The Book of Mormon
and the Constitution

Chapter 23: Governments Shall Never Create Nor Abolish Duties—Welfare State Laws

Prefatory Statement

      In this chapter we discuss the fourth and last of the four sub-rules of the Golden Rule. It forbids government to either create or abolish rights or duties. The moral principle which underlies this law is this: When government creates a right in one person or group, of necessity it must destroy rights by creating duties in some other person or group. The creation of a duty destroys the obligor’s rights by compelling him to give up some element of his freedom when he discharges it.

That They Might the More Easily . . . Steal.

      We have heretofore observed that when the Gadianton band captured control of the Nephite government around the year 30 B.C., they did so by a combination of murder, intrigue, and seducing the Nephite voters to join with them in partaking of the spoils of government. (Hel. 6:38) We also observed that in describing the conditions which existed when the robbers came into power, Mormon stated that they were, “Held in office at the head of government, . . . that they might get gain . . . and, moreover, that they might the more easily . . . steal . . .” (Hel. 7:5)

      It is probably true that the principal reason these secret combinations were called Gadianton Robbers, was because their main goal was to seize control of government so that they could use it to commit plunder. In this chapter we shall consider the extent to which we have fallen victims to the same satanic plot. [p. 166]

Definition of a Welfare State Law

      By the term “welfare state law,” we mean one under which government transfers public funds, property or services without receiving a fair consideration in return. Included within this definition are all of those public welfare programs which provide aid to the young, the old, the sick, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the uneducated, the widows, the orphans, the victims of natural disasters, victims of man-made disasters, etc.

      Under this definition, we include those laws which provide for food stamps, social security, medicare, old age benefits, industrial insurance and unemployment insurance. While under some of these programs the government compels the recipient to contribute some of his own money which, in theory, is to be returned to him, he usually receives at least twice as much as he puts in because at least one half of his benefits come from employers or other taxpayers. Also taxpayers pay the cost of administering these programs.

Welfare State Laws Create New Duties and Destroy the Right of Private Property

      By adopting laws which permit or direct that public funds be paid to welfare recipients, government thereby creates a duty on the part of taxpayers to support the welfare recipients. To this same extent it violates the right of private property. Every taxpayer has a duty to pay his fair share of the cost of defending freedom. But he has no morally enforceable obligation to pay taxes for the support of those to whom he owes no natural or assumed duty. Neither does the recipient have the fight to demand that he do so.

      It is generally assumed that robbery, plunder, and theft, when com- mired outside of government violate the rules of morality. We all object to being victims of such crimes and know that they are contrary to the divine commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.”

      Does the fact that government does the taking and the giving alter anything? Does that which is evil suddenly become good by the adoption of a man-made law which legalizes the taking? It is difficult to find any meaningful difference between the two situations. Everything which [p. 167] government gives to one, it must take from another, and the taking is always done under laws which compel the victim to pay.

Welfare State Programs Threaten the Existence of Our Constitutional System of Government

      Welfare state practices can be extended until they equalize all incomes and thus create a completely socialized nation. But they can also be extended until they bankrupt the national treasury and create such a financial crisis that our constitutional system of government is overthrown. They are in large measure, the cause of budget deficits and the enormous, interest bearing debt which increases by many billions of dollars each year. The answer to these problems is not merely to decrease welfare state programs, but abolish them entirely. Once such practices are commenced, there is no logical stopping place. Experience shows that politicians who find they can raid the public treasury in exchange for votes, have difficulty restraining themselves.

Welfare State Programs Are Diametrically Opposed to the Principles of the Constitution

      Governments which have been established by the Lord are obligated to protect private property against the avarice of those in government as well as those outside. The following provision from the United States Constitution prohibits theft by government:

No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. (5th Amendment)

      The commandment, Thou shalt not steal which is one of the ten most important laws ever given, has never been repealed. This commandment applies as much to groups as to individuals and no man-made law can possibly revoke or alter it. Nor can any person who participates in robbery by government avoid being condemned by the Lord unless he repents. [p. 168]

The Lord’s Commandments Regarding Work

      When Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden, the Lord told him:

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; . . . (Gen. 3:19)

      One of the Ten Commandments reads:

Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work. (Ex. 20:9)

      The Lord has also decreed:

Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer. (D&C 42:42)

      So grievous is the sin of idleness that the Lord has decreed that unless there is repentance, one shall lose his place in the Church:

. . . And the idler shall not have place in the Church, except he repent and mend his ways. (D&C 75:29; See also D&C 56:17; 60:13)

      Even though very few, if any, have been excommunicated for idleness in this life, can we doubt but that the Lord will divide the industrious from the indolent in the next?

      The laws of man which limit or prohibit the young or the old from working, and which provide welfare state benefits which relieve us of the necessity of earning our own living, are directly contrary to the above laws and instructions. An enormous amount of idleness and laziness is being caused by our welfare-state system.

Why Is it So Important That We Obey the Commandment to Work?

      No person ever has or ever will accomplish any task, or develop any talent, without work. He will remain largely useless until he overcomes the natural tendency to be idle. Thus the importance of work lies in the fact that without it we are nothing, while through it we can reach every [p. 169] desired height. One who fails to learn to work in this life has failed to grasp one of its most important opportunities. Every blessing is predicated upon obedience to law. But obedience requires work—earnest, persistent effort. Leonardo Da Vinci has said, “O God, you sell us everything for the price of an effort.”

      One who fails to learn to work has a sad future and may lose many of the benefits he earned in the past. Notice the severity of the Lord’s condemnation of the man who buried his talent:

Thou wicked and slothful servant . . . Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which had ten talents . . . . And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 25:26, 28, 30)

      The Book of Mormon describes the terrible fate of Church members who waste their time thus:

But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state! (2 Ne. 9:27)

The Lord’s Plan to Teach Us to Work

      By giving us mortal bodies with their unceasing need for food, clothing and shelter, the Lord placed us in a situation where someone must work or we all die. We have had the sentence of labor for life passed upon us. Through the organization of the family, the Lord provided for our periods of helplessness with the parents taking care of the children during the time of their inability, and with the children caring for the parents when their situations are reversed.

      While cooperation between family members can and should take care of the incapacity of infancy, old age and periods of sickness in most cases, there are always the poor among us who are not provided for. The Lord’s commandments to provide for them are most clear and contain severe penalties for violation:

And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. 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. [p. 170]

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. (D&C 104:15, 16, 18)

      Welfare state laws are contrary to every aspect of the Lord’s plan. They legalize plunder and teach people to believe it is their right to live at the expense of others. They tend to remove the necessity of obeying the commandment to labor. They encourage idleness and tend to abolish the need for charitable giving. They destroy the sanctity of family relationships by removing the interdependence which should exist therein.

Modern Prophets Condemn the Welfare State

      The late President David O. McKay in a letter written to the faculty and administration at the Brigham Young University in 1967, said this:

This trend to a welfare state in which people look to and worship government more than their God, is certain to sap the individual ambitions and moral fiber of our youth unless they are warned and rewarned of the consequences. History, of course, is replete with the downfall of nations who, instead of assuming their own responsibility for their religious and economic welfare, mistakenly attempted to shift their individual responsibility to government.

I am aware that a university has the responsibility of acquainting its students with the theories and doctrines which are prevalent in the various disciplines, but I hope that no one on the faculty of Brigham Young University will advocate positions which cannot be harmonized with the views of every prophet of the Church, from the prophet Joseph Smith on down, concerning our belief that we should be strong and self-reliant individuals, not dependent upon the largess or benefactions of government. None of the doctrines of our Church give any sanction to the concept of a socialistic state.

The Relationship Between the Welfare State and Secret Combinations

      In our discussion of Nephite history, we showed that the secret combinations of that era were communistic. (3 Ne. 3:7) At one point this evil group worked itself into control of Nephite government by seducing [p. 171] even the more part of the righteous to “believe in their works and partake of their spoils.” (Hel. 6:38) It appears that they used the welfare state approach.

      The Nephite prophets have warned us that if we allow the secret combination to get “above us,” it will destroy us as it did the Nephites and the Jaredites. (Ether 8) Just how many hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent per year on welfare state programs before it can be said that the communist movement is “above us,” is not known. But if we have already gone so far that we cannot stop the practice, we have reached the point of no return.

      This may in part be what President Benson was referring to when he said:

Our nation will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of the God of this land, Jesus Christ, and quit building up and upholding secret combinations . . . . (Ensign, July 1988, p. 80)

I testify that wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. (See D&C 1:14-16; 84:49-53) It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. [See Ether 8:18-25] (Ensign, November 1988, p. 87)

The Predicament of Those Who Desire to Throw off the Welfare State

      Welfare state handouts have become so enormous and pervasive in the United States, that one almost despairs of trying to formulate a plan through which they could be eliminated. Governments at every level engage in such practices. Many different kinds of programs have been adopted, some of which compel those who receive benefits to contribute to the funds from which they are paid. In such instances the contributor justifiably feels that he has a vested interest in the program and should be entitled to receive back the amount of his contribution plus a fair return. However the effects of inflation makes it almost impossible to determine how much that should be.

      Another serious problem which must be faced by those who would abolish government handouts, is that the recipients who have become [p. 172] accustomed to them would experience great difficulty if they were terminated suddenly. Perhaps a phase-out program should be considered.

      Regardless of how difficult the problem is, it seems certain that unless we solve it voluntarily, the Lord will do so for us and His method may be far more painful than any we would devise. [p. 173]

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