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LDS Scholars Confirm Mormon Commitment to Social Justice

By Matthew Yglesias  

"LDS Scholars Confirm Mormon Commitment to Social Justice"

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I noted this morning that Glenn Beck’s exhortation to viewers to abandon any church that talks about social justice appeared to be a call for American Christians to leave pretty much every mainstream church in the country (the Southern Baptists may be okay) including the Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, etc. Indeed, even Glenn Beck’s own Church of Latter-Day Saints appeared to me to be saying that Mormons are supposed to be committed to social justice.

And Mormon scholars seem to agree with me:

Kent P. Jackson, associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University, said in an interview: “My own experience as a believing Latter-day Saint over the course of 60 years is that I have seen social justice in practice in every L.D.S. congregation I’ve been in. People endeavor with all of our frailties and shortcomings to love one another and to lift up other people. So if that’s Beck’s definition of social justice, he and I are definitely not on the same team.”

Philip Barlow, the Arrington Professor of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, said: “One way to read the Book of Mormon is that it’s a vast tract on social justice. It’s ubiquitous in the Book of Mormon to have the prophetic figures, much like in the Hebrew Bible, calling out those who are insensitive to injustices. A lot of Latter-day Saints would think that Beck was asking them to leave their own church.”

I said earlier that this reminded me of when Joe McCarthy went after the Army. The way this goes is that establishmentarian conservatives usually like to have a few right-wing populist demagogues running around for the sake of intimidating their enemies. But the most effective demagogues really believe in their own claptrap and have a tendency to eventually go too far and become dangerous. Spies in the State Department, sure, but attacking the Army was a bridge too far.

Similarly, it doesn’t seem to me that mainstream conservatives will be able to stand by a guy who’s attacking mainstream religion. Interestingly, though, Beck is actually a big McCarthy fan:

It was Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy, who shined the spotlight on the Communist Party again,” Beck said rhapsodically. “McCarthy later led a Senate committee investigation into inefficiencies in the government. Critics accused him of falsely identifying Communists, and smearing their names.” Those pesky critics! Beck then brought up, for some reason, the Cold War “domino theory,” that if one nation went Communist, so would its neighbors. “Kind of feels like that now, doesn’t it?” he asked.

Of course Reform Judaism also supports social justice and I’m sure other religions I haven’t looked up do too.

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