. Regardless of Judas’ personal motive, Jesus obviously knew that Mary’s choices were her own and she was choosing to do good in the best way she saw fit. Judas had no right to complain or to force Mary to sell her goods and give to the poor. As mentioned above, Jesus never told the government or the church to take from the members to give to the poor. He invites us individually to participate in the work of temporal and spiritual salvation.

Elder Holland goes on to clearly point out the individual mandate we have:

“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.”

Over and over again we are reminded that helping the poor must come from a personal desire to do so and not from someone elses compassion with other people’s property.

We also have this clear explanation in modern day revelation. From the Doctrine & Covenants, section 104 we read:

15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.

16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

The plan and the choice are clear. God wants the rich to take care of the poor to exalt the poor and humble the rich. But he wants it done by the use of agency. We don’t have any right to erect a system of force that destroys the agency of man. In so doing, we destroy God’s plan. God has a punishment prepared for the rich who do not turn their hearts to the poor when the Lord presses upon them to be compassionate. When government takes from the rich to provide for the poor, it is in essence proposing to guarantee God’s rewards upon the rich for so giving, yet no godly characteristic is formed in the heart of the rich because they aren’t the ones giving.

What should teachers at BYU be focusing on? In my opinion, they should be focusing on building faith in Christ in their students. When people come to Christ, they live His gospel and keep his commandments. The wealthy do help the poor and the people become of one mind and one heart. You can’t force that, but pure doctrine changes hearts.

If you want poor kids to excel and get better jobs, and overcome their life circumstances, teach them real math and stop distracting them. They need to compete in this world with those who may have had more advantages due to their wealth. If you are under the illusion this isn’t possible, watch “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.” It’s free on Netflix.

To teach the poor to look upon their situation as a plight may in fact lead them away from Christ as they question why a “fair” God has put them in their challenging circumstances. By gifting them envy instead of encouragement, we indoctrinate them in the doctrines of the devil. Instead we should teach all to have faith in Christ, solely. Social justice is faith in government that they will take enough from the rich to give to you to meet your needs. That is not the gospel.

Professors and teachers, do not suppose that you know better than the parents who have sent their children to you. Do not suppose that because you have those children in your care that you have permission to do anything contrary to grounding them in truth and building faith. Teaching is a sacred duty and where it is not a faith building, joyous experience in embracing truth, it is not of God.

In Doctrine & Covenants 105:5 we read, “And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself”

What is that law? The law of consecration, which is a choice to participate in. You cannot prepare people for life in a celestial realm by forcing them to do good and contribute to the causes you deem just through government intervention.

If an all-powerful God who could easily right the wrongs of society and compel men to provide for others, doesn’t interfere with our choice and agency here on earth because of Celestial laws, what gives anyone else the right to do what God Himself rejects, and impose on mankind compulsory systems of tyranny all in the name of brotherly love? We should probably stop second guessing God and start trying to mimic him.

49 thoughts on “Who teaches the teachers? Social In-Justice at BYU”

    1. This is why I have always said, how can church members vote for people who believe in social justice and other things that don’t pertain to the gospel? You can even take it back as far as the plan of salvation where Satan said I will force them to return, which clearly wasn’t excepted. Christ said let them choose for themselves, isn’t that called FREE AGENCY, that is was what was excepted, FREEDOM, NOT FORCE, why is this so hard to understand for some Latter day Saints? If this is what is being taught at BYU, well I guess my kids won’t be attending. Thank you for the article I will be printing it out and passing it around.

      1. Our church leaders don’t generally tell us how to vote. The church remains neutral in most political matters. Why is that? We our counseled in so many things; why not politics? It might be because the scriptures can be used to support a wide variety of political perspectives. You do realize that some prominent leaders have been rather liberal politically, don’t you?

        1. Pres. Marion G. Romney said this in April 1983 General Conference. If we actually came to a unity on core principles, we would be unified, politically as well as in other areas. You may also want to read his excellent GC talk entitled “Socialism is not the United Order.” (http://www.utahsrepublic.org/socialism-is-not-the-united-order/)

          “We of this Church can come to a unity and a oneness which will give us strength beyond anything we have yet enjoyed if we will obtain a sounder understanding of the principles of the gospel and come to a unity in our interpretations of present world conditions and trends. This we can do by prayerful study of the Lord’s word, including that given to us through the living prophet.
          This is the way to come to a unity. If we will study the word of the Lord as it comes to us through the standard works and through the instructions of the living prophet and not harden our hearts, but humble ourselves and develop a real desire to understand its application to us in our own peculiar circumstances, and then ask the Lord in faith, believing that we shall receive (see Doctrine & Covenants 18:18), all the while being diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord, surely the path we should follow will be made known unto us, and we will be able to face the world as a solid unit.”

          1. Here’s the most recent statement from the First Presidency. “Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties and candidates.” Coming to unity “in our interpretations of present world conditions and trends” doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be unified in how we vote or in what political party we belong to. Case in point: Marion G. Romney served in the Utah legislature as a prominent Democrat at a time, like today, when most Mormons were republicans. Surely, he wasn’t suggesting that unity in the gospel equals political unity in the sense of voting as a bloc or belonging to a single political party.

            Like I have said (lower on this thread) social justice is not socialism. Yes, you can trace the concept back to socialism (as Glen Beck does), but you can also trace it to other sources; it does not have a singular source.

            Also, the “FREEDOM, NOT FORCE” argument (above) is an oversimplification–as reductionist as Marxism. In civil society we try to achieve a some sort of balance (preferably with the balance favoring freedom). Unchecked freedom is a breeding ground for tyranny. That’s likely one reason why so many prophets in the Book of Mormon were opposed monarchy and why the checks and balances in our Constitutional government are so important. The king, with complete freedom to rule as he wishes, can just as easily be tyrannical (King Noah) as benevolent (King Benjamin).

          2. The way I take President Romney’s comments are that if we all truly understood the scriptures, our principles would come together and we would be unified. We wouldn’t be Democrats and Republicans, we would be constitutionalists who value the original intent of the document since it was inspired by God as the foundation of political freedom. Further, socialism and Marxism are all about taxing the rich to redistribute it to the poor. Everything you’ve been talking about regarding tax policy is simply socialism, which is not the United Order as Pres. Romney points out. You really should read his talk. It’s quite long and detailed.

            Teaching for social justice in the classroom as I wrote above in the post, is exactly what the Marxist’s in this country are trying to do. It is indoctrination. Regardless of what you or others may feel about having a different take on an origin, the result of doing it is the same.

            The Book of Mormon style government was a republic (Mosiah 29). Limited government, governed by law, with checks and balances. Not a Democracy. We see from King Benjamin to King Noah what a monarchy looks like under good and evil leadership, so they set up the reign of the judges and had political leaders and spiritual leaders.

  1. Hear! Hear! So, the question is: “How do national Common Core standards help advance the flawed notion of social justice?” National standards were written as data tags. Each standard is tied to its own metric. This allows for meta-data, including behavioral data, to be collected on each standard and each child. It’s quite a brilliant plan. Track how and what children think and believe, and then “individualize” (or engineer) their instruction and computer adaptive tests to change their attitudes and beliefs. Parents need to ask themselves, “Why can we no longer see our children’s tests, as we used to?” “Why do my children need 1-to-1 technology at school which makes it impossible for me to know exactly what real-time, updatable curricula and tests they are using?” It’s crystal clear. Social justice proponents have infiltrated our education system to the point that they are dictating federal and state education policy. And, children’s hearts are being turned from God in order to rebuild Babel’s tower.

  2. What an inspiring, articulate expose on the fallacies of social justice. I am moved and persuaded deeply by the points of truth regarding true charity, personal responsibility, and connection to Christ. Thank you, Mr. Norton for taking the time to share your inspiration. I pray that many will be persuaded to be their own, voluntary participants in caring for others God’s way.

  3. Oak,
    Thank you for this article. It is refreshing to see someone who understands that ‘the way things are’ is not necessarily the way the Lord teaches us to live. I especially liked the quotes you used from Elder Christofferson and Elder Holland.

    If anyone would like to read more about the paradigm-shifting concepts Oak wrote about, two of the best talks given on the subject are by Marion G. Romney (of the First Presidency in the 1970’s into the 80’s):

    -The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance (this one has been printed THREE times in the Ensign), https://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/03/the-celestial-nature-of-self-reliance?lang=eng

    -Socialism and the United Order Compared, http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1476

  4. Great article! I agree! It seemed to me like the activists toward social injustices have forgotten what gave them the motivation to want to do something about their personal situation. I am not a sadist but I think that through personal trials and suffering we learn and understand better how to treat others. Without this necessary developmental part of life, where does a person grow empathy or sympathy? Ms. Johnson had the “drive” to become who she is today. I am almost positive that she would Not be as successful as she is had she not gone through her trials and tribulations. No one wants to see another person suffer or go through such tragedies but if you eliminate the opportunity for any youth to experience some of these disappointments through life’s journey, what are we doing to their future?

  5. Dear Oak, I appreciate, so much, your caring enough for our society and our children to work hard to protect them and the threats to their well-being in our public schools. I read all of your articles sent out via e-mail regarding Common Core and know that we need to fight it tooth-and-nail and bring back local control over the education of our children. We must never be complacent and think “all is well in Zion.”

    Having said that, I must strenuously protest the article, “Who teaches the teachers? Social In-Justice at BYU.” I know that you know that BYU is dedicated to building faith in Christ in their students. To say otherwise would be spreading vicious and false rumors. BYU is NOT perfect (no school is), which includes their teachers, too. But BYU’s administration’s desire is to always provide the best possible education and life-lessons, which includes “bringing others unto Christ” for all of their students.

    I can’t believe that the administration would sanction the type of teaching you point to in the above article. I think it would be important to bring the article to the attention of President Wirthen and the board and see where it leads. Please don’t jump to conclusions until the research has been done and you know, for sure, just exactly what the truth is. If it is true that one of the teachers is teaching inappropriate and false teachings, action should, indeed, be taken. The important thing is that our children always, and forever, be protected against false and vain teachings. And, I know that, with all your work and writing, Oak, that’s exactly what you are striving for.

    1. ML, thanks for writing. Here’s my thought process in why I wrote this article.
      1) Everyone seems to operate under the assumption that BYU is a highly conservative school and they certainly are by their moral code.
      2) I know that BYU’s goal is building faith in their students, but teaching for social justice does not build faith and is, in my opinion, fair game to point out why.
      3) Understanding BYU’s education department’s affiliation since 1983 with John Goodlad, I know their education department is riddled with individuals who have been under the influence of someone I believe is a modern day Korihor/anti-Christ. Goodlad is a humanist/atheist/socialist who works to put social justice education and the gay agenda into schools. He is not someone that LDS people should be looking to for guidance (see http://www.utahsrepublic.org/dealing-with-korihor for further info)
      4) An official BYU magazine has published this professor in her own words what she intends to teach students and I find it not in line with my beliefs about the gospel.
      5) This article has nothing to do with BYU’s administration but a false philosophy that is destructive of faith.
      6) The BYU administration doesn’t do much to contain their teacher’s philosophies. Evidently with tenure, you can do and say and participate in a lot of things that some people would find troubling. Here’s a few other examples I’ve written up in the past.

      BYU Ed Department’s Jungian Scholar
      BYU Ed Department and NRMERA
      BYU Education Department Member of Revolutionary NAME Organization
      BYU Education Department Member of Revolutionary NAME Organization

      Our tax dollars are spent in part by the BYU Public School Partnership districts sending money to BYU’s ed department to be a member of Goodlad’s NNER (which we helped force them to drop that membership a few years ago). We pay for CITES at BYU which in turn indoctrinates teachers and administrators in Goodlad’s philosophies.

      In sharing this, I am not trying to criticize the LDS church in any way. I am a faithful member. I am just pointing out that there are some things happening at BYU that should be known by people who send their children there expecting a certain type of experience who need to stay on the watchtower and keep in very close contact with their children. Glenn Beck’s co-host Pat Gray sent his daughter to BYU and she came home an Obama supporter.

      I’m just saying, parents need to be aware that the philosophies taught at BYU don’t always match the philosophies you expect and so stay vigilent and involved in your children’s education even when you send them to places you generally trust.
      3) An official BYU magazine has published this professor in her own words what she intends to teach students and I find it

      1. Wait a minute…. Glenn Beck and his cohost are part of your source material for your condemnation of BYU? Why don’t you send your kids to Hillsdale where I’m sure they’ll get a decent education. How do I know this? Well they advertise on AM radio shows. Brilliant minds such as Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh who are all prominent political philosophers are their spokespeople,

        1. Hardly. Beck’s co-host’s story is interesting because everyone would know that Pat’s children had probably been pretty well taught conservative principles. For his child to come home an Obama supporter is a pretty severe indoctrination job.
          There’s plenty of material to point out that BYU is not the conservative bastion everyone seems to believe. Read the other articles and look particularly at their education professors ties to Bill Ayers, John Goodlad, John Dewey’s philosophies, philosophically Marxist groups, etc… I don’t condemn anyone. Even this teacher. I believe she is misguided and in error based on her experiences, but God is the judge, not me. I wish she wasn’t influencing so many people in what I consider a dangerous philosophy, harmful to our constitutional republic, and what I consider false doctrine. If you would like to point out where this article is in error, I would be happy to entertain your thoughts.

  6. Thank you, Oak, for your thought-provoking and insightful comments. You are correct in that we can never take “earthly things” for granted because satan is cunning and works very hard to get his digs in, especially when we’re not vigilant and/or expecting it. I am grateful that you are not swayed by any preconceived notions we all tend to have and are ever watchful enough to bring these kinds of things to our attention.

    As in the on-going fight and concerns with our children’s education, we can’t just sit back and hope things will work themselves out for our betterment and well-being. We need to be one of the fighters in the ring and stand up for what is right. Some of us are not well-spoken and are not good debaters; we can, however, stand up for what is right and do what little we can. As Pres. Faust said in one of his speeches, we can’t worry about trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil. It won’t work; we have to choose sides. And, in the end, choosing to serve the Lord is the only way to true happiness.

    Thank you, again Oak, for bringing this most important subject to our attention. I AM sorry for Pat Gray’s disappointment. The gift of Agency is truly a remarkable thing and I am grateful for it. Because of it, we do suffer heartbreak when watching someone we love choose what we feel/know is wrong. We must never lose faith, however, for Agency is the only way to choose our own path without satan’s way of coercion and/or force.

    Keep fighting for us and our children, Oak; you’re doing a great job.

      1. Hint: it had to do with prop 8. Maybe there are liberal professors (as there are at every university) but BYU is conservative enough to have difficulties with professional organizations.

        1. Can you briefly explain a little more? Proposition 8 was taking place in 2008 mostly. I know there was a BYU professor fired for speaking out against it. My recollection is that he/she didn’t have tenure or something… Regardless, BYU exited the NNER in June 2010 and it was after months of several individuals, myself included, pointing out how Goodlad’s NNER was trying to push social justice and the gay agenda into BYU. There was no talk about the Proposition at that time from what I recall. In 2006, Alpine district superintendent Vern Henshaw was at an executive meeting of the NNER and one of the members engaged him in discussion about why BYU wasn’t falling in line with their agenda and he replied “that the BYU partnership governing board does not have the authority to change policies at BYU, that the decision and policies do not reflect the actions at the partnership level. He indicated that the partnership co exists with the BYU policies and includes not only BYU but also public school districts that are not bound by the BYU policies.” We continued to point out the problems with the NNER and then BYU’s ed department announced they were leaving the NNER for financial reasons. I honestly don’t see the connection to Proposition 8 if there was one. That wasn’t part of the discussion at the time. It seemed far more plausible that as a result of the heat we were generating, some donors called BYU and said they weren’t going to donate anymore if BYU stayed in this partnership and thus they left for “financial reasons.”

          1. It was BYU’s relation to the church that compelled NNER to push them out… As a result of Prop 8…. I think Goodlad was okay with BYU remaining but due to hostilities within the NNER, BYU decided to exit and redefine their own partnership principles. There are still folks committed to Goodlad who don’t like the new principles but they are definitely a small faction.

          2. I don’t know that I’d say they are a small faction unless the small faction are those in charge. I’d bet they hire mostly like minded people too. Right now there are still Goodlad posters up, and there’s a Goodlad plague set in stone outside the Ed. building unless that’s been removed. Plus, if you check into those other articles, there are several Marxist organizations these professors are members of. It’s a bit disconcerting. Also, I tend to doubt the NNER pushed BYU out because they were a founding college and those professors were still participating in the NNER. BYU hosted the NNER conference in 2006. My guess would be they may say the NNER pushed them out, but I’d still put more belief in donors and possibly the church pressuring them.

          3. You can doubt all you want. I have firsthand knowledge of the issues. They redefined the Goodlad principles under the former CITES director two years ago. They may still have some things Goodlad laying around, but for the most part, they are far more committed to partnering with school districts than in the principles of Goodlad. BYU professors are part of the broader academic community and are encouraged to be a part of professional organizations. Presenting at a conference or being part of an organization does not mean a person supports everything the organization does. It is like how folks like Glenn Beck have to be part of the Broadcasters unions.

  7. It’s interesting that I am vehemently opposed to federal control of public education (via Common Core, NCLB, Race to the Top, or anything else), am as LDS as the next guy (served for 4 years as President of a large LDS branch, now a ward, and served an honorable mission), and I have two degrees from BYU, yet I find your take on social justice unreasonable and unkind. I loved Elder Holland’s talk, by the way, especially the part about not judging the poor. It seems particularly perverse, in this light, to accuse the poor of envy while defending the rights of the rich. Christ condemned the rich to hell. Why are you so quick to come to their defense? Do you do the same for murderers, child-abusers, thieves, terrorists, etc.? Don’t we have a responsibility as a society to protect the oppressed from their oppressors? Should we seriously just wait for everyone to just do the right thing on their own? I guess there is, indeed, precedent for that sort of pacifism in the Book of Mormon with the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. So, maybe you do have a point. At the very least, it’s likely more nuanced than how you outline it above with your selective quotes and all.

    1. Hi Vincent, thanks for commenting specifically on the article. I am not condemning the poor or exalting the rich. What I am trying to point out above is that God placed us all on earth for a reason and with our own unique set of challenges. The rich are commanded to take care of the poor, and the poor are commanded not to envy or covet that which they do not have. Elder Holland’s talk and many others point this out. One of the best examples of this is King Benjamin. He starts off his great speech by telling the people how he has kept their taxes low so that they weren’t burdened. That he himself has worked to provide for his own family. He wasn’t interested in building a temporal legacy. Then in Mosiah 4, he explains this to the people (I will copy the entire text here for benefit of those who don’t have a Book of Mormon in following the discussion (and I will inject personal comments inside these marks)).

      Mosiah 4
      16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. (an individual mandate for us all to take care of the poor)
      17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just- (this is a condemnation of our thoughts)
      18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
      19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
      (every one of us is poor in the eyes of God, but some don’t realize it. If they did, and looked upon all as beggars in need from God, it might change their life.)
      20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
      21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
      (another individual call to take care of the poor)
      22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done. (King Benjamin clearly states that people are free to withhold of their substance, but in the end they will be judged harshly by God. There is no talk of taking from the rich and redistributing it to the poor.)
      23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world. (Again, what happens to the riches of the rich? They perish WITH him. They aren’t taken from him.)
      24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give. (Now we come to the counsel for the poor. This is the attitude they need to have. Otherwise…)
      25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received. (Here’s the ultimatum. The rich are judged on taking care of the poor. The poor are judged on if they covet what the rich have. Progressive policies like social justice teach people to covet that which they do not have. If you can’t go steal what someone has, it’s only fair to elect politicians who will enact a progressive tax system to hit the rich up more and more and to redistribute that to the poor. This is wrong.)
      26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you-that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God-I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. (King Benjamin’s final words to the people are essentially this… ‘Please give to the poor. I care about all of you and want all of you to retain a remission of your sins. Please you wealthy people, give to the poor. It’s the only way you’re going to be saved, otherwise the Lord will condemn you and it will be a just condemnation. And you poor, don’t corrupt your souls by coveting what you don’t have. Yes you have a serious temporal injustice, but it’s temporary. Remember God has promised you HIS riches, which are the riches of eternity. Don’t covet because you can’t become an exalted being and possess the trait of coveting. You can’t have unlimited power and possess such a trait or you would fall from such a station.’)

      So Vincent, I am not coming to the defense of the rich at all. Sorry if you read it that way. I am most seriously condemning the rich and begging those who do not have to not fall into the trap of coveting as that is their potential weakness, but especially trying to help people not fall into the trap of unsound doctrines and accepting this philosophy of men, mingled with our scriptural cannon’s injunction to take care of the poor, but not in harmony with it. Taking care of the poor is an individual mandate. Forcing the rich to take care of the poor through taxation is just as wrong as stealing from a neighbor to benefit your own conscience. That’s my view. Hope that helps, at least to explain myself a little clearer.

  8. It feels to me like you are mixing Bastiat’s philosophy with King Benjamin’s address. King Benjamin isn’t talking about taxation, but about our responsibility to care for the poor, without judging the poor, and at rates parallel to our means (the rich should give much more and the poor are not required to give anything).

    The BYU teacher’s effort to help children “feel the plight of the poor and downtrodden” seems very much in line with gospel principles. Furthermore, it seems reasonable and charitable to be concerned with the plight of people who work in sweatshops to produce the goods we consume. As a fan of Wendell Berry, I would love to return to a local agrarian society like that of King Benjamin’s people. But, unfortunately, that seems very far removed from our reality.

    One reason your post caught my eye is that I am a teacher educator (at Weber State University) and I do teach, and encourage teaching, for social justice. Even though I don’t draw from the scriptures (except with seminary teachers who are working on masters degrees), I see teaching for social justice as an extension of gospel principles.

    Yes, I recognize the Marxist (AND Catholic) roots to the concept as such.

    Please entertain a brief tangent: My great great great grandpa was called in by Brigham Young and asked to go and help settle Southern Utah. He told Brigham Young to go to hell and went to Idaho instead. Anyone who traces my roots to this individual might make assumptions that would ignore the many ancestors I have who did, indeed, faithfully settle Southern Utah. Furthermore, by focusing on just one action (albeit a major one), they might overlook a variety of good qualities in this one ancestor. Another of my ancestors, a founder of the town of Washington in Southern Utah and whose statue is one of four on the town square, for instance, likely participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

    Just like family history, when you trace the “genealogy” of a concept like social justice it gets rather messy with good and bad at every turn. Even Marx made some sense once in a while. Nor can we expect that the Catholic concept for social justice is completely in line with LDS theology.

    Social justice plays a key role in my undergraduate courses in elementary arts integration and my graduate level values education course. In the latter course, an analysis of values in education shows that it is virtually impossible to teach WITHOUT teaching values. Schools are not values-neutral. So, it really is a question of which values. My students (pre-service and in-service teachers) tend to focus initially on respect for authority and self-discipline. I try to nudge them in the direction of kindness, patience, and charity. And, as I indicated earlier, because I teach in a religion-neutral environment, I draw heavily from social justice literature rather than from the scriptures.

    In my arts integration courses, I have had students read the second chapter in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed in which he de-constructs the banking model of education whereby students are forced to maintain a passive role in learning. I also draw from Alfie Kohn and others who advocate active and intrinsically motivating learning. (There are some great parallels here with Neil Flinder’s agency education, by the way.)

    Anyway, I don’t see what you described happening at BYU as problematic at all. There is no way it is grounds for dismissal. We are encouraged to seek truth wherever it can be found. It is a big leap (and unjust) to label someone a Marxist and make assumptions about their political intent just because they encourage teaching for social justice.

  9. Vincent,
    Here’s where King Benjamin talks about taxation in this same address. It’s just in an earlier chapter.
    Mosiah 2:14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne-and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
    His point in sharing this is revealed by his explanation that everyone is commanded to serve God by serving each other and he doesn’t want to be a burden on his people. High taxation does that. Several chapters later we read of King Noah that put a 20% tax on his people in order to support himself and his laziness in his government. It was totally unnecessary and a burden on the people.
    I believe it would be far better to teach someone faith in Christ than social justice. When we engage in social justice, we deny God’s justice and God’s mercy that put all of us in the situations we are in. It encourages people to take social action instead of Christian action. It encourages the use of force instead of agency.
    I also didn’t call for this teacher’s dismissal or label her a Marxist. However, social justice is a Marxist concept and I believe it’s misguided. I love President Boyd K. Packer’s quote, “The study of doctrine and the teaching of doctrine will change behavior more than the study of behavior will change behavior.” Particularly at BYU, we should teach clear doctrine and let the use of agency have full effect. I personally believe that we all had a glimpse of what our mortal conditions would be like before we came down here so we would each be able to choose if we were willing to bear the trials that God in his infinite wisdom knew we needed to help us reach our full divine potential. Just as some are challenged by the circumstances they are born into, nobody leaves this life without their share of serious challenges. Everyone faces “Abrahamic” tests. Why should social justice take away from the serious trials of a middle class or wealthy family dealing with something serious such as the death of a child, versus a sweatshop in China? Personally, I can’t do much about that sweatshop in China, but I can love my neighbor who is grieving. When we teach people the pure doctrine of Christ, we open their eyes to imitating the life of Christ and doing what you can for the people around you that you are able to influence. I believe that should be the basis of our instruction.
    I’ll quit with this quote from Joseph Smith:
    “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God. . . . God will feel after you, and he will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.”
    Thank you for the engaging discussion Vincent.
    P.S. If we judge people by our ancestors, everyone would probably have issues. My 11th great-grandmother was Mary Estes, hung as a witch at Salem. :) Of course she was strongly Christian, but that didn’t stop the madness of the time.

  10. It IS true doctrine to develop a concern for all people whose lives are affected by our actions, no matter where they live in the world.

    No, social justice isn’t only a Marxist concept. That’s the point I was trying to make with the genealogy analogy; the concept has many roots and even preceded Marx. People can and do apply true doctrine by teaching for social justice. It’s an especially useful tool for those of us not teaching at BYU.

    King Noah’s tax-related sins were twofold; he taxed the people to support his, his wives’, and his priests’ lavish, lazy, and sinful lifestyles (he didn’t work to support himself as King Benjamin had) and he applied a flat tax–everyone was expected to pay the same percent regardless of their means. By applying this Book of Mormon account to our modern reality, are you suggesting that current government employees (myself included) are like those in King Noah’s regime?

    By gospel standards, taxation is not legal plunder. Rather, according to James E. Faust, not paying your fair share of taxes is stealing.

    “Stealing is all too common throughout the world. For many, their reasoning seems to be, “What can I get away with?” or “It’s OK to do it as long as I don’t get caught!” Stealing takes many forms, including shoplifting; taking cars, stereos, CD players, video games, and other items that belong to someone else; stealing time, money, and merchandise from employers; stealing from the government by the misuse of the taxpayers’ money or making false claims on our income tax returns; or borrowing without any intention of repayment.”

    I’m not sure what all of this has to do with the Common Core. I’m opposed to the Common Core due to the standardized testing and federal/corporate control that comes with it. However, I do like its generally constructivist (agency) approach.

    Thanks for the discussion. I, too, appreciate the interaction.

  11. Vincent,
    I agree that we do need to develop a concern for others. Making children in math class deal with learning about sweatshops isn’t going to make a difference though. It won’t help them learn math, it won’t help the poor, it will actually distract them from math and possibly make some hate math to have to deal with a stressful grown-up issue. We need students who grow up loving math, loving God, loving God’s children, who are productive and have the capacity to earn to be able to take care of those in poverty. Not through taxation, but through charity. There is a significant difference. The focus of all teachers should be to impart useful and productive knowledge to students so they can learn everything they can.
    Not paying your fair share of taxes is stealing. I’m not advocating for tax avoidance. I’m advocating for tax reduction. It wasn’t applying a flat tax to the people that was a sin. God uses a “flat tax” for voluntary tithing. (just like our government says we have a voluntary income tax system to skirt constitutional issues). The point being made in Mosiah 11 is that 20% taxation was a burden on the people and used so the king could glut himself on their labors. How much money is wasted today by our government doing things they have no constitutional authority to do? The powers defined in article 1, section 8 of the constitution are limited and well defined. Government today goes way past that.
    In Mosiah 7, when the people went into bondage to the Lamanites, it’s expressed that the Nephites were under a system of slavery to the Lamanites for having to pay 50% of their goods to them. So 50% is slavery, 20% is government gluttony (legal plunder though the term does go further as Bastiat points out). Forced charity under a system of taxation doesn’t allow people to be charitable.
    The constructivist approach has some deep flaws, but that’s a topic for a different thread. https://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/why-constructivism-and-direct-instruction-will-damage-your-childs-brain-part-1/

  12. You are missing an important gospel principle; those who have more are expected to give more. Wealthy Mormons are expected to give much more than 10%, starting with a very generous fast offering. It’s more of a progressive tax, if you wish to continue that analogy. Had King Noah’s tax been progressive and if the proceeds had been applied to public services (roads, defense, education, welfare), it wouldn’t have been a burden. Yes, then you could argue that the rich are forced to give. However, there are quite a few people who pay taxes with a joyful and grateful heart (just as there are plenty who pay tithing grudgingly). In “temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly” (D&C 70:14).

    I can see your point that, for younger grades, it might be too early to discuss the negative effects of global capitalism. However, it’s not too early to teach other virtues fundamental to both social justice and the gospel–kindness, forgiveness, humility, generosity, etc.

    I’ll address constructivism on the other thread and on another lunch break. I need to get back to work; I wouldn’t want to waste taxpayer dollars…

  13. Victor, where does agency play into your thought process? In the church, we are asked to give 10%. A flat amount no matter if you’re rich or poor. Then we are asked to give a “generous fast offering.” Isn’t that by choice? Shouldn’t the government have its citizens, particularly if they want the privilege of voting, to have “skin in the game?” D&C 70:14 again indicates this is voluntary by the use of agency. Please explain to me how it’s charity when you reach into my pocket to give medical assistance to your neighbor. It does me no good, nor does it do you good, nor is your neighbor appreciative of it because it didn’t come from a person with means who wanted to bless their life, it came from a godless government entity who reinforces the idea that government gives you things. Unless people connect and have the opportunity to be charitable, nobody is blessed.

  14. Absolutely, agency is central in tithes and offerings. Still, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). That’s the principle. Tithing is just the beginning. It’s progressive, not flat.

    Sometimes people aren’t able to pay tithing while still having enough resources to meet their basic needs. As a branch president I was instructed to encourage them to pay tithing anyway and then help them with their necessities. I guess this would be akin to tax exemptions. (I’m not following the “skin in the game” argument, however. Are you suggesting that the right to vote should be based on how much tax you pay?)

    This tithing/taxes analogy is all kind of beside the point because, as I intimated in my previous reply, tithes and offerings are not the same as taxes; that’s your analogy, not mine. Taxes are not charity. So, agency is limited just as it is in a variety of other civic matters. I can choose to adhere to legal requirements and, thereby, avoid the consequences. And, I can choose my attitude about following the law. And, of course, I can vote. So, I do have a degree of freedom, but not the same freedom I might have in donating to charity.

    Here’s what I believe about governments and, hence, taxation:

    D & C 134

    1 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
    [Taxation is a necessary role of governments and we should obey that law. Again, it’s the law, not charity. It seems reasonable to me that the “good and safety of society” includes caring for the poor.]

    2 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
    [The “right and control of property” is, of course, relative according to the previous verse; in other words, it’s not absolute freedom, but is subject to government regulation as needed for the “good and safety of society.”]

    How much a government (and what level of government) should tax and for what purpose is another discussion. But, to answer your question: Yes, I do feel it is okay to take from you to pay my neighbor’s medical bills if you, in fact, are wealthy and my neighbor doesn’t have the means. It’s good for my neighbor and it’s good for society. Yes, it would be better if I didn’t have to take it, but because you (figuratively, not actually YOU; you seem like a very nice guy) are such a selfish ____ I am forced to take it for my neighbor’s survival and for the overall good of society. The theft is that you accumulated much more than you needed in the first place; I’m just taking it back. (Hugh Nibley wrote a pair of great essays on this topic, by the way. If I remember right they are “Work We Must, but the Lunch is Free” and “But, What Kind of Work?”)

    Again, great discussion! Thanks for the interaction.

  15. Victor, I think you are completely misinterpreting the scripture on HOW things are required of us and applying it to taxation. Where does the Lord take from the people? Ever? He set a law whereby everyone including the poor pays 10% and as you pointed out, then if someone needs assistance, those who have freely donated money to help the poor, the Bishop can then help meet the needs of that family. This is a voluntary charitable system. The point of the article above is that teaching for social justice influences people toward tax policies that are “legal plunder”. We know what charity is, and it’s voluntary otherwise is doesn’t have a godly effect on the giver or receiver. We know that taxation is largely resented when people pay for things they shouldn’t be made to pay because it doesn’t improve things for all in society including them.
    One of the popular misconceptions in the constitution is the “general welfare” clause. Liberals like to interpret this as saying helping the poor is part of the general welfare of society. This is why it is critical to look at the original intent of what the Framers meant by this and how it was defined in their day. We know from the D&C that the constitution was inspired by God, which means we should follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law. In the Framer’s time, general welfare differed from specific welfare by meaning everyone benefits equally, versus, a subset benefits disproportionately. It is not the role of the federal government to tax the people and redistribute their wealth to others. If a tax is collected, it must be for the benefit of the entire public (such as national defense, postal roads, etc… Article 1, Section 8).
    Further, you are misinterpreting D&C 134:2. We need the free exercise of conscience, AKA, agency, with the full right and control of our property. What we can’t do is use our property to violate someone else’s rights, but we must have full use of our own property.
    I’m a little surprised that you are OK with theft. Would you walk into your neighbor’s home who is wealthy, hold them at gun point, and demand their money to pay for your poor neighbor’s medical bills? Try it sometime and tell me how well that works out for you. :) If you can’t do it yourself, you can’t legislate government to do it because this is a republic of law where the citizens delegated or assigned their very own rights to the government to make this system work. It’s a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. You can’t have government perform a function that you can’t do yourself.

  16. How did I become Victor? Maybe that’s an indication that you don’t have the time to read my responses more carefully. Sorry for not being more concise.

    In my view, taxation is NOT charity. Nor is it necessarily theft. I can see your point that if it is unjust it might seem like theft. To return to our previous illustration, King Noah’s tax plan was onerous for his people because 1) it was a flat tax, 2) it was used to support the king’s lavish lifestyle, and 3) the people had not consented to it. So, yes, that does seem like theft. However, when the tax doesn’t place too much of a burden on the people (they can still easily meet their needs), is used for the good of the people, and has been agreed upon by people, it’s perfectly okay. (I was, by the way, discussing taxation as it relates to the commerce clause, not the general welfare clause.) So, no, I don’t condone theft. However, along with most everyone else in the US, I’m generally okay with taxation.

    Do you feel that all taxes are theft? Or are you only opposed to taxation in support of welfare programs? If the latter, what do you include underneath the umbrella of welfare? Pell grants? Food stamps? Job training? Public education?

  17. Vincent, on occasion I like to have a mental lapse and call someone by the wrong name just to remind myself I’m not perfect. ;) I have no idea how that happened except that I was in a hurry typing so I could get my daughter to school. Anyway, on to the discussion…
    I’m glad we agree that taxation is not charity. But King Noah’s plan wasn’t onerous because it was flat. It was onerous because it was steep and was used for what I’ll term nation building…King Noah’s nation.
    Vincent, above you wrote this:
    “Yes, I do feel it is okay to take from you to pay my neighbor’s medical bills if you, in fact, are wealthy and my neighbor doesn’t have the means. It’s good for my neighbor and it’s good for society. Yes, it would be better if I didn’t have to take it, but because you (figuratively, not actually YOU; you seem like a very nice guy) are such a selfish ____ I am forced to take it for my neighbor’s survival and for the overall good of society. The theft is that you accumulated much more than you needed in the first place; I’m just taking it back.”
    That’s pretty stunning. In your last message you said you “don’t condone theft.” Please define the exact dollar amount at which someone is so wealthy you feel justified in stealing from them. And please describe why someone who works hard and saves their money instead of spending it, is stealing from society? There are millionaires who made very little during their lives in order to save for retirement.
    The problem with your arguments is that you are truly committing robbery. As soon as you say, “oh perhaps $10,000,000 is the right amount,” someone else will come along and say we need to lower it and lower it because there’s this project over here, and this welfare situation over there, until the figure is affecting almost every member of society and we are living in a socialistic welfare state. You are building on a foundation of straw. You can’t have a society that works or thinks like this and have it survive. The ONLY way a society can survive long term is to have just laws that apply to everyone, limited government that doesn’t tax the populace for anything except what is necessary for government to perform its proper and legal functions, and then encourage charity.
    Did you know that prior to the 16th amendment there was no income tax in this country? The original, inspired constitution, had us apportioning the federal expenses to each state based on their population. The states got a bill to pay. That’s exactly what should happen today. States should collect taxes and remit them to the feds. That would make people in the states say, “how do we reduce this bill and keep more of our money here for people in our state?” That’s what our system should go back to.
    No I don’t think all taxes are theft. I think theft is when the government creates unconstitutional, unnecessary expenses, based on politicians promising their constituents that they will get them federal money. That’s stealing, plain and simple, and yes that does include federal welfare programs for which there is no constitutional authority.

  18. I was responding to your question: “Please explain to me how it’s charity when you reach into my pocket to give medical assistance to your neighbor.” This I took to be figurative relative to taxation; you weren’t referring to me literally picking your pocket. My response, then, was figurative (and I even used that word: “figurative”) in the sense that I do feel it is justified for the voice of the people to allow governments to levy taxes for welfare programs. You clearly took it literally to mean that I would condone someone stealing directly from one neighbor to help another. That, indeed, would be “shocking.” Sorry for not being more clear.

    Part of the reason accumulating a lot of wealth is a sin, in my view, is because it so often is done at the expense of others. The Walton family, for example, has amassed their fortune, in part, by paying dismal wages. Walmart employees typically qualify for a number of federal assistance programs. In this sense, the federal government subsidizes Walmart. As to how much wealth should be allowed, it’s too complex an issue (as you intimated) to assign a dollar amount. The basic rule of thumb, I feel, is that if you have more than you need to survive comfortably, you should be expected to pay your fair share of taxes as needed. But, I have just one vote. You have yours. I don’t think it’s theft to require the wealthy to pay for welfare programs. You do. I feel the scriptures support my political views. You feel that the scriptures support your political views. I guess we know where we each stand. I still have some faith in our system of government, though, including the role of the Supreme Court. They haven’t ruled federal welfare programs unconstitutional, so I’m going to side with them on that one.

    I agree that our elected leaders could be more careful with the money, I think there is a lot of corruption, and I would like to see power returned to the local level. That’s why I’m opposed to the Common Core as a federal mandate and am, subsequently, interested in your website. Nonetheless, I would be interested to hear your views on state-funded public education. Do you feel it is constitutional? I had assumed the folks against the Common Core were still okay with public education, but given our discussion on taxes I’m beginning to wonder if I was mistaken.

  19. Vincent, the point is, our form of government doesn’t allow the government to do something that you can’t do yourself. You can’t use the government as a tool to do things that you don’t have a right to do yourself. Otherwise it is legal plunder.

    Maybe you’re familiar with this quote by Alexander Tytler: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the people discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy–to be followed by a dictatorship.” Welfare states always collapse.

    The Walton family has amassed a fortune by paying people to work. A job is a contract between an employer and employee. The employer says “I will pay you $X per hour to work. You appear to be qualified for this job, would you like it?” The employee agrees to that and can either accept the terms, or find other employment. Nobody is forcing anyone to work at Walmart or anywhere else. You may call it dismal wages, but nobody is stopping anyone from improving their condition and advancing their education. Look up the Ben Carson story. He went from an illiterate boy failing school, to the world’s top brain surgeon. His story is in the movie “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” available on Netflix. Excellent movie.
    You say people should only have as much as they need to comfortably survive… That differs from family to family. Do you know an affluent family that has been destroyed by medical bills? I’ve known one. Who is to say where that “survival” line is? Who is going to set it? Are you ruling out the possibility of people saving for retirement? Even early retirement? Why not let someone productive who has employed people, save their money and retire and travel the world if they wanted to? Isn’t it their choice? Don’t travel agencies and low paid tourist related workers benefit from those people traveling? Utah makes a lot of money every year from people that travel. That’s certainly not needed for their survival. Did you ever take your children to Disneyland? Are you going to ban that for others? The point is, you and I can’t determine what is the right cutoff for someone. We need to have minimal government and then use persuasion with people to help them choose to be charitable.

    As for the supreme court, it’s not like they’re making great decisions all the time (Dred Scott; Roe v. Wade; Kelo v. New London (govt. can seize property if it’s used to enrich the public treasury)), and they have to take a case in order to make a ruling on it.

    Public education should have no funding and involvement from the federal level. It’s a state issue and I’m totally fine with a public education system inside the states. That’s where it belongs. Jefferson was a champion of public education in his day, though it was funded differently, kept local, and children didn’t get free public education for 13 years. They got 3 years for free and then the top students would be scholarshipped for another 3. Others paid if they wanted more. They got all the basics and they started later so they were more mature and probably came better educated to start with back then.

    You believe the scriptures allow for social justice and taking from others to redistribute wealth. Where? I think the quotes from the apostles above are pretty clear that that isn’t the case. You are proposing socialism. The brethren from Joseph Smith forward have rejected socialism pretty clearly.


  20. It sounds like we have some similar views: I believe that public education should be funded on a state level with most decisions made at the local level. I also feel that most school districts in Utah are too big to allow local decision making. Charter schools provide opportunities to remedy this.

    Social justice, to me, means working towards a more just and equitable society where there are no rich or poor. There is plenty of support for this type of Zion society in the scriptures and it’s what we are working towards as a church.

    Sadly, I don’t think that American citizens can hope to successfully apply Zion principles to our current plutocracy/corporatocracy. So, a degree of regulation and taxation is necessary.

    It’s a bit of a leap to equate support for progressive taxation and welfare programs with advocating socialism. Socialism, as I understand it, is collective ownership of property and complete redistribution of wealth to the degree that everyone is equal. I’m not in favor of that at all for our nation. I am, along with a majority of Americans, in favor of progressive taxation and some welfare programs. Nor do I believe it is theft for the collective voice of the people to require the wealthy to fund programs like food stamps, Medicaid, or Pell Grants.

    You brought up Ben Carson. It is well-known that his family benefited from a variety of social welfare programs including food stamps. Plus, Yale has a very progressive need-based financial aid program. In addition, from what I can glean, he benefited from affirmative action and a variety of federal grants for his schooling. I think these types of social programs are great and don’t detract at all from his work ethic, intelligence, or the good he has done in his professional life.

    I said that it is reasonable for people to expect to pay taxes on income beyond what they need to live comfortably. Comfortably might include savings, trips to Disneyland, etc. Nor did I suggest that they should forfeit everything beyond what they need to live comfortably–just that they should pay taxes on it. In your rush to brand me a socialist, you completely blew this completely out of proportion.

    The scriptures can be used to support a variety of political views. President Benson’s political views were at odds with other general authorities such as Hugh B. Brown and Harold B. Lee and, when he became president of the church, he said very little about politics. I think we need to be careful when mixing politics and theology.

  21. Vincent, thanks for pointing out a similarity in our views. :)

    Regulation and taxation would be necessary in any society simply to fund government and regulate the playing field so no favoritism occurs. However, you can’t apply Zion principles to government by force.

    D&C 105:5 “And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.”

    What is that set of principles? D&C 121 says it’s by persuasion.

    There is no end to problems in society and as long as a nameless, faceless, government steps in to “solve” people’s problems, there will be no end to the increases that are needed to meet those “needs” people have.

    No social program made Ben Carson what he is today. His mother sent him to the library and did her duty as his parent in order to bring about a miracle in his life.

    There is a great article in the latest issue (Oct. 2014) of Imprimis. William Voegeli writes “The Case Against Liberal Compassion.”

    Here’s a couple clips:

    “In fact, however, liberals do not seem all that concerned about whether the machine they’ve built, and want to keep expanding, is running well. For inflation-adjusted, per capita federal welfare state spending to increase by 254 percent from 1977 to 2013, without a correspondingly dramatic reduction in poverty, and for liberals to react to this phenomenon by taking the position that our welfare state’s only real defect is that it is insufficiently generous, rather than insufficiently effective, suggests a basic problem.”

    “…achieving liberal goals, no matter how humane they sound, requires kinds and degrees of government coercion fundamentally incompatible with a government created to secure citizens’ inalienable rights, and deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    It’s a great article and shows that not only is government “compassion” ineffective, but unconstitutional. If we want to help people, it needs to come from the heart, not taxation.

    I’m not branding you a socialist, but progressive taxation is socialism. It’s actually Marxism and enshrined in the Communist Manifesto’s 10 planks. I’m simply pointing out the futility of government social programs. No matter what the program the government sets up, it will naturally and almost forcefully expand as more hands are held out. It’s not charity for government to help people with other people’s tax dollars. There is no way government can help everyone, so by constitutional law, it should help no one and leave the money to the people and the states to take care of any issues within the proper venue.

    1. Ben Carson said this: ““As I’ve said, we received food stamps and couldn’t have made it without them.” I agree with you, Oak, that he wouldn’t have made it to where he is today without his mom’s guidance and his own determination, but even he admits that federal assistance was a contributing factor.

      I also agree wholeheartedly with another statement of yours: “Regulation and taxation would be necessary in any society simply to fund government and regulate the playing field so no favoritism occurs.” Thank you for this. It’s one of the points I have been trying to make.

      You characterized progressive taxation as socialism and Marxism. Yes, “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax” is Plank number 2 of the Communist Manifesto. However, Plank 10 calls for free public education and an end to “children’s factory labour.” Plank 8 calls for “equal liability of all to work.” Are these principles or concepts also Marxist?

      Social justice is more Christian than it is Marxist. It’s about becoming more aware of and responsive to the suffering of others and reaching out to help. As far as govenment is concerned, It includes at least, as you put it, “regulating the playing field so no favortism occurs.”

  22. Vincent,

    Elder Christofferson said this in his Oct. 2014 conference address:
    “When things turn bad, there is a tendency to blame others or even God. Sometimes a sense of entitlement arises, and individuals or groups try to shift responsibility for their welfare to other people or to governments. In spiritual matters some suppose that men and women need not strive for personal righteousness – because God loves and saves us ‘just as we are.’
    But God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them, ‘that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.”

    It is morally wrong to call on the government to tax the people to support the poor. They need charity and a hand up, not a hand-out.

    Regulating the playing field means making sure there is no favoritism such that one company can compete against another without interference. The biggest barrier to competition, and one that shows favoritism is a progressive tax system. Those who have gotten to the top can enjoy greater ability to suppress those who would compete against them. As companies try to climb the ladder of success, it gets harder and harder to reserve money to compete with the players that already have large war chests. “The rich get richer” is never more true than under a progressive taxation system. If you want more middle-class Americans living the American dream and competing with the major players, get rid of progressive taxation and use a flat tax. It spurs innovation and employs more people.

    As for Marx, every one of his ideas were corrupt and designed to overthrow free government and individual liberty. Free public schooling was specifically designed to bring atheism into children’s lives. This is what Ezra Taft Benson said about it.

    “The tenth plank in Karl Marx’s Manifesto for destroying our kind of civilization advocated the establishment of “free education for all children in public schools.” There were several reasons why Marx wanted government to run the schools.…one of them [was that] ‘It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding from public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or agnostics may be.’
    It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States system of national popular education will be the most efficient and widespread instrument for the propagation of atheism which the world has ever seen.”

  23. Earlier you said you were in favor of public education. Now it sounds like you aren’t. What distinction are you making? If all of the Communist Manifesto planks are wrong/evil, are you also opposed to child labor laws?

    While I was there, I looked through the Communist Manifesto and found no reference to social justice (or justice)–more evidence that it’s not necessarily a Marxist concept. I’m sure the BYU teacher you referenced is using the concept in the same gospel-centered sense that I apply it in my own teaching. It might have been better for you to withhold judgment in this case.

    On the force vs freedom argument. You said that some regulations and taxes are okay. Doesn’t this also mean that some force is okay. In other words, it isn’t as simple as choosing freedom instead of force in every instance. It’s more a matter of erring on the side of freedom, wouldn’t you say? Like I said, it’s nuanced/complex.

    Some government programs have been designed to offer a “hand up” as you put it. You can’t assume that charity=a hand up and government assistance=a hand out. My grandpa (very conservative) told me how the CCC helped so many people at a very difficult time. (By the way, the CCC no longer exists, as you know, which undercuts your slippery slope argument from earlier.)

    Finally, what is the source for your belief that competition is a primary force for good? Is there are scriptural basis for this? Or, is it just gut feeling?

  24. I do favor public education, the same way Jefferson did. Tuition based but the poorest students attend for free.

    Yes I suppose I do oppose child labor laws. What right does government have to say that a child can’t work till he/she is a certain age? Washington was out on his own surveying the Virginia countryside at age 15 I believe. I think Franklin was an apprentice at a much younger age. For similar reasons there should be no minimum wage. People who want to learn a trade should have the ability to work for very low amounts in exchange for learning from a master of the trade.

    On force/freedom, George Washington said this: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Any power given to government is force. This is why Jefferson said “ In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” The constitution was specifically created to restrict abuse of people in power who let authority go to their heads thinking they had a chance to create their version of utopia.

    I’m not sure what the CCC is at the moment, but I’d guess that in no longer existing, it’s been replaced by dozens of other government programs.

    Competition alone isn’t a primary force for good. The “profit motive” (which can be for monetary or social benefits) is a major factor in people competing and trying to succeed. As people are free of government regulations to do that, competition is healthy as long as we are dealing with moral people. The removal of morality from the education system was designed to destroy religious values and institute moral relativism (via people like John Goodlad and Dewey). As a result we have bad capitalists, which is no worse than any communist. Socialism doesn’t work because eventually you run out of other people’s money. I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said that.

  25. The CCC was the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of the New Deal. They did a lot of great work right here in Utah including the erosion control terraces that can still be seen up on our mountains. They program was completely discontinued in 1942.

    You missed the point in offering the quote from Washington. I acknowledged that government is force. Like you, I believe that some force is necessary in maintaining a civil society. We just seem to disagree on what degree of force is warranted. I’m happy to hear, nonetheless, that you at least support free public education for the poor. I am assuming your are okay funding this through the state via taxes (force? theft?). Or, do you imagine it would be adequately funded through charitable contributions?

    I’m okay with the idyllic picture you paint of child labor. I grew up on a farm and I think that kind of work can be healthful. I’m actually in favor of teaching all children the value of manual labor. However, I wouldn’t say the same for 16 hour days in a factory or coal mine–the type of work that precipitated child labor laws. Still, I don’t think my opposition to this same type of child labor to which I believe Marx and Engels were referring makes me a Marxist.

    I teach a graduate course on Values Education. Every semester we explore the values that are taught in American schools and the class consensus is pretty consistent that the primary values taught in our schools are unquestioning respect for authority, persistence in mundane tasks, and competition. Values like compassion, charity, and forgiveness (Christian values fundamental to social justice as I see it) don’t seem to be emphasized. I don’t think Dewey would endorse our current education system, by the way. Nor does John Goodlad seem pleased with it.

    People are motivated by a lot more than competition. Have you read much Herbert Spencer? Your centering of competition sounds a lot like his Social Darwinism (natural selection, survival of the fittest). It sounds like a strength-based (vs love-based) morality. Since you started this as a religious thread, what is your scriptural foundation for the idea that competition is healthy as long as people are moral? I would think that truly moral people would be more interested in cooperation than competition.

    By the way, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to discuss these issues with me. Although somewhat pointed, my questions aren’t intended to be disrespectful.

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