Senator Reid and I share the feeling that it is important to reach out and lend a helping our to each other when we are in need. Our methods of providing this service, however, are diametric opposites.
During his BYU speech, Senator Reid said this:
But never forget the clarion call of King Benjamin: “When you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God.” ...He said much more than I have included here, as you can tell by the series of ellipses, but this, in light of his comment about social security being a successful program, is that portion of his words that I want to focus on. I may be inferring too much, but what I think Senator Reid was implying is that King Benjamin was sanctioning government control of support for the needy. It his hard for me through my particular "life lens" to come to any other conclusion. And if I'm right about his inferrence, I strongly disagree with Senator Reid.
To what then, was King Benjamin referring?
...I suggest that King Benjamin would consider the Peace Corps, Teach for America, work in a non-profit to help the poor or the sick as commendable service. ...
I propose King Benjamin then was referring to public service, running for elective office, serving in an appointed government board or commission.
Just like I am "reading between the lines" of what Senator Reid said, I may also be reading between the lines of what is written about social welfare in the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that not only was King Benjamin NOT sanctioning government interference in the charitable aspects of social welfare, there is ample evidence in the Book of Mormon that it teaches exactly the opposite. Part of what King Benjamin said was this:
15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.The implication here, I think, is that individuals are morally obligated to God to help their fellow men. When government usurps this responsibility, it snuffs out the instinct in humankind to be of service to their fellow men. Therefore, with the evidence of these developments, it is my opinion, contrary to Senator Reid's expressed feelings, that social security is one of the most unsuccessful social programs in the history of the world, because it has suggested (and largely effected) that government has relieved us of our responsibility to serve our neighbor.
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.
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—
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?
--Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ--Mosiah 4:15-19
A few years after King Benjamin lived, his Nephite society transformed itself from a monarchical society to one where "judges", or representatives and governors, were chosen by the voice of the people. The first "Chief Judge" was named Alma. Early in his first term of office, Alma encountered a situation wherein there was
great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.It is interesting what Alma, the head of the Nephite government, did about the situation. If he subscribed to the philosophies of Harry Reid, the next verse of scripture might read something like the following:
--Book of Mormon--Alma 4:12
Therefore Alma, seeing a great need for economic equality in the land, established laws requiring the taxation of the people, in order that the poor would have wherewith to provide for their own subsistence.But it doesn't say that. The governor of the land knew he had no such authority, so he used a different approach. He encouraged the people to be of service to their fellow men.
Instead of establishing new laws, he turned over, with the consent of the governed, his authority to another, who became chief judge. And Alma turned his efforts toward reminding the people--in his new capacity as a civilian--of their responsibility to God to care for the poor among them.
19 And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people,...to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.I agree with Harry Reid on several things. But I do not agree with him about Social Security and other social welfare programs, which I think were a terrible mistake.
--Book of Mormon--Alma 4:19
Government generally, and the US government in particular, has the authority to promote the general welfare. It does not have the authority to take from the people their responsibility to care for each other. What Social Security has done, besides taking over that authority, is to denigrate the institution of the family, whose primary function throughout the ages has been to take care of its own and then to reach outward to help its neighbors. That doesn't happen much anymore--because supposedly government can take care of the problem. Government can't. I'm not sure how Harry Reid thinks that King Benjamin thought it could.
It is interesting how two people could come to such diametrically opposite interpretations of scripture. What is your opinion?
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