Glenn Beck Versus Social Justice
A fellow Mormon explains why, contrary to Glenn Beck's advice, she won't leave her social justice church.
BY: Jana Riess
Dear Glenn Beck,
Have You Read the Book of Mormon Lately?
As you know, Glenn, during the last week, Christians of all stripes have debated your advice about exiting any churches that mentioned “social justice” or “economic justice” on their websites or preached it in their sermons. As you apparently hoped, you have dominated the airwaves. The good news for me is that, if you follow your own advice, you must soon be exiting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which we are both members. And if that happens, I will dance a little jig.
You may have missed it, but social justice is a dominant feature of all four of our key sacred texts, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon. We could look at hundreds of relevant scriptures, since poverty was the thing Jesus preached about most often, but let me turn your attention to a scripture you might have missed: King Benjamin’s sermon in the Book of Mormon. A tweetable highlight:
And now... 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. (Mosiah 4:26)
See, Glenn? Not only are Mormons supposed to feed the hungry and all that, but we do this so we don’t lose our salvation. It’s not just a nice thing to do, or a civilized thing to do, or an optional thing to do. It’s a commandment of God. And if I were you reading this passage, I’d be quaking in my tailor-made Keds.
Mormons every day are living out these commandments. We preach about it from the pulpit. Maybe you missed the last few General Conferences of our church—or maybe you walked out in the middle, since parts of them dealt with helping the needy—but several of our international church leaders preached about poverty and the Saints’ responsibility to help out. And our current church prophet, Thomas S. Monson, has spoken often of how he grew up during the Depression and learned from his mother’s kindness about the importance of helping others get back on their feet. Maybe you haven’t noticed it while you’ve been busy shouting at folks on TV, but Monson’s tenure as the head of the Church has been marked by increased attention to social justice, the most recent example being the quiet addition in December of “help the poor” to the LDS purpose in the world. Our fourfold mission is now to preach the gospel, perfect the Saints, redeem the dead, and to care for the poor. Sorry for the inconvenient timing of that additional requirement, Glenn. It makes you look kinda stupid.
Mormon social justice happens in every congregation of our church. On the first Sunday of each month, I’m invited to a welfare meeting where about eight members of my ward (local congregation), including the bishop, discreetly discuss the needs of church members who are struggling and require assistance. These needs vary widely, from a middle-class family that is temporarily out of work to more chronic cases of systemic urban poverty.
The money to help them comes from Mormon fast offerings, which we collect once a month when the whole denomination abstains from food and water for 24 hours. These donations have created one of the largest private welfare systems in the world—which must be an embarrassment to you, since you’re so opposed to welfare programs. Our LDS Humanitarian fund has also donated over half a billion dollars to disaster relief, and the program keeps growing.
It’s all wrapped up in that hymn we often sing: “Because I have been given much, I too must give.” Most Mormons could and should do more to live out the ideals of that song, and of our heritage. I know I ought to. But you most of all, Glenn. You most of all.